As everyone knows, StackOverflow founders, Joel and Jeff have recently received mysterious VC funding that should help to support StackExchange platform and the Trilogy sites.
Meta had a number of threads where people tried to guess, jokingly and seriously, what kind of dirty trick the Trilogy crowd will encounter. As far as I remember, none of the guesses were unobvious. But the dirt wasn't novel either.
Defense of the Ancients and the "Clan DCE" affair
When I was at my first year in the university (that was five years ago), and didn't have enough time and money to have a good entertainment, I played online computer games. One of them, which I sometimes play even now, was Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a Warcraft III modification (but virtually it was a separate game implemented as just a map for Warcraft). Five players on each side, two-hour battle and a lot of fun and adrenaline.
This game has one peculiarity. It requires ten people to pay continuous attention to the game that lasts two hours. This means that if a player leaves the game, it is virtually ruined. However, it doesn't affect the status of that player in any way, so he could join another game and keep ruining them, destroying all the fun.
No wonder that the most crucial long-term goal was to find or create a good community, where each member respects others and doesn't spoil anything. That was achieved by rating systems, such as "Dota-league", and private channels (such as "Clan DCE", which gathered around a professional dota clan).
I participated in "Clan DCE", was a player of moderate skills, but I never ruined games by leaving. In fact, I even sometimes was late for university studies because I had to keep playing. But as that community grew, it became full of incompetent leavers, and the clan heads made a decision.
The decision was, exile everyone except the players "with invites" (which was effectively a randomly selected 20% of the community) and don't allow anyone in without two vouches from insiders. So most of the people who invested their time into building the community were exiled and didn't have a chance to return. That was a tough lesson of my Internet life, and now I pick communities to join way more carefully. The lesson was that those who own the platform own the community. Literally own. And can do everything they wish, regardless of what other think, and people have little to do with it.
StackExchange 1.0StackOverflow, as any kind of such a site, is only successful if it has a strong community. When I was joining StackOverflow, I paid special attention to how the community is formed. It became apparent that community leaders and platform owners are separate people (due to what I saw on meta). Later I realized that SO is a jewel in Jeff's crown, and it won't do any harm to it ever. So I relaxed and didn't think much about it.
StackExchange is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) "make-stackoverflow-like-site" platform. It was bought by about 200 people, and even if they fell suspicious about buying a SaaS, Jeff's and Joel's reputation, I suppose, made them not bother about it. These guys built the communities, published their own ads... and some succeeded! But then VC funding came into play.
StackExchange 2.0 has a very hypocritical introduction blog post. I'll summarize it briefly:
- StackExchange will not require any monthly payments!!!!1 LOVE US, GUYS! (and we hope you won't read the rest of blog post)
- Opening a StackExchange site will be more like a game, not just a pay-to-get process. LOVE US EVEN MORE! (we know you like games)
- All unsuccessful StackExchange sites will be purged.
- All your
basessuccessful StackExchange sites arebelong to us. We will now get revenue from the ads. No matter that this revenue only exist because the current owners created and parented the community -- it's all ours now.
And if the community owners will try to move to another website (and some alternative stackexchange clones have already announced migration services), not many people will follow them, I suppose. Because why bother?. A current site is stil running, and is still free, so why bother moving anywhere?
There already is a thread with critics on StackExchange 2.0.
The critics summarize to "you're cutting admins off", which is unfair, and leaves the sites headless, run by bureaucratic committees instead of committed individuals. And, of course, taking their ad revenue, and, most important, what they bred.
The "stolen sites are still free" is Robin Hood-ish of sorts. For me it's plain simple: if it's a Robin Hood stealing, it's still a theft. But many people don't think that way, and they have other values. So, competing with a free site with full-blown support by platform owners will be incomprehensibly hard for those who really were the creators of the communities.
I bet just a few sites will even try to migrate, and the communities, torn apart, will survive in those parts that didn't move anywhere. Though, only time will tell.
Perhaps, it's not that bad. A quick whois querying shows that domain names seem to belong to the real owners of the sites, so if they just migrate to open source platform, they'll still have everything. Bu that domain name stuff is really out of my competence.
But anyway, I think that VC funding won. They developed a neat model to steal stuff from the people who created it, and they seem to gain support for a scenario "we will steal best of you, and destroy others". In Real Life that's generally called "marauding". And Internet Life teaches the same lesson again. Those who own the platform own the community.
And another lesson: Software-as-a-Service model, even before it became popular, already shows its evil grin: it's not you who own the software and tell it what to do, it's software owners who tell you what to do. Sad that it happened with the most open community I ever encountered.
Author Paul Shved
Modified April 19, 2010
License CC BY-SA 3.0