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> We were looking for that rare combination of someone who could foster the community while accelerating the growth of our businesses, especially Teams, where we are starting to close many huge deals and becoming a hyper-growth enterprise software company very quickly.

To bad they're on the hyper-growth train now as well, but I guess their investors want to get some money back. I'd preferred seeing them grow slow and stable, because I feel that focusing solely on growth often leads to decisions not in the interest of the users.

Yeah the pattern of:

- Find thing that gets traction and growth.

- Demand more growth than the thing you do well is providing.

- Focus not on the thing you do well....

Seems to happen time and again. I always think of the story on HN about the guy who bought back his startup from the VCs for $1 after it "failed" and he went and ran it without the same expectations, and it is doing just fine.

There are maybe just some good ideas out there that aren't meant to be unicorns, but are productive none the less but they get buried in other expectations.

Bringing in outside management away from the original company founders is a common way this happens. Especially if they come from another traditional public company that only cares about share prices as the key metric.

I can’t imagine someone messing up Stackoverflow, but Digg managed to do it so there’s always a way (although SO doesn’t have a high quality direct competitor like Reddit...yet.). The best time to take on a business is when they’ve peaked and get distracted, they forget about being the best in the market. I should note I don’t think SO is near that point yet.

Digg was so long ago now, I think it losing its relevance as an example. Has to be nearly a decade ago.

Digg was longer ago than that..

Joel has already killed Stack Overflow beyond repair.

Prashanth is a grave robber trying to find a few valuables to snatch for investors.

I don't really use Stackoverflow besides coming across answers in Google like everyone else. Not familiar with any internal community problems, so I can't comment. Can you share the story here?

Stack Overflow has a much smaller version of Wikipedia's God-complex moderator nerd problem, where some people with no life moderate and focus on their own vanity metrics rather than the quality of what they moderate.

But SO is still pretty damn useful, like Wikipedia.

Yeah, definitely. A bunch of thoroughly dickish moderation persuaded me to never contribute content again. And honestly, I'm done doing free labor for for-profit companies. I'll still edit Wikipedia despite all its issues, as it's all for the public good. But anybody after "hyper growth" can pay me for my labor.

Was this a moderator for a particular tag or one that oversees answers in general? How does it favour vanity metrics over value? Aren't the best answers chosen by the end users?

I'm genuinely curious, I'm not familiar with SO besides having answered a few top questions and getting some points long ago.

A good answer cannot be chosen by an end user if they do not get to see it because Mod-without-a-life deleted it 15 seconds after it was written.

Saying SO is “useful” is vastly understated. The developer world is filled with memes such as “coding is 99% looking up thing on SO”. World’s one of the highest paid profession is powered by SO. They have rigid community rules that everyone likes to complain but it is exactly what has kept quality standards up.

Not necessarily agreeing with the parent, but here's one recent issue: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/332974/is-se-allowi...

Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say “Prashanth is a grave robber trying to find valuables to snatch”?

I don't know if Joel has done anything, it seems to me that the users have killed SO more than anything. The quality of most accepted and upvoted answers is so low relative to even the worst documentation or IRC channel that I find it barely worth using.

The environment selects the users.

> Focus not on the thing you do well

Except SO for businesses could probably work quite well. I work for BIGTECHCO and the natural language query interface into institutional knowledge is very ad-hoc, being distributed amongst Slack histories, internal mailing list archives, etc. It would definitely be improved if consolidated with a decent UI.

We use it at work. It keeps me sane... search is very good, tons of people internally use it, and teams tend to do a decent job of monitoring for questions tagged with their component.

We have it running at work as well. It had some traction but now we have an enterprise chat software that everyone gravitates to and it has become a ghost town.

I always think of the story on HN about the guy who bought back his startup from the VCs for $1 after it "failed" and he went and ran it without the same expectations, and it is doing just fine.

Agree with the general point, but the guy burned 8 million dollars in investor money to get to the point where the business is "just fine". It's not really a good example IMO.

Anyone have a link for that?

thats an interesting story..could you share the link for the 1$ startup


Also here is where the project started on Show HN:


Really to cool to see a Show HN and know the story years later.

FYI, The medium link 404s.

I suspect (based on nothing so take it for what that's worth) that the FogCreek Illuminati feel burned by the Trello experience: there they carefully tended, had high organic growth, spun it out to its own company after three years, and ended up selling for less than half a billion dollars in 2017. This is bad because 2017 was quite probably the highest valuations for privately held technology companies in this cycle, and they weren't a unicorn, unlike plenty of other companies at the time- Quora raised 85m at a 1.7g valuation in April 2017, to pick a business that FogCreek would know well.

SO, like Trello, took a long time to find a business model (honestly Trello never really did); it seems clear that SO Jobs didn't work, but enterprise sales is the key, just based on what they emphasized in the announcement. Using the SaaS website as a loss leader advertisement for the shrinkwrap software is an interesting model: I see it as somewhat similar to the old 'give away Unix and C free to universities, sell System V to the companies those students work at' model, modernized for the internet age.

I dunno. Quora had a 1.7B valuation but Trello had an actual exit. If I were an investor or employee I might prefer the latter. $425M exit after a mere 3 years of operation as an independent company is nothing to sniff at. Trello is merely a shared todo list, when you boil it down. Was a unicorn exit necessarily expected of them?

I agree with that premise. Quora will be lucky to bail out with a $425 million exit on the downside of this expansion. They're a decade old, the VCs are going to want their money soon and the clock is ticking on this long up-cycle (as the desperate IPO rush blatantly indicates). Who is paying $1+ billion for Quora? There are no overpaying buyers for that type of entity - Yahoo is dead, AOL is dead, and InteractiveCorp is far too shrewd to pay that extreme valuation. Quora is worth $100-$200m tops right now.

Genius is in the same boat. A decade old, failed premise (turns out people don't actually want to annotate everything), failed expansion plans (so... back to lyrics then), no business model. At the mercy of the VCs, they'll eventually be passed around for $10m or $20m like MySpace or Tumblr.

These companies are this start-up generation's About.com (or the latest eHow).

Simple rule for anyone doing a knowledge service: if you put the profit motive over the knowledge motive (which is the only choice if you take a lot of VC), your service will end up in the dustbin of history, no exceptions.

What exactly is the value of Quora? It's Yahoo Answers with better CSS and the idiots filtered out. I assume it's ad-supported - they have started supposedly sharing revenue with users.

It could disappear tomorrow and leave barely a memory.

Don't know about the idiots. My quora feed keeps coming up with pairs of "What is the square root of nnnn?" for seemingly random integer nnnn. Don't know how to stop it. When I feel like it, I answer "2".

Quora pays people who ask questions, based on how many views their question gets. Now it's full of people spamming as many questions as they can, trying to game it.

Ah. When they started, they were seeding it with high quality questions and famous answerers. I guess the floodgates have now opened.

Whoever said "there is no such thing as a dumb question" never visited Quora.

Worse yet, the site is full of dumb answers as well.

I prefer the idiots of yahoo answers. At least some of them have a sense of humor.

Maybe there's an idiot filter but the CSS spam filter isn't working at all. Look up anything related to SaaS/PaaS.

A contemporary (to the exit) account certainly thought Trello underperformed, business model wise (was very complimentary of the tech stack, though)[1]. I've never worked in the B2C space so I can't comment on whether freemium was a better option, but I did spend a few years in B2B/SMB SaaS space and the business I worked for looked very different from Trello and was more successful, financially (our tech stack was almost certainly worse).

[1]: https://usefyi.com/trello-history/

Thanks that's an interesting take and I learned quite a bit.

Crazy world were a beloved product sell for half a billion of dollars and isn't considered a great achievement.

I mean...sort of.

The problem IMO is the scale of the opportunity relative to how much money is consumed.

There are great businesses at every increment of enterprise value from $5 million up to $5 billion. We just need to realize this, and stop judging greatness by the pure size of the exit.

I think Silicon Valley could learn a lot from Hollywood in so many ways. One is how we think about "greatness". Is there the equivalent of a "great indie flick" for software companies? Or will we continue to use "exit value" as the only yardstick?

I probably was developed by half a dozen people. Was sold for half a billion!


That’s mental. Trello is nice, I use it, but in the end it’s essentially a to-do list app. Do we really feel hard done by when a to-do list app is ‘only’ worth $500,000,000?

It's not a to-do list app worth 500M, it's the to-do list app 's user base worth 500M

Maybe Stack Overflow Jobs would work better if they'd publicly state what their job ad pricing is and if they'd improve the user experience (e.g. there is no way to get a nice looking printable version of the developer story). From my perspective Stack Overflow Jobs is a fantastic product, but lacks some tweaks here and there to make it working.

I would definitely pay a small, reasonable sum for a nicer PDF output from developer story.

stackprinter.com ?

Why do you think SO Jobs hasn't worked? It's the first place I look for jobs.

As I said in my comment, because he makes two references to the private SO offering known as Teams, and none to the Jobs monetization. [1] Therefore, it isn't something that the current CEO thinks the next CEO should focus on, therefore, it can't be what is paying the bills. Whether it works for a developer or not I can't say, I have no personal experience using any job board. Just I don't think it can matter much to the bottom line of the company based on what Joel wrote here.

[1]: "especially Teams, where we are starting to close many huge deals and becoming a hyper-growth enterprise software company very quickly" "And we want to make it possible for knowledge workers everywhere to use Stack Overflow to get answers to the proprietary questions that are specific to their organizations and teams."

starting to close is very different from have recently closed ... while Joel and Co. have traditionally come across as forthright in their communications that quote reads like something that is focused on generating sales, so is potentially BS

Agreed - some of the best communication, interviews, and offers I've got came from SO jobs. It's the first place I look as well.

Trello didn't have a business model? I thought the model was easy to use, well-designed kanban for businesses.

It's not easy to balance between the needs of your stakeholders (investors/owners etc) and the needs of your actual users.

I imagine that many companies experience a sort of death spiral once they start focusing too much on profit/growth/monetization at the expense of actually catering to their users' needs.

On the other extreme, focusing too much on users and not enough on profit probably isn't a good way to remain in business for long...

They have def given up their regular users in this point. Ads thing shared here is one item recently. Also think they can re license my content without asking (below): https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333089/stack-exchan...

Plenty of other stuff in past year or two...

(below): I shared it but no comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21053475

Agreed. This “hyper growth” mindset is killing a lot of good things. Why can’t SO stay small, lean and mean? Last I knew it’s already generating descent revenues and good returns for investment. Injecting steroids to force if “grow” can really destroy its value and make look hideous.

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