I've probably put in hundreds of hours of unpaid, and admittedly often unsolicited work into this place.
We continue to evolve as an organization, focusing on a path to profitability in addition to navigating a dynamic external market
Whatever that means. The current CEO has been on Stack Overflow since 2019. I've been here over 13 years. In that time we hear the same thing told in many ways. That the company needs to cut back for the good of everyone. Repeatedly. It does not engender trust.
To continue growing, every company needs to do more with the resources it has, and every employee (not just those in Sales) must understand that their actions impact revenue.
Revenue isn't the only real way to see the value of the company. Corporate social responsibility is just as important - we had to lobby for things like hiring into key community roles, and even annual donations to charities. Stack Overflow is what it is because the community put hundreds of hours into answering questions, curation and other things. While we do not make you money directly (well, outside advertising), the entire value of the Stack Overflow brand and the willingness of hundreds of subject matter experts - maybe thousands - to recommend and work with your product would depend on goodwill.
Quite often, cutting back can even result in revenue and value being lost. Where do you see Stack Exchange in 5, 10 or 20 years?
We have the domain focus and community trust
Stack Exchange hasn't really had domain focus on Q&A in years. It slipped into a company that was heavily marketing driven, rather than the rather lean, innovative company that had massive amounts of trust. We had a partnership, and now we have "We have changed the terms of our agreement, pray we do not change it further."
We asked for advice, and were told you trusted us to make our own. We did, working with our individual communities to find solutions we felt worked best. You then decided we were doing it all wrong
There are many instances like this where the community has expressed its views on something that either get ignored or are dismissed.
I guess the question is how badly do you need to poison the goodwill of the community while claiming that we trust you before things become irreparable.
For the community to grow we need the tools and support to build solid cores and feel that we're welcome in the place we built. And every employee, whether it’s marketing, or folks with direct work in the community - and especially the CEO - needs to realise their actions impact the community. One that's been often hurt, dismissed and pushed aside.
Sustainability needs long term planning, not chasing the next shiny thing. I've seen communities I've been a long time part of - sites like Server Fault and Information Security - lose a lot of regular users. My own community spaces - like Super User and Pets - are a lot quieter than they used to be. The current goals seem to focus on the next quarter while I've literally been trying to get things moving, or 'fixed' in certain respects, for years.
I used to argue that Careers was a unsustainable venture, because it was a 'better' product in a hugely competitive space. Everyone is doing generative AI, and... you're competing with Google and Meta - both massively cash-rich companies with significantly better resources.
We've shed 10% of staff and their associated knowledge, and I've heard rumors some engineering teams got hit somewhat worse than that - which seems bizarre. I could be wrong though. And unlike Meta or Twitter, SE didn't make any hugely bad bets, did it?
Stack Overflow, and Stack Overflow for Teams, in particular, is well-suited to the industry-wide shift from “growth-at-all-costs” to profitable, sustainable expansion I mention above.
I'd ask instead - does SE have any intention to ensure the community and network is healthy in the next decade or so, and help preserve the community you keep bringing up as its strength?
Looking forward to growth and the impact of community on AI
I'm not impressed with the impact of AI on the community. We're hurting, and we're literally in the biggest crisis in trust since Monica.
The community is often our biggest champion in the enterprise; its members want to use a tool they know and trust to manage their proprietary information and collaborate with peers who are likely familiar with Stack Overflow as well. Community is our competitive advantage and a key reason we remain insulated from the worst of the business cycle’s ups-and-downs.
Do you really hear us? Folks are angry. And we're really not appreciating that, in the same breath we're essentially held up as a strength, while being treated like we don't matter. The company has not been a great steward of the communities for many years - and has drifted away from actually understanding what the community wants or even needs.
I was asked about what I did as a moderator at a job interview a little back. I froze. Honestly - I couldn't recommend Stack Overflow for Teams or any other product because of how the company has treated the community over the years. I love the platform, and the communities I work with. I don't love the years of getting treated terribly while being told we matter.
The people we work with are wonderful - The community team clearly cares, even if we do disagree with some of the recent rules changes, and they're busy (which makes the downsizing of their team, rather than trying to get them the resources to do their jobs infuriating) We've a few developers who are awesome.
The company as a whole though, hasn't really earned back the trust it has lost over the years completely. We can't be your champions unless you're willing to be ours - and this is something that is in your interests and responsibility to do.
Now that we've seen what Stack Overflow Inc's idea of what GenAI is...
I'm underwhelmed. We've lost 10% of staff, and put 10% of what is left into what turned out to be, at least initially, a deeply flawed and barely hidden wrapper around ChatGPT or a similar LLM platform. At the current point, it's unfit for purpose
In order to do this, the company has succeeded in antagonising a significant part of the active moderation community to the point they are on strike. I've heard many moderators state they're considering quitting because of burn out.
We might have very different definitions for 'putting the community in the center' but as a active community member and someone who's welcome, trusted and actually there, the community is hurting.
I realise that there's a lot of 'sunk cost' but this is a very good time, maybe the best time other than before you started, to re-evaluate the current course of action.