This is a message primarily aimed at the avid SE users. Those of us who spend several hours, most every day, asking or answering or editing or closing or reopening or otherwise contributing to the body of knowledge stored on this network.
When we started out on these sites, the company behind them was a plucky little startup, with a very unofficial and "uncorporate" mentality and culture. Employees were as much a part of the community as anyone else, we were all in this together, and we had the same goals: to make the internet a better place and to collect a library of knowledge on a diverse set of subjects.
This is obviously no longer the case. The goals of the community and those of the company have clearly diverged. The company is now a very different beast to what we remember and this isn't going to change. Already, most of the old guard, the people we know and trust, those who spent years building this place, have been fired or have left. Instead of communication, we now get communiqués from management. Instead of partners, we are now considered adversaries.
So, how can we, the users of these sites, continue from here? The only way I can see is by ignoring the company. We need to think of SO Inc. as the absentee landlord and not as the friendly parent we remember. This does not mean we need to attack them or even try to antagonize them, we simply expect nothing more from them than that they keep providing the servers and software that run the sites. We should think of them as nothing more than service providers. We are not friends. We are not colleagues. We have no shared goals. They're just the faceless company that provides us with a service.
There is no point in posting here, on MSE, trying to be heard by the company. That has been made abundantly clear. So let's just keep this site, for as long as we're allowed to, as a place for users to ask questions about the network. Forget feature requests, they're ignored anyway. Forget the desperate pleas for the company to hear us. They fall on deaf ears or, more likely, are never even read at all.
There is also no point in wanting revenge. Sure, the company will be making money off of the content we create. That has always been the case. Yes, many of us object to the idea of a company like this one profiting from our work, but that's the way it is: they own the infrastructure. If we don't like that, all we can do is leave.
I say let them make their money. It costs me nothing. I am here because I enjoy asking and answering questions. I enjoy learning and I enjoy teaching. As long as I can do that, I may continue to be active here, and if that means some unsavory folks will get rich off it, well that's hardly the first time it has happened. As long as the content I create is publicly available to everyone and not behind a paywall, as long as I can feel that my work benefits others and not only the company, I can live with it.
The only way forward is to completely separate the company from the community. We already have a good set of rules we can use for moderating and curating our sites. If SE start pushing new ones, we can choose whether we like them or not. If we do, if we feel they are constructive, we can follow them. If we don't, then we ignore them. If the company objects, well they will suspend us or delete our accounts or remove our diamonds or whatever. So be it.
Until they do, we should continue as we always have. Let's just go back to our sites, accept that the company will never again be a partner in what we are trying to do here, and try to keep the lights on until they finally throw the switch and kill the network. Either that, or we stop participating. But trying and hoping for change, support, or guidance from the company is a waste of everyone's time.
So, let's just forget about SO Inc. They will eventually impose rules we refuse to follow, at which point we'll leave or be kicked out. But until then, those of us who want to continue should do so, and should accept that SO Inc. are no longer relevant.