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I read SO (pun intended) much negative stuff about the company behind Stack Overflow, that I am starting to wonder if Stack Overflow is dying. It seems to me that most people in the community are very negative about this platform. Most of this stuff is somehow related to the resignation or firing of moderators. Every story is the same: they blame bad politics and misbehaviour of the company's staff. Is the company behind Stack Overflow really that bad?

Here are some examples (I read a lot of negativity, also between the lines):

And from this last link:

We would like to see the company explicitly acknowledge and apologise for the shortcomings and failures that have occurred - the lack of bidirectional communication, the mishandling of situations, the failures to address the pain of marginalized and disadvantaged groups, and the unseemly willingness to speak to the press about matters of user moderation that do not need to be spread outside the network.

This looks severe! Can somebody explain what is going on and/or shed some light on the future? Is an Exodus upon us? Starting an alternative platform with 800 mods looking for a fair environment seems feasible/realistic. Is this likely to happen?

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    "Is the company behind Stack Overflow really that bad?" - A company is not really something that does things. People are. Now, let me rephase it as "Are the people behind Stack Overflow really that bad?" - And I think that the hundreds of questions about that are more than enough to make it clear what seems to be the answer. Dec 3, 2019 at 0:07
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    I'd refrain from downvoting this post - don't let your opinions get too much of a hold of you. This is an honest question about the future of the company and I think it should be treated as such.
    – miike3459
    Dec 3, 2019 at 0:26
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    @VictorStafusa, I'm not sure that's true in all cases. Oftentimes companies have things like contractual obligations, the need to make enough money to stay in business, etc., that oftentimes cause the people within those companies to make decisions they wouldn't otherwise make.
    – Nate S.
    Dec 3, 2019 at 0:27
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    Alright, but is this question really any different than "Is [your favorite technology] dead?" Questions like this objectively have no answer.
    – user102937
    Dec 3, 2019 at 1:43
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    The exchanges are not living organisms. It's not outright clear what dying would mean in this context. At the very least this question should define that clearly one way or other to become answerable. But even then it might be too opinionated because nobody really knows the future. The truth is that nobody knows. It could be dying or it could not.
    – Trilarion
    Dec 3, 2019 at 8:00
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    Start here and read up. Also worth to know that the "mod incident" is just the last in a unfortunate serie of avoidable events - so part of the anger you are seeing is due to users being already annoyed even before all of this started.
    – SPArcheon
    Dec 4, 2019 at 8:57
  • Public companies are practically required to behave as total psychopaths, caring about only money.
    – biziclop
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:16
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    @biziclop, (a) that's not actually true; and (b) SO isn't a public company. Dec 4, 2019 at 15:56
  • stack overflow is dying by definition :D - in fact, it's overflow Jul 14, 2020 at 16:12
  • Hey its still here. Im impressed this question was not down voted to obscurity and deleted. Apr 30, 2021 at 15:17
  • @TheLegendaryCopyCoder I am suprised too. However, I post most of my answers elsewhere these days. Gitter, Discourse, private chats, Slack... and I think most of us are. You too? Therefore I still think it is a relevant question. Bad vibes drove people away. Maybe it is even more relevant than before...
    – user336245
    Apr 30, 2021 at 18:18
  • @JoostS I've just been getting on by with google searches. I get taken to SO, codeproject, github issue pages which for the most part assist me in getting things working. I should definitely checkout Gitter/Discourse/Slack though... May 2, 2021 at 13:08
  • I'd post this as an answer but the question is closed so: No, it's not dying and it wont. What really is dying are the OG users, most of them feel that SO is more of them than it really is, and they don't like change (specially when it involves showing them that they aren't as relevant as they though they were)
    – boolean
    Nov 4, 2021 at 22:43

4 Answers 4

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At the moment, you may be seeing a lot of bush fires because of the recent events. This is obviously disconcerting to the regulars around here and any newcomers - who wants to look at bush fires all day?

I think it is still too early to predict what will happen next - this is very much still a live situation - but there is no doubt that these recent events will absolutely change the network in some way. Whether this is a good or bad change is up to you to decide.

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  • Who do you mean by "you" in your last sentence? OP I'm guessing? In what way is it up to that person to decide if the changes are good or bad?
    – OmarL
    Dec 4, 2019 at 8:59
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    @Wilson that all depends on perspective. For example question by a newcomer can be seen as low-quality by the regulars, whilst others regard it as a fair question. So whether rule changes regarding question quality are perceived helpful or harmful will depend on your perspective.
    – Luuklag
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:45
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Yes, it's dying. It's not dead yet - and won't be for the foreseeable future. The company and the site can coast for a decade on the content contributed: if you want a prediction, this won't be an abrupt change: rather a slow descent into obscurity, which could take another decade. But there's no going back: the changes that SE has effected throughout 2019 are already done, and the new course has been set for a while - "optimize for sand, not pearls".

To clarify: the problem is not with specific toggles or policies, but in the abrupt and arbitrary changes: "we feel that we should have this license today, WTFPL tomorrow, and you might be required to stand on your head next week, depending on our whims." For the most part, the company is under no obligation not to do this; but also nobody is under obligation to stay, and it has been driving users out already. Tweaking policies, or even reversing them outright is easy: bringing users back...isn't.

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    "there's no going back" That would imply that the changes are irreversible. So far, I would say that nothing that happened is really irreversible. It's quite unlikely though that the company will change course in the foreseeable future. At least there are no signs of it. But maybe, if activity or revenues fall, there might be a going back of some sort. The future will tell.
    – Trilarion
    Dec 4, 2019 at 11:42
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    @Trilarion The changes have already driven away many users, including moderators; how do you propose to reverse that? Moreover, does the treatment given to Monica Celio sound reversible to you? Not every change is a toggle away, some have consequences which you can't just git reset --hard HEAD~2 Dec 4, 2019 at 11:53
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    To quote Jeff Atwood: "Without a community of people willing to answer questions, it really doesn’t matter if there are questions at all, does it?" Dec 4, 2019 at 11:54
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    Also to quote Jeff Atwood: "Get some context, folks!" (as in "why are you guys so mad at us for changing the content license without consulting you first? We already did that before, years ago and no one complained!"). So... yeah.
    – Marc.2377
    Dec 4, 2019 at 12:21
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    Also context: "Are you comfortable with the business model and goals of the website you're contributing to, and thus directly furthering? " blog.codinghorror.com/are-you-a-digital-sharecropper Dec 4, 2019 at 12:27
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    The license is not a matter of consultation ("hey, do you like what we did?"); it requires contributor consent ("hey, may we do this?"). Plus: "you didn't catch us last time" is not a carte blanche for further violations. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333089/… Dec 4, 2019 at 12:29
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    Thank you for the link to the question "Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?" It helped me to understand the problems that OP is referring to.
    – mgkrupa
    Dec 4, 2019 at 20:04
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    @Piskvor I know, that's exactly my point. Sorry for not making it clear.
    – Marc.2377
    Dec 5, 2019 at 2:07
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Is Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow dying?

In case it is not clear enough from the rich amount of evidence you managed to reference in OP:

Yes.

Or not quite. The platform will continue to exist for a long time, as will the company behind it.

But the platform as we all came to know and appreciate over the years... yes, it is dying.

I, for one, would be extremely surprised to be proven wrong on this.

Can somebody explain what is going on and/or shed some light on the future?

Not me, sorry. I advise you read over the other posts and draw your own conclusions.

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It isn't. Stack Overflow captured so many good questions/answers, so it can survive without community contribution at all.

Which means that, unless people start actively deleting their content from this site, the company is fine.

EDIT as @FrédéricHamidi pointed out, there is a limit on how many posts you can delete, so my second point is not a practical option.

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    Our content is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (or 2.5, or 4.0, depending on the phase of the moon). We cannot delete it. Dec 4, 2019 at 9:11
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    Seems you are assuming that nothing new will ever happen in tech. What's wrong with that assumption, I wonder...
    – Lundin
    Dec 4, 2019 at 9:12
  • I still see delete button. While they can remove it, it is here right now.
    – talex
    Dec 4, 2019 at 9:13
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    @talex, try deleting a few of your answers on SO in succession and see what happens (IIRC, the threshold is 5). Dec 4, 2019 at 9:14
  • @Lundin no. But they have enough valuable content now. It will become absolete at some point, but it will happen in distant future.
    – talex
    Dec 4, 2019 at 9:16
  • @FrédéricHamidi didn't know that. So they fine then (until content get obsolete).
    – talex
    Dec 4, 2019 at 9:21
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    When it's obvious someone deleted their posts just as revenge or without a real reason, a moderator will undelete and suspend the user if it keep going. Dec 4, 2019 at 9:56
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    Sure, but 800 mods and a thousands of users will create a new SO in no-time.
    – user336245
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:38
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    @JoostS SO have 18,619,175 questions right now. It took many years to get them. I doubt it is possible to replicate that in "no-time".
    – talex
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:41
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    @talex you could duplicate them into your new platform if you wish, as long as you give proper attribution.
    – Luuklag
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:46
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    Great... scraping for the win ;-)! And besides: 90% procent of the questions have no traffic. You only need the questions with traffic. Also... who cares!? If people on this new SO will answer your question, then that is automatically the new place to ask, right?
    – user336245
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:54
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    @JoostS, more like just downloading the archive copy.
    – Luuklag
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:54
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    I remember the w3schools bashing... Although I did not like that, it was pretty effective. Nobody dared to answer a question with a link to w3schools. This could be similar. If nobody dares to answer on SO and everybody links to the new platform, SO is history. How about a new name... 'allyourbase.com'. Or is that too old-school? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_your_base_are_belong_to_us
    – user336245
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:57
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    @JoostS That's a good point, and an interesting analogy because a) W3S did respond to the criticism a little: they fixed the glaring mistakes and there was a small but notable increase in quality; b) they are still quite high in search rankings. It would take a long time for some intiative like codidact.org to surplant SO but in the last couple of years I've already seen colleagues' attitudes change from being proud of their SO profiles to it being a guilty secret with a growing attitude of "If your problem is so trivial it can be answered on SO, you've already failed". Dec 4, 2019 at 11:15
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    @user56reinstatemonica8: That, in itself, could be seen as a victory: one of the core reasons of SO, fullfilled: the answer is already there and simply discoverable. Humans are tool users, remember, and SO is such a tool. OTOH, I've had issues getting more specific questions answered...this gem is ancient already: stackoverflow.com/questions/4502656/how-to-sort-my-paws Dec 4, 2019 at 15:38