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programming and human factors

Farewell Stack Exchange

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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Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: