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A few minutes ago, CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar posted a note to our blog to share the news that Stack Overflow has made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce by 58 people, or about 10% of our total staff. Impacted employees have now been notified, and have had a chance to speak with our People team about the practicalities of what comes next. These cuts were across the organization, impacting staff in both engineering and non-engineering roles (including our community team).  

In order to support our colleagues as they go through this very difficult transition, we’re asking that you respect their privacy, and we will not be taking questions about who was impacted, though if you have questions about the time of transition, or more general questions about our direction and strategic priorities, please feel free to leave them as an answer below and I will try to get answers for as many of them as I can. 

I am going to ask for your patience though, as I doubt that we’ll get answers to these today, given that our focus as an organization and as individuals is on supporting our colleagues through this period of change.

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    If only it could've been avoided
    – Zoe
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 18:55
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    About "who was impacted", it's public knowledge already for CM's, due to having list of them, which was updated today, having few removed. Commented May 10, 2023 at 19:54
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    @ShadowTheSpringWizard Regardless of whether or not there's a maintained list of CMs, it would certainly still be unbecoming of the company to speak about specific ex-employees in an announcement like this one. That's why that particular point was mentioned.
    – Spevacus
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 20:34
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    Let me get this straight-2: the company had enough funds to dedicate a full team to chase the AI hype train but did not for keeping 10% of the total staff on board, am I correct in the interpretation of events? Commented May 10, 2023 at 20:55
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    @OlegValteriswithUkraine A disgustingly expensive hype train, by the way. Based on pricing for the AI operation, odds are solid 58 people (or at least a majority of them; it's difficult to tell what SO's actual financial situation is due to the lack of transparency on anything financial in the US) were thrown under the bus to jump on a hype train with no defined goal
    – Zoe
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 21:00
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    @Oleg this gives me an idea for naming this "action". Name is "The AI Layoff". Commented May 11, 2023 at 5:49
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    Seems like the company could have solved the current issues by laying off just one or two positions rather than fifty-eight. I'd rather keep the CMs and DBAs who make the site work than the CEO and the MBAs who think AI fantasies can replace it.
    – Nij
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 10:25
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    Well, if it is any consolation, it is still correct for CET. I'm hoping that a good social plan is in place. Don't forget to support your colleagues that are let go. The main issue that I had when my entire R&D team was "let go" was the complete lack of support, both w.r.t. finding a new job but mainly mentally; it has left a hole that has never fully gone away. Don't feel awkward communicating with them just because you still have a job, and they don't - falling into some kind of black hole is worse. Commented May 11, 2023 at 13:01
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    I updated the page title in response to requests here.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 9:22
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    @Philippe I appreciate you editing the title, but I don't feel happy about the time when you changed the title as you have done it after the dust has settled. I hope you would do better in the future. Commented May 21, 2023 at 12:15
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    @RandomPerson quite frankly - he probably had more important things to deal with, like his team losing 2 people. While the community at large is important, you do also need to take care of your own. Commented May 21, 2023 at 12:18
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    And again, does the CEO not even use this platform?
    – Criggie
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 4:43
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    @Criggie The present CEO used to do that for about a year after coming in, but then got replaced by deputies like Theresa Dietrich and later by Philippe. He is a bit like a spokesperson for the CEO now, relaying and interpreting what the CEO has said. The CEO only addresses wider audiences in infrequent blog posts. To be fair, he probably has a lot to do. So not sure, what you expect really. I think this is okay. SO doesn't really have any obligation in that regard. Commented May 23, 2023 at 6:50
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    @Trilarion I get that - it just shows a disconnect.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 9:32
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    @Trilarion Sure - but can't we expect better? Commented May 23, 2023 at 17:33

6 Answers 6

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In order to support our colleagues as they go through this very difficult transition, we’re asking that you respect their privacy, and we will not be taking questions about who was impacted . . .

I know you are the messenger here and this isn't necessarily your choice. Having been a community manager for a previous round of layoffs, I can say this is intensely frustrating. One of the ways Stack Overflow has stood out in the past is the connection between members of the community and employees. We watched the site being built publicly, worked closely across the employment boundary and when it comes time for people to leave the company we publicly share in their grief and/or excitement. Unless, of course, the company has some reason to keep things quiet.

This morning there are 58 people who suddenly don't have a job to go to. I imagine some of them would like to find a new job in the near future. There are people in the Stack Overflow community who might have leads for the newly unemployed. I wonder how many of the people were laid off don't mind having their names revealed by the company rather than having the community speculate about their status?

If any former Stack Overflow employees are looking for people to connect with, they should feel free to email me. My contact information can be found at the bottom of my blog posts. I can connect you to resources for ex-Stack Overflow employees.

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    Jon, i think that's a nice gesture. I will pass it along to any who I talk to so they can take advantage of it if they wish. I truly hope that it's helpful in securing another position for them.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 4:20
93

I'd like to express my deep dissatisfaction in these events.

In the past, as a startup, layoffs were framed as something essential for the survival of the company, and they often resulted in fairly significant damage reputationally and in terms of the relationship between the community and the company.

One of the benefits that we'd been told of, well, the acquisition, was that Stack Overflow would no longer be at the whims of needing to chase funds, and would be in a situation of better financial stability. At a time where the company's chasing the ML/GenAI hype train — intends to dedicate, rather ironically, the same level of staffing to that as the employees cut. We don't know the full extent of the layoffs and where they are of course, but I've noticed 2 losses in the community team (and for a company that claims to be community-centric — that's kinda off-putting), and at least one DBA.

It's not just a warm body, so to speak, being lost — it's years of contacts and skills, the relationships cultivated with the community and coworkers and skills lost, which, frankly, no generative AI can replace.

Our commitment is to continue to provide our customers with the level of service they expect and to the users of our public platform—the knowledge they’ve been seeking from Stack Overflow for nearly 15 years.

The knowledge is from the users of the public platform - the community, and I feel like this is back on the unfortunate cycle of 'we can cut back on the community to focus on the current shiny paid product'.

I've been here most of those 15 years and this feels like an unfortunate cycle that keeps repeating. Events such as this don't build trust. There are so many promises, and optimism and... oops, we're needing to shed staff because...

My heart goes out to the staff who're let go — it's never easy, and while the full extent of the damage is yet to be seen, as an old timer of SE — y'all are family and the community appreciates the work you've put in to keep this site going.

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    Speaking of your edit, I find it's no coincidence that this took place one week after the staff member who was responsible for ensuring that left SE (voluntarily). Commented May 10, 2023 at 23:58
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    I'm intentionally refraining from speculating - we don't really know. Commented May 11, 2023 at 0:02
  • @Sonic well, small chance it's coincidence. More likely she knew it's coming and refused to be part of it. In such case, kudos to her. Commented May 11, 2023 at 5:52
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    Once again though - We don't know that, and its unlikely we'll ever get confirmation. I'd rather focus on what's wrong now, the perception, and the effect this has on the community Commented May 11, 2023 at 7:58
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    🫡 Hi there. 😏 Thank you for the kind words, @JourneymanGeek. No editorial from me ~until the last paycheck is deposited~ but I can confirm I'm one of the DBAs who woke up to a meeting (with HR & my former line manager) added to my calendar. In case anyone was doubting if we're real people.
    – AMtwo
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 23:40
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    Bluefeet said good things about you, so as far as I'm concerned you're good people - and its a loss to all of us. And its a pity SO inc's gone back into its unhealthy cycles of downsizing :( Commented May 11, 2023 at 23:47
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    This company will just not understand that it is beheld differently than others and why that matters, until the conversation changes to why it mattered.
    – user50049
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 10:47
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    I wish we'll not get to the point where its past tense, but I'm unsure quite of how to do it in present or future tense :( Commented May 13, 2023 at 7:16
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    What do you expect with an owner like Prosus
    – TylerH
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 16:03
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Well that's a depressing turn of events.

First and foremost of course the real human impact is on the poor folks on the receiving end - and my heart goes out to them. I've been there, going through the whole stressful wringer of "is my job up for the chop" and while I was fortunate enough in that situation to find something bigger and better even before my then employer backtracked it was still one of the most stressful periods of my career and that was in a country with much better employee protections in this area than the US and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. So from the bottom of my heart I wish all those affected the absolute best.

Sometimes layoffs can't be avoided of course and I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of Stack Overflow's financial picture. Inevitably however my thoughts turn to the other recent announcement from the CEO, I expressed concerns there that the company might be throwing a truckload of cash at chasing a hype-train without a clear value proposition, and now in practically the same breath there's sweeping cuts to the headcount for profitability reasons. This might not be on quite the same scale as the company-formally-known-as-facebook's recent adventures in burning truckloads of money on a boondoggle before laying off thousands of staff, but the parallels are disturbing.

On a more mundane day-to-day level the losses in the Community Management team are concerning - as a moderator I've experienced both the frustrating times when the team was chronically understaffed and the benefits to the smooth functioning of the network when the team was built back up. So to see cuts to a what was still a relatively thinly stretched team is concerning, especially in light of the recently announced CoC changes that are likely see an increased need to escalate matters to the CM team to handle. So the mods have basically been handed a big fat "here's a big change to the CoC, and we're simultaneously cutting the available staff to support you with it" sandwich.

I'm sure the volunteer moderators and the remaining CMs will muddle through, as has always been the case, but it will no doubt lead to some degree of extra load on the volunteers, in the name of Stack Overflow's profitability. Which does leave an unpleasant taste if I'm honest.

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    Maybe they can replace us with gen AI too. We lost a lot of moderators to attrition and many communities shrunk over time. Apparently it's more important to invest in these things over the community - I had been hopeful this run of positive actions would carry on but it looks like no. Commented May 11, 2023 at 10:52
  • The question is not if, but when will Stack Exchange network become an AI moderated Q&As. Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:05
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    @JourneymanGeek honestly? In 10 years, I expect only Stack Overflow will still exist, all other SE sites gone and buried officially, and even SO will be pay-to-read. Heck, make it 5 years. Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:05
  • Burning truckloads of money may be offset by the incoming boatloads of money from OpenAI (some time in the future). Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:23
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    @Augusto Vasques: They did it on Quora (even sweatshop moderators were too expensive), but it was a complete disaster. The moderation here works, but it must be a fair exchange. Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:27
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    @This_is_NOT_a_forum if SO Inc feels the need to cut headcount for cost reasons now , that doesn't speak to them having a high level of confidence in that happening any time soon. And in any event the (possible) fees from OpenAI aren't predicated on the AI spending - if that wasn't happening any licensing fees would be profit rather than offsetting costs. Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:29
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Do you know what I really like* about that blog post? It's this: when you view it on mobile, the one 'related post' (that I guess the blog software auto-picks) has this summary:

blog post summary highlighting that "... the [current wave of] tech layoffs ... are a body blow to diversity in tech, not just slowing but actually reversing hard-won gains.

Made me laugh, bleakly.

* like is the wrong word but I lack the vocabulary to pick the right word

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    I would say the timing is unfortunate for certain. Commented May 11, 2023 at 9:13
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    @JourneymanGeek would be really funny if they already knew they're going for major layoffs when this was written. I'm personally certain they did. And this alone removes any respect I had for the CEO and high management. Commented May 11, 2023 at 9:55
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    @ShadowTheSpringWizard looking at the blog posts - I feel like to a certain extent, there's a disconnect between that part of the company, which churns out content, and the parts we interact with. And we don't know if the content generation/blog part of the company was affected and how bad. Commented May 11, 2023 at 9:59
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    @JourneymanGeek nah, I mean that assuming management read the blog posts, they laughed inside when reading it. Commented May 11, 2023 at 11:15
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As a woman working in a technology-oriented field, I would like to extend my support to those who have lost their job.

I have lived through several rounds of layoffs in my career so far - sometimes I dodged the bullet, sometimes I had to eat the pink slip.

There is one thing however that I hope might bring consolation to those that have been made redundant: and that is that, in the vast majority of circumstances, it was not your individual fault that led to the loss of a job. Sometimes the market contracts (or expand) in directions unforeseen by your employer, and companies don't always have a say - they either adapt, or die.

Oftentimes it's not even a symptom of being a less valuable asset in the same department - in fact, it's often the most specialized professions that find themselves suddenly in a position of no longer being able to benefit their employer.

However the cause, find solace in the knowledge that having worked for such a reputable organization will no doubt make the transition to your next role easier.

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I saw this coming and tried to prevent it. 13 years ago I started the first ever fundraiser for StackExchange. My goal at that time was simple, I didn't want Jeff to starve to death.

https://meta.stackexchange.com/q/48778/157251

I do question a few things moving forward,

  • In retrospect, was it a good idea to eliminate job postings? I really liked that functionality. This was the first place I went looking for more work when I wanted it. It's great, it adds economic value to the engagement: which to be frank comes at a real tremendous cost for high rep user activity. Moreover, the explicit assumption that you could not compete with LinkedIn is simply untrue. You could out compete LinkedIn with ease, and every other place job listings are posted.
  • Rather than sending out a survey about what language people like the most, why don't you send out a survey asking others for ideas on how the company can reposition itself to pull in more money?
  • Lastly, StackExchange, has always had a problem being an insular community that is unwelcoming to new users, and (imho) old users alike. What is being done to find out why users don't like this site? It's my impression the only people with a direct line to the company and the company's ears are the moderators, which to be frank are the problem.
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    It's unclear to me why you think that moderators are the problem. You surely are aware that the vast majority of people who have spanked your hand in the past were staff members, not elected moderators, right? If you think your beef with mods is personal, then think again. By and large, we could not care less. I don't mind someone posting controversial opinions on Meta. I'm... not much of a stranger to that myself, honestly. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 7:53
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    This isn't about me, this is a critique of moderators on this network. And, yes, I do think they're the problem. I've answered this on numerous occasion. The very idea that moderators are organized in the #soreadytostalk channel is very problematic. The purpose of requiring multiple close votes is so the action is checked by the community. Not that you dispatch your friend circle. And, moreover, that channel isn't used to improve and edit questions. It's used to collect close votes, they do it openly with tags like cv-pls and whatever. Just to circumvent the votes required to close. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 8:04
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    What is the "#soreadytostalk" channel? The FOMO is real. Anyway, moderators do very little closing of questions. We are far busier with actual moderation tasks, like dealing with sockpuppetry, spammers, abusive behavior, etc. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 8:12
  • The company is above the mods and it has a huge influence to their selection. I don't think the mods would be the bad guys, I think it is coming from the company.
    – peterh
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:34

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