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I have just read the blog post, An Interview with Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar.

The interview contains nothing in relation to the current situation where moderators are resigning and at least a significant part of the active community express signs of great disappointment with the company.

I am surprised with the timing—an interview in the middle of this situation without addressing the situation at all.

Since there has been so much to read about this lately, I guess I may have missed something.

So, my question is, have there been any kind of statements from the Stack Overflow CEO in relation to the current mess?

migrated from meta.stackoverflow.com Oct 22 at 16:20

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    What do you want them to say? That there is an issue and it is still being discussed/worked on? – Joe W Oct 22 at 17:24
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    The interview was most likely conducted before the whole mess started - there's a few weeks between when podcasts are recorded and when they are published (audio editing etc...) – Oded Oct 22 at 18:09
  • Having said that, the latest podcast released was apparently recorded this week... – Oded Oct 23 at 8:06
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    @Oded it was also actively pushed, using one of those annoying popup banners that need to be dismissed individually from every site you visit. I honestly can't imagine what SE were thinking to so aggressively push an interview that ignores the crisis right in the middle of the crisis. I can only assume they till don't get that it's an actual crisis. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 12:20
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No. The closest thing so far has been from the latest podcast, where the CEO praises "a diversity of viewpoints."

Why would he?

Imagine you're Captain Picard. One of the jobs of the captain is to stay above the fray, to perpetuate the mystique of being captain. Show weakness, and the people whom you command won't have confidence in your leadership anymore.

The new CEO is in a very unenviable position. His choices are: throw his staff under the bus, throw the community under the bus, or take the position "You made this mess, go figure it out," and then gently steer the ship into a productive direction.

What choice would you make?

The purpose of CEO is to run the company, not get embroiled in political disputes. It's too bad the rest of the staff hasn't learned the same lesson.

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    This is a really good answer. I've noticed over time that (often, not always) the better the manager, the less it looks like they're doing. Obvious actions a lot of time are an indication of heavy-handedness. – HFBrowning Oct 22 at 16:40
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    @HFBrowning: Indeed. A good leader empowers their people, gives them the tools they need, and then gets out of their way. See GM’s dress code is only two words. – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 16:43
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    So you are appointed Captain in the middle of an on-going mutiny, which you nothing to do with, except you are supposed to be in charge. Uh-oh, better not pick a side in this... I can't show weakness. Better to wait out and hope for enough survivors to bring the ship back to port before all the holes in the sides sink it. Yeah that's brilliant leadership right there... – Amarth Oct 22 at 17:00
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    @Amarth: How do you take a position, while preserving community confidence and allowing the staff to save face? Or are those two goals irreconcilable? – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 17:02
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    @4386427: Or he's simply exercising his leadership skills without feeling the need to broadcast them to the rest of the world. – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 17:12
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    @RobertHarvey It's far beyond saving someone's face. Get rid of all incompetent staff. Why would you want to save the face of someone harming the company's value and trademark? Then mediate. Patching the holes in the ship takes precedence, time is running out. Some staff's saved safe won't do you no good at the bottom of the ocean. – Amarth Oct 22 at 17:12
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    @Amarth: You presume that is the unstated position of the current CEO. Maybe it isn't. Maybe he doesn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maybe he wants to work with what he has. – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 17:14
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    You can always get new staff, but it is much harder, to get a community of users who care. Without a community of users, SE isn't anything, but spam posts and answers submitted as a question to existing questions that were answered by the community. – Ramhound Oct 22 at 17:23
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    Technically, the CEO's job is not to run the company, but to lead the company. The day to day is usually what the COO does. – Sklivvz Oct 22 at 18:45
  • The analogy has a gaping hole: When you're sailing a ship, you've got exactly the set of sailors on board, and if you throw any out, there aren't others you can replace them with. Stack Overflow, Inc. is solidly land-based and logistically capable of tapping into a very wide pool of talent. – WBT Oct 24 at 15:46
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No, but contrary to Robert's answer I think it would be a sign of good leadership to take sides (and bring employees and the community together). By taking sides I don't necessarily mean taking one side on all issues. It's hard to go into specifics without knowing the details of all issues. I think it's reasonable for issues that affect SE to the extent that moderators resign en masse or where users feel excluded for the CEO to get involved, for example by leading a review.

On the particular issue where a moderator was fired with a lot of accusations in public, it may be good to step in. By stepping in I mean reviewing the steps that were taken and seeing if something went wrong (in the entire process starting with the firing up to how it is being handled now). The outcome of that review can be used to see if internal policy needs to be changed and could be used to ease tensions in the community.

While this does legitimately involve real people, Stack Exchange is not a government organisation that handles covert operations. Indeed, it is a private company and they don't have to communicate anything if they don't want to, but they can do so in their own interest. Without jeopardizing the privacy of any employee they can make anonymised statements on their internal process. While that may not satisfy all, I think it's a good start in coming together.


Rather than arguing the point on leadership myself, let me quote from Scott Gregory's The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader in Harvard's Business Review:

Researchers have studied managerial derailment — or the dark side of leadership — for many years. The key derailment characteristics of bad managers are well documented and fall into three broad behavioral categories: (1) “moving away behaviors,” which create distance from others through hyper-emotionality, diminished communication, and skepticism that erodes trust;

[...]

However, my friend was describing something arguably worse than an incompetent boss. His manager was not overtly misbehaving, nor was he a ranting, narcissistic sociopath. Rather, his boss was a leader in title only — his role was leadership, but he provided none. My friend was experiencing absentee leadership, and unfortunately, he is not alone. Absentee leadership rarely comes up in today’s leadership or business literature, but research shows that it is the most common form of incompetent leadership.

And more to the point, though the entire article is worth reading in my opinion:

Like the provost in this example, many organizations don’t confront absentee leaders because they have other managers whose behavior is more overtly destructive. Because absentee leaders don’t actively make trouble, their negative impact on organizations can be difficult to detect, and when it is detected, it often is considered a low-priority problem. Thus, absentee leaders are often silent organization killers. Left unchecked, absentee leaders clog an organization’s succession arteries, blocking potentially more effective people from moving into important roles while adding little to productivity. Absentee leaders rarely engage in unforgivable bouts of bad behavior, and are rarely the subject of ethics investigations resulting from employee hotline calls. As a result, their negative effect on organizations accumulates over time, largely unchecked.

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    So which side do you think the new CEO should take? – Robert Harvey Oct 22 at 16:58
  • I think there is a big assumption that the CEO/Company would take a single side here and not find good and bad points on both sides which could require further thought/discussion to not make an already bad situation worse. – Joe W Oct 22 at 18:18
  • @RobertHarvey The one that allows the company to grow. – Atizs Oct 22 at 18:21
  • Your answer starts out by saying it would be a good idea to take sides and it could be very confusing if they took a single side on some pints, the other side on some, both sides on some and neither side on some. – Joe W Oct 22 at 18:27
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    @RobertHarvey what would Jeff Atwood do? – Sklivvz Oct 22 at 19:00

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