-2192

Last week we made an important decision for our community. We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change that behavior. We recognize it has caused concern in the community as a whole. We made a hard decision, and we stand by that decision. But we must also acknowledge the way in which we implemented it and our communications surrounding the decision could have been much better.

Moving forward, we will release an official process around removing moderators. We have a policy for users, but this is the first time we’ve had to remove a moderator for a Code of Conduct violation. If we have to remove a diamond in the future we will follow a published process. We’re finalizing the policy internally now and will ship it ASAP.

We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday. We didn’t follow that rule last week and as a result there was a lot of confusion over the weekend. Even more, this weekend was a religious holiday observed by many on the site. We’re sorry for the confusion and uneasiness that caused.

We’re doing a postmortem internally on how we can do better next time. As we build a more welcoming and inclusive network we’ll continue to learn and to improve.

As we continue on this path to doing better, we want to thank you for everything you do and for being such a huge part of this community. We do value every one of you. We’ve seen your pings on chat and on the network and have been actively working to get you answers as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience. We never wanted to leave people wondering about their future in the sites they've worked very hard to moderate.

  • 730
    There's a process for removing moderators – Snow Oct 3 at 15:46
  • 374
    'We never wanted to leave people wondering about their future in the sites they've worked very hard to moderate.' - and yet, even after this "apology", so many questions asked in the numerous posts have been left unanswered (leaving me further confused regarding whether this is it or if you'll follow up with more). Do you plan on answering them? If it took you three days to come up with this then you've really got more deeper problems that you think. – Script47 Oct 3 at 15:47
  • 496
    I'm not sure what the point of this is. SO fired a highly popular moderator for unclear reasons that may impact the community. This ignores the reasons the community is up in arms in the first place and apologizes for setting the house on fire late Friday instead of Monday, – Machavity Oct 3 at 15:53
  • 326
    And yet you continue to cast aspersions on a hugely respected and highly regarded Mod without offering a single shred of evidence or any context to back it up. Given her own posts on the subject, I'm sure Monica would be more than happy to have her transcripts released. – Kaz Oct 3 at 15:53
  • 301
    A more interesting question is the process for removing SE employees... In many ways, while Monica was a mod, she was (and still is) also a user, and much of what has been done to, and said about Monica in the past weeks violates the Be Nice policy. What happens to those people? Does the Be Nice policy apply to everyone except SE staff? – rolfl Oct 3 at 15:53
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    "repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct": citation needed. "CM’s repeated requests to change": citation needed. – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 15:54
  • 365
    Am I mistaken in thinking that the moderator in question did not as much repeatedly violate the CoC, but instead repeatedly questioned a CoC not yet in effect? – Bart Oct 3 at 15:55
  • 158
    @MonicaCellio As often happens, there's a bit of a "he said, she said" ("they said, they said"?) angle to this because some amount of what happened was in your 100% private email correspondence with SE. In the interests of transparency, would it be possible for you to publish screenshots or copy-pastes of those emails? Or would you consider that violation of something / want to seek agreement from the other party first? – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 at 15:59
  • 240
    Unfortunately, this "apology" reads as insincere as the boilerplate farewells under Robert Harvey's and Gilles's resignation posts. I find it believable - though hard to believe, going by what I've read from Monica over the years - that it may have been necessary to remove her moderator status. But the way it was done is deplorable, and "our communications surrounding the decision could have been much better" has good chances to become the understatement of the century. – Daniel Fischer Oct 3 at 15:59
  • 199
    This is not enough. How can you apologize for shipping on friday on a thursday, even after everything that has happened? How can you say you've been actively working on answering messages and questions when you have probably the most downvoted post in meta, mostly due to your silence (with a canned response to make things worse)? This post is a grand amount of nothing and leaves users still in the dark, without feeling "loved" and definitely without feeling like being your "friends". – David DPG Oct 3 at 16:02
  • 106
    Thank you for posting an update. As many others point out it's not satisfactory, but it's a step in the right direction. Please continue communicating as the situation evolves. It's really helpful to know complaints are at least getting heard. – amon Oct 3 at 16:06
  • 480
    @Randal'Thor let's start with them telling us exactly what part of the current CoC they think I "repeated violated". There's a lot of discussion in that email including of deeply personal identity-background stuff, so I want to know what the charge is before I decide if that response would help. They didn't even tell me what they think I did. – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 16:06
  • 155
    Too little, too late. If you actually own your mistake, reinstate Monica, then write up the new policy officially, and then work with mods to make sure it is followed, with appropriate (and escalating) consequences. – Cyn says make Monica whole Oct 3 at 16:09
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    What I find annoying is that the OP is not participating here after posting, as is pretty much expected from anyone posting. And in particular in this kind of issue - staying silent is a bad look. – Oded Oct 3 at 16:20
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    So this is the Welcome Wagon we were promised? Accusations of violations without proof? Character slander? This is hardly different than the generic cross posted answer I’ve seen on all the resignation posts. – Sterling Archer Oct 3 at 16:27

58 Answers 58

86

When I first read What a very bad day at work taught me about building Stack Overflow’s community, I agreed to most of the statements and still do.

I thought you would improve our community for the best, but apparently not.

You didn't even apologize to Monica and the rest of the community

Monica did an excellent job for the community as a moderator and there is no reason why Monica was fired for not following the standards under the unreleased CoC.

Release the new Code Of Conduct and apologize to us.

  • 12
    "We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct" – Rubiksmoose Oct 3 at 17:04
  • 3
    @Rubiksmoose meta.stackexchange.com/a/334271/388884 – CaldeiraG Oct 3 at 17:05
  • 4
    +1 for most of this but then -1 for the last sentence. In my opinion, not only should the company not realse a new and more draconian Code of Conduct, but rather - repeal the existing one or make it significantly less oppressive and arbitrary in terms of process. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:13
  • @einpoklum I agree with you but the last sentence was mostly motivated to see what Monica actually violated in the new CoC (it will be released ASAP as Sara mentioned and since they actively used it to fire Monica) than making it more draconian. – CaldeiraG Oct 3 at 22:22
  • @CaldeiraG: So please elaborate on the last sentence a bit to make that clearer. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:39
  • 2
    We do not deserve the apology, it should not be addressed to us. meta.stackexchange.com/a/334334/135923 – Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 1:49
  • I believe you meant "didn't even apologize to Monica and..." but I hesitate to edit that part as it's in bold. In case it's just a mistake due to having English as a foreign language, I'll explain: "for" in this case would mean "on behalf of." "To" would indicate the receipt point of the apology. I'm pretty sure you meant "to" instead of "for." – Wildcard Oct 4 at 16:25
  • @Wildcard thanks for the advice, i'm indeed a non-native speaker, I'll fix it :) – CaldeiraG Oct 4 at 18:45
  • @Rubiksmoose it should be We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct in future. This means she was fired for what she will probably do and not has done yet. – shiny-metal Oct 6 at 7:44
  • @shiny-metal yet it was not phrased that way on purpose. According to the information I have, they phrased it correctly. – Rubiksmoose Oct 6 at 13:09
82

There are already a lot of responses here, and a lot of comments regarding the lack of "apology" in your apology.

I doubt I would have very much to add, so instead I will quote the brilliant Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. Considering that we just passed Rosh Hashana, and in fact that was explicitly part of the timing of this incident, I figure it is apropos.

See eg this thread here, discussing the Jewish concept of "tshuva", repentance, and how it relates to apologizing.

[...] The critical one, in my view, is repentance, where the real work is on the person who has done harm.

There are specific steps to repentance work: 1) owning the harm perpetrated (ideally publicly); 2) do the work to become the kind of person who doesn't do harm (which requires a ton of inner work) 3) Make restitution for harm done, in whatever way possible.

4) THEN apologize for the harm caused in whatever way that will make it as right as possible with the victim 5) when faced with the opportunity to cause similar harm in the future, make a better choice.

(The whole thread, and article linked there, are absolutely worth a read even if you are not Jewish.)

Bottom line: even if this was an apology (and I really hope you see how it is so far from a real apology, "I'm sorry you're an idiot", or "I'm sorry I got caught") - the time for an apology is after you have righted the wrongs, and fixed your processes to prevent it from happening.

Even the most golden of apologies is completely misplaced while you are still doubling down on the harm you are actively causing.

Happy Holidays and (Jewish) New Year.

  • 2
    Brilliantly said. Can't agree more. – Xander Oct 4 at 1:37
  • 8
    It is ironic (in a comedic way) to use Danya Ruttenberg as a reference, given that she is a vocal trans advocate and demands the use of they/them pronouns where requested, for both religious and ethical reasons. – Aza Oct 4 at 1:48
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    It is only ironic if you truly believe this whole fiasco was based on an anti-trans position by Monica. That is incredibly far from the truth, despite your own personal experience. They/them notwithstanding (which I personally agree with you about, but that is neither here nor there). – Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 1:51
75

We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct

Can you give us some info on this? Where exactly in the existing Code of Conduct is this?

being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change the behavior

Again, I'd like some more information. What did the CM request? Why was the request not accepted?

we will release an official process around removing moderators

You already have one.


Thank you for this response in general. I understand that it's hard for you to cooperate with the community, and I appreciate the effort that you put forward to do so.

To the pessimists out there: No, this is not meant to be snarky. I genuinely mean this.

75

I wrote this answer yesterday, after upvoting 26 other answers from folks who expressed their views better than I could. In the meantime, the question was locked so I had to keep this sitting on my computer for a while, which in fact was not a bad thing after all.

Sara,

There is a process in place with respect to moderator removals, and the fact that this process was not followed and this failure has yet to be acknowledged is deeply disturbing.

Regarding your update, the main points to note are:

  • This is not an apology
  • It does not address our concerns
  • More importantly, it does not solve any of the problems this entire situation caused.

Up until now I didn't comment on the events, I waited, following what was happening. How either the CMs, or you, the Director of public Q&A, would address this debacle.

But at this point I feel that it is now past the time you had recognized there was a mistake, offered an apology, and managed to revert the train of events to the best of your ability.

Now, after endorsing George Stocker's answer, I have to add that, for your next update on this topic, I expect SE, or mainly, you, to:

  • Reinstate Monica Cellio as a moderator (refer, in particular, to her post which btw was recipient of my 27th upvote here). In addition, own up for the mistake when addressing the community, and politely request all moderators who left, in protest, to please come back, because they do relevant and appreciated work;
  • If Monica did indeed violate the existing Code of Conduct in a manner that really warrants immediate termination, please make this very clear to us and please demonstrate that efforts have been made to make sure SHE understands what happened. Because, at this point, she is in clear disagreement with the facts that Stack Exchange The Company, in the figure of you, the director, claim to be correct.
  • Failing that, I expect your resignation (or, in the event are not willing to resign, your termination notice from someone higher up in the hierarchy - assuming there is such a person) as well as the resignation or dismissal of the person directly responsible for summarily revoking Monica's mod status with complete disregard to the established process.

Note that, as a regular member of the community, I can't demand any of those measures to take place. None of us can. But we can hope.

Please don't take this as an attack to you as a person; it is not. But you are the Director. And it is in that quality that I address you. In my opinion, the way you have handled things so far makes us really question whether you are able to do the job effectively.


p.s. - In your response to The Register, you said "(...) and above all else, we are committed to creating communities that are welcoming and inclusive." This is pretty much in line with every other post I read from you, and while I highly question your use of "above all else" in this context (alas, the existence of evidence and implications of non-inclusiveness is being discussed on another post), that's not the point. The point is simple: Please consider just how welcoming it looks to conduct things the way they have been over the last few days, and the message it conveys to the community.

  • 4
    I really like your "way forward." I just wish I could be more optimistic that any of that will happen. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 6 at 9:54
  • 3
    Probably read every answer twice by now and this is the best one, in particular because it calls for someone's job at the professional level. The degree and scope of the misstep require nothing less. – user95071 Oct 17 at 17:24
73

In all honesty, I do believe that knowing why Monica Celio was demoted as a mod is none of our business (or at least, none of the regular users business).

However, I do believe that it is Monica's business to know why she was demoted.

From what I have read so far, I get the feeling that Monica hasn't received a proper explanation about what she did wrong. So, if this is true (and I could be wrong), I urge you to send her a detailed (and private) message explaining all that.

There is nothing more awful than being banned from a place you love without understanding why.

  • 54
    Abuse of power is everybody's business. Unless there is a reason not to divulge, such as the victim explicitly demanding it, then abuse of power is everybody's business by default. It should not be hidden in the shadows. – Loduwijk Oct 3 at 18:43
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    I think it is my business; therefore it is my business. I put in effort here, I see others do the same. The moderators put in extraordinary time and effort. I will respond to how they and others are treated. I care about how others are treated. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 4 at 0:44
  • 1
    As a general principle those who hold personal information should not divulge it publicly without explicit consent from that person to do so. The issue of it being 'in the public interest' complicates that, but unfortunately those who do not know the details are by definition not in a position to make that judgement. Also SE is not an independent party in this concern, so I would prefer they were extremely cautious about making that judgement. It would be a bad idea to do so hastily, particularly as public communication is irreversible. Instead I agree with Aelis's suggested course of action. – Isaac Oct 4 at 13:00
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    Why is it none of our (users) business? Was she not elected by us in those positions? – ypercubeᵀᴹ Oct 4 at 18:31
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    It might have been proper to consider it a matter to be dealt with privately, in the beginning. It no longer can be considered so as the object of the termination has, repeatedly, asked for the details in this thread, and has alluded to considering presenting evidence from the other side here as well. – Gypsy Spellweaver Oct 6 at 10:23
70

This is far from the first time a moderator has been removed. I know of at least two others, apparently there are even more, according to:

I can think of at least one moderator that was removed due to sharing PII publicly - years ago, so this is not a "first", as claimed here. – Oded

One moderator was even removed for violating the law in quite an obscene way, let alone the Code of Conduct (née Be Nice) policy.

Did you refer back to any of these events, or ask the CM team if there were any prior moderator removals, in order to guide your efforts during this process?

I imagine that anyone of Tim Post, Robert Cartaino, Shog9 (which might even be his real name), or Jon Ericson ought to have been able to help there, at least.

If you did not, will you commit to searching for and relying on precedent for future situations?

  • 9
    There is a very, very formal process for removing a moderator. – enderland Oct 3 at 16:35
  • That mod (I'll avoid naming) was removed for that specifically? I thought he was removed because he went inactive. (which of course we found out why later) – Mysticial Oct 3 at 16:43
  • Re "Shog9 (which might even be his real name)": No, see Stack Exchange podcast episode 5, 2011-05-18 (episode 91 if the original series, Stack Overflow podcast, is counted), from 11 min 04 secs. Dubious source. – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 17:56
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    @PeterMortensen It's a jest. – TylerH Oct 3 at 18:09
  • Ah, that makes sense. – user474678 Oct 3 at 21:02
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    [offtopic] "One moderator was even removed for violating the law in quite an obscene way" - I've heard of this a couple times before, but never found any more information (nor cared too much to look it up, for that matter). People usually mention it, but feel too awkward to give any more detail. I just wonder, when did it happen, and what the crime was. Can you tell us? – Marc.2377 Oct 4 at 2:42
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    @Marc.2377 The Answer From a Mod – JBis Oct 5 at 0:24
  • I think you mean precedents, not precedence. – phoog Oct 6 at 5:07
  • @phoog Yes, I always seem to get those two mixed up. – TylerH Oct 7 at 1:54
62

I told you so seven years ago, if only you cared to listen:

"if a moderator breaches the mod agreement". Of course it's a big assumption and you are begging your case.

The fact is, we initially never know whether this is the case, and the facts of the matter need to be ascertained, first and foremost. The "moderator who is guilty by hypothesis" is not a valid starting point here.

Any user is innocent until proven guilty. I hope there is no discussion here.

Therefore, I demand loudly that no public action is taken against any user, including a moderator, before the facts of the matter are ascertained OR the user requests the discussions to be public.

I don't think it is even remotely acceptable to publicly shame (or put to trial) the action of a unpaid volunteer because someone disagrees with them.

Even if a mod is wrong, please say "thank you for helping us in your free time", not "I will put you on trial in public".

I stand by my words.

Understand the hurt you caused. Apologize sincerely. Stop making excuses. Stop blaming the victim. Make this right. Stick to your words.

  • 2
    Did you target the "you" in "I told you so" at Sara? If so, I cannot find them participating in the linked thread. If not, I'd like to suggest changing "you" to "StackExchange Inc.". (I feel like this reads too much against Sara personally in that case. Perhaps I am biased by reading through all the other critique.) – ComFreek Oct 5 at 17:06
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    @ComFreek It's seems clear to me that the you here is plural and refers to the Stack Exchange company – particularly when read in the context of Sara’s post where “we” is used consistently. – Anthony G - justice for Monica Oct 5 at 19:06
61

Why did you upgrade the charges here in public, compared to last week when you told the moderators about it by pinning a message in the Teacher's Lounge?

Repeatedly violating the code of conduct wasn't part of the charges then, your message only mentions Monica being unwilling to follow the requirement to respect stated pronouns.

Why are you claiming that this is the first time you had to remove a moderator for Code of Conduct violations?

I can't be entirely sure because until now SE has handled moderator firings as silent as possible, but this statement might at best be technically correct, but still extremely misleading. Before we had the Code of Conduct we had "Be Nice", which fullfilled the same purpose. And I am sure that moderators have been fired for violating the "Be Nice" rules.

Adding this misleading statement only serves to trump up the charges, and to make this look like more of an extreme situation than it actually was.

58

This response has been picked apart, but I feel a few more points need to be raised.

As we continue on this path to doing better, we want to thank you for everything you do and for being such a huge part of this community. We do value every one of you.

It's quite obvious you did not care about the moderator, as your action in removing her moderator status came without proper warning or communication. If this action did come with warning, that warning should be cited, especially following an uproar of this magnitude.

The sheer lack of transparency on this issue is the largest cause for concern. In order to find even some of the smallest bits of information on this event, you have to scour meta SO or meta SE. I personally spent the better part of an hour simply reading over all relevant topics of the event and trying to piece the story together.

I had hoped that, after almost a week of deliberation, we would at the very least get some detailed information regarding this event, rather than:

Last week we made an important decision for our community. We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change the behavior.

This explanation is vague and lacks sufficient information to inform the public of your decision, or even of the event that transpired. Transparency is necessary when you're discussing the unceremonious removal of a well-renowned moderator.

I request that this post be heavily edited to hopefully explain what happened, how it happened, the thought process behind the moderator's removal, and eventually, your serious plans for the future. I also request that the plans for the future be discussed on meta with the community such that we, and Stack Exchange CMs, never endure this sort of issue again.

51

This is an apology for what, exactly? The timing, what you did, how you communicated it, or how you did it? All I see is a minor regret (not even an actual apology) for the timing, which (while unfortunate) is a minor point compared to the other three points.

Given that you're doubling down on what you did, I take it you're not apologizing for that. This is disappointing, especially since I have yet to see any evidence that Monica actually did anything wrong. Besides being abusive to Monica, this is also abusive to the community which, given the voting on this Q&A and other related Q&As, does not agree with the views you're expressing here. Monica was a community-elected moderator; that being the case, I for one would hope that the opinion of the community would make at least some difference in whether she remains a moderator or not.

Given that you're still adamantly refusing to release any more details on the rationale for the firing in spite of numerous requests that you do (including from Monica), you're apparently not all that sorry about the communication part either. You merely vaguely specify that you'll try to do "better" in the future, without specifying exactly what you'll do better.

Given that there's an already-existing process that was not followed (and and a still-promised future process change that apparently won't be applied retroactively), you're evidently not too sorry about how you did it, either.

Which leaves the question: what, exactly, are you apologizing for here? Do you actually think that the majority of us would've been any happier about this if you had done this on, for example, a Tuesday instead?

If you're actually serious about doing better about this in the future, can you give actual details of how you would've handled this specific instance differently (other than waiting for a Monday that wasn't a holiday)?

The house is on fire here. Moderators are resigning to the point that some sites are left with only one moderator (or none at all) and high-rep users are quitting. I for one would like to see more than a half-hearted attempt to appease us with vague platitudes.

44

I normally don't get involved in controversial topics. I generally shy away from controversy to avoid the stress of being scrutinized in an emotionally charged environment. But I think the necessity of saying something now outweighs any trepidation I might feel.

It seems that the Stack Exchange team has lost the trust of a large number of community users. I'm not going to rehash the public details of what has happened over the past few days, much less the past few months or a couple of years.

But it seems that the Stack Exchange company has lost the trust of its community. When trust is lost, simply asserting statements to be true without evidence or other supporting statements rings hollow. It seems like the company is attempting to convince the users of something with authority alone. The argument from authority logical fallacy means that whatever arguments made from authority alone are unsound. It doesn't necessarily mean that the conclusion drawn is incorrect, but just because something comes from an authority doesn't mean it's true.

An argument from authority [...] is a form of defeasible argument in which a claimed authority's support is used as evidence for an argument's conclusion. It is well known as a fallacy, though some consider that it is used in a cogent form when all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority in the given context.

It's obvious that "all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority" doesn't apply here.

I don't envy Stack Exchange's current status. The company is now in a very difficult position. It relies on the community for its very existence, but trust has been broken with a large number of community users.

I think that Stack Exchange's number 1 priority has to be to regain the trust of the community. It's not my job to do this, but I would think that it would involve complete transparency about controversial events that have happened, both in the recent past and in the not-so-recent past, up to the point where privacy would be violated.

Admitting a mistake is sometimes very difficult to do, but it is very often the right thing to do. Who wants to admit that an action was wrong, especially when the consequences have been severe? Many times the right thing to do is not the easiest thing to do. But it seems like a logical first step to me.

I respect a person more when that person admits being wrong. It's a sign that trust and repairing damage are more important than the pride of doing everything "right".

Stack Exchange needs the courage to do the right thing, even if it's painful inside. Then with the courage, it needs to take the initiative and actually do the right thing.

43

I'm basically a nobody in the community - I mostly browse, rarely participate - but I'm worried by the direction SE is taking. My two cents:

As we continue on this path to doing better,

I'm under the impression that over the last several months you have been steadily on the path to doing worse. Continue at your own peril.

we want to thank you for everything you do and for being such a huge part of this community.

By unceremoniously removing people who dare raise valid concerns with an unpublished CoC. I'm not part of the LGBT community but I understand the need to not be misgendered - wouldn't want to be misgendered myself. But a singular they when gender is unknown or irrelevant to the conversation cannot reasonably be perceived as anything resembling an attack.

Outside of the context of the whole situation, I might find the comparison to shipping code to be a funny joke. In context though, this is a really bad look. Reminds me of how some activists refer to people as "bodies" - black bodies, female bodies. Dehumanizing, while claiming to be inclusive. Disgusting.

  • 11
    I'm not amazingly active either (mostly on Codegolf), and I wouldn't have found out about this had Dennis not resigned. You 100% explained how I feel about what's been going on, and probably how a lot of similarly infrequent users feel too. (Of course, I can't really speak for anyone else) – Οurous Oct 4 at 1:31
  • 4
    @Οurous I think there may be a lot of people like us - not very active, but not happy with the goings on. Or simply inactive enough to not even be aware of the situation. The meta thread is visible on home screen, but really, how many of us even look at that part of the page regularly? This allows SE to push on with policy changes without really losing a user base. The change is vastly unpopular, but who really knows about it - 1% of the users overall? The solidarity among moderators makes me very happy. This is probably the only way bad changes even have a chance to be prevented. – user622505 Oct 4 at 1:48
  • 2
    I think theres a lot of us. I frequent sites occasionally but rarely post. I value SE as a resource and community, and have watched it spiral from my circles or respect over time. Its incredibly telling to have so many moderators, long time contributors, and 'nobody's' like us who feel strongly about the future of SE!! – OnStrike Oct 4 at 4:11
  • 2
    Lasooch, we don't have a lot of solid information here, and there are conflicts in the information we do have. However, it's fairly clear that Monica does not want to use singular "they" in her writing, and that she was trying to find acceptable solutions that would let her be respectful to people without using singular "they". – PM 2Ring Oct 4 at 6:11
  • 2
    @PM2Ring fair enough, I misread Monica's original post and thanks for the clarification. The point still stands, though, as she does say she writes in a way that avoids gender altogether. I don't see a way how you can misgender people while not gendering them at all. – user622505 Oct 4 at 8:29
  • 2
    No worries. There's been quite a bit of misreading going on lately. ;) And of course it should be perfectly fine to avoid misgendering people by not gendering them at all. But there have been suggestions from several mods / ex-mods that the situation is more complex than that. – PM 2Ring Oct 4 at 8:37
  • 1
    I suggest you take a look at this answer by an ex-mod. Although she wasn't present in TL during Sara & Monica's confrontation, that has no bearing on the first couple of sentences of that answer. Also see called2voyage's answer. I should make it clear that I am abhorred by the way Monica was dismissed. – PM 2Ring Oct 4 at 8:42
42

The title of this question is

An Update to our Community and an Apology

This question is definitely an update to the community, a rather thin update, but I don't see any part of it being an apology, so there is definitely a problem with the title. I do see that an employee of SE is defending their actions. I would definitely like to see an apology to the community as well.

I see many answers and comments that are requesting additional information as a justification for the termination of a popular moderator. Many people on SE may not realize this, but we have gotten all the information that SE can legally give. I am not an attorney, but I have spent 25 years working for large corporations. I know that by providing any more information SE may open itself up to fines and lawsuits.

Would I like to see more information? Yes. Do I expect to see more information? No.

  • 1
    Thanks for the insight on legality, I did not know that. However, from your understanding would it not be permissible for SE to release the content of only Monica's statements that they find reprehensible with her express permission? She has already asked for this here and in other places from my understanding. – Geronimo Oct 3 at 18:27
  • Isn't there a difference between an employee and an (outside) volunteer? – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 18:28
  • @Geronimo No the law would prevent them from releasing that information. It isn't clear whether they have fully documented the issues over time as they would have to to fire an employee, but Monica was not an employee. – pacmaninbw Oct 3 at 18:30
  • @PeterMortensen Yes, an employee with have more rights than an outside volunteer. – pacmaninbw Oct 3 at 18:31
  • 7
    -1 your corporate experience biases your view of what SE Inc. can release. Corporations very often hide information they can and possibly should release and make faux claims about legal restrictions. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:42
  • 2
    Well, there is no law yet that says that the company has to demod a moderator immediately who disengages from a conversation rather than using "they" as a pronoun. Not that you are saying it, but the way SE has been acting is by no way the only legal thing they could have done. – Michael Oct 5 at 17:04
  • There is an apology! They is apologizing for doing that in a Friday. Next time, they is going to do that in a Tuesday! – Victor Stafusa Oct 6 at 20:21
38

What is the whole story? This post only makes me more confused!

After reading the comments, I got a name, then I did some search, and get some posts, after reading the following answer: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/333773

My intuition told me that, this Monica is a pretty good person, who can stands up towards those powers.

I have seen more than one other moderators who are mediocre, and without any sense of justice.

And, from her posts, I personally think Monica is not one of them. She got the right spirit !!!

She is brave and got a good sense on how to improve the community.

You can see from her posts that she doesn't hesitate to tell the truth even though other people who are in power don't agree.

And, that might be the major reason why she got fired.

I support her!

  • 13
    So from this I get you want to say that out of context, this was extremely weird, and when you went looking for context, you were shocked, and while you agree that moderators can sometimes overstep boundaries, you feel like Monica wasn't likely to be one of them or, you're certain she wasn't? (I think the down votes here are because that's not clear. This appears to be an answer, but if you could revise it a little, it would certainly help others understand) – Tim Post Oct 3 at 17:21
  • @TimPost Thank you , I have revised the answer, hope it's better now – Eric Wang Oct 3 at 17:33
  • Re "the right sprite": Do you mean "the right spirit"? – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 18:04
  • @PeterMortensen Yes, apology for the typo, just fixed it. – Eric Wang Oct 3 at 18:07
  • 7
    @TimPost thanks for still helping peoples to clarify their posts. Hug to you if you accept it :) – Tensibai Oct 3 at 18:46
33

This is not an answer to the question because the post is not a question. Instead, this is an attempt to answer the question

How could one conceivably rectify things?

In my opinion the answer is very simple:

  1. Provide transparency to the actions. Let those who were accused of wrongdoing decide whether or not their actions can be made public. Do not use the excuse "We need to protect the individual" in order to hide behind some more or less empty expressions like "repeated CoC violations".
  2. Provide real means to appeal decisions. Real means that the appeal will be handled by individuals who are independent. Clearly, the independent entities cannot be the one who made the decision which is being appealed, nor their co-workers or buddies.

Needless to say that these standards need to be applied at all levels, in particular also when ordinary users deal with moderators, not just when moderators deal with individuals who are higher up in the food chain.

31

It's unfortunate that we sometimes have to make judgements based on incomplete information. It's possible that, with complete information, we'd make a different judgement.

This is one of those cases where I feel the need to speak out, even at the risk of getting it wrong because I don't have all the information.

Sara writes that "... we made an important decision for our community...". Who is "we"? I suspect that this decision was made by a very small clique of SO employees intent on enforcing a very narrow, crabbed view of diversity. The evidence presented for terminating Monica's mod status is somewhere between thin and non-existent. There's enough here to besmirch Monica's reputation but not nearly enough to understand why. Most people seem to think it's just a mistake. I no longer believe it was just a good-faith mistake. I believe it's really punishment for a thoughtcrime Monica has been found guilty of by this small clique.

30

Ultimately here's my two cents on this thing. SE made a poor decision and the community as a whole is mostly in agreement (on top of the mass mod exodus). They're clearly not listening, and giving half motions by ways of apologies and answers.

The only way to send a message to a company that clearly only cares about their bottom line at this point is to hit them in their wallets. Walk away, don't support any of the Exchanges. Don't visit their sites, don't let their ads load. Let the whole infrastructure collapse.

  • 12
    In total agreement. After the great welcoming of 2017 and how SE staff and moderators sided with a person from Twitter rather than site contributors that's when I walked away personally. Things haven't improved it seems, people outraged posting on Meta should cut their losses and stop voluntarily contributing to the success of those who you disagree with. – Loktar Oct 3 at 17:10
  • 4
    If the companies that advertise on SE are aware of the situation, then we may have hit them where it hurts. – pacmaninbw Oct 3 at 18:24
  • 4
    Are you really sure only mods are leaving? – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 4 at 19:41
27

Last week we made an important decision for our community. We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change their behavior.

First of all, what part? This was never mentioned anywhere and while I understand not disclosing reasons for punishing users, Monica herself said that she hasn't even been informed about what the violation was. If you won't tell us, at least tell the person you're firing why you're doing it. And besides, why did you say "their"? Isn't using gender-neutral pronouns bad and misgendering? Isn't it better to assume you know her pronouns (especially since you do anyway)? citation needed, from MC herself

We recognize it has caused concern in the community as a whole. We made a hard decision, and we stand by that decision. But we must also acknowledge the way in which we implemented it and our communications surrounding the decision could have been much better.

Standing by this decision is the main problem people see. Your delivery isn't what the focus is on. Maybe that's a mistake, but no matter when or how you delivered it, the fact that a valuable member of your (previous) team is being fired and she doesn't even know what she "violated" is the problem. There is no problem with banning users or firing moderators for violating policy. There is a problem when you say she violated policy without telling anyone what that even meant, not even herself.

Moving forward, we will release an official process around removing moderators. We have a policy for users, but this is the first time we’ve had to remove a moderator for a Code of Conduct violation.

this post: am I a joke to you?

I guess it's not official, but at least stick to the unofficial thing? Also it's sort of a common-sense policy.

If we have to remove a diamond in the future we will follow a published process. We’re finalizing the policy internally now and will ship it ASAP.

Don't do it on a Friday :)

We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday. We didn’t follow that rule last week and as a result there was a lot of confusion over the weekend. Even more, this weekend was a religious holiday observed by many on the site. We’re sorry for the confusion and uneasiness that caused.

This was not the problem, just adding onto the existing issue. It's not Friday anymore. You've communicated with us. There's still confusion - why she was banned - and uneasiness - is SE still worth it - even now. Friday or not, this wouldn't have been a problem if an attempt at properly communicating the decision was made in the first place.

We’re doing a postmortem internally on how we can do better next time. As we build a more welcoming and inclusive network we’ll continue to learn and to improve.

Good. But if you are dodging doing better this time, how can we be assured that you'll do better next time? (Also, Monica seems quite willing to have the messages that condemn her released with explanations about why, given that she isn't even aware of this apparent "policy")

As we continue on this path to doing better, we want to thank you for everything you do and for being such a huge part of this community. We do value every one of you.

Including LGBTQ+ people?

We’ve seen your pings on chat and on the network and have been actively working to get you answers as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

I hope for change in the future. I'll be quite patient in this regard.

We never wanted to leave people wondering about their future in the sites they've worked very hard to moderate.

Except you did. And I don't think that's been resolved by this post.

  • 12
    The existing moderator removal process looks pretty official; it was written by Shog9 with the involvement of Robert Cartaino and Jeff Atwood. – NobodyNada - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 17:21
24

I assume the ultimate goal of the Code of Conduct is to make everyone feel welcome at SE and to make it a happy and friendly place, where people are kind to each other and everyone is entitled to her own beliefs and ideas.

But have you been kind to Monica? Is she happy right now? Does she feel welcome here?

I strongly believe that someone with a lot of power should only use this power against another human being if it is very well motivated. If there is a conflict, you should always try to find a solution that everyone is okay with -- even the "bad" guy.

It might take a bit longer, it might require some patience, diplomacy, communication skills, and interpersonal skills, but most often it's worth it.

It might well be the case that you (SE) did everything right in this case, but I suspect not. I suspect the issue could have been settled in a different way.

20

Maybe "removing a moderator" was an over-reaction ("going nuclear").

A more gradual escalation might be e.g. kicking someone from a chatroom temporarily, for a cooling off period, maybe resuming the chat in private when you have the time and patience to explain things clearly.

I think this is what moderators do -- it's how they're expected (dare I say "required") to handle errant users. Perhaps it surprises a moderator to find that SE treats them (or "her") differently than how we ("moderators") are expected to treat others ("users").

I don't know who took that "important decision for our community". Monica's post suggests it might have been or involved you personally ...

Someone with a "director" job title had dropped into the room to announce ...

As an aside I expect that one of the functions of a director is to fire people -- I think of that job title as synonymous with "hatchet-person" (so if I'd seen "a director", that might have 'chilled' my speech)!

But anyway: "moderating"...

Normally the CoC says (note well):

Focus on the content, not the person

In this case apparently somebody escalated -- and made it a personal or personnel matter.

Incidentally the CoC is the moderators' "bible", if you'll excuse my jargon, I mention that in case you wonder how a moderator might take it literally or argue about its wording -- moderators have to know it, have to quote and explain it to users, and so on. So ... (!!)

Maybe a "culture" thing, communication styles?

Speaking of content, I read the original post (above) closely. Others answers argue that you ought to reverse your decision and that it's not a true apology unless you correct your alleged error.

Instead of repeating that, I was curious to discover exactly what you are or were apologising for -- it says it's "an Apology" there 'on the tin' (i.e. in the title) -- and as far as I can tell the one apologetic bit is, this sentence:

But we must also acknowledge the way in which we implemented it and our communications surrounding the decision could have been much better.

Every other sentence reads as an "apologia" (i.e. 'words afterwards, intended to justify or defend'), not as an "apology" ('expression of remorse, to avoid perpetuating an error').

Oh, and this paragraph:

We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday. We didn’t follow that rule last week and as a result there was a lot of confusion over the weekend. Even more, this weekend was a religious holiday observed by many on the site. We’re sorry for the confusion and uneasiness that caused.

We’re doing a postmortem internally on how we can do better next time.

In the old days, did you know, if you made a mistake in what you shipped, you'd have to recall the product, correct the defect, and ship again. Costly! But no avoiding it, otherwise you'd lose your sales channel or user base.


Gong back to "explaining things clearly" in a private chat, I mean e.g.

  • Explaining your motives and policies -- maybe with specific examples since generalities can be hard to grasp
  • Communicating how you perceive the tone and direction of the conversation, and whether you tolerate continued talk-back -- maybe "I don't feel like you're hearing me, stop talking and read this very carefully: ... etc."
  • What the choices are and the consequences of choice -- maybe "If you won't please kindly stop talking and comply now, we'll have to ask you to resign"

I guess that would be unambiguous.

You wrote, in the original post ...

being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests

... maybe that's putting a polite gloss on it, a euphemism -- it doesn't sound like the moderator (i.e. Monica) understood that she was being told to e.g. 'understand, comply, and stop talking back'. Monica's post says that she wasn't aware that the time for feedback and dialog had ended.

So to me it sounds like it was (and still is) a miscommunication.

Not that I'm privy to the communications, this is how it seems to be based on the little public information that I've seen.


Anyway; good luck with your (plural) new direction!

  • 1
    Some people won't correctly interpret a "request" from a C-level manager -- especially when isn't face-to-face -- or uses dialect from an unfamiliar culture, e.g. corporate jargon ('the public discourse') like the OP above (and that's not to mention what passes for 'woke' in a dialect). You might need to get better at spelling things out, in private or in public. You might review markets are conversations, too, though that's probably from before your time. – ChrisW Oct 6 at 9:20
  • 1
    OP does not mean "original post" in this place. It means "original poster" (a person). Better expand it to avoid confusion. – Peter Mortensen Oct 6 at 14:30
  • 1
    @PeterMortensen Thank you, Peter. 'OP' used to mean "original poster", now I think it's used for either. So I've changed the answer; can't edit the comment though! – ChrisW Oct 6 at 14:40
20

So, I don't have the full backstory.
And to be honest, I don't really care either.

Bad apologies have consequences. (I couldn't find the whole timeline, but you get the idea).

So to me, this has nothing to do with the safety of the community, or anything regarding religion, gender, who you like or who you don't like. Because to me my gender, religion, name or who I like have never mattered (on the Internet) unless I've entered into a debate about it (not counting bashing in games, etc.). This has to do with sudden changes and how you respond to them.

I also don't pity or take sides when people "rally to a cause", because to be honest, that shit has escalated so quickly throughout the last 5-10 years it's ridiculous and fact checking who says what is a nightmare. I like facts, and I like logic. And usually a shitty response can be boiled down to it being rushed. And it's usually a fast response that's the worst - but Stack Overflow has had plenty of time to think this one through. And even simple facts like "we don't have a process" being fact checked by the first comment - is bad.

I couldn't help but also giggle at this probably well meant, but well timed, Twitter post by the staff Sara Chipps from Stack Overflow: https://i.imgur.com/vQIO4ni.png


So how about inviting the moderators that left and the ones who are still here - for a discussion about what went wrong? Instead of internally handling this? Because obviously thinking on your own accord isn't going to sell to the masses. And maybe make that discussion transparent and open - and don't be afraid of fucking up... We all do; it's how we try to make up for it that matters.


I get it; catering to the masses is hard. But this one is pretty simple. Invite the community to a discussion, create a poll and ask if this was handled correctly (YES, sometimes people just rally to the cause and negative people make a lot more noise than those who don't care/are fine with it. And if that's not the case, well, statistics rarely lie), and be ready to retract certain decisions and have an open mind to ideas put forward... And be ready to explain why certain ideas might be wrong if you think they are - but don't blindly reject them without a reason.

Side note: Even my non-programming friends have woken up to this whole debate... That speaks volumes as to how infected and widespread this issue is.

  • 12
    Discussion, Open, Transparent, all of those words don't exist in Stack Exchange new dictionary. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 5 at 13:52
  • 3
    " has is apparently a he/she/it pronoun connected word. So I'll use have here to not start something I'm not educated enough to deal with. " (from the revision history). What? The word "has" is in no way connected to pronouns. – pppery Oct 5 at 18:18
  • @pppery I got told, so I was just following instructions. I got told it's only used when in junction with he/she/it :) English is by far not my first language, so I can't really get into a debate whether or not it's any truth to it. – Torxed Oct 5 at 18:19
  • 2
    As a native speaker of English, I can say that that is not true and "A bad apology have consequences" is simply gramatically incorrect and should either be "bad apologies have consequences" or "a bad apology has consequences". – pppery Oct 5 at 18:22
  • @pppery Thanks for the feedback. Updated the grammar. – Torxed Oct 5 at 18:24
  • 3
    "create a poll and ask if this was handled correctly" – look, I don't think this was handled correctly at all, but can we please not have votes on whether minorities should be protected or not? This is already probably going to be a tough week for American queer people, I honestly don't want to know how many SE users think trans people deserve respect or not. – anon Oct 6 at 2:20
  • 2
    I upvoted this because of your excellent bad apologies have consequences remark. As for your solution (or next step), which is, inviting the moderators for a discussion of what went wrong – I think we've been embroiled in that for a few days now here on this meta post. Emotions are running high, and sentiments have been made abundantly clear. I say, skip that discussion, reinstate Monica, and issue a real apology. If SE would simply do that, promises like "We will do better moving forward" would sound much less hollow and a bit more credible. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 6 at 9:43
  • What exactly are you referring to by "escalated ... throughout the last 5-10 years"? – Peter Mortensen Oct 6 at 14:47
  • Re "... has" - present simple tense, third person. It is apparently not taught in all schools. – Peter Mortensen Oct 6 at 14:53
  • @PeterMortensen So it should be have? Regarding the escalation, I think the debate on that topic is for a separate thread. But long story short, it doesn't take much more than one person saying something without showing any fact before a bunch of people on the internet wants to join in an support the claim - be it false or true. Making fact checking really hard because you'll have a bunch of people just repeating everyone's statements/words, so getting to the information that started a wave of secondary information is pretty hard/insane these days. – Torxed Oct 6 at 15:11
18

Thank you for taking the time to write to us, better late than never one should say.

Reading your post leaves me with some questions however, I would be delighted if you, or anyone from the team, could answer those.


Let me start with a quote from your post here:

But we must also acknowledge .... our communications surrounding the decision could have been much better.
Omission mine

And your comment on the answer of George Stocker:

Hey all, I've seen all the feedback here and I appreciate it. The only way you can know we will do better in the future is by us showing you. I know that. We're going to work hard to get that trust back.

I find these two very realistic points. Points I would accept as explanation in any other case, except the case here on SO. Because the simple fact is, the company you represent broke my trust too many times the past year or so.

The sad part for me is that I don't see that the company has learned anything from these situations. Yes the META crowd isn't always the most friendly, nor the most forthcoming, but we usually mean it well. We are emotionally attached to this site, the site we helped build, and that makes for emotional responses. But I don't want that to be an excuse for ill behaviour or intentions, as we all deserve to be treated with respect. Hence the blogpost you wrote really resonated with me, and was an eye-opener. Thank you for that.

But to get back to the issue at hand:

Communication and expectation management

I personally feel that most things that spark a vivid discussion here on Meta are in essence not things we disagree with. It rather is the way it is presented to the community that stirs up discussions.

Lets take a few examples:

  • The introduction of advertisement on the network
  • The change of CC license version
  • The issue of adds using fingerprinting techniques

Ill start with the last one:

On the original post Shog9 commented:

FYI: we have a group of folks investigating this; will update once we have more details. Definitely not a good experience.

emphasis mine

This comment set certain expectations, rejecting this behaviour. When the later Official response was

Some of our advertising clients use a third-party ad fraud service to verify their ads are running on the correct sites and to a real audience. This is a normal and standard practice for digital advertising.

Also known as fingerprinting users, which is, to say the least, frowned upon by those who are concerned with their privacy. Also this statement "revoked" the earlier statement from Shog9 as quoted above.

The change of CC license version This was dropped like a bombshell upon the community. Now I know that debating this ad nauseam beforehand would also be completely counter-productive, and choices had to be made, but I feel that a different message, with different timing could have prevented a lot of heated debate.

Personally I'd announce such a change beforehand, say a week or so. Not too long, not too short before. And instead of saying we are going to change, explain why we are changing, and why we can. The answer from GolezTrol to me looks like a plausible explanation on what grounds this change is possible. (not going into legal debate here) If you've stated such a short explanation, along with the benefits of version 4 over version 3 there would be a lot less drama.

Also the concluding comment from Tim in the announcement:

If you've got questions pertaining to the change, we'll do our best to answer them, as long as we can answer without giving specific advice.

Which was followed by very few, if any, answers to (legitimate) questions raised yet again set false expectations.


I'll have to stop writing now, but perhaps will expand later.

PS. don't take this personally, please read "The Company", wherever I wrote "you".

  • GolezTrol's comment on that same answer suggests to me that other people have convinced them to change their mind. – Peter Taylor Oct 4 at 20:37
  • @PeterTaylor. I never stated that it was right, nor do I care. It sounded plausible and that for me suffices. – Luuklag Oct 4 at 20:49
15

The core problem: People/special interest groups that insist (and have cash/political backing) on tolerance are NOT tolerant to others. Monica's case is a great example.

Three great examples: In the U.K., In Canada and Racism in Queer?

Also, a great read.

So, should I guess that Monica did not receive the same tolerance/respect the special-interest groups demand/deserve?

14

We recognize it has caused concern in the community as a whole. We made a hard decision, and we stand by that decision.

Why write an "apology" for a decision you stand by? What are you apologizing for?

You even state that it is the decision itself that has caused concern. The rest of the post is just the "update" part: we will release a new process ..., we learned that ..., we will try to improve...

It's okay if you don't want to apologize because you think what you did was right. That's up to you, but be honest with us and remove Apology from the title because it's not one.


While this is responding to Sara, it is directed to her just as a company representative. I assume she was speaking on the company's behalf so please do not take it as a personal attack because that is not my intention.

13

I understand that you're unable to disclose the full details of the communication between you and the mod that was fired. Privacy issues, etc. OK, fine.

However, there is something that you CAN disclose. You can post here the full text of the proposed update to the CoC, the version that caused all these troubles.

So can we see that, please? That is all I ask for now. No personal information, no private emails, just this. Please.

11

NO apology, WE want MOVEMENT(REINSTATE).

-9

I believe this has similar implications as to when the Prime Minister of Canada (Justin Trudeau) said 'peoplekind'...

Then a few years ago Canada (again) wanted to ban the song 'Money for nothing' by Dire Straits because of a word that offends a particular community. As a music fan, thank goodness it was also defeated. Imagine if this was allowed all/most of Ozzy Osborn's songs may get banned (then what about Bruce Springsteen's 'Blinded by the light')...

I would like to recommend everyone concerned to watch 'an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati' on censorship.

I have built TV stations and developed Radio programming and programs...

Opnion: Very soon, we won't be able to use the English Language as it will probably offend 'The English' and/or the 'non-English'...

-23

I believe that there do not need to be any moderators in an intelligently automated system.

The AI system should work independent of human factors and work according to the unified rules of conduct established (programmed) for all members of the community.

Scary as this may seem, an AI has no sex, no age, and no emotions that are affected by human and human behavior. I hope that sooner or later my statement will become clear to everyone.

P.S. this post was translated with the help of an online translator, I hope that it has done his job correctly :-)

  • 9
    Moderators need to be people because they need to understand people. People cannot be reduced to formulas. You can simulate their behavior using agregate data from them, but moderators have to understand to exception cases. That's part of why this particular debacle got started, the agency to do that started to be stripped away. – Caleb Oct 6 at 14:12
  • 1
    In general, the quality of machine translation is awful. In many cases, it produces completely or partly incomprehensible output. – Peter Mortensen Oct 6 at 14:12
  • 1
    Is this from a language with grammatical gender? German? "robot-translator" is an it, not a he. (It is likely robot translator, not robot-translator.) – Peter Mortensen Oct 6 at 14:14
  • 4
    I've taken the liberty to re-write this somewhat, with the assumption that you meant to advocate that all moderators are replaced by AI. That's really not going to happen any time soon. The accuracy of the machine translation you used is a good indicator of the standard of computer-automated tasks has become: not yet good enough for human interaction of this level. – Martijn Pieters Oct 6 at 15:17
  • 2
    Thanks, Martijn Pieters. – Cyril Oct 6 at 15:50
  • 9
    @Cyril what you state about automated systems simply isn't true. AI is not really AI. It works by pattern recognition and is dependent on training from models. It inherits all the same biases and weaknesses of human moderators, but with additional errors from a lack of understanding. It's not as susceptible to deliberate abuse in the moment, but I know of very few, if any, SE moderators that deliberately try to cause harm. There is pretty much no way an automated system could be better. – AJ Henderson Oct 6 at 16:40
  • @AJ Henderson, you need to wait a little longer to see a different picture in the future...The future is up to the Robot Moderators... – Cyril Oct 6 at 18:41
  • 1
    @AJHenderson, current AI is highly vulnerable to manipulation by what are called adversarial examples. The discussion you'll find on the Internet are centered around image recognition, because that's the popular research topic right now, but the basic idea applies just as much to text. An adversarial post could be written that appears perfectly clean to an AI, but a human would understand as a homophobic screed; conversely, one could be written that appears normal to a human, but that an AI would say violates every clause of the TOS. – Mark Oct 6 at 19:08
  • @Mark tagged the wrong person perhaps? I agree with you that's another problem, but training bias doesn't even get the unbiased review the OP hoped for either. – AJ Henderson Oct 6 at 19:32
  • 1
    @AJHenderson, I wanted to tag both you and Cyril with that post. The SE software doesn't support multiple tagging, so by tagging you, the software will notify both you (by explicit tagging) and Cyril (as the author of the answer). – Mark Oct 6 at 20:26
  • I do see a likely future of bots answering and moderating questions asked by bots. – dfhwze Oct 15 at 10:42
  • @dfhwze, If you don't mind, I'll rephrase your message as follows: "I do see a likely future of biorobots answering and moderating questions asked by biorobots" :-)... – Cyril Oct 15 at 11:27
  • If this AI existed, then we wouldn't need moderators either as we could replace askers and answerers by AI as well. In fact, it would make even more sense to have personal AIs so we can ask them questions and they could give us answers. – JJ for Transparency and Monica 15 hours ago
  • The community of people develops in this direction, in the direction of creation and development of artificial intelligence, and people will always ask questions... – Cyril 13 hours ago

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