106

A Tweet from Tim Post that always stood out to me was the following:

We never manage through sharp sticks, ultimatums or threats. I honestly believe this is why we have the most professional moderation team the net has ever seen — even when, or especially when, people make mistakes. We’re always learning together. - Source

I believe this was Tweeted post HNQ debacle: Revisiting the "Hot Network Questions" feature, what are our shared goals for having it? and it stood out to me because it showed a culture that has (had?) always existed on Stack Exchange, which is that we all make mistakes from time to time and ultimately you'll be given a chance to retry/redeem yourself.

However, with recent events and the wave of firings/resignations of CMs and what they've revealed I believe that is not the case anymore. SE (the company, the focus, the goal) is not what it once was.

In a series of Tweets shortly after his departure, Shog9 mentioned the following:

And right now, they are being told not to use that skill. Told that they MUST not use that skill. I know this because I was told this. It has been ratcheting for over a year now: more and more "musts" and "must nots" - "say this AND ONLY THIS." - Source

The CMs have been actively told (read: commanded) that they cannot empathise with the community, a wedge is being driven between us, the community and our points of contact with the company, the CM team.

Whatever this thing is that is happening, it has more momentum now than ever before; I do not wish to see it roll over them as it did me. - Source

It paints a bleak picture of "something" (Someone? A group?) forcing change over SE and anyone trying to stand in its way is mowed down. It's almost as though these are a series of cold and calculated moves trying to alienate us, the community e.g.

Your anger will be held up as evidence of toxicity. Your frustration as evidence of noncooperation. Just as it has been for so many months past. My dear ex-colleagues will be blamed for failing to control you, and another rock will be laid on their backs. - Source

Which has clearly been happening:

Stack Overflow Employees have panic attacks and nightmares when they know they will need to post something to Meta. They are real human beings that are affected by the way people speak to them. This is outside of the CM team, who have been heroes and who I constantly see abused here.

I can’t, with good conscience, force anyone to participate in a venue that causes that type of psychological damage at work. The CMs feel this is something that can be remedied, and I believe them. However, until then, I can’t sleep at night knowing that we are forcing people to participate here as part of their jobs.

We're removing Hot on Meta as I don't want to send new people to a place where people have these experiences. Full stop. - Source

The whole welcome wagon being used to portray folks as toxic, unwelcoming, and elitist.

Is it possible that I'm reading too much into it? Possibly. Maybe SE is simply incompetent and these are just series a series of mistakes which spiralled out of control but the picture being painted is not pretty at all.

In a recent blog post entitled Why I left Stack Overflow, Jon Ericson mentions regarding how he felt that changes in the company-community relationship would be changing for the better, until:

In September and October, a series of events demonstrated that leadership within the company neither understood community management nor was willing to learn. In retrospect, that’s likely been the case for years.

The events he references were obviously Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?. Now, folks have been hoping for a long time now that SE will change and that things are going to get better but here we have an testimony from a former employee who was part of the Community Management team clearly saying that SE (read: management) has no interest in working with the community or even trying to work with us.

The double-edged sword of attention meant more resources have been going to community-related projects, but also leadership has asserted more control.

Maybe CM's, especially those that dislike what's going on, do have their hands tied?

Unfortunately, their decisions repeatedly violated my standards for healthy community management. By November I was actively looking for a new job.

To force someone to start looking for a new job seems like a toxic environment, which is quite rich seeing as SE accusing the community of creating such an environment. It almost seems like massive projections onto us.

One common theme I've noticed amongst all of this is that SE is riding some (all?) the CMs quite hard, from Shog's tweet:

At this point, they are operating under an unbelievable amount of pressure. And you have seen the results of this: "they gulped out fine folly about dignity and acquiescence". - Source

to Tim's conversation with Cody Gray:

Tim discussed this with me in a private channel. He wanted to unfeature it because of legal concerns. I was sympathetic to his position, but continued to press for more details/explanation. He explained that they're under a lot of pressure right now. Please don't blame Tim. I wasn't going to unfeature it, so he felt he had to. - Source

So in this rambling, what am I trying to convey to the community from my position as a fellow community member?

  • Not all the employees are supportive of this new direction of SE but they have bills to pay and families to feed especially with the CM team being cut down, it must send quite message to the rest
  • The CMs are on quite a short leash with what they can and can't say to the community
  • SE has no intention on changing course anytime soon with the positions it has taken and it has been brewing for a while now

Well, it does sound like quite a cynical and a pessimistic look to the future and I see people hoping and pleaing with SE to try and get them to see some sense but they're pretty much set on the course they've chosen, so why bother?


So I think I'm going to keep updating this post as more comes to light.

Another Tweet from Shog further illustrates the environment that SE put their employees in, all while trying to take the moral high ground publicly and rebuking the community for its ill mannerisms:

I should add something, the above seems preachy...

For the past 4 months, I've been waking up most days between 3-5am, my heart pounding through my chest. My actions contributed to events that hurt people; even asleep I can't stop searching for what I could have done differently - Source

and

Consider a situation where you wanted to help a group of people on your site... The problems they face are rooted in a mixture of ignorance held by others and competition for limited resources.

...but you aren't allowed to provide solutions to either of those. - Source

and

But... After the first month of it, this should have been a sign to me that it was time to run. That I was no longer in a place where I could do more good than harm.

This will have to be my lesson. - Source

When your own employees are doubting if any good will come from their positions you've really gotta wonder how far you've gone off course. To think you have a leg to stand with regards to promoting inclusivity when you can't treat those beneath you correctly is laughable.

Jon explains how the adverse effects of SE's policies had affected him too on a personal level:

I haven't had it that bad, thankfully. But I do feel bad for checking out of . . . stuff. Being able to talk with people who understand is unimaginably valuable and I cut myself off too often. My family paid a cost, I'm afraid. Fortunately not permanent, but real. :-( - Source

What stands out here is how these former employees genuinely seem to believe they failed the community on some level or another, they feel guilt, yet, the real folk who have caused this rift and made mistake after mistake either by pushing agendas or to increase profits in negative ways probably live unaffected.

52

In the end, we keep mixing observations and interpretations.

But the latest statements by Jon and shog9 stand out here: Typically, people are really careful about criticizing former employers, to not cause the impression to future employers that they lack loyalty. Yet, very clear statements from both.

From that point of view, it is pretty safe to assume: SE Inc management has made up their mind. Nothing we say or do will change their minds. Maybe things are just more clear now, compared to three months ago. And most likely, small things on the "technical" level still work. Yaakov says he is listening, feature requests and bugs are (somehow) worked on.

But regarding the "big picture", we can only decide how to continue from here individually. Like: using the means that we have (as long as they last) to express our views and to see if we can agree on this or that reaction. And of course, to be prepared for the day when even that is no longer possible.

| improve this answer | |
  • 14
    Excellent points I think you are spot on, it is very clear especially in Jon's blog post how toxic and awful that environment must have been. I always wonder what happened to some of the developers that used to speak up nickcraver, even davefullerton doesn't post after the initial "sorry" and his tweets are pretty old. What a shame, the management totally changed the morale...same shi* happened to me you can look up my post about "Nancy's back..." on meta so. What really surprised me is the interview with Joel about how he stepped down and why...even having full control the VCs got him! – JonH Jan 18 at 14:37
  • At some point, you must draw conclusions from your observations. Otherwise, there is no point in making them. – jpmc26 Feb 23 at 1:16
30
+50

Change in course is now pretty much clear and in the open. There is no doubt about it, it is planned some time ago and we are just now putting together pieces of a puzzle.

... so why bother?

At this point, it is pretty much take it or leave it situation. In any other place I would now be pretty much ready to pick up my things and go. But that is exactly the problem.

I cannot pick up my things and go. I can only go and leave my things behind.

If I cannot take my things I am not going.

I will never delete my account and anonymise my contributions. No matter how insignificant they may be, they are mine.

As long as my name sticks here, I will stick here, too.

Maybe this is crazy thing to do, since I don't expect situation and course will change to previous one. But, I am ready for that and now I can behave accordingly.

So what will I do (not carved in stone, I will adapt to any further changes in course):

  • I will not contribute any new content (except on Meta sites)
  • I will not flag spam (I hate spam more than anything, but I am not cleaning that any more)
  • I will never buy any product or service Stack Exchange as network may offer
  • I will never endorse any SE product or service
  • Whenever I can, I will let other people know what happened here and how badly SE treated its users, moderators and employees
  • As far as voting (up, down), commenting and moderating posts is concerned, I am not quite sure what is the best course of action. I am inclined not to participate at all, but on other hand if the real desire is to turn SE into a swamp by making everyone happy allowing them to dump their piece of mud... I might object and do something about it following existing rules

And last but not the least, I don't intend giving moderators and employees hard time... I can understand their position... but like I already said elsewhere, I intend to be critical as usual, but, also as usual, I will give them credit when credit is due.


While I don't expect any course changes... and what is broken (and now pretty much everything around here is) will never be the same again... if there will be sincere change from "money above all" and desire for cooperation I am leaving that door open.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    You can totally take [a copy of] your things with you if you provide proper contribution, though. – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:31
  • 10
    @user1306322 "picking my things" in this context means, not allowing SE to use them anymore... since I cannot do that... I am staying around. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 18 at 14:41
  • 5
    That's the trouble, once the post was made it was never yours to begin with. As i saw on another post; you weren't making contributions, you were making donations.' – Skooba Jan 18 at 14:47
  • 11
    We still own the copyright to our work, @user1306322. SE has a license to use it. You do not have to provide attribution for your own material, and you are free to do with it what you like. The difficulty is that you cannot rescind the license you granted to SE. – jscs Jan 18 at 19:55
-37

You've proven the company is heading for changes. True. But why is that a bad thing? Microsoft was hell when Ballmer was the CEO. It only got better after his departure and changes in recent years.

Stack Overflow is one of the most visited sites on the planet, but only generated about $70m in 2018. Absolutely ridiculous by any measure. They have to head for more profitable routes. Please be considerate.

... so why bother?

No reason to worry. The Stack Overflow site is still running strong. We still have a bunch of new users' posts every hour. The site's new direction is not our business. So long as corporate management remain committed to not terminating the Stack Overflow site and to not charging membership fees to access it, the Stack Overflow community is happy.

That community will be able to select new replacement moderators in the next election. Everything will be fine. The new Stack Overflow will make as much cash as possible from software companies, and we will answer as many questions as possible. I don't see a conflict here.

The consequences will be better financial success. Bonus for the management. Better career opportunity for the employees. It's really not our business.

| improve this answer | |
  • 11
    If the past months are an indication to anything, that'll explain why folks are worried. No one (read: I) is afraid of change as a concept, they're afraid of the consequences it brings. – Script47 Jan 18 at 14:52
  • @Hel, who is we exactly in your reasoning? – Frédéric Hamidi Jan 18 at 14:54
  • 8
    @Hel, so as long as they are committed not to terminate the site or charge membership fees, the community is happy? Sorry, mate, not from where I'm standing. Another community maybe? On another site? – Frédéric Hamidi Jan 18 at 14:59
  • @FrédéricHamidi Don't you feel unhappy if SO is a paid service? It's still free, so why don't we feel positive? – SmallChess Jan 18 at 15:05
  • @Hel, do you mean more unhappy than I am now? No, not by much. But the point is moot, SE cannot do that anyway. – Frédéric Hamidi Jan 18 at 15:09
  • @FrédéricHamidi Sorry, SE can charge you for the services. They won't, but they have the power. – SmallChess Jan 18 at 15:10
  • 7
    It's free, yes - but if it's getting more filled with bad questions that can't be answered under our rules, or (worse) with good questions that get no answers or only bad answers, then no I would not feel positive. That's not what the sites are supposed to be for. – Matt Gutting Jan 18 at 15:12
  • 17
    Downvoting for the suggestion that a not-for-profit service is "absolutely ridiculous". – F1Krazy Jan 18 at 15:12
  • 4
    @Hel, and they won't for a reason -- our licensing model was designed from day one to counter that, and they know it. – Frédéric Hamidi Jan 18 at 15:13
  • 11
    The site was not fine before the recent series of events ( meta.stackoverflow.com/q/386324/1233251 ). What happens now is that we're sure it will never be the way we want it to be. Let's not be surprised to find people stopping contributing and/or jumping boat when the time is right. – E_net4 has few friends Jan 18 at 15:21

You must log in to answer this question.

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