I'm leaving Crypto.SE indefinitely. (Also the rest of Stack Exchange, but I'm at best a supporting actor in any other scene on this stage.)
I've temporarily withdrawn from SE addiction before. This is different. It's been fun, and I've learned a lot, and I hope you've learned a lot from me too, but our corporate stewards at Stack Exchange, Inc., are evidently aligned with profit, not with community—sustaining a living community is an inconvenient means to that end, not a goal in itself. And I don't want to remain personally invested in what will be just another asset for data and eyeballs to be monetized and traded by private equity firms.
I appreciate the care that the people at Stack Exchange, Inc., have historically put into establishing community and subject-matter focus at the same time, attracting and cultivating real expertise to make a repository of knowledge, unlike the shallow but wide Answers.com and Yahoo! Answers. And I appreciate that Stack Exchange, Inc., has kept it open to everyone, unlike Quora, with Creative Commons licensing, a public (if infrequently updated) archive, pseudonymous contributions, and low barrier to entry.
Originally Stack Exchange was run by the love of a benevolent dictator on modest profits. Early on, though, the benevolent dictator made a Faustian bargain with venture capital, despite prior reluctance. The free money made growth easy, and may have been great for founders who could cash out and walk away. But the benevolent dictator model is unsustainable, and Mephistopheles will come knocking soon enough. And rather than setting up technical, social, and legal barriers to parasitism by the VCs, or working to distribute real governance to the communities, Stack Exchange, Inc., is instead growing increasingly hostile to its communities.
I make five policy demands for Stack Exchange, Inc.:
- Remove mandatory binding arbitration and class action waivers from the terms of service.
- Reject mass surveillance of readers—forbid fingerprinting ads and trackers. Commit to basing any advertising at most on the content of the page being viewed, and particularly not on who is viewing it.
- Reject animated ads.
- Adopt a process for license changes with community input.
- Establish a governance structure by which elected representatives of the community have decision-making power equal to or exceeding the funders. The funders may have provided short-term money, but the community provides the long-term value to the world, and the governance structure should reflect that.
I also ask that, in the short term, Stack Exchange, Inc., reinstate Monica and make amends for throwing her under the bus in the Code of Conduct kerfuffle. Perhaps if the people in charge at Stack Exchange, Inc., make a good-faith effort to reorient themselves as stewards of infrastructure needed by the community, not as agents of capital sucking monetization out of the community, I will return. But for now…
So long, and thanks for all the bones. If you need to find me, well, why would you need to do that? Maybe I will be around conferences or other communities, or maybe not!