Just say, "Due to circumstances you all familiar with, business is slow, so I have to let go of some people from X department."
Putting up bullshit like this is like adding insult to injury. Especially, since their user demographics are mostly people who don't like bullshit.
That's literally there in the definition of a VC-backed business model. You get a lot of money now, in exchange for some amount of ownership and expectation that the business will grow, whether it makes sense for it or not. The investors want a return on their investment, so they absolutely will push the business past the point of breaking; if they can extract their return before it burns down, then they win.
Or, in short, from investor PoV, startups are cattle, not pets.
I'm sure they still still grow, because SE is an incredibly useful product. But I think a bad leader poses a serious risk of constraining natural growth by pushing monetization too hard and driving away organic growth.
The best way forward is for someone with a good reputation to take the content and launch a new server, as Spolsky himself always said should happen when SO one day jumps the shark.
So they find a buyer for the business, transition things, cash out and go find something else to do.
The investors set a goal and Joel executed it.
Gave it to PR. Then the CEO dealt with other stuff.
The weak communication department had meetings after meetings, internal drama shows, delegation games and then a) either nothing was communicated at all b) business b#llshit speak came out.
Communication is just as strong as it's weakest link.
Your comment makes me now realize I have no idea what "marcom" actually is.
I've worked with two superior marketing people in my career. One was also superior with "marcom" (short for marketing communications, their term). I just got lucky. I have zero idea how I'd find, recruit another.
I've worked with some messaging people for activism, politics. Most notably David Domke . But again, other than seek out a recognized expert, I have zero idea how to judge someone's efforts. While some of the notions may transfer to other domains, I'd just be guessing.
 Previously http://www.com.washington.edu/domke/ Currently https://commonpurposenow.org/david
I've been using SO since it's inception, several years ago. But with the whole moderator thing, the switch to a ridiculous buzzword homepage, and all the damn bullshit corporate speak, my trust in SO is at an all time low.
How did it get here from the straight-talking, community-orientated feel it used to have under Spoelsy and friends?
The same way as every other community on the Internet that got popular.
What behaviours are you going to exhibit in order to pad your resume for the next position?
You don’t really care about the company or the people who work there, you care about the next CEO position that pays more.
Out of the big 6 tech companies, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix are still run by their founders.
Microsoft is not run by a founder, but it’s run by a company man with deep understanding of their culture and market.
Apple’s CEO is not really technical, I don’t think he has a clue about what customers want, but at least he’s efficient and understands the operations side. But I do think he is more numbers and investor focus than Jobs was. He does know his weaknesses and it seems like he defers to his VPs - a good thing. I think he at least cares about the company.
Google has never been able to execute outside of advertising so I’m not sure whether it would matter if the founders were still in charge.
> He does know his weaknesses and it seems like he defers to his VPs
I reckon, if I ever find myself in the unfortunate position of being in charge of anything that might matter to people in a significant way, either financially or personally, that’d probably be a reasonable way to go about things: defer to your advisors and direct reports.
I mean: that is why they are fucking there.
At the extremes there are outliers who happen to have been in the right place at the right time to have either been a visionary, or a massive cunt, and succeeded.
But, on average, the average leader is fairly fucking average, and would, on average, make better decisions by allowing other, more well-informed, people make decisions for them.
Perhaps. Maybe. Some of the time.
How hard do you think you are to bullshit, when you go around telling people how to bullshit you? How do you think so many startups sucker so many skilled engineers into doing so much for so little and odds-on getting screwed at the end of it? How did Stack Overflow bullshit you (probably) and me (for sure, years back) and a million other people into collectively doing millions of dollars of work for them for free?
(Now they have a heavily trafficed landing page trafficed only by people who wouldn't recommend doing anything with them.)
> This week, we reduced our global workforce by approximately 15%. Most of the affected employees were furloughed, except for employees and contractors in regions where furloughs were unfortunately not an option. These actions primarily affected sales and customer success teams within our Talent business, which is dependent on the hiring environment.
TLDR at the top perhaps? Communication is hard. Enterprise sales and service will suffer as the world comes out of pandemic lockdown. As we go through this “Great Pivot”, we have to embrace the engineering concept of “good enough”. The content in this message could be better but it is good enough given the circumstances.
I agree on the paragraph you pulled out. This writing style is more formal and “corporate” than preferred, but it’s not inherently terrible.
With the crap ton of marketing buzz in the post, and the casual mention of the layoffs, I don't think the CEO or the new board seem to care all that much about the laidoff employees.
Again, this is my personal feeling and may not be the truth.
Why would that indicate the CEO is incompetent?
Doesn’t it stand to reason that management would and should take advantage of the whatever is happening in the wider scheme of things to advance their narrative, and that doing so is indicative of competence within their frame of reference?
But the way you do those layoff is part of the CEO responsibility. And from this perspective, doing so with marketing bullshit sounds bad as your demographics are mostly engineers.
With that, CEO doesn't seems to know what peoples are using its services so it use "generic" (aka marketing) line.
This is the general explanation for why companies keep being seemingly so bad at PR: they know that this kind of reputation doesn't matter at all.
The CEO likely doesn’t give a hoot about HN’s opinion.
They probably care about their bonus and how it all advances themselves on their career path.
That doesn't sound anything like the priorities of a competent CEO. I think you're missing my point, too.
I can’t imagine why a CEO would plan layoffs for a time in the distant future rather than executing them as shortly after the decision as possible.
Side note, the original title of the posts is "A message from our CEO: The Way Forward"
I know that's less than civil, but that was just what I gleaned. It struck me as someone who doesn't care but wants to sound like they do.
Also, to be clear, this is a quarterly update on the entire business, not a lay-off announcement. I highly doubt that anything related to the layoffs was news to anyone in the company. That was likely covered in internal communications over the past few weeks.
I have no sympathy for the management. They have obviously done a poor job.
Is it that their customers go under, or see the services as nonessential so they get less revenue?
It seems like it should be one of those Netflix-type companies that do better when everyone is remote, than they do otherwise.
The product you think of as stack overflow that will probably is really just a way for them to drive the right kind of traffic to those revenue sources.
Nobody's hiring. Hence, no revenue.
this makes me reflect that almost everything online functions only because of ads, which is quite sad
either ads, or selling PII to companies that do ads
The primary format of SO is Q&A. Some Q&A is timeless, as in the answer is still relevant today as it was 10 years ago. Some Q&A invalidates quickly and would probably need to be touched up every year or so. How to account for both?
Another issue SO strongly struggles with is the same entry-level questions being asked again and again, in different wordings. I wouldn't really put the onus on the newcomers here, as they're often new to programming to begin with and thus couldn't know what's a problem other people might have already had, how to search for things etc. But the tooling to help them avoid those situations is crucial. Currently, possibly related questions are shown when writing a new question, but the problem still persists. How to better avoid this problem? Is this simply a matter of nailing down on the related questions algorithm or is there a better approach?
And lastly, the company. There are many very real cases where the change in management has hurt the SO both as a site and a community. I think the answer lies somewhere between SO, MDN and Wikipedia - with all the ups and downs it offers. Clearly, making a global knowledge base and then tacking on investor interest later doesn't work out all that well. To date, I don't think this problem is really solved, as Wikipedia also has a number of issues it struggles with. Without addressing this core issue, the rest are more or less irrelevant with time.
I’ve seen answers regarding my two major areas of interest - AWS and .Net Core being updated by the original authors as new features came out and new versions of the framework are released.
There are other websites that are surprisingly monetizing through this, like AngelList.
It's not that the engineers have nothing to do - it's that there is little revenue, and no amount of features they ship is going to change that.
My theory is that this is a good example of why HN discourages editorializing in titles. The current title here ("Stack Overflow reduces global workforce by approximately 15%") sets you up to think that this is a layoff announcement by SO. But from reading the first paragraph, I think this is just an externally-facing quarterly update on the business overall. I suspect that nothing about the layoffs here was news to anyone in the company, and they had plenty of internal communications around it already. And even here, the language about layoffs seems fine to me:
This has been a tough week at Stack Overflow, and taking care of each other is more important than ever right now. Like companies large and small, we have had to make difficult choices in order to reflect the market conditions. This week, we reduced our global workforce by approximately 15%. Most of the affected employees were furloughed, except for employees and contractors in regions where furloughs were unfortunately not an option. These actions primarily affected sales and customer success teams within our Talent business, which is dependent on the hiring environment.
We made these decisions with great care and only after assessing and leveraging all other options. We’ve paused all non-critical hiring, suspended our travel budget for all of Q2 and Q3, and cut marketing and software costs significantly.
Reducing our headcount was a painful but necessary decision, of no fault of the employees affected, and one that I take full accountability for as the CEO. We did this in order to ensure that we can serve our customers and community in the long-run.
What is the problem with that, specifically?
The rest of the post reads like a perfectly normal update, written in a slightly formal tone, which seems appropriate to me. If you're running a business with hundreds of employees, tens of thousands of customers, tens of millions of readers, and other stakeholders like partners, vendors, and investors, you probably are going to be a little more formal with your tone. It takes uncommon skill to write the kind of updates that Buffet or Bezos manage to pull off. Just because this is anodyne doesn't make it "bullshit" or this guy "incompetent" or "an asshole".
Can someone point out anything specific that they found so off-putting about this quarterly update on the business?
Stackoverflow is an internet service providing answers to questions, why would they get lower counts of traffic?
Yahoo was struggling as an independent company from the initial dot com bust until it was acquired and it was one of the top ten most visited websites.
But there will be countless companies that will use the virus as a scapegoat.
In the end, the responsibility of the CEO is not to give every employee the best life possible but to ensure the long-term success and survival of the company. If this is ensured, it also means job security for everyone not laid off!
This is true even during a normal recession. This time it’s different though. The entire job market has collapsed except for big tech and a few other companies.
How did this term make it to the buzzword bingo? What does it even mean?
the defect is that the layoffs are just a paragraph in passing. on its face it appears highly insensitive, but come on. i’ll give benefit of the doubt that it was dealt with internally much better. it only gets an inch of print in this report because it’s a very small factor in the general news of the company.
actually the main defect here is that the HN title is highly editorialized.
> We are facing this situation together.
Well, approximately 85% of you are.
The phrase "We are facing this together" must sound really hollow if you're one of the people who has been laid off...
During Alibaba's 20th anniversary celebration, Jack Mah expressed a wish of his: "Thirty years later, I hope that we at Alibaba can export, with commendation, at least 1000 Alibaba-rians that are >10 years seniority, to society each year, so that they can participate in the building of our society."
If you think Jack Mah was talking about annual layoff, you aren't the only one. Needless to say, people are impressed (sarcastically) that he even made layoffs sound so patriotic.
That's incredibly inhuman. Who would ever want to work at such a place?
If I build a company, I want it to be so interesting and fulfilling that people never want to leave.
Sadly, there are still countless people dream of working there.
And even more sadly, people don't want to leave, so they regularly fire people and then they can abuse the rest even more.
But see Netflix. “We are a professional sports team not a family.”
Then again, they've got a solid track record, in a previous moderation kerfuffle they pulled their initial "apology" after they racked up north of 2000 downvotes.
> I like how ads have gone from “buy a toyota” to “this is a difficult and uncertain time for us all...buy a toyota”
Like when ever company says how we are in this together or how emphatetic they are in these difficult times it just fills me with dread, the opposite of what they were aiming for, it's clear that talking about the crisis is now just another trick in the PR department of almost every single company so there is no way to make those words not feel empty, so I rather don't hear them say anything about it at all.
This comment isn’t a rebuttal — I agree with you and every time I mull on these things I am reminded of the memorable saying from the movie Network.
On edit: wait, I don't even have a driver's license!
It's also just hard to write creative, these days.
Edit: This is not my guess, it has actually been said by Joel Spolsky, the founder and the previous CEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMfxd9y0cMY&t=952
No one reads them. Seriously. No one reads them. There’s simply too many resumes to look at. Having it something extra to look at, and it’s cognitive load is a hell of a lot more than anything else, because now I’m supposed to understand some random code dropped in my lap, or whether some rando’s answers on SO are quality, or not. (Points just tell me about how quickly it was answered, not necessarily quality.) Finally, assuming I did all that work, now I have to compare this to someone that didn’t list it, because they don’t care enough about SO to create an account (raises hand), or simply have hobbies outside of coding.
It’s easier — and fairer — to simply judge the resume based on the the actual resume, and then follow up with interview questions if appropriate.
Personally I've looked at it, even if very briefly, almost every time it appears on candidate profiles.
One of the most important traits I look for in mid or senior devs is the ability (and eagerness) to explain and teach complex concepts to people who don't have that expertise yet. Bonus points if they also do this in a rapid, friendly, and humble way themselves.
“Despite the impact to our Talent business...”
Why mix in a lay-off announcement with a marketing spiel?
"We are facing this situation together."
how distant from reality can someone be?
They'll slash most of the communities away (even if they initially lie about their intentions and pretend they won't do that) and keep the focus on the tech part of the network.
Knowledge services are not great businesses, they're almost entirely incompatible with the venture capital model. Those that take VC all eventually get force-liquidated, without exception. Stack Exchange is still pretending to be a knowledge service. As they took on more venture capital they pivoted to being primarily HotJobs 3.0. The only way they were going to avoid that outcome, is to 1) never take major venture capital 2) stay super thin operationally; they did neither, so they get liquidated, it's only a question of time now.
The Internet will need to replace Stack Exchange with a new platform in the near future, as it'll combo rot and most of the communities will be killed off after SE is sold. I'd advise someone/s out there to get started on replacing SE right now, as by the time you get a new platform up to speed (assume a few years), SE as it has been thought of over the prior decade will be on its last legs and the new platform will be in prime position to step in. And please, do it right, do not take venture capital, which is a devil's bargain for knowledge services: they will kill you in the end, guaranteed, every single time. I've been closely watching this stupid story repeat in the knowledge space for over two decades now. Go the non-profit route ideally, or alternatively go with the wikiHow approach and stay thin (it's the sole viable option to survive long-term as an independent knowledge service business).
Be shitty to people and they will turn their back to you.
I am ashamed to admit it, but I am happy to see companies that embrace being shitty to users, fall like a house of cards.
Yes, SO embraced being shitty to users and creating a toxic environment for far too long, despite their latest weak attempts to fix it.
I hope eBay, Paypal and Yelp are next.
Also somewhat Reddit. They are ok for consuming data, but if you try to post anything it's pretty user hostile.
For ten years I sold things on eBay about 5-6 times a year. It wasn't a business at all. Basically if I had an old phone or a laptop, I'd put it on eBay and get a few bucks for it.
Around 2008 or so, I noticed that eBay's policies had shifted, so that sellers were at the mercy of the buyers.
My last straw was when I sold a phone to someone. I'd paid $500 for the phone. I'd used it for a year. I sold it on eBay for $40. I'd spent $15 on shipping. If everything went lick clockwork, I'd make $20 for the sale, which was peanuts since I'd spent 2-3 hours posting the ad and shipping the phone.
The person who bought the phone couldn't figure out how to turn the phone on. I got their email, and I responded to their complaint in exactly nine minutes. In the span of nine minutes, they raged out, and clicked some button on eBay to complain about me.
Like, I get it, if I ignore your email for a week, that's not cool. I responded to them in nine minutes.
Their complaint resulted in my perfect eBay score being lowered, and they got a refund.
Stuff like that just completely burned me out on eBay. They only seem to be interested in maximizing the number of customers on their platform and don't seem to care about keeping their sellers happy. And without sellers, eBay wouldn't exist.
I listed an old video card with something like "FOR PARTS" in the title but accidentally tagged it as used. The buyer complained, I said the title and verbal description clearly said it's broken and for parts. eBay ruled in the buyer's favor.
Admittedly, it's awkward because I had a listing mistake, and the buyer probably thought they found a deal (the card was half the price of a working one) and didn't read, so we were both in the wrong, I guess, but the buyer and eBay didn't see it that way.
I wish I could really quit eBay, but instead my threshold for something being worth my trouble is now about $60.
people did bid on it, so i thought to myself: nice, i don't have to feel bad about throwing working tech in the bin...
well, after the second article with retarded complaints about shipping (i used old packaging from amazon deliveries iirc) i just thought to myself: screw this! I cancelled all other pending auctions and threw them away. Just not worth the effort. especially if you're only doing it for moral reasons.
There was even some of this on BBS forums, but that was a more civilized time, likely because we knew the people we were talking to were within our local calling area in most cases.
None of this is new. It's a humanity problem, not a technology problem.
No. They mean a hostile attitude form the company towards the users and the volunteer moderators.
When you put it that way though, maybe technology can address it by somehow humanizing the communication more. I bet people are researching ways to do this.
it's fired, not furloughed.
it's to be able to not lose ability to generate profit, not "to be able to serve our customers"
it's to save 85% who we think are more worth, not "we are all in this together"
I feel the whole site needs a big banner "PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS IN PRODUCTION"
- Stack Overflow: 1%
- Reddit: 8%
- The Daily WTF forum: 81%
This is internet is broken. I want the old one back.
This is the question I'm talking about. Apart from people posting funny memes there's some genuine helping going on. Same question on SO: no response. Same question on Reddit: one serious response.
People can downvote me all they want but I see that decentralized bulletin boards seem to work a lot better even in 2020.
If I have legitimate professional questions I need to find a forum for it, because that's where people hang out that are actually interested in the community instead of rep or likes.
There are loans available in the us and uk to keep people employed.
I won’t use stack overflow for the rest of may, it isn’t much but fuck them.
They know the people they let go can’t get another job at the moment.
That’s the locales for a bunch of countries:
> Argentina, Austria, Belgium (Dutch), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Vietnam.
Quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimal_separator
Also, a funny note: In Switzerland we have 3 formats depending if it is a currency, not a currency, or hand written :p
But StackOverflow (the company) is more than just public Q&A, and in fact public Q&A is not primarily how they make their money. Job ads and SO for teams seem to be the main revenue sources.