Hello members of the Meta Community - Hope you all are staying safe during these unprecedented times. I wanted to share my quarterly blog post that I wrote today: The Way Forward:

Three months ago, I wrote a message to our Stack Overflow customers and community, the first of what will be regular, quarterly posts. At the time, I reflected on the fact that we were entering a new decade, a period where tremendous technological forces are reshaping the world. Since then, we have entered a new era, and a historic challenge is facing societies in every corner of the globe. We are reminded that for all of our advances as a civilization, nature can be a powerful force which we must adapt and innovate around.

In this post, I write about how Stack Overflow is reacting to COVID-19, how this worldwide crisis is affecting us as individuals and as a company, and how we are trying to respond and support our Community and customers through this trying time. I try to give some more depth and background on our company’s core values, mission and vision, as we have spent a good deal of work on these over the past several months. I also describe our progress with the community and with all of our products. Even in these trying times, I believe Stack Overflow can make a significant positive impact through transformative technology.

I very much value the feedback that we received from the community in response to my first quarterly blog post, and the positive community interactions that followed. Some of this feedback has led directly to new initiatives that we have kicked off since that post. Please give the blog a read and let me know what questions you have. I appreciate all of your feedback and my team and I will read your responses and will look for ways to include them in our planning moving forward. Thank you.

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    @Luuklag Why? Has the site fallen that far? Jeff Atwood posted all kinds of stuff on meta all the time, participating pretty much like any community member. I never up-voted him just because he graced us with his presence. It's not much of an effort to "come personally" to an Internet site after all. Up-votes on meta should be used for marking agreement, nothing else. I'm not sure what there is to agree or disagree upon in post. – Lundin May 8 '20 at 6:45
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    My view on this announcement is more in line with what HN expressed here – Graviton May 8 '20 at 8:54
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    @Lundin that depends on your time horizon. I think we can all agree last year hasn't been all that great, and this is a welcome step in the right direction. – Luuklag May 8 '20 at 9:06
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    @Luuklag Spolsky was indeed horribly inactive, which is kind of my point. He set the bar so low that you are now prepared to cheer simply because the CEO makes a single meta post. – Lundin May 8 '20 at 9:21
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    -1 for layoffs and marketing BS, +1 for appearing here, net zero. – tripleee May 8 '20 at 10:20
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    "You can see the spike and continued lift that has been happening in 2020." It would be even easier to see in the presented graph of the daily signups, if one would normalize the curves for weekdays, for example by a suitable filter suppressing a 7-day frequency or showing weekly signups instead. The different years would overlap less and could be distinguished better. – Trilarion May 8 '20 at 10:44
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    @Lundin Two meta posts. Be fair. :) – Steve Bennett May 8 '20 at 10:47
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    Minor nitpick: perhaps retitle this post to Feedback to CEO Blog: The Way Forward or something else to differentiate it from the blog itself, since now we have 2 very similar items in the blog/featured thing on the side – Erik A May 8 '20 at 13:39
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    "Be transparent" ... there's a refreshing revival of a core value concept around here that has been sadly missing for the last few years. Kudos if it holds true going forward. – charlietfl May 10 '20 at 4:20
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    Perhaps I am cynical but to me the whole point of the blog post is the news of layoff, sandwiched between lots of mumbo jumbo PR speak... – Graviton May 10 '20 at 12:47
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    Perhaps link from the blog post to here (like on Teresa Dietrich's blog post)? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 11 '20 at 0:12
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    Thanks for reaching out in a post that the community can respond to. – Travis J May 11 '20 at 18:11
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    Nit: Globes don't have corners 😂 – Ben Whaley May 13 '20 at 0:19
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    Congrats to the CEO for just posting here – Aryan Beezadhur May 13 '20 at 20:28
  • @BenWhaley THE globe does. Four of 'em. (They've even got NEWSworthy names) ;-) – mcalex May 14 '20 at 8:43

13 Answers 13


Just a comment on some of the wording: in amongst all the "Teams sales are up, ad sales are up, traffic is up, and we just signed our biggest ever enterprise sale", I found it surprisingly hard to figure out the actual reason for the layoffs:

This has been a tough week at Stack Overflow, and taking care of each other is more important than ever right now. Like companies large and small, we have had to make difficult choices in order to reflect the market conditions. This week, we reduced our global workforce by approximately 15%. Most of the affected employees were furloughed, except for employees and contractors in regions where furloughs were unfortunately not an option. These actions primarily affected sales and customer success teams within our Talent business, which is dependent on the hiring environment.

I think this means, "job ads are down"? Maybe just confusing, because "Talent" in many companies means HR/Recruitment, but I guess at SO it means "job ads".

There's just something...odd...about using "the market conditions" as the reason for lay-offs, then immediately describing a bunch of ways in which market conditions have never been better for StackOverflow.

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    The phrasing is a little confusing, I agree. I suspect the problem causing lay-offs is that thing that kills so many businesses - "cash flow". It's like having increased footfall in a shop but sales going down. Your costs didn't go down and there is an appearance of increased activity but it's not being translated into cash to keep the business going. Hard times for a lot of businesses in that sense. Hardest of all on those laid off, of course. – StephenG May 8 '20 at 6:44
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    Yeah. I guess it gives an indication of the relative values of these income streams: a downturn in job ads more than offsets an increase in regular ads and teams subscriptions. I guess it makes sense - it's their oldest (I think?) revenue stream. – Steve Bennett May 8 '20 at 10:47
  • I guess that the expectation is that some things will go down, even though sales were high before the pandemics. With the economy taking a dive, it could probably be expected that ad revenues or maybe even Teams sales go down in the next months. The outlook may be bad and the blog post might not have accurately described it. – Trilarion May 8 '20 at 10:52
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    Hello Steve - thanks for the question. We have three lines of business. Our Talent business was impacted as hiring slowed across the globe, so we had to make cost reductions to reflect the reduced market demand. By continuing to grow Teams and Ads, we can be well positioned to bring furloughed staff back when the hiring market rebounds. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 8 '20 at 13:52

Having vocally expressed disappointed by SE management's handling of the Monica Cellio issue and its fallout - all disastrously bad - I'm at least happy at long last to see the CEO post on SE Meta, where, IMO, you should have been visibly leading throughout those problems. Caesar led from the front at the crisis, not the back. Red cloak optional. But better than it was.

Going forward your blog post did seem more informative than the awful "friendly upbeat interview" post I last read. This has real content and a proper sense of trying to inform us of the good and the bad without the heavy-handed spin that was so repulsive before. So a great improvement.

I am sorry to hear of the layoffs. I'd prefer to see companies in this crisis carry staff they can't furlough and furlough people they need to and can to keep the others from being unemployed. It's out of my hands, but that's something that needs saying for those who helped​ members in the past. Good luck to all of them.

I am extremely happy to see a continued statement of support for heavier moderator involvement in decision making, especially with regard to moderator reinstatement (and ideally dismissal). My view is that moderators who are elected by the community should be only removed by the moderators acting on behalf of the community and not by SE management except in the most extreme conditions. Still, the current proposals are an improvement on what was on offer before (nothing). More trust is needed by SE management in the community and its decision making for the sites' good.

For me, as one of the members who went "on strike" and is now back active (which I of course always wanted to be), these are positive signs in difficult times. More and continued change would be good. For members like me, we consider SE's management "on probation" pending results.

The bottom line for me is how the (elected) moderators feel about the changes when they are finalized. Fight those management instincts to have control of all things - SE moderators need to be trusted by you, because they're the people we ordinary members trust. Good managers delegate. Bad managers cannot let go of control. That's my philosophy.

So, much better than it was, but work still needed.

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    But he posted on Meta Stack Overflow some months ago. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 7 '20 at 21:26
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    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q Meta Stack Overflow is not Meta StackExchange. We've been feeling pretty ignored here, particularly during the Monica Cellio disaster. If SE/SO want to focus on SO for business going forward, that's fine, but they do need to spread the love to SE or they'll loose even more long term contributors. This post is a good sign they're acknowledging all their customers as important for the long term, IMO. For many SE users, SO is alien territory, and vice-versa I suspect. We need bridges between these community groups, IMO. – StephenG May 8 '20 at 6:52
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    @Jenayah Thanks for the grammar fixes. Never my strong point. :-) – StephenG May 8 '20 at 7:01
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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We need to continue to work on rebuilding our relationship with the community, from moderators to power users to folks who have just signed up. We'll continue to be transparent and accountable through the quarterly CEO AMA and Community Roadmap. We'll also continue to increase our communication on Meta and in person with moderators, as interaction with this group clearly slowed in 2018-2019, and we felt that needed to change. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 8 '20 at 14:01

Thank you for the blog post and for talking with us here. It's greatly appreciated. Furloughing a large portion of the company had to be a hard decision and those of us who care about the company's employees appreciate the transparency. This seems more appropriate than what happened a few years ago when 20% of the company was laid off and the community found out via Twitter messages from the ex-employees. Nobody likes to deliver bad news, but I'm glad you have taken that responsibility.

I trust that the People Team is helping furloughed employees apply for government benefits to bridge the gap between now and a (hopefully) brighter future. As you can see from the Talent business, this is not the best time to be looking for a new job. Even if there is promise to return to their previous job, I imagine many people are stressed out this week.

Prashanth, I wanted to thank you for the way you tweeted out the post and referenced "technologists" in addition to developers. Back in 2015 when Andreessen Horowitz invested in Stack Exchange, Joel said:

And we did such a good job of serving programmers that a few smart non-programmers looked at us and said, “Behold! I want that!” and we thought, hey! What works for developers should work for a lot of other people, too, as long as they’re willing to think like developers, which is the best way to think. So, we decided that anybody who wants to get with the program is welcome to join in our plan. And these sites serve their own communities of, you know, bicycle mechanics, or what have you, and make the world safer for the Programmer Way Of Thinking and thus serve programmers by serving bicycle mechanics.

Somehow in the last five years that message got lost and it sometimes felt like Stack Overflow had become Steve Ballmer on a loop. By last year Community Managers were told that the 100+ communities that weren't serving developers directly were not assets, but liabilities. It's good to see the blog post call out Biology, Medical Sciences and Academia as communities that provide value. It's too bad the company was caught flat-footed on benefiting financially, however.

I'm particularly frustrated with the way network ads were implemented last year. Stack Overflow long had a community-friendly approach to advertising. The community team assumed that philosophy applied not just to Stack Overflow, but to all the communities. Unfortunately, we were told to remove the link to that blog post because the author, Steve Feldman, is no longer the Senior Ad Ops Manager at Stack Overflow. (This was communicated to me third-hand, so I might not have the full story.) In my opinion, this was a wasted opportunity.

Before this becomes a rant, I want to encourage the people working at Stack Overflow to look for opportunities outside of the confines of developers or even the tech industry. All sorts of people have questions and are looking at Stack Exchange for answers.

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    Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jon. Yes - our mission statement was expanded to include technologists soon after I joined in October 2019. Industries and disciplines are converging, all powered by technology. The global response to the current crisis is a great example. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 9 '20 at 19:03
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    To answer your 2nd question, yes, we have tremendous communities on Stack Overflow & Stack Exchange. From a business perspective, we’re experimenting with integrating & elevating sites that deal with technologists of all kinds. We will strive to find a better implementation of Ads across the network, although I think we can all agree, it’s rare that people on the internet are happy when they see more advertising, instead of less ;) Still, doing that in a successful way would allow us to generate additional revenue, allowing us to better support our entire community and network of sites. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 9 '20 at 19:04
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    @PrashanthChandrasekar: I'm working for a site that depends on ad revenue to operate and its more than people being unhappy with more advertising. My users (and Stack Exchange users) understand the business needs revenue. What users object to is advertising that disrespects their contributions. What I worry about is that at the economy tightens the screws there will be a temptation to take shortcuts. (I know. I'm tempted too!) Letting users report ads only helps if that feedback is used to remove ads and avoid similar ads in the future. – Jon Ericson May 9 '20 at 20:19

We plan to update the Moderator Reinstatement policy in May to potentially include the Moderator Council’s proposed involvement in the process.

I don't understand why you would do that. Every site has a moderation team that should have a say, and with all due respect to the current council members (and they deserve a lot), they are not representatives of the community where a moderator might be reinstated. Their obligation isn't to serve that community - it's to represent moderators from across the network. Why would they be involved AT ALL in a decision to reinstate or not a site moderator? It should be the company, the site's moderation team, and the "trusted" users in the community (if it makes sense, which in most cases it probably wouldn't).

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    This is a very, very small part of the changes we're making to the reinstatement process and before it ever gets to the Council, talking to the site's mods is a major part of it. The Council will only see a minority of requests, the site mods will see every request that relates to their site. – Catija May 7 '20 at 18:57
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    What value does the moderator council add that the site's moderation team hasn't already handled? I don't understand it. It seems like this council IS being set up to be "super mods", although I believe y'all when you say that's not your intention. @Catija I'm going to be blunt - if I were still a moderator, I would not want the appointed Meta mods or SO mods having a say in who got reinstated to our mod team on our tiny little site that has completely different concerns from Meta or SO. – ColleenV May 7 '20 at 19:24
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    I'd like to hold off on that discussion until we have the entire plan reviewed internally, within the council and mods in general and out for public comment. This point specifically says "potentially" because we may find that there's another or better way - but what I will say is that one of the biggest asks was for the ability to get external review of the process for fairness and that's what we're trying to do. This isn't about them being "super mods" - it's about them being able to advise us, not decide the fate of the mods. – Catija May 7 '20 at 19:31
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    You're making assumptions about the process with no actual information - please don't. Please give us a chance to actually put the process out there so you can see what it looks like. What you're worried about shouldn't be an issue here at all. There's no intention - and to be clear, the Council members I've talked to don't want - to allow the council to overrule the decision of the local site mods. – Catija May 7 '20 at 19:36
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    OK, I understand the details aren't worked out. I'm waving a big red flag here though, because what is the point of "advice" if it doesn't affect the outcome of something? I assume moderators are reviewing the changes to the process right now, but I can't see what value a council of moderators who may never have interacted with a particular moderator or site would add to the process. Y'all probably shouldn't have made it public before you were ready to disclose enough detail about it. – ColleenV May 7 '20 at 19:42
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    No, we haven't even finished the high-level version of it. We're hoping to have it to the council early next week and once that is done, we'll start actually digging into the details. But... you're pointing out the value they add - distance. They are at least less likely to be biased either for or against the moderator. But I understand your concerns and they are ones I share and ones that the council themselves shares. We're working to make sure that your concerns aren't going to happen. To be honest, I thought this part was getting removed from the blog but... I'm doing what I can. – Catija May 7 '20 at 19:51
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    Ok, well feel free to use my post to support your "Please don't do this to us again" e-mail to management ;) I will say that if a mod team is actually a team instead of a group of people working on the same thing, people with distance shouldn't be meddling in it. – ColleenV May 7 '20 at 19:53
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    The moderator council was announced less than 2 weeks ago. And their role hasn't even been defined. (It's hard to know what to think about the quoted passage in this post.) – bad_coder May 7 '20 at 20:33
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    @bad_coder Yep, which is why I posted about it. If nothing else, I hope my feedback will help the company find the balance between being transparent and causing needless churn by releasing stuff that is under-cooked. – ColleenV May 7 '20 at 20:43
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    You could argue the company is being transparent in letting us know what's going on mid-process while there's still some indefinition. I do appreciate that. It's a key issue, because it addresses organization of the "social decision structure". Arguably they are taking the right step by announcing because it allows a period of reflection, critique and feedback. (Being caught by surprise latter on when things are set is more authoritarian.) – bad_coder May 7 '20 at 20:48
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    @bad_coder I didn't say they weren't being transparent. I could tell people every half-baked idea that my brain comes up with, which would also be transparent, but it's not productive. There's a balance. Things that aren't close to being finalized aren't ready to be made public unless you're asking for the public's input, which they aren't at this point. – ColleenV May 7 '20 at 20:53
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    The mod council is involved to have them take the heat when the company makes unpopular decisions. Communication gets funneled through the mod council and the company doesn't have to concern itself with angry meta users and their annoying opinions. That's what the council was invented for, so of course it makes sense to also use it for moderator removals. – sth May 8 '20 at 14:36
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    @sth I don't believe that's true at all, having been part of the initial discussions around forming the moderator council. – ColleenV May 8 '20 at 14:40
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    In any case, whatever the current council members end up deciding will then presumably be announced and feedback will be solicited from the wider community. I do know that all of us on the council are very strongly against forcing anything down the community's throat and we're well aware that we haven't been selected to represent the community at large. At best, we could represent the community of mods, but even that is tricky. But one thing is very clear: we really, really don't want to impose any of our positions on anyone and are trying to find ways of ensuring that isn't even possible. – terdon May 8 '20 at 16:28
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    @terdon I absolutely believe that, and frankly my issue is more with adding that participation formally into a process than anything else. I think it leads to the same sort of issues we saw going from "Be Nice" to a more explicit code of conduct. You don't want to go too far in the "just do the right thing" direction or in the "here is a detailed list that will cover every possible situation" direction. Neither extreme works. – ColleenV May 8 '20 at 16:32

You said:

Along with the surge in traffic to our sites, we have also seen an encouraging lift in new users signing up for accounts. You can see the spike and continued lift that has been happening in 2020

How do you measure the number of new accounts? How do you know which accounts are new users coming to this site?

From what I was able to observe a large chunk of new accounts created on Stack Overflow are spam accounts. These are not new users. I do not know exactly the purpose of these accounts, but I assume it is for SEO purposes.

I do not see a Y label on the graph, so it's difficult to understand the true meaning of this data. Does it mean that there's more posts from new accounts? Does it mean there's more spam accounts being created daily?

Even if there's plenty of new users signing up, it doesn't mean they contribute anything useful. A better metric would be the number of users reaching a certain privilege level. e.g. Close voting of delete voting. Users gaining privileges means that they are active and post helpful content. These are the valuable contributors, not blank new accounts.

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    In any case, it would interesting to know why the number of signups on Stack Overflow suddenly tripled in just one or two days (at the end of March 2020). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 7 '20 at 21:33
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    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q Dark mode. – Catija May 7 '20 at 22:20
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    No... I mean dark mode... meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/395949/… the increase in sign-ups relates to it directly. One of our data scientists will give a better explanation tomorrow but this isn’t spammers. – Catija May 7 '20 at 22:37
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    Can confirm: the only reason I ever log into Ars Technica is that it restores my "dark mode" preference, or "the ONLY REAL Ars Technica theme" as Arsians know it. Until all websites give up on this tired "dark on light" fad, signing in for darkness will remain a compelling motivator. – Shog9 May 7 '20 at 23:18
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    Hah. I remember when Are corporate overlords claimed white on black was more professional. Did not go over well – Journeyman Geek May 7 '20 at 23:58
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    "How do you measure the number of new accounts?" Probably just the number of new registrations. Probsbly not the number of new registrations minus the number of old registrations not seen for a long while. Most probably not the number of new registrations that posted a positively received question or answer. – Trilarion May 8 '20 at 10:56
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    The graph in the post is the number of new accounts created on Stack Overflow each day on a linear scale. The spike in the graph at the end of March 2020 is Dark mode. Dark mode was one of the most requested features ever and as part of the release we blogged it a few times and promoted it in a big animated banner at the top of every page. You need to log in to set your dark mode preference and people signed up to do so. – Jason Punyon May 8 '20 at 14:03
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    Re spam: Near the end of January 2020 we did become aware of increased spam signups going back to October 2019. We dug in and studied what we found, identified and removed offending accounts, and put new pieces in place to reduce that kind of spam in the future. The graph in the post does not include any spam accounts we've been able to identify. – Jason Punyon May 8 '20 at 14:03
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    @jasin Ok, that would explain the spike, but it still doesn't explain what the actual numbers are. Did we see a spike in good quality content being posted? Did we see any spike in actual participation on the site? Creation of new accounts is not a very useful metric. – Dharman May 8 '20 at 14:07
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    @Dharman The post talked about signups and traffic, and the graph was about signups so that's what I explained here. It's a little hard to talk about other numbers in the comments here (because I can't post new graphs etc). If you'd like to ask another question about them I'd be glad to field it. – Jason Punyon May 8 '20 at 15:32
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    @Dharman On those accounts: They are counted (being non-deleted-for-spam accounts), and they don't look great. Our system is not perfect (nor was my statement about improving it an attempt to say it was). Thanks for highlighting them, I'll bring them up with the appropriate people. – Jason Punyon May 8 '20 at 15:35
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    @Catija I would suspect COVID shut downs before Dark Mode. Many people suddenly had a lot of free time on their hands to pick up programming, and I've noticed quite a few people explicitly mentioning this as the reason they're studying programming on another platform. – jpmc26 May 9 '20 at 18:41
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    @jpmc26 The start of the uptick - the huge burst - is exactly the day we released Dark Mode. For Covid I’d expect a gradual increase starting mid March and building up, not a sharp increase centered on a single day and gradually decreasing from there. The purple line is mid-March, the green is the release date for Dark Mode. i.stack.imgur.com/O7H3e.jpg – Catija May 9 '20 at 20:15

And there has been a massive jump in traffic on Academia, up 245%, as students and teachers work to navigate this new world of remote learning.

While I appreciate your appreciation of our efforts on Academia, I fail to see this jump in traffic on the site-analytics tools for 10 k users and moderators. Instead, I see a considerable dip lasting from the middle of March to the middle of April.

I thus wonder:

  • Did I not look at the right numbers or not in the right way?
  • Are the site-analytics tools broken?
  • Did whoever produced this number make a mistake somehow? (Mind that it cannot be mistaking the end of the dip for a peak, as that was smaller.)

Update: This has been solved an corrected now. The traffic boost was on Meta Academia.

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    If you look at SEDE its only a gain of about 10% questions & 3.5% answers (and the overall network continues to lose so more accounts = easier tracking of ads but not really translating into better/more content – LinkBerest May 8 '20 at 16:38
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    Traffic could be meant as site visits. That means people looking for Coronavirus related knowledge came to academia and found or did not find something useful. Last time the CEO reported cutting the number of unfriendly comments in half and that was kind of disputed afterwards. My impression is that one should take the numbers and especially the importance of them with a grain of salt. Should we be impressed by 250% traffic increase for a single network site during these times? I don't know. – Trilarion May 8 '20 at 19:43
  • There was also a similar dip on Physics (in terms of traffic). But the number of posts increased by about 70% if carefully cherry-picked - cut and zoomed version. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 8 '20 at 20:05
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    I was also curious about this since I now manage a site about college admissions. We are certainly seeing a lot of questions and discussions about the new reality. But in terms of traffic . . . it's down year-over-year. My impression is that people are looking for information from their schools rather than general information sources like ours. Academia is a different site, so my data point might not be relevant. Hope we can learn more about what that sentence means. – Jon Ericson May 8 '20 at 21:42
  • @Trilarion I didn't quite understand what distinction you're making between "site visits" (your term) and "traffic [in the site-analytics tools]" (Wrzlprmft's term). Are you able to elaborate? – Steve Bennett May 11 '20 at 5:07
  • @SteveBennett I don't really make any distinction. It's just my own terms. There is a distinction between traffic/visits and active participation (which is relevant for the related question by Dharman) but otherwise it's just the same and I don't know anymore why I wrote that here. What remains is still relevant. Last time there was a disputed quantification in the blog post too and it's not clear if such a traffic increase is of strong importance in these times. – Trilarion May 11 '20 at 6:07
  • Hmm, yeah, I'm definitely very curious about this. I'm sure SO would have had reasons for claiming a 245% increase for that particular site. – Steve Bennett May 11 '20 at 6:22
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    Ah! Meta Academia (as noted in the correction on this post) makes a lot of sense. Over at College Confidential, we lost traffic to COVID-19, but we gained a lot of meta discussion around the topic. It's honestly not the trade I would have made if it had been my choice. – Jon Ericson May 13 '20 at 20:06
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    Still confusing: the wording now says "Meta Academia", but it still links to Academia. And that site's actual name is "Academia Meta". – Steve Bennett May 14 '20 at 15:42

Frankly - it's happened before, and while we hope it won't happen again, it could. That's not counting the "realignment" which ostensibly moved resources to the very parts of the company now affected.

Each time, it feels like we're a little diminished, and that the community is a little bit less than it was, like we lost an essential part of who we are.

The critical test isn't just how the company weathers the storms - but in shoring things up, and doing right when things are good so the storms have less of an impact - to not merely survive and pick up the wreckage, but thrive.

We've basically seen Talent go boom and bust more than once. While it's been pushed as the great hope for revenue - I'm kind of unsure what's a unique value preposition in a really crowded market, and it's possible customers might feel so too. The only value is in the Stack Overflow name I guess, but I'd suspect that pretty much everyone has their own equivalent on that front.

As far as furloughs go - it may be better than getting fired, but it's still probably a pain.

As someone who was let go from what felt like a perfect job - it sucks, and I feel that it's probably essential to work out what's a sustainable way for the business units that're supposed to fuel the company's growth in the long run. Shedding staff every so often when things are bad is not a great way to go. In the long term - maybe it should be a goal to avoid that, even in bad times. So I guess - I'd ask, is Careers/Talent sustainable, and at least internally suggest maybe it's worth examining why it's failed to live up to expectations more than once in the company's history.

All storms pass. The question isn't just "how do we weather the storm?" but rather to understand where things went wrong - and try to do right by the community - both of users and of the folks working to ensure the business runs and grows. And well - the community's been patient, and has tried to stand by the network where its been possible, and got taken for granted a lot. When things get better - it might be worth remembering that.

I also do hope that in trying to trim things in lean times (I'd hardly call it fat at this time), that the good work that's gone on lately doesn't take a back seat. In trying to get back in touch with the community, in new features (Following posts - was pretty much a polished version of my first feature request , and somehow Lisa listened to my 3 am ramblings (and others) and turned a feature I hated (tag synonyms) into something I use.) It's been a decent start at rebuilding things.

While I guess it's good to go "We're doing ok! Honest?" We've... heard that a lot. That more resources were just around the corner, when things work out.

One can go through a problem, one can go around it, or one can get ready, and laugh at it mockingly, standing tall. Can we be the last next time?

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    Re "The only value is in the Stack Overflow name": We may not have to worry. From the blog post "This week, we signed a landmark multi-year Stack Overflow for Teams customer agreement, the largest commercial agreement in the history of our 12 year old company..." – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 8 '20 at 19:50
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    I'm slightly confused by the sentence structure of the parentheticals in your third-to-last paragraph (the the one that starts "I also do hope [...]"). I feel like something got added or removed or left incomplete there; at the least, there's one missing end parenthesis. – V2Blast May 10 '20 at 7:46
  • Brackets Closed – Journeyman Geek May 10 '20 at 8:20

I'm just going to throw this out there for the meta readership:

Having met you for an evening, you strike me as a thoughtful, kind, compassionate, curious, and serious person. I can't imagine stepping in to captain a company as, unknown to all of us, three months later a Great Depression-level of economic upheaval slams into the world, but I suspect those qualities will only help.

Good luck.

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    Thank you @nitsua60 for your kind words and for taking the time to meet with me and the team. I really appreciated your perspective and ideas. Also, thank you for being a moderator in our community - the team and I appreciate all you and our moderators do to ensure our community has a positive and productive experience. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 10 '20 at 15:25

I liked this post by the CEO.

It feels more like a community member is writing. The posts before this one felt distanced having a mostly professional and impersonal tone. I think this communication was more in accordance with how the community prefers to be addressed by management.

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    Could be just a good ghost writer or editor . – Nick Alexeev May 13 '20 at 0:51

It's great to get some overview on what's happening, but this particular part of it kinda... disappointed me a bit, I guess?

On the public platform side, we have made a number of important updates. We released a beta version of a feature that will give users more control of what they experience on our network by allowing them to report ads they don’t like, and we launched version 2.0 of our Unfriendly Robot which automatically flags unwelcoming comments. We made it possible for users to follow questions and answers that they did not author, giving folks an easy way to stay up to date with changes to posts that they are interested in. We are excited to share plans for a long-awaited overhaul to review queues. And we shipped the first in a series of changes to the “close question” experience that we hope will make life easier for moderators and more pleasant for users.

This reads way more like the old "we built, we shipped", whereas in reality, there has been some dialogue from the team to Meta (thanks to brilliant initiatives such as the work Lisa Park did - and is still doing? - on the review queues), which was only really mentioned in the form of a link to the post.

The people aren't important - well, they are, but it's more the direction that is: this build/launch process, as highlighted in this blog post, had a step beforehand: plan. And this planning part seems to be an implementation detail in that paragraph.

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    I think you are bit negative on the "we built, we shipped" point. The blog is not really aimed at meta users I would guess but shareholders, other organizations for Teams and all others and the details of how things were done don't matter. Yes implementation is a detail. – mmmmmm May 7 '20 at 18:18
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    @user151019 if the blog was really aimed at shareholders it would make no sense to post about it here (not to mention that would be rather poor choice of medium to communicate to shareholders) – gnat May 7 '20 at 18:25
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    Well I meant it is not meant for just meta users, but all people interested in Stack Exchange – mmmmmm May 7 '20 at 18:28
  • These were in fact all excellent features. – bad_coder May 7 '20 at 20:36
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    The blog gets linked on reddit reddit.com/r/programming/comments/gfndoq/… so showing meta is not the only audience – mmmmmm May 8 '20 at 11:18

I'll add to the other thoughtful replies here that, while pleased to see the update, and with your posting it here on meta, I am wondering why you could not also share...

  • More information about the company's finances, especially after these layoffs/furloughs.

    • Is SE Inc. balanced-or-better w.r.t. income and expenses, after the layoffs/furloughs?
    • If not, do you expect to be in the near future?
  • More details on the impact of the personnel cuts on the Stack Exchange network. You mentioned the layoffs/furloughing impacted your "Talent business". Is the network (a.k.a. "Public Q&A") un-impacted?

  • A link to a description of your "Talent business". Most people on Stackoverflow.com only know about the recruitment ad mechanism (SO Jobs); elsewhere on the network, people may be completely unaware of it.


They say that such harsh times often amplify the best and worst in humans. I am really glad that SE Inc. and you, as the CEO are trending towards the positive side!

I think your post does an excellent job:

  • it gives a good summary of the current situation of the company
  • you are honest about the financial impacts of the crisis
  • and you have a good way of outlining all the positive developments that are going on within the company, but also together with your users (and customers and partners).

From that point of view, you said all the right things, hitting the right "tune".

Sure, not all disagreements that arose in the past can be resolved so that everyone is happy. But me personally, I get the feeling that contributing on Stack Overflow became meaningful again.

There isn't too much I can do to help those facing existential problems, but it feels good to support those that want to learn new things these days.

And a really personal thought: I am with IBM for 20 years, always developing stuff around the mainframe. So it was extremely touching to listen to that podcast, and get to know two amazing coworkers I didn't know before. So, extra appreciation from me for hyping that podcast and our "call for code" this way.

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    Thank you for your kind words. We are so happy to be partnering closely with IBM on Call for Code. It’s a great cause and our privilege to do what we can to make a positive difference during this crisis. – Prashanth Chandrasekar May 9 '20 at 19:10

Please give the blog a read and let me know what questions you have

Why don't you post on meta?

I personally hate SO blog and simply ignore anything written there. It has lots of flaws including the one why you are here - to give feedback. The comment system is terrible, no Stack Exchange user integration, no up/down-votes, etc.

Do you want feedback? Simply post a question on meta targeting us (users of network) and not them (potential partners or whatever the blog is targeting). That would even make it easier to write, because you can completely skip marketing language (if you don't - expect downvotes).

  • 1
    @YakoovEllis comments under this post addressed the issue of "where / why posting" nicely. – bad_coder May 8 '20 at 11:46
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    Because the CEO is not only talking to the people here? There are many many other groups that have to matter to him. – GhostCat May 8 '20 at 12:17
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    @GhostCatsalutesMonicaC., sorry, but I am not working for that company. So when CEO is trying to speak to all - I can leave. I'd expect the guy asking my oppinion about his speech to adjust first. – Sinatr May 8 '20 at 12:43
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    @bad_coder, linked answer is about MSO vs MSE. My topic about blog vs MSE. I haven't thought which meta.. any meta will do better than blog. – Sinatr May 8 '20 at 12:46
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    I understand. Then I think it's the right decision to post the article on the blog, and link the thread here. Because it separates internal debate from exterior audience, most folks who aren't members wouldn't understand "how things go" in here. I've been a registered member for over 1 year and I'm still "wrapping my head around" how interactions are done in the community. Honestly, we get the privilege of debate and whoever isn't motivated enough to post on blog probably doesn't have enough reason to. It also deters "impulsiveness" which is good practice online these days. imho... – bad_coder May 8 '20 at 12:54
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    I don't get it. We are on Meta aren't we? Prashanth did post on Meta, you're answering his post. Would you really want the entire blog post to be duplicated here just so you don't need to click on a link? That seems a bit excessive. This is a post soliciting feedback and targeting us. What else do you need? – terdon May 8 '20 at 15:53
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    And again: the CEO talks to many groups. Users, moderators, customers, investors. He isn't the CEO of meta stack exchange. He is the CEO of a company that serves millions of users. And I would guess that his blog post reaches far more users than a MSE posting would. And personally, the only important aspect is whether the company reaches out to us and listens. Thus I really don't see that we would benefit anything by the CEO putting such stuff only here. Sure, if he wants to talk to this community, then he shall post here. Which he did before. So what do you think can be achieved beyond that?! – GhostCat May 8 '20 at 18:20
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    @terdon: In his (gender is a priori) defense, they didn't link to a meta post, only "We appreciate hearing your thoughts and feedback in the comments below." - unlike Teresa Dietrich's blog post. And at the start where it (probably) belongs. Though, I don't know how long the delay was. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q May 8 '20 at 19:39
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    @terdon, yes, when you are asking question you have to include all relevant details into a post. In case of this blog post posted here OP doesn't have to post anything else: it's immediately in discussion, gets upvoted/downvoted and I can check at least some background of peoples by looking into their profiles. This all flawed in blog. This is why OP come here and post another bunch of text. Honestly I don't care if OP is SO SEO or a Bill Gates, or a Bruce Willis. There should be no exception in rules. – Sinatr May 11 '20 at 7:05
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    @GhostCatsalutesMonicaC., changing target from "whole world" to "users of SE" is what makes difference: post become shorter, it would be easier to read and understand for not-native speakers (like me). It wasn't me who ask to give a feedback. Obviously this is not possible to get feedback from "users of SE" there. This is why blog is so bad. My post will either: 1) will be ignored (no problem, I'll rise this topic later) 2) something will happens with blog (good) 3) SE users will be asked on SE meta sites (amazing). – Sinatr May 11 '20 at 7:14

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