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
Many thanks for doing what you did, Jeff!
Hopefully you can find some time to blog more? I missed the regular Coding Horror posts while you were off doing Stack Overflow.
Thanks is just a word, yet, apps, servers, desktops and smartphone, all mine, all been supported by stack exchange sites.
Getting the correct answer is one post away, and that is a revolution!
So I will use that word of thank you to express my gratefulness, and wish you the best of time with your kids (old and new altogether ;-)).
While I'm not a Dad, I feel extremely fortunate to have had a Dad who had the forsight to choose a rewarding career compatible with raising a family.
I wish you the best Jeff. And I hope to see your future thoughts on this blog, time permitting of course!
Congratulations on a job well done old friend. Doing what you love does not have to be exclusive of loving the people you love. I found that I work better during the day if I go home at night, and the memories of being with my kids are better than any professional accomplishment. There is nothing better than being there when your kids want to know how something works, or which way to go.
I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
I think it's within reason to say StackOverflow has probably assisted most developers on the planet with an Internet connection at some point or another. I am certainly no exception.
Best of luck with whatever you may try in the future.
Thank you, Jeff. And good luck.
As a young coder, I used to take it for granted that any issues I had I could just check on the internet and I'd find the answer. Of course, a large chunk of these answers were often found on StackOverflow.
It can be too easy to take things for granted, and for too long I took SO for granted and didn't appreciate the huge effort that went into making countless lives easier. Thank you for everything.
Thanks Jeff! Your dream, now a striving community, helps us enormously.
I really hope you will be an example for many of us wasting premium time with our family for less important work stuff.
Thank you for making the Internet better! Best of luck on your new adventure.
Hundreds of thanks for your great work for programming community! All the best and wish you good luck for your next step!
You can be rightly proud of what you produced at StackOverflow/StackExchange. You need to be proud of your "work" with your family too, and it is a good thing that your have the clarity to realise this and that you have the opportunity to do something about it.
I recently also became the father of twins and at the time a really good (in the sense that it would double my already adequate income) career opportunity came along. But, like you, I realised something. What's the point of pulling 80 hour weeks, week-after-week, just to pad out your wallet when your kids are missing one thing they need more. You! Fathers only get one chance at this.
You made a brave choice. I think you made the right choice.
Sometimes it's best just to concentrate on what is important, you have acheived a lot with StackExchange, it take a sensible chap to realise what you have and its a large sacrifice, but I have no doubt you will not regret this and in time go onto other great things.
You are an inspiration to generation of coders/engineers, good luck with your new focus, I am sure it will be more rewarding, but just as hard work.
Jeff, you have totally blown the programming world away with the Stack Q&A sites, I could not imagine life without it now, to achieve that in 4 years is simply incredible, some would say impossible.
Yet having the realisation that your children need you now is all the more bigger achievement, it takes a bigger man to put their family first.
I'm sure there is a life/work balance there for you somewhere, and I expect you will find it in time, but for now enjoy the most important years of your families lives, you can't get that time back, business will take care of itself, but family won't.
As if your respect in the community wasn't already enough I think you just achieved god-like status amongst us all - well done and enjoy your life.
Programming is now faster. Thanks!
Ben Simpkins said
We'll never miss you as much as your children would.
Very well said, poetic actually.
stackexchange is in my utility belt, thank you!
let us know when the voting for new company name begin?
Stack Overflow and other associated Stack Exchange sites have been a boon for N00B programmers. The steep learning curve is no more a challenge, thanks to Stack Overflow.
Thank You for your contribution in making a difference to our lives.
Good luck with your future endeavors.
You did what you set out to do. You made the Internet better. Congratulations on the new additions to your family, and a big thank you from all of us programmers who have benefited from your hard work on Stack Overflow.
What will happen to the podcast ?
Thanks ! Stackoverflow is great ;)
If you are having trouble finding a job, you can go here - http://careers.stackoverflow.com/ !!!
Well done on everything you have done and good luck with the future and what ever it brings! :)
Awesome! Congrats, God Bless, and Best Wishes! Thanks for the contributions that make development a bit easier, fun, and social than it was before. Enjoy your family!
It takes a big person to recognize their limitations and do the right thing in the face of them. It took me a long time to dial my participation back to a reasonable level so I can imagine how hard it would be given your passion to do the same. Thanks for the example of putting what is truly important first. If you're ever back in Iowa City, look me up and we'll have a beer and swap some stories. I'm sure yours will be more interesting.
Good luck in your "best project", Jeff
I commend you sir! You are doing the right thing. I too have chosen a similar path. When I chose to have kids, I also chose them as my priority.
You always inspired me by breaking away from the safety of corporate life and setting up Stack.
You have inspired me even more by doing the human thing, something you will never regret, live long and grow strong.
Thank you. Thank you for stackoverflow and the stackexchange family. Keep up the good work and don't stop blogging.
Good luck in the future, I'll keep my eye's out for the parenthorror.com blog.
Bravo Jeff, I am totally with you on this move. Thank you so very much for helping to bring about a fantastic resource that I rely on every day to get real things done.
Thank you for your post sir. One of the best I have ever read. Thank you the most for your COURAGE. That what it takes to do what you did and it inspired me to stay religious on my mission also of taking care of my two young daughters. Hats off to a class act...
Thank you for SO and SE in general! Enjoy being with your family and when the time comes good luck with your new endeavors.
I made the same decision over a decade ago, to forgo an intensely competitive academic career to spend more time with my young family. My kids are now grown up and my job as a father is done, and I feel like I've enjoyed a level and kind of success that my more career-oriented peers can't even imagine (if they could, they'd be pursuing it!)
There are all kinds of alternative opportunities once we open our eyes to them: I ended up founding and running a scientific consulting company that let me earn a good living and spend far more time with my kids than any conventional career.
Best of luck!
Jeff, Very admirable and wise thing to do. Many have missed this unfortunately and I think you're spot on. Thanks for all you've done for Stack Exchange, especially SO. Please keep up the blogging if possible. Your blogs are entertaining and informative. I always look forward to them.
You will be missed Jeff and Thanks for your immense contribution on helping programmers and developers.
Jeff, shouldn't you let the 10% of the meta users decide this?
Scott, For over half a decade now you have been one of my modern day heroes. For your earnestness, clarity of mission and outstanding results. This act deepens my admiration of you and your life's work. Thank you.
Thank you so much for all your hard work, and for one of my favorite articles on parenthood entitled, well, 'On Parenthood', naturally.
I agree with you 100%. I have so many ideas for side projects, and even just things that I want to learn on my own...but in the end, they mostly get pushed aside because, well, the only way to get it all done is to ignore my family. It's not worth it. It's enough that I have to spend the whole day at a full-time job, the last thing I want to do is then go home and spend my whole evening staring at a computer again, instead of playing with my kids.
Anyone who says they are able to work full time, do multiple side projects and learn a dozen programming languages while still raising 2-3 children is either lying, getting absolutely no sleep, is completely ignoring their children, or they are Scott Hanselman (who admitted, if I remember correctly, that he doesn't go to sleep until 2am most nights).
Anyway, good luck with whatever life will bring you. But, most of all, have fun with your family!
I've learned a bunch from you indirectly just by following Meta. Cheers and thanks for all the fish!
Thank you, Jeff for StackOverflow and best of luck.
I've been following you for years, Jeff, and I shared your excitement with the launch of StackOverflow. I had no doubts that SO would grow to the behemoth it is today. I'm looking forward to seeing your next project, but I'm also proud of you for making the the choice to support your current project: your family.
Good thing StackOverflow was successful enough to give you the option of taking six months off, eh? ;)
Congrats and thanks Jeff. I have a 15 month-old myself and am part of a growing family, so I know what you mean.
I don't normally comment because so many others have. However in case you have time to read all these:
My first thought was, "will Stackexchange survive without him?". Then I thought, "because he's done a good job of building it then of course it will".
Enjoy your new phase of life!
Kudos to you Jeff for leading by example. I've been an avid reader for years, and I'm happy to see you continue to lead into uncharted territory. It sounds like it was a difficult decision, but one I'm sure your family will thank you for later. As well as the internet community. After all - if we have virtual community with each other but no family to speak of, what kind of community are we building?
While I can't begin to judge you without being in your shoes, I must admit I was disappointed to here your reasoning for leaving. I think it sends the message that in order to launch a start-up you need to be a single person in your 20s with no obligations... family people need not apply. I find this sad. I think it would have been a much more productive message if you would have announced that you were limiting your involvement to X hours a week and Y weeks a year and that you were going to work almost exclusively from home. It would have sent a message that balancing work and family is not only important but practical, especially for people in the software business. By quitting completely, it seems to convey that there is no middle ground between crazy 24/7 devotion and non involvement whatsoever, which I don't think is accurate. But despite all this, I wish you well and thank you for what you've added to make software development (and so many other topics) into much more of a community than it was before.
I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me. Even when I know you don't know me at all, you've helped me to become a better programmer. You lent me a hand, some times at ridiculous hours, with the perfect piece of code for the problems I was struggling with, or with the most simple idea that refused to come to my mind for hours.
Thank you for making StackOverflow, you'll always be appreciatted.
(from the remote Argentina)
Thanks for build Internet better.
Good luck on your new life :)
I would like to say thank you for you in Thai.
Thanks for Stack Overflow! Being able to interact and measure up with other coders has made such a difference to me. Especially the downvotes when I thought I was right but wasn't.
Here's a good article in The Guardian. If your family is really the reason you're leaving, the dying agree with you: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying
If you find a good cause that would benefit from donations, mention it on coding horror.
Congratulations, your kids are lucky! Thanks for StackOverflow and the blog.
Thank you Jeff!
We hope to see you again soon as a citizen of http://Parenting.stackexchange.com
Best of wishes to #theladybabies because being a twin is just the best! :):)
Congratulations, Jeff. Godspeed your new adventure!
I always suspected you of being a good guy, Atwood.
Enjoy your time off, Jeff!
I like to thank you as well! Your decision is wise.
I've been a reader of your blog since I discovered the intense discussion of wether or not to use stored procedures, way back in 2004 (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2004/10/who-needs-stored-procedures-anyways.html)
I kept reading your blog and must confess I probably learned more from it, then from all the lessons I took to get my bachelor degree.
You inspired so many of us. And with stackoverflow you gave us something I was missing, when I started coding and only followed your blog. A community that does proove that out there are a lot of people with the same interrests/work as I have. (Imagine, my first coding job was in a company with only 3 people, I was the only one coding for .NET. Your blog was the only light in the dark at that time.)
Therefore I hope you will take up bloging a bit more often again!
(I don't even mind you providing us with links to neardy gadgets on amazoon, from time to time.)
Wish you all the best!
I suspect the real reason you are retiring is so you can spend full time rolling around in your pile of money. But that's cool too, you've earned it. Have fun with it.
Thank you and you are a good dad.
You're my hero. Thanks for everything.
Thank You Jeff for building Stack Overflow and other StackExchange sites! Brilliant work! These are one of the few websites which I routinely keep on visiting.
Looking forward for your next adventure. Best Wishes. :)
Thank you, Jeff, for all your great work on StackOverflow!
I know my comment will mostly just echo what so many others have already said, but I had to say it as well.
You have chosen wisely!
It truly warms my heart after following you pre-parenthood, one-child-parenthood, and recently, overwhelming-parenthood. I was always happy to see little quips from @RockHardAwesome because it meant (to me at least) that you were finding connection with your son.
Your contributions to the internet are well spoken for and deserved. How fortunate your family is to have you to themselves. I'm sure they deserve it as well, as your time must have been stretched quite thin.
I had the chance to meet you briefly at PDC 2008 in the vendor hall for an epic one song game of Rock Band2. You played drums, Phil Haack played guitar, and I sang. It confirmed my impression of you being a playful, lighthearted, big kid and I can only imagine how well that will fit with your 3 little ones.
Keep rockin' the geeky father/developer part!
Dunno, many of us have kids. We spend time with our families and still go to work every morning.
In a functional company (as opposed to a dysfunctional company), it should be possible to find a position that allows for a decent work/life balance and still be involved with SE in one or the other way. I just don't really get why it has to be a full-scale cut.
After all, work/life balance is about work and life.
Jeff, Thanks for this.
One of my biggest problems with my fellow developers has been the naive (and even arrogant) assumption by many that the "devoted passion" could or should be sustained. It has been a source of discouragement to me that our industry demands so much time, and that so many are willing to cost themselves and those around them to give it, because it has made it difficult for equally good devs with family priorities to compete.
I love software development. In my first years I spent as many waking hours as I could in front of a computer learning and writing code. But now I have a wife and four kids, in addition to other people who need my time, and I love them all more. At various times I've gone through much anxiety over not being able to keep up, not stopping to think about whether it mattered whether I kept up like my more "passionate" peers did. Then I realized that my kids didn't care about how much money I was making, or what my professional reputation was, or what cool app I had made, as long as they could eat and stay warm and have Dad around.
So, I've had to redefine what it means to "keep up", and redesign how I do it.
I don't want to waste my short life pushing around bits and bytes. At the end of the day, (flame-on) it's just a job.
Oh, one more thing: If you have a family, and after 40 hrs of Dev work a week all your other time isn't soaked up by the needs of your wife, kids, parents, neighbors, and church (if you have one), then all I can say is,
You aren't doing it right! :)
>> I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.
Bravo!! We'll miss you, but your kids certainly won't! And they won't care that we do. And you will never regret it. Ever.
My opinion of you has always been very high. Today you have proven that it was justified. Godspeed, and all the best to you in your future endeavors.
Give your kids a hug from all of us.
I'm also in love with my software development work. But just like you, I'm a father of three (including twins) and love, and prioritize, my family more. Kudos to you!
Jeff, StackOverflow is something akin Wikipedia for programmers, only much better. You can proudly tell your grandkids how you helped build it. Enjoy your family, bro'.
Hey, thanks dude - enjoy the family.
You've done amazing things with SO/SE. I've also appreciated following your insights over the years on coding in general.
It's good to see a craftsman get to build something awesome, and then get to step away with satisfaction knowing it will stand up without him.
Now? Enjoy life!
i think it's great you do what you feel. For me the most important thing is "No regrets", and failing as a father is something you would definetely regret. We'll be delighted to see what you will do next.
Thank you for SE Jeff. You have saved me countless hours and created some fun too.
It is so fun to talk to new developers when they first discover SO. I recently talked at a university development class and asked what websites people went to for information, SO was the overwhelming favorite. It's incredible what you have built for us all.
Take care of yourself and your family!
Thanks. You've given me many extra hours to spend with my kid. PS Great decision.
I really want to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and your adventure with all of us, although I never make any comment on your blog, I learned a ton from you. Thank you so much for making the Internet a better place!
Jeff, I work at home now and suddenly my kids move out. Go figure.
Anyway you look at it, family is what counts. Rock On!
On another note; I'd like you to present to LiDNUG.org - the 46k member LinkedIn .Net Users Group. I'd also like you to visit Rocket City USA - aka Huntsville, Alabama - for an "In Person" at HUNTUG.org aka HUntsville winders New Technology Users Group.
... but hey, I'll take what I can get.
Connect with me on LI, FB, Twitter or email me using danwygant on yahoo
Congratulations on a great accomplishment with StackExchange and a great decision on putting your family and yourself first. It shouldn't take so much bravery to make a decision like that... but it does.
Thanks also for continuing to write with such openness and authenticity. It's inspiring.
(a fellow newbie father and entrepreneur)
Thanks Jeff for creating such a wonderful q-n-a board that is now being used for a whole wide variety of things: from finance to technology and more.
Family is important, congrats on your decision and all the best on your new venture. Thanks for building such a life changing product..
Nothing to say, just stand up and applaud you. Bravo!
We Mormons have a saying: "No other success can compensate for failure in the home"
It is very true and you have chosen the right path.
But may I say THANK YOU for stackoverflow (and the other stack exchange sites). It has fundamentally changed how I get and share knowledge.
When ever I have a question that does not have a stack exchange site, I am always a bit sad. But if there is a stack exchange site for it, I know a good answer is not far off.
You have made the internet a far better place for programmers and everyone else! Thank you sir!
Well done mate.
There is only one metric to measure yourself against - are you going to leave this world happy.
Making your children happy is a tremendously noble goal and I wish you tonnes of success in it.
It's passion that drives us and you seem to have discovered further passion for life - awesome!
BTW - that little SE thing - it's quite an acheivement too.
Damn.. i feel like mourning.Yet i wish you luck on your latest development..My sincerest Gratitude sir!
Speaking from personal experience, twins are a huge load, and immensely satisfying!!!!!
Thanks Jeff, and I wish you well with wherever your next adventure leads you.
wish you all the best, Jeff!
+1 Enjoy spending time with your kids and thanks for the site!
Thanks for helping internet a better place.
Speaking as someone with a Son who worked until 2am last night, then got up at 7am to get to work, and is now going down to London to present, I completely understand any feelings of working too hard. Enjoy your good fortune to be able to make this decision. I know I would.
Nice post; saved in posts/motiv. :)
Good for you Jeff. Very respectable.
Once again, congratulations to you and your growing family. Thank you for all your hard work on both StackExchange and this blog. Enjoy your time with your family as it will go by in a heartbeat if you blink. I do hope we see you again out here on the web. Until then good sir, Godspeed.
Sincerely, Thank you for posting this. The startup world needs more people making a public example of what true, balanced, success is in this life.
This is the first time I have ever allowed any site to access my FB credentials... didn't want to miss a chance to convey my best wishes... best of luck SIR.
Wishing you best of luck in your life....
A blog on parenting seems like the most natural next step. I anxiously await it, while thanking you for your outstanding and life-changing work at the Stack Exchange. Best of luck, friend.
The internet wouldn't be as good as it is now without you. I hope you enjoy the same powerful clarity of vision and care in all of your future endeavors (inside your home and outside it). Thank you, Jeff.
Indeed, you made the web a better place. I assure you that I rarely "google" my programming questions, usually I "stack overlow" them (patent pending). However, I can't wait to see more projects from you. Godspeed, for now.
May your family will appreciate this.