647

Less than a month ago, there was some settling of the incident with firing Monica. It's obvious that there was not a lot of approval from the community on the course of action chosen by SE, or the settlement.

Today, we are seeing a new wave of SE actions targeted on work with the community: firing/letting go/agreeing to separate (the actual term is unknown and can remain an unknown forever) two very knowledgable and very trusted community managers: Shog9 and Robert Cartaino:

The following change in SE staff happened shortly after this event:

  1. Jon Ericson leaves his position as a Community Manager (but explicitly says that "I made this decision in December and it's not correlated with the recent CM team changes". Jon wants to apply for the moderator diamond back and continue participating). His blog post indicates that his decision to leave was connected to the incident with firing Monica.

The following moderators resigned shortly after this event:

  1. resigned: nhinkle on Super User
  2. resigned: El'endia Starman on Christianity (explicitly stating that firing CMs was the final straw)
  3. resigned: Hatchet on Language Learning (explicitly stating that firing CMs was the final straw)
  4. resigned: Madara Uchiha on Stack Overflow (explicitly stating that firing CMs and the lack of resolution with Monica were the final straws)
  5. resigned and deleting accounts: Web Head on Arts & Crafts
  6. resigned: dmckee on Physics
  7. resigned: StrongBad on Academia and Expatriates (irreconcilable view on the role of the community and SE policies)

The following moderators suspended their activity shortly after this event:

  1. suspended activity: called2voyage on Space Exploration and Astronomy (explicitly links the suspension with firing CMs and preceding sad events)

Timeline:

2020-01-13: Firing (for the lack of better term) of community managers Shog9 and Robert Cartaino. Shorty followed by an official dry reply

2020-01-15: George Stocker starts a GoFundMe campaign to thank Shog9 for cultivating StackOverflow

2020-01-16: Official policy on limiting ing the moderator resignation notice to only 24 hours

At the bare minimum, as a result:


I wonder:

  • if there is any plan on the SE's side to actually be involved in the building of the community?
  • who is now responsible for community building and interaction of community/moderators with developers and upper management?
  • if the remaining CM team will be re-staffed since it is already heavily understaffed in my opinion?
  • is there an intent from the company to at least thank the CMs that served Stack Exchange many-many years? Even if it is a dry lawyered-written "thank you".

I am devastated. Both as SE user and SE moderator.

  • 51
    CMs being disrespected is one reason why I had suspended my activity. Doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. – Bhargav Rao Jan 13 at 18:12
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    People don't "suddenly" start looking for a new job unless they were fired or something so bad happened that they had no choice but to immediately resign. Either way, it's bad. – tvanfosson Jan 13 at 18:12
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    I fully expected there to be further "canary in a coal mine" moments. I just didn't expect them to kill their own canaries ... – Bart Jan 13 at 20:28
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    The death of SE sites is imminent...you can only shoot yourself in the foot so many times before you no longer have a foot to shoot...... – Sorceri Jan 14 at 19:26
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    Does the CEO have an account here, i.e. has he interacted with the community? – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Jan 14 at 23:52
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    Should be featured like the two farewell posts. – Mulligan ᛜ Reinstating Monica Jan 15 at 5:14
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    @AntonMenshov of interest: There's a gofundme going for shog here (it is organized by george stocker): gofundme.com/f/thanking-josh-heyer-for-shaping-stack-overflow – Magisch Jan 15 at 18:07
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    I may have missed this, but do we have any actual indication that these individuals were fired? Versus resigning, or some other mechanism? – dwizum 2 days ago
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  • 2
    @Tinkeringbell I also don't think this post should be featured. – Anton Menshov 2 days ago
  • 3
    I appreciate that this post and whole event shapes up to be exactly the same as last time, one post to aggregate all the ... decisions and the fallout of moderators resigning etc. How many more times does this have to happen? – luk2302 yesterday
  • 1
    Anyone who is upset with how SE is running things is welcome to join us at the [official Discord][1] for the transition to Codidact. We currently only have a replacement set up for Writing SE, due to limited server space, but all are welcome in the meantime. Come and say hi to Monica and the others who have left. [1]: discordapp.com/invite/QCZAMVQ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron 18 hours ago
  • @ThomasReinstateMonicaMyron: I don't know what the name for that sort of link formatting (used by default in posts if you use the button/hotkey to format the link for you) is - "named/numbered references", maybe? - but it doesn't work in comments or in chat, only in questions and answers. – V2Blast 24 mins ago

17 Answers 17

-737

You all should know that this is very hard for us. This is what I am able to share:

As you have seen, today there were some changes on the Community Team. Out of respect for their privacy, we aren’t able to comment on any specific current or former employees.

We’re seeking to align the company so that it can continue growing in 2020 and we continue to be committed in investing in the community and ensuring that it has a seat at the table as we keep moving forward. These changes are a part of that process.

  • 270
    Ya'll won't grow nothing without a community supporting you. If anything you'll get the remnants of which that community built. – David DPG Jan 13 at 18:54
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    Nobody asked me: but being a VP in another company, I strongly recommend to reorganize marketing/legal/whatever team that writes or directs such statements. The decisions on community building – is another sad story. – Anton Menshov Jan 13 at 18:54
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    I want to ask the folks here to consider what position Juan is when they interact with this post. Juan is a valued member of the Community Manager team and Shog's colleague. None of this is his fault. Not even what he's allowed to say here. – Vogel612's Shadow Jan 13 at 18:54
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    There is no way that firing Shog and Robert is in any way part of ensuring that the community has a seat at the table, it's the extreme opposite of that. I have trouble imagining a more cynical PR statement than this. – Disappointed in SE Jan 13 at 18:55
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    That's worse than "no comment". – Helmar Jan 13 at 18:57
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    I'm pretty sure you didn't write this, but this is a -1 from me and I'd do more if I could. The first paragraph I expected. The second is just insulting. If SE can ever come even close to finding a way to explain how these people leaving in any way helps "investing in the community", I will literally eat my shorts. – Rubiksmoose Jan 13 at 18:57
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    I realize that this messaging is probably not coming from you personally, but I find it inappropriate and inconsistent. Removing Shog and Robert, who are very experienced and generally respected by the community, does not show commitment to "investing in the community". It shows the exact opposite. Whoever is writing this messaging come across as being very out of touch and, in my opinion, saying nothing would probably be preferable to this. – Thomas Owens Jan 13 at 18:59
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    @JuanM I echo the sentiment of the other people commenting here. I'm quite certain you're just the messenger, so please don't take the down-votes personally as they are against the message, not you. Also, I believe it would have been better to not say anything at all rather than what I consider to be complete nonsense like "we continue to be committed in investing in the community". I suggest deleting that entire third paragraph. – John Omielan Jan 13 at 19:03
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    It is all so mind-boggling. I mean, the firing was to be expected I suppose, some more flexing of the middle finger that's been extended to long-time invested users for a while now. No surprises there. But the scripted communiqués that follow these events are so bizarre, so obviously counter-productive and mean girls-style petty and antagonistic, part of me is expecting Jeff Atwood or Will to soon reveal everything that happened since October was a gigantic troll of epic dimensions – Pekka Jan 13 at 19:07
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    I'd like to reiterate that if you're just the messenger, there's no need to take the negative response here personally. But even so, you should, as the messenger, at least report the response back to SE management. – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Jan 13 at 19:11
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    TBF we really aren't the community anymore. Meta/power users are a very small fraction of the user base and the community is now the horde of people asking for homework help. This is the meat SE is going after as they are generating the add revenue. That's the community they are building, unfortunately. – NathanOliver Jan 13 at 19:18
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    I'm sorry you're being used to convey this meaningless message. You deserve better. – roberrrt-s Jan 13 at 19:29
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    I agree with all the others: I very much doubt that a long term community manager would write such a message, especially that last paragraph. That is yet another excerpt from that book "The top 10 management styles to ruin your company and make you look like a soulless golem", written by certain other SE Inc. employees, whose names shall not be mentioned. So, downvoted for the message, not to humiliate the messenger. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 13 at 19:52
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    I have one thing to say: you're growing in the wrong direction. Now I'm sure 2020 is the last year of Stack Exchange, and I'll be really sorry to see this company go. It was good. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 13 at 23:23
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    What does 'align the company' even mean? It's horrible corporate speak that renders it meaningless without context. And without context, we can only guess that it means "anyone who disagrees with us will be removed" – DavidG Jan 14 at 12:23
457

We’re seeking to align the company so that it can continue growing in 2020 and we continue to be committed in investing in the community and ensuring that it has a seat at the table as we keep moving forward. These changes are a part of that process. (source)

In other words, you feel that the best way of ensuring that the community has a seat at the table is to remove two of the people the community trusts best. The people we actually believe when they tell us things, those who made us feel heard.

I am honestly fascinated by the idea that someone in the company really felt that would be a helpful message. I've heard of spin, but this is really one of the worst examples I have come across. It's like someone going on a shooting spree and killing people to protest against violence.

It's your company, you can do what you like with it, but for the love of $deity, stop insulting us! Just say you had to fire folks, but don't try to spin it as being part of "investing in the community".

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    Spin in public statements, especially spin that obviously doesn't add up, is not how one earns trust a community. It is however a great way to earn distrust. – doppelgreener Jan 13 at 19:03
  • I think the "it" applies to the company, instead of the community. – CodeCaster Jan 14 at 8:36
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    Oh, I think they are investing in the community - not in the one that exists, but the one they envision. Which is not us. – Cindy Meister Jan 14 at 10:21
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    ... yes, a bit like Venice: the people that built it must leave, now it's time to make profit from tourist hordes. – alain Jan 14 at 12:53
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    When the community gets in the way of making money, what else can you do? – user253751 Jan 14 at 15:20
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    @user253751 In this case, that's exactly like saying "those pesky customers are in our way of making money, lets get rid of them". – Lundin Jan 14 at 16:09
  • @Lundin Who cares? Technical support is a cost center! Fire them all! (By the time this plays out, hopefully I will have retired and sold my stock...) – user253751 Jan 14 at 16:12
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    This might be a good time to go looking for alternatives to SE, like Codidact. Former high-profile members like Monica Cellio are already involved. – Matthias Braun Jan 14 at 17:36
  • Note that "remove" may not be precise. We do not know who really initiated the separation of SE from these two CMs. However, knowing their (especially Shog9's) attitude, SE certainly let this happen, by action or by a lack of it. – yo' Jan 14 at 22:20
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    @MatthiasBraun I observed some comments linking to codidact being deleted. Let's see how long your own stands. – Victor Stafusa Jan 14 at 22:48
  • @VictorStafusa: Is there a way for the public to see proof of that censorship (deleting mentions of Codidact)? – Matthias Braun Jan 15 at 8:10
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    @gerrit and others, I've been mentioning codidact all over the network and have never seen any censorship. And there are many reasons to remove comments. Most of the comments here will probably be deleted at some point because they're chatty and don't add anything very useful. That doesn't mean they'll be censored for mentioning codidact. – terdon Jan 15 at 8:58
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    @MatthiasBraun at the time of your comment, the linked alternative is a git repo with 16 commits... that's a bit light to envision it as a solution that could sustain 100 million posts, 10 million users, and all the tools to make it community driven (queues, privileges, inbox, etc.). – Cœur Jan 15 at 13:06
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    @Cœur Well they literally started open development 1 day ago, after roundabout 2 months of preparing to start "the right way" and not code themselves into a corner. – Raphael Schmitz Jan 15 at 13:15
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    @RobertRyan I really hope you're right, but everything I've seen over the past several months makes it quite clear they do not want to engage at all. And it really isn't essential to their business model given that they sell Teams, Enterprise and Careers, not the public Q&A. But hey, I'll be overjoyed if it turns out you're right. – terdon 2 days ago
232

This action and the response from SE are an insult to every meta user's intelligence. I refuse to accept that someone would actually think that firing the people that could hold this community together after all that's happened would be the right move into investing in the community.

I don't know why you folks at management are doing what you're doing, but it feels to me that you're no longer interested in working with the community at all, that you're actually trying to dynamite whatever scraps of trust we had in you, and that you're going to get rid of us and see if you can keep the machine rolling after ditching the engineers.

Now what I would like you to do is to stop lying to us, and tell us that you want to ditch us ASAP so everyone can move on from this endless tragedy.

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    "stop lying to us, and tell us that you want to ditch us ASAP" -- they don't want that. They want to keep exploiting us for as long as possible -- and to do that, you need to keep your enemy guessing. It's in the thirty-six stratagems. – ivan_pozdeev yesterday
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    The old "community" is not welcome anymore, it's simple as that. There's no elegant or professional way to convey that, hence The Mess they created. – brasofilo yesterday
  • Y’all are wasting your breath. Mgmt doesn’t read meta and they’re getting rid of the people who do. – RubberDuck 9 hours ago
157

We’re seeking to align the company so that it can continue growing in 2020 and we continue to be committed in investing in the community and ensuring that it has a seat at the table as we keep moving forward.

Bummer.

And I just decided to get up, and leave my chair at Stack Overflow. Last summer, my plan was to double my reputation to at least 250 K there. In the meantime, I learned to two things:

  • that approximately, 100K reputation that a user "produces" on Stack Overflow "translates" to 30K USD or more of "value/income for SE Inc (see here)
  • that I really lost all interest of helping you, SE Inc. to "grow" their income.

So, unfortunately, I feel the urgent need to repeat something I hated writing last year:

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed on the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could only win it back
By increased work quotas. Would it not in that case be simpler
for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

"The solution", a poem by Bertolt Brecht


Note 1: whether that 30K USD number is realistic or not, that isn't the crucial point. I am sure I created plenty of value, also by the moderation efforts I provided.

Note 2: actually, I didn't lose my motivation accidentally. SE Inc. killed it.

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    I just checked my account on StackOverflow and it says that my posts have reached ~2.3M people and I'm in the top 3% of reputation overall. I'm not sure how that translates into revenue, but I'm kind of disgusted at the amount of work I did for them, for free. – anonymous Jan 13 at 19:37
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    @anonymous Tell me about it – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Jan 13 at 19:43
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    Just to be fair, we all contributed because we wanted to help others and no matter what, SE isn't taking that away in any way. Doesn't change of course that they earned money from the advertisements, but at the same time, a not insignificant portion of that money went to infrastructure and salaries. Doesn't change that at the end of the day I share your unhappiness with SE and my lack of motivation definitely grew strongly with their 'recent' behavior and it hasn't been getting any better. – David Mulder Jan 14 at 10:18
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    @DavidMulder Agreed. They can't take "away" our contributions. But they are really good at creating some sort of sentiment that feels like "being stabbed in the back". And yeah, being stabbed in the front, in the torso, ... – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 14 at 19:17
  • Ghostcat, that's a huge loss - I hope they realise it. I think we've briefly interacted on a couple of occasions, but I certainly recognise you as one of the best [java] contributors on the site. – berry120 Jan 14 at 21:14
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    SED were probably not amused by the poem. – Peter Mortensen Jan 15 at 7:38
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    @anonymous You're not working for SE. You're working for the community. Technically and legally, it's possible for the community to move to a new host along with all user-contributed content. – gerrit Jan 15 at 8:51
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    @gerrit Technically and theoretically: yes. For a small community with a few hundred of relatively engaged users ... doable. For stackoverflow, with millions of users, and "no real community" in that sense ... forget about it. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 15 at 9:13
  • @PeterMortensen That poem was part of a larger collection, and most of them were only made public after Brecht died. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 15 at 9:17
  • @berry120 Thank you very much. And I am proud to hold at least the bottom "all times" entry here stackoverflow.com/tags/java/topusers – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 15 at 10:23
79

It isn't.

There was no statement from a higher up to this thread, not even saying "That's our internal thing and we won't discuss it publicly, we'll do this and that to improve community", or no statement at all (company shouldn't discuss employee terminations after all, but it'd be nice to show some community building plans, if any exist). The ones at the top don't respect meta as the place to come under your own name, answer questions and show leadership.

Instead, a message drafted by PR (a mediocre one, if I may add) was relegated to the staffer to post as an official response. Feels as if anyone participating here is treated as a second-order citizen. The era in which Jeff comes in front of the community and actually communicates with the very people who made this site possible is long over and remnants are being cleaned up. Meta is not being used, much less lead by the ones with the most responsibility in SE, it's merely a task in a CM's workday. We're not getting any answers here; here may not even exist in a few months. It's a new business plan and a new hierarchy — for what I know, maybe the most viable one.


I was never particularly involved with main sites, besides regularly lurking, exploring HNQ and participating in chat until a few years ago, only occasionally answering even more occasionally asking questions (mainly in SO), so using these sites as the marvelous internet resources they are and not contributing to it guilt-free won't be much of an issue for me. Seeing some others more valuable community members turning neutral/hostile to SO will be far more devastating, possibly making this platform valuable only for its archive of knowledge.

But if we could stop getting bullshitty intelligence-insulting PR responses every time someone evaluates there's a crisis in the making/going on, that'd be cool.

  • 8
    Can we trade? Let's not use phrases that are destined to spark a fight/start more controversy, such as "The one who decided to fire CMs didn't come forward" - since we don't really know what happened, and we probably won't know what happened. From there, the PR responses may come across as a little less inflammatory. – Makoto Jan 13 at 22:33
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    @Makoto Alright, what I had in mind is that I'd more appreciate someone higher up to say what happened or nothing at all, instead of sending the messenger with an empty response (I mean, what's the point). Crisis PR seems not to be the strong suit here. I'll try to find more suitable phrase which hopefully won't come off as combative and edit it out. – Luke Jan 13 at 22:38
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    When I think about it, in no conceivable scenario (s/w)ould an employer disclose anything about employees' termination (barring criminal proceedings and the like), nor does this question ask about it, so I framed the answer in the wrong way. So it's really the disrespect for the community and awful PR statements which annoy me. – Luke Jan 13 at 22:53
61

I wish I could say I didn't see this coming. But I did. Not exactly this, but the continuation of a series of mistakes.

How did we get here?

Mistakes happen, nothing new. But when they do, they have to be fixed; otherwise new mistakes tend to accumulate over the old ones. This is what is also happening here. Mistakes were made, but they were never properly fixed. What has been fixed, or at least what was attempted to be fixed, were not the original mistake(s) but some further mistakes that piled upon the original one(s). And as we can see, this kind of approach does not work well and new mistakes will keep piling up.

How can I be so sure?

Besides my own subjective feelings, there is also an objective measure. What is more plausible, that the long term moderators and employees, people that contributed to building this place from the ground up, proven pillars of the community, have suddenly collectively lost their marbles and began misbehaving to the point they had to be somehow removed, or that something else is deeply wrong?

We are all different people here. With different perspectives and different opinions. But no matter what we individually might think about particular topics, one thing is certain - nobody actually likes the general direction in which SE is going.

The current situation reminds me of an old joke:

A guy was driving on a highway listening to the radio. Suddenly, the music was interrupted with urgent warning that one lunatic is driving on a highway in the wrong direction.

The guy in the car looks around: "ONE!!!! Not one, but hundreds of them."


It does not matter how he got there... it does not matter if it was an honest mistake or not... what matters is his incapability to take a step back and judge his own actions, his incapability to see his own fault.


Update:

In most recent timeline, some events are most surely just mistakes (or missteps), but the rest of what I call mistakes is most likely as-designed and intended. Stack Exchange is heading in drastically different direction from the original vision of building high quality library of knowledge. Now, it is all about making money, knowledge is no longer important, nor the library itself.

However, Stack Exchange is symbiosis between company and community. One cannot exist with the other. Either there is cooperation or there is no cooperation. But if there is no cooperation Stack Exchange (as we know it) is dead. I am not against company making money, on the contrary... But it is their approach to the people that seriously sucks... and oh, irony, they are actually trying to sell that as building more inclusive community... (probably just a PR stunt).

Library of knowledge is on its way to extinction. Whether or not SE will be able to make enough money and survive by selling other products... only time will tell. But effectively going into conflict with people that are your prospective customers is not the smartest move. Maybe they are thinking there is enough other users that basically don't care about everything that has happened.

  • 4
    At least that guy in the joke can be saved by police, in SE case, no such possibility. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 14 at 14:24
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    Another version of that joke: "Son, how did the parade go?" "It went great! The whole troop was marching out of step except for me!" – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Jan 14 at 15:10
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    Who's right and who's wrong and who made the mistakes is always a very subjective question, but at least the major realization is that the active community and the company are at odds and not only a bit but really in a fundamental way and keeps on clashing. I'm a bit tired of thinking about the reasons why and rather just want to move on, probably to other places in the huge thing called Internet. – Trilarion Jan 15 at 9:40
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    @Trilarion It is subjective, all right... but volunteers working with employees built this place with their contributions and their free time. Saying that those volunteers and their work just like the employees that were guiding and backing up those volunteers don't matter and can be discarded like trash is not just subjective... it is personal. Not to mention that company will and is still using our free work to make profit. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 15 at 10:07
  • @ResistanceIsFutile I understand that it's personal for many, but I always also thought that the company owns the platform (domain names, software that runs the servers, ads revenues) and can do with it whatever it wants. Was the view in the early days of StackOverflow that the community would eventually also partly own the platform in some way? Or did users just trust that Jeff Atwood and Shog would run the company forever? – Trilarion Jan 15 at 10:51
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    @Trilarion Stack Exchange is symbiosis. One cannot exist with the other. Either there is cooperation or there is no cooperation. But if there is no cooperation Stack Exchange is dead. I am not against company making money, on the contrary... but it is their approach to the people that seriously sucks... and oh, irony, they are actually trying to sell that as building more inclusive community... – Resistance Is Futile Jan 15 at 11:10
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    I totally agree, their approach to inclusivity backfired catastrophically. Would upvote your comment, but ran out of votes unfortunately. – Trilarion Jan 15 at 11:24
55

As I've continued to say:

It's time to leave the Stack Exchange network.

This post only further fuels what I and many others are feeling about the direction Stack Exchange has been going recently.

This isn't the Stack Exchange network I signed up for, and it's not the Stack Exchange network I intend to stay in. It's time to send a message: Going down this path is going to lose the most loyal and trusted members of this network.

  • 1
    I know how you feel, but what's the point of such a post? I mean, either leave or stay, but this in between thing where you're still around yet advocate leaving doesn't make much sense. – terdon Jan 15 at 10:33
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    For the last few weeks, I've pretty much only browsed Meta looking for any update for the Monica situation. I think the only thing at this point that will make Stack Exchange realize what they're doing is wrong: Is a mass exodus of their community. Then and only then will investors realize that the new CEO is turning this company down an incredibly destructive path, and start rebuilding/regaining trust of the community, or allow these users to find their own path with alternative Q&A website platforms. – Goodbye StackExchange Jan 15 at 10:40
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    Perhaps, although I doubt they care. The communities don't make money, SO has reached its goal and isn't interested in building a library any more, the non-SO sites were never relevant financially and the only thing they actually sell is Careers, Enterprise and Teams. Maybe if everyone left they would mind, but if a few hundred of us active users leave I honestly doubt they'd care. But either way, if we're going to leave then we should leave, not hang around here to talk about leaving ;) – terdon Jan 15 at 10:55
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    Of note, they had a blog post selling teams come out the same day they started "aligning the company" for growth by removing pillars of the community. – RageFoxx Jan 15 at 12:01
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    Yet, you are still here! – jmarkmurphy Jan 15 at 15:06
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    @terdon I understand GoodBye StackExchange's reason for sticking around and talking about leaving. I'd guess it's similar to mine. We appreciate the community here and would like to encourage others with a similar mindset to also seek out alternative Q&A sites. I'm excited about a project I just found out about. It's in its infancy, but CoDidact just might be that thing! – TecBrat Jan 15 at 19:54
  • @TecBrat I understand too! I'm still here, aren't I? I just don't see any point in people (and it happens a lot) talking about leaving. We should either leave, or not. But mentioning it and not doing it is just pointless. – terdon 2 days ago
  • @terdon: if several hundred or thousand expert users (i.e. the people that post useful answers, aka the site's intrinsic value) left, they could easily disguise it under a mountain of metrics (DAU/MAU counts still going up, raw answercounts going up, meanwhile quality goes irreversibly down). Clearly SO is under huge pressure to meet some short-term metrics on profitability and related milestones, and things will be sacrificed to that. – smci 2 days ago
51

We’re seeking to align the company so that it can continue growing in 2020 and we continue to be committed in investing in the community and ensuring that it has a seat at the table as we keep moving forward. These changes are a part of that process. - Juan M ♦

Quoted for context, not necessarily because I'm passing judgement on the messenger.

However, I am passing judgement on Stack Exchange, Inc because having layoffs on a Monday is just gauche. Friday is traditional and Wednesday is very justifiable, but Monday seems like the company is either incompetent or is over-correcting due to other issues. Even more so given that it was roughly 12:00 EST when the news broke - I just hope nobody had to commute into work.

Given that these are respected Community Managers that are supposed to act as the interface between the company and the public, I'm going to assume that Stack Exchange, Inc just sees us as a profit center to be exploited. Having listened to the old podcasts when Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky where developing the idea and being part of the private beta test of Stack Overflow, I'm very disappointed with where the company has gone.

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    Out of curiosity, why does the day of the week make a difference? – gerrit Jan 15 at 8:54
  • 4
    Also, why is 12 EST a problem? Stack is a company with many remote employees, geographically dispersed. Shog lives in Colorado, MST, so he got the news at 10 instead. – Martijn Pieters Jan 15 at 9:54
  • @MartijnPieters From the looks of Shog's twitter they might have gotten the news at 0800-ish. Let's put it this way, would you want to go through your routine and "go to" work and have the first thing be notice your getting made redundant? – anonymous Jan 15 at 14:43
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    @gerrit There was a longer comment chain attached that was purged at some point, but the gist of it is that in the United States, Friday is the traditional day for layoffs, followed by Wednesday. Monday is seen a bit of a "immediate termination for cause." – anonymous Jan 15 at 14:44
  • "not necessary because I'm passing judgement on the messenger." You're passing judgment on the messenger? Or did you mean to say "not necessarily because I'm passing judgment on the messenger"? – Joel Reyes Noche yesterday
34

All Stack Overflow needs to do, is to own up to her mistakes.

I find it so baffling and beyond comprehension as to what's keeping them from it.

I might be being too cynic, but the simplest explanation would be that now it's an ego problem for the people top in the foodchain.

I think the community and SO need to start seeing a couples-counsellor.

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  • 56
    One does not see couples counselor after explicitly violent behavior. – Anton Menshov Jan 14 at 2:42
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    @AntonMenshov I literally laughed out at this. This is was so funny and sad at the same time. :D/ – Shamas S - Reinstate Monica Jan 14 at 2:48
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    "what's keeping them from it" - Quite simple actually. They do not believe they are making a mistake. They truly believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They have surrounded themselves with like-minded individuals who reaffirm their believes instead of providing critical feedback. – Fermi paradox Jan 14 at 19:01
  • @AntonMenshov True, but you have to go with the analogy, right? In this case firing people is sort of a comparable to violent behavior. Not to mention all the Monica related stuff with laywers and everything. – ChatterOne Jan 15 at 7:48
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    "I find it so baffling and beyond comprehension as to what's keeping them from it." It's remarkably simple: pride and self righteousness for certain members of the staff and fear for the others. – jpmc26 Jan 15 at 16:16
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We’re seeking to align the company so that it can continue growing in 2020 and we continue to be committed in investing in the community and ensuring that it has a seat at the table as we keep moving forward. These changes are a part of that process. (source)

I understand that sometime companies need to reorganize, cut costs, etc. I don't have a problem with that. I even understand that sometimes those changes can be difficult and will not be well received by everyone. However, whoever wrote the last paragraph for Juan M. really does not seem to understand how much that paragraph can aggravate the community in which they claim they want to invest.

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    They just say that they want to invest in the community because openly admiting that what they really want is to get rid of the community is not going to please their investors. – Victor Stafusa Jan 14 at 18:47
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    It's probably the investors who want to get rid of the community. Dissent is not good for business. – ndugger Jan 14 at 18:52
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    @Victor Stafusa Saying they want to "invest in the community" always sounds good. But, one has to look at their actions, not just a few nice words. – Bill W Jan 14 at 18:55
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    They know exactly what it means to us. They're convinced the site will be more profitable if they run us off and let the help vampires and enablers view as many ads as possible. – Dan is Fiddling by Firelight Jan 14 at 19:06
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    User see reduced ads at only 200 rep. I wouldn't mind seeing more ads, if it meant reduced nonsense going on. However, it is clear now that won't happen. :( – Bill W Jan 14 at 19:14
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    There is no more community! It is gone, dead and left to blow away in the wind. Try to convince SE to do anything beneficial for the community is like peeing in the wind....you are just going to get pissed on no matter what. The only true solution is to band together and leave SE for a period of time. Unfortunately this is not realistic as there will always be people who don't grasp what an impact that can have. – Sorceri Jan 15 at 18:14
19

It seems as though the one's in charge have ordered full engines ahead. Never mind the hole on port or the massive gash on starboard. Disregard the boilers flooding. Pay no heed to the crew calling out that forward are lots of underwater rocks that keep scraping the hull and busting the bulkheads.

Now the helm yells "keep going!" The crew is thinking of jumping ship to escape the inevitable. They could patch the hole and seal the gash. They could pump the water from the boiler rooms. They could keep the ship afloat. But if the helm is just going to keep ramming forward through the rocks to chase a Moby Dick, and they have all the weapon's locked away with them, then why go down with the ship? Let the helm figure out how useless a sinking ship is without a crew. Hopefully they realize it before they are at the bottom of the ocean with it.

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  • 15
    Shog's metaphors are better. – Journeyman Geek Jan 14 at 15:56
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    @JourneymanGeek Undoubtedly. It's sad to see that he was kicked from the helm. One of the few who didn't respond cold and robotically among the staff. – RageFoxx Jan 14 at 16:01
17

I'm not typically very active on meta and also a bit late to the party, but this one amuses me. Really.

I'm going to tell a story (to the users, I know SE staff doesn't care), which is a bit long but please, see if someone can notice any similarities.

A few years ago I worked in a very well known company for one of their local websites. There was a guy that, take it from someone that has 25 years worth of experience, was just incredible. He'd been with the company for 12 years and spent most of it as the principal architect. He know literally everything, and he was the go-to guy when nobody else could help. Everyone loved him because of the respect he showed to other people but also because of how he brought the development team together. Let's call him Bob.

One day, our manager tells us to go with him in a meeting room for an unexpected meeting and tells us that he decided to "ask" Bob to leave the company. While we were inside the room, Bob had already packed his things and disappeared. After a shocked silence (nobody expected this in the slightest) we asked about what happened and the manager said:"Well, it's on a personal level, so if you want to know more you'll have to ask him".

Fine. We have Bob's contacts, we set up a date to go with everyone for a beer and meet him.

So we do. We meet him and ask what the hell happened and Bob says that he had to sign an NDA not to say anything. Obviously the manager already knew that he couldn't talk, so he deviated our attention.

We were not happy. But, we wanted to keep our jobs, so we kind of moved on.

Fast forward of about one year.

The only competitor that we had (literally, just one), decided that we were too strong in the market, so they went to our boss' boss and said that they would sell us their company. So... We won the market! Yeah! Big celebrations obviously, and after about 3 months there was already a scheduled global (world-wide) meeting with the other local websites, so we were looking forward to being celebrated for being market leaders.

I mean, that's good news, right? ...Right?

...Wrong. When the global meeting came the big boss (and I mean big, the CEO of the whole thing worldwide) announces that our website has reached end of life.

This was met with silence on our part, and then something like "Sorry, what?"

Because someone (non-technical) decided that the technology stack was too old and it had to be migrated to a common platform which actually still didn't exist, but the base for it would be another "sister" website.

So our whole team (development, sales, marketing, whatever) was all split into the different teams of the "sister" website.

That was 27 people.

During the first month 5 people left, including me and I know that during the second month another 4 people left.

I don't know what happened after that but I stopped caring.

So, do you see the pattern here?

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  • Very interesting story. Reminds me a bit on the Weather forecast. You never know what will happen next. – Trilarion 2 days ago
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    A colleague of my father's was made redundant by IBM three times, each time they bought out companies that resold their mainframe products. Eventually he got the hint. – Richard 21 hours ago
16

As a manager myself, I cannot help but be amazed and impressed with the extraordinary level of political incompetence on display among the management at Stack Exchange.

Since I've been contributing, and even before that, one of the attractive qualities of the community was the tolerance and respect that members had for one another. I had the impression that moderation of content was particularly delicate, the process was fair, and all attempts were made to avoid the ruffling of feathers. Then, like a bolt from the blue, Monica happened, and was promptly followed by dozens of the kind of missteps that will be written about in textbooks.

Community management is about managing politics. The contributors across Stack Exchange are smart and reasonable people. People here respect one another and are forgiving of one another. When the corporate management fails to live up to that basic expectation, it becomes an intractable problem.

I do not contribute to Stack because of the corporate leadership. If my contributions generate revenue and help keep the servers running and the lights on, so much the better. I contribute to help others find the answers that they need. I am disappointed that the responses of management have led to severe (and likely irreparable) harm to the community. The objective of reaching more people with good answers is diminished by their actions.

  • The community is irrelevant now. It is all about accommodating newbies (where the growth is supposed to come from), by offering a help desk (or the equivalent), etc. Hopefully a helpdesk as an extra feature, not something that will destroy the knowledge base. – Peter Mortensen 1 min ago
13

I would like to use this answer as a way to remind everyone, or inform anyone who did not already sign, know or wanted to sign, to visit the link to the Community's letter to the Stack Exchange management.

Seeing as meta will probably be phased out anyway now, at least some artefact of the community's reaction and sentiment will be out on the internet.

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    Signing that letter is a waste of time because SE already made it clear that they are not interested in working with the community... – l4mpi Jan 14 at 16:17
  • Then let's collectively delete accounts and be done with it. – roberrrt-s Jan 14 at 16:18
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    Deleting has limited effect, basically all it does is removing your name from your answers. Not contributing (to any non-meta sites) is basically the same thing. I'm not sure yet what the most effective actions would be, but I do believe we're long past the point where things can be fixed with words. – l4mpi Jan 14 at 16:24
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  • @l4mpi "I'm not sure yet what the most effective actions would be..." I think that everyone should make up his mind, whether he or she or they can support the company under these circumstances. If no, then delete the account, stop contributing, start contributing somewhere else and tell everyone how bad it is here. That are the most effective actions that can be done if one decides that the current direction is completely wrong. – Trilarion 2 days ago
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    @Trilarion that's a rather passive way to take action. There are more active ways, such as contributing to open Q/A platforms. And as explained above, deleting your account does more harm to yourself than it does to SE. I for one will keep the account around for a while even though I stopped contributing to non-meta sites years ago, if just to downvote crap like the accepted answer here. – l4mpi 2 days ago
  • @l4mpi Sure, contribute to open Q&A platforms with time or money is a worthy thing too. And of course you can keep your account, I will probably keep mine too, if only for nostalgic reasons, but I will also do the other stuff, for example writing up a blog post about all the things I think the company did wrong. – Trilarion 2 days ago
10

The answer to this question appears to be that they are not.

10

There are already lots of answers and I want to add a more optimistic perspective about a possible future where the company concentrates on selling software for Q&A for enterprises and the public Q&A knowledge base has moved somewhere else for good.

It's really clear beyond any doubt that the company strongly reduced any support for the community, by not communicating with it or by reductions in employees working in that area and many other issues.

Public Q&A is indeed not very important for the company, the activity is stagnating at best and the ad revenue is not the major source of their income. And they can't sell the knowledge that easily, among other things because it is under an open license. Selling the software powering these systems however is fine and I wish them all the best with it.

They neglect the community and, that's how it looks, try to muddle through with the public Q&A. It doesn't work very well so far. Quality never was lower.

But this also incorporates a chance. A chance to start new with the sole purpose of providing quality Q&A that builds a knowledge base and lasts. If the company would be relieved from running a public Q&A, so to speak, which anyway never would be making lots of money, it might solve most of the current problems and probably create new ones as well.

It's a time of change. Creating an alternative home for the content and the community is a very big task and may even split the community in possibly multiple divided places but at least it's a productive way forward and in the best case it could make everyone more productive. Remaining in the current state is just too unpleasant.

-35

I, personally encourage everyone to at least withhold judgement until we learn more about why this is happening. Trying to learn more should always be the first step when reacting to these sorts of actions.

With that in mind, it is a very good time to start asking questions. You can't just remove multiple CMs and expect people to not want answers. I know SE wants to say this is a matter between them and the CMs in question, but as the community they helped manage, I'd say that we have a genuine stake in this matter.

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    Do you seriously believe that we will learn about why this is happening?. There is an answer from an SE employee that says: "we aren’t able to comment on any specific current or former employees"...so I don't think this will happen – Lamak Jan 13 at 19:25
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    "I know SE wants to say this is a matter between them and the CMs in question, but as the community they helped manage, I'd say that we have a genuine stake in this matter." To be honest, as much as I'd love to know, this is still people's jobs and employment we're talking about, and we have absolutely no right to know any more about that. -1, sorry. – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Jan 13 at 19:34
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    "Trying to learn more should always be the first step when reacting to these sorts of actions. " That's exactly what this Meta question is: a request to learn more about the context. – jscs Jan 13 at 19:39
  • @Lamak Of course we'll learn more. It might not come from a statement from SE, but it is almost certain that more will come out. Shog's tweet is 3 and a half hours old. The dust hasn't even settled yet. (re-posted because of notable typo) – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Jan 13 at 19:40
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    "withhold judgement" is for companies that have a decent track record of transparency. "once bitten, twice shy", applies here.... Stack is not transparent in the slightest. I'll give benefit of the doubt when I'm seeing actions that make a modicum of sense.... – Patrice Jan 13 at 20:17
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    They have long since exhausted any goodwill I had for them. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Jan 14 at 0:14
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    What more is there to learn? I've seen all I need to see. This whole place is going up in flames and sinking like the Titanic. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Jan 14 at 15:11
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    At this point, the CM firings are an answer to previous things we were withholding judgment about, not a new thing to withhold judgment about. – Brilliand Jan 14 at 22:52
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    I'm generally all in favour of this kind of attitude, but it strikes me as rather naïve in this particular situation. People are let go when they're no longer considered a good fit for their roles, which happens when either the people or the company changes. I have not seen Shog9 or Robert change, but I have seen the company change. We may not be sure, but it's not unreasonable to make educated guesses as to the reasons they were let go. My own educated guess is that they echoed the community's sentiment internally – which was basically their job – and SE thanked them by firing them. – Martin Tournoij 2 days ago

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