February 6, 2012
I am no longer a part of Stack Exchange.
I still have much literal and figurative stock in the success of Stack Exchange, of course, but as of March 1st I will no longer be part of the day to day operations of the company, or the Stack Exchange sites, in any way.
It's been almost exactly 4 years since I chose my own adventure. In those four years, we accomplished incredible things together. Stack Overflow is now an enormous bustling city, a hugely positive influence on the daily lives of programmers around the world, a place to learn from and teach your peers. And the entire Stack Exchange network, born out of the seed of Stack Overflow, is a reference model of high signal, low noise, no-nonsense Q&A that makes the internet better for all of us. I could quote traffic figures, but to me that's not what it's all about. I prefer to think of it building something awesome, because I know that if you build it, they will come.
And they did. I'll be damned if we didn't change our little corner of the Internet for the better. Possibly permanently. This is more than I could have ever hoped for, and I am honored to have been a founding and guiding part of it for the last four years. But I don't need to be a part of it forever – nor should I be, if I've been doing my job correctly. Stack Exchange was always about designing software and creating recipes for self-governing communities who love a particular topic. It is an honor to be a "just" a citizen of this community again, because as a citizen, I too have the power to shape its future. Just like you do.
Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn't sustainable for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks:
For a long time, work was my only thing. I worked evenings, weekends, and Christmas. At those rare times when I wasn’t at work in body, I was there in spirit, unable to speak or think of much else. I wanted so badly to climb the mountain that I stopped asking why I was doing it.
I admire Steve for the mountains he climbed. At the same time, I wonder if he missed the whole point, becoming the John Henry of our time. He won the race, but at what cost?
Me? I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.
I've followed Brad Wardell's success for a long time, and he had a very similar reaction to Jobs' death.
In the last several years, the company has been successful enough to generate a substantial amount of capital. And with it, I have been fortunate to bring in people with great talent. And so I started thinking of all the amazing things we would do. I would put in crazy hours to do it, of course, but we would go and do amazing things.
Then Steve Jobs died.
And suddenly I realized something. What is the objective here? My oldest child just turned 15. My other two are no longer little either. And I have been missing out on them. And my wife.
For all the success and amazing accomplishments of Steve Jobs, in the end, nothing could save him. Death can come at any time. And I realized that if I found myself on death’s door, I would regret deeply not having spent more time with my kids when they were…well, kids.
You may have more discipline than I do. But for me, the mission is everything; I'm downright religious about it. 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.
I've met so many amazing people through Stack Exchange. First, the incredibly talented team of people who work for the company, many of whom I personally recruited. As far as I'm concerned, you are among the best in the world at what you do. That's why we hired you, and it has been an honor to serve with you. But more than that, the broader community that formed around a shared vision of making the Internet better through these beautiful public parks of curated, creative commons Q&A. I have continually been humbled by the brilliant minds that saw fit to work alongside us towards this goal, who selflessly contributed their own time and effort because they just plain loved this stuff as much as we do.
I will miss you all terribly.
What's next for me? I honestly don't know. I do know that I love the Internet, and I remain passionate as ever about making the Internet better – but right now I need to be with my family. In six months, perhaps I'll be ready to choose another adventure. I have total confidence that the team at Stack Exchange, and the thriving community that makes it so great, will carry Stack Exchange onward. After all, our shared voyage never ends, it just takes different forms.
Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are —
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Farewell, Stack Exchange. I hope you can understand that if I was hard on you at times, it was because I wanted you to be the best you could possibly be.
It was because I loved you.
[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.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Thank you for making our lives that much better with all your hard work mate.
Congratulations on your next phase, we all appreciate what you've done with this one!
Good for you. Your kids are fortunate to have a father with such clarity of mind on these matters.
Thank you for Stack Exchange. It was great to meet you and your team at previous MIXes.
Great to see that you managed to get something running as smoothly as this. After all a good business owner is the one that can build his business so it can run without him being around all the time and it seems you succeeded at that.
I have used stackoverflow a lot and will be using it a lot in the future.
Thanks for that! It's great to see a community site without spamming or trolling, where people can actually learn stuff!
I respect your decision Jeff, your kids are your most important project. Thanks for all the effort you have put in to make Stackoverflow awesome. You, and the community have restored my sanity many times.
Thank you for creating Stack Exchange. It is an invaluable resource that helps millions of lives and will continue to for many years to come.
Thanks for the hard work that made it so much easier for the rest of us to get our jobs done.
Also when you 'come back' I will be looking forward to playing some of the computer games you are going to design - you obviously have the perfect profile for a game designer, so that is what you will be doing in the future.
All the best! As someone with a young child, I applaud your decision to not "buckle down", keep putting in 80 hour weeks and throw away your family life. Thanks for setting a good example for all family geeks.
Whoa. Congrats on your new adventure fine sir. We shall continue to follow your great expedition with keen interest.
Wise choice. Good luck with your new adventures.
You'll be missed Jeff. It's been a pleasure working with you.
Oh man, I hope Joel doesn't go off the rails and tries to make SO a cash cow (I kid, I kid). Seriously though, thanks Jeff for SO, user #302 here, it's insane how large the site has gotten in four years.
thanks for making the web a better place!
Shouldn't this post be on meta.codinghorror.com ? :-)
Best wishes, Jeff. As you noted, too many in our field don't realize what's really important until it's too late. I don't think there are many people who find themselves on their death bed saying "I wish I had worked more."
Nice post. Professional work may seem rewarding externally (from other people's eyes looking at you) but what really counts are the lives of people that are immediately around you i.e. your wife and children. As fathers, our success is measured really on how we have raised our children and loved our wife.
Congratulations on the double addition to your family. I am sure the joy and exhilaration starting and handling StackOverflow / StackExchange will pale in comparison with the feeling of your children tugging at your heartstrings.
I think it's pretty cool with all the "startup ra ra ra" bullshit that's popular right now, to see someone high profile say "fuck it, it's not that important"
Congrats on all that you've achieved. Bigger congrats for having the balls to make the decision that feels right for you and your family.
I hope you're running away with a big sack of that VC money too :p
Thanks for fixing the internet ... well part of it anyway, seriously. SE is a major fix.
To the little Atwoods:
Your Daddy is one of the smartest Daddies out there... Not just because he helped teach all of the other Daddies and Mommies about computers... but because he knows that YOU are more important right now and need his attention.
Take care of your Daddy for us... and we'll see all of you soon!
Thank you Jeff! Cannot imagine working a whole day without visiting Stack Overflow..
Kids are more important anytime. For me it has always been very clear. Seeing you do that gives me strength. My best wishes for you and your family.
BTW, would be interested to see whats coming up next.
Very good job Jeff, I've particularly enjoyed the podcasts you did when building the site. SOF is a testament that building the right product and building it right is what counts.
Thanks for all and all the best for your next adventure (being a good daddy is a good one :-)).
Bravo, Jeff! Fantastic four-year accomplishment. Way to lead an N-dimensional life.
As a father of a couple, I wish you the best of luck with the most important project of all: Family.
You were awesome before, now you're even awesomer! RESPECT!!
I'm sure your son and daughters will appreciate it. Good decision, I'm sure the team will miss you.
Through watching the StackExchange sites grow, and reading the blogs and listening to the podcasts, it's clear to me that there's a solid set of core values driving what you do and what you create.
This made the site great, and it's only natural that the same values might lead you to eventually move on.
Thanks for making me realise how much I enjoy writing, and thanks for making me enjoy my job as a software developer even more.
Thank you for all the time you dedicated to making the internet a lot better. Stack Exchange has been a fantastic success, from the podcast, to StackOverflow, to the new sites.
I'm sure you'll find something interesting to do (besides spending time with your family, of course!) even if less time demanding. And I hope you won't stop blogging!
I was going to write a up a longer post reflecting on the history of Stack Overflow and the goodness it's brought to the internet by re-shaping and re-framing Q&A sites and how they work, but I think it's enough to say thanks for rolling this ball down the hill.
Good luck Jeff and and all the best in your next adventure.
Thanks for raising the quality bar for our industry and enjoy that previous time with family!
Rock on! Thanks for making Stackoverflow or I'd have to RTFM.
What a fantastic example of choosing good priorities and then doing what it takes to make it a reality. Thanks for your great work on Stack Overflow and good luck in continuing your greatest work.
Congratulations. Enjoy Rock Hard Awesome and The Lady Babies. I only took four weeks off when my twins were born. Six months would be pretty awesome.
Thank you and good luck.
It is nice to see a startup partner make a decision like this.
Thank you for making the world a better place for developers, Jeff, you've done a great service for all of us.
Thanks for the hard work you put into Stackoverflow and Stack Exchange, it's made a difference to many people out there! Enjoy your new adventure and I hope you succeed with Project Family Awesome.
All the best, and thanks for your big part in making Stack Exchange real. You've done a fantastic job with the very difficult task of bringing what feels like the 'obviously correct' model for Q&A sites into being.
Thanks Jeff! Stackexchange has made a huge contribution to helping me support my family by getting my job done faster. And that means I can spend more time with them.
god speed, Jeff, i'll be following what you do next ;)
I reckon you could probably find yourself a sweet 9-to-5 on Careers 2.0 if you don't want startup life consuming your family life. :-)
Congrats, Jeff! It's been a really exciting to watch StackOverflow grow from an idea to an important part of how deveopers work and communicate. It's a tribute to how well StackOverflow / StackExchange are constructed that the design holds the DNA, and you can move on to new things. Congrats on nearly doubling your family in one go, too!
I fully expect @rockhardawesome will be able to tweet a bit more often during the next few months.
First of all, a HUGE thank you not only for what you have done for the global community of Stack Exchange users but for the times you have personally helped me, implementing a feature I suggested or fixing a bug I reported. Stack Overflow (and later other SE 2.0 sites) have not only made getting quality answers to questions easier, but encouraged me to give back to the community by answering questions myself where my limited knowledge permitted.
Stack Exchange will not be the same without you, and all of us will miss you. Although it's hard to think of the site without you, I completely agree with your rationale for leaving. Raising your children and being there for them is truly worth leaving for.
Again, thank you, and all the best in what lies ahead.
Although I wasn't around Stack Overflow much, I always spotted you on Super User, always donating time, hardware, and your opinions to us. These will all be missed.
As one of the founding leaders of the entire Stack Exchange network, you've been a role model for many of us. It saddens me to see you going, but my respect has increased tenfold for you after seeing you as a real family man.
Farewell Jeff, good luck on your newest adventure.
We'll miss you, Jeff. You've proven that your family is the highest priority. My respect for you has only grown. Hopefully your wife, and some day, your kids, will see how fortunate they are to have you for a husband and father.
Thank you for your countless hours devoted to the Stack Exchange - editing, voting, asking, answering, and creating something so awesome that we just keep coming back. Thank you especially for your work with Super User; the time and energy devoted, and even generously donating hardware to Super Users.
Wishing you and your family all the best.
OMG OMG OMG! Now Skeptics will never graduate!
Mission accomplished Jeff, you have changed the Internet and society for the better :)
Thanks Jeff. You did a great job.
I applaud your choice. I lost my daughter to cancer at age 3 1/2 and have a son who is now 15. After giving my wife a year to grieve I switched to working half-time because spending time with my son before he goes off to college (or otherwise out into the world) is far more important to me than money. This has been a good thing for us though I found it difficult not to work all the time like I had been. Watch out for habit which might have you still orbiting the computer before you realize it. :-)
Thanks! We respect your choice, may your kids become old and wise. Good luck and have fun... :)
Congratulations on the arrival of your daughters and the greatness that is multiple kids!
(Almost more) importantly, congratulations on being courageous enough to put them first, not just in word but in action. You have made the right choice and it will come back at you a hundredfold.
You have a character to be emulated, which is worth more than a thousand startups. At the same time you have done good with your work, so thank you all around!
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I wouldn't compare you to Steve Jobs. He just made a lot of cool things, most of them for a select group of people.
I'd compare you to Dennis Ritchie. He laid the foundations to make everything better for everyone.
As a dad myself to a little girl, i know you are making the right decision. I get to spend half of my day with my daughter while working the other half from home. I feel as if i'm the luckiest dad in the world. It's the younger, formative years that count the most. Give your kids as nuch attention as you can. They will be better people for that.
Thank you for everything you've contributed over the years. I use Stack Overflow daily. I juwt hope you will find time to share occasional wisdom via your blog. Good luck to you and enjoy life!
Thanks Jeff, and best of luck.
Great move Jeff. We work to live, not live to work.
I wish you and your family the best.
+1 for helping make the world a better place. Thank you.
Congratulations and best of luck on your next endeavor, whatever it ends up being!
Family is important, congrats on your decision and all the best on your new venture. Thanks for building such a life changing product.
It takes a real man to put the needs of his family ahead of his career. Our country needs more men like you.
So today we'll all (rightly) give you kudos, for making the right decision, the hard decision, to care for your family.
And tomorrow, we'll forget about you, and praise men that destroy their families in order to promote their careers.
Leaving the spotlight won't be easy, but it is an important, manly work, that will yield significant rewards. And not just for you, by loving your wife and children, you make the world a little bit better for everyone, in more lasting ways than any Q&A site.
Great work Jeff! Stackoverflow has had a significant impact on the programming community.
I also switched jobs from a 60-80 hr/week gig to a 44 hr/week job in between child #1 and child #2. The extra time with my family was worth far more than the modest pay cut. You won't regret your choice.
All the best and thanks :)
Good for you... This is a decision you won't regret.
Wow. Great job in all you have done, including your latest decision to put people first. I'm a hobby coder but a full-time teacher. As much as I have wanted at times to give up teaching and make more money in software engineering, I have chosen to stay put simply because of all the students I have enrolled.
I hope you know how inspiring your work here has been for guys like me. ;-)
I am 29 and have worked for startups for the majority of my professional career and I can say that for me - the mountain I am climbing is to have enough money and success to be able to relax once I finally do have kids.
I want to get there some day.
Jeff, that is really a brave and inspiring decision you've made.
I've been following your blog, then SO podcasts, being an early member of SO beta and using SO since then, I can tell you like everyone else says, you and the team have made Internet a better place.
At this point in your career, with all the success you've had, you are now off to make your home a better place for your kids and the family.
Very inspiring indeed as a fellow geek, there's a lot to learn from you, as always.
Good luck with your next big thing.
Thank you for the good time, and good luck on your future endeavors. I too have kids and understand what you are going through. Will you continue to blog here?
You are my hero. Thank you for all you gave contributed.
I do not recall the exact quote, but it goes something like this. "To know what is enough is true wealth." (Tao Te Ching)
It is bold to move away from the work you love and for type A people, it is a constant struggle: http://www.obxerve.com/en/topic/work-life-balance/.
I wish you the best.
I've cited your articles in conversation more times than I can remember. StackOverflow changed my life forever, and I appreciate your work and time.
I wish you luck in your future endeavors, both with code and your family.
Thank you for all your work.
Thanks for making the internet a better place.
Enjoy your deserved break, Jeff. And for the next project, bring back Game Basement Radio!
Thanks Jeff. I wish you all the best !!
Congratulations, good luck and thank you for everything!
Nice work. We should all be [or have] parents with such sound priorities.
Thank you for your great work and contribution to the internet. Thanks for being a great example and being willing to spend time with your family. Strong families are what make a strong nation. Look forward to following your future endeavors.
Thanks, Jeff. Enjoy your family. Looking forward to see what you do next.
Best of luck, Jeff, and congratulation on the lady babies!
Nothing but best wishes to you and your family, Jeff! Your work on Stack Overflow has had a tremendous impact on me and those I work with.
I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done with your blog and StackOverflow. You have earned even more respect in my eyes for keeping a proper prioritization in your life.
Best of luck with the family and your new endeavors down the road. The Internet is a better place thanks to you.
I don't even have kids, and I'm not an executive in my huge company, but I've really been questioning the long hours and all-out commitment that it seems to take to be considered successful in software (or anything else for that matter).
There are things I want to do now, while my body is still willing and able.
I completely respect and admire your decision, and I thank you for building such a useful platform for knowledge exchange.
Thanks, Jeff, for all that you've done. I look forward to the sequel.
What an admirable decision. Best coder family guy ever. :-)
Farewell from Stack Exchange, but I am sure we will see you around the internet. Enjoy your kids! They are only young once, and they grow up so fast.
Wishing you and your family all the best.
Thanks for paling Google's search results better! :) The SE sites have definitely changes the daily lives of thousands of people.
I, for one, am happy to hear it, Jeff. I've been along with you on this ride the whole time, and since being one of those people who voted on the poll for the name "StackOverflow", I've missed your interesting, insightful, and relevant blog postings. Here's hoping your new family life allows some time to throw in a post or two now and then!
Thank you for StackOverflow. I don't know how i'd do without it. Best of luck!
Thank you Jeff, Wish you all the best!
Good luck on your new adventure, if you find one. I'd like to thank you for creating SO, which is the only site on the internet that is fun AND helpful. Without it, I won't ever even have understood what OOP is. Thanks for answering all my questions for the past 9 months, wish you all the best and thanks again. You've earned my respect.
1000x thanks for making StackOverflow and helping me and a ton of others escape the dungeon of E-E! SO and SE only worked so well so fast because of your your direction and spirit.