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Victoria Taylor was fired from Reddit in 2015; her story shares some similarities with Shog9 and Robert Cartaino's firing from Stack Exchange. Maybe there's some lessons to be learned, so I list some major similarities below:

  1. Surprise, unexplained firing:

    Another very popular moderator, Karmanaut, posted his thoughts about Taylor's removal, writing, "Today, we learned that Victoria was unexpectedly let go from her position with Reddt. We all had the rug ripped out from under us and feel betrayed."
    Broderick, Chaos At Reddit As Protests Erupt Over Reported Firing Of Beloved Moderator, July 3, 2015

    It came as a surprise, like both Shog9 and Robert Cartaino's surprise and unexpected firings. (I think it's safe to assume they were fired.) Moreover, it's unexplained:

    no-one, excluding a select few of the administrative team, knows precisely why /u/chooter was removed as an admin
    Why was /r/IAmA, along with a number of other large subreddits, made private?, 4 years ago

  2. Community employee forced to choose company over community:

    Reddit management was pushing Victoria to do a bunch of highly commercial things around AMAs, but Victoria wasn't comfortable with these ideas because she didn't feel they were good for the reddit community.
    Marc Bodnick quoted by Feinberg, Fired Reddit Administrator Victoria Taylor Finally Breaks Her Silence, July 8, 2015

    Cf. Shog9's tweet:

    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."

  3. History of company overriding the community:

    Decision after decision is made that is heavily criticized for being incompetent and seemingly against the wishes of the community. Communication has broken down between admins and users, and between admins and moderators.
    /u/stopscopiesme, Many of you are asking if r/bestof will go private. Here are our thoughts, 4 years ago.

    There are also complaints of "a new age of censorship".

  4. Company claims growth led to company-community noncommunication:

    "I mean it when I say we screwed up, and we want to have a meaningful ongoing discussion. I know we've drifted out of touch with the community as we've grown and added more people, and we want to connect more."
    Then-CEO Ellen Pao quoted by Tach, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao resigns amid turmoil 'by mutual agreement,' founder returns, July 6, 2015

    Much like when Through the Loop was announced.

  5. Users and moderators perceive that the company does not respect their contributions:

    As much as Victoria is loved, this reaction is not all a result of her departure: there is a feeling among many of the moderators of reddit that the admins do not respect the work that is put in by the thousands of unpaid volunteers who maintain the communities of the 9,656 active subreddits
    Why was /r/IAmA, along with a number of other large subreddits, made private?, 4 years ago

    A lot of moderators are really bitter and jaded, but still put in a lot of effort to help their subreddits and make them better. It's hard to articulate why.
    Warzel, Reddit Moderators Are Fed Up: “I Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse”, 2015

    In fact, there's a curious prediction...

    "The issue goes beyond Reddit," they wrote. "We are concerned with what a move like this means for for-profit companies that depend on the free labor of volunteers—and whether they truly understand what makes an online community vibrant."
    New York Times op-ed quoted by Alba, Ellen Pao Steps Down as CEO After Reddit Revolt, 2015

    (Obligatory XKCD comic.) (Note: Ellen Pao resigned after a petition requesting her to step down, but Alexis Ohanian took responsibility for firing Victoria Taylor.)

  6. Prior venture capital:

    Sources said [Reddit] has reached a preliminary agreement to sell less than 10 percent of the company for more than $50 million. That could give the company a valuation of upward of $500 million.
    Swisher, Reddit Raising a Big Round, and Some Y Combinator Players Are in the Mix, September 7, 2014.

    Today’s news is a $40 million round for the startup, and for the most part it’s earmarked for the careers section of Stack Overflow.
    Novet, With this $40M, Q&A startup Stack Exchange could become a dev-hiring powerhouse, January 20, 2015.

  7. Fired employee thanking the community:

    Thank you for everything you've given me. From your messages to your artwork, I am deeply moved and grateful beyond words, and your encouragement has meant more than you'll ever know.
    Feinberg, Fired Reddit Administrator Victoria Taylor Finally Breaks Her Silence, July 8, 2015

    Above: Victoria Taylor thanks the community, similar to how Shog9 thanked the community: I'm deeply, sincerely touched by this thread.

  8. Users seek alternatives:

    The incident has led some to speculate we might be facing the reddit apocalypse, as more and more subreddits shut down in protest. Those fears were further stoked when “Reddit Alternative” spiked in Google’s search terms.
    Bertrand, /r/pocalypse Now: “Reddit Alternative” Trends on Google, July 3, 2015.

    For Stack Exchange there's Codidact (in progress).

    One article compares Reddit's exodus to Digg's prior exodus:

    Digg ... in 2010 introduced a wildly unpopular new website upgrade. The new site took power away from regular users to submit content ... As a result, Digg users left the site in droves and came to Reddit. The exodus was so absolute that by September 2010, Reddit has surpassed Digg in popularity, and it’s only continued to grow from there.
    Francis Will Reddit Have Its ‘Digg Moment’ After Firing Popular IAMA Employee Victoria Taylor?, July 3, 2015.

    (Also see this Forbes article describing the downfall of Digg via ignoring the community.)

So...

Question: Why does Victoria Taylor's firing from Reddit seem so similar to recent events here and what can we learn from these two events?

This post is in spirit of Does Fram's ban on Wikipedia seem similar to recent events? What can Stack Exchange learn from it?. It might also give some ideas for Time for a major shift in strategy and approach

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    I’m voting to reopen. This is a community oriented question and I’d love to know at what point opinions were no longer welcome on meta. If it weren’t for opinions, meta wouldn’t be able to function. Also, this question is chock full of facts and citations. – George Stocker Jan 23 at 1:52
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    The answer, sadly, is that they appear to have learned nothing – Machavity Jan 23 at 3:31
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    The sad answer is that Reddit survived and grew so ... – chx Jan 23 at 3:43
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    Very well researched question. – Trilarion Jan 23 at 9:50
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    @chx made the right point. SE doesn't need to learn anything because it's not going to matter that much for them, most likely. What I've learned from this is to never ever trust that a for-profit company won't exploit my contributions, data, etc - anything they can, to make a buck. I was 90% of the way to that believing that of every company before, now I'm at 110%. – HFBrowning Jan 30 at 1:12
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Why does Victoria Taylor's firing from Reddit seem so similar to recent events here and what can we learn from these two events?

It looks so similar because both Stack Overflow and Reddit are community centered for profit companies. The companies want to maximize profit, but the communities want to maximize the usefulness of the platform for their purposes. Reconciling these fundamentally different objectives requires some sort of compromise, which will cause friction from time to time. It's only a matter of time until something similar happens somewhere else or here again.

Some special points that emerge are:

  • Communities seem to value a bit of autonomy and self-organization while companies seem to not like it very much.
  • Communities seem to get attached to a few anchor-men and women and removing these from positions of power seems to really upset communities.
  • The same goes for edge case policies. They can create proportionally lots of attention, not because they are applied often.
  • Companies seem really very much interested in future growth. Communities maybe less so.

What can be learned from it?

  • Be aware that companies aren't saints. They are in for the money, not for you, whatever else they may say.
  • Don't put all your eggs in a single basket. Be on Reddit, Stack Overflow, Quora, Codidact, ... and prioritize the ones that you like most. Don't be too attached to a single service.
  • Maybe communities should find ways to more easily migrate to other platforms, if necessary, although I would not know how to achieve that really.
  • Companies need to understand better how communities really work. Maybe hire more community managers. They need to actually do good things for the community, not only say it.
  • Communities need to understand that companies need to make money. The companies aren't there for them primarily. It will always be a compromise (unless the company is a nonprofit one).
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    Great answer. And note: even non-profit companies might have interests of their own, independent of the community they serve. For example the CEO of a non-profit might still strive for "no profit, sure ... but also no losses please". Which might affect "business" decisions, too. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 23 at 10:31
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+50

History of company overriding the community:

That is really the key issue.

The relationship between "community" and "company" should really be based on written down rules and policies. And there needs to be some form of contract that can't be breached by either side without a clear path forward, where the other side has real leverage to enforce the contract.

In other words: to a large degree, such relationships are built between people of the company, and a (much larger set of) people from the community. Now: as soon as the company people change (which will happen at some point), you better have something in place that lasts.

And to answer the question: of course, when valued company employees are fired, that affects the corresponding community. But there should be a framework and understanding in place that ensures that such kind of change isn't disruptive. Neither Reddit nor this place has such a framework, and therefore we depend on people being there and new people upholding old promises. Which doesn't work in the real world of businesses.

The current day SE Inc. leadership isn't bound by vague promises that Jeff and Joel maybe made 10+ years ago. So we can curse about them being evil all day long, but that doesn't change much.

So, unfortunately, what we can learn here is: that we are powerless, besides walking away. But I think we already figured ;-(

And of course, we can learn again that SE Inc. isn't keen learning such lessons.

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    A formal negotiation between the company and the community to get a sort of written down contract (beyond the terms of service) is kind of unrealistic in my eyes, because the community has no organization really (we are just individuals) and because the community changes all the time and because you cannot foresee all eventualities. It will always be a bit ad-hoc, unwritten and ipso facto reflecting the current power balance. The only thing we can do is hedging the risk. – Trilarion Jan 23 at 10:35
  • @Trilarion Sure, it wouldn't be easy. But you could have a core community for example, where membership enables you to vote for a representant. That real human person could then have a seat on the board of the company with a specific set of rights (and responsibilities) for example. In the end, this is about creativity, and knowledge of what works legally ... – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 23 at 11:39
  • @Trilarion I would say that informal contract has been written in 2012 (and accepted by a site core group): "Listen to Your Community... – gnat Jan 23 at 13:08
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    @gnat That was in 2012 written by a single person who left in 2014 and also so many users hadn't even registered at that time. Ghostcat says it all with "The current day SE Inc. leadership isn't bound by vague promises...". Informal contracts aren't really binding. Now a guaranteed seat on the board for a user regularly elected by the community, that would be something. – Trilarion Jan 23 at 13:20
  • addition to last comment: But it won't happen of course. – Trilarion Jan 23 at 14:24
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    @Trilarion as a volunteer contributor, I don't feel a strong need in some official enforcement with lawyers. I can invent and use my own fines for breaking this contract when needed. (though I like your idea of a guaranteed seat on the board for a user regularly elected by the community) – gnat Jan 23 at 14:47
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I'll tell you one way it seems very similar: people will make a fuss but there is nowhere more appealing for them to go, so ultimately the effect will be negligible. Has Reddit been replaced? No.

One of the old Coding Horror blog posts had a remark about how programmers think it's easy to replace a site like this because they just see SELECT * FROM Answers WHERE AnswerId = ? and ignore all the nontechnical aspects that make the site useful. It seems many of us have yet to learn that lesson if people are still pretending anyone is going to migrate to a different site when this one still has untold numbers of useful answers and nobody's ever heard of the other one. The vast majority of SO users don't know or care who Monica is, for better or for worse.

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    Unfortunately that is the case. I use reddit, I used reddit during and before 2015. And only today I learned about Does Victoria Taylor's firing. And indeed few have heard about Codidact. – Anonymous Coward Feb 17 at 10:19

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