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Since 2011 I'm a member of an online community for Animal Crossing players. Sadly many things are changing in gaming world and many of these changes combined with new interests which I have found in the last years are making the majority of gaming communities no longer appealing for me and for this reason I'm quitting almost all of them but local Pokèmon Go groups and a small FB group of Pokèmon fans.

With the majority of them it was easy as leaving a Telegram group but I can't do that in this particular Animal Crossing group for two reasons:

  • There I have a dear friend (I knew her in the community in 2011 and this year I had the occasion to meet her)
  • I'm the only who knows how to code and we're building a new website which involves a lot of JavaScript

The first "problem" was easily solved with a heartfelt conversation with my friend but the second problem keeps pestering me since community directors keeps asking features for the site building a very big backlog.

I'm the only one who can code so even spending hours programming (this week I spent on average 2/3 hours each day programming for them in addition to my fulltime programming job) I'm very slow to fulfill their requests. The backlock keep growing since they are asking at a faster pace than I can build.

I cannot leave before the site is finished since if I leave the project dies for lack of programmers and since I promised to build this site before my decision to leave I don't want to leave keeping a promise unfulfilled. But if I keep following through their requests I'm afraid that the backlog will grow to a years long project when I want to be completely free by February 2020 in order to take my time and energies back and focus on other projects.

After this long explanation the question is: what's the more gentle way to say that I'm leaving in early 2020 so I'm no longer accepting new features proposal and maybe to deal for a reduction of the backlog?

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    I feel that in addition to the Interpersonal Skills question, there is also a Project Management or Software Engineering question in here, although one that has probably already been asked and answered. Basically, you need to do proper project management on this project, like you would in your job as well: have your clients prioritize, attack the tasks in order of priority, and when you leave, then, well you leave a lot of unfinished tasks behind, but you can at least be certain that those unfinished tasks are the least important. – Jörg W Mittag Aug 24 at 18:23
  • Regarding your friendship with that one person; could you stay in touch with her through other channels if you withdraw from that community? That might make that problem easier to tackle. – marcelm Aug 24 at 23:53
  • Are you getting paid for this work? If not would you consider continuing to work on the site if they paid for your services? – Aequitas Aug 26 at 1:10
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    Jörg W Mittag I already know their priorities so I'm attacking the tasks in order of importance (I.E. a cool avatar editor is less important than reply notifications for post comments) marcelm I already said her that she should feel free to contact me on Telegram whenever she wants to talk or arrange "private" game Aequitas In case I get paid I'll keep working but asking is pointless and almost offensive when they barely find 40 yearly euros for domain and cloud VPS Gertsen well said, any eventual disappointment can be taken as a compliment :) – Emiliano S. Aug 26 at 12:22
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    Highly relevant especially: How can I politely tell someone I won't do my job for free? – Anoplexian Aug 26 at 15:00
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what's the more gentle way to say that I'm leaving in early 2020

You say exactly that. Make a post, either on your website or some other site (I've seen similar posts on Twitlonger) that explains what you've said here. That the community has been a wonderful part of your life for almost a decade, but that you just have to move on. It can be short or long, but it has to be unequivocal. Something like:

Friends,

Words cannot express how wonderful it has been to be a part of this community. Over the past X years we've grown from Y to Z members. We've been through N expansions/versions/games together. <-insert anecdote about something relevant to the community->

Unfortunately, times change and all good things must come to an end. Both my work-life and irl personal life are evolving, and I'm finding myself with less and less time to spend with you all.

As many of you know, I've been working on our community website. I am looking for someone to take up the reins on this project after I leave. Given my new work commitments, after January I will no longer be able to take an active development role, and maintaining and building this site will fall to you, the community.

I will be reaching out to a few people about taking over and hope to announce something shortly, but in the meantime if you're interested in getting involved, or know someone who is, please feel free to reach out to me.

All the best,

Emiliano

Best case: someone steps forward and takes over.

Medium case: no one steps up but you get it in a decent shape by February and the lack of development afterwards isn't a big deal.

Worst case: You don't finish, no one steps up, the site isn't great, and the community moves to Discord/Reddit/something else. Tons of communities live on those and do perfectly well. It wouldn't be a tragedy if this happens. A bummer, sure, but if the community wants to stay together they'll be able to.

Regardless, be firm about the February cutoff. They've got nearly 5 months to prepare. You don't have to feel bad about leaving. Don't let anyone bully you into staying. You've been volunteering your time (and potentially money) for the community and they have no right to make you feel bad about that.

As for the message itself, I would personally avoid going into all of your grievances with the changing landscape of online communities. That's a good way to alienate people right when you're looking for them to come together. Just be nice, talk about the good times, and let it go.

edit: To give some context, I haven't been in your position, but I have been in communities (MMO guilds mostly) that have gone through what you're describing, and the biggest points to hit are bringing up the "good times" and giving plenty of warning.

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    Thank you! I'll do what you suggested posting a farewell message this evening. Actually I already communicated my choice to community directors months ago but it seems that everything fell on a deaf ear since they keep asking for new shiny features ignoring that my involvement in the community has a clear expiration date (maybe they believed that it was just an impulsive message) so I'll try to communicate my decision to everyone hoping to convince them that my decision is permanent. – Emiliano S. Aug 23 at 16:58
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    You should also ask either the community or whoever's in charge of the site to prioritize your backlog to just the shiny features they want the most (and can get done in 5 months). – jmathew Aug 24 at 1:59
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    I already did it, the backlog priorities are quite obvious so I'm working following priorities. – Emiliano S. Aug 26 at 12:41
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I've been involved the same way, but IRL. Our community of players was meeting twice a month for several hours, playing all sunday long. I had created the community from scratch, and did all of the job on the website, as I was (and remained for years) the only one who could work on dev. Then came the time to move on, and leave...

What I did then was:

  1. honestly explain everything (why I was leaving: time, new professional project...and so on)
  2. tell them very early that I would leave.
  3. provide them with solutions if needed/possible.

Point #1 : in my case, why I would leave, how sorry I was, lack of time, personal energy bar hitting the very bottom...etc. I first sent a email to our group and posted a message on our forum, telling them that we would discuss this next sunday. In your case, with your words and deadlines: tell the truth, explain, be nice and calm, show empathy, ask for understanding.

Point #2 : in my case, provide them with a 6-months timeline; in your case: ditto. No problemo.

Point #3 : no one could step in and replace me 100%. So I offered them another option for the only things that they weren't able to do by themselves (update of database for standings, meetings and a couple of other things that required dev knowledge), in this case, some google sheets that could be modified and that everybody could see online. They did that.

As a "team leader" for the community, I had more responsabilities that just the website, so we even had time to run elections and have a new board of people taking responsabilities. Honesty and time is just what's needed here, I believe.

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I cannot leave before the site is finished.

I was keen to focus on this comment as I think it is the crux of the issue. The Twitlonger suggestion is great. Somehow communicating your decision to the wider community rather than just to the community leaders and directors is essential as your decision might have been minimised like it sounds like now.

Anyways, focusing on the minimum viable product to get the site published and available is crucial. Identify the barriers and outline the difficulties in getting the site up. Usually there are severe financial or emotional barriers to making a site available, for example they want it to be better than another communities site or they enjoy the development process more than just making the site available your wider community. There may also be territorial issues, as only limited people have access now, those people with access will lose power once the site is generally available and the public and community has access to the information.

I suspect if you are able to tackle the site publication issue quickly, it would be easier to exit faster than how others proposed here. I reckon the dynamics of the situation would change dramatically and provide you a great time to leave. Once sites are published it is much easier to get collaboration and offers from others to provide development work.

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