680

The title says it all.

Thank you, Robert Cartaino, for everything you did for SE and the community.

I don't post much on MSE, but have been a mod for about eight years. There is a lot that can go on behind the scenes, work that the CMs do to help out the site moderators. That is one of the things that Robert excelled at. Whether it was a simple check-in to see how things were going, or handling a tricky situation, I always knew the outcome was going to be correct.

  • 54
    I appreciate the sentiment behind not wanting rep over a post about someone's departure. But just to point it out, this common, one-sentence question currently has a net of 11,543 votes, plus 3 gold medals (famous for 10k+ views; great for 100+ net-votes; stellar for 100+ favorites), etc.. So I hope no one feels too guilty about the rep system working as it does. If you get rep for posting this question, then the system's working as it was designed to. – Nat Jan 14 at 3:01
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    @mpdonadio give the rep back via bounties to answers you value, possibly by Robert. Problem solved. :) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 14 at 7:51
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    Yet, you did the right thing: putting up that second "thank you" post. I thought about the lack of such a post tonight, and I am glad that you stepped up! – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 14 at 8:13
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    @Ghost well, Robert is less known around here than Shog, by far, but still, no doubt he deserves such a farewell too. :) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 14 at 8:38
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    @Shadow Robert was less ... conspicuous, but I think that was a deliberate choice. He did a hell of a lot of behind-the-scenes work, including essentially single-handedly moderating every new site until its public beta stage. – Rand al'Thor Jan 14 at 20:06
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    Thanks to Robert for the years of good works. Turnover is of course natural, so I'll try not to panic. However, I remain on yellow alert. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Jan 14 at 21:41
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    what I don't like is that both roberto and shog are looking for a job, which indicates that they did not resign as normal employees would. Something's not right at SE. – Lynob yesterday

13 Answers 13

248

I want to thank Robert for his work across the network.

Area 51 has kinda been stagnant for . . . a while. But it didn't use to be like that. I remember when it was healthier, active, and churning out new sites on a regular basis. It gave us the chance to be a part of so many young, thriving communities. It's why I'm on more than, well, three or four sites.

For those who don't know, Robert was a huge part of that. He was maybe the driving force behind Area 51 and, throughout his tenure with Stack Exchange, the development of many a young and emerging site. We can thank him for giving so many parts of this network the very chance to exist. He seemed to be everywhere at once.

I'm extremely grateful to Robert - as well as, broadly, all the other folks in the Community Team who also played a role in the growth of the network. But he was truly a shining star in making this a place for more than just programmers.

A lot of folks here are programmers with interests in knitting or stargazing or writing or making omelets. I'm one of those folks who's the opposite. I came for the science sites and only program minimally.

In the end, I have Robert to thank for me being here.

  • 3
    As someone who came to StackOverflow via an Area 51 site that never made it off the ground, it's always good to know more history. Perhaps I would've made it here later--but still, I'd like to be one voice saying A51 worked well. It was only my hesitatnce that prevented me from jumping in further to SO. – aschultz Jan 14 at 22:53
  • By it's very nature, as "mainstream" stacks got set up, the Area51 proposals would get more and more ephemeral, supporting smaller groups. I think it was more more important in the glory days than it is now. – Scott Seidman Jan 15 at 14:46
107

Thank you Robert for doing your job well. Your coaching –helping me and other new mods think through the issues our sites faced– was an instrumental part of how the sites and communities got formed and the resulting quality.

Whatever your former employer may say, I always got the impression you were balancing the interests of your employer and those of the site communities well — and helping us work out what was mutually beneficial.

81

This is one of the few occasions were the "reputation" system shows its strengths: everybody who cares can turn to Robert's (or shog9's) profile to notice: these people simply did earn the respect of the communities they were engaging with. They walked the talk, they were with us.

I don't recall being in close contact with Robert, but when browsing around the content that he created, I agree: another pillar of our (former) house has been removed.

I am sure Robert (and shog9) will continue to make great contributions in their new workplaces, and that their new coworkers are the lucky ones!

So, farewell, and all the best wishes for your future!

65

I don't think people quite grasp how dire this is, and just what we've now lost.

Robert wasn't just a Community Manager. While other CMs would post on various metas, help in chat, answer mod tickets... Robert (generally) didn't do those things. Robert had a different role, as far as I can tell.

Robert gave life to new communities.

I used to be quite active on Area 51, the new site building site. The software was ancient, and not well-suited to its purpose even when it was new. It was flooded with clueless people who somehow wound up there. And it was where new sites were built.

Robert somehow, for years, made Area 51 work. Whether it was mundane tasks of simply deleting misguided proposals, or the rather more difficult and important task of guiding the building process of a new site, Robert's hand was there. Guiding. Helping. Pushing, when necessary.

He would often lend his voice to discussions on the scope and focus of a site before it launched, raising points that nobody else had thought of. Without him, many of the sites we currently have would not have made it past the "follow" stage on A51.

And then, after the site was launched, Robert would come along as well. He would guide the brand new site, moderate it, direct users, and help shape the site. Many of the things that I would learn about building a new site came directly from the advice Robert gave me and others when building such sites as Artificial Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, Literature, Constructed Languages...

Without Robert's guiding hand, Interpersonal Skills would have collapsed in a week. Literature would have gone in a totally different direction. There are countless other such examples.

Robert was also dedicated to making improvements to the sites that may have seemed small but would have massive effects. Whenever he did weigh in here on Meta.SE, his ideas and voice were always eminently reasonable - a talent born of the experience of years of working with the system and the people.

It's this experience and guidance that we've now lost. It's a devastating blow.

Thank you, Robert, for everything you've done over the years. It's been a pleasure.

64

I was deeply saddened to hear you Robert are gone.

I still remember when our site was small you'd come around on our meta and help out.

The joy all of us got when you posted "this site has been cleared for graduation".

"Community Development" a title that described what you did perfectly. I doubt there was a new site, or attempted new site in the last decade that you did not help.

That is what you did, you curated the curators of the network.

From me personally and the BSE community at large, Thank you. Without your supervision at the start we would not be the site we are today.

I'd like to take a moment to contrast your work Robert, and shog9's (the other CM let go at the same time) in hopes of bring some clarity to this post. I had much more interaction with Shog, he was also more visible. That in no way detracts from everything you did. It is simply that in the last nearly five years since our site graduated we have been self sustaining enough that you did not have to come by.

So why was I "deeply saddened" by yet another employee gone? Because the work you did mattered to the rest of the network, (those other 174 sites). Many of those site would not be here without you. At least as I see it, this is a huge nail in the coffin for the rest of the network. Even before Stack Exchange changed their name to "Stack Overflow" the rest of the network has sounded like an after thought (if mentioned at all). Without you I worry what will become of SE our sites - the other 174.

59

People have spoken about Area 51 and how important Robert was to that. Unlike those people, I was never hugely active in Area 51, except for one proposal.

From start to finish, it's obvious how important Robert was for Area 51, but it was after that proposal entered private, then public beta when it became obvious how important Robert was and the effect he's had on the network.

In the early days of the beta, before mods, Robert was the one doing the work. He was the one to ask for advice and guidance. Quite simply, he helped us start, grow and learn about moderation.

Without Robert, most of the SE network just wouldn't have kicked off in the first place.

Thanks Robert, we'll miss you.

50

I know Robert Cartaino as having pretty much single-handedly run Area 51, where almost all Stack Exchange sites were born. Area 51 now appears to be without moderators. Does it have a future?

See also: Is anybody out there? on Area 51 Meta.

  • SE remaining staff members can still moderate Area51, in theory. (e.g. Tim Post, Nick Craver, etc) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 14 at 13:13
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    I wonder if SE has a future... Seems like even the lawsuit from Monica had failed to get some sense in SE inc management heads... – Zhigalin Jan 14 at 18:30
  • @ShadowTheBurningWizard I thought they tried to limit the number of staff members who had moderator privileges to only the community team. I do not know how many people that is in total. – StrongBad Jan 14 at 19:30
  • @StrongBad both Tim and Nick have diamonds in all SE sites. Tim as a senior CM, Nick as senior/chief developer. :) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jan 14 at 19:52
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    Let us not forget Robert Cartaino's classic why-Stack Exchange-is-not-a-forum post (e.g., as in: Stack Overflow is not a forum). – Peter Mortensen Jan 15 at 7:52
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    And why it is not a help desk: "When people answer your question, they are not talking directly to you. They are talking over your shoulder to a much larger audience." – Peter Mortensen Jan 15 at 7:56
  • Robert Cartaino was also on the podcast, but I can't find which one. It could be on my list if it was announced on the blog - but some scraping is required. – Peter Mortensen Jan 15 at 7:59
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    OK, it seems to be much better indexed now: First 2010-04-26 (episode 87 of the original series), on 2011-12-08 (episode 30 of the second series). And later, together with Shog9, on 2014-05-29 (episode 59 of the second series). – Peter Mortensen Jan 15 at 8:09
  • 1
    OK, I have updated my list. – Peter Mortensen 2 days ago
30

Robert was an incredibly stable, steady, reliable, productive power of good for the Stack Exchange network. Always calm. Always acting from a deep understanding of the spirit of the rules.

He profoundly understands how to build healthy vibrant communities, and he's done that supremely well.

Stack Exchange's loss will be the gain of somewhere else. I look forward to seeing where that is.

  • 5
    "Always acting from a deep understanding of the spirit of the rules." Very much this. I had limited interaction with him, but whenever I saw a Meta post from Robert, I was struck by his concern for the right thing being done. – jscs Jan 14 at 20:14
29

Our roads haven't crossed, but it seems we have lost another gem.

Thank you @RobertCartaino for your all around wonderful work in building and maintaining the Stack Exchange network. Your dedication and hard work will always be remembered.

Hats off to you @RobertCartaino.

I wish you all the best for your future endeavors.

19

Holy cow, I just realized it wasn't just Shog. I did not interact with you, but your reputation speaks for itself.

Best of luck to you sir!

17

Another hard working CM lost to the community. :( It seems that there is less and less support for a good community.

15

A real loss - very sorry to see you go. I distinctly remember your contributions to Area 51 and the various beta sites in particular; whoever takes that over will have some large shoes to fill.

All the best on your new adventure.

12

Farewell, Mr. Robert.

We're sorry to see you go.

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