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Farewell Stack Exchange (codinghorror.com)
1233 points by dko on Feb 6, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 213 comments



I feel like all of us owe a big thanks to Jeff. It's hard to imagine writing any code these days without Stackoverflow. It definitely made the web better for me, and I suspect, any other developer out there.


An important feature of SO is that it's been open: crawlable by search engines, readable by anyone without an account, etc.

In those same four years Facebook, Twitter and the likes of Quora have exploded, and made the Internet worse. Yet at the same time all the Stack Exchange properties resisted this trend. I'm very grateful for that too.


What's wrong with Quora?


For one, if you want to see the later answers, you need to log-in. On SO you can just see everything, and it used to be that you could post a question as a guest.

In addition, there is a whole family of sites on StackExchange, each with their own set of active users and people. To me, Quora just seems like a better version of Yahoo answers, while SO is what I want a successful Q&A community to be.


Seriously. The best case scenario when I google an error is that a Stack Overflow link pops up. I wasn't big into coding when Experts Exchange was consistently #1, but I somehow stumbled into it regardless. I also can't stand mailing lists.

Anyone involved in Stack Overflow should rest assured that they made the world a better place for a lot of people.


The worse case scenario is when you see an experts exchange link. That's when I truly cringe and brace myself for the popups.


You should get an adblocker and popup blocker. Unless that was hyperbole.


Have you ever visited expert's exchange? It's like the predecessor to StackExchange but you had to pay to get answers. Not even an adblocker and popup blocker would solve that problem.


For the last few years now you can just scrawl to the bottom to read the answer. They had to put that in otherwise Google wouldn't index them.


Yes, but only if your referer indicates that you're coming from Google, otherwise you only get the offer to buy the answer, with no indication that it's available for free. Slimy. This is why I avoid ever linking to them, because anyone who is unfortunate enough to follow a link to EE gets a question with no answers.


Scrolling to the bottom works from anywhere and has for many years. There was a short period of time where it only worked from Google, until Google nailed them for that.


I'm on the board of Stack Exchange, and I can attest -- not just Jeff, but Joel (Jeff's cofounder & CEO) and everyone on the team care profoundly about the web and ther responsibility to the community. Not a single conversation, from the Meta conversations on the site to the planning decisions on the board, happen without a reiteration, either implicitly or explicitly, of that goal of trying to make the web better. I'm incredibly proud of that ethos and of the values that Jeff's post also makes clear, and delighted it's obvious to folks who are (as I am sometimes) just interacting with the site as a coder who has a problem to solve.


A good mailing list can still be better than SO for niche subjects. Not saying that to take anything away from SO, it's just that it seems to work best with lots of participants.


While that's true, if I have to resort to a mailing list for an answer, I'm almost certain to later ask the question on a StackExchange site and answer it myself.

It feels wonderful to take some information which it cost me days to find out and make it the first hit on Google, with the right answer clearly marked. Even when mailing lists are indexed on the web, they are never as easy to find and visually scan as a SO thread.


Besides that, as a contract programmer there have been a few times I've posted my StackOverflow profile in a cover letter and have had very positive reponses.

One interviewer went so far to say he didn't bother asking technical questions since he'd seen my answers on SO.

Obviously I wouldn't recommend that tactic, but it's nice to see my online rep actually translate to the real world like that from time to time.


Online reputation, when contextually appropriate, should be a very strong defining attribute related to an interview or judgement of knowledge and expertise in a field.

I imagine a world, reminiscent of Ender's Game, where online discussion holds much sway and credence, and the separation between it and "the real world" exists only to differentiate physical properties.

It would seem that we are slowly approaching this more transparent mesh of societies.

If a person can empirically show their value and experience with a topic, as you did with your SO profile, it should hold the same regard as similar measures.


Yes and no. I might have a fantastic SO profile, but be utterly unable to communicate face-to-face, or in stressful situations. I think it's important to remember these possibilities...


So an attribute used in tandem with others? Another problematic aspect is that someone may be very good at formulating an answer but requires the use of internet resources e.g. google, other SO answers. This coincides with your face-to-face example.

Such a talent would have its uses, but may not be as useful in certain situations as someone whose answers may be slightly less quality but composed without exterior information.


Or, instead of working, you would spend all your work day playing StackOverflow to win new badges and points. :-)


Or, instead of calling it "playing", you could call it "sharing your knowledge".


One day when I worked at Rockstar Games I was walking through the lobby and bumped into the technical director's wife and kid. I said "hi," and the wife was very apologetic, explaining that she knew their daughter couldn't see her father for yet another night in a row, but just wanted to spend 15 minutes with him. I just remember walking away thinking "I'll never be that kind of father." I left a few months later.

Outside the games industry, though, the usual response when a company grows, and you can't give significant equity to new hires to justify crazy hours, is to change the company culture to have closer to 40 hours a week. Both ITA software (which PG mentioned in Great Hackers) and Endeca, two successful pre-liquidity-event companies when I joined, had normal working hours. Is that only true in Boston, or in SF too?


>explaining that she knew their daughter couldn't see her father for yet another night in a row, but just wanted to spend 15 minutes with him.

Dude, reading that just makes me want to cry. I may be an IT enterprise schmuck doing java development for the man, but at least I have a life outside of the 8-5. Man I have so much to be thankful for: a job that's 5 minutes away from where I live, pays me very well, and I can be home for lunch with my girls every day and home for dinner before 5:30. I'd love to have my own startup (hence the HN trolling) but not at the expense of my family. I guess the lifestyle-business/startup is where I'll end up eventually.


The crazy thing is, I've told this story on the phone when interviewing at startups, and I've had them say "oh, we work 60 hours a week here!" At that point, I say that's a deal breaker and wish them well.


Yeah - I worked sixty hours per week at a start up; they got up only once in the twelve hour days for twenty minutes to get a sandwich, separately, for their desks. It's bollox, and certainly not more productive.


I can attest to that... I've kept my consulting gig instead of moving to a startup because it's 40 hours capped and a much better lifestyle.

martincmartin - I'm sure the ORCL check this year didn't hurt ;)


Frankly, some of this "family time" stuff can be taken too far by fathers. What are you going to do, sit around the house reading Dr. Seuss and playing Lego? That's fine to a point, but you also need to be setting an example as a provider and you do that by spending a reasonable amount of time at work. Kids absorb and internalize their experiences as they grow, and when they are adults (past the turbulence of adolescence) those internalized behaviors are how they live. If they have not had the experience of growing up with a parent who displays the discipline to sacrifice, work hard, and succeed, they won't tend to have that either.

This is NOT a critique of Atwood's (or anyone else's) decision specifically; he has clearly been a success and maybe the work/home ratio in his life was out of balance. Like many good things, time spent at work can become a negative. But on the whole I don't think a parent, particularly a father, needs to feel guilty about spending a reasonable amount of time at work. You are teaching your kids how to be a provider, even if you are not physically "there" 24/7.


I think the most important part of being a father who works is keeping strict boundaries between work and home. When I am at home, I am at home. When I am at work, I am at work. The kids know that M-F, dad's gone at 7am and home at 4:15. They know that when daddy's home, he's all theirs. We play legos, we play blocks, we build trains, we color pictures, wrestle, laugh, read books. It's all about them.

This strict boundary means I rarely if ever work from home. It confuses them. Daddy's present, but can't play with me. It breaks my heart to hear "Wanna snuggle with me, Dad?" and I've got visual studio open on the computer. Fk code. I want snuggle time with my baby-girl. So I leave if I have to and head in to the office. But I'm back before the kids go to sleep to read a story.

"Success" can be defined a lot of ways. My Dad reached his success by working very hard to gain enough money at the end of life to live playing golf daily in sunny Florida. He sees the kids maybe two times a year. My success will be living a full life now, surrounded by snuggling grandkids and hopefully great-grandkids when I'm old, still shoveling snow in Wisconsin winters if that's where they are.


I think this point of view is due to your definition of success. You have a very "Protestant Work Ethic" angle (not that that's a bad thing in any way).

To play Devil's Advocate, I would say the best example you could set to your kids is show them that what counts in life isn't money or a career, that to be happy you shouldn't sacrifice your family life or work yourself to the ground. That what is important is spending as much of the little time we have on this planet with the people we love. Even if that means not having the corner office or the biggest house or the newest car on the block.


I understand your point. Here are two more points:

1. We should remember that young kids have no idea that, while we are absent, we are sacrificing, providing and succeeding. To them, we are just absent.

2. Reading Dr. Suess and playing Lego with our kids is an expression of sacrifice, provision and success, albeit with different currency and goals.


I came to this same conclusion recently. It's great to spend time with the kids but there's a lot to be said for setting an example. I changed jobs to be closer to home after my second child was born. It's been over a year now and I'm realizing that being a good father is not just about spending quality time with your kids. It's also about teaching our kids to follow their dreams and find work that they truly enjoy. What better way to teach them this? This is why I'm making an effort to change my situation ASAP.


Jonathan Coulton comes to mind. He left his boring job as a programmer to pursue music as a way to make a living. He does not sacrifice family time for his "dream", but provides an example of a dad doing something he enjoys to make money for the family while having fun with the family.


My situation is a little different. I actually enjoy programming. What I miss is the satisfaction of building solutions to real problems and working with other developers who are as passionate and dedicated their work as I am. We put a lot of effort into becoming the best we can. It's nice to have the opportunity to put those skills to good use.


You should probably ask some people late in life if they wished they had spent more time in the office.


I was hoping you could clarify what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time.


i have to assume you don't have any children yet... remember, you can love your job, but your job will never love you.


I think it would be very difficult to find many people who would say "My life would have been better if my father/mother worked more.".

The "principle of sacrifice" is a coping method fathers use to deal with their guilt for not spending time with their families.


As a father, on my death bed I am sure my biggest regrets are going to be:

1. That I did not work 78 extra weekends 2. Did not squeeze an extra 3 hours into each of my 8 hour workdays 3. Had more days where I had a vacant look in my eyes, while interacting with people I love, cause a work problem was bothering me.

There is a product to ship, damn it, and Family should never be a priority.


You're showing a disproportionate emotional response to a point he didn't even make.

The idea is that as parents, we send subtle signals to our young children about how adult life should be. A father spending 6h a day at work and the rest with their child is preparing a personality potentially lacking a builtin discipline derived subconsciously from observing the parental example.

This has nothing to do with your worries about your death bed regrets. They're valid too, but besides the point the PP was making.


What's undisciplined about working 6hrs a day, which was about standard for most of human history? Parents (especially immigrants) make incredible sacrifices so that their kids don't have to kill themselves with work, not to be an example.

And some parents just don't like their kids and use "sacrifice" as an excuse to have fun at the office.


I disagree with the premise that discipline is taught primarily by absence. If anything the 6h a day father has more bandwidth to work on discipline and hard work with their kids. I learned hard work from working on stuff with my dad, not by playing nintendo while he was at work.


Right, but let's be honest with ourselves here. These aren't fathers out fighting fires, these aren't fathers out fighting wars, these aren't fathers healing.

These are fathers who "sacrifice" their family years so that they can "increase stakeholder value" to the tune of 60+ hours a week. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that their job in life is to increase the value of their VCs' portfolio by a couple of points prior to being liquidated.

Get stuffed.

EDIT: See also ( http://www.jwz.org/blog/2011/11/watch-a-vc-use-my-name-to-se... )


You make some valid points, but you do yourself a disservice by adding the unnecessary insult "Get stuffed." Please keep the discussion here at HN civil and respectful.


Thank you for your input--I'm just a bit hardline on this topic as there seems (to me) to be far too much of an exploitative undercurrent to a lot of the public rhetoric about working in the tech world.

There is only so much respect to be accorded to someone advocating the waste of prime years.

(and all that said, again, point taken.)


Amen. I got into HN and programming in general with big ideas of what I wanted to build once I knew how. At this point, I'm pretty happy working as a contractor, building my skills up, and getting to cook dinner and read stories to my kids at bedtime every night.

Contract programming can facilitate a cushier lifestyle than I really ever thought possible when I was a professional musician. My ideas and my abilities will some day meet, but in the meantime I'm pretty satisfied. This whole post/thread gives that a bit more perspective.


Thanks for the story. It reminded me of why sometimes there are things more important than career success. While I'm nowhere near having kids or a wife, I've always thought about the tradeoffs between them while constantly reminding myself of how relationships and family is so important despite desperately wanting to succeed. I guess success can also be thought of as succeeding your family and making sure they are well taken care of.


> It's been almost exactly 4 years

Funny how often you read that in resignation posts. Four years is typically when one's shares become fully vested. At this point there's no way for him to make significantly more money from working at Stack Exchange.

It's perfectly logical to quit now, to either 1. Relax (maximizing family happiness) or 2. Start a new company (maximizing economic opportunity).

Considering how recently they pivoted into a VC-backed company it seems rather too soon for a co-founder to be jetting though. Wonder if Spolsky regrets backdating their vesting schedule (if that's what they did). Might be a bit of a cautionary tale for founders.


All money issues aside, 4 years is also around the time you tend to get really sick of working on the same problem with the same codebase. And that's an outside bound, when the problem and codebase you were working on were both good ones. The wall gets hit even sooner if you're working on something less interesting.

All IMO and IME, of course.


All money issues aside, 4 years is also around the time you tend to get really sick of working on the same problem with the same codebase.

Four years, incidentally, is also the length of time a PhD used to take, in both the sciences and the humanities. Now it's stretching towards six - seven for the sciences and ten for the humanities, which may contribute to burnout.


There's also some speculative research that 4 years is about how long monogamous love of a wife can last barring other factors. It's been a while since I read about it, I think it was reasoned that presumably because in the old days when you fell in love you had a kid and by the time the kid turned 4 they didn't really need the full support of the father anymore to survive, so the father can start looking around and try to spread his genes further now the initial investment of the one is complete... I didn't find much evidence supporting this view at the time, and indeed the notion of "monogamous love" was itself poorly defined. But it's still fun to speculate on why 4 tends to show up so often in human activities.


Rubbish. "Barring other factors" is a qualification big enough to drive a tractor trailer through, filled with millions of counter-examples on both sides. Many fathers love their mate for life or at least decades. Many others abandon her before the child is born. Whatever explains this variance is not biology.

What evidence point to 4 years as normative? What evidence suggests that a 4-year-old doesn't need a father? "OK, kid, I see you're walking and making sentences. Here's a knife and some flint. Good luck."


Most (all?) evolutionary psychology reeks of unbased speculation sprinkled with sciency words.


No, it's 7 years, and I have that on the high authority of an old Marilyn Monroe flick.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Year_Itch


4 years may be speculative, but the principle is not. For those interested, Google "Coolidge effect"


It's funny how far we have come from working for the same company for all your life.


People who worked for the same company all their life did it for the pension. Those companies tended to care more for the people that worked for them. Those were the good-old-days when people were valued.


I would be willing to stay at the same company all my life, however it is clear that corporations are not really interested in this.


Relax? Start another company? Jeff has just had twins.

This has nothing to do with relaxation, or for that matter vesting schedules.


When my wife and I were about to have our twins we had read that it takes about 170 hours a week to take care of baby twins. Remember, there's only 168 hours a week.

Now that they've just turned a year old I can safely look back and vaguely recall that: Yes it probably took about that much time to take care of the little guys.

Good luck, Jeff!


Perhaps they meant 170 person-hours per week? That would be doable by a couple.


I think people without kids, when their friends with kids say they're so busy, don't realize is that all the work with kids is sporadic. You never get to get "in the zone" when child raising. I can't just change diapers for half a Saturday afternoon so I don't have to change diapers all week.

When kids are first born they need to eat every 2-3 hours including night-time. And a feeding can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes, with a diaper change per-feeding. If you're in the boat that Jeff or I were in you were very fortunate if your twins were both on the same schedule -- offset schedule twins are exhausting and relentless.

Oh, and 50% of twin births are C-sections and my wife was no exception. So her only jobs for the first six weeks were to recover, breastfeed, pump breast milk, eat, and sleep. Daddy took 6 weeks off work (3 unpaid) and pretty much had to do everything else until my wife recovered from her major abdominal surgery.

Not asking for pity or sympathy. I'm just saying that I don't know how people handle newborn twins without help from friends and family. It would be impossible.


We had friends with twins - theirs born about the same time as our first. Around four months when we were just beginning to get our life into some semblance of order I asked them if that was the case for them.

The look I got I might as well have asked them if they'd just been to the moon. Four months in and things were still massively hard work 24 x 7.

Twins are HARD and anyone who has them has my respect.


But, does it amount to less work total for the same number of children?


I think it's hard to view that way because of the way the work and pressures come.

I have two kids a couple of years apart. The youngest one is still at an age where sleeping at night is an on-off business but the oldest one is now fine.

With twins you wouldn't get that as they're both at the bad sleeping stage at the same period and that's something which re-enforces - two non-sleeping children at the same time is way worse than two non-sleeping children sequentially as there will be a period where you'll almost never get a good night.

Similarly my older child can now feed herself which means that meal times with the two of them are easier than they would be if both needed feeding.

Over all time, it might average out to close to the same amount of work per child (in later life they might entertain each other a bit more being the same age), but there are two or three years at the beginning where you're going to be severely punished.

Also financially there's no hand me downs with twins - they both want / need stuff at the same time.


I see that you're giving 110% trying to make that statement make sense.


I had a friend to help me.


From my personal experience, it's not just about vesting. It's about energy. For many folks, after 3-4 years, things just aren't the same.

Jeff's baby is all grown up. He's poured his heart and soul into this thing. Time to catch his breath, refocus priorities, and move on to something new.


Perhaps (I am speculating, not dictating) this is exactly why four-year vesting periods work. If a large chunk of people burn out or get bored after four years, a five year vesting period would create sullen, unproductive boat anchors. A three year period would have people jumping ship to found something new while they are still able to bring their prowess to bear growing the company. But after four years, both parties have maximized their gain from each other.


It's common to re-up soon-to-vest employees with additional options, especially founders.


I've always been slightly surprised that founders accept vesting at all.

What is to stop the VC from firing you the day before your options mature?

Then you would effectively have worked for them for free for 2 years, and for a low salary for a year and 51 weeks after that, all at 70 hours a week.

I would never give anyone the opportunity to do that to me.


The stock vests over time. Four years isn't the typical time for stock to vest; it's the typical time to be fully vested. Usually it's 1/4 per year for 4 years.

Vesting doesn't just protect investors. It also protects cofounders. Suppose you start a venture 50/50 with a buddy. After a year, he leaves, and three years later you've bootstrapped the company into a $100m business. Without vesting, your cofounder would still be entitled to 50%. With vesting, he would get 25% of 50%, or only 12.5%.


Sorry to be nit-picking, but the percentage of shares issued that the departed cofounder holds after 4 years would be 20%. It's not helpful to look at percentages during the calculation: look at absolute number of shares. If 1 share vests each month, the remaining founder has 48 after 4 years, the departed one retains 12, hence 20%.

Of course, this ignores any further shares the remainin founder might issue to himself by investing his own money or assets (he holds a majority stake, so that shouldn't be too difficult)


1. The standard vesting arrangement is four years with a one-year cliff. This means 25% of your stock (as a founder) vests at the end of the first year, and the remainder vests month-to-month for the next three. In your scenario it sounds like the founders have been at it for two years before their first financing.

2. Why does the VC even have the right to fire the founders or CEO? The board has that right, and presumably the VC is on that board, but their rights are defined in the financing agreement. Control is an important negotiating point when raising a round of financing.

3. Why would a VC want to invest in a company where the founders have completely vested? What's to stop them from running off with the money, so to speak?

4. That said, I've seen incorporation documents where some small portion of the founders' stock is vested immediately (maybe 5%), and the remainder follows the standard four-year vesting, one-year cliff arrangement. This makes it a little harder to raise money and the VCs might insist on changing the vesting schedule as part of the financing agreement. Generally it's just easier to have everyone on the same vesting schedule, that way nobody can object.


1. That's the standard vesting arrangement for non-founders. I have trouble imagining a cliff for founders.


It's normal in my experience. A cliff of some kind has been part of every incorporation agreement I've seen or signed.

http://startuplawyer.com/incorporation/why-your-startups-fou...

http://www.startupcompanylawyer.com/2007/07/19/what-should-t...

Moreover, if I were working with a co-founder, I would (and have) insist we vest on that schedule, and certainly not monthly from day 1.

There are a few reasons:

1. I don't want my co-founder leave before a year and having a chunk of the company. Likewise, I want to do right by my co-founder. If I leave before a year is up, it wouldn't be right for me to own a chunk of the company.

2. It's inequitable for the founders to have different vesting schedules than employees. What happens if someone joins the team pre-financing? If they get the same terms as the founders, then what about an early employee vs. a later employee? It makes for a weird, political situation.

3. It makes it easier to raise money. If you're vesting on the same terms as your investors they have no basis to negotiate over that term; they'll just check the box and move on. It passes the "blink test."

These are just my experiences, so YMMV.


Vesting of shares does not necessarily imply that you give anyone the right to fire you. For example, a company with several founders might choose to use vesting even if they never take or need VC funding, to deal with the case where a founder voluntarily chooses to leave early on. And while an arrangement with a VC could potentially grant them the ability to fire a founder, it doesn't necessarily have to, and I've seen plenty of cases where the founders did not agree to such terms (especially in cases of VCs signing on with well-established companies).


"What is to stop the VC from firing you the day before your options mature?"

A severance option in your contract which would make it even more lucrative for you if they tried to get rid of you without a really, really good reason (like a criminal conviction).


Because your shares vest gradually over time, so that by the time you get to year 4, you're well over 75% of the way there.


> What is to stop the VC from firing you the day before your options mature?

Perhaps they'd like people to actually consider taking investment money from them in the future?

Your "cliff" is typically one year, anyways.


As others have suggested, you would have likely vested 98% of your stock by then by then (typically 4 year terms with 1 year cliff, vesting monthly after the first year).

There are also often trigger clauses, which cause your stock to vest instantly when certain conditions are met. Being fired without cause (and cause here typically means a criminal conviction) is typical, although this can be structured to only take effect if the firing takes place after a liquidity event ('double trigger').


I deeply respect Jeff's decision to put his family first. I have a general question though. I am an ordinary programmer at an ordinary job working ordinary hours. From those of you who have started their own project full time, is it impossible to run a start up and work ordinary hours? Or is it really necessary to sacrifice all other aspects of your life to be successful?


Startups are marathons, not sprints; It's about making the right decisions most (if not all) of the time when building, hiring, marketing, etc. Fatigue and exhaustion mean bad decisions; There's plenty of research to back this up:

http://likesbuildingthings.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-know-many-...

People who are willing to take the risk of founding tend to be workaholics by nature, but you don't need to be a workaholic by nature to be a founder. It's bad for you longterm and it sets a poisonous precedent for your company culture.


I find this metaphor interesting, because in a marathon, you run the entire time. At least if you want to win, or even race competitively. You might not be sprinting, but you're running at a hard pace until the finish line,


"What type of runner can run full speed from the very start of the race? That's right. Someone who runs very short distances. But as programmers, we are smarter than that. We just fire the starter pistol again every 100 yards. I don’t know why runners haven't figured that out." --Rich Hickey


Can you expand on that?


He's mocking the concept of a 'sprint' [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprint_(scrum)#Sprint


Have you heard of an ultrarun before? It's a run that's longer than a marathon, maybe 50 miles, maybe 100 miles. It's all dependent on the local geography.

You don't run those at a fast pace, you complete them in like 8-11 hours. Perhaps that's a better metaphor.


Does this make it safe to assume that neither of the commenters here run marathons?


I've completed a 32 mile trail run on rough terrain that took the average finisher about 11 hours. Does that count?


It's possible, but really hard, especially if you have a family. And actually, building a product in your free time isn't that rough; it's supporting it that will consume all of your free time.

Think about it, let's say you have a perfectly reasonable 40 hour work week. What would be a good extra amount to put into a side project/startup? 20 hours?

Now you're working 60 hours per week, just under an extra 3 hours per night. How long can you keep that up? How much time will that take away from your family?

Let's say you stick it through and launch. The questions and support emails roll in. How much of that will eat up your extra 20 hours per week to work on bugs and new features? And will your customers be ok with waiting the extra time while you slog away at your day job?

And what happens if that 40 hour/week job goes into crunch mode and goes up to 50 or maybe even more?

Doing this isn't necessarily hard in terms of difficulty, but it does take a LOT of time.


In my experience the actual physical amount of time spent doing something can be pretty ordinary, but the amount of time spent mentally is enormous.

When I'm hanging out with friends or my family I'm not 100% there. I'm running over marketing scenarios in my head, trying to figure out how to squash this weird bug, or figuring out whether I should spend time talking with that one investor or not.

So no, I don't think it needs to take over all aspects of your life, but I'm not sure you can consciously stop it.


It's definitely possible to only clock in 8 hours at the office and be successful, but I know mentally the startup is with you 24/7 and that alone can be quite draining.


I think the real problem isn't that you have to work long hours, it's that you get so involved in whatever you're doing that you end up working far longer than you planned.


I may be a little late to the party on this, but it's definitely possible. There are times where regular hours are impossible, but for the most part, it's definitely possible. I agree wholeheartedly with everything Amy has said about their experience with Freckle.

In the four years since quitting my day job to freelance and build my app, I've gotten engaged, married, gone on a honeymoon, got a dog, gone to Europe for a week, and had our first child. I also regularly go on vacation and go snowboarding. I've been full-time on Sifter for about half of that time. So I was part-time for about two years, and that was hard work balancing the two, but it wasn't that bad. I just split time between freelancing and building the company. It was stressful at times, but well worth it.

In my case these days, as a solo founder, it's a bit involved. I work every day, but for the most part, I still only work 40 hours per week. I work from home and see my wife and daughter all of the time and find time to go to the gym every single day. I take breaks and spend time with them whenever I want, and I just work whenever it fits into the family schedule. The only catch is that it's very hard to stop thinking about work in my downtime, but I think that has as much to do with me and being passionate about work as it does being a business owner.

It hasn't been a cakewalk by any means, but it's entirely possible. I've got a slide deck that covers some of the personal side of things if you're interested. (http://bootstrapping.sifterapp.com)


I wish I knew the answer to that question. I know that most startups will ask you to sacrifice other aspects of your life, which I think is really unfortunate.


First of all, you have to really love your startup. Programming all day, then getting home and have to do the same job in the night can be really draining.

Second you have to make it profitable as soon as possible, so you can leave your job and at least start contracting 2-3 days per week, leaving full days to work on your startup.

Third, the sacrifice depends on the nature of your startup: if it's a no brainer like a management tool and you're a smart programmer, you won't need to get mad. But if it's really techy, then you better find some mate to not get lost in the venture and use up every minute of your free time.

That's my experience and what I've seen around the community here.


It's definitely possible. I have a full time job, a girlfriend, work out everyday and after all that I still manage to run two startups on the side. It's mostly about cutting out non-value-added activities while at the same time optimizing every free minute you have.


Thats not the same. After you have a family things are very different.


True, but still doable. I have a family, full-time job, and two side startups (5 and 4 years old), but I still manage to work out regularly, spend time with the family, relax a bit, and even sleep. You can do it, you just need to use your time wisely.


Sure, but jxcole wasn't asking about families necessarily, just how much time a startup absorbs.


I also sincerely wonder if it's not possible to just slow down a bit? If there's no parental leave where you live, take time off and then return to your job after 1 year or so, at 80% speed?


I think it would be difficult for Stack Overflow to slow down. In the post, Jeff links to one of his previous blog posts that describes the "running as fast as they can" culture that's been instilled in the company: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/09/go-that-way-really-...

I can see why he'd take some time off and maybe start another venture that would lend itself to a more laid back culture.


That depends on what you qualify a "startup."

My husband and I run a SaaS/infoproduct business which grossed right around $600k last year and we do not work long hours (or even 40 hours/wk). In 2011, we invested heavily in our next product, a new office, a lot of lawyering & tax accountanting (and made a couple rather big (hiring) mistakes with money), so our take-home wasn't glorious, but next year it will be.

We:

* built the product in a hack day a week or so for 3 mos * worked pretty hard the first year, since we were doing it alongside consulting; but literally there were weeks, and months, where we did nothing, and our business survived & even grew for a time * quit consulting in 2010 (me in Jan, my husband later)

To put this in perspective:

In late 2009, I had mono, which knocked me out for a few mos. I got better for a while, but then a series of viral infections landed me with chronic fatigue syndrome. Several times since then, I've been incapacitated for 1-3 mos.

Now I'm mostly better, but every time I get sick, I'm unable to work for a week or two. I don't make it up by working long hours when I'm well, either. We're talking 20-30 hours a week for me, max. We haven't worked more than a 40-hour work week for more than two weeks at a time in nearly 2 years, and our biz is 3 years old.

In short: it's totally doable.

Focus on solving a pain people will pay for. Build something simple, which doesn't require a lot of maintenance. Choose customers who aren't needy fuckers. Pick your hours.

Example: Our 1st product is a time tracking tool. Unsexy but it's got a run rate of just over $300k/yr now, just over 3 years old. We had 8% growth in revenue month over month from Dec to Jan. Which is totally sexy.

And… right now we're on a month-long trip to NZ. I've been working an average of an hour a day because I'm running a course to teach people how to build this kind of biz. (That's in 2-4 hour stretches, not actually 1 hour a day, which would be useless.) My husband hasn't worked at all on this trip except yesterday he had to reset one of our (redundant) servers because of an apparent hardware failure. That'll probably take a couple more hours of his time this week.

Sure, we could work more, hit it harder, and probably earn more money. But we're nicely on track for $1.5m in yearly revenue inside of ~2 more years (when I turn 30!) so I figure, why bother? What could we NOT have with $750k/yr of sustainable household income, even if we spent half the gross revenue on overhead (which is ridiculously unlikely)? We already get to touch thousands of people's lives every day. We can already invest in charities and nice things.

As Felix Dennis, who's ludicrously rich (in my mind), wrote in his very excellent How To Get Rich:

"Ask me what I will give you if you could wave a magic wand and give me my youth back. The answer would be everything I own and everything I will ever own."

He says no less than 3 times in his book that if he could go back to his youth and live a different life, he would have spent way, way, way less time accumulating his obscene (hundreds of $mils) riches and more time living. I take him at his word.

In short, it's totally possible. You won't believe it if you spend too much time reading HN, however. Or people will tell you that your ambition is too small… and sneer that you run a "lifestyle business." But then, you will have a life, so you can laugh all the way to the bank.

NB: I blog about this stuff at http://unicornfree.com in case you're interested.


Thank you for being such an inspiration - and a therapist, I'm working on an online reservation tool for small business service providers cos the rest of them as you say 'suck goatnuggets' (LOL) but it's all too easy to get depressed reading HN about all the 'cool stuff that other startups are doing'.

TIL that I've got to put the right mental filter on before coming to HN.

One question, obviously you don't have any high-touch sales going on, what do you do for marketing to find and convert new customers?


Hey Amy - I just read your travel post. How do you guys handle support while you're both on the road? Do you just make it clear to customers that there's a multi-day response time, or do you hire temporary support staff?


I'm interested in hearing about this too. Support can be one of the most time consuming parts of a web app. Maybe because your apps are simple they have less support requirements?


Ah! Good question. So, previously, we'd do support ourselves. It doesn't take more than 45 min - hour a day total, most days less. Part of why it's fast is we use our own custom-rolled tool (coming soon to a public launch near you: http://charmhq.com).

This time, we have part-time help in the form of an international business major at a local university. She's not an expert on our app, BUT for hard q's, she'll just let the folks know we'll get back soon.

Last summer, we had hired 2 full-time staff to do this and a variety of other things, but that was a major mistake for many reasons and we had to let them both go this fall (soooo stressful; now I am anti-hiring).

The other reasons our support load is so fast/light:

It's a mature product, without many bugs.

If things do go wrong, it's a time tracking tool, not the end of the world.

The UI of the product is really quite amazing, if I do say so myself; and that creates less confusion.

The look & feel of the app, our name, our marketing materials, our philosophy, our feature set attract and groom a certain kind of customer who is much more friendly and laid-back than the average SaaS customer. We get a tenth of the angry emails of friends who have a similar number of customers.

Finally, we ourselves are chill. Lots of folks with a business act as if the customer is a gunslinger shooting at their feet to make them dance. We do not. Early on in Freckle's life, we totally abandoned it for a month or two at a time, support included. Nothing terrible happened. I wouldn't do it again, but it puts it in perspective.


It's inspiring that you are successful with something as "ordinary" as a time tracking tool. Just goes to show that there is still opportunity even in what most people would think of as a totally saturated space.


Almost all the ideas for webapps that I have had over the years have been discarded because I thought, or was told by people, that "no-one will pay money for that". No offense to Amy, but time-tracking is pretty much the canonical example of the app that "no-one will pay for".

So thank you, Amy, for proving me wrong.


You're welcome :)

This exact thing here -- the idea that "no one will pay for it" or a question of whether there is "still opportunity" -- is why hanging around HN without the right mental filters is detrimental to your success.

There is not only "still" opportunity in boring sectors like time tracking, there's LOTS of it. LOTS and lots. The more people who use a tool, the more pain they experience, the more people who are left out by certain viewpoints on how to build or run the tool, etc., who discover they need an alternative.

"Startups" may be sexy and exciting, but the basic tools people have to use to run their businesses and their lives still suck goatnuggets. And these basics are a friggin gold mine. :)

There is MORE opportunity there than in some green field where nobody has gone before, because there's a reason nobody has gone there before.

As for time tracking being something "no one will pay money for," tell that to all the businesses who I'm sure make wayyyyy more than we do -- Harvest, FreshBooks, RescueTime, toggl, mite, etc. For a long time, the only compelling reason to upgrade to the higher level of Basecamp was because it came with (the most terrible) time tracking. And lots of people upgraded.

People who say things like "no one will pay for that" pretty much never do their research. What they mean is "I won't pay for that," which is totally immaterial, just so much self-absorbed gasbaggery. They simply can't imagine that anyone is different from them. And there are tons of those people in the "startup scene."

If you just open your eyes and look at the businesses you interact with every day, and look at how long they've been in biz, how many people they employ, what kinds of promotions they do, etc., you will see that there are a bazillion businesses like mine -- and much much much bigger -- which never make tech news coverage, they just quietly tick along making millions a year. I know a guy whose business has millions in revenue a year from a Wordpress plugin that you've never heard of.

But it's unsexy so HNers aren't generally interested. :)

So I pretty much hang around here for the occasional breaking news & the opportunity to spread the gospel. This discussion will turn into a series of blog posts so I'm getting something out of it too :)


Great post! +1 for the Felix Dennis reference.


I need a developer wife :) Great advice!


Ha! Well, we are in hot demand ;) Actually, I have contributed essentially zero code to our SaaS products. We had partners on Freckle, but bought them out because they were not doing their work. Otherwise we hire freelancers.

I am the biz "visionary" (barf), the designer, marketer, copywriter rolled into one. Which is more than enough, believe me. :)


Jeff's presence will be missed, but the man can't be faulted. His priority is his family, and he's sticking to his guns. Good for him -- seriously!

Honestly I had been on the fence about changing jobs until recently. I'm single and I realized that I haven't been on a date in a long time. Wolfram Alpha places it at about 3300 days (just over 9 years). I've made a good chunk of money, but all in all it's not worth the sacrifice of everything else I care about. I'd rather be at home trying to make video games and start dating again while I'm still (barely) in my 20s, so that's what I intend to do.


Your sacrifice may be worth it. I only have a tiny glimpse into your situation, but you may want to reflect more on what you'd like medium and long-term, to avoid short term decisions that might not help. Life involves tradeoffs and sacrifices, and the best time for some of them is before relationships, children, family. The money you've made could very well help you spend time with your relationships and family.


What is stopping you???


Very few things have changed the face of programming as much as Stack Overflow did. I'm not sure that the Exchanges foray into other subjects will yield as successful products, but one can dream.

For fun, I even did a quick look at my Chrome history for last month: only 2 days had my not visiting StackOverflow.com.


Stack Overflow are even kind (cheeky) enough to provide a calendar on a user's profile showing the day they've visited (or not).


Thanks, I never knew the calendar appeared by clicking on the visited value!


I just checked by Stack Overflow profile. I've visited on 986 consecutive days. But then, I am a moderator, so I view it as a bit of an obligation. ;)


There is much to be said about this. Personally the story is extra important as I am about to do probably the exact opposite.

I am 38, have a son at 2 and a girlfriend. Co-founded a company in 2005 here in copenhagen and grew it to 60 people in 2008 and now around 30.

March 1st I am out of there. I sold my shares in stable company and is going to New York and work with another company there.

I will leave my son and GF back in cph and hopefully convince them to move with me later on. Until then its going to be 3 weeks out of every month in NY.

It's not a rational choice it's certainly not a 100% a popular choice.

But my take on this is a little different than Jeffs and that is perhaps because I still feel I have something to prove :)

But I am thinking that even though I want to be around my son I also want to be more than a dad for my son. This I believe is going to be important especially when he grow older.

Perhaps if I did a huge exit I would think differently, perhaps I am being selfish.

But life is short and complicated and at least for now this seems to be the right thing to do all things taken into consideration.


I know this is highly subjective but I would think that every son would like for his father to be above all, a dad. I wouldn't give a fuck if you drove two mercedes instead of one or if you gave away a billion dollars to cancer research if you couldn't find the time to play LEGO with me. Just my opinion, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.


It's a really complicated question.

My dad went the other route - he had an MIT Ph.D in nuclear chemistry and gave up his career to be a dad. He was always, always there to play LEGO with me or take me to the playground or drive me around to after school activities. And I really, really appreciated that - I probably appreciate it more now that I'm grown and he's dead.

The thing is - he still had something to prove, and because he had given up his professional life for me, he transferred that need to prove something onto me. And so for most of my childhood, I felt like I had to do well in school, and when I grew up it was up to me to win that Nobel Prize that he never had a shot at. And it went like that until I was in around middle school, at which point I basically said "Fuck that shit" and started sabotaging myself just to prove to everyone that I wasn't this super-genius who was destined to change the world.

And that wasn't really fair to me either.

I don't think it's really a matter of outcomes, of affording the big mansion in a gated community. I think that every kid deserves to have a dad who can be proud of who he is and what he's accomplished in life. If you can honestly feel that you're not giving up anything to be with your kids, but rather gaining something, then you should do it. But if you would otherwise be bitter and resentful for what you couldn't accomplish in life - it's better to have an absent dad than a bitter one.


Thank you for sharing your story. I tend to do this (attempt to transfer my failed dreams onto my kids), and it's helpful to have such a powerful reminder of how selfish and unfair that is. Thank you.


Wow, this was exactly what my dad did. He also was very well educated, and he also became bitter by his sacrifices as I got older. I came to appreciate his sacrifice when I became a father but I promised to never blame my kids for any choices I make. The difference between my father and myself is that I already feel like I have proved enough by becoming a father. If I died today, I would have no regrets. He passed away at 56 when I was in college and I know he had regrets. Like you said, I would rather have had an absent father than a bitter one too.


What would have been the correct balance for you Dad to strike between working and being with you?


Ideally, I would've liked it if he had done exactly what he did do up until about age 8 or 9, and then gone back to work. As I grew up, my needs shifted from someone who would love me unconditionally and give me lots of attention to a role-model who could teach me how to interact with the outside world, and someone whose life is completely coupled to yours is neither the best role model nor someone who knows a whole lot about the outside world.


The trick is not to go for success at all costs so you don't "have something to prove" which you force on your kids, it's to grow out of the need to "have something to prove." It's possible, and will result in less wasted time and fewer tears.


But it's often much easier to grow out of that need if you've made a sincere effort to actually go for it.

I founded a startup at age 25. Worked my ass off on it for a year and a half. It failed and went nowhere, as many startups do.

But I felt that in many ways, the experience set me free. I'd kinda coasted through school, college, and my first job half-assing whatever work I felt like, because I figured that at some indefinite point in the future, I'd found a startup and become a millionaire, and so nothing I did really mattered. Whenever things didn't work out, there was always some reason - "The material wasn't challenging" or "The professor didn't like me" or "It's not what I want to do anyway" or "We're using the wrong technology stack" to explain it away.

When it was just me & my cofounder though, the material was challenging, it was what I wanted to do, there was nobody else to blame, and if we were using the wrong technology stack, I damn well better change it.

So even though it didn't work out, I felt that I gave it my best effort and made a sincere shot at it. And that set me free to give my best effort on other things, because really, the consequences of it not working out were pretty minor (I got hired by Google). It wasn't the outcome that mattered, it was the process of figuring out what I was capable of when I really put my mind to it.

I'd much rather figure that out at 27, when I'm single, living like a college student, and have my whole career ahead of me, than when I'm 40 with a couple kids, a mortgage, and a string of dead-end jobs behind me. And I'd much rather figure it out at 40 than when I'm dead.


Especially at the age of 2. I have two boys, 4 and 2, and have spent the past 2 years with a 5 hour a day commute. It is not uncommon for the 4 yr old to ask if I can stay home in the morning. They care more about visibility and don't understand the connection between working hard for comfortable lifestyle yet.

After 2 years of my crazy commute for a higher paycheck, the paycheck doesn't quite feel as justified.


>..a 5 hour a day commute

Wow, and I thought my 3 1/2-4hour commute was bad. If you live anywhere near a big city I suggest switching jobs. If you're a programmer the market is amazing out there. It has two weeks of very lazy job hunting and have found a new job that is closer, more pay, way better benefits and environment.


I work in SF, but live ~2.5 hours away by Stockton. Moving isn't an option, family is important and we have tons of family within 5 mins. However, the nice Ruby jobs are in SF. There are dev jobs in Sacramento, but it is mostly government stuff and not as attractive. Most interesting jobs are in startups, but most nearby startups want people in the office.

Though I am working on going out on my own, since I don't plan to keep the commute up long term.


"we have tons of family within 5 mins."

You don't, your family is 2.5 hours away from where you spend most of your day.

I think it's quite hard to see the damage a commute like that is doing at the time, when you look back at it later you will wonder why you put up with it so long.


There is a difference between "we" and "you". Yes, I am not 5 mins away during the day, however my wife and kids are. In 4 years, we've never had to pay for a babysitter, we are very close with our families and see parents and nephews weekly. That would change if we moved further away for a shorter commute.

We could move close to SF, save maybe an hour or so commute each way, pay more for a smaller house, and then my kids no longer see their cousins and grandparents every weekend and we no longer get last minute babysitters.

Trust me, I analyzed my situation before and during this commute. It is very different from the outside looking in than when you are in the middle of it. And a few comments on a site like HN is missing a whole lot of context about a multi-faceted issue.


Being by your family when you have small kids is usually a good idea (unless you are one of those people who don't want their family around all the time). Your kids don't need babysitters and can see relatives all the time. Maybe the best solution is to accept a job that you don't like as much/doesn't pay as well until the kids are older.

Or try to find a way to work from home. Then you'd have it made.


Is there no way to work remotely a few days a week?


Exactly my suggestion. My commute is an hour each way but I work from home on Thursdays and will soon work from home on Tuesday as well. You should talk to your employer. They will most likely understand. If they don't, leave and go somewhere that will. It's a good time to be a Ruby developer in SF, so you have some leverage there.


I already do work from home 1-2 days a week, however the other days it is still a lot of time out of the day.


See Ken, I'm not the only one who thinks you're nuts! ;)

If anyone needs an awesome Unix Devops guy that is also a kickass backend Ruby engineer, hire Ken and let him work from home so he can have more time with his kids.


Haha, thanks Karthik


As someone who used to commute about 4 hours a day, a longer commute is almost never a good idea. I don't have kids, and I hated that life. Commuting is wasted time and stressful.


Yeah I hear you.


I just went through the same transition. I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco without my wife and 2 year old son. After driving down every other weekend for 6 months they're now up here with me.

If your son is anything like mine he:

1. Will not understand why you're not there no matter how much you try to explain beforehand.

2. Will not like it one bit (I think my son was clinically depressed the first week).

3. Will eventually get used to it (It got easier after the first month but still not something I wanted him to get used to).

And if you're anything like me you:

1. Will be tired all the time (Spending 12 hours every other weekend in the car staring at cows takes its toll).

2. Will feel guilty all the time.

In the end I'd say the sacrifice paid off since I'm able to spend much more time with him now than I was able to in L.A. Also, thank God for Skype.


Dude, you saved my day. Thanks for sharing.

Lifes complicated. In some ways I am aware that being in the US for 3 weeks at the time is not optimal, but who said it had to be.


I, and many others I'm sure, owe a huge thanks to Jeff. 99% of the time, searching an error message from a compiler/framework I'm less familiar with + "stackoverflow" yields a well written, well explained solution to the problem - this solves a huge problem with overcoming undocumented code, and corner cases.

Not only that, but StackOverflow is often the de-facto place for a response to a technical problem of any kind. Heck, some companies even use it as a method for responding to queries about their product - one example I noticed the other day: http://blog.appharbor.com/2012/02/02/announcing-pricing

This is a result of such a thriving community, which Jeff has made possible through StackOverflow. So I just want to say thank you, for advancing the pace of development on the web and beyond.


Good call, Jeff. From someone who made a similar decision not so long ago, you've made a very good decision.

As was explained to me with my own family: your job/company/career will never hug you back.

I used to approach my career with the standpoint of figuring out how to manage my time to wrap my family into the schedule. Now I do the opposite -- I figure out how to manage my time to put my career around my family.

Interesting thing I've found: I'm better now than I was before. Making a family investment decision, for me, has paid off in spades.


I followed the entire genesis of StackOverflow pretty closely via Jeff & Joel's blog posts and the first go 'round of the StackOverflow podcast.

During that time, and to this day, I never ceased to be impressed by Jeff's committment to making the web a better place for programmers and the general public too. He never got mired in startup-speak; you never got the idea he was just in it to sell it, and even once they got some VC backing, you never got the idea he was planning to just sit back and collect the money. Just a no-BS guy in every regard.

It's obvious to me that when Jeff does something, he does the shit out of it, and I can't imagine that parenting will be any different. We could use more people like him in every part of life.


As a relatively recent parent myself (with another on the way) I can definitely relate to wanting to put family first. It's terribly cliché, but little people really do grow up quickly, and it's all too easy to assure yourself that next year is the year you'll slow down.

Good luck Jeff, and thanks for heping to rescue us from experts exchange.

P.S. Am I the only one that found the accidental relevancy of the post footer amusing?

> [advertisement] What's your next career move? Stack Overflow Careers has the best job listings from great companies, whether you're looking for opportunities at a startup or Fortune 500. You can search our job listings or create a profile and let employers find you.


The timing of these posts amazes me sometimes.

I just turned down an opportunity to join an early stage startup (would've been employee #4, engineer #2, leading a team) that was uncommonly well backed, led by a seasoned founder, and tasked to build some truly bad-ass technology. I've always been drawn to startups, and this was indeed a rare one, unique in my experience so far, and particularly well suited to my sensibilities and to the direction I'd been wanting to go in my career. Closest thing to a perfect opportunity yet, to be sure. But it required some travel (half-dozen or so trips a year overseas, week or so each, give or take, probably more), and would've surely required longer hours than I work now (generally 40, sometimes less). We have two young boys (ages 1 and 2 1/2) and a third due in August. My wife, ever my champion, did nothing but encourage me to take it.

But I couldn't do it. My dad traveled constantly while my sisters and I were growing up (still does, actually -- very successful, but physically and often mentally absent), and I've always promised myself I'd never make that mistake. It was by far the toughest professional decision I've ever had to make, was emotionally and physically draining (I lost much sleep over it, spanning several days), but ultimately right -- for me, anyway. Much as it might restrict me career-wise, I work to live, don't live to work, and I'm not willing to risk regretting lost time with my boys because of work I chose for myself over them. I can't imagine a future in which any of us would look back and say that was worth it.

Many thanks indeed to you, Jeff -- you all did build something awesome. As my dad would say, Now go have fun.


Whenever I saw vBulletin used for programming questions (the most common option before SO), my heart ached. vBulletin may be good software for discussions, but it sucked as a programming Q&A site.

I always wondered why we, programmers, do not have an amazing software to ask questions about our craft? Jeff gave us the answer in Stack Overflow and it was everything I would have hoped for. And then some. I love the fact that Stack Overflow (and sister sites) attracted experts in their field and following their answers, I learned a lot.

Thank you Jeff and I wish you all the best for your next adventure. :)


> vBulletin may be good software for discussions,

You know, I really think it's not. It may have been in the '90s, but the times have changed and it hasn't. Sites like HN and Reddit are much better software for discussions, but I'm sure these forms are just temporal as well.


The Reddit/HN style is better when there are small number of most interesting or most correct replies, forums are better when there are a large number of valuable contributions. They're also better for long-running events and the ongoing discussion of broad topics.

Basically, Reddit style is better for "New Star Trek Movie announced", forums are better for "Let's talk about Star Trek".


I get where you're coming from, but I really don't think this is the case. I can churn through 400 reddit comments quickly, but 20 pages * 20 threads/page with [bulletin board software] is nothing short of a pain - not to mention the quote within a quote within a quote and tons of wasted space for avatars/signatures, which can only be disabled on some forums. I can see the benefit for long-running events (a reddit thread over the course of a few weeks would be hard to read chronologically) but I think there's a lot of room for improvement, much of which is probably up to the designers as much as the developers.

Also, I think the barrier to entry in a 400 comment thread is largely different as well - with reddit, the issue is whether your comment will receive any visibility, whereas, IMO, in a [bulletin board] thread, catching up on 400 comments of discussion seems daunting and almost pointless.


"Success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure."

I can already tell this post is an instant classic that I will return to many times in the coming years. I was left with almost exactly the same thoughts as he was after reading Jobs' biography - and kudos to him for following through.

Seeing Jobs' life being lived at the expense of a meaningful relationship with his kids (especially his daughters), for me personally it made his Stanford speech about "following your heart" being the most important thing ring hollow. What happens when your heart values your job more than your kids? Is that just bad luck for your kids?

Perhaps our own gut instinct is not the final authority we should follow. Maybe loving our kids is something that is more important than "succeeding" at our job, even during times in which we don't feel like it is.


What's to say he didn't learn from his mistakes? I think that was the point of the speech. Sounds like he spent wayyyy more time with his "second round" of kids.


Actually, reading his biography, it didn't sound like that to me at all. "More time" as opposed to complete ignoring and acting like he wasn't the father, yes. But the reason he had the biography written was because he wanted his kids to be able to read why he had so little time for them and to get to know him a bit better that way. And those are his own words, as far as I recall.


Why is Jeff retiring? Couldn't he simply semi-retire? work only 2 days a week and the rest of the time with his family?

I think he was exhausted...

maybe this books is worth a look: The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for YOU http://www.amazon.com/Big-Enough-Company-Creating-Business/d...


This exit is too convenient. Jeff left SE because Joel's a bit of an ass and Spolsky's focus is back at FogCreek with offerings like Trello.

With VC cash drying up, Manhattan office space, and fifty employees that aren't exactly cheap. Jeff (to his credit) is exiting gracefully while he can. Kudos.


Probably just coincidence, but the Microsoft Bizspark licenses he blogged about 3 years ago [1] are probably close to finished.

1) http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/03/stack-overflow-and-biz...


I'm a little surprised by this. I can understand Jeff wanting to "slow down" a bit and spend more time with his family etc but unless he has enough money to basically retire I can't see how his workload will reduce from not working on stack exchange.

Stack exchange I believe is developed mostly by programmers working from home and there are enough of them and SE is well developed enough that I doubt it requires Jeff to be glued to his keyboard at all times so it would seem simple to reduce his hours at his current job. In many ways it is the ideal job for somebody with a family since he's working at home and he's already done the hard part. I imagine it's now more a process of making gradual improvements as the money comes in.

I wonder what is next for Jeff, I can't see him taking a cubicle 9-5 with BigEnterpriseSoftwareCo and if he joins/starts another startup type business he's back to square 1 in terms of workload.

Perhaps he will focus on his blog/writing more now? He doesn't seem to worried about the prospect of being unemployed with a growing family so he must have stockpiled a fair amount of cash.


I can't believe they have been here for just four years... I would take centuries to debug if it weren't for stack overflow... I can only thank you for what you have done Jeff ;-).


> Farewell Stack Exchange

When I first saw the title I thought "Oh no, why is Stack Exchange closing down?"

Maybe the title should be changed to the more accurate "Jeff Attwood quits Stack Exchange"


I saw the heading after I read "Stack Overflow is out of space" so I got even more scared.


I think this is the right move for Jeff. It's good to see someone with such a high profile, putting family (and life in general) over working.


I don't think the impact that stackexchange has had on the programming community is even well understood or appreciated yet. Still for many of us it is already hard to imagine a world without something like stackoverflow.com. It is a tool that we rely upon every day, not unlike Google. Thank you Jeff.


Thank you Jeff. Rock the future and I hope you find the balance that eludes too many of us.


I basically learnt how to code c# through stack overflow. An amazing resource that has given me and so many other people so much. It really has impacted a lot of peoples lives. I admire Jeff for getting his priorities right as well.


I never even knew of Jeff, but StackOverflow has helped me more than I can even begin to talk about. Everything from stupid questions about using Linux to valuable conversations that helped me understand $LANGUAGE in a different way.


Good Job, Jeff!

I routinely disagreed with your blog, and self-promotion -- but in the end -- you delivered a slick site and built a great community.

It doesn't matter that I didn't like your opinions, or thought that Joel's column became pointlessly self-promoting.

All those things thrive in the tech-blog-o-sphere, and there is no shortage of people with unpopular opinions, fanbases, or self-promoting start-ups.

Instead, you guys did all those things, _and_ delivered a kick-ass tech Q&A site on _windows_ with a team of, what 4 people in the initial development?

Anyway, congrats to a job well done!

Take some time off, you've earned it!


My workplace recently upgraded all devs to a dual-monitor setup. Now when I walk around the office the most common thing I see is one monitor for the IDE and one for Stack Overflow in the browser.


Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.

As others have said, thanks Jeff for all the lessons and time saved with Stack Overflow! Super happy for your success and hard to imagine how it could have worked better. Your twins are only months old, your son is less than 3, so your success affords you all the time with your family. Your success story is well balanced and positively enviable.


The Stack Exchange podcast will not be the same without Jeff.


I will be surprised if it continues at all.


Stack Overflow has been brilliant not only for finding answers, but for encouraging people like me to contribute our own answers in return.

I'd say it made me a better programmer.


Never, ever underestimate the ridiculous amount of time, energy and willpower you invest to raise children. Just because billions of other people do it doesn't mean it isn't the single most demsnding, time-consuming thing that will ever be asked of you.

Perhaps you plan to outsource to a very understanding wife / girlfriend / grandparents, but if you want to do it yourself then bear this in mind: Jeff's was the only option on the table.


Why not make SE a family-friendly company instead of just leaving? I'm guessing at this stage he has already lost control and can't influence that decision?


I love the ad for Stack Overflow Carreers at the bottom.


Thanks is just a word, yet, all my apps, servers, desktops and smartphones, been well supported by stack exchange sites and community.

With StackExchange, getting the correct answer is one post away, and that is a revolution!

So I will use that word of "thanks" to express my gratefulness towards Jeff and Joel and all the community members(!), and want to wish Jeff the best of time with his kids.

Thank you StackExchange!


I've always been amazed how the stackoverflow (and various other stackexchange communities) turned out so much better than the other communities on the internet.

Jeff and the stackoverflow team have put together something really incredible. Congratulations... and thank you.


Great call if his heart wasn't in it any more. You need to look forward to going to work and going home. Leave one out of balance and things fall apart.

I am curious about the culture there. FogCreek seems very family friendly. Did it not bleed over?


Farewell Jeff! I wonder how many other people have had the epiphany since Steve died that no matter how much money or power you have, nothing can keep you alive?

I say good luck to him and his reasons could not be more justified in my eyes.


It's amazing how Steve Jobs affected this generation of technologists. I wish I could expand that sentiment beyond tweet-length without fear of starting a flame war, but I'll leave it there.


Jeff, understand our point about prioritizing family over work, etc but clearly lots of people reading it but cannot afford to retire are going to end up sad and demoralized today :(


Which contribution is greater? Building the canonical Q/A engine or setting an example for tech professionals that family is #1?

Thank you Jeff, I'm glad you shared some of your awesome with us!


Who has the means to take 6 months at home with the kids, anyway? Even one month would be luxury for most... Is he telling me I'm failing my son?


Hats off! Congrats on getting your priorities right. You have done your job, now teach your kids to do their jobs :)


Well, I just became addicted to Stack Overflow and for that I really owe big thanks you to Jeff: THANK YOU!


Best wishes from a programmer addicted to stackoverflow.


a big surprise!


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this was uninteresting for the same reason that the Stack Exchange Podcast is uninteresting: it was just a guy talking about himself (SE Podcast occasionally has interesting shows, sooo much of it is just them ruminating about themselves, with a bunch of background racket). I didn't learn anything from this post, except that a Nerd Celebrity is leaving somewhere, with no technical information, no insight, nothing.


It's his personal blog, I'm not sure what rules you are applying on what he is allowed to post to it.

In any case, I thought there was content in there for everyone. Reflecting on what 'success' means, where your priorities ought to lie... it's all interesting stuff.


There's no rule that he can't post to his blog. I flagged it because it's not relevant hacker news. Just like downvotes, I explain my flags.


Highly visible hacker/entrepreneur stepping down from running a resource that almost every hacker that reads HN probably uses on a nearly daily basis. Seems pretty relevant to me.


There are a couple Show HN's and a hacker meetup around the second half of the front page, while this is at the top. I very much disagree with your assessment of its relevance.


I think it's inarguable that Atwood, through both Stack Overflow and his own personal blog, have had vastly greater impacts than either those Show HNs or that meetup will.


You think that Atwood leaving SO has more impact on HNers than HNer projects and networking events? I think that's ridiculous.

I think that this is utterly not in keeping with what should be promoted on HN. This isn't /r/programming.


HNers believe Atwood leaving SO has more impact on HNers than HN projects and networking events. That is, in fact, why it has so many more votes. Where do you expect this argument to go?


Argument? What argument? Every person to comment in this thread has been different. All I did was explain why I flagged the article, and defended myself from rather silly attacks from a series of people who are jumping on a bandwagon.

HNers believe Atwood leaving SO has more impact on HNers than HN projects and networking events. That is, in fact, why it has so many more votes.

That's a false assertion, by the way. There are a variety of reasons why people may have upvoted the article.


How many people are going to attend that meetup?

How many people use StackOverflow every day, and are interested in the people behind it's success?


How did you feel about the news of Jobs's passing showing up high on HN?


For me, Steve Jobs passing had the opposite effect.

I had convinced myself that my comfortable lifestyle web dev business was all I really needed. That pursuing startup ideas were not worth sacrificing time with family, friends, and hobbies away from the computer.

When Steve Jobs passed, I took stock of his accomplishments, watched the Standford address, and was generally inspired. It loosened me from my comfortable rut just enough to start bootstrapping a startup I had on paper for about a year. So far, 4 months in, the sacrifice has been little to none. Who knows though, I still may regret this down the line.


There is absolutely no comparison between Steve Jobs -- a man who carved a sizable niche in a market, created another market that never existed before (app store), built a massive company, and whose direct oversight impacted all sorts of people -- dying, and Atwood simply leaving SO.


There is, by the logic you've set out here. Both were personal events that had no direct consequence to the HN crowd.


No, Steve Jobs dying had a very real potential effect on many parts of the industry. When the person generally credited with being the driving force behind Apple dies, it's got potential ramifications everywhere. When Atwood simply leaves a website which has already reached critical mass an matured, it doesn't.


Have you even read the article? He is leaving so he can spend quality time with his wife & kids. And mearly the fact that he is leaving is big news (if you ware stabbing at why is this here).


That isn't relevant hacker news. I explain when I downvote, and I explain when I flag articles.


Why is this comment being downvoted?

I don't agree with this user either, but it's so much more constructive to explain why you're downvoting things than it is to just downvote them and not say anything.

As for you georgieporgie, good on you. I for one appreciate it when people explain why they're downvoting me.


I think it meets 2 criteria: 1) It's of interest to startup people or people who want to be. 2) It's of interest to developers (at least ones who use Stack Overflow).


Exactly. Is he taking 6 months off to do nothing? How is he doing that? Did he cash out something during the last investment round? Retainer? Sell some SE stock? How's he paying the bills?


Knowing Jeff, he would have posted those details on his blog if he wanted to share them with everyone. If he hasn't, let's assume that he is not interested in discussing his financials and respect that choice.

I am sure we will hear from him whenever he is back with his new adventure.


What is this celebrity gossip channel?


I was just looking for a little more practical insight. If he's in the bay area, with a family, surely it takes significant personal capital to take a mini-retirement. PG has written before about startups being a compressed career, so I see Jeff executing that here and it's something in the back of my mind too as I toil away at day job and personal/startup projects.


Likely the ads on his blog.


Seriously, why shouldn't a guy with years of programming career behind him be able to take 6 months off? It's only basic financial wisdom not to live on 99% of your earning and always save so you have something to fall back to.




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