Universal and essential to cytokine receptor signaling, the JAK-STAT pathway is one of the best understood signal transduction cascades. Almost 40 cytokine receptors signal through combinations of four JAK and seven STAT family members, suggesting commonality across the JAK-STAT signaling system. Despite intense study, there remain substantial gaps in understanding how the cascades are activated and regulated. Using the examples of the IL-6 and IL-10 receptors, I will discuss how diverse outcomes in gene expression result from regulatory events that effect the JAK1-STAT3 pathway, common to both receptors. I also consider receptor preferences by different STATs and interpretive problems in the use of STAT-deficient cells and mice. Finally, I consider how the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins regulate the quality and quantity of STAT signals from cytokine receptors. New data suggests that SOCS proteins introduce additional diversity into the JAK-STAT pathway by adjusting the output of activated STATs that alters downstream gene activation.