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.
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Posted by Jeff Atwood
Thank you Jeff, and good choice.
The passage I have gone from, since those early days of following the building StackOverflow, has been incredibly inspired by your work. Particularly the podcast which I followed every week. I've managed to go from project manager to half coder / half business owner since then. I've worked with Google and other amazing companies, and I simply would not have got to where I am today without you (and Joel) for inspiration. I now hope to continue to build my company and maintain your pragmatic views on as many things as possible (Do you remember a question about this http://stackoverflow.com/questions/204572/ on the podcast? very exciting to hear you discuss the problem!)
I also deeply respect your decision about taking things easier. In the last 6 months I had, been putting in 90-120(once) hours a week, and it was an absurd way to live. I was in a position where I took on too much work, but it is hard not to when starting a business and getting cashflow going. I did some amazing work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U5Pv7D43qA which was my dream to be a part of (digital art).
However my personal life has taken a beating, and I can't help but think I could have done things differently if I hadn't pushed so hard. It's difficult when your in the mode to see, especially if you get on a role of overwork.
I hope others can learn from your example, and achieve a good balance, however hard that is to do.
Enjoy your new life.
Thanks, Jeff. I hope you will find the time to continue posting insightful commentary to codinghorror.com, which I thoroughly enjoy reading. You are a true asset to the community.
I do hope you get immense impact that StackOverflow / StackExchange has made. Thanks for the contribution and community!! And for me the support I get as a developer and bioinformatics guy (yeah, you can even ask R/BioConductor question and get an answer!!). All the best in whatever is next.
Good job on the design of Stack Exchange, most notably the Area 51 setup for adding new sites. Very, very cool. I'm a game designer, and I know how hard it is to get people to do what you want in your system.
Nice work, I salute you !
I use Stack Overflow pretty much everyday and would be a bit lost without it, and am hugely grateful.
On the other hand, I have never really had the drive for a start up or to put the super hours and extra hard work in. I like to think I've got a reasonable balance though. I work around 40 - 45 hours a week tops and am lucky enough to live within 20 mins drive (45 mins cycle) of work. I had kids later in life (I'm 45 now with a 2 year old and a 4 year old) and I came to the same conclusion as you - that I would be cheating my kids if I was always at work.
Sure it would be great to have more money and more shiny things and separate bedrooms for the kids and better holidays etc. etc. etc. but, at the end of the day (apart from it getting dark), there is more to life than money and work. My kids would rather have Dad at home playing with them than Dad at work and bigger, better toys and a bigger better house to play with them in.....
Thanks a lot for everything you have done for SO, SE and the people using it. You have made the internet a better place indeed!
Enjoy the time with your family and good luck for your next adventures.
Thank you for the amazing community of StackOverflow you gave us. It completely changed my life and the way I approach programming.
Great work Jeff, your hard work and ideas have helped me out of some scrapes! Good luck with the kids!
Thank you Jeff. You are a noble man for leaving work for children :) All the best and I look forward to hearing about your new ventures.
Jeff, thank you for StackOverflow, this blog and the very entertaining and informative podcasts with Joel. You have made positive impact on many lives.
Interesting that the death of Steve Jobs inspired you to call it a day, and for me to get started.
I bet this has been said but... Did you know you've made it damn near impossible to search out a real "Stack Overflow Error". Try it and see.
Hope you keep up the blog, even if only occasionally.
I got to be a stay-at-home dad for two tiring/wondrous/frustrating/joyous years.
For me, striking a work-family balance has always been difficult, but even having the chance for stay-at-home is rare for most.
I wish you luck and look forward to more blog discussions here on codinghorror.
I was able to find and build a team of great developers because you.
There are probably more comments on this post than you can possibly read. I wish you the best. Your blog and words of wisdom is relevant as much as StackExchange. I hope you keep up the quality blogging!
Much thanks on your awesome contributions to the lives of developers everywhere.
"I'll be damned if we didn't change our little corner of the Internet for the better".
All of my developer friends don't "google" coding questions anymore, they "stackoverflow" them.
Thanks again for everything you've given the community.
Say hi to your family for me :)
Well done Jeff!
None of us can tell what the future holds but I believe that it's important to follow your heart. Part of growing up (for me at least) has been discovering what I'm willing to do and what I'm not. I might not end up the richest person in the world, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my family at the alter of Entrepreneurism. It might feel difficult to walk away from a gem like StackExchange, but keep in mind that you're taking the real gem with you: your life experiences. No one can take that away from you. When you're ready to start your next adventure, life will provide.
Thanks a lot for Stackoverflow. It's made a big difference in my life as well. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
You reinvented the Q&A format. That is quite an achievement. It must be tough to walk away from something like that, but I'm sure you will look back on it as the right decision. Best wishes for your next venture.
You're awesome! That's all I can say.
Speaking as a Mom and Wife - I applaud your decision to embrace *all* of life, not just the passion that comes with work you love. ;-)
I am surprised nobody has pointed out what twaddle this is? He had a complex financial investment from a bunch of investors and got shunted out because he didn’t maintain majority control of his company, simples. Everything else is PR likely to be tied into a financial agreement to protect the brand image.
Either way, you did a cracking job with the sites Jeff, don't let this get you down.
Thank you for your work on StackOverflow, and thank you for the great example you are to all developers. You made the right choice, and it's awesome that you have your priorities straight. Your family is very blessed.
If only you could ban all the elitest pricks who nag people on irrelevant or esoteric facets instead of answering questions.
Thanks Jeff.... Wish you all the best
hi Jeff,I'm a co-founder of a technology startup in china,thanks for bring this incredible community for all the programmers.wish you have wonderfull future!
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I read maybe 10 of your blog posts and found them interesting before I realized you were the creator of StackOverflow. I found that interesting. I keep finding new StackExchanges that fit my needs. Oh how you were right about forums being horrible places for information. I used them and even ran some in high school for years, but for the past few years any time I wanted detailed information and forum results came up on Google I groaned. Thank you for StackExchange. I started with StackOverflow, then connected to Gaming, now just signed up for Unix and perused the list of other sites in the network. Some of them are just begging for me to join. Social network for the antisocial indeed.
Love your blog too, by the way. I'm a novice programmer and I have changed my mentality from "Oh crap look at all these geniuses better at this than me" to "Always get better" partially through perusing blogs such as yours. They're great resources from a philosophical and practical standpoint.
Bravo! And good luck ahead.
Thanks for your work on StackOverflow, et al. You won't regret this move though. Taking care of your family is so much more important than taking care of this mass of programmers.
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Awesome post! I enjoyed it and like to share with my other friends.
First of all - you and Joel Spolsky have created something quite special, thank you! Given the time that's passed by since you made this decision I'm curious as to what your opinion is on the decision that you took... Do you miss being part of the daily grind?
Thanks for everything and greetings to your family :D
Best of luck Jeff.
Can't thank you enough for your contribution.
Best of luck to you and your family.
Just want to say thanks for what you have created, but more for what you have shown can be done. I am a great believer that we can rule ourselves. And you let us.
Now employers need to start realizing people have lives and to quit slaving them to death. I truly resent employers who don't care about their worker's lives and don't truly provide a work-life balance and run people into the ground with long hours. Sure we all have to make money, but you can't just neglect people's lives. Let people work from home, leave early, or give extra vacation. It's only gonna revive your workforce and refresh them and benefit your business overall as well as benefit them and their families.
This blog post allows only flat discussions: Comments of Articles. And the way I see it Stack Exchange allows only flat discussions too. Comments of Questions and Comments of Answers. It just feels different because multiple commented entities are displayed on a single page.