The Register's recent article contains a comment from a company spokesperson:

Asked to confirm that Cellio was the moderator in question, a company spokesperson said, "Cellio (she/her) would not use stated pronouns, which violates our current CoC. We are soon publishing an update to the CoC to even more explicitly cite misgendering users or moderators as a violation."

To the best of my knowledge, this quote provides more detail than SE employees have provided anywhere on Meta. In contrast (and setting aside the lack of communication on licensing and other recent issues to focus just on this one):

I do not believe anyone should be misgendered on a SE site, and subject to community discussion and guidance about how specifically that should work in practice for the types of interactions we have on the site, I support Stack Exchange's commitment to making that happen, especially knowing it will not please everyone. And I recognize that this policy was apparently unfinished, which is why it had not been announced yet, except it now seems to have been announced in an official statement to The Register.

But it is upsetting to me that Stack Exchange staff would speak about this to the press before addressing their own community. SE has a lot of communication channels: meta, ~174 site metas, the blog, chat, that cool new newsletter announced today, email blasts, featured posts, Twitter. What is the use of all of these communication methods if official information is provided to the press instead of being shared directly with the community?

I can certainly appreciate that engaging on Meta is difficult for SE staff right now, and that even more broadly than this incident, it has resulted in staff being at the receiving end of stuff they shouldn't have to experience in the workplace. So I can understand why it seems easier to provide a quote to a reporter than it is to respond substantively here. But there's a destructive message sent by providing more information to the press than to the site's own users, a message that Stack Exchange is uninterested in actually speaking with its own community.

If Stack Exchange is interested in addressing *waves hands variously at all this*, that needs to start with direct communication with the site's users. Speaking through the press will not help.

  • 24
    SE seems to be chasing a really fast dog right now.
    – user351483
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 5:39
  • 102
    @Snow - I felt that a better metaphor would be 'shooting itself in the foot, then stopping to reload'. Demodding her was bad, but their response (crappy terse boilerplate meta responses, throwing shade at her in the press) has been nothing short of incompetence
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 6:20
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    My guess is they're working on a comprehensive response to here and haven't finished that. I agree then speaking to the press is bad timing.
    – Magisch
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 6:30
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    I'm just disgusted with the way Stack Exchange is behaving these days. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:01
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    And don't lose the irony that, aside from any untruths or misdirections that could be argued - the SE comment explicitly misgendered Monica, the very thing they claim she was fired for (though she never actually did). Monica has stated often that she is a she, and she is offended by being called they. This hamfisted statement does not seem accidental, but spiteful.
    – AviD
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:26
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    @AviD I don't see that. Yes, they start of by saying "one Stack Exchange moderator when they ...," but that's before they say it's Monica (so when they're attempting to hide her identity). However, when they do mention her name, her preferred pronoun is given: "Cellio (she/her) would not ..."
    – muru
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:31
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    "would not use stated pronouns, which violates our current CoC"... wait, WHAT? The current CoC? Where? How? When? Why?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:48
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    @muru that's why it looks spiteful. It was not a mistake or lack of attention, it was fully mindful. The state her pronouns, but will not refer to her with them. Which is exactly what she was accused of.
    – AviD
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 9:00
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    Has anybody tried reaching out to SO through a Twitter account with cool-people influencer credentials but visibly zero investment in Stack Overflow except some expressions of disdain? Chances are a full statement will be forthcoming within 15 minutes 😄
    – Pekka
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 9:39
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    @muru "muru wrote a comment. muru said foo ..." or "muru wrote a comment and said foo..." or "a comment was written by muru. it said foo...". There are so many possibilities to convey meaning without using third person pronouns. I really wonder if StackOverflow really wants to force people to use them? I guess that would be very difficult. Something like: We detected that you did not use pronouns for a while. If you do not improve we will ban you for a certain time. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 10:32
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    @Trilarion Apparently, going out of your way to avoid using the third person pronoun is discrimination as well.
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 10:44
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    @JAD I give it a year and not showing up will be seen as discrimination too.
    – Mast
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 11:19
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    So, they confirmed, that Monica was resigned just for asking questions. Am I right? o_O Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:18
  • 18
    @Suvitruf the correct word here isn't 'resigned' but 'fired'.
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:15
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    I'd also add that the quote, "Cellio (she/her) would not use stated pronouns, which violates our current CoC. We are soon publishing an update to the CoC to even more explicitly cite misgendering users or moderators as a violation," strongly implies that Monica was actively using the wrong pronouns, which is patently false and borderline libelous.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


I can't say that this decision really surprises me.

Right now, the Meta network is trying to deal with the fallout that's happened over the weekend, and admittedly there's a lot of tension and animosity about this circumstance.

There's several factions at play here:

  • Those loyal to what Monica has pioneered on the site, and who are disgusted at the way she was treated;
  • Those who oppose the changes to the CoC (which haven't been made public just yet);
  • Those who are frustrated with the lack of communication in general from Stack Overflow Inc., and are treating this as the proverbial last straw;
  • Stack Exchange staff, who have a duty to keep their house in order;
  • ...and those who are just caught up in the mess.

Right now, none of those factions see eye-to-eye with one another, and are kind of just...shouting. Like, shouting really loudly. The decisions to resign and the decisions to suspend activity are adding more voices to the conversation, but the issue has become less and less cohesive overall.

Admittedly, Stack Overflow Inc. really has dropped the ball on communication when it comes to things like this...but it's not made any better by the fact that now we're all tooled up and angry about the circumstances.

If you know that you have a specific message to deliver, do you really want to deliver it to a hostile crowd who'd sooner tear your head from your shoulders than hear you out? Personally, I wouldn't.

But that's the easy choice. The reality of it is that the lack of communication has been a regrettable symptom of what's happened to the network, the volunteers who help, and the staff who have to keep the lights on. And I maintain that suddenly appearing and communicating with us will not actually make this better. We're still holding the pitchforks, after all.

So at a minimum, I suppose I'm happy that some staff member in some back-channel way at least commentated to the effect of what we kind of suspected the issue was in the first place. I doubt that's going to make anyone really happy about what's happened, but I don't know what else we're going to expect at this point. Honestly, while I believe in miracles, I don't think I'm going to hold out faith that there will ever be an official announcement.

I'd be delighted to be demonstrated wrong, though.

  • 5
    Surely, all the posts I've read from you cannot be wrong -- you're smart enough to understand that at this stage in the process, there is a new CEO who's supposed to stand up roughly right now, and they will have a lot to deal with. Removing Sara from the equation would be quite tempting at this juncture, which is why I wonder why they have not added two plus two and already resigned by now. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:28
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    @FrédéricHamidi: ...by doing that, you've successfully made a public scapegoat of your own employee, and introduced a chilling effect on the company when you want to march forward with a new directive, which may be important to the company's goals. That's just as bad.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:29
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    I don't think so, really. So-called "fuses" have always existed in politics, and that's politics we're talking about right now, isn't it? Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:31
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    "Right now, none of those factions see eye-to-eye with one another, and are kind of just...shouting." I'd actually say that there's a lot of overlap between group 2 (object to CoC) and 3 (communication issues), and a lot of those are also in group 1 (object to Monica's treatment).
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:31
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    @FrédéricHamidi: It kinda goes deeper than that. The immediate and knee-jerk reaction is to have someone step down/be removed from their post. I don't see that as being a good thing since I genuinely do believe that they're trying to deliver on their promises, and the delivery might leave much to be desired, depending on who you talk to. This also isn't a political position, so I'd rather not draw parallels to that if I can.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:33
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    @Makoto, it kinda goes even deeper than that. The immediate and knee-jerk reaction of the SE staff was to have Monica removed ASAP. Within that reasoning, I don't see why removing Sara would be better or worse. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:37
  • 3
    @FrédéricHamidi: I see that you still have your pitchfork ready to go. I respect your attachment to it, but now is the time for calmer heads and calmer discussion to prevail.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:39
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    @Kevin: I find myself in camps 1, 2, 3 and 5. I was totally blindsided on a peaceful Sunday afternoon when I found out what happened. My wording may have been heavier handed than I wanted it to be, but ultimately...there's several different messages that need to be delivered to all of the above camps, and those messages aren't the same messages and won't have the same impact. Reconciling how this communication needs to be done is no easy feat. Whoever has to step up to the plate to deliver it - I hope that they have their favorite antacid at the ready.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:48
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    @Kevin: I do however see the disagreement over what the CoC will eventually entail as orthogonal to the fact that Stack Overflow Inc. has failed to really communicate with us about what's going on. At the most, it's yet another symptom.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:48
  • 2
    @FrédéricHamidi: This entire answer has been trying to quantify "improve". The only real conclusion I've reached is that there is no real improvement to be had here. No one is going to go home happy about any of this. The best that can happen is that the company owns on it and them moves on. Whether or not we choose to move with them is another matter altogether. It would be unwise for the CEO to just jump into this blind.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:50
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    You forgot to mention the point of misgendering and making someone resign due to there queerness. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 3:52
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    @AnkitSharma: And yet, on a technical network site, from which I hail from...that is literally noise to the question one may ask. Neither the program nor the compiler/interpreter care what pronoun you want to use. It's also irrelevant when you're asking about threading or how to sort an array. I don't have any context into this as an "issue" since on the technical sites, we don't get into that stuff or broach the topic. On the non-technical sites, I could clearly see how it's an issue. But none of that has to do with Meta literally being on fire right now.
    – Makoto
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 4:05
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    Agree that the new CEO stepping in and firing Sara would be bad for the company both internally and externally - setting precedent that company execs are beholden to the meta crowd is a great way to handicap your company. At the same time, I do think they would be wise to work with the community, even when they disagree about the direction the network should go. The best case scenario would probably be for Sara to apologize publicly to Monica or some kind of compromise statement - similar to how Bob Iger handled the James Gunn situation.
    – Troyen
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 6:15
  • 3
    Overall a good summary, but with all due respect, SE has done a lot more than just "shout loudly" by banning a moderator for no wrongdoing on her part, ignoring their own code of conduct and telling different parties different versions of the story, such as "we don't share details" (with the community) but happily sharing details with a much wider audience via the press. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 9:39
  • 2
    "Reconciling how this communication needs to be done is no easy feat." I'm not even sure that's true. You've done a great job breaking down the "camps". I don't think it would be that hard for SO to say (and I guess this is what they've been working so hard on): 1. We clearly messed up in the way the Monica situation was handled. [either release details of the alleged CoC violation or state unequivocally that no such details will be released by SO] 2. [release new CoC, with clarifications] 3. [repeat boilerplate 'we've got to do better' communications]
    – Alex M
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 18:25

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