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The web3 space is a fast-growing sector of the technology industry. We continue to hear about new blockchain or cryptocurrency-based technology that could change the way things are done. Before I joined Stack Overflow, I was heavily involved in web3, running communities, and consulting other organizations. I still keep tabs on it and stay up to date on the space. As a community management team, we want to make sure that the Stack Exchange Network can be a place where people come to get their questions answered on the subject.

The fine print: communities centered around individual cryptocurrencies, blockchain, or web3 sites tend to be unsustainable.

We are disallowing new proposals for individual cryptocurrency, blockchain, or web3-type sites. This does not apply to any proposals already on Area 51 as of this post, which can continue through the process as normal.

Most cryptocurrency, blockchain, and web3 topics on the Stack Exchange network garner low engagement, and have low activity. Some developer communities have managed to build up modest followings and engagement, which is excellent. However, activity can be hype-driven. This means engagement starts or picks up with a news cycle and then dies off quickly. As anyone in web3 knows, attention by developers, communities, and interested parties can shift rapidly. Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network was designed to foster healthy, long lasting communities. Topics that attract attention during a hype cycle and are abandoned quickly do not contribute to healthy communities. As attention in web3 shifts to new or better technologies, the old ones get left behind – quickly. We would like to avoid a scenario where we have multiple sites devoted to web3 technologies with dwindling communities and little to no engagement.

We are not shutting the door on crypto and blockchain technologies. In fact, we encourage proposals inclusive of all crypto and blockchain technologies.

As a community management team, we want to give these upcoming technologies the best chance to succeed on the network, regardless of whether they end up being short-lived or mainstays on the network. Moving forward we are instead only allowing people to commit proposals that are centered around all of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. We will make sure that any potential changes to existing web3 sites’ scopes are discussed with the affected communities before making any changes to them.

Have any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions? Let us know.

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    Finally! Now if you'd just merge the existing crypto sites together, letting tags do their job...
    – Cody Gray
    Mar 25 at 3:54
  • That crypto proposal has a lot of work left to do for just 1 month. Not as organized as the Solana or Cardano proposals were, for example. Mar 25 at 12:34
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    @CodyGray Maybe someday. Inevitably some of these technologies will be winners/losers and it might sense to merge them all under one roof.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Mar 25 at 14:57
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    @NikeDattani Yeah, the reference to that particular proposal isn't necessarily an endorsement, just an example that any future proposals will need to look something like that.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Mar 25 at 14:58
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    @NikeDattani Technically speaking, it should have been closed because it does not list an existing community, just states "we have one." But our mistake in not paying attention to it early on. I don't expect it to succeed given it doesn't appear to actually have any community behind it.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Mar 25 at 15:03
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    How do you compare this stance to the different "language" stackexchange communities which are present today? Or why would there be any programming stackexchanges and not push everyone to stackoverflow? Mar 25 at 16:55
  • Crypto is changing the world we know it in many disparate areas from art to finance. Trying to lump it all into one bucket isn't going to work very well.
    – Squirrel
    Mar 26 at 9:35
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    A lot of claims that different cryptocurrencies can't and won't work in the same SE site. Experience in different programming languages, employment industries, sport codes, culinary styles, and just about every other field demonstrate that this is nonsense. If some sects can't get along with others, that is their problem to fix, not Stack Exchange's.
    – Nij
    Mar 27 at 0:07
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    In fact, even actual religious sects get along just fine on Stack Exchange. There are relatively strong communities on all of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism. They work because they adhere to the same basic idea of being a Stack Exchange site, not another free-for-all forum.
    – Nij
    Mar 27 at 9:57
  • I am a bit confused the, and wonder why then there are separate communities for various religions, not just one religion SE community, that uses tags to filer based on faith? stackexchange.com/sites#culturerecreation Why is web3 intrinsically different, putting aside judgments on how "valid" it is for one group over the other to have distinct groups? Mar 28 at 16:42
  • This seems to be shutting doors to developer communities rather than finding new homes for them. I understand that SE's goal is to help users solve real and meaningful problems at scale, but I think optimizing for scale in the context of blockchain development will ruin any hope for these new communities to be built around real, meaningful problems. The proposed questions here are already a testament to that. Mar 28 at 17:34
  • @SachaLansky, small blockchain sites just aren't working. Of the nine long-running blockchain sites, seven of them are in the bottom quarter for visits (less than 250 visits/day) and six are in the bottom quarter for questions per day (less than 1 question/day).
    – Mark
    yesterday

3 Answers 3

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As a former moderator of Ethereum Stack Exchange and a software engineer, I welcome this step. Blockchains are technology, but this does not necessarily mean it creates a large enough developer community.

Many projects only center around building applications for these platforms or integrating their main library into someone's application. Not many of them are actually providing enough substance to build something with their technology, and this is not enough to cater to a stand-alone Stack Exchange site.

However, I would also be cautious about the following statement.

We are not shutting the door on crypto and blockchain technologies. In fact, we encourage proposals inclusive of all crypto and blockchain technologies.

It is crucial to distinguish between platform and technology. Bitcoin is a platform, but Ethereum is a technology. Monero is a platform, but Substrate is a technology. EOS, Tezos, Stellar, IOTA, Cardano, and Solana are all platforms, not technologies.

Out of all crypto-currency, blockchain, and web3 sites on the Stack Exchange network, I believe -- and I'm saying that as a developer -- only the following deserve their particular Q&A site:

  • Bitcoin - due to its size and historical relevance
  • Ethereum - as the EVM and Solidity are used far beyond a single platform
  • Substrate - because it's a technology agnostic to any existing platform

Should they be merged, though? Not at all! Many generalized cryptocurrency and blockchain Stack Exchange sites were discussed, proposed, and failed. One recent attempt that already failed is linked in the original announcement above.

Suppose someone now proposes to "merge the existing crypto sites together, letting tags do their job", to quote the highest-voted comment. In that case, this will actually damage the Q&A sites by losing their community profile. Proposing to merge Bitcoin and Ethereum just because both are blockchains is like suggesting to incorporate Raspberry Pi and Arduino because they are both single-board computers. Will tags do the job? Certainly not.

While I applaud rejecting new platforms without any substance for nurturing a developer community, I would ask everyone to be careful overly simplifying blockchain technologies as if they were all one and the same. They are not.

And today, after almost 7 years, I'm happy with how constructive and healthy the Ethereum Stack Exchange site is, and I wish the Substrate community, who totally deserves their own Q&A site, all the best with their beta!

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Given this, what is the appropriate place to discuss general web3 questions? I couldn't find a web3 Stack Exchange. Thank you!

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My opinion is that this is not a well thought out decision and one that is not really in tune with the reality of the Web3, Blockchain, or Cryptocurrency space.

Competition

One thing to see is that many blockchains are thought of as competitors to one another. Most people in the blockchain ecosystem are good people, but unfortunately it is usually the small minority of extreme individuals who make the most noise.

Placing all of these different, and often competing ecosystems into one bucket will, in my opinion, lead to a disaster. You will have people responding to individuals saying:

  • "don't use X, use my platform Y instead"
  • "you can't do X there, but we programmed X on our platform a year ago"

Even people downvoting en masse to new and developing blockchain communities is likely to happen.

One of the important parts of building a StackExchange community is bringing together people who are collectively trying to work together and help one another, and I am afraid that in the context of blockchain, you are basically creating a "battle royal" arena.

Technology

While it is completely reasonable for outsiders to look at blockchain and web3 technologies as all being similar, this could not be further from the truth in many ways.

Let's take a simple example:

In the blockchain world, a new "technology" has started to really pick up which is "Proof-of-Stake" (PoS). This is an alternative to "Proof-of-Work" which has had many criticisms for being wasteful of energy.

As an outsider, it can be easy to say:

"Just make a tag for [proof-of-stake] and let those conversations happen."

But the truth is that something like PoS is completely different technologies, implementations, everything from protocol to protocol. The words "proof of stake" just mean some algorithm that uses a users funds as an economical incentive to back their activity. You can imagine that under the covers, this can be designed a million different ways. This is quite different than "Proof-of-Work", which really only has one flavor of using a hash function.

There are many more examples of where terminology means completely different things in the different contexts of these different ecosystems.

  • Consensus
  • Transactions
  • Oracles
  • Bridging
  • etc...

Conversations within one giant super-community will lead to confusion to those looking for answers about a specific ecosystem, and will likely lead to poor questions and answers from that community.

For example, you can already imagine the first comment of every new post being "For which blockchain are you asking about?"

Community

It seems to me if this is the direction StackExchange is going, then it is not unreasonable to question why we have multiple communities at all?

If "tags" are the answer, why not just move all communities to StackOverflow with the appropriate tags for their needs.

I think the answer is that we know that this is not successful. That people feel at home when they are surrounded by people in their community, and engagement directly results from that.

It feels to me you are trying to solve multiple problems with this one sweeping change:

  1. The problem of gaming the process to build a community.

    We know that community proposals like Solana leave a sour taste in the mouths of the StackExchange staff. However, punishing all blockchain ecosystem projects for their behavior seems extremely unfair. It seems you already have the tooling and ability to detect when communities are gaming the process, and you should act as you did to close those proposals down. However, not all communities share this behavior.

  2. The problem of communities dying and fading.

    This looks like a WIDESPREAD issue with the entire StackExchange platform. While you have communities like Bitcoin and Ethereum which are thriving today, many other of your communities (especially those outside the blockchain space) are completely dead. I could provide a list here in this post, but I am sure you can just click the links of communities here. It seems to me you all need to define a process for cleaning up these dead sites, and then hold all communities (including blockchain communities) to those standards.

    Your solution of merging all communities together to get an "aggregated amount of participation" is really missing everything about what makes StackExchange good, and is why it seems there were in the past so many different communities opened about what could be considered "related" spaces.

  3. The lack of clarity of success of communities.

    In my recent conversations with moderators and staff in StackExchange, a repeating thread I am seeing is "this is part of the old process", "this is out of date information", "these are old statistic", "these are old email templates".

    It seems to me that before you start applying a heavy hand onto community development as this post suggests, you should at least publicly update how you view and treat the community development process. You cannot expect to be understood by the community when there are an endless number of completely dead "language" StackExchanges:

    enter image description here

    But now you have taken a stance to aggregate all blockchain communities.

    This post, seems to highlight the bias that was placed on the Substrate community, which launched at the same time as the Proof Assistants community, and has arguably much better community engagement and statistics, however only one of these communities was threatened with closure.

    Until you all express publicly the changes to policy and expectations that is clearly happening, I don't see how you can say that you are treating community development fairly.

Enforcement

Finally, a broad policy like the one outlined here is completely broken when you actually try to enforce it.

Is a community about LibP2P part of this filter?

If so, then how about BitTorrent?

If not, then how about FileCoin or IPFS, products from the same company that built LibP2P.

It feels to me the trend on the moderator and staff side has been to make huge assumptions about communities you do not know about. Instead of being stewards of community development, you have instead injected your opinions about communities you do not know about, and are applying your own opinions into how these communities should be formed. A simple example of this was the modification of the community description that happened with the Substrate proposal, as if the moderator/staff understood better than us how to describe our community.


It feels to me that there has been some kind of "management shift" that has happened in the background here at the StackExchange company, and that a lot of what made this company the GO TO place for technology communication has been lost somewhere in the sauce.

It seems to me that you all are taking simple shortcuts to solve problems that require real work, and by doing so, are affecting communities that look to this site as an outlet to build a home.

It makes me sad, but also reminds me why we are building decentralized technologies to begin with.

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    Regarding competition: that is simply not a valid reason to have separate sites. If the communities cannot get along in such a fashion, then our network is simply not the correct place for them to be. We had this problem with the Islam site early on too, where they were wanting to split the site based on the two major denominations. We told them no and that if they could not get along, we would just shut the site down entirely. It's certainly not a factor we will ever consider in determining whether sites should be split up. Our stance is play nice or don't play at all.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Mar 25 at 18:00
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    My point is this rule is forcing disparate communities to be in the same pool, and that your team is not in tune with the overall "blockchain world", such that you are making an assumption about how different teams and communities should behave together. You seem to be saying that if the "board game" and "japanese language" community couldn't get along, that neither of them should exist on here. However, you are assuming to begin with that they should even be in the same StackExchange. No one is going around sabotaging others, but when you put people into a pot, they will mix. Mar 25 at 18:31
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    Yes, they will mix. And sometimes that results in something remarkable, as disparate groups merge and do things. I would also like to point out that we're not simply making a statement and disappearing into the ether - rather, we're actively investigating potential solutions that could work for this. More on that to come.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Mar 28 at 4:10
  • @animuson: In this context it's not about playing nice vs. not. It’s a matter of keeping topics specific and accurate for the developers learning and teaching them. And the categorization of these topics should respect their intricacies, which in blockchain development are implementation specific, have their own paradigms and tech stacks. Communities form - and grow stronger - around the different technologies they adhere to, not ideologies. Mar 28 at 17:08
  • @SachaLansky Still, that argument is like saying Stack Overflow should be split into separate sites because each programming language has very different technology and use. There, we have many people ask questions about very different technologies and they all get along together on the same site. Jul 29 at 5:19

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