61

I stepped down as moderator on Stack Overflow 10 days ago. There were many reasons, mainly tiredness and being time poor, if I'm to be honest with myself.

Participating on this network has always been an emotional challenge for me and I always assumed it was because of my personality. Watching things unfold I'm more inclined to think maybe it's the just interacting with people generally that's challenging.

I joined Stack Overflow 8? years ago and soon joined other Stack Exchange sites. I rallied for better behaviour on Stack Overflow Meta from early on. This is before the site split into Meta Stack Exchange and Meta Stack Overflow (MSO). I didn't like the pile on and the snark in comments in MSO. The site has come a long way in improving things in many ways, but now there seems to be challenges in how the Stack Exchange Company is communicating with its communities.

So in these ten days off Stack Overflow, I've been contacted and kept abreast of the events unfolding across the Network many times a day and actually ended up spending more time and attention on the site than I was when I was moderating.

It disappoints me to see the amount of vitriol pouring out onto the site. Emotions are high, but disappointment is not an excuse to lower the bar of our standards. It doesn't matter who or what was in the wrong. Many of us have worked hard to try and make this place more bearable for participants and now everywhere I look there's cynicism and accusations.

Honestly, I don't think the Network (being the company) sometimes handles things well. In my, not so humble opinion, they need to work on shoring up and restoring community faith. But I don't think there's any malice.

We don't have all the facts and we're not entitled to know

I look at the employees and wonder how many of them will survive this latest public outrage and in some ways I feel sorry for these people. We don't know the exact ins and out of what has gone on. We do not know who actually decided to remove diamonds or who or why the when and way of it was chosen.

There's a lot of missing pieces that none of us know and when there's a lack of trust, it's often coloured in with the worst scenarios.

All I'm saying is, it's so disappointing to see the deterioration on the site. All round. The way things have been handled by the business end and the reactions that seems to be gaining momentum.

Check your motives

There comes a point when we're posting on these sites, we need to ask. Am I doing this to achieve something good? Or am I stirring the pot? Digging up more mud?

Whatever the point. I don't believe any one moderator should be named, nor should any one employee. It's not right.

Questions like:

Will we really have "democratic" moderator elections?

This type of title is created to stir up emotions. It infers bad intentions on the part of the employees. I don't know what is going to happen, I highly doubt the employees know what they'll do just yet. It's a new thing. They may well appoint people, like they have on the Beta sites until they can hold elections. This whole reaction may cause the establishment to change how they select moderators altogether.

All I can see are a bunch of employees who don't like posting on Meta on a good day. The more emotion that is poured out here, the less likely there will be real community input. If the main impetus coming from the community is sour, if it were my business, I'd work to silence the community.

People need to ask themselves. Do they want to keep pushing at this organisation to force the very thing they don't want to see happen to really happen. Or are people willing to take a step back, take a breath and wait. Give the employees time to develop a strategy. Put into place a contingency plan.

Clearly there is a lack of trust in the employees. That's fine, no one has to trust anyone. But it does beg the question. If you are hating on the site so much, why are you rallying so hard against these people? What good do you think may come from it?

This post may be met with downvotes and not be unpopular, but the way the community is reacting all over the meta sites, makes me not want to be on these sites. It reminds me of the early meta days. When things were hot and unruly.

I'm just very disappointed to see the sites take this backward step. It doesn't matter how outraged people are, there's always at least three sides to any story. As Bs and the objective C (programming pun intended). In this type of situation there's a lot more than 3 sides and people are expecting employees to reveal a side they cannot.

A lot of people are hurting

Many people have been hurt. Many people that are not here to speak up, but were active members of these communities. People who were respected by our communities. Much of what has occurred has gone behind the scenes. Moderators and employees are bound by contracts of confidentiality. Even if you step down or leave the job, it doesn't mean you can go repeating things that were part of your job that were private. It's as much to protect users than anything else, as moderators have access to Personal Identifying Information. People are entitled to their privacy.

The sites have changed

There's a lot about these sites that has changed. They will never be the same, it's the nature of the business and the internet. All I'm asking if for some calm. If at all possible. All this hard work so many of us have lovingly put into these sites. Many of us are still here. Please don't trash the sites as you're leaving.

All this effort put into these sites and to see it degenerate this way. And before people cry "but the network doesn't respect the Code of Conduct" whatever ails you, whatever injustice you see. It doesn't justify breaking the Code of Conduct or trampling over people. Never. It never does. The employees are people too.

I'm posting this, not to cause trouble, not to argue, not to create another place for people to vent their feelings, but to have one space where people can feel, maybe someone else on here wants peace too. Maybe someone else wants calm.

I'm not even sure what I'm trying to articulate, beyond how disappointed I am in the deterioration of the site. And that behaviour is on the people writing inflamed posts and comments. Each person is responsible for their own behaviour. It's not ok to smash things as you leave the room.

  • 16
    Please be kind. It's late here and I need to go to bed. I mean this with every good intention. There's a lot of people who have put in a lot and people who are devastated, but can we please just slow this down to a fast trot from a fire storm. Peace and love to you all. xx – Nobody Sep 30 at 16:22
  • 31
    The thing is...good faith is predicated on trust and goodwill. That's been drawn on heavily in the last 18 months, with...almost nothing to show to replenish it. It's understandable that people are concerned and anxious, and no longer trust SE to do the right thing. People don't know the whole story, no. And while I can try to implore others to assume good faith, I don't see it as something that can be expected any longer. People are entitled to their concerns. – fbueckert Sep 30 at 16:24
  • 6
    On the other hand - when the fires have died down, or better yet we actually manage to pull together and put them out, we are going to have to examine the relationship between our volunteer moderators and the company. We have always been told to assume good intent. As much as we try and fail and try again to each other, I think we may be at a point where folks need demonstrations of good intent, and more importantly patience and wisdom beyond what we have seen. – Journeyman Geek Sep 30 at 16:26
  • 1
    I agree with you both. And if anyone has seen my mso posts you know I agree. It would be healing for us all to bring it down a notch. I'm not saying dismiss anything. Just bring the emotions down, the recriminations and give everyone time to breathe. Does that make sense? @JourneymanGeek cc fbueckert – Nobody Sep 30 at 16:28
  • @fbueckert ^^ . – Nobody Sep 30 at 16:28
  • 9
    It's a contentious topic. I'm not sure how anyone other than SE can really dampen the fires; it's predicated on their own actions, after all. At some point, it boils down to one question: "Do you trust SE to do the right thing?" How you respond to that will dictate your actions. It's an emotional, knee-jerk response right now, but perhaps some time and distance can help answer that more objectively. – fbueckert Sep 30 at 16:33
  • @fbueckert yes I like that, Just having this discussion like this feels a calmer somehow. – Nobody Sep 30 at 16:42
  • 11
    I don't know about 'not entitled to know'. SE has made a lot of hay out of the claim to community. We are the sole source of content, it is our volunteerism that built this place. We have these self-moderating tools, we self-select our moderators.... we made this site. Providing a server doesn't strip away the fact that this is something we all created together. I think we are entitled to know or, and this is something we should all be paying attention to, this is Facebook. This is a corporate product, we are entitled to nothing. In which case, we might question our labor in building it. – Chris Sep 30 at 16:46
  • 21
    Sorry Yvette, but it’s actually a sign that people care deeply about the community when they express their anger/disapproval/disappointment/etc. instead of just logging out and never coming back. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize that as “smashing stuff as you leave the room”. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 30 at 17:33
  • 2
    @user9161 I agree re caring, but it's not appropriate. People care about their families. It's not ok to go around abusing your family. It's not ok to collectively abuse people here or bring the whole site into a flaming mess of emotions. People need to check their emotions before pressing enter. It's called self responsibility. No point saying the network needs to be responsible. We all need to be. – Nobody Sep 30 at 17:53
  • 34
    This company is not my family or friends. The people who work there do not love me. They barely know me. Any abusive post violates the CoC and should be removed. People expressing their emotions about something SE did is feedback, not abuse, and it should be welcomed, not suppressed. If it’s upsetting you, take a break instead of telling people that their feedback isn’t worthwhile because you find it unpleasant. We don’t have to engage with it, and avoiding the posts might be a healthy thing for some of us to do. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 30 at 18:04
  • 5
    You misinterpreted my intention. But I think your reaction to me suggesting that we should take a break if the negativity is dragging us down is likely the same feeling some people get when you tell them to not express what they’re feeling. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 30 at 18:11
  • 30
    Don't forget the entire site was generated by volunteer contributions. I'm not saying the engineers and other staff didn't work to make it happen, of course they did. But don't pretend like the community is just a passer-by, a bystander or (worse) A customer. Because it really, really, really isn't. The company owes its entire existence to those who contributed all of its content, without any pay. For over a decade. A bit of conversation is the very least that can be expected in return. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 30 at 22:06
  • 4
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit agree. The wholesale dismissal of the core user base is disturbing at best. – Nobody Oct 1 at 6:18
  • 2
    "disappointment is not an excuse to lower the bar of our standards" - nice. I need Peter Cullen to say this in his Optimus Prime voice. – Gimby Oct 1 at 8:08
25

There comes a point when we're posting on these sites, we need to ask. Am I doing this to achieve something good? Or am I stirring the pot? Digging up more mud?

Very true. But then, one can't command the storm to calm down. That will only happen when the energy levels within the system are back to a level of balance. Metaphorically speaking.

Meaning: the grudges that now (also) result in (maybe) dubiously motivated posts were accumulated over many months. And even when just 1% of the 1% of active users speaks up here or there, you still end up with a lot of content that people want to say. In the end, our contributions are our "mental" babies, and few people can easily give up the energy they invested here. We are all humans in the end.

I appreciate your words of true wisdom, and I hope many agree and follow, and restrict their input to serious contributions that advance whatever is going on here right now in a positive way. But as said elsewhere: it will not work out to press any lids on kettles whilst the pressure is too high.

  • 1
    I wonder if sometimes it's even better to let the steam escape instead of holding it back; let people say what they want (need) to say in order to reduce the pressure. Social gatherings just mean lots and lots of talking, we have no better way then that. – Trilarion Oct 1 at 9:04
  • 1
    @Trilarion Still, Yvette made an excellent point: it really helps to first look into motivation to say something, to then search about the underlying emotions. That often helps to get out a more clear message (one that really addresses your concerns/needs, instead of asking on a different, wrong, technical level where no answers can be expected). Or, to altogether drop that message.Vent, with care ;-) – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 1 at 9:22
  • 2
    She makes a very good point and thinking or waiting a bit before posting improves posts definitely. My point would rather be to despite of it, not hold it back, but let it out. I rather had lots of posts saying the same again and again and not all of them well thought out, than a lot of people remaining on high pressure without any way to cool down. Thanks for letting me vent a tiny bit. Vent with care sounds perfect. – Trilarion Oct 1 at 9:51
97

We don't have all the facts and we're not entitled to know

I don't know if I'm entitled to know. I think I'm entitled to an explanation why the person I voted for got fired. And the post we got is a cookie cutter HR copy/paste if I ever saw one. Like an HR hallmark card. Sorry, but I may not be entitled to details, but I do feel like I should be entitled to a basic explanation. You don't fire a person and three days later cannot even issue a brief statement of fact about it.

"John Doe has violated our no-soup-on-fridays policies multiple times. He had been warned in the past but decided to violate the policy again last week. We had no other choice but to release him from his duties as a chef effective immediate."

See. Took me 20 seconds to make that up. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Where I live, being fired is a thing. You need a reason for it. You don't just trample over people by firing them without one and you don't stir up all the other people by letting them think it could happen to them too.

It infers bad intentions on the part of the employees. [...] I highly doubt the employees know what they'll do just yet.

Just a thought, but maybe they should figure that out before they fire someone? Especially someone that does not cost them a single cent while they try make a better plan. Planning 3 days ahead seems like a basic job function, even more so when the job title starts with "director". Not doing that... there can be multiple explanations and I'm no mind reader, but none of them is favorable.

The employees are people too.

I will judge people by what I see. Their words. Their actions. I have seen the moderator that was fired in many words and actions over the years, all of them fair and constructive. I have seen the person doing the firing exactly once, with unprofessional actions and formless cookie cutter words. So yes, they are persons. Entitled to not get hate mail or personal insults over an internet community and if you find either of that in my posts, I will apologize and remove it.

But they are not entitled to me staying silent when I don't like their actions.

  • 15
    clearly it's been a bungled mess. I don't think they expected this reaction and now there's a huge problem. It still helps to take some of the emotional charge out of it all. It's exhausting for everyone. – Nobody Sep 30 at 19:12
  • 51
    ... and the fact that they didn't expect this sort of backlash makes it worse. I mean, it was obvious that if a extremely prolific and popular mod gets fired then people will have questions? How unaware do you have to be with your core users to completely miss that? – Script47 Sep 30 at 20:41
  • 3
    SE is living in Indiana, where you don't have to have a reason to fire someone. – user474678 Oct 10 at 20:26
  • 1
    @nvoigt, according to your profile, you live in Germany. There, you need a reason to fire someone. In the US, in 49 of the 50 states, workers don't have contracts, and you don't need a reason to fire someone. You can't fire someone for a discriminatory reason (race, age, ethnicity, religion, etc.), but you can fire someone for literally any other reason in the US. Sometimes you can make a case that a company didn't follow its own termination procedures, but usually a fired worker has no recourse whatsoever in the US. – Kyralessa Oct 22 at 13:19
31

We all know the original reasons for the tension, many posts are going over it, and there's no point re-iterating.

The problem that prevents the wounds from healing is the lack of leadership:

  • A single post from the CTO not followed by any actual improvement on anything is not leadership.

  • The assumption Stack Exchange can decide unilaterally which mods stay and which go without supervision is not leadership.

  • Addressing a cultural problem with a "controversial" CoC and addendum, without putting any real resource behind it is not leadership.

  • The complete lack of any intervention from either the CEO or the board is not leadership.

  • Lack of interest or ability in moderating this meta is not leadership.

There's still time to fix this. The company I once knew was proud of its servant leadership attitude. Perhaps embracing servant leadership again will finally get us over this moment.

29
+200

Usage of a site, physical or digital, carries with it the implicit assumption of the value of doing so. You hang out with friends because you like doing so. You frequent hobby groups because you enjoy the hobby, even if you don't like everyone there. You participate in sites that you think you get something out of. Whatever your reasons, you ascribe value to the actions you do.

When you're frequenting somewhere that has something you disagree with, you have to weigh the value of doing so versus the negative value of your disagreement. A friend holds political beliefs you disagree with. There's a really obnoxious and abrasive person in your hobby group you can't stand. There can also be other parts in your life that achieve higher value for you. This can lead to your self-exclusion from that environment, once the value is no longer there. It is, at it's heart, "what's in it for you?"

For some people, it's not voluntary; it's being actively driven out by actions and policies that support that exclusion. A high school clique that only wants cool kids. A hobby group that supports obnoxious users because of their skill. Other users that make your experience actively negative. It's hard to see any of this behaviour as positive, and rightly so.


For the network, that positive value has diminished for many users, whether that's because of the actions taken by SE, other users, or just life in general. There comes a time in...any habit, really, where you need to take a step back and ask yourself, "Is this still worth it to me?"

What's happening here is a logical extension of a community disagreeing with decisions made by higher authority. That's something that's been happening for...months. If not years. People are noticing the lack of agency and support. That's been objectively detrimental to any sort of community health.

Users are anxious, upset, and scared. Things are going on, and nobody knows where it will stop, and in some cases, what started it. The trust, the value, that users have placed in employees, or the company, has diminished greatly. Trust doesn't come cheap, and it requires confidence in the direction of the network. So much of what is happening is completely understandable. I want to stress this: People have a right to be anxious and upset.

So. My message to you, readers, is: It's...not easy to be objective, like, really objective, in the spur of the moment. Especially right now. It's an emotional reaction to your perception of actions taken. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as there no attempt to burn bridges. Try to take a step back and examine what you do know. See if there's enough there for you to make your decision.

Perhaps the value in participation is still there. Maybe it's not. But I think something that's missing is: these users expressing criticism, in any manner, are still here. Still trying to be heard. The value is still there for them. It's once these voices disappear that you've lost them.


So for anyone who made it this far, just ask yourself one question: "Is this still worth it to me?" If it is, then I implore you, try to trust SE one more time. Try to remember why you joined in the first place. Focus on that. Fight for why you stayed.

If not...that's alright. No shame to you, actually incredible respect. There's a time in everyone's life where you have to move on. It's a hard thing to walk away from something you've invested so much into, and it is, actually, harder than just staying.

  • 1
    Sorry, this is somewhat of a ramble. I'm not really an expert on communities, so this is all just my take on things. Agree/disagree, all of it is valid. This is going to be one of the turning points for many users. – fbueckert Sep 30 at 17:41
  • 3
    I selected the other answer as it was simple and my brain is truly fried. I like your post. I need to read it again tomorrow. I can't seem to absorb anything further today. Take care – Nobody Sep 30 at 18:49
4

There comes a point when we're posting on these sites, we need to ask. Am I doing this to achieve something good? Or am I stirring the pot? Digging up more mud?

It's because people still believe SE capable to change and act like they care. It's because it's not to late yet to earn back the trust of the community.

Many people donated countless hours to this site. When the owner (SE) then decides the ban a moderator who was widely appreciated without explanation, it feels incredibly arbitrary. People are afraid they'll be the next person to get arbitrarily rejected and slandered in the media.

So they respond, in the hope that SE can still change for the better, fix their mistakes, and become fair supervisors of the community.

1

I return to this discussion over and over and say stuff as if I'm contributing something valuable. It is incomprehensible to my why I do this.

If stating my opinions upsets people or provokes any negative emotions whatsoever, i don't want that. It's not a worthwhile tradeoff for me saying what I think. If any exchange with me has so much as gotten anyone's blood pressure up, I'm sorry. It wasn't worth it.

Fortunately I'm headed somewhere with limited connectivity, and whatever goes on can continue without any further interjection from me.

(If your response is "who the heck are you?" well, that's good too.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .