As I write this, Meta burns with the falling dominoes of moderator resignations. I suspect we've not hit bottom yet, either. The meager response hasn't been too reassuring either.
This isn't another "I quit" mic drop post. This is more a caution to SO as a whole. There's no official response and hopefully this arrives in time to avert what I fear is a rerun of what happened to Reddit a few years ago. Reddit used to do a bit called "Ask Me Anything" and it was run by a woman named Victoria Taylor, who was pretty well liked by Reddit. She was fired and the alleged reasons weren't all that great. What happened next was ugly for Reddit.
Moderators have all but shut down more than 265 subreddits to protest the termination of Victoria Taylor, the site's director of talent.
I see something far worse happening to SO. In that case, Reddit could have gotten control back by firing the moderators and turning the sites back to public. SO, however, relies on high reputation users and a few elected diamond mods to do all the curation work (including moderation). For all the high profile diamond mods who have quit, I suspect a lot more high reputation users (curators with basic reputation-based powers) are throwing in the towel as well. It's not hard to see why.
This all really got going last year with the poorly received Stack Overflow isn't welcoming blog entry
Too many people experience Stack Overflow¹ as a hostile or elitist place, especially newer coders, women, people of color, and others in marginalized groups.
¹ This post focuses on Stack Overflow, but most of it applies to the broader Stack Exchange network as well.
Newer coders, maybe, but the rest? Try posting an openly sexist or racist comment or answer anywhere on SE and see how long it lasts before it gets deleted. Well, at least that was mostly true before the current debacle. Even a condescending comment was likely to get a flag and deletion. People were understandably confused by this sudden shift. I wrote on Meta.SO about how moderation works and why people get cynical and I noted a comment from chat around that time
I'm a bit discouraged by the attitude toward moderation in the blog post. Moderation on SO often feels like a losing battle against the flood of low-quality questions, and Jay's statement that our moderation efforts "make [him] sad" is honestly really frustrating.
The best way to describe the reception is an old Bill Cosby line where he describes a toddler taking an older child's thing, and the parent comes down on the older child because "Parents are not interested in justice. They want quiet!" It's scary how well that seems to describe what the "welcoming" blog seemed to be advocating.
What's got me really concerned, however, is part of what Monica Cellio's description of her "firing" had in it
Someone with a "director" job title had dropped into the room to announce an upcoming change to the Code of Conduct; unlike the rest of the CoC, this rule mandates specific, positive actions. I raised some issues with the formation of the policy and asked some questions, the vast majority of which were never answered. I was polite and was trying to work with others to solve a problem I have with the change as presented.
Let's just, for argument's sake, say that Monica is painting herself as the victim when she was really over the line. Taking the treatment of Monica out of the picture, this matches the pattern of how SO/SE has treated the community of curators for the last 18 months. New changes are announced which are long on "we need more new users" and short on "here's what we expect of curators"
There seems to be little appreciation of curators of late. The mass moderator resignation is merely a symptom of that larger problem. They might not be angry over Monica but I guarantee a lot of them are just tired
Right now, I feel lost and confused. My hammer feels too heavy to pick up. I see folks at each others' throats - seeing every shadow as a threat. I wish I was up to what I feel we need. I'm not entirely sure anyone is. I'm sorry I don't even feel up to trying. Maybe some day I'll feel up to what I expect myself to be as a moderator here. For now, I'm not sure where I stand, or the community. I'd say though I'm grateful for the chance to serve, and to serve alongside some of the finest people I've had the privilege of modding with.
Or, to put this in starker terms
Counter point: let's shut down every queue review, flagging system, etc, for a month so that people are forced to acknowledge the tedious sewer work many people put in every day.
People love this community. They want it to succeed, so much so they spend their own time and money (such as SoBotics and Charcoal) making sure it operates smoothly. The message being sent right now is that SO/SE really doesn't need curators or moderators. Even if you apologize right now, reinstate Monica, and convince the exodus of moderators to stop the damage may already be done. Those trusted curators may not ever come back, or even care enough to contribute. That was what Reddit missed. They tried to stem the anger over a poorly handled termination, when they had alienated the community at large and the firing was merely the catalyst.
Curators and moderators need to hear that we're not the enemy. We need policies that are open about what SO goals are. People might not like the ads, but SO is a free service to all and admitting you need the revenue helped us accept it. "Welcoming" wasn't great, but we adjusted. You can't ignore the greater problem here. You can't leave this policy change in the dark. You can't cut us out. Sooner or later, you need us. If we all stopped contributing, you'd have a much worse product.
Get it right, please.