Leaving Quarter to Three (and no longer sponsoring the site)

I apologize if this comes across as a dramatic “I’m leaving post”, so I’ll try to avoid that, but I felt some things needed to be explained before I go.

This is a story in two parts: a success, and a failure.


To the extent that I have lobbied for Quarter To Three to update to modern forum software I think that part has succeeded wildly 🎉.

  • I’ve financially supported the forums to the tune of $24k (two years), plus covered the original migration effort, monthly hosting, CDN, and email costs. And I was happy to do so, as the qt3 forums have been a part of my life for almost two decades – and partially inspired the Discourse project itself!

  • So many rounds of your community feedback have been incorporated into Discourse, from user defined color schemes, to the “last visit” line, to live reply indicators, and so on. It’s all documented in the original transition topic. We worked hard on this, we continue to work hard on this, and we’ll even eventually get to Ignore, I promise.

  • With the Amazon Affiliates plugin, plus the Patreon integration, Tom has a way to make a reasonable living that doesn’t bombard people with mostly ineffective and adblocked display ads.

  • The forum is now on high quality, living breathing open source software that is updated frequently and very likely to not just survive, but thrive.

To be clear, nobody owes me a goddamn thing for any of this. The whole point of Discourse is freedom – that communities should collectively own themselves, not be owned by others. That is why Discourse itself is, and will always be, 100% open source and freely distributable, so nobody is beholden to any company for the privilege of operating a community, and you can always upgrade to the latest version of Discourse for free, forever.


One of the reasons I was comfortable “investing” a tidy sum in the qt3 forums is because I felt they had a future – a core backbone of really interesting regulars who I enjoyed interacting with, and who I thought produced some very high quality posts on the regular. Quality people, quality content – just add some better, modern software to the mix and hot damn, this is a place we could all keep coming back to and even growing, into 2030! Awesome! 🙏

But how do communities survive over decades?

I think to understand community survival, you have to look at the major problems, the actual events that broke up communities. I wasn’t really around for the old 2011 forum schismpastebin copy here, so you don’t need to log in to read it … but even after the fact, I felt it was deeply unfortunate that the community had fragmented so badly as a result of that event. It’s true that a handful of those people I wasn’t sad to see leave, but there were a bunch who got caught up in that event that I did miss, who were reliable contributors in the past. Could better forum software have somehow prevented this schism?

The more I dug into it, the more I researched, the more it became clear that the root cause of that debacle was the unilateral decision making of one moderator / site owner acting alone. I’ve seen a similar effect on another early (and still active) Discourse site, where the site owner essentially went rogue and started arbitrarily chopping people’s heads off in the community with permabans. To be clear, it was completely within his rights to do this… but the community never really recovered from that event. And in fact it still hasn’t. It limps along, but as a shell of its former self.

In the end, even using our own software, I was forced to conclude that no forum software, however amazing, can save any community from the bad decisions of a single site owner acting alone. It is literally impossible.

I do not mean, and it is not my intent, to single Tom out here. Everyone has bad days, everyone makes mistakes, and for that matter not all of us have dispositions that are conducive to moderation duties, myself absolutely included. I think any forum where a single owner / admin calls all the shots is deeply unhealthy and prone to all the exact same problems. No software can save you. It’s only a matter of time with the “one man’s law is absolute” setup until the next community schism.

So part of the investment effort here at qt3 was to elevate @Telefrog and @stusser into trusted lieutenants that are Tom’s peers – because a) first of all, these guys are awesome, I am a big fan of both of them and b) without consensus moderation, we’ll slip right back into the old destructive moderation patterns that fragmented the community in the past.

I am sad to report that to the extent that I have lobbied for Quarter to Three to become a community that’s moderated by a group of moderators making decisions collaboratively together, I have failed utterly and completely. There are effectively zero cases (perhaps outside of obvious spam) where moderation is carried out without Tom’s express permission, and the rare times it does happen are quickly met by behind the scenes staff category posts chastizing them for taking whatever action they took. Maybe this is my fault. I have an aggressive style of pushing people toward a goal; perhaps I could have been more successful with a gentler, more subtler “behind the scenes” style of negotiation, and that’s on me.

Regardless, whatever the reason, I have failed in this task.

Sure, moderation is trivial when there aren’t any real problems. That’s easy mode. It’s barely worth discussing. But when those rare problems do occur in the community, tough calls need to be made. And those tough decisions made in time of crisis represent the truest nature of your community leadership, what you really believe and stand for. And recent events have made it abundantly clear, crystal clear, as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer …

… that when tough calls need to be made, it will be the unilateral and capricious decision of one site owner, without any input from the community, much less any fellow peer moderators … exactly like it was in 2011.

And that, sadly, is something that I cannot in good conscience continue to be associated with. If the site owner is unwilling to make any meaningful moderation decisions collaboratively, or to take on the emotional labor necessary to ensure continued survival of a community … then there’s no future in that community.

At least not for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time here, and I was (and am) happy to contribute what I could towards this community’s future survival, both in content, support, and otherwise … but that time must regretfully come to an end now. Please anonymize my account as soon as you can @tomchick (or if you’ll allow them to, @stusser, or @telefrog).

So long, and thanks for all the 🐟

I don’t understand :(

I’ll miss having you around, Wumpus, and I hope you return someday. May you always have the wind in your sails.

This sucks. :/ Sad to see you go.
I hope in time you reconsider.

Should further say I’m confused, don’t want you to leave, and hope you come back.

This means Qualcomm wins, right?

Anyway, no need to be so dramatic, it’s just an internet forum. You’re welcome if you want to return.


Does this mean we can go back to vBulletin?

I couldn’t imagine going back to vbulletin. It feels like the bronze age when I visit vb sites.

Sorry to see you go, and I, among others I’m sure, appreciate all the work you’ve done here.

I feel as though you’re chasing a utopian dream … sure, a site where a single moderator reigns can end up being a bad environment, but that doesn’t mean a site with a lot of moderators is necessarily better. You think Reddit is a shining paragon of moderation? As in many areas of life, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

I hope you find what you’re looking for… maybe you’ll have to found a site to get it!

Ha ha ha, hey guys, you’re all idiots and also watch me kick Tom in the nuts on my way out the door.

I was j/k anyway

I just thought “I’m not going to do a dramatic ‘I’m leaving’ post” and then proceeding to write a 1200-ish-word dramatic “I’m leaving” post was pretty funny.

Pretty much that.

I swear to create a Google News alert for ‘qualcomm’ and continue to compare new Qualcomm releases to Apple processors in JavaScript benchmarks. Someone has to.

You can love something or someone for who they are or who you think that they could become.

The latter ends in heartbreak nearly every time.

Awe man, we are losing a really good forum member imho.
Take care @wumpus , and I’ll never forget the awesome router you sold me for like $20.

I’m not going anywhere, but I agree w/ Wumpus’ point.

I appreciate Tom’s sincerity and thoughtfulness, but it’s an unsurprising shame that his accommodation of an obvious troll who continues to ruin thread after thread w/ circular logic BS and disingenuous discourse resulted in someone else leaving.

Sadly, spot on.

Despite the fact wumpus is a grumpy bastard much of the time, it’s a depressing to see him leave instead of someone who should have been banned.

As a fan of history, I must say some cool stuff was done in the bronze age…

It’s quite stunning, looking in on Amercian politics from the outside and seeing how divided America seems to be right now. The levels of anger and intolerance from both sides is in my view unprecedented.

Farewell, wumpus. I hope the rest of your life goes well.

Seeya man. You are good egg. I actually thought about doing the same yesterday after seeing the troll was staying.

Yeah :( He may not be the last. Which is a real shame. Its just a bad scene all around.