-54

Stack Exchange Executive Staff will be under the impression - as company executive staff generally are - that the company is theirs.

But Stack Exchange is an unusual organisation very much based on a network / marketplace / community of expertise - comprising tens of millions of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of active volunteers, all volunteering and participating for the greater good.

In a very real sense those who participate most in the network / marketplace / community are those who are the greatest stakeholders in the organisation.

This being the case, should experienced Senior Stack Exchange Community Members be enabled to have a say when a company executive is inadvertently or pro-actively taking measures which injure the heart and soul of the organisation? Should there be more visible, transparent, direct accountability from paid executives to those from the community who have contributed most to build the value contained in the platform?

Could there emerge from the current crisis one of the first examples of a corporation submitting itself to community-based democracy, where the community around the platform (or product) has a significant say in who gets to be a paid executive leading the platform (or product)?


N.B. I am under no illusion that I am anything but a minnow in all of this. But I see the great damage that is being done in recent months and it does greatly - greatly! - disappoint me.


How this question is different from the "Calling for a Resignation" question

The question immediately above is fundamentally about opening up new areas in our society (in this specific case a commercial organisation) to participatory democracy.

Stack Exchange could make a good test subject because it is a highly unusual commercial organisation which exists and has the profile and status that it has, substantially due to its native volunteer community.

Further Reading on Participatory Democracy in Commercial Environments:

  • 12
    Only if Senior Stack Exchange Executive Staff can vote Senior Stack Exchange Community Members off the internet ... – rene Nov 29 at 16:55
  • 1
    This is not "Big Brother" or "Jungle Camp" or a show like that. – jknappen - Reinstate Monica Nov 29 at 17:04
  • 18
    As much as I want more agency to help guide the network, it's never a good idea to give the mob the power to affect someone's livelihood. Next, the mob will want the ability to remove moderators. We are the mob. – fbueckert Nov 29 at 17:04
  • 2
    Eviction is nothing without some libel as a side dish – random Nov 29 at 17:05
  • @fbueckert - Yes, I agree with you. It's really important that it's not the mob. Hence my reference to experienced and Senior Stack Exchange Community Members. (ie. Not the likes of you or I). – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 17:15
  • 3
    No. As appalling as I think the behaviour of SE in general and some staff in particular has been of late, this doesn’t even qualify as ‘ridiculous’. You’re talking combined mob rule and popularity contest and that’s a terrible idea. SE staff need to be able to take difficult decisions without having to worry about appeasing the baying mob (again, not defending the quality of the recent decisions here). – Rob Moir Nov 29 at 17:58
  • Explicitly not mob rule. You have just over 30,000 points on Server Fault and I have only 15,000 on Stack Overflow. I'm sure that neither of us would consider the other an experienced or senior member of Server Fault or Stack Overflow. Not novices, by any means, but not yet distinguished either. Certainly not a popularity contest either. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 19:22
  • 2
    I think this question is getting a negative response because people are interpreting "vote someone off the payroll" as mob rule or a reality TV show. I don't think that's what you intend. I think it's entirely appropriate and not out of the realm of possibility for the community to get one or even two voting seats on the board of directors. If the community were to ever actually organize in a meaningful way, I think that is exactly what we should demand – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Nov 30 at 3:04
  • Thank you @DeNovosupportsGoFundMonica for reading my question above as it was written, without superimposing onto it sentiment that wasn't present in the original question. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 30 at 19:36
  • One way that is already open is to buy a majority stake in the company. You can then fire whomever you want to:) – Martin James Nov 30 at 21:07
  • 1
    Absolutely true. But that wouldn't end up being (from the question above) one of the first examples of a corporation submitting itself to community-based democracy. This feels akin to starting a conversation about Democracy during the era of Feudal Monarchy and hearing the response "If you wish to have a say in the country's affairs, why not marry into a very highborn - or, ideally, a royal - family and then you can." – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 30 at 21:24
24

...No.

I think that The Loop in its future incarnations will work to ensure that voices are heard from a broad and diverse group of stakeholders for the site.

But at the end of the day, make no mistake that this is still run and owned by Stack Exchange Inc.

You have no right to "vote" someone off of the payroll. This isn't a democracy. This is benevolent dictatorship.

  • Your last two paragraphs refer to the status quo. To clarify: my question above is not about the current arrangement ("Are senior community members enabled [...] ?") but about a hypothetically possible arrangement ("Should senior members be enabled [...] ?") – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 18:18
  • 1
    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica: I don't see how that changes my point. Maybe if you had an existing framework to draw and build examples from... – Makoto Nov 29 at 18:49
  • Extra omnes! - Like these people, we wait quietly and peacefully for the Scrutineers. – Rob Nov 29 at 18:55
  • 2
    @Makoto - I'm only highlighting the tense / mood of my question at the top. When someone asks "Should x be y?" and the reply is "No, x is not y." a legitimate response is: "I know x is not y, I am asking should x be y?" – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 19:04
17

I can't even fathom how this could lead to a healthy relationship between the community and the company. At this moment, SE employees don't even dare post on Meta because the backlash they receive give them major headaches, just imagine how bad it would be it we could fire them based on a poll made on Meta.

I don't agree with how they have managed the changes in the last year or two, but not to a point where I consider to request the right to fire people. There is nothing keeping you from not using their product if you don't like how they handle it, even though it would be frustrating as hell to quit when you have spent so much of your own time adding to the knowledge base.

I mean, how would you be able to work if you had this sword of Damocles hanging over your head at all times, ready to be dropped on you the second a fraction of your customer base vote you off.

On a side note, we have seen lots of questions going in the same direction as this one. Seeking [personal] vengeance at all cost is not going to get us anywhere. One can voice their opinion to their heart's content, as long as they keep a civil tone. But if your desire is to "hurt" the company, then maybe you are at a crossroad where you need to evaluate if you really want to stay here even though you don't agree with SE, or pack your stuff and walk away.

In the end, if half the user base decide to leave due to bad decision's by SE, then their daily traffic, and eventually their profits, will go down significantly, which will hurt them more than us complaining on Meta.

That being said, I consider myself as being part of "mad-at-SE" team, but I believe that attacking them on every occasion will not improve the current state of events.

  • 2
    You are describing the reality of politicians: directly accountable to the communities they represent and serve. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 16:59
  • 1
    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica This comparison only works for certain countries, in most of the you vote for your politicians to represent you. I don't know any SE employee who got their job because the community voted for them. – Tom Nov 29 at 17:02
  • 5
    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica True, but SE is not an elected government, it is a company providing you with a service. If you don't like how Big Macs taste, you can't fire the cook at McDonald's. This is exactly the same. If you don't like the direction they are going, you either try to work in a constructive way with them, or you leave. Nothing is keeping anyone tied to SE. – Laf - Reinstate Monica Nov 29 at 17:06
  • I'm not sure I follow the metaphor. Nothing is keeping anyone tied to the country they were born in. Theoretically, any citizen can leave and go and live in any one of many other countries if they don't like their government. But we still elect paid administrators and believe that we should preserve the right to be able to. My question above is: Could there emerge from the current crisis one of the first examples of a corporation submitting itself to community-based democracy [...] ? – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 17:19
  • Additionally, you mention customer base. The Stack Overflow community is not Stack Overflow's customer base. That would be the advertisers. The community (and the knowhow it articulates and publishes) is Stack Overflow's product. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 29 at 20:37
  • "I can't even fathom how this could lead to a healthy relationship between the community and the company." It is about creating checks and balances. It is about ensuring there be mutual, rather than asymmetric accountability. At present community members are accountable to Stack Exchange executives. The accountability is not reciprocated. I am asking if it should be. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 30 at 19:57
3

Absolutely no way.

Irrespective of the current goings-on, irrespective of the staff member who (reading between the lines) this is obviously aimed at, this is not the way to resolve things.

We all want an SE where there is a culture of mutual respect between the company and the community; that SE is gone and we want it back, yes. But not this way. This way endangers that culture, but from the other direction.

  • We may want something. But without regulatory checks and balances, we may not get it. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 30 at 21:28
2

This isn't our decicion to make and this is very unlikely to happen on Stack Exchange

You're talking about the model similar to Wikimedia Foundation. Some non-profits are owned by the community to some degree and allow members to have a say (through direct vote or representatives) in most of the decision.

Stack Exchange Inc is a private business. Participants don't make decisions here.

Stack Exchange Executive Staff will be under the impression - as company executive staff generally are - that the company is theirs.

That would be a delusion, they're paid employees, the Company belongs to its owners and they, ultimately, make staff decisions.

In a very real sense those who participate most in the network / marketplace / community are those who are the greatest stakeholders in the organisation.

This isn't written anywhere. The relationship between the Company and participants are laid down in Public Network Terms of Service

Participants agree to participate in the network on Company's rules.

By accessing or using the Services or the public Network in any manner, including without limitation by visiting or browsing the public Network or registering for an account on the Network, you affirm that you have read, understand, and agree to be bound by these Public Network Terms, as well as the Acceptable Use Policy and Privacy Policy

Participants also agree to license all of their content to the Company:

You agree that any and all content, including without limitation any and all text, graphics, logos, tools, photographs, images, illustrations, software or source code, audio and video, animations, and product feedback (collectively, “Content”) that you provide to the public Network (collectively, “Subscriber Content”), is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Overflow on a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis pursuant to Creative Commons licensing terms (CC-BY-SA), and you grant Stack Overflow the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to access, use, process, copy, distribute, export, display and to commercially exploit such Subscriber Content, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by you as reasonably necessary to, for example (without limitation): ...

So, no, everything here belongs to Stack Overlow and you don't have any real power over the Company. Still, you're free to:

  • participate here without breaking the rules;
  • publish your opinion on the Company here (if this opinion doesn't break the rules) or anywhere else (if it does);
  • stop using Stack Exchange, if you don't like the terms;
  • create your own Q&A website with different rules.
  • 2
    I am aware of the present state of affairs at Stack Exchange. I refer you to the subjunctive mood of my question at the top. The verb is should. – Rounin says Je suis Monica Nov 30 at 19:39
1

Obviously the community shouldn't vote to fire staff or leadership directly, e.g., in a meta question.

However, I think the community should have a voting seat on the board of directors. If the community were to ever actually organize in a meaningful way, I think that is exactly what we should demand.

I thoroughly disagree with the houseguest theory advocated by some users (that we are guests of SE and have no right to have a say in how the company is run). The software and servers that provide the platform are certainly important, but the value here is the expert content and its moderation. We generate and own that content. Through moderation activities we maintain the quality of that content. It's entirely appropriate for the company to be accountable to the community through a voting seat on the board.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .