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As everyone who has so much as glanced at Meta.SE or any of a number of site metas over the last few days knows by this point, there has been a lot of controversy over the demodding (which many have called firing, a description which may be more appropriate due to the incredible time and effort SE mods put into their sites) of Monica Cellio, who was a mod on six separate Stack Exchanges, and one of the most respected users across the network. This also came just before Rosh Hashana, a Jewish holiday during which Monica, for religious reasons, is not active online, an incredibly poor case of timing which we can only hope was coincidental.

This has led to the resignations of, at most recent count, seventeen other mods (although two have since requested reinstatement), and the voluntary temporary suspension of activity of thirty-one more (although one has since restarted activity), which leaves one site with no active moderators remaining and at least eight sites with only a single active moderator. Additionally, a large number of high-rep users across pretty much every site on the network have also suspended moderation activity in protest. Additional and related issues apparently include a new Code of Conduct that has not yet been released, which some moderators and former moderators are already calling unreasonable as well as systematic and unacceptable behaviour towards several LGBT+ users. Many questions about these issues have been posted on Meta.SE, including, but certainly not limited to, the following. Please note that I am not advocating for or against any content in any of the following questions or their answers, merely pointing out that this is a major set of issues that the SE network is going to have to handle.

While I cannot speak to any of the other issues, from what interactions I have had with Monica, I have found her to be an extraordinarily level-headed and fair person who was an unfailing voice of reason across the network. This makes it extremely difficult for me to believe that she was in the wrong in this. However, and this brings me to the main thrust of this somewhat excessively lengthy question, I don't know who was in the wrong here. I don't know what happened, I have no details, I just don't know. And that's the problem. None of us know what's going on, what's happening, what's happened, who's in the right, who's in the wrong, and what we can do about it as average diamondless users, whether we have 100 rep or 100k rep. And that's the reason I wrote this post.

I'd like to call on SE to give us as much transparency and openness as they can without violating the privacy of users, most importantly in regards to the current issues, but also going forward. SE is turning into a black box, and much of the anger and frustration in the community surrounding all of these topics and events is a result of that. Obviously SE isn't going to be able to publish full transcripts from the private moderator chatroom without running into serious issues with privacy. However, relevant portions of the transcripts could, with the clear and prior consent of all users who participated in those sections of the full transcript. Similarly, during the approval process for this new CoC that we are all hearing so much about (and any major change in the policies or system more generally), would it be out of line for the community to have at least a look at drafts and the process, and allow us to respond. Obviously, any transphobic comments and answers are unacceptable and ought to be removed as quickly as possible, but allowing us to express our opinions calmly, reasonably, and rationally is called communication. This is generally accepted to be a Good Thing, especially when compared to the current situation, which could be roughly described as:

  1. The company does a thing without explaining it.
  2. Users don't like the thing and don't understand the reason for it. They go and write posts on Meta to complain about it (like this one).
  3. The company responds with canned comments for 6-8 weeks and then gives the community a weak response that no one reads after everyone's forgotten about it anyway because the company's done a new thing without explaining it, taking us back to step 1 with a different topic.

So, to conclude this rambling post, I'd like to point out that the above process is flawed, and should probably be improved on a bit. I realize, and I think that most users realize, that SE can't tell us everything, but there are things they can tell us that they aren't, and that's a problem. The thing that's making a lot of users angry is the fact that it's not a problem with a complex or difficult solution. It's a pretty easy problem to solve, and SE isn't solving it. We don't need details, we need a basic explanation of what's happening. So, single unimportant user that I am, I think I speak for a lot of other users who collectively are a lot more important when I say that I'd like to encourage the company to put real effort into greater transparency and sharing of information with their most valuable resource, their community of experts who voluntarily share their time to help other people for very little reward, and who deserve more information and respect than they are getting.

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    Related on MSO. We might get answers today (although I'm not feeling especially hopeful atm) – Zoe Oct 2 at 6:41
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    @PrincessOlivia Thanks for letting me know about that, I hadn't seen it yet. I feel like this is a more general call for transparency, while still acknowledging recent issues, but it is still definitely a related post. – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 at 6:43
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    @Mari-LouA The "Firing Mods and Forced Relicensing" post is a request for SE Inc to listen to its community. This post expresses the reverse sentiment. It's a request for SE to talk to us. We need more information than we've been given. I understand we don't have a right to all the gory details, and SE can't give us them. But we deserve an explanation, just as we deserve to be heard. And I feel that we had a lot of posts about how we're not being heard, but none about how we're not being informed. So I made one. – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 at 7:17
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    I'd vote to dupe close this, but I'm not doing any mod actions since I suspended my activity. Anyway, I don't think this question is needed at all, other comments explain why. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 2 at 7:24
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    @Shadow I stated above why I thought this post differed from others on Meta. Apparently you disagree with me. That's fine, I'll agree it is certainly related to other posts. If the question ends up closed, that's OK, I just thought it would be good if the issue of transparency got some more specific coverage while all these hotbutton issues are going on, as imho it's the root issue of a lot of them, and it hasn't been specifically mentioned in other posts on the current controversy. – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 at 7:27
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    I support this but my guess is that this call likely will be a wasted effort. – Trilarion Oct 2 at 8:28
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    The official response will arrive when the updated CoC is communicated. – Mari-Lou A Oct 2 at 8:49
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    No one from the team is going to spend time composing a thoughtful structured reply only to be then beaten to death by downvotes because there is nothing anyone can do or say that will heal the bleeding sores. There is such an overload of posts, including thousands of comments asking SE to explain themselves, it's embarrassing. Another post asking–more or less– about the same issues succeeds only in dissipating people's energies. – Mari-Lou A Oct 2 at 8:49
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    Before asking for more transparency, let's ask for less deliberate obfuscation. An SE staff member removed the featured tag from not one but two moderator resignation notices on meta.workplace.se. Given the current state of moderation on that site, I find this move highly questionable. – sie es er Oct 2 at 9:46
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    @Mari-LouA Are you sure? Because they almost tried silently changing the license without informing us. – Zoe Oct 2 at 10:20
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    @Gryphon Not a dupe. Your question and my “firing mods and forced relicensing” have the same thrust: there's a breakdown of communication. Company and community must talk again. I don't think only listening or only being more transparent is enough for a productive relationship. However, whereas my question is primarily asking SE to articulate a positive vision for this relationship, and whereas my question has been flooded by a wave of mod resignations, your question suggests more immediate steps that SE can take. I therefore think it should stay open. – amon Oct 2 at 10:44
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    @thethesaurussaurus to be completely fair, the tag was added by a moderator who had already stepped down. So, technically the tag shouldn't have been added. While the removal is still a bit questionable, I don't see it as that bad given that Workplace has its HMP feature still. This is more of a problem with SO where there is no HMP, so it's deliberately removing visibility of something important to the community. – VLAZ Oct 2 at 10:44
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    The key isn't openess. Its communication and trust. – Journeyman Geek Oct 2 at 19:31
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Transparency & trust should start with us getting any appropriate details & information about important events which are relevant to us from the company before the press does, which didn't happen recently as discussed in Stack Exchange staff speaking to the press instead of the community. Instead, almost a week after the main issue occurred, we got An Update to our Community and an Apology. Very quickly, it was heavily down voted and there were many answers posted, with all of the ones which I read being mostly critical. Based on what the post said, I'm not surprised. After such a relatively long period of mostly silence from the company, did they really expect this new post, with basically no new information & a mostly boilerplate type response, would be considered reasonable by very many members here, and would help in any way to calm things down (rather than further inflame passions as it seems to mostly have done instead)? IMHO, it basically doesn't do anything to improve transparency, communication or trust with the users.

The way the company has been responding (or, more accurately, not usually responding) to concerns here, and communicating (actually, often not communicating) with the members, over the past week, as well as more generally over the past several years, is not particularly reasonable or logical to me. It's the hard work of various members, in particular the moderators and power users (note I am very grateful for the long, hard, unpaid work these people have done, and are continuing to do), which has helped to provide the large amount of excellent content, thus allowing the overall Stack Exchange set of Web sites, in particular the largest one of Stack Overflow, to become so successful. IMHO, we deserve better consideration from the company.

I hope the company realizes their recent actions, in particular how they've so far handled the "firing" of Monica, is causing a lot of anger & hurt in the community. Based on my understanding, it was for not agreeing to follow somebody's interpretation of an aspect of the proposed new CoC (Code of Conduct) policy, which is not even in effect yet & which, at least theoretically, could still be changed before implementation in such a way it would no longer be an issue. This strongly reminded me of the Minority Report movie.

These types of actions, and inactions, is basically "killing the golden goose". From what I've read, and seen to some extent, too many companies, especially public ones, are overly focused on the short-term and disregard the long-term effects of their decisions. I believe there's enough high quality questions & answers on the various sites for the company to be able to continue making a lot of money from them for quite a long while, even if nothing much new of any reasonable quality was coming in. However, a lot of content, especially if it's technology related (which, overall, is the large majority of the SE content), tends to date fairly quickly, so its value will quite rapidly decrease. I believe it's better & more logical, for the long-term health of the company, to do a more appropriate job of listening, trying to act on and respond to the members here, plus it should not necessarily need to cost a lot nor cause any significant loss of revenue (in fact, avoiding bad publicity such as what has been arising here since Monica's "firing" should help to improve revenue, even in the short term).

These points are similar to those of others I've read on this meta & several other sites' metas. I hope the company listens to these messages & makes certain appropriate changes. Even if they do, they should realize it'll take a lot of time & effort to try to rebuild trust, but improving communications & being more transparent would be an excellent start.

Update on Oct. 6, 2019: The post of just a few hours ago of An apology to our community, and next steps is an excellent step in the right direction, even though it still did not address several important unresolved issues. As one of its answers basically says, this should have occurred much sooner, but better late than never. I hope that what was expressed there is more than just words, with various concrete actions happening based on what it said the company would do. Also, going forward, I hope they provide more such communications, along with listening to us more and, where appropriate, taking actions based on those interactions.

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