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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.

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    Playing into their hands is not oft the response of one being besieged. For many, they already have reached their limit, as for the others, they know the direction to go but that doesn't mean they can't request change. But to entirely stop trying to hold a dialogue is disingenuous to the reason many people stay. – RageFoxx Jan 18 at 13:01
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    @RageFoxx a dialog requires two sides. There is only one here, the other side isn't taking part. I don't like this any more than you do. I don't know how long I will be staying, I doubt it will be long and I fully expect SE to remove my diamond any day now. All I'm saying is that we need to accept that they don't care, they're not listening and no amount of raging will achieve anything at all. So, we do our own thing. If they don't like it, they can do their own dirty work, I will no longer be helping. – terdon Jan 18 at 13:03
  • I agree because if they ignore us we should ignore them. Sometimes we'll cross them by the hall and we'll say "...'ssup?". And that's it. – ChatterOne Jan 18 at 13:56
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    For those of us who want to stay, this is the only way. – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:04
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones heh, yes. Makes sense though. The other question is about change from where we were. Mine is about where we are now, and how it is unlikely to change back to where we were. – terdon Jan 18 at 15:50
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    "Forget feature requests, they're ignored anyway." - I do slightly disagree with this one point... Well, the company as a whole might be averse to any real change, but at the least it seems people like Yaakov do do what they can, in what limited capacity they can. – V2Blast Jan 19 at 6:22
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    "I don't know how long I will be staying, I doubt it will be long and I fully expect SE to remove my diamond any day now." I'd prefer to let myself out, instead of being stripped naked and booted out, so to speak. But to each their own. – Servaes Jan 19 at 11:35
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    They're not absentee landlords - they're actively messing with us. It would be much easier to maintain the kind of attitude you talk about if they didn't periodically come by to pull some dirty trick on us or otherwise stir the pot. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jan 19 at 15:38
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    What makes the last one even worse is that they're now even removing the promised moderator discussion on featuring posts. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jan 19 at 15:44
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    @EJoshuaS oh, believe me, I know. Which is why I am suggesting we refuse to follow the rules we object to. If they don't like it, they will have to kick us out. I will no longer help them put a good face on their actions. AL I'm saying here is that it is pointless to ask them to change. They won't. – terdon Jan 19 at 16:41
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    "I don't know how long I will be staying, I doubt it will be long and I fully expect SE to remove my diamond any day now.", you shouldn't let someone kicks you out just because you liked what you do, while you do what you love, you should make your own way of going, dun wait until they strip you out and kick in the bootay... it's not worth it – Vishwa Jan 20 at 3:25
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    "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.", since SE has ownership of our content, from the beginning, they can do whatever they want with it. what if they decided to put members only area for reading answers? maybe not all of them, but the top 10% of best answers? what then? you provided your answer for free, but people cannot see it unless they pay? which you wouldn't get even a penny for? – Vishwa Jan 20 at 3:29
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    @terdon I'm not sure on that, we may be authors on our content, but they have the authority. remember that they transferred old content from previous license to newer license without author permissions? "Do you have a way forward that can avoid those possibilities", for the moment, *No*(sadly). My comments doesn't say that I dun agree with you, I stopped participating while back, right on Monica, Sara Chipps incident. haven't contributed so far, thought on coming back few times, seems I cannot make up my mind to come back – Vishwa Jan 20 at 9:54

13 Answers 13

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Two things most users are unhappy about:

  1. We can do nothing about the fact that this site is controlled by its current management;

  2. We do not have full control of our contributions.

I like to solve problems once and for all. For these two problems to be solved permanently, we need to move away from this platform. Any other solution has a degree of uncertainty which I do not accept.

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    Yep. Absolutely. – terdon Jan 18 at 17:07
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    Lesson learned: don't volunteer time to a for-profit company, especially if venture capital is involved. – hatchet - done with SOverflow Jan 19 at 16:10
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    @hatchet-donewithSOverflow I honestly thought it was just like Wikipedia when I joined, and didn't expect it to turn this way 8 years later. Very important corporate structure lessons learned. – user1306322 Jan 19 at 16:11
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    Do a Google search for Codidact. It's being made from the ground up to avoid these problems. – Doctor Jones Jan 24 at 8:28
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So your "solution" is to let yourself be exploited?

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.

The intention of management is to keep users posting and visiting the sites they want them to so that they can make money for themselves. Your argument is that we should just go along with that regardless of what destruction happens to the site.

I don't think that's a widely held view, but regardless it's not mine.

The intention of these changes, IMO, is to make SE look attractive to investors, either in the form of merger style investment or an IPO. The managers pushing this are not doing that to keep SE alive long term, they're doing it to make a bit pay day for themselves, in the form of bonuses and share options. It's pretty clear from their behavior that they don't care at all about keep SE alive beyond that pay day.

My experience of these scenarios is that in the rush to make a big pay day for managers and VC investors the long term survival of businesses (some of which I'd been employed by at the time) is compromised.

At best companies going this route suffer a huge fall after the pay day - typically within months. This takes years to recover from. At worst recovery is not possible or the new management, again looking for a return on investment in short order, simply completely change the business and products to an unrecognizable state.

No users of SE will benefit from these changes (IMO). Adding content just adds to the pay day bonus the management team will make. It won't help SE survive long term in any form we know.

A lot of this doom and gloom could be eliminated if management, particularly the CEO, engaged with the community and made clear, unambiguous statements about the Plan for SE.

What we have instead been given is the likes of the last blog post:

https://stackoverflow.blog/2020/01/17/this-week-stackoverflowknows-syntactic-sugar-overfit-or-nah-and-the-definition-of-norm/?cb=1

Just what is the point of that drivel of a blog post? It serves no useful purpose and if that's management's idea of solving problems on SE, they're clueless. Talk about syntactic sugar - that's all this was - sugar.

What's the Plan, CEO?

What we need is a short post from the CEO stating the Plan for SE, not just Teams. We need no waffle, no marketing speak, no legalistic language. No "one big happy family" spin. Just the plain, ordinary truth.

I don't believe we'll get it, but I'd like to be wrong.

Whether making noise and protesting makes any difference in the end I'm am skeptical about - I don't think anyone "up top" gives a damn. But doing nothing produces the same end game: SE a shell gutted for the aims of M&A or IPO and "management by bonus".

We all want a profitable SE long term. But if what is left is not SE, I, for one, am not interested in contributing to the wallets of a few managers aiming for a big pay out.

So prove me wrong, CEO. Let us know the game plan. Convince us it's not to gut SE for personal profit.

If you actually published a plan we could believe in and listened to our advice about running SE, maybe it would help SE survive long term.

It is kinda dumb ignoring the advice of posters on a site that you want to be used by companies to get their advice from and inform their decision making. Maybe you (SE Inc) need to start using your own product.

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    If we don't want to be exploited, as you put it, we should leave. All I am saying is that, if we decide to stay, we must accept that the company doesn't care about us and stop hoping that they will go back to treating us as partners. That will simply never happen. And they clearly don't care what we think, do or say. So, either we leave, which may well be the best choice, or we stay and ignore the company. I don't see any other way. We (myself included) have been screaming our heads off on meta for months now, things only got worse. So we should either leave, or ignore SE until they kick us, – terdon Jan 18 at 14:14
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    We all want a profitable SE long term - not me. I want what the site provides for its users, but without its management that tries to do its own thing which intereferes heavily with what the users want from the site. The management doesn't need to use its own product. What they need they can already get without any of us noisy bunch "vocal minority" nuissance users, and they'll ban us all if they need to to achieve their goals. – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:17
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    Also, you have a fundamental misunderstanding here. SE doesn't really make money from the public Q&A, they make money from selling Enterprise, Teams and Jobs. They don't care about us, and haven't for a while. This isn't the product, those other paid things are. We don't see them, so we don't think about them, but that's where the company's focus is. See twitter.com/gortok/status/1217838950494228480 – terdon Jan 18 at 14:17
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    Oh, one more thing. I am absolutely not arguing that we should go along with this! My point is that if we choose to stay, we need to accept that SE will be an enemy and not a friend. I am not arguing that we should stay. All I'm saying is that we need to accept that hoping for help from the company is a waste of everyone's time. – terdon Jan 18 at 14:21
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    The CEO and the entire management team don't care. – JonH Jan 18 at 14:39
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    They make money in the end based on reputation, that helps selling products. And traffic, that generates ad money... – GhostCat Jan 18 at 15:33
  • @terdon If you are not arguing that we should go along with this,you might want to rephrase this sentence in your question: "So, how can we, the users of these sites, continue from here? The only way I can see is by ignoring the company." I think I had a very different reading from what you intended. – Servaes Jan 19 at 11:41
  • @Servaes that's the only way we can continue that I can see. The other choice is not continuing. Which is a perfectly valid choice, of course. But those who choose to continue, must do so without having any expectations from the company. – terdon Jan 19 at 11:56
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+100

Remember the recent case where staff removed the featured tag from a moderator resignation? They earlier said site moderators were given "full control" of the featured tag, which just made it another violation of their own protocols.

"Move on" could be an option if we actually controlled at least some aspects of the site. Instead, we (the community) risk getting steamrolled by SE if they disagree with some way the site is handled.

It's like any kind of new laws: unless the state is a dictatorship, there are lots of people who have a say in the decision. SE was a sort of democracy (ish), and now, it's a dictatorship. We, the moderators (diamond and otherwise), have some tiny bit of control over site moderation policies, but we can be overruled by SE without a discussion.

They will eventually impose rules we refuse to follow, at which point we'll leave or be kicked out.

This has already happened. People are leaving more or less constantly, because of new rules and events that act as the last straw for different people. Many, including me, took the first round of problems as the opportunity to leave (hence the 1 rep account). A growing amount is taking the firing of Shog and Robert as the final straw. Codidact is getting a ton of attention because of that specific round, now that they've actually organized themselves into a real system.

You may agree or disagree with SE on so many things, and decide to leave or stay, but this:

But until then, those of us who want to continue should do so, and should accept that SO Inc. are no longer relevant.

It isn't right. At all. SOI still enforces policies presumably cooked up at staff meetings, without properly considering the consequences. Removing the featured tag on resignations after a day for an instance; this goes against their previous statements (although that's most certainly not a first). It caused backlash because it's seen as disrespectful to the moderators (which I agree with, but it's not relevant here).

SE gets involved in a tiny subset of cases, and now without involving the community in the decision. If you think "SE isn't gonna get involved, so I'll continue on the site", you should reconsider your reason for staying, because they're gonna get involved in some things, whether you want it or not, even if the community can handle it.

Twitter-driven development might still be going hard, in which case, a tweet can get staff involved. It has happened several times already.

Stay if you manage to look aside this, as well as the extremely high likelihood of future transgressions, and still can and want to carry on with your regular business.

Otherwise, it might be time to look for the door. You definitely wouldn't be the first to.

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    Everything you say is true. I am suggesting we ignore any policies we don't agree with. Force them to kick us off, if that's what they want. I know I will not follow the policy to unfeature resignation posts, for example. If I choose to continue it will be by my own rules and, when those clash with what SE wants, they can do their own dirty work and kick me off the network. – terdon Jan 19 at 11:30
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    I don't think it was ever a democracy, but there was an implied social contract. When Joel described in detail (e.g. in the first podcast series, 86 episodes, 2008 to 2010-03-17) the various evil ways the hyphen site behaved, it was implied that Stack Exchange would never ever do anything that even came close to resembling it. It was supposed to be the very DNA of the company, the story that every new employee would be told over and over until they got sick of it. The very raison d'être. Apparently some didn't get the memo. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 20 at 7:22
  • Social contract (unwritten) = what both the SE and community would and wouldn't do. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 20 at 7:27
  • @PeterMortensen I mean, what happened now is that the VC investors want their returns, so they're transitioning SE from a startup based on a mission to a coporation based on a different mission (shareholder value, and exclusively shareholder value). To that end, they've been bringing in silicon valley type executives who know nothing of what SO started as, and the entire structure is being corporatized. It's visible everywhere. – mag Jan 20 at 8:10
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    If you view everything they've done in the past year from the lens of the managers asking themselves "Does this increase our income and profit" and if not, they're not interested, then it makes a scary amount of sense. Even the blunders around social issues seem to be guided entirely by the potential for bad PR and therefore revenue drops associated with them. Money, it seems, now reigns supreme. – mag Jan 20 at 8:12
22

Hoffen und Harren macht manchen zum Narren

German proverb, roughly translates to

To hope and to wait turns many into fools

Actually, there are two scenarios where "hope" is a useful resource:

First, when you have really nothing else. Keeping up a positive attitude is a significant trait in people who show high levels of mental resilience.

And then, when your hope has company... Meaning: you are actively working to improve the situation. You are the one who pushes your hopeful vision towards becoming reality.

Now, as written elsewhere repeatedly, I fear that we have no more influence on the course that SE Inc wants to take.

So, actually, in case we decide to stay around here for this or that reason, there isn't much left besides that unrealistic glimpse of hope. We, the community, we can try and see how far we get on our in this place. The company can try and see how they grow dynamically, now that they alienated so many of us.

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Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

-- The Clash

Staying - YES

Pretending like nothing has happened and continuing as usual - NO


For me NO implies not adding any new content on the main sites. This is an important difference from just ignoring the company (knowing we are no longer partners) while continuing to add additional value in terms of content.

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    Precisely. Continuing as usual would be continuing to believe that we and SE are partners. That SE cares about the Q&A sites. It means continuing to treat company edicts as law. I am advocating exactly the opposite. If we choose to continue, we do so ignoring the company, we stop expecting them to back us up or provide us with anything at all. If we choose to stay, we do so in the full knowledge that the company running these sites is inimical to the community of users. We follow the rules we agree with and ignore those we don't. That is very much not continuing as usual. – terdon Jan 18 at 15:01
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    As for your edit, yes, not contributing is also a rational choice. That's leaving the sites. I am only talking about those who wish to stay. – terdon Jan 18 at 15:24
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    There are many forms of leaving and staying... I am not sure if my stance about adding new content will change... if it does and I decide to ask or answer on main sites, then I will probably act more or less the way you describe. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 18 at 15:34
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The biggest question mark in your argument for me is whether the company is content to just ignore us. Right now the company views the community as a liability, at some point in the future it might decide to do something about that even beyond the damage they caused just this week. The current SO, and even more the SO of the near future isn't the same company we knew anymore. I don't think we can count on the public Q&A to remain as it is, we simply don't know what the company will do.

The company is pursuing an IPO, which means they have to grow revenue from 70 million to 700 million as Joel Spolsky said himself. Anything that isn't helping to achieve the goal is in a precarious position.

I agree that there is nothing we can do to change their minds, with VCs involved and an IPO as a goal the decisions aren't made anywhere we could reach.

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    Only one way to find out. If they are not content to be ignored, then they can start kicking people off the network. All I'm saying is that if we want to continue using these sites, we should stop expecting anything positive to come from the company behind them. So we ignore them until they kick us out. – terdon Jan 18 at 13:45
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+50

I think you're largely right. I can even mostly agree with the bit about free contributions for someone else's profit. At least to the extent that contributions are a net positive for the contributor.

The problem with returning to contributing is this. The discontent or whatever we want to call it didn't start with Shog, Monica, or pronouns. It didn't even start with the Twitter/HNQ thing, or The Unwelcoming. It started a long time ago, somewhere in the middle of the decade. "Let's Plan the Second Iteration of the Stack Exchange Quality Project!" is kind of the poster child at this point for what went wrong: lots of ideas solicited from enthusiastic volunteers, then...crickets.

The problem is, I don't feel like my contributions are a net positive. Stack Overflow is the site that I care about and that I am (was) invested in. And for me -- and I think for others -- it doesn't feel like we can make it a good place without a partnership from the company.

Maybe this is a problem specific to that giant. Maybe you folks who participate on smaller sites feel like you have post quality mostly under control. But I don't. I feel frustrated and unable to find anything to do that feels useful.

I don't feel like my answers are making the world a better place -- I feel like they're barely visible in a sea of mediocrity. I don't feel like my edits are helpfully polishing raw lode into search target gold -- I feel like they're mostly, well, you know. I don't feel like my votes are sorting content, my comments are eliciting useful improvements, or my closures are particularly effective at pruning search dead ends.

I'm not going to fully rehash this; it's been said many times in many places (by me among others). We have asked, again and again, for help with the problems we see. And we have been met variously with silence, promises of change, distractions, and the occasional um, bold reversal where the company decides we're the ones not doing enough. The last year or two have just been about realizing how fundamental, rather than accidental, that was.

So, I don't disagree with your plea for acceptance; I am coming to accept the reality. But in my case it pairs with not wanting to be a part of that reality.

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    Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely not advocating that people should continue contributing. I don't know that I will either. What I am saying is that if we choose to continue, we must do so in the knowledge that the company is no longer a friend of the community. My point is that this is simply the way it is. So either we don't contribute or, if we do, we do so ignoring the company. I am just saying that trying to get the company to treat us as partners again is a waste of time. – terdon Jan 18 at 20:55
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    Yeah, I didn't take you to be making a deliberate call to contribute. But you did say "we should continue as we always have", where my point is we (or at least I) can't, because to do that means I need help from SO. And I won't get it, so I'm stuck. – jscs Jan 18 at 21:01
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    I hear you. I don't think I'll stick around too long either. I wrote this as a last ditch effort. It's essentially a declaration of non conformance. For instance, as a mod, I refuse to unfeature a colleague's resignation post after 24 hours. And I fully expect them to come up with some new rule I will not follow. I'm just saying that asking them for help is pointless. I guess I'm past anger, past bargaining and well into depression. – terdon Jan 18 at 21:15
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    Heh, funny you say that, I've been feeling like I finally hit acceptance this week, largely helped by George Stocker's tweets. :) I probably wouldn't be posting otherwise. Hope you get there soon yourself. – jscs Jan 18 at 21:25
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If we are talking from the moderators perspective...

So, how can we, the users of these sites, continue from here?

I don't know, how we can do this. And you have already answered why:

If the company objects, well they will suspend us or delete our accounts or remove our diamonds or whatever. So be it.

They have already forced some, hm, unpleasant rules. I assume, later this year they will push new rules, which many of us will not agree with. So, probably, to leave right now is not the bad choice. The problem with that, at least for me, is that I feel, that for the community it will look like betray.

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    I don't think any of us will betray the community if we announce loud and clear where we're leaving to, and continue to do the same things we did here, somewhere else, in a better environment without corporate overlords ruling over us. – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:19
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    @user1306322 we do. We have posted about SE problems on mane Russian IT sites, and it changed nothing. Those posts should be published on big news sites to make management stir. – Suvitruf - Andrei Apanasik Jan 18 at 14:22
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    Can you honestly say that creating a new alternative Q&A site is harder and will take a longer time than changing the SE management at this point in the site's history? I'd urge you to remember that this is why SE was created in the first place -- changing the old Q&A sites was not worth it and would have been harder. – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:24
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    @user1306322 creation is not the problem. The problem here is - users. Most of members don't care about all this dramas. Moreover they don't even know about them. How are you going to encourage them to switch platform? – Suvitruf - Andrei Apanasik Jan 18 at 14:25
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    I'm pretty use the oldheads who stayed on the olden days forums still think so to this day and continue to use those old forums. Actually, no, once they saw that StackOverflow prodives the same service but much better, they all silently moved over, and will grumble about change once more, and will again move over to a better site once it is up and running :) – user1306322 Jan 18 at 14:27
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    @user1306322 but what prevents that new site from being taken people aimed at making money at all cost? That's what happened here, what do you propose doing differently so that can't happen? And note that you may not be the (only) one in charge. Once money gets involved a lot of principles are watered down. – JJJ Jan 19 at 15:39
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    @JJforPopcornandMonica as one of the core laws, allow anyone to copy over all the content as freely as possible, making it impossible for the instance which turned evil to hoard it and lock out others from just taking it all into good hands. I suppose this is already a thing even here with the ability to copy content with proper attribution. This is what some of the upcoming alternatives are planning to do already. The second part is setting up the management in a way similar to Wikipedia which is governed by a pretty hands-off non-profit organization whose goal cannot be to maximize profits. – user1306322 Jan 19 at 15:58
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    So even in case the non-profit management of one instance becomes corrupt, another instance of this software can be launched overnight by better people and the content be copied over, legally, as determined by the contribution legal documents all users agree to when they contribute. Right now it's not easy to imagine doing that, but several Q&A initiatives are working on making it as easy as installing and launching a Minecraft server. – user1306322 Jan 19 at 16:00
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    No one thinks it's a betrayal when a mod leaves for ethical reasons. Honestly, if anything, they would be respected more. – Ask About Monica Jan 20 at 2:58
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    @JJforPopcornandMonica Even if the site gets taken by people aimed at making money at all cost; it took about 10 years for this to happen to SE. That's pretty impressive; if (say) Codidact remains open and community-driven for 10 years I'd say that's a win. – Servaes Jan 20 at 12:16
9

We can ignore the company, sure. On most Q/A or forum-like websites, not many people pay a lot of attention to the company behind the site.

But on most sites, users aren't asked to invest so much time and effort polishing content, performing moderation actions, participating in 'meta' conversations, and so on. (When I say 'asked', obviously no-one's obliged to, but it has been implied that effort is expected, worth people's time, and required for the proper functioning of the sites.)

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.

If there's a realistic threat that they're going to throw that switch, it makes it much less worth people's time contributing here going forward.

I agree that it has now been made clear that the company doesn't really want the same level of community input into the future of the sites as they used to. But perhaps the least that active members deserve is for it to be set out what the company's vision is, so they can take an informed decision as to how much time it is worth spending making contributions.

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    Of course we deserve it, we're just not going to get it. Fairness is irrelevant, this is corporate America we're dealing with here. I contribute for the users, not for the company, so as long as users can benefit, I might continue doing so. I just don't expect the company to be helpful anymore. I have accepted that if I chose to continue here it will be despite the company. – terdon Jan 18 at 13:47
  • @terdon I understand the idea of being resigned to continue despite the company's recent actions; what I'm saying is that to make it worth contributing, many people would at least want a reason to hope for the best when it comes to the future of the sites themselves. IOW even if people give up on being heard by the company, that's all the more reason they might want to hear from the company about whatever plans they have. – topo Reinstate Monica Jan 18 at 14:34
  • And I agree with you. That is what should be. But it is not what is. And, speaking for myself, I don't know that I'm resigned to continue. I probably will be leaving soon. All I'm saying here is that for those who do want to continue, the only way I can see is to stop expecting things from SE. That way lies disappointment. – terdon Jan 18 at 14:36
  • "But on most sites, users aren't asked to invest so much time and effort polishing content, performing moderation actions, participating in 'meta' conversations, and so on. " I'm not so sure that the current policy actually wants all that. I get the impression they'd be just as happy if all content moderation were stopped. Then all the people who want to ask can just ask, and they may or may not get an answer. But as long as there's traffice will the company care about quality? Increase traffic, decrease public outcries of elitism or whatever, sell... – Cindy Meister Jan 18 at 16:34
  • ...And what comes after is not the current management's problem anymore. – Cindy Meister Jan 18 at 16:34
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    @CindyMeister "I get the impression they'd be just as happy if all content moderation were stopped." I think that's a little too cynical. If they didn't care at all about that why did they just revamp the closed question notices? OTOH, I suspect that management don't realise how fragile much of the content quality actually is. – PM 2Ring Jan 19 at 8:47
  • I don't believe they're planning to kill the network. In this podcast Joel said they're heading for a 10× revenue growth, from 70 million (last year) to 700 million per year, and then an IPO. Revenue is from Teams, Jobs, and Ads. His model for Trello, he said, was 100 million users so it had to be broadly popular not just for developers. And that it would be free to 99% of users, that 1% of users would pay (and that would be enough), and that the 1% would be the user who were making from using it. – ChrisW Jan 20 at 9:16
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Sure, the company will be making money off of the content we create.

I'm not sure that's so.

Apparently the numbers are ...

  • $44 million from Jobs (careers)
  • $28 million for Teams (software to Enterprises)
  • $16 million from Ads (mostly for Azure)

... so about $70 million. That's not exactly "money from the content" -- though it is from having a large number of users and a good software product.

What we need is a short post from the CEO stating the Plan for SE

Perhaps it's to, double the revenue each year for the next three years -- to take it from $70 million to $700 million -- and then an IPO.


But anyway yes -- what the OP posted here might overlap with what Jon Ericson (leaving SE) said -- i.e. perhaps you're not and don't have to be interested in the company, instead you can focus on using the service for Q&A.

What other thing Joel mentioned was Trello -- the plan was to have like 100 million users, of whom 1% would pay for it -- and the 1% would be people who made money from using it. And to get that many users it had to appeal to more than only software developers.

So perhaps that means that SE won't be shutting down the non-SO sites (or at least not all of them) though we don't know how they'll hope to monetise them all (and the monetisation plan if any might be different for different sites, site-specific).

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  • Three doubles is only an eightfold increase. 560 is a long way short of 700. – Nij Jan 19 at 6:54
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    In round numbers, 560 and 700 are the same order of magnitude. – ChrisW Jan 19 at 9:44
  • 560 and 700 are both round numbers, that doesn't make any sense. You could have left out the parenthetical entirely, or left out the speculative timeframe, or just not speculated at all. – Nij Jan 19 at 9:49
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    It (doubling for the next three years) is quoted from the end of the interview with Joel above -- said by the interviewer not by Joel or the CEO, but still, said as if that's obvious or well-known or a shared understanding, or at least approximately the hoped-for outcome. – ChrisW Jan 19 at 9:53
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    And that matches what Joel said earlier in the same, about choosing a CEO -- i.e. that they were looking for someone who hadn't been a CEO before (I don't know why) but who had "seen the playbook" and who would take the company through its next (10×) evolution, from 70 to 700. – ChrisW Jan 19 at 11:13
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    @Nij Sorry for the confusion -- it's that I'm used to approximating numbers -- and I think that only an approximation is appropriate in this case. And given this definition of a "round number" -- A round number is informally considered to be an integer that ends with one or more "0"s (zero-digit) in a given base -- it seems to me that 8 and 10 are the same order of magnitude, using base-10 arithmetic and using base-2. – ChrisW Jan 19 at 14:29
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    I may be a pessimist, but 1000% growth in three years is something I would not expect from StackOverflow. They are not really operating in such an innovative or disruptive business area. – Trilarion Jan 19 at 22:04
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Re: your final words

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.

No, no and no. Some leaving (probably righteously) happened after several previous cases of ignorance. Some people went on boycotts, were leaving or reducing activity, showing anger. But majority was simply shrugging it and "doing the best I can".

Now, the company decided to go further and intentionally harm a specific person. If before we could question some abstract rights, morals and ethics (such as licences and SEI owning anything to the people), now we question the rights, ethics and morals of humanity and individual dignity (N.B.). That's a differnet level, it's not about rules, as no rules really exist any more.

So, if you say (paraphrased) "once they impose rules we refuse to follow, we'll leave", I say that it's time to leave, as I refuse to follow "no rules" rules.

I know that by still posting here, I don't lead by example, but I, too, am emotionally attached (if that is a thing), so it's hard.

(N.B.: I don't mean the fact that M.C. was removed, I do mean the way how it was done. Also, to day, nobody, seemingly not even her, knows how she broke the rules. Unacceptable.)

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  • I don't understand what you are saying here. How do you suggest that people should act going forward? I never said SE deserves survival. All I said is that we need to stop hoping that they will suddenly start acting decently again. – terdon Jan 19 at 9:54
  • @terdon Sorry, after re-reading I realized it's not clear what I react to. I hope it's clearer now. – yo' Jan 19 at 10:34
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    Not really :) What course of action are you suggesting? I can only see two: stop using these sites or continue. And if someone chooses to continue, they must do so knowing that SE is now an enemy and not a friend, so there's no point in asking them for things. Do you see a third way? – terdon Jan 19 at 10:42
  • @terdon Well, I say that the time to leave is now. I say that "rules we refuse to follow" is a non-sense thing altogether, as no rules exist anymore. So if you refuse to follow "no rules" rules, you should leave. – yo' Jan 19 at 10:47
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    Oh, absolutely. I never argued that anyone should stay. I was addressing this to those people who choose to stay. All I'm saying is that if someone chooses to stay, then they should accept that SE is no longer a friend. That if you choose to stay, you need to ignore SE and not expect any help from them. That said, I admit I am tired of people posting to argue against posting. I completely understand wanting to leave, but people who want to leave should just leave instead of talking about it. – terdon Jan 19 at 11:00
  • She didn't break any rules. Her questions were misinterpreted as rhetorical questions. The misinterpretation was influenced by other actors on the network, with their own agendas (independent of Stack Exchange's agenda). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 20 at 7:05
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As a user, I'm reasonably happy. Like you, I use SE to learn things by answering other people's questions, just outside of my comfort zone. And that works. But my involvement will stop there(*).

SE needs moderators and reviewers, but nothing forces anyone to do that job for free. And if everybody stops reviewing/moderating this place will lose a lot of its attractiveness for users.

SE should also remember that its success was built for a part in on Experts-Exchange's demise. History repeats itself for those who ignore it.

(*) I did a lot of reviewing, until I figured out I was wasting a lot of time on the "test" reviews.

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  • Joel's opinion was that expert-exchange's huge mistake was putting a paywall around the content, leading to there being nobody to post new answers. I presume SE will not be doing that -- i.e. that the Q&A will remain free. – ChrisW Jan 20 at 0:53
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    There are other ways to becomes greedy.... and it shows that people can leave a site pretty quickly. – xenoid Jan 20 at 2:14
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The only way forward is to completely separate the company from the community.

How?

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.

No, the rules are not for debate, discussing them leads to bans or other measures. We have seen that happen before.

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.

So be it? That's not a very strong argument.

We need to stop hoping for help and continue like nothing is going on. When the company misbehaves again then so be it? When the company is not listening to the community (E.g. bugs and requests) then so be it?

accept that the company will never again be a partner

Why should this be considered acceptable?

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. 

How is that a good plan?

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    It's a horrible plan. But do you have a better one? It is now abundantly clear that the company isn't listening and doesn't care. Therefore, I see two options: we leave, or we stay and stop hoping for the company to change. If we stay, we either accept their rules or, as I am suggesting, follow those we agree with and ignore the rest. If they don't like that, they can kick us. What are you suggesting as an alternative? – terdon Jan 19 at 15:08
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    @terdon I wait untill SE changes or an alternative Q&A site arrives. Untill that time I stop my contributions here and I am looking for alternative non Q&A ways to contribute but not here (E. g. I am thinking about using a blog or make a help/handbook site, translate Q&A content to wikipedia, etc.). – Sextus Empiricus Jan 19 at 15:35
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    Oh, yes, that makes perfect sense. Leaving is probably the most reasonable choice. I was only thinking of those people who don't want to leave and how they can remain. By the way, if you haven't seen it yet, check out codidact.org. – terdon Jan 19 at 17:04
  • @terdon "I was only thinking of those people who don't want to leave" what does that mean? How are you thinking of them? By telling/warning them about.... "They will eventually impose rules we refuse to follow, at which point we'll leave or be kicked out."? – Sextus Empiricus Jan 19 at 22:23
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    Yes, exactly. I am telling those people who choose to stay that there is no point in posting here on MSE trying to get the company to hear us any more. Anyone who chooses to stay should do so knowing and accepting that the company just doesn't care at all. So, I am suggesting that we ignore the company until the company decides to close down the sites or kick us off. – terdon Jan 19 at 23:00
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    @terdon what is the point of ignoring the company in order to get yourselve eventually kicked out? – Sextus Empiricus Jan 20 at 6:57
  • It is the only way I can see that could possibly allow me to continue on the site. I need to change my perspective and stop hoping that SE will be a partner again. – terdon Jan 20 at 9:11
  • @terdon, what does ignoring mean to you? You consider a demodded moderator still moderator? You ignore license changes? You ignore the company not connecting with community and pretend they solve bugs? How does one 'ignore' the company? – Sextus Empiricus Jan 20 at 10:20
  • It means what I say in my post. It means no longer expecting anything from this company because we simply will not get it. If you cannot do this, then the only alternative I can see is walking away and leaving the sites. Which is probably the best option. But if you choose to remain, you must do so with no expectation that the company will be a partner, so the best thing to do is ignore them as much as possible. – terdon Jan 20 at 10:27

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