34

As one of the "curators" on strike I follow as much of the conversations and progress as I can. I again and again encounter the trust issue, which is a festering wound that seems to be avoided for lack of an answer. The AI-content fiat was the spark that lit this fire. That policy is also, near as I can tell, the Rubicon which must be uncrossed if anything else is to matter. Yet, for many, that is only the beginning. There are some of the mods, and curators, who will accept a new, sane, policy regarding AI-generated content, hope that it remains sane, and resume doing the unpleasant task of cleaning up the garbage to keep the sites looking nice. Many, however, lack the trust that even once a new policy is acceptable, it remains acceptable for long. They, which includes me, know that as soon as the pressure is off, the company, and the authorities in it, will return to abusing the mods, and the communities, however they choose.

"So," I asked myself, "what has to happen before I can trust SE again?" I paced from stem to stern for quite a while until I'd finally developed an answer I could express in words. I have to preface my conclusion with a minor bit of introduction, however. Relative to many involved in the strike I am a low rep user, on any one site as well as the total network-wide total. I'm neither an old user, as some are, nor am I a new user; I joined the network in Dec. 2016. I am not, and have never been a mod here. I will question any "fact" until I am convinced it is a fact. Lastly, and importantly in this situation, I don't do "tact" well at all. What I say is what I mean, and what I mean is what I say.

I've got to present a simple analogy, which I hope will make my conclusion understandable. Let's say that as a kid I lived at the end of a dead-end street such that the only way home was passed other houses. One of those houses has a large dog that always barks as I pass. One day it manages to escape and attacks me. The owner is fined and a larger fence is built with stronger locks. I know that the dog cannot escape again. Yet, every day, as I walk past that house the dog barks, and I flinch. What will it take for me to "trust" that dog again?

The laconic answer is "Everything and nothing."

There have been many suggestions involving some form of repercussions to SE for violations of their agreements in the future. Legally binding contracts, mediations, or even financial penalties. Those are potential avenues to encourage SE to stick to their agreements, true. They do not, however, help with the trust. Using those tools only increases confidence that SE won't break the agreements due to the consequences, not because the company, or its leadership, has changed enough to choose to honor them freely. The locks on the dog's gate ensure it cannot escape. Still, while trusting the lock, sort of, I am not trusting the dog. I don't trust the dog until I reach the point that I no longer flinch when it barks at me. I won't trust SE until I no longer flinch or cringe when another "announcement" is posted before I even read the title.

The "everything" part means that I won't reach that state, if ever, until SE has honored their "agreements" scrupulously in every detail - both in the letter and spirit of the agreements - for a long time.

The "nothing" part means that I won't reach that state, if ever, until SE has done nothing to even hint that they'd rather not keep their word "this time," or attempt to do anything not covered by an agreement, legal or otherwise, which could give me a reason to lose trust in them again.

This has to be demonstrated by the company, as a whole, and in its parts. The CEO might be the one who sets the vision, good or bad, yet it is the line-staff who take the actions which may, or may not, align with that vision. The CMs when dealing with the mods, the CEO when making decisions or announcements. The PR staff when addressing media outlets.

While I don't think a "company" can have integrity, as it is a personality trait and a company is not a "person." I do believe the leaders of a company have integrity. At whatever level of authority they have, when what they publicly claim and what they privately do match, there might be integrity there. If they do not match, there surely is not integrity.

Integrity involves doing the right thing, even when no one is watching

— C.S Lewis

In my time here I've seen limited amounts of personal behaviors from staff. What they have to post as part of their job doesn't count in that regard, though how they say it, or react in comments might. I have had even fewer personal interactions with staff, and suspect nearly all are gone now anyway. That all boils down to I'm not really in a position to estimate the presence or absence of integrity in the leadership, or staff, for the most part. Those who do deal with them on a regular basis are, and I know, and respect the integrity of, enough of them to accept their determination by proxy.

Can I trust SE, or rather the leadership of SE? Maybe. Will I trust them? While not denying the possibility, at this point it is looking rather doubtful. What happens as they deal with the strike is going to go a long way in permitting, or preventing, that possibility.

I do wish to clarify that "the company" is not each and every staff member or employee of the Stack Exchange. That term is chosen to represent the responsible persons for the actions and directions of the company. In the overwhelming majority of the cases, I have no personal knowledge of who made a decision, or how their terms of employment might be used to force someone employed there to post comments, make statements, or take actions which they disagree with. There is one, still currently employed, person with whom I have no doubts about their integrity. Yaakov Ellis has repeatedly demonstrated that he means what he says and says what he means. He has seemed to always faithfully deliver a message, including ensuring that the meaning of the message was understood, rather than merely delivering the speech. If the leadership, as a whole, of Stack Exchanged possessed the integrity that he does, the current conditions wouldn't even exist in the fevered nightmares of anyone, let alone be a reality.

8
  • 3
    The Founding Fathers have found out, that trust must be based on control. Without mechanisms allowing users to control the company behind the stack overflow, any form of trust would be unwise. Jun 23, 2023 at 19:21
  • 9
    Trust is built by many small steps over an extended period of time. Jun 23, 2023 at 20:02
  • 25
    For me the answer is very short and simply: nothing. There is nothing the current management can do that will make me trust them again. All those in position to make decisions. Be it CEO, CTO, VP, etc. On the other hand, I also don't trust other companies like Facebook or Google, and don't like things they're doing, but yet I'm using their products. So I might keep using the product, but without spending my time helping them anymore like I used to do before. Jun 23, 2023 at 21:11
  • 3
    Something that might help a lot more than it appears: Get rid of the moderator agreement. Recent events shows the company doesn't regard its side as perticuarly binding, and we have no way to enforce it, whilst the moderators side absolutely is. In order for the company to be able to do so, they would have to demonstrate that they trust the moderators to do the right thing enough not to need a lawyer drafted set of rules that they expect them to follow. Jun 24, 2023 at 19:18
  • 5
    @user1937198 I'm not a moderator, and not bound to that agreement. I respect the mods, both for the level of professionalism and the dirty jobs they do out of dedication to the rest of the users and the sites. I do think there needs to be an agreement, though much less "legal", if for no other reason than to reassure the users that the PII they must have access to is safe in their hands. I'm not going to suggest that all users have the same confidence I do in the mods. The bulk of the agreement is legal trash and could be dumped. That might help the mods trust SE, not much help for me though.
    – Chindraba
    Jun 24, 2023 at 22:22
  • 4
    Anyone who was around during the events between 2019-2020 and after that decided that this company can be "trusted" once more, was just very naive. The trust problem isn't even related to the specific company SO but the fact that it is a company.
    – Lundin
    Jun 26, 2023 at 13:30
  • 2
    Your question perfectly matches the Dutch proverb "Vertrouwen komt te voet en gaat te paard": Trust comes on foot and leaves by horse, meaning it's easy to lose it and hard to restore.
    – Jan Doggen
    Jun 28, 2023 at 7:24
  • 2
    After letting all these recent debacles sink in, I lean to @Shadow's opinion more and more: nothing. I think the SE powers don't even doubt their integrity. To me, that's an unbridgeable gap. Even when acknowledging that they have to keep a company running, and thus have far greater responsibilities than we as users, there's no defense for how they deal with their workforce of volunteers. Jun 28, 2023 at 11:58

10 Answers 10

16

Whether you can or not, you shouldn’t trust the company to be anything other than a company trying to make money. While you may be friendly with and trust people who work for it, the company is and never will be concerned about how you feel or what you want as an individual. The company is only concerned with self-perpetuation and whatever vision the current leadership has for its future. Corporations aren’t people, and relationships with them are about self-interest and exchanging value. You should not donate your time to a company unless you are getting something of equal value in return.

If the leadership’s vision for the future is no longer aligned with something you want to be part of, the relationship is probably over. It’s sad when things end, but dragging it out doesn’t help anything. The only thing left is to determine for yourself whether your connections with other people here and the satisfaction you get from contributing are enough to make continuing to participate worth your time, or if you want to try to change the company’s direction. Unless you have a few billion dollars to burn, that is going to be an uphill battle.

If the value of what you have to offer is hard to put a dollar value on and it doesn’t align with what company leadership believes is necessary for future growth, don’t expect the company to value it.

2
  • 2
    "Corporations aren't people." The US Supreme Court begs to differ. Jun 25, 2023 at 11:46
  • 10
    @CodyGray-onstrike They aren’t people for the purposes of a relationship. They can be for legal purposes.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 25, 2023 at 13:58
58
+50

TL;DR: I'm not sure and that's a bad thing for me and for the community.

Before I begin, I'm not going to segment the company into various groups. I've gotten the impression from moderator representatives that this is a bad thing and they are offended by this segmentation. I have no desire to further that, so "Stack Exchange" in this case refers to both the company as a whole and all employees.


For context, I've been on the network for nearly 14 years. I'm a moderator on Stack Overflow, Hardware Recommendations and Community Building. I have built automated tooling to flag comments (at one point accounting for 15% of the comment flags raised on Stack Overflow in a year), and I am an administrator on the community led Smoke Detector (spam detection) project. In short, I know this network, the tooling it does and does not have, and various communities across the network. My time here is voluntary. Time that I, until recently, was happy to provide without much of a thought. I've had very interesting discussions with fellow moderators and Stack Exchange employees throughout my time here.

What is needed for users to trust the Stack Exchange company

Stack Exchange has gone through this cycle before. I've written about it in those past cycles for anyone who wishes to go through my profile and find previous thoughts. Each time, less of my energy comes back as we—community and company—reconcile and bury the problem in the sand.

The last major cycle ended with a lot of lawyer language, including the new moderator agreement that every moderator had to accept to retain their diamond. This cycle started with a violation of one of the provisions of that agreement by Stack Exchange. It received a, in my opinion, flippant "Oops, that was my fault" by the Vice President of Community at Stack Exchange.

This tells me that the legal agreement is completely one-sided and Stack Exchange feels comfortable violating it without repercussion. If I, on the other hand, had violated a term in the agreement I'd be forced to hand in my diamond. This has eroded a ton of trust I have with the company.

In the announcement regarding how generative AI can and should be moderated and in statements to the press, there has been disparagement against the moderators of the network. To me, the subtext of all of that reads as "we don't trust you to moderate correctly". If the company does not trust us to perform activities we've either been elected or appointed to do for our community, why are we still here?

Combining this with the incredible way this cycle all started and the fact that none of this mistrust was known by the moderation team, my trust of the company took a hit. This policy was announced at the end of May. Data was shared several weeks ago. In all of that, there are allusions to improper moderator activity and hints that moderators are banning so many people that engagement across the platform is down. It wasn't until yesterday (nearly a month) that moderators saw any discussion of these "improper bans". It was just...silent. This big, massive problem that could have been talked about back in February or March was just tossed into the public eye with the implication that moderators are doing the wrong thing. Then it took nearly a month for a conversation to begin.

The Stack Exchange network has lost at least four months of time where this "moderation problem" could have been discussed, policies adjusted, and moderators who deal with generative AI on their sites on the daily basis educating the company on how it's actually being detected. Instead, an easily disproved lie about using ChatGPT detectors has been blamed and shared repeatedly with the press for the reason for their sudden policy change.

My trust level of the company takes several hits here too. I dislike being lied to and I really dislike being lied about.

Finally, the method of communication through out the last month. The company has a team dedicated to managing the community. There have been many questions on this site and on child meta sites during the moderator strike. I have seen very little coming from the community management team to answer these questions. The community has questions and the company is not providing answers to them. Instead, we see announcements on topics that the community is against being announced. Long discussions, in public, are not occurring though. Which erodes my trust even further.

Where am I today then? How does the company rebuild my trust in them? My answer to that is that I don't know. This past month has eroded so much of my faith in the company to be the trusted repository of knowledge that it was in the past. It's also removed much faith that the company actually cares about the community. Much like the previous cycle, we've seen details come out that reflect poorly on the company and employees attempt to respond to that only for more details to come out that make the response look like lies.

14 years is a lot of time to spend some place and not have strong feelings about. It makes simply accepting negative changes impossible and it makes walking away difficult. That's part of why I'm still here. The other part is the communities I mentioned in my introduction. I have built friends and acquaintances across the network and the sense of community that used to exist is a strong desire to remain. But, this isn't something that will hold the community as a whole together. I am an outlier in terms of a user on the network. Honestly, everyone reading this on Meta is an outlier.

The company's goal is engagement and traffic. I guarantee the moderation team has not banned enough users to bring down the traffic the network has seen since December. But, we are the scapegoat at least right now. We're nearing a month and there are users with access to site analytics. The number of bans has been close to 0. Theoretically, traffic should be recovering if we were the problem.

1
  • 5
    "This cycle started with a violation of one of the provisions of that agreement by Stack Exchange." - For those of us who aren't following all ten thousand meta posts, this answer would be improved by spelling out what's being referenced.
    – ojchase
    Jun 28, 2023 at 23:42
30

I had a lot of thoughts about this, and the more I think about it the more I'm reminded of Jon Ericson's drama triangle infographic.

To save you a click, there are three personas involved, paraphrased from linked materials and Wikipedia:

  • The victim, who is or is not an actual victim per se, but believes that nothing can be done or solved despite trying ("poor me")
  • The persecutor, who is the primary force behind blame (typically towards the victim)
  • The rescuer, who seeks to "help", and more often than not enables the behavior of the victim

I bring this up because a lot of this whole thing about "trust" and "belonging" and "community" allow the company to flip-flop between all three roles at any given time.

The company is the persecutor when it comes to declaring that something is wrong or bad and things need to change ("Summer of Love", "Be Nice", "Welcome Wagon", all the stuff that happened in 2019, this most recent stint with statements saying that moderators were banning too many people)

The company is the rescuer when it comes to declaring fixes for the community at large (removing sites from Hot Network Questions seemingly at the whim of a tweet, similar tweets/retweets made disparaging the users of the site, the Welcome Wagon meant to help new users of the site with... ???)

The company is the victim when the community doesn't agree with their perspectives and expresses said disagreement. Sometimes it can be a bit forceful but there hasn't been anything to suggest that it was quite this bad before.

So how do you trust someone in this circumstance?


I do liken a lot of this to a toxic relationship. There's no simple answers to how to get away from a toxic relationship, since there are still things that are important to both of you in the relationship, but the appeal of the relationship itself and the actors within are no longer appealing.

Ultimately, two things happen:

  • People choose to stay in the toxic relationship at the cost of their own joy, sanity or stability
  • People believe that a threshold has been crossed and breaking free will be less burdensome than continuing

Right now, the community has stuck with the first path. Things aren't great. Things haven't been great for some time now. We've been promised a lot of things, but those promises aren't being met. Worse, they're being kind of...hand-waved off with whatever whim senior leadership has put out there. For people who are generally technically inclined and are not entirely comfortable with at-a-whim decision making, this is a huge cause of contention. It's like I said - this blight of not communicating is really that, a blight. It prevents the development of anything fruitful beyond perpetuating the toxic relationship that the company has with the community behind it.

So what would it take for me to trust Stack Overflow?

I don't think I can.

To be fair, I never had to, so long as my basic needs were met (a Q&A site I can search and draw wisdom from), but as time has gone on, I've discovered that Stack Overflow really isn't positioning itself to be better at finding answers to my questions. It's seemingly more concerned with user retention and doing all of the buzz-word things that are live and out there, instead of addressing the pain points we've been politely asking about for the last few years.

Now we're not politely asking about it, and suddenly now it's all "woe is me" from the posturing of the company.

Spare me.

So maybe this is just the way things are. I see how this relationship is going, and I think that for as long as there's still value in the content, I'll still be around. But as I get my answers from other sites in more comprehensive and useful ways, Stack Overflow's role becomes diminished.

I mean, we had ideas to help keep this moving, but they wanted to ignore them. So, they'll reap what they sow on that, I suppose.

2
  • "But as I get my answers from other sites in more comprehensive and useful ways..." So, you've also moved to ChatGPT? :-p Jun 25, 2023 at 11:44
  • 1
    @CodyGray-onstrike: I said "comprehensive and useful". It's gotta fulfill both criteria, and ChatGPT can't really fulfill either on any given day. :D
    – Makoto
    Jun 25, 2023 at 15:21
26

For me, the way I'd summarize is that I want the Company (its employees and its overall direction, both) to recognize and treat the Community as the asset that it is, rather than as a burden. For that to occur, there must be an internal shift, within the Company, regarding how it sees the Community, because it clearly doesn't have the right view today, based on the debacle we're in right now.

I don't think the actual core of rebuilding trust is about specific actions beyond ending the strike; it's about an attitude shift that would be evidenced by the baby steps that occur afterwards.


I've been around for even less time than you (and engaged on Meta for an even shorter period than that), but this is the crux of the underlying issues, in my view.

We, the Community, are collectively a genuine and real asset to the Company; we're people who participate on and care about the Network more than perhaps anyone outside of the Company itself. We're certainly not infallible, but we are a de facto focus group of the Network's most devoted, most engaged, most die-hard fans and users, who like being here, who willingly trial new features and report rough edges around the site, who enjoy asking or answering or curating, even when there are probably other things we could be doing.

We're more than just a focus group though; we're stakeholders. Not monetarily, mind you, but the Network does not exist without the buy-in of a Community that supports and contributes to the sites, because they were built to be Community-driven at their core, from the very beginning. This was well understood and publicized in the early days as a feature, as I understand it.

My point isn't to be entitled; it's that we, the Community, want to see the Network succeed, goshdarnit. We care. The relationship between the Company and Community is supposed to be mutually beneficial for both parties; we both get something out of this arrangement when it works as designed, and it's in both our best interest to work well together.

That's why the Company acting adversarially towards moderators is so alarmingly disheartening; it's treating the most trusted members of our Community as untrustworthy liabilities... Instead of having meaningful conversations with them about this issue before it ever came to head, the Company seemingly let it fester for months and then put their foot down as if they "had no choice". That communicates the opposite of seeing the Community is an asset.

My biggest wish through this whole ordeal, and the only way I see this truly getting "resolved" in a meaningful way, is through the Company beginning to truly believe that we're a benefit to them again; working with us, rather than treating us like folks they're forced to put up with.

This isn't about about using us purely as a focus group, though I feel that's fine and good—this is about giving priority and thought to listening to and caring for the Community, because it's an asset that the Company needs to nurture for its own benefit.

This needs to begin with ending the strike, but beyond that... the most important piece to me is the underlying motivations and agenda of the Company concerning the Community changing for the better. Call me naïve, but if that truly happens, I firmly believe we'll see it borne out through their actions—recovery will still be slow, but at least it would be genuine. It just feels far away right now, which I hope changes soon.

24

For me personally, if "the company" started acting like the communities that aren't paying for their products mattered and started using them as part of their development workflow it'd do wonders for my trust of the company very quickly. It'd be a change in direction that we haven't seen in 8-10 years. It's not a secret that the company needs to be profitable and that shouldn't be something that's danced around and hidden, but it also shouldn't result in the community not receiving the support it needs to live up to the grandeur the company presents it as when selling teams/collectives.

There's a large number of outstanding issues that the Q&A sites face; user onboarding and the effect our only curation tools have on users to name two. Seeing all of this brushed aside for hype-driven changes is extremely frustrating. Top that off with standing in the way of the community self-curating its own content for the purpose of maintaining the high quality standard that we've always upheld and we start to question why we're even trying.

We shouldn't feel like we need to justify improvements to Q&A by showing the company how they'll improve ROI for it to have any chance of happening. Our purpose here is to participate and improve the community/platform, not to simply be a bullet point in a marketing plan.


I don't need SE to be penalized for not working with the community... it just needs to work with the community.

Consistently. Openly. Honestly.

Work on the problems that are harming the community's ability to grow. Work on the problems that are keeping us from keeping the quality on the platform high. I assure you, reducing the number of posts that need minor edits isn't a problem preventing the community from growing.

22

It would need SE to stop treating the core community as hostile or toxic, and to adopt the social contract that's always been implicit. I'm not going to repeat the post on ways the company has failed. Let’s talk about key ways to build trust

  • We need more people working on the front end with the community. I cannot overstate the 'power' and insight that being on the ground has. I'd argue, outside the moderators, most of the community don't know the community team and staff. Recent events also show that links with the community, and understanding of our needs are poor. We do have checkins, but if you feel something needs explaining, just ask. At least on Super User we have a formal room for this, and I've had people question and get responses to my moderator work on Pets.

Don't just ask for feedback. Give it. And if people are not coming to you with problems, you need to fix that. As a moderator, there's at least a half dozen ways for people to reach me. I'd say it would be useful for staff working with the community to have the same sort of levels of trust and communication with at least some of the community. (Yes, it can be scary, but the moderators are there to help.)

  • I get the idea from many of the conversations we've had that there's a misunderstanding of the work of running the community. While I realise that the company and community team seems focused on the big picture, it might be good to get a better grasp of what goes into it.

  • The company sees the moderators as hostile, the company does things that make the moderators feel hostile, annoyed moderators do things that the company sees as hostile, and it’s a big pile of hate and suck. This needs to change. Honestly there are so many times we've made an effort and gotten stonewalled that clear demonstrations of good faith on the company's end are needed, and not just 'easy' things.

  • To use the the dog analogy, the company's been reactive - focusing on certain things to the point they ignore everything else. They focus on what they perceive as 'toxic' or 'hostile' behaviour without realising much of it is 'defensive'. I've spent a lot of time around dogs, and I've a dog from barking at me to having its head on my lap because I ignored him because amusingly, he had a bad experience with Indian workers, and at first assumed I was hostile, and then realised I wasn't a threat and respected his space.

If the company wants the community not to be hostile, they need to be less fixated with negative things and realise the effects their 'short term' actions have on the long term. They also need to actually understand where the community in general, and moderators feel defensive about and actually help defuse that.

Respecting us and our spaces might go a longer way than fear.

We're not bitey unless provoked or scared :D

  • We want the company to succeed, but those attempts have invariably been at a cost to the community. We've lost a lot of the collaborative culture the community team had with us, and I get the feeling a lot of the 'wrong' ideas of the bad old days were remaining. If we're constantly being asked to sacrifice - opportunities, staff and articles of the social contract for 'eventual success' for over a decade.. those arguments have less weight.

  • The company needs to recognise that issues that result in protest actions and the inability/difficulty in hiring is a problem, and take ownership of fixing it. And that includes apologising at some point.

  • where the company breaks its formal and informal agreements with the community—it honestly gets away with halfhearted apologies at best, and stonewalling at worst. Having a community ombudsman or body of community members who can tell the company when they're wrong and having recompense would be nice. Maybe the equivalent of a swear jar that goes to charity, and have it formally said this is in way of apology?

4
  • In two words: wishful thinking. :/ Jun 25, 2023 at 7:44
  • 5
    Well, nowhere did I say it was easy. Its not impossible, Some of these things literally are in the 'I want a unicorn' category. Some of them are common sense. But if there's the slightest chance of getting through, I'll take it. Jun 25, 2023 at 7:52
  • Sure. But thing is, personally I can't believe any word from the current management. And actions. They can do wonders, just to wipe it all a day after. So thanks, but no thanks. (For now it's "only" lack of trust, but keep using the platform) Jun 25, 2023 at 8:03
  • 1
    "there's a misunderstanding of the work of running the community" As an ordinary user, I have no idea what the company is after. My fear is that if it's primarily satisfying shareholders, this will only have negative effects.
    – Jan Doggen
    Jun 28, 2023 at 7:42
14

I just wish changes were announced prior to "the point of no return". Changes should start with a meta.SE post as a basic "sanity check" before they're locked in. If a change is unpopular, change your mind and do something else. It's simply the same standard Stack Exchange expects of us: no one else gets to barge in and declare "this is how things are now", and start unilaterally changing things.

Given that users are expected to use the site after a change has been made, is it too much to ask for some time to think about it before implementation, and give reasoned feedback?

Stack Exchange instructs us to collaborate and work together... but it's very hard to collaborate with someone who has already decided everything. Don't confuse "collaborate" with "do what I say".

I really like how site design is proceeding on multiple sites; see the harmony of community and company---the results are fantastic. I wish Stack Exchange was more like this, and less like "by the king's degree, there shall be a new Area 51---we've got this, you don't need to be involved".

2
10

I don't trust the Stack Exchange company regardless of their actions, because we have different objectives (making money vs. learning). This is why I want a data dump with a reasonably permissive license such as CC BY-SA so that we can move the user content somewhere else when the ship sinks.

8
  • 1
    Can we move the user content of all users? (I'm asking from a legal perspective) Jun 25, 2023 at 14:40
  • 5
    @RandomPerson-onstrike yes, assuming attribution and keeping it CC BY-SA Jun 25, 2023 at 14:50
  • 4
    The hard part is not replicating the contents; the hard part is replicating the hosting infrastructure, and competing with the massive name recognition and SEO capital of Stack Overflow in particular.
    – tripleee
    Jun 25, 2023 at 19:52
  • @tripleee but without the permissive license, the user content is lost. Jun 25, 2023 at 20:34
  • Sure, it's a prerequisite; but actually doing something useful with it takes a lot more, to the point where it doesn't seem entirely realistic without an alternative financing model.
    – tripleee
    Jun 26, 2023 at 6:01
  • @tripleee Being able to redistribute it is already useful. Do you know any other dataset of > 25 millions of question and > 40 millions of answers written by humans with a reasonably permissive license? That's also a hard part. Jun 28, 2023 at 14:31
  • If it didn't already exist, that would also be hard, true; but you are missing my point. The dump alone is sufficient for recreating one of the smaller sites, but Stack Overflow in particular has basically become too large to fail. Committing to making the dump available was enormously useful and prescient for the founders, but they probably could not imagine that the site would take off quite so spectacularly. But now, here we are, and the dump alone isn't really useful because how would you migrate not only the contents to another domain name?
    – tripleee
    Jun 29, 2023 at 8:12
  • @tripleee the other hard part is moving the community, but we can't really ask SE to do that. I was just focusing on what is reasonable to ask SE. Jun 29, 2023 at 10:25
8

My conclusion about recent events is that SE/SO is now primarily a for-profit entity and profits/revenue will always be more important than the relationship with the community. If the entity became non-profit, perhaps something like Wikimedia, I would feel comfortable trusting that their decisions were not primarily based on profit.

1
  • 6
    SE is a company and does need to make money. Without money the servers, developers and managers wouldn't be available and there would be no company or staff to trust or not. Without the community, which creates the content and makes SO what it is, there would be no business plan available to the company either. The problem with trust isn't that the decisions are money-driven it's that there are promises made, including signed agreements, which are violated and out right lies presented to the communities and lies about them made in public media. Simply put, Abuse.
    – Chindraba
    Jun 24, 2023 at 12:20
7

A credible threat of continuing elsewhere.

A believable quarter-timescale scenario where the platform sees its diminished, yet significant "your best shot at getting an answer" dominance transfer away. As long as the psychopathic money-seeking entity segment of the company is sufficiently incentivised to keep SME & platform contributors around, it will surely find ways to support those (staff or otherwise) fostering the necessary, necessarily trustworthy environment.

To be clear, I am referring to market share not size. Just burning additional portions the dream is not a credible threat. Too easy to reject responsibility for things not currently done better elsewhere. Someone else has to reach for success, to fully appreciate what is at risk and needs investment, to stay with the dollar-eyed image.

Access to site data is an important requisite. Otherwise, I expect creating the required conditions is less about what SE.Inc does or does not. It happens in off-site networking, integrations, federation, and proving income streams. Only a few of the methodically compatible sites have gotten anywhere over the last years. Networking appears to be happening at that site with the hostile UI so I cannot even tell how that is progressing.

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    RE: "cannot even tell": updates on current happenings have been kindly copied to Meta
    – anx
    Jun 27, 2023 at 19:45

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