The recent blog post, which I don't even want to link to, made it perfectly clear for me. Joel left, and with that SE as we know it died. It will take a while before it's totally gone, but it will go eventually.

Now we already saw some cracks appear when Joel was still factually in charge, but to me it really feels that the last of the good old SE left with him.

Some things that strike me as odd:

  • The new CEO mentioned that our community is the most important part of the SE network, but yet didn't have the courtesy to acquaint himself with said community. He didn't even bother to introduce himself here on MSE.

  • SE as a company has grown tremendously over the last 6-8 time units, however it failed to retain the community spirit that used to be between the company and the community. It might be due to the hiring practices (hiring people with certain skills, more than people with a certain mindset).

  • SE failed to hire someone that majored in community building, or even basic communication. All its communication has been really top-down lately. Which caused disgruntled META regulars, which caused a disgruntled director of Q&A, which caused disgruntled META regulars, etc., etc.

Now I know a growing company comes with all the growth pains, just as a regular teenager growing up. But I feel somewhere along the line the company lost touch with its community. And the most recent blog posting feels they have found the solution to remedy these pains by taking "the cause" away, the MSE community.

Am I the only one noticing this? What are your thoughts on this?

P. S. causation ≠ correlation

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    This isn't growing pains. People need to stop framing it as such. This is the company completely losing focus and derailing from its original focus. – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:04
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    @Script47 That's exactly what the OP said. OP was talking about growing companies in general. But in the next sentence they say the same thing you say. "But I feel somewhere along the line the company lost touch with its community" – Kodos Johnson Nov 25 '19 at 20:08
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    Sorry, folks, how is this question not seeking input or discussion? – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:13
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    @Script47 There's not a single question mark or sentence implying that community input is desired in the whole thing. It an essay/obituary, not a question. – Rubiksmoose Nov 25 '19 at 20:18
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    "The new CEO mentioned that our community is the most important part of the SE network, but yet didn't have the courtesy to acquaint himself with said community. He didn't even bother to introduce himself here on MSE." This in itself bugs me. A lot. I was about to post a question about it when I saw your post, so thanks for reading my mind – j08691 Nov 25 '19 at 20:20
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    @Rubiksmoose just because no questions are present, it doesn't mean you cannot discuss the contents of the post. That's a poor argument. – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:20
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    @Script47 You can discuss anything, but that's not really the way Meta Q&A works best. It's not even clear what kind of responses would be relevant here. – Rubiksmoose Nov 25 '19 at 20:22
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    @Rubiksmoose, now there are 2 questionmarks, especially for you. – Luuklag Nov 25 '19 at 20:27
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    I just read the blog-post (way too long and verbose but any way), what was so bad about it? Except for the regular hypocrisy we all got used to recently about caring about the community, I see nothing bad there. – gdoron is supporting Monica Nov 25 '19 at 21:43
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    Joel is the one who has driven the whole quantity over quality policy that has eroded the site over the past 5 years. He has not participated on meta for about as long. He is ultimately responsible for the many bad decisions the company has made in 2019 and the annihilation of the company's reputation. I don't see how replacing him with another silent, anonymous person is any different. Things can only get better from where they are currently. – Lundin Nov 26 '19 at 8:00
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    I'm pretty sure the ship is sailing in the direction Joel was steering it into. – faintsignal Nov 27 '19 at 1:33
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    @Lundin I agree with the first part, but I think it's still possible for things to get worse: they could close Meta; they could grant free reputation for simply visiting the website daily; they could add a paywall; etc. – Cœur Nov 27 '19 at 10:07
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    @Cœur Meta is already closed, people have just not realized it yet. Does as much good to leave feedback here as speaking to a wall. As for paywall, try visiting stackoverflow.com in incognito/private browser mode. – Lundin Nov 27 '19 at 11:30
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    @Cœur "they could grant free reputation for simply visiting the website daily" please remove this before they see it. – Mena Nov 27 '19 at 11:32
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    @Lundin You are very much correct. The new CEO joined practically yesterday. These changes, and the culture to propagate these changes require a lot of time to prepare. Joel was at the helm when these seeds were born. – David says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 '19 at 23:26

They're counting on us having nowhere else to go.

I can't tell you how many times in the past couple of months I've heard the "stay and fight" mantra from disgruntled meta users, especially around Monica's situation. From Sara's fake apology (which is the lowest-rated question on meta) to moderator issues (the second-most hated question on meta) to licensing issues (the fourth-most hated question on meta), it's clear they don't care about the community. They'll be facing legal issues from Monica's GoFundMe (which SE is actively deleting links to), with another possible GoFundMe for licensing issues (which SE is actively deleting links to). These movements are happening because we have public discourse, and can organize; they want to stop that.

But let's face it - we don't want to build another platform; we just want SE to participate and collaborate with us. That's the problem: they don't want the same things. We're the codependent couple that can't leave because this network means so much to us.

So they're hoping that time will make us forget about Monica; that shutting down public discourse will stop the flagrant opposition to their corporate narratives and interests.

You're right - SE is dead. Or maybe it's dying. But what else are we going to do? Where are we going to go? So long as we have no alternatives they can do whatever they want, and we'll have no choice but to go along with it. It's an age-old business tactic. It's why we have anti-monopoly laws. Because when one party can walk away and the other cannot, the one who can't leave is basically enslaved.

Look, I really, really, really, do not want to leave. I think SE could be salvaged; this is a great network! But the fact is we're not willing to consider alternatives, and they're counting on that.

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    Someone was working on an open-source alternative. Of course it won't be the same right away but I hope it does well if it stays true to the goals SE once had. I can't find the link but if someone can post it for me it would be much appreciated. – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:27
  • @Script47 not sure what you're referring to, but I myself had recommended a decentralized platform which did not get very much interest – cegfault Nov 25 '19 at 20:29
  • the truth is that I think someone needs to just take the first step to make a alternative (which of course is the hardest part). I think like minded people will flock to it. – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:30
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    @Script47 I concur. In my estimation if about ten people were dedicated to working on an alternative we could form a discord or slack channel or something and get things moving. No one person has the ability to make a whole 'nother alternative. I'd be happy to help setup, manage, collaborate, participate, whatever, in getting things going, but I don't think we have ten others willing to dedicate their time, quite frankly – cegfault Nov 25 '19 at 20:36
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    @Script47 I think this is what you were looking for forum.codidact.org – Charlie Brumbaugh Nov 25 '19 at 20:38
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    @cegfault it's not only time it is going to take. There will be some serious investments needed to run things infrastructure wise. – Luuklag Nov 25 '19 at 20:39
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    @ReinstateMonica yes, thanks. – Script47 Nov 25 '19 at 20:39
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    Thanks @ReinstateMonica ! I did not know about that! – cegfault Nov 25 '19 at 20:42
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    As long experts and high-rep users in general favour participating in their own sites for the sake of the community, SE can do whatever they want. We allow them to exploit our goodwill, why? – dfhwze Nov 25 '19 at 20:51
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    @dfhwze Power structures, and our own idiocy to be wanted toe be exploited and exproriated. Do-gooders, going down the rivers, as sold, that's fate in this system. It starts to really antagonise me. Beyond the usual. – LаngLаngС Nov 25 '19 at 21:44
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    Like many others, you equate "The Community" with "MSE Regulars". Once you realize just how inaccurate that is, their actions make much more sense. And it means a diminished role for MSE, which seems to make many MSE regulars angry. – Raedwald Nov 26 '19 at 7:15
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    A long time ago, there was a site with ...Exchange in the name, using all sorts of shady tactics, because the users had nowhere to go to. Remember. Remember the Experts, and their hubris, and their downfall: remember them not because SO was the knight in shining armor, but because their fate is reproducible. – Piskvor left the building Nov 26 '19 at 10:36
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    "But what else are we going to do?" I don't know exactly, but nothing really lives forever. Viable alternatives are still scarce, but compared to one year before, I don't outright laugh at them anymore. – Trilarion Nov 26 '19 at 12:20
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    @Raedwald what do you mean by "community" then? Folks who once posted a question on SO then whined on social media about how unfair the whole thing is? Special interest groups monopolizing the whole network's conversation - oftentimes, unwillingly, due to sporadic abuse? I personally am active on SO since yay 2013 and have shifted from no interest whatsoever to semi-active on MSE precisely because of the permanent ****storm that's been plaguing everybody more or less since the infamous "friendly" enlightened corporate directive. I believe many community members did the same. – Mena Nov 27 '19 at 11:46
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    The most important thing will be, that the next platform should be open source, so users can host an alternative, when it eventually gets the same problems. – allo Nov 30 '19 at 15:45

A lot of Joel's later blog posts seemed to focus on promoting diversity and inclusivity among both Stack Overflow and computer science as a whole - reading through a lot of the comments and answers on meta, it seems this is directly at odds with what most users want SE to focus on. It's fine to argue for or against the changes imposed by SE, but stating this was caused by Joel leaving doesn't make a ton of sense.

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    I do not oppose inclusion, I oppose the way SO forces inclusion by excluding the old crowd. – Luuklag Nov 25 '19 at 20:44
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    I don't think users were opposed to SE being inclusive. If they didn't want SE to focus on that aspect, it was because they didn't see a problem there, and instead saw other things SE should be focusing on. I'm definitely with that crowd - I want inclusiveness, I never encountered a problem there, and I am very very angry at how Monica Cellio was abused in the name of "inclusiveness". – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Nov 25 '19 at 21:19
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    Keep in mind, Joel is a gay, jewish married dude. From it's inception, SE has almost always been about inclusiveness. It hasn't been about the minutia of pronoun etiquette until this year. – yhyrcanus Nov 25 '19 at 21:30
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    -1 because banning and publicly slandering people who disagree with you then replacing user-led discussion of a network of sites with "Tell us your favourite thing about Stack Overflow only, so we can decide whether to pick you for our focus group" has nothing to do with diversity or inclusivity no matter how it's dressed up. – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 25 '19 at 21:46
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    No matter what your opinion is, everyone should agree that an employee threatening you with suspension for unsubstantiated claims immediately after you begin to question them is unacceptable. Yes, that actually happened. – jhpratt Nov 25 '19 at 22:03
  • This implies that users - even the ticked off ones - are against diversity and inclusivity. I suspect that you didn't mean that, but its what the last part of your first sentence literally says. – Scott Hannen Nov 26 '19 at 0:41
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    @ScottHannen: Not as a cause in its own right, no. The purpose of the SE platform is to get and share answers to questions in specific topic areas, not to engage in political causes. – user102937 Nov 26 '19 at 2:51
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    The tiny number of MSE regulars who make angry posts are not "most users". – Raedwald Nov 26 '19 at 7:17
  • @RobertHarvey that might be how SE started back in the days, but now, well... – ChatterOne Nov 26 '19 at 9:17
  • @RobertHarvey - I agree with 100%. But the sentence states that it's "at odds" with diversity and inclusion. It's not at odds with that - it's closer to neutral. It's not perfectly neutral because maintaining site standards doesn't jive perfectly with being totally welcoming (I was slow to catch on to that.) But the feeling of most people, myself included, is that we don't care what someone's gender, race, etc. is. It's not about inclusion, but it's not at odds with it. – Scott Hannen Nov 26 '19 at 18:42
  • When the Supreme Court of the country in which SE is based can side with the idea that you can't force a baker to bake a cake for a gay marriage, the compelled speech aspect of the Code of Conduct (on an international site, in countries which are not quite as "egalitarian" as the US) is quite flawed. I vocally supported Joel's right to have a rainbow flag on this site, and to be happy about his rights. Perhaps I assumed he was a programmer and critical thinker, his failure to speak up at this point is a real sticking point for me. But absence of speech is not speech, I want to hear his view. – HostileFork says dont trust SE Jan 26 '20 at 12:36

Someone linked to this thread in another project I'm working on, and despite not feeling like participating here anymore, I decided to leave a few words anyway.

Joel himself tried to push down his personal opinions onto the community in at least two previous instances that I don't care enough to mention here, but I trust most of you will remember well.

Still, things are taking a turn for the worse since his departure.

As everything else is already addressed, let me just make one thing abundantly clear about your first point:

The new CEO mentioned that our community is the most important part of the SE network, but yet didn't have the courtesy to acquaint himself with said community. (...)

... because it's BS.

Sorry. But you know it's true.


No time for a long answer, but TL;DR: Stack Exchange as we knew it is dead, correct. But a new Stack Exchange is taking its place.

Stack Exchange is not going to be shut down, I'm pretty sure of this at this point.

So it boils down to this simple question: do you want to stick around and see what becomes of Stack Exchange? For me the answer is yes, but I'll do it carefully, and won't use new features just because SE staff say they're cool. I'll keep doing what I always did, and if/when blocked from this due to some change, leave.

  • If some day, the SE network decided that the reputation number doesn't mean anything and removed it, would you still stay? Privileges would be in a list, like moderator, regular user, super moderator, things like that. The network would still work, but would people stay? To me, it looks like that number is the only reason why a lot of people participate. – ChatterOne Nov 26 '19 at 9:16
  • My guess is a very slow but steady demise, drawn out over at least ten more years. But it may also be totally different. – Trilarion Nov 26 '19 at 12:21
  • @ChatterOne before Stack Exchange, I was very active in programming forum that had no reputation. It was totally fine. So yes, I'll stay, and consider SE as a social forum, not professional Q&A site. Something that will make me leave, for example, is letting people buy privileges for money, aka Premium Users, who will get privileges according to how much they pay. It won't affect me directly, but that's a red line I can't see being crossed. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 26 '19 at 12:29
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    @Trilarion true, and being bought by a big company can quicken this. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 26 '19 at 12:31
  • @ShadowThePrincessWizard I think some people will stay, but a lot of them would leave. I've seen even 50k+ users answering questions badly written that were later closed just for the rep points, or answers that were proven just plain wrong not deleted by the author because they have 90+ upvotes . – ChatterOne Nov 26 '19 at 12:41
  • @ChatterOne might be, but I believe the core and the highest rep users are not here for the rep. (and for the record, question author can't delete answers to their question.) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 26 '19 at 12:58
  • @ShadowThePrincessWizard Yes, the question's authors cannot delete their own questions if there are answers already. If someone answers badly written questions (because they want the rep points) it becomes way more difficult to delete them. – ChatterOne Nov 26 '19 at 13:00
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    This. SE is changing. This will make some people leave. Some of them have very good reason to do so, and we won't stop them from leaving. Some of those will be missed, a lot. But as long as we can still do here what we used to do (ask questions, post answers and help each other on whatever niche site we're active), there will be users. Regardless of how SE goes about it, there will be users. As long as enough revenue comes in, it won't be shut down. – Mast Nov 26 '19 at 14:08
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    @Mast It probably depends. It seems that at least for SO there are less and less answers per question over time. Already now there are millions of questions unanswered. If this trend continues it may well be that this site becomes void. You need a healthy balance of askers and answerers and that probably means you must cater to both of these groups somehow. If there is only one of these two kinds of users present, it won't work. – Trilarion Nov 27 '19 at 10:42
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    @Trilarion Considering the SE team is focussing on attracting more questions, they don't appear to be too worried about that. – Mast Nov 27 '19 at 10:58
  • @Mast I fully agree. Somehow they seem to expect that answers will already be there in ample supply. – Trilarion Nov 27 '19 at 11:24
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    @Trilarion when question quality drops, it's easier to answer. When people will notice that, they'll have the courage to answer, and without enough active users who care, the bad questions will stick and won't be cleaned up. SE wins. :) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 27 '19 at 12:10
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    @Trilarion all SE cares about is traffic. More traffic means more money from their ads. :/ – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 27 '19 at 12:44
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    @ShadowThePrincessWizard But more questions don't automatically result in more traffic. If the questions and answers are low quality, search engines will eventually scale down the search importance of this platform. It might result in less traffic and less money from ads. – Trilarion Nov 27 '19 at 15:11
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    @Trilarion this will take years. SE needs the money now, and don't care about the future. That much is clear beyond any doubt, since they ditched quality long ago and doing everything possible to harm quality even further. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Nov 27 '19 at 15:40

The Third Age has ended, and the magic has waned. The new, waterproof and tamper-resistant SE has been here for a while now, with all it entails. This is just a wake-up call that it's no longer 2009; some of us may have been too busy to look up from the console to take notice.

Are you comfortable with the business model and goals of the website you're contributing to, and thus directly furthering?

Such is the way of startups: they can wither and vanish, or transform into yet another corporate clockwork. SE didn't vanish, yay.

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    Have the ships wait for a little while -- we still have unfinished business in the Shire before we depart to the West. – Frédéric Hamidi Nov 27 '19 at 9:46
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    shrug The ships are not mine to delay... – Piskvor left the building Nov 27 '19 at 9:47

I think this fixation on names resp. personalities is part of the "real" problem.

Meaning: in the end we are talking about an unwritten social contract. Years ago, different groups of people came together to turn a vision into a service helpful to a global community of users, also enabling a business for the people running and paying the servers.

Now: that mutual agreement how things should be done (for example that there is META, and that the community strives to achieve a democratic consensus), in the end, depends on the people. Sure, there are MSE posts over and over, but even when the CEO of SE Inc. promises to this or that on MSE, that doesn't matter. Because it depends on that person whether that promise will be uphold.

People change, sometimes just their stance/attitude, but especially in the business world: the role stays, but new people come in to fill it.

That is the thing: when you enter a long-term relationship with any kind of company, you can't rely on "I know these folks, and that is good enough". That is great while it lasts. But as soon as there is some change on the other side, your option space is extremely limited: you comply, or you walk away.

What I intend to say: the "community", that is just a concept. It is an undefined set of people that have (close to) zero legal leverage towards SE Inc.! Because there is no legal contract between them and us. The only thing a community member can point to is the licence used for our content, and the "terms and services" of SE Inc.. When the company is in violation of that, you could (at least theoretically) create legal trouble for them.

And there is nothing we can do about that. It doesn't matter whether the CEO is Joel Spolsky, Prashanth Chandrasekar, David Fullerton, or one day maybe Sara Chipps.

From that point of view, seriously: those of the community that are leaving, and trying to build something better: do not repeat those mistakes. It is not about trusting people. Trusting people is a good starting point, but change over time is inevitable.

Without a legally binding contract that clearly outlines the rights and duties of both sides, you are lacking that "outer wrap" that keeps things together when the road gets bumpy. And of course: there can only be a legal contract when both parties have some sort of representation. Which makes the whole situation really complicated.

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    Names are powerful, magic-like even; but in reality they are only a metaphor, an anchor in time. "Around the time that Joel left, it became fully apparent that..." I don't think there's causation - the correlation stems from a common root, which you correctly identify: "SE Inc. owes you nothing, deal with it." Savor the irony: blog.codinghorror.com/are-you-a-digital-sharecropper – Piskvor left the building Nov 27 '19 at 11:13
  • Regarding terms and conditions: as in, say, changing the license w/o consent? I believe that the current brouhaha is massively fuelled by the fact that SE is the 800-pound gorilla here: "what part of its T&C can SE ignore?" "Any that it damn wants to!" Having a legal contract that one party can violate at will is perhaps worse than no contract at all. – Piskvor left the building Nov 27 '19 at 11:19
  • @Piskvor The thing with a contract is: you need two parties there. Each one able to speak for "its side". In our current setup, the community users can only speak up as individuals. There is no way for us to have "real" representation, that could get a lawyer on behalf of "all" of us. That is my point. – GhostCat Nov 27 '19 at 11:34
  • Yeah, that is impractical. And also futile: for a company that flat-out refuses to uphold actual contracts with individuals, how would a group contract be any different? – Piskvor left the building Nov 27 '19 at 11:42
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    @Piskvor By creating an setup that enables that group to act "as one". Example: the contract includes stuff like "there is an organized representation (some sort of council?) of the community, and when the company is in violation of this or that, then that council has the right to unilaterally end licence agreements". I am not a lawyer here, but I am sure that it would be possible to find such model. Similar to a union that has real leverage, and that can take legal positions for its members ... – GhostCat Nov 27 '19 at 11:47
  • Ah, theoretically possible, sure. In the current climate "here's a sham survey, we'll do whatever we want" it is improbable. – Piskvor left the building Nov 27 '19 at 11:49
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    @Piskvor That is my main point unfortunately. There is no "us" here. Just individuals. Due to the setup here, we have no leverage. – GhostCat Nov 27 '19 at 17:12

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