140

I have decided that I can no longer contribute my efforts to Stack Exchange and therefore I am stepping down as a moderator and planning on leaving the community. I will not be deleting my accounts or content, but I will not be actively participating. I have been thinking about this for a while and it is not related to any single event. Our community is welcoming and supportive. The SE Community Managers, past and present, are both knowledgeable and professional, but more importantly, they represent the community spirit that made SE great; they are amongst the greatest assets of SE.

When I ran to be a moderator I said:

My personal opinion is that the community opinion rules, so it will be difficult for me to be in disagreement with the community. I like to think that the SE policy is that the community opinion rules. If the community opinion is so against the SE opinion, the SE team has moderators who can handle it. If the SE team really pisses our community off, I would go to bat for our community in private (e.g., in the mod only teacher's lounge) and in our public chat and meta.

Over the past few months, it has become clear that my views of our community now disagree with SE policy. I have gone to bat for us, and I have been unsuccessful. I am no longer an effective agent for advancing our community goals, I have simply been biding my time until SE did something so horrendous that I felt no choice but to leaving. That is not a fair way to represent you, so I am stepping aside in the hopes that others can be more successful.

When I joined Stack Exchange 8 years ago, it was an awesome community that had awesome support from the company. They not only provided the servers, they had developers actively working to make the experience better and employees whose jobs were to build the community. Even before it was trendy, they cared about user privacy and the rights of our contributions.

Over time, SE became an awesome community with just enough support to keep the whole thing from imploding. At first it was simply that the support from the company did not keep up with the growth in the communities. Then SE started cutting support and diverting resources.

A year ago, SE began to transform into an awesome community where SE keeps the lights on and was not negatively interfering with communities. The core values of the company began to shift and outwardly it seems building strong communities was no longer the focus, making money was. Of course companies have to make money, but it made me uncomfortable contributing to SE if they were going to sacrifice their core principals to make a buck.

Most recently SE has become an awesome community despite the interference of the management. Volunteer moderators and community members are being asked to implement policies that SE thinks are right for us. They are not acting on our feedback or telling us why they are making the decisions they are. They are the boss, they have that right. What they do not have the right to do is act like the boss and then say the community is "built and run by you [users]".

In the 5+ years that I have been a moderator, I have learned so much. I thank you all for working with me. For those that I disappointed with my actions and in-actions, I wish I had more time to show you through my actions that I have taken your criticism to heart and have learned from it. Alas, all I can leave you with is empty words that I am sorry that I was not better.

| |
  • 20
    Hate to see it, but understand completely. Thanks for all you have contributed, here and around the network. No apology is necessary - your leaving is not based on any failure of yours. I'll miss you. – Bryan Krause Jan 16 at 17:53
  • 4
    {*salutes*} – Mithical Jan 16 at 17:55
  • 18
    Nooooooo..... Very sorry to see this (though I share many of your concerns). Wishing you all the best. – cag51 Jan 16 at 18:27
  • 18
    @StrongBad excellent play on words (or brilliant typo): "it made me uncomfortable contributing to SE if they were going to sacrifice their core principals" . Sorry to see you're going too. Thanks for all your hard work keeping this place on the rails. – 410 gone Jan 16 at 19:27
  • 11
    The TeX community will sorely miss you, dear friend! – Paulo Cereda Jan 16 at 19:31
  • 4
    You will be sorely missed, but I completely understand. Thank you for all you've done to help keep this community running smoothly. – eykanal Jan 20 at 1:47
  • 3
    I will not be deleting my accounts or content I may be wrong, but I don't think you can delete your content, can you? That's one of the (many) reasons I no longer contribute. – Bob says reinstate Monica Jan 21 at 17:42
  • 1
    @BobsaysreinstateMonica I think you can delete your content, it's just that the mods or the SE staff can undelete the deleted content if they wish. Also, >10K users, the mods and SE staff can still see the deleted contents. In other words, they are soft-deleted. To the mods, is my understandings correct or incorrect? – scaaahu Jan 22 at 4:20
  • 1
    @scaaahu Yep, correct! – Massimo Ortolano Jan 22 at 7:10
  • 2
    @scaaahu that's what I thought. It's not exactly how I would define "delete". – Bob says reinstate Monica Jan 22 at 10:15
  • I'm sorry to see this. I understand the concerns about batting efficiency, but I seriously doubt that there are better batters around. It's not your batting, it's the unending torrent of curveballs. – E.P. Jan 27 at 13:47
  • I hope you come back soon! – user111388 Feb 2 at 0:16
  • Looks like meta.stackexchange.com/a/342363/248268 didn't fly! – Nemo Feb 5 at 10:10
  • 3
    What is happening with SE!!! Monica and now StrongBad!!! – Mo Hossny Feb 6 at 11:26
  • 1
    "The core values of the company began to shift and outwardly it seems building strong communities was no longer the focus, making money was." Could you talk about why SE make you feel that more specifically? And thank you for your effort. – Jun Mar 7 at 18:20
42

Thank you for your service!

We will miss you and your contributions as user and moderator. They were always excellent. The site will not be the same without you. All the best!

(I could try to write a long essay, but I don't think I could find the right words, so I will stop here.)

| |
26

To a significant amount of researchers out there, life in academia is rough, even brutal and toxic. Poor students have their lives, hopes and dreams sucked out of their bodies, for the sake of production, of science, of progress, breaking the shackles of ignorance for the good of mankind. It is a heavy burden, sometimes too heavy.

Wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen!

Most of the time, at a high price. We get stressed. We get lost. Sometimes, we cry for help in the hopes some blessed soul will lend a hand. It happens, thankfully. But some cries, most of them surely, go unnoticed. Students suffer to reach deadlines, to get papers accepted in conferences and journals, to get a good insight, to come up with innovation, to make a difference. They struggle so hard to not fall apart, to not break into pieces. It is common to hear "Where's the revised version of your paper?" instead "What was the last time you ate? Are you hungry?". We want to harvest knowledge at the expense of the well being of students.

When in despair, where to go, where to find a escape valve?

I do believe one of the answers to this question is this very website. You all bring hope to poor students that are struggling with their academic lives, providing technical advices and guidances without, however, losing the kindness needed to address such themes in a humanized way.

And that is where you, Dr. StrongBad, really shines. :)

We know each other from the TeX community. Sometimes, we have a nice conversation in the chat room. Speaking of which, the vast majority of the chat residents has a doctorate degree. These people are experts in their fields, work in renowed universities. But, when hanging out in there, we never cared about our OrcID profiles, our titles, our h-indices or any of this academic balderdash. We are just a bunch of wacky people having legimitate fun, helping and instructing each other the best we could.

Your work in this community reflects the exact same ideal we all hold dear. You are a superb moderator and you will surely be missed in this community, as well as in the TeX corner. I completely understand the motivations for your resignation, and I share your concerns with the future of SE/SO as well.

Thank you very much for making academic life a better, less frustrating experience for most researchers, scholars, lecturers and students out there! Kudos to you and to all the moderators in this website!

A great hug from the TeX community! Quack! :)

| |
  • 3
    These are great words! :-) – Massimo Ortolano Jan 17 at 13:32
  • 2
    @Massimo thanks! :) ooh you are in TeX.sx too! woooooo – Paulo Cereda Jan 18 at 8:17
11

Maybe you'd reconsider. The only way this place can get better is if the people who care enough to contribute stay around and keep at it.

I hope it isn't just general burnout though. For that, a break might be enough.


Since this is the academia forum, let me add that the administration of universities also do some stupid and terrible things on occasion. But few faculty leave in protest. Many of us have experienced such things, I guess. The situation isn't exactly the same, since giving up volunteer work isn't the same as giving up a job. But, still, it is the ones that stay that have a chance to make a change.

| |
  • 19
    The problem is that moderators and community managers simply don't have a say in how SE is run any more. SE took that away, and made it very clear when 2 long-standing (8-9 years) community managers were fired. – Cerbrus Jan 18 at 10:24
  • 9
    Not only fired, but publicly lied about. – WGroleau Jan 18 at 19:23
  • 11
    SE has made is pretty clear they don't tolerate moderators objecting to or even just raising some concerns or questioning what they're doing. And what they're doing is not good. So moderators only have the option of helping the company go in the wrong direction, quitting or getting fired. But of course I don't judge anyone for staying a mod because they're more optimistic or they don't want to lose the community. – NotThatGuy Jan 19 at 18:23
  • Bottom up change may work in a workplace setting where employees have some influence, employees may put their hands together and eventually the employer may see they need the employees. When there's a proper divide between leadership layers and the bottom class (users and regular mods) then they're not going to convince the leadership class. It's a bit like expecting the fish to solve the problem of overheating and polluted oceans. You can write a novel about it, but it's not going to work out in practice. – JJJ Mar 7 at 2:10
4

The core values of the company began to shift and outwardly it seems building strong communities was no longer the focus, making money was.

I'm confused about why you think this. The company was definitely founded to make money from the start. The initial focus on community was a step towards that. What is amazing here is that it was such a long-term strategy.

I do not see why you should expect a company to put anything ahead of profits. There are exceptions (social enterprises) but I never saw any signs Stack Exchange was an exception.

| |
  • 12
    That is a really good question. My guess is that when they started they knew "market share" was not enough and that they needed an actual revenue stream, but they thought ads would be enough. They eventually realized that ads were not enough (although they keep trying) so they started careers. That was at least relevant to the SO community. Now they are on to Teams which doesn't seem relevant to the communities (except maybe as a place to find potential customers). The problem, as I see it, is that their revenue stream is not intertwined with the communities. – StrongBad Jan 16 at 21:53
  • 22
    It's fair to expect that making money is the primary goal, but I think it's also fair to expect that supporting the (volunteer) communities is a secondary goal. For example, many/most superusers have been very clear that we want Monica reinstated -- I cannot imagine how this would have economic implications for the company, yet here we are. – cag51 Jan 16 at 22:37
  • 7
    Many (or possibly even most) companies start with the goal to improve the world in some way. Yes, money's definitely generally a part of it, but it's not the only part. You can find plenty of business owners who won't compromise on their vision for their company for the sake of making more money, and how SE handled monetisation in the past certainly (seems) in line with this. The farewell to Stack Exchange by Jeff Atwood (co-founder of Stack Overflow) speaks a lot about making the internet better and not at all about making money. – NotThatGuy Jan 19 at 18:41
  • This. I've just been reading some fairly convincing analysis that suggests that SE's strategy now is to grow Team and Enterprise by an order of magnitude, and that the public Q&A sites are just not relevant to that. – Flyto Jan 21 at 12:01
  • @Flyto You mean the past and current SE is not big "Team and Enterprise"? Or not big enough? – scaaahu Jan 21 at 12:08
  • @scaaahu different products. stackoverflow.com/teams & stackoverflow.com/enterprise – Flyto Jan 21 at 16:22
  • 2
    The company was definitely founded to make money.... I don't mind that. As long as I'm having fun here. But since it's become exclusively about money, don't you think we all deserve a share? This whole situation with SE taught me a lesson (yet another time): Never contribute anything for free to a business. It's just business. Long live Jimmy Wales! – ayorgo Feb 16 at 12:12
0

I'm adding an answer to point out the last interaction here, in case you missed it; it is now buried in the edit history. On April 2, @Wrzlprmft added the tag to this question, which (after a recent change) is the preferred way to ask for SE staff attention on important posts in metas. One week after, SE employee @JNat silently removed the tag without addressing the issue and without an edit comment.

| |
  • 3
    The issue which caused me to add the tag was that StrongBad was still not de-modded (because things had fallen through some crack). JNat addressed this issue when removing the tag. No bad things happened here. – Wrzlprmft Apr 14 at 20:17
  • 2
    Thanks for the clarification. Still, I would have appreciated an accompanying comment from SE ("thanks for your past service to our site"). – Federico Poloni Apr 14 at 20:20
  • 2
    @FedericoPoloni The SE CMs like JNat are super overworked right now, in addition to any additional stresses coming from the pandemic; they aren't the correct employees to direct frustrations towards. – Bryan Krause Apr 14 at 22:44
  • 5
    @Wrzlprmft nothing really fell through the cracks. I never formally asked for my diamond to be removed. I figured I would eventually time out and they would remove it at the next election. Soon after you added the tag jnat reached out to me and we decided that it made sense to remove the diamond now since an election might be a ways off. As always when interacting with the CMs everything was very professional and he made it clear that my past contributions were appreciated and I am welcome back if I want to return. – StrongBad Apr 16 at 0:26
  • @StrongBad: Are you back now??! Or just monitoring this thread? – user111388 Apr 16 at 7:12
  • @StrongBad I'd love to see you back ;-) – Massimo Ortolano May 9 at 17:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .