The last weeks and days have seen some erratic behaviour by Stack Exchange Inc., such as likely illegal changes to the content license and the firing of an upstanding community moderator with no explanation except copy-pasted responses, leaving many to believe it was for no good reason. It would be nice if those just were examples of ill judgement, but the disturbing alternative is that SE has given up on cooperating with the community.
An increasing rate of incomprehensible actions
There's a long history of Stack Exchange alienating more engaged community members, and I know many that have already left as a result. That neglectful approach is regrettable, but not outright malicious. This seems to have changed for the worse.
On September 5th, SE announced without prior discussion that the content license was being retroactively changed. Even though that change might be desirable, it was widely questioned as being illegal. It took three weeks to get any response from SE, and even that doesn't address any concerns the community raised.
On September 27th, SE fired community moderator Monica Cellio from all sites for... I'm not really sure, since I'm not a mod, but it seems to have been over an unrelated disagreement. De-modding isn't a proportional response to disagreements and goes against Stack Exchange principles. This is extremely concerning: is disagreement no longer allowed? Does SE now demand unquestioning loyalty from community mods? This is really odd, since Monica was otherwise known for being a prolific and reasonable moderator. (Update: a community-maintained neutral accounting of events has been created in the meanwhile.)
The following mods have been fired or resigned in protest or disappointment over the way this was handled:
fired: Monica Cellio on Judaism, The Workplace, Worldbuilding, Writing, Beer Wine & Spirits, and Meta Stack Exchange (provides background) (later announced that she will no longer participate on the SE network)
resigned: Gilles on Computer Science, French, and Emacs (provides background)
resigned: Snow on The Workplace, requested reinstatement, confirmed reinstated by SE, resigned again November 15, unrelated to any one specific event. Subsequently deleted all Stack Exchange accounts, see Meta answer for details.
resigned: Jane S on The Workplace
resigned: Dennis on Code Golf
resigned: Robert Harvey on Software Engineering and Stack Overflow; later also temporarily suspended on main meta for a week, then again suspended for a year, and later deleted his main meta account.
resigned: GlenH7 on Engineering and Software Engineering (later, left these sites completely having the account deleted)
resigned: Nathaniel on Christianity and Latin Language.
resigned: Caleb on Christianity and Biblical Hermeneutics (provides background)
resigned: anonymous2 on Internet of Things
resigned: Mister Positive on The Workplace(at the time only one moderator remained active on the Workplace. Later requested reinstatement, confirmed reinstated by SE)
resigned: Ed Cottrell on Stack Overflow and Ebooks
resigned: DoMiNeLa10 on Emacs (later, left the site completely having the account deleted)
(only one moderator left on Emacs)
resigned: a CVn on Worldbuilding and Writing
resigned: Neil Fein on Writing
resigned: Glen_b on Cross Validated
resigned: Seth on Ask Ubuntu
resigned: Hohmannfan on Space Exploration (previously suspended activity)
resigned: Mego on Code Golf, with the request to remove all network content
resigned: ColleenV on English Language Learners, previously took a break
resigned: Stéphane Gimenez on French Language
(only one moderator left on French Language)
resigned: terdon on Ask Ubuntu, and Bioinformatics (still a moderator on Unix & Linux).
resigned: James on Worldbuilding (previously suspended activity)
resigned on January 23: anongoodnurse on Parenting (previously suspended activity, returned to moderation on October 27, '19)
fired for not signing new mod "agreement": Cyn on Writing (previously took a leave of absence. At the time, no active moderators were left on Writing.)
resigned: Mad Scientist on Skeptics (previously suspended activity, resigned in early January '20)
resigned on January 23: lois6b on Stack Overflow en español (previously suspended activity)
resigned: David on Blender (previously suspended activity)
resigned: iKlsR on Blender (previously suspended activity)
resigned: gung on Cross Validated (previously suspended activity)
resigned on January 14: Hatchet on Language Learning (previously suspended activity)
fired for not signing new mod "agreement" and deleted account: Loong on German and Chemistry (previously deleted his Stack Moderators Team account and his Meta account (including access to the new Teachers' Lounge))
Additional moderators have resigned after a new wave of firing two highly respected Community Managers. For the sake of simplicity, they're listed in the above question and not duplicated here.
Additionally, others have taken other actions:
suspended activity: Paul White on Database Administrators
suspended activity: HDE 226868 on Worldbuilding, Astronomy, History of Science & Mathematics, and Mythology & Folklore
suspended activity: Rand al'Thor on Science Fiction & Fantasy- Returned to moderation on October 31. suspended activity: Null on Science Fiction & Fantasy- Returned to moderation on October 31.
stopped activity before new election ends: Tensibai on DevOps
suspended activity: Rory Alsop / Doktor Mayhem on Information Security, Music, Parenting, The Great Outdoors, Sound Design, and Video Production
suspended non-critical activity: AviD on Information Security
suspended non-urgent activity: Anton Menshov on Computational Science– Returned to moderation on November 14 with a very heavy heart. Supports the fundraiser campaign. suspended non-urgent activity: Thomas Owens on Software EngineeringReturned to moderation on October 12. suspended activity: Kevin on Science Fiction & Fantasy and The Great OutdoorsReturned to moderation May 9.
(only one moderator active on The Great Outdoors and Science Fiction & Fantasy)
suspended activity: Xander on Beer, Wine & Spirits
(only one moderator active on Beer, Wine & Spirits)
suspended activity: jonsca on Web Applications and Chemistry
suspended activity: nicoguaro on Computational Science
(only one moderator active on Computational Science)
suspended activity: eykanal on Academia- Returned to moderation on 11/26.
suspended non-critical activity: AJ Henderson on Photography, Video Production, Sound Design and Community Building. Same reasoning as Rory Alsop / Doktor Mayhem
(only one moderator active on Sound SE and Video SE)
suspended activity: Michael Hampton on Server Fault
suspended activity: Sven on Server Fault
staying away from queues and reduced activity: Bhargav Rao on Stack Overflow
suspended activity: Duarte Farrajota Ramos on Blender
suspended activity: gandalf3 on Blender
cashed in his chips: J.R. on English Language Learners
suspended activity: Melanie Shebel on Chemistry
Additional resignations that are related to the incident, but for their own reasons:
resigned: Aza on Literature, predates other events; later wrote an update
resigned: Journeyman Geek only on Meta, remains a moderator of Super User (later requested reinstatement under the new policy)
resigned: Keelan on Philosophy
resigned: PashaPash on Stack Overflow на русском
resigned: rolfl on Code Review
resigned: Tensibai on DevOps
resigned: Jack Douglas on Database Administrators
(only one moderator active on Database Administrators)
resigned: Diego on Spanish Language
resigned: George Stocker on Stack Overflow (later posted what SE should do to resolve the current situation)
resigned: Sklivvz on Skeptics
resigned: user58 on Literature
(only one moderator left on Literature)
resigned: Jon Clements on Stack Overflow
resigned: fedorqui on Spanish Language
(only one moderator left on Spanish Language)
resigned: Jon Ericson from Stack Exchange Community Team, blog post describes that the events leading up to the moderator exodus provided incentive for the resignation
Finally, some moderators and community projects have written commentary or taken action as a result of the situation:
disappointed: StrongBad on Academia and Expats
declared support for Monica: Cyn / Writing mod team
SOBotics has taken down Reports along with Rodgort and Higgslater Reports came back up and Rogdort with Higgs were hosted by Das_Geek
disappointed: called2voyage on Space Exploration and Astronomy
on the brink of being done: J.R. on English Language Learners
disappointed: El'endia Starman (later resigned), Peter Turner, and Mason Wheeler on Christianity
voiced support for Monica and stopping participating inside TL: yagmoth555 on Server Fault
disappointed: Mister Positive on The Workplace
disappointed: Ganesh Sittampalam and JoeTaxpayer on Personal Finance & Money
Company and Community
I understand that Stack Exchange the company is under a lot of stress right now. They are transitioning to a new CEO and somehow need to finally become profitable, which might be the reason for odd statements about ad policies or aggressively pushing the Stack Overflow Teams product everywhere. But stress is no excuse for waging war on the user base.
Stack Exchange is not only a company but also a community. While the company provides the platform, the community provides the content that makes the platform valuable. Either party can only be successful by cooperating with the other. But at this point, it looks Stack Exchange Inc. has given up on communicating with the community and is taking an adversarial stance.
Is Stack Exchange Inc. still interested in cooperating with the community? What is the vision for this relationship?
If SE would like to start engaging with the community again, the incidents above are likely just regrettable mistakes. How will SE prevent this string of mistakes from continuing in the future? What will SE do to mend these issues?
If SE wants to continue on this path towards an unyielding Corporate Overlord role, the community will likely bleed engaged members at an increasing rate. How will SE ensure continued high quality of the network sites? Just trying to grow faster will only exacerbate those problems.
I for my part expect to stop writing answers or participating otherwise until I see a good-faith effort towards mending the rift.
2019-09-29: 1st official response — Answer on Monica's resignation (copied elsewhere), deleted on December 24 (screenshot of the copy on Meta Stack Overflow)
2019-10-01: Comments to the press — The Register publishes an article about the firing with comments provided by a Stack Exchange employee.
2019-10-03: 2nd official response — An Update to our Community and an Apology (net score < -2k), deleted on December 24 (screenshot)
2019-10-05: Monica's Timeline of the Situation — As a blog post
2019-10-06: 3rd official response — An apology to our community, and next steps
2019-10-06: Open letters from moderators — Dear Stack Exchange: a statement and a letter from your moderators, and The second letter addressing more specifically the issues the LGBT+ community feels it is necessary to address.
2019-10-10: Official FAQ on gender pronouns and Code of Conduct changes (deleted at net score -1930 (+449 / -2379), archived version)
2019-10-15: CM team member Shog9 comments on moderator removal and reinstatement process work
2019-10-18: Status Update from the Community Management Team
2019-10-21: Moderator Warning and Removal process, Moderator Reinstatement Process.
2019-10-21: Moderator process feedback post
2019-10-22: New pronouns FAQ
2019-10-22: New pronouns FAQ feedback post
2019-10-24: Monica posts a response to the situation Stack Overflow is doing me ongoing harm; it's time to fix it!
2019-10-28 Monica sets up a GoFundMe page to help pay for combating this issue. Defend Monica from Defamation by Stack Overflow
2019-10-31 Monica discussing current events in an audio interview. TTP #1 | Monica Cellio On The Fallout At Stack Exchange
2019-11-15 SE staffer Juan M states that under legal advice, there will be no further comment on the Monica situation; also direct links to her GoFundMe page are being actively removed by SE staff from posts and profiles. Community ads for the GoFundMe are also being removed. Why is SE removing links and community ads about legal issues?
2019-11-25 Sara Chipps and Juan M introduce the loop, a new way of obtaining user feedback and a moderator advisor group.
2019-12-11 Donna Choi introduces the first chapter of the loop, a deep-dive into research approach: what it used to be, what it is now, and how it continues to evolve.
2019-12-23 Sara Chipps posted an Update: an agreement with Monica Cellio.
2020-01-02: The Register has posted a follow-up article.
2020-01-13: SE let go of the community managers Shog9 and Robert Cartaino, which causes another round of community outrage.
2020-01-16: SE introduced a policy to decrease the prominence of moderators' resignation notices, by stating that resignation posts on meta cannot bear the [featured] tag for more than 24 hours.
2020-01-17: Jon Ericson announces his resignation from the SE community team, stating "leadership within the company neither understood community management nor was willing to learn" in a blog post.
2020-01-27: Monica posts her farewell letter to the community on Meta Stack Exchange as well as on Mi Yodeya, on Writers, and on Worldbuilding.
2020-02-04: Aaron Hall meets with SO's new CEO and two others, conveying community feelings on a range of issues and recording their responses. Posts write-up on Meta SO.
2020-02-18: Employee Yaakov Ellis posts data analysis showing the engagement of active users with MSE and MSO, referring to (his words) "our series of crises with the Community starting in September 2019".
2020-02-19: Head of Product and Community Teresa Dietrich announces The company’s commitment to rebuilding the relationship with you, our community
2020-03-04 Our Commitment to Responding to Meta and Moderators
2020-03-12 Community and Moderator guidelines for escalating issues via new response process (March-April 2020)
2020-04-27 Catija♦, Community Manager, inaugurates the Moderator Council Introducing the Moderator Council - and its first, pro-tempore, representatives
2020-06-30 Yaakov Ellis♦ asks for the community's feedback: Feedback post: New moderator reinstatement and appeal process revisions
2020-06-30 The updated Moderator Reinstatement and Appeal Process:
2020-07-08 The new moderator agreement is now live for moderators to accept across the network