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Beginning 2010, we have made annual donations to charities on behalf of moderators through the Stack Gives Back program. At the same time, in recognition of the many ways that we benefit from open source projects, we began to make annual donations to a number of the different open source tools that were used in building Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network. These annual donations continued every year through 2017.

We are happy to announce that we have now restarted our Open Source donations, and have just finished donating $10,000 to a number of open source projects:

  • ProseMirror ($2,000) - The foundation of the Stacks Editor.

  • Floating UI ($1,000) - Stacks popover element is 100% powered by Floating UI.

  • MailKit ($1,000) - Our SMTP Client for the Stack Overflow for Teams Enterprise tier.

  • Markdig ($1,000) - A CommonMark Markdown processor used to convert Markdown to HTML on the server.

  • markdown-it ($1,000) - Powers all client-side CommonMark parsing (previews for both the old and new editors).

  • webpack ($1,000) - Bundle tool used in a number of our applications.

  • MathJax ($750) - Powers all client-side mathematical formula rendering.

  • Moq ($750) - A .NET mocking framework that we use to simplify unit testing.

  • Shouldly ($500) - Provides an assertion framework that we use in unit and integration testing.

  • eleventy ($500) - Used to build the Stacks documentation (among other things).

  • Creative Commons ($500) - License provider for all of our network content.

In order to arrive at this list, we surveyed representatives of all Engineering teams in the company for nominations from which we determined a final list of recipients. Amounts were determined based on a few factors, including: the importance of the component in our tech ecosystem, the number of places in which we use it, and whether or not we have donated to this project in the past.

We appreciate very much all contributions to the open source ecosystem, and look forward to continuing to show our support for it in the future.

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  • 47
    Happy to see this is happening again :) Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:17
  • 65
    Astonishingly small figures! Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 11:09
  • 3
    @LeeGoddard so what figures you want? Millions? Where will you get the funding for it from? Showing more ads? No thanks. I think that's just fine. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 15:25
  • 14
    Agreed, these just seem like such tiny numbers. $11k per year for a company the size of StackOverflow? Would have expected something 10-100 times larger than that. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 3:50
  • 8
    I'm kind of surprised not to see the Blender Foundation on this list, considering SE has an entire site (blender.stackexchange.com) devoted to Blender. Yes, they accept donations ;-)
    – Mentalist
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 4:31
  • 24
    According to everyone's favourite Wikipedia, Stack Exchange was "sold Prosus, a Netherlands-based consumer internet conglomerate, on 2 June 2021 for $1.8 billion". With that sort of valuation and backing, I would hope for more than peanuts. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 7:21
  • 6
    Can we find somewhere the benefits of the company ? Those donations seem very little for a company, especially when the reason they did not donate for some time was "budget". Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 10:23
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    It's sad to see such attitude, of people who don't know how to say "thanks" and instead always just want more, and more, and then even more, because why not, they want, and they demand to have, well, more. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 13:04
  • 10
    Well - this is in addition to the donations on behalf of moderators - and while its the thought that counts, money is nice for these projects too. And its worth remembering that well, acquisition numbers tend to be inflated to potential value and not just how much SE's making, and SE certainly isn't sitting on a war chest that big. The impetus for the donations stopping was SE literally doing so badly they basically cut back things to the bone. Which of course included community managers, devs... and other things. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 13:32
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    @Mentalist: how does SE benefit from Blender? They don't use it anywhere. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 21:31
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    To people complaining about small amounts: note that it is a poor strategy. Please, complain rather about companies that donate nothing. Otherwise you discourage anyone trying symbolic donations which is superior over doing nothing. Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:33
  • 2
    @reducingactivity The kind of companies who don't donate anything won't even listen to me when I complain about them not donating anything.
    – user1049685
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 21:40
  • 1
    @ThomasWeller Without Blender there would be none of the Q&A with the Blender tag. There are also lots of other open-source projects, SO would have no content about without them existing! Probably they should get more recognition. ;-)
    – Sebastian
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 7:05
  • 1
    @Sebastian so they should donate to Microsoft for C#, .NET, WPF, WinDbg and HTML Help Workshop? No, please not ... Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 21:13
  • @ThomasWeller How does SE "benefit" from any of its sub-sites that constitute the network? If the scope is limited to FOSS the internal dev team uses, then you are probably right - they don't use it. But if we are talking about FOSS the SE community as a whole finds valuable and deserving of support, that's another story. Me personally, as a user/contributor but not a SE employee, of course my viewpoint is from that of a user. It's good to see FOSS being supported in any case, but of course if I could cast a vote, it would be for the software I love and use most (which has a sub-site).
    – Mentalist
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 2:03

3 Answers 3

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I've a lot of thoughts about this – and admittedly while I'd asked out of curiosity I was disappointed to realise it was another cutback in a period where well, the company was paring things to the bone. And well – while it's 'about the money' it's also not about the money. And while 'it's the thought that counts' – and well, the donations do help the developers and organisations, it's also about the culture of the organisation behinds the sites.

I joked on chat that Stack Exchange's heart had shrunk 2 sizes, and while it was a joke at the time, there's a lot of downsizing, and penny pinching at the tech industry right now. Giving back to open source projects that helped at any level is a right thing to do.

To me – more importantly than the dollar value of the donations, that it's seen as important and kept being done with thoughtfulness is critical. This is a right thing, not done for a while, and done again.

There's some critiques over the exact amount but – it's worth remembering that a lot of work probably happened behind the scenes to make this happen. Is it perfect? I have a long list of things that could be better. Is it a thing again as opposed to not a thing? Yeah. And it's a good thing. And well – it's better than 'exposure'. It's also something that SE chose to do again.

These are also in addition to the donations made on behalf of mods to more 'generic' charities. These donations are very much direct to projects that SE uses.

I do hope that SE keeps doing this – and well, if things go well, they can always look at their donation amounts in future iterations.

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  • You are probably right that "a lot of work happened behind the scenes to make this happen". That salary value of that work may well have exceeded the final output value. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:45
  • Well - SE doesn't have a role of 'conscience' as a salaried position- someone needs to bring up this issue internally, and with all the changes that happened, you would have to get people up to speed on the cultural and historical context of things. Surprisingly enough, even in a corporation, there's emotional labour involved in things like this. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 2:21
  • From the outside, there were a few years where it looked like all the people with a conscience got sacked. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 2:44
  • It didn't even look that discriminate tbh. They just slashed everything down to the bone. Things are better now? Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 3:01
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I have never heard of this till now unfortunately, but I think this is really nice!

Quick question:

These annual donations continued every year through 2017.

What happened from then till now?

Related: Is Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow still donating to open-source projects as part of Stack Gives Back?

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    Stack Gives Back (for both mod donations and open source) was on hold in 2018 for budget reasons. The mod donations have been back since 2019, but this is the first year that we were able to restart the open source donations. Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:23
  • 4
    See for example, Stack Gives Back 2019.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 13:16
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    I should add that it's now legally binding for SE to operate the mod donation part of Stack Gives Back, as it's mentioned in the moderator agreement. Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 19:46
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog As with many things in such agreements, it merely says SE will 'Operate “Stack Gives Back”, an annual program giving to selected charities in honor of our moderators', which could be satisfied with a $1 donation to somewhere. I'm not saying, or even thinking, that's what SE is going to do, just that one should read legal agreements critically and not assume that something means a particular thing when the details are not clearly stated.
    – Makyen
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 22:56
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    Also while it's part of the moderator agreement, there's nothing actually stopping SE from altering it. Fundamentally all this really does run on an honor system. Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 23:13
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    @YaakovEllis - I find it concerning that $10k (or less) was a "budget reason" when SO/SE has dozes of highly-paid employees, expensive hosting bills, etc
    – warren
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 13:17
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    @warren we had layoffs in November, 2017, shortly before when we normally did Stack Gives Back (always done in Jan/Feb). So yes, the decision not to make these donations in 2018 was budget driven. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 13:42
  • Cutting spending on something "for budget reasons" is essentially a meaningless non-statement. It doesn't mean anything other than "we chose not to" and "it wasn't important to us". Presumably SO kept paying engineers during that time, and kept paying for engineering tools during that time - they just chose not to pay for open source tools during that time. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:47
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    @SteveBennett If I'd been laid off by a company, I'd be pretty annoyed to see them spending a significant chunk of my salary on an optional expense. If you read the above comments, they literally did reduce expenditure on engineers!
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:57
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    @SteveBennett we lost a lot of good folks during that period - and that includes SREs, devs and community managers who were very close to the community. It wasn't 'engineering' or 'donations' it was 'everything'. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 2:20
-1

Thanks for doing this!

To people complaining about small amounts: note that it is a poor strategy.

Companies in general have more or less three strategies:

  1. donate nothing

  2. donate small amounts

  3. donate massive amounts

Complaining about strategy (2) and demanding (3), while not complaining about (1) just encourages companies to donate nothing.

Please, complain rather about companies that donate nothing. Otherwise you discourage anyone trying symbolic donations which is superior over doing nothing.

Maybe in future when "donate something" will become standard it will make more sense to complain that company is donating only some tiny part of marketing budget. But for now? That is not really effective.

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    Just to explain downvotes, this answer serves very little purpose. You are one of those who claim SE does not give enough, and try to "guide" others how to rant about it while doing exactly this yourself. Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 7:56
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    @ShadowTheKidWizard I can't disagree more. The post serves the purpose of responding in one place to the people who have complained or might complain. It's not a rant, because it contains no indication of anger. And it actively discourages others from ranting, rather than telling them how to do it. I also can't find anything to disagree with in it: you shouldn't attack someone because you don't think they gave enough. Your interpretation seems to involve reading a whole lot more into this, and assuming bad faith on their part--that they're pretending to be against something they support.
    – trlkly
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 0:03
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    If everyone applauds large companies that do 2, there is no incentive for large companies to do 3. I also don't agree that "symbolic donations" are much better than nothing. Substantial contributions are much better. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:43
  • @trlkly it's fine to disagree and I'm also not angry and even did not downvote myself. However, to me it reads between the lines as "Thanks, but that's not enough, you should do more" which is what people rant about, in "worse" ways, usually in comments. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 7:21
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    "I also don't agree that "symbolic donations" are much better than nothing." - as developer of open source project I definitely would prefer 1000$ donation over 0$ donation. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 7:55
  • "If everyone applauds large companies that do 2, there is no incentive for large companies to do 3" - well, at this stage (2) is rare and unusual enough that it is worth some praise rather than complaints that they should donate more. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 7:55
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    @ShadowTheKidWizard I am unsure how to phrase it better. I at the same time consider it unusual and praiseworthy that they donated anything. While at the same time sums are tiny given company size and their benefits. Also, donations are completely voluntary given license of that code, and to repeat start - unusual and praiseworthy. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 8:00
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    I guess the real question is what's the goal here. Yelling at the company for not doing enough is counter productive - I doubt that someone suddenly decides to throw say a million dollars at charitable organisations from comment complaints. And certainly if you want to nudge the company one way - it means convincing people its the right thing, and this takes... years? So complaining is fine but what's your intended goal and how does complaining get that to happen? Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 14:28
  • @JourneymanGeek How does not complaining achieve the desired result?
    – user1049685
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 9:08
  • 1
    Tone and timing really. "You are terrible people" rarely works, and there's often appropriate times./opportunities to do this. I'd note the donations stopped - I asked about it, it took an year to get an answer, and another year to get things moving. There's a lot of work and leverage needed to get the company to move in a direction. I'm not saying don't complain. I'm saying complain smart. In this case we went from "we're not donating, we're skint' to 'we're donating!' and the question the company should ask itself isn't 'why are we donating so little' - its 'We did some good' Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 10:46
  • 'can we do more?' and that probably will need some time and hopefully profits. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 10:47

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