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.
Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?
Are there specific issues with unwelcoming behavior toward LGBTQ persons on Stack Exchange?
Is there a plan for dealing with all the moderator vacancies?
Stack Exchange staff speaking to the press instead of the community
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:
- The company does a thing without explaining it.
- 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).
- 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.