17

Aaron Hall's account of his recent meeting with the CEO is interesting and informative for anyone who has followed the recent "events" (for want of a better word). However, this seems to have been a one-off impromptu meeting which came about due to Aaron contacting Prashanth. Is this unusual, or are there regular meetings between management and mods? If not, might it not be a good idea?

By "meetings" I primarily mean meeting irl, but I understand that can be tricky with a globally distributed volunteer workforce.

A bit of background: I have worked in a number of voluntary sector organisations in the UK, both as a volunteer and as a manager of volunteers. I have experienced both very bad management treatment of volunteers and very good management treatment of volunteers, and everything in between, but one thing that has been a constant is that there was at least some contact between the two, even if it was just an invitation to the office Christmas party.

  • 1
    Just to clarify: I'm specifically talking about contact with upper management, not the CM team. – Bob says reinstate Monica Feb 5 at 10:33
  • 22
    No amount of meetings is likely to fix the fundamental issues at play, precisely because SO is not a voluntary sector organization but a VC funded enterprise with the end goal of an exit and the divergence in goals between this and the veteran community (present from the start) has become too obvious for anyone to ignore. Keeping the volunteers happy is not (and really can't be) a business priority beyond keeping them donating their free labour. George Stocker's excellent ongoing commentary on the proceedings is worth reading – Pekka Feb 5 at 11:21
  • Apparently it's unusual for a venture capitalist. It's completely expected in most of the copyleft and free software world, and rather common even in the world of unfree software. I see there's a Stackoverflow booth at OSCON conferences.oreilly.com/oscon/oscon-or/public/content/sponsors but it's not listed in stackoverflow.com/badges/get/events and I'm not sure how many of those events feature a meetup or other real meatspace interaction. – Nemo Feb 5 at 13:01
  • 1
    Nice idea. I put up a non-question about that MSO post yesterday, but was voted into oblivion for "not a question". Seems you found a better way to get the news out. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Feb 5 at 13:19
  • 3
    On the other hand, VCs are looking for "large networks of highly engaged users". Isn't that a definition of a community? (Ad avoidance information: [0 min 0 secs; 0 min 52 secs], [9 min 18 secs; 11 min 33 secs], and [28 min 40 secs; 30 min 58 secs]) – Peter Mortensen Feb 5 at 13:24
  • 1
36

I know for a fact that Prashanth met privately with a number of community members after taking the reins as CEO. I met with him over a conversation in November for about 30 minutes on Google Hangouts (IIRC). It was late evening (CEOs work a lot), and we discussed a number of issues (this was after I had resigned as a Community Elected Moderator on Stack Overflow):

  • What I thought Stack Overflow needed to do to have better relationship with its active user community and how they could restore trust with the community
  • How to resolve the "Monica" issue, and why lack of a process being followed caused disruption in the community
  • Explaining why people were so emotionally invested in Stack Overflow

Overall Prashanth was polite, but I never got the impression that he was really internalizing what I was saying. No matter how much I tried, I could not successfully persuade him of the fact that the decisions being made were detrimental to Stack Overflow (the business's) success.

To be fair to Prashanth and Stack Overflow, in general business people don't trust free advice. It has more to do with something I've talked about in some of my Twitter threads: That people value what they pay money for. The situation would have been entirely different if (let's say) this had been a $100,000 consulting engagement into increasing the positive perception of Stack Overflow (the business) by the community.

  • 14
    Your last paragraph is very true in my experience. People tend not to value volunteer input precisely because it's free, and ironically the more value volunteers contribute to an organisation the less they seem to be valued (Bob's 1st law of NGOs, also seemingly applicable to the private sector). – Bob says reinstate Monica Feb 5 at 12:51
  • 13
    You could have sent an invoice after the conversation, maybe that would've made them take your words with more attention – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Feb 5 at 12:52
  • 2
    There's an old saying in business: Free advice is rarely cheap – Richard says Reinstate Monica Feb 5 at 13:06
  • So we need to do a gofundme to raise 100,000 to do a consulting engagement ... you're on top of the short list. ... – rene Feb 5 at 13:13
  • 18
    @rene I'd much prefer everyone contribute to Shog9's GoFundMe, he was paid a pittance for the impact he had, and did not have the benefit of viable separation pay. If Stack Overflow wants to pay me to help them fix their image, I'll happily do that, but that doesn't need a gofundme to happen. :-D – George Stocker Feb 5 at 13:15
  • @GeorgeStocker - Do we have an approximate idea of what his annual salary was? Was he given two weeks' pay after the axe fell? Severance? Was he under contract? At will? While we're at it, was there a reason communicated formally for the termination? – aparente001 Feb 5 at 18:18
  • 4
    @aparente001 Never broke 100K; I know CMs are hired at 80K now. They were going to offer him 8 weeks severance in exchange for a non-disclosure and a hold-harmless clause. He was at-will. Based on what I know now, it seems like his termination was along with 8-9 other people who were being 'laid off' at the same time. 10 years working for Stack Overflow to be offered 8 weeks severance? Ugh. Contra the 2017 layoffs where laid-off employees received 6 months severance. – George Stocker Feb 5 at 18:35
  • @GeorgeStocker - Thank you. If the company does get around to setting up a non-profit for the sites they don't care about, with a greater degree of self governance, clearly it should provide contracts to its employees. I'm concerned that as an "at will" employee, he may be ineligible for unemployment benefits. By the way, was he overtime exempt, do you know? – aparente001 Feb 5 at 18:39

You must log in to answer this question.

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