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I’d like to call your attention to today’s blog post from Prashanth. Unfortunately, we’ve made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by roughly 28%. There are more details at the blog, and I will be back later today with another post to answer some questions and provide you with more details. I ask that you allow our teammates some privacy as they negotiate these difficult times.

Please see Practical effects of the October 2023 layoff for more information

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    The biggest question is what parts of the company were affected (and with a number as big as 28%, I suspect it's all departments/teams) and how much. Specifically, I think we, as a community, are most interested in impacts to the community managers and developers supporting the public-facing features. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 11:37
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    Sorry to hear this. Best wishes to those affected, hope you'll soon find a new job! Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 11:39
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    @ThomasOwens I'll be able to answer some of those questions when I'm back this afternoon.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 12:06
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    I'm not sure quite how to vote here - I've gone for up as in 'I am pleased that we have been told about this at the first reasonable opportunity', but I can see down as in 'This is not good' is also appropriate! Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 12:49
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    @ShadowTheGPTWizard I think as a "customer" or "promoter" of a business, it's quite fair to be curious about whether the company treats its employees with care, empathy, and respect. I certainly do not promote companies that do not take care of their employees--and providing equitable severance packages is a key factor there. I have no idea how the company will take care of folks this round of layoffs, but given my personal situation, I understand how folks were treated during the other 2 layoff rounds this year... So... Sigh. 🤐
    – AMtwo
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 14:25
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    Has the CEO taken the necessary steps of taking a pay cut before the peons got laid off, or is that not how it works ?
    – JonH
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 14:33
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    The irony here of course is that pursuing AI and pursuing profitability are opposite goals. The unit economics of AI are terrible (at least if you try to use ChatGPT/OpenAI or other cloud providers), and even compute time is expensive; so the more popular your AI tool gets, the more money you lose. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 15:16
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    Are y'all at least going to think about sustainable hiring next time? Firing hundreds of people might work financially for the company, but it has huge consequences for the people who get fired and now suddenly have to look for new jobs (especially seeing as the US has no worker protection, it probably happened with no warning either), and for future hiring of skilled workers now that y'all have a reputation for over-hiring and then firing people Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 15:39
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    It's a pity we only hear from Prashanth when he's announcing someone no-one asked for or when something major has gone wrong
    – Erik A
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:43
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    The way that message starts, "Over the last 15 years, we’ve built Stack Overflow," really bugs - Prashanth has done precious little building of the community.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 17:17
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    @Philippe Since when are comments disabled on blog posts?
    – TylerH
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 17:58
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    @TylerH - they are always disabled when that very smart CEO posts.
    – JonH
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 19:20
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    "Over the last 15 years, we’ve built Stack Overflow..." Prashant wasn't here for the building of stack overflow. Prashant wasn't here for what made the company important, good, or actual useful for the community. He has no right of putting himself in the same pile of great people that actually built this place and made it wonderful.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 11:26
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    And I go further. Since he joined a few years ago, this place only went downhill with strange decisions and lack of community understandment. The company has been around 15 years or so, but current management wasn't. They inherited greatness, and are fumbling it hard. This blog post is disgusting.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 11:28
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    "There are more details at the blog" - Are not. That's like, nearly the least detailed elaboration on "we're firing almost one third of our workforce" possible. At least say where the layoffs are coming from. Like is it engineering, management, admin, HR, community, operations? What proportion from each major functional area?
    – aroth
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 13:03

3 Answers 3

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This observation has become entirely too regular to spend a lot of words on it, so my answer will be brief: The decision-making at work here is poor, and the communication is both deficient and poorly-planned, even by the abysmal standards of the tech industry in general and SO specifically. Y'all should try to do your jobs better, especially those of you who still have them.

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    Sharp words, I can only wish they'll actually hit something. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:40
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    I cannot tell how I agree with what you’ve said. The biggest problem for the company is not ChatGPT, but how and who makes decisions. How on earth can people with no community experience and no theoretical knowledge make any educated decision? It is like Starbucks were run by folks who have never tried coffee and do not know the difference between americano and latte. They dream about AI whereas community is about people. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:50
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    As I said elsewhere, what I find baffling is that it is clear that there is a big internal fracture in the company with two opposing views. And I get the felling that the cuts are aimed at slowly killing one side. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:50
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    @NicolasChabanovsky FWIW, Codidact is explicitly founded on the idea of being community-centric, and is owned by a foundation rather than a company consciously to avoid the disconnect that did so much damage to Stack Exchange. As an ordinary user I am empowered (via the discord) to talk directly, not only with "site owners" but with devs that are actually empowered to make changes to the site software. Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 9:42
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    @SPArcheon if a 28% downsizing is just one "cut" in a "slowly killing" process, one might surmise that the proponents of the side being favoured are (or were, prior to today) actually in the minority. Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 9:44
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I've read through it, and seen the aftermath.

I'd like to being up a few specific points in the blog post

This is why we have been so focused on our path to profitability, even as we commit to the continued product innovation of Stack Overflow for Teams and the health of the public platform by building out our AI/ML capabilities.

Clearly so far, the pursuit of ML products hasn't resulted in profitability and the health of the public platform is adversely affected by the actions of management so far.

In the past year we've lost four community team members with deep experience in working with us.

I'll leave it to the community members active on Stack Overflow to comment on the effect of ML on their site.

The ROI ... clearly isn't there though.

As we finish this fiscal year and move into the next, we are focused on investing in our product. As such, we are significantly reducing the size of our go-to-market organization while we do so.

Investment means.. putting things in. You've taken things out. Often key parts of the community team. There's multiple initiatives that probably have been set back or scuttled by this.

There's a trust deficit, and as a long time user, a feeling that there's a repeat of the same mistakes we had before.

If you can't take care of a small, core community that's gotten the company to where it is, I'm unsure the leadership's in any place to steer the company to serve millions of users, or to 'reach profitability'.

This is why we have been so focused on our path to profitability

But has it? I don't want to guess how much losses are expected on that path, both human and financial.

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    At this point, I think me meta posts are mainly for my own stress relief and yelling at a cloud than real change. Maybe someday people who make decisions might read them but clearly, often this isn't the case Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:47
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    "I'll leave it to the community members active on Stack Overflow to comment on the effect of ML on their site." what ML? the only ML solution that's actually seen the light of day outside of a short-lived failure was related questions, and that solution hasn't been updated since February.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:50
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    @JonH a new CEO will make no difference. Once a platform or site is pulled into the world of venture capitalism and stock markets there is 0 hope for its long term survival in its original form. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enshittification
    – miken32
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:53
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    The "go-to-market organization" is sales, sales engineers, and marketing. The SO community is also not the product. The statement is not wrong.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 8:00
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    @miken32, tentative counterpoint, Microsoft under Nadella seems to reversed the enschittification process; painfully, internally and out, but with the right ceo, it seems not impossible...
    – JWCS
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 18:41
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I have only three things to say on this.

Firstly that it now feels like SE/SO is tied to a CEO and/or board that's determined to take the ship down with him or them, rather than accept any possibility their decisions are just wrong. I've seen this before in other companies and organizations and I'll see it again. Once this path is started down, it never ends well.

Secondly, my sympathy to those the latest round of sacrifices to plans that aren't (IMO) realistic. Good hunting to you all for new places to work at.

Thirdly. Well my common sense says that if you reduce the workforce you can't make more money. Better to keep trained (and loyal) staff on and find them work that generates income in the longer term. It's management's role to find ways to make money and clearly this is not being done at the most senior level, like the CEO and Board. Laying off staff, to me, reads as "I've no plan B or plan 2, so I'm sticking with plan A even if it's not working and shows no real sign of doing so.".

I suppose one more thing needs to be said : I hope I'm wrong to be pessimistic but I'm not seeing anything positive here.

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    Re "Once this path is started down, it never ends well.": That was my thought too. And I have also experienced it firsthand. A common spiel is to rename (even several times in short order) the company and/or product and hope no one notices the fiasco. "By the way, we closed down Really Smart formerly known as Stack Smart formerly known as Stack Overflow" Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 20:02

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