-2245

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.

  • 745
    There's a process for removing moderators – user351483 Oct 3 at 15:46
  • 380
    '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
  • 505
    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
  • 329
    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
  • 304
    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
  • 367
    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
  • 163
    @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
  • 241
    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
  • 201
    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
  • 484
    @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
  • 157
    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
  • 192
    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
  • 354
    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

1398
+50

Here's what I was hoping for:


On behalf of Stack Exchange I want to apologize to all of you.

I messed up.

When I made the call to terminate Monica's moderator relationship, I believed that it needed to be done at that moment, and in the manner it was done.

I was wrong.

Through my actions, I hurt Monica's reputation. I hurt our volunteer moderators. And, I hurt you, the community.

I'm sorry.

Going forward, for cases where there are community or staff concerns about a moderator's actions, we'll be following a new process where we endeavor to give the accused a fair hearing and the opportunity to defend themselves, in private. These proceedings will be transcribed and made available if the accused chooses for them to be.

We will not make a public statement on the matter other to say "We've elected to terminate our relationship with <the accused>. We wish them well and want to thank them for their service in helping us build a better community."

We are looking closely at our internal process. Five days to get out an apology of this magnitude was too long for such an important event, and we're going to figure out a way to respond faster and better.

Thank you for sticking with us, and I'm sorry I let you down.


Disclaimer: This is not a statement from Stack Exchange, this is what I wish they had written. I have no authority to speak on behalf of Stack Exchange, nor would I ever claim to do so.

  • 304
    This would have been an apology and course of action that would have probably calmed this whole controversy in a matter of hours. Instead, it's only really heating up. I don't have much emotional energy left to get out the pitchforks, but you know, it's saddening. – Magisch Oct 3 at 16:18
  • 198
    You're hired ... – rene Oct 3 at 16:34
  • 61
    For how much I may have disagree with you, on this one I thank you. – Tensibai Oct 3 at 16:48
  • 104
    One possible addendum to this excellent hypothetical apology: Once finalized, Monica will also receive the fair hearing following the procedures we outline in the very near future – Acinom Etatsnier Oct 3 at 17:09
  • 46
    Responding here as it is the top post. We aren't going to re-litigate the past. We can't share more details as they involve real people, both moderators and people that work here. What we can say now is that we will do better in the future. We'll be clarifying the CoC and putting out processes for how to remove moderators as well as one to appeal a removal ASAP. – Sara Chipps Oct 3 at 17:53
  • 262
    @Sara if you could review your post to avoid comparing the action to software delivery that be cool. It's a lack of human respect to treat removing a moderator as a software deployment – Tensibai Oct 3 at 18:00
  • 175
    @SaraChipps♦: Why can't you post the messages by Monica that made you condemn her, with her permission? I don't see why that isn't possible. It would be justice for her, and it would squash speculation. It would help SE's cause. – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 18:02
  • 155
    SaraChipps - This is the top post because it's an elegant mea culpa, something that many of us in the community were waiting for the better part of a week to hear. In contrast, your original post seems like you're just digging in your heels, much like your follow-on comment two hours later. @Tensibai - Good point; maybe the Director of Q&A should consult with the Director of Marketing. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 3 at 18:05
  • 95
    @SaraChipps I truly appreciate your response on the matter and respect that you have continued to contribute to this topic. We aren't going to re-litigate the past. Many would argue that any litigation occurred in Monica's case. This is based on her own posts expressing confusion in why she was removed. Given the amount of requests for information from the community, refusing to address it comes across as a sign of suppression not of solidarity from SE. I would urge you to reconsider that for the sake of the company not even for the sake of Monica. – Acinom Etatsnier Oct 3 at 18:41
  • 232
    @SaraChipps, we have no reason to believe you'll do better in the future if you refuse to even try to do better in the current case. And the idea that you can't share evidence because it involves real people is pretty absurd, particularly when Monica is specifically requesting that evidence be presented -- that strongly implies that you're only holding it back to avoid further embarrassment on the part of the other party who sacked Monica in the first place. – Nate S - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 18:42
  • 182
    @SaraChipps What we can say now is that we will do better in the future is not an apology! And you are not doing better NOW why should we believe anything will change in the future? – user148287 Oct 3 at 18:49
  • 153
  • 190
    @SaraChipps "We're not going to re-litigate the past" means you're not going to be accountable. Period. – user141160 Oct 3 at 20:28
  • 145
    @SaraChipps, if you've truly read the feedback, you also know that a whole lot of people are not going to stick around for you to eventually earn back trust. Meanwhile, you're still failing to offer any real apology, nor are you answering any of the very good clarifying questions many users have asked. Stonewalling is not a great way of building trust, and frankly, with as badly as this is being handled, even if you intend to do better in the future, you're not inspiring a lot of confidence that you're interested in or capable of doing so. – Nate S - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 0:18
  • 333
    @SaraChipps if you mean what you say about doing better in the future, you need to start by doing right by me now. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 0:53
1104

Monica said:

  • I'm completely onboard with a rule that says that if you use pronouns you have to use the designated ones (if known). Of course! Don't call people what they don't want to be called. But when I brought up writing in a gender-neutral way, which I do by default as a professional writer who needs to steer clear of gender-related problems, I was told that using gender-neutral language is misgendering. Employees only implied that (other mods argued for it), but when I asked I got no answer, and then fired.

    -- source

  • I specifically asked if writing in a gender-neutral way -- which for me means avoiding third-person singular pronouns in favor of plurals, names, other references, or other sentence structure -- was ok. Some mods told me it's not and Sara dismissed my question. That reaction astounds me, because many people including you and I write GN now!

    -- source

  • I got one piece of email explaining why they're making this change, I replied with questions (including the one, again, about whether they mean when using pronouns or something more proactive), and got no further reply, though I was promised one (more than once). Instead, four days later, they fired me.

    -- source

Does any of this violate the CoC? Or is Monica leaving something out in her version which explains why you fired her?

There's a big disconnect between your (SE's) version of the story and Monica's. Are you accusing her of lying, or was there a massive miscommunication on (presumably) your part which explains why she was so surprised at the firing?

  • 734
    I even sent email in response to the firing suggesting that there had been a miscommunication and, please, let's fix this. They could have saved face. No response. SE has not responded to any email from me since September 23. – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 16:37
  • 42
    @MonicaCellio No surprise SE do not responds to you since Sep. 23. They are notorious for not responding anything to anyone for years. – Victor Stafusa Oct 3 at 21:31
  • 79
    @VictorStafusa well, they stopped mid-conversation; this wasn't the usual case where you contact them and hear nothing at all. I'd received one message and replied to it with questions. Then crickets. (Receipt was confirmed and there were promises of a reply.) – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 21:36
  • 59
    I was going to post something similar and say "So it boils down to your word vs. Monica's word, and I take Monica's word in this", essentially. No need now. Totally agree, and disgusted with SE staff. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 3 at 22:04
  • 6
    @MonicaCellio would you want to be reinstated, if it were offered/tendered ? No need to answer, but could be a worthy use of your time thinking about beforehand. Don't make a snap-decision. – Criggie Oct 4 at 1:16
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    @Criggie I already have an answer to that question, but no need to announce it here now. (It is non-obvious and nuanced.) – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 1:19
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    @MonicaCellio In another situation that puts SE in very bad light, they have not responded to me regarding their relicensing (which I believe to be illegal). Quite the opposite — they suspended my account on meta SE for a week. Needless to say, communication is not their strong suit, especially when they know they're in the wrong. – jhpratt GOFUNDME RELICENSING Oct 4 at 2:12
  • 17
    When I saw the meta post I thought to myself "Oh SE, please let this NOT be related to gender and angry mobs". How naive can one be? – tfrascaroli Oct 4 at 8:53
  • 6
    @tfrascaroli very, apparently. It's almost like they thought that social media trends could be extrapolated to a platform that's more-akin to real life. – roganjosh Oct 4 at 10:20
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    [1] For people (aka @SaraChipps♦ & friends) who are confused as to how the recent actions of the SE company have done harm to LGBT+, allow me to explain. The SE company dogmatically established a new Code of Conduct rule that the community didn't ask for under the pretense of it being something that the LGBT+ community needed. In the process and under the guise of enforcing this new CoC (that hadn't yet come into effect), it tarnished the character and damaged the mental health of a well-respected leader of this site as well as disrupted the health of our community -- under the pretense that – 8protons Oct 4 at 17:51
  • 90
    [2] this was for the LGBT+ community. Make no mistake: the "torrent of vitriol against every single one of us [LGBT+]" (@Cyn♦) is never justifiable but the actions of the SE company are not without blame for acting as a match that started the fire. Similar to how capitalist ideologies are attacked due to the extremism of fascism or how communist dictators ride on the ideas of socialism to take power, SE used "protecting" the LGBT+ community as their excuse for toxic behavior and abuse on a moderator that was unwarranted. – 8protons Oct 4 at 17:51
  • 9
    @jhpratt SE is just a typical corporation. Their default strategy is to shut down all communication and wait for the storm to calm. There won't be a better response unless Joel personally intervenes, which is unlikely. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 4 at 23:45
  • 4
    @jhpratt corporations are especially likely to go radiosilent when legal issues are involved. They won't talk to anyone without a lawyer. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 5 at 0:33
  • 31
    You're telling me this was a fight about singular they? ... what planet are these people from; one where English is a second language? – Mazura Oct 5 at 6:12
  • 15
    Why doesn't Monica start a fund-me-whatever campaign and raise some money to litigate against Stack Exchange? That would be a hoot. The publicity would be fantastic for SE, and it would be exciting socially for those on all sides of the underlying issue. (Note - I do not know who Monica is but the whole tale seems juicy and ripe for exciting legal battle.) – Fattie Oct 5 at 15:42
1031
+550

This has generated a lot of attention already, but I'll add my own two cents.

Stop lying to your users.

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.

No, you didn't. You removed a moderator for putting forth an opinion that suggested she might in future violate a provision of the code of conduct that was not yet written. Whether or not that moderator had violated the code of conduct on previous occasions is irrelevant - that's not what you removed her for. Whether or not that was the correct decision, and whether or not you stand by it, is also irrelevant - you've caused a hell of a mess around the network, and the least you owe your users now is a truthful account of what you did to cause it.

  • 331
    @PeterMortensen I was there. Yvette wasn't. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 17:44
  • 12
    Previous CoC violations are irrelevant to a claim of repeatedly violating the existing CoC? 0_o This doesn't make any sense. – Alexander O'Mara Oct 3 at 18:53
  • 40
    @AlexanderO'Mara It makes sense in the context of this answer, which is saying that the reason she was banned was not due to previous CoC violations; but instead due to a potential violation of a future code. The answer is obviously written from the point of view where ArtOfCode knows the ban was not for past CoC violations; which I can't evaluate. It's self-consistent though, so it makes sense in what it is trying to say. – JMac Oct 3 at 19:12
  • 158
    If it helps any of you questioning his points, I completely corroborate his account. The removal had nothing to do with past incidents. – James Oct 3 at 19:55
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    I'd additionally point out that of course previous incidents weren't the problem here because Monica was a freaking ideal user/moderator. – James Oct 3 at 20:23
  • 12
    @James That's more of an emotional argument than a factual one. We could do with a lot less emotion and a lot more facts. – Alexander O'Mara Oct 3 at 21:53
  • 27
    @AlexanderO'Mara I can't back them up publicly, because the information I'm working on is in the TL, and I'm not about to release those transcripts. Sara can see them, though. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 22:23
  • 40
    @AlexanderO'Mara Yes. I am drawing that line. I have drawn it pretty clearly here in this post. You just refuse to believe that I am telling you the truth. That may be understandable, given that I'm not able to present the evidence I have, but hounding on about it rather than forming your opinion and moving on is - get this - not a good look. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 22:45
  • 64
    @AlexanderO'Mara "If you are going to call people liars about their motives, you should be able to back it up, or at a minimum admit you cannot know for certain." As ever, there's more than two options. Option three: I can know for certain, but I am not at liberty to share the information that allows me to. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 22:51
  • 48
    @AlexanderO'Mara I believe ArtOfCode means to imply that he knows the reason for the removal because the reason was stated, clearly, in TL, as part of the announcement of Monica's firing. ArtOfCode can clarify if that's a correct interpretation. If it is, I don't think he is failing at all to distinguish between what he knows and what is speculation. – Mark Amery Oct 3 at 22:52
  • 29
    @MarkAmery is correct. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 22:52
  • 12
    @AlexanderO'Mara No, I did not say that. I said I will not discuss what was said in TL, because I am not at liberty to do so. I can back up what I have said. I cannot do so publicly. – ArtOfCode Oct 3 at 22:54
  • 11
    @AlexanderO'Mara Yes, and if those were part of the decision making process, when SE told moderators "the reason" for what happened, it should include those factors. Similarly, when telling the community "the reason" for what happened, we would expect it to include the factors that the moderators were told. If not, either one or both parties have been lied to. Either one set of us was given a false reason, or both parties were; because there were multiple reasons, and each party was just told about "the reason" which omitted other reasons. It's at least a lie by omission. – JMac Oct 4 at 0:01
  • 26
    @AlexanderO'Mara ... They don't have to go into detail. They told the moderators some specific reason that supposedly was not "repeated CoC violations". They told us the reason was "repeated CoC violations", with wording that heavily implies that there were no additional factors. These two aspects alone mean someone was lied to, either by omission or deliberate lies. With the information provided to us, we were likely to reach a completely different conclusion compared to the information the moderators had. Each side got opposite information. Either we're being misled or mods were. – JMac Oct 4 at 1:07
  • 67
    And they have, thus far, refused to show me (a) the alleged instructions/warnings from CMs and (b) subsequent CoC violations. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 at 17:09
744
+100

I honestly think that this update is completely unacceptable. It seems extremely superficial.

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.

Can you please tell us what in the current CoC she violated and how she was unwilling to accept repeated requests?

From what I've seen (and I'll go as far as to admit that I've read the leaks to try and understand the whole situation) she was asking questions, not outright saying she wasn't going to follow any of the proposed CoC.

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

Nope, sorry. We've heard this spiel many many many times before. Each time we've been assured that this will be the last or that you're working to improve but you've never followed through.

[...] but this is the first time we’ve had to suspend a moderator for a Code of Conduct violation

Once again, like your canned responses, you're throwing shade at Monica's character and actions regarding her violating the CoC but are unable/unwilling to provide any evidence/examples of it. It is totally reprehensible behavior, especially in an "apology".

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.

If you want to do better, it's simple. Folks have been repeating it for years. Communicate with us. I wrote a question on MSO regarding this very topic and would you look at that, it was ignored. You don't build a more inclusive site by completely isolating, ostracising, and disparaging your power-users.

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

You say that yet we had to find out the details from the scraps we could find (such as leaks or news outlets) and all we got were your canned responses.

In all honestly, this "apology" has very little substance. You've really not addressed any of the real concerns raised by the community during the period of radio silence.

I don't know about others, but what I really expected (after this long) was a complete breakdown of the what/why/when of the whole incident (anonymized, if need be). What we actually got is a poor apology and an attaboy.

Everyone has been cautioning each other to not throw fuel onto the fire over last couple of days and in all honesty I agreed with the sentiments at first but now you've gone an emptied the whole barrel.

You really don't seem to understand this community, your community. I'm insulted to think that you'd believe that we'd be satisfied with this.


FYI folks, it's a Thursday today, so expect radio silence until next Thursday I guess.

  • 186
    You could mention how a newspaper got more information from SE than we did. – marcellothearcane Oct 3 at 17:42
  • 22
    I expect radio silence till ... <checks notes> November 24th – jcolebrand Oct 3 at 17:44
  • 8
    @marcellothearcane eh I thought it was implied by: 'You say that yet we had to find out the details from the scraps we could find (such as leaks or news outlets) and all we got were your canned responses.' – Script47 Oct 3 at 17:44
  • 22
    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." Way to twist the knife. – shmosel Oct 3 at 20:04
  • 2
    @marcellothearcane I don't know if I'm not reading the newspaper properly, or if it's saying that Monica Cellio didn't want to use the "they" pronoun (though it also states that Monica was willing to not use pronouns people didn't want to be called with). Makes me think all this is happening because miscommunication might have happened at some point. – Clockwork Oct 3 at 21:25
  • 5
    @Clockwork there's definitely an escalation of reactions here. A butterfly flapped its wings. – marcellothearcane Oct 3 at 21:31
  • 38
    As a contributor to/fan of Stack Overflow, the thing I find most disturbing about this whole episode is that we still do not have concrete details about what part of the CoC (or future CoC) caused Monica's firing. That means anyone could be unknowingly violating it at any time, which feels very uncomfortable. – Nate Barbettini Oct 4 at 17:16
  • 13
    I have to echo @NateBarbettini's concerns. As a user who wishes to remain in good standing, I don't have to talk to people, but when I do, I have to ensure that I'm within the bounds of the CoC. All a vague code does is discourage me from talking to people in favor of only talking about the posts and only in objective terms. That's not necessarily a problem for a Q&A site, but it sure doesn't make anyone else (or me) feel more "welcome" here. – Cadence Oct 4 at 22:44
  • 18
    @Cadence worse: we were told in TL that not talking to someone wasn't an option. We don't have the option, per this new CoC as described there, to walk away to avoid the risk of saying something "wrong". – Monica Cellio Oct 6 at 17:06
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio I'm positive I know the answer to this question but did they ever mention how they'd moderate something like that? How would they know if someone had gone AFK and forgotten about a post as opposed to someone who's refusing to speak to someone? – Script47 Oct 6 at 17:09
  • 10
    @Script47 I asked how they would evaluate such cases, as it seems to require reading someone's mind to judge intent. I received no answer. (I didn't raise the AFK case specifically; I gave an example a conversation you step away from because it's getting tense.) – Monica Cellio Oct 6 at 17:27
635

Your actions have harmed the Lavender (LGBTQ+) Community here at SE.

I have taken a leave of absence effective today. This means Writing.SE has no active moderator.

As a queer user I used to feel safe here on SE. Monica's skillful and caring moderation was a large part of why. Now I don't.

If you care about the safety and well-being of your Lavender moderators, step up to make things right. This faux-apology just adds fuel to the fire.

More information in my Writing Meta post.

  • 62
    Never heard the term before: What's "the Lavender Community/users"? LGBTQ+? – Zoe Oct 3 at 16:22
  • 9
    @PrincessOlivia I'd never heard of the term either until I saw Cyn using it, but yes, Lavender = LGBTQ+. – F1Krazy Oct 3 at 16:29
  • 54
    I have seen a trans mod resign because of this "language policing". So I think you are absolutely right. I am one of those other letters, and I thank (metaphorical) God on my bare knees that SE didn't decide to make an extreme policy inflaming everyone against my letter. – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 16:41
  • 2
    @PrincessOlivia 'lavender' is a fairly old term for what is now called LGBT+. – marcellothearcane Oct 3 at 17:01
  • 40
    Lavender is a new and old term and is inclusive without relying on people to remember which letters are now being used. Not everyone likes the term "queer" so I use it for myself but try to avoid it as a general term. – Cyn says make Monica whole Oct 3 at 18:14
  • 6
    I upvote for the clarity of expression (of course) and your reasons make sense, but I want to downvote because you're awesome AND this makes the writing.SE community diamondless. – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Oct 3 at 18:39
  • 12
    This. I've been pretty shocked at how bad I've felt over the last week. I'm pretty fortunate to not be personally affected by slurs, but I think something about all this has taken me back to 14 yr old me, too scared and too internally-conflicted to have a voice in all this, just sitting on the sidelines and seeing the "meta-implications" (?) about how big and contentious this all still is (and it wasn't really anything close to as bad before SE stepped in to make me feel "welcome"). Leaving the whole thing to speculation for so long left so many interpretations of what is going on. – roganjosh Oct 3 at 19:03
  • 21
    @roganjosh If SE's intention is to make LGBTQ+ people feel safer & more welcomed, they've sure done it in a pretty strange way. With allies like that, who needs enemies? ;) Also see called2voyage's answer. – PM 2Ring Oct 3 at 20:06
  • 85
    See also this LGBT+ mod's resignation message: codereview.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9355/… I am vulnerable in that I no longer trust that the SE staff will tolerate even small mistakes. I look at the consequences of a mistake now and it scares me. If what happened, and is happening, to Monica were to happen to me, I would lose my reputation, it would have negative impacts on my relationships with friends and family, it would impact my career, and future job prospects. ... – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 20:55
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    ... In my opinion, Stack Exchange has not protected Monica at all. In fact, Stack Exchange has actively targeted, marginalized, and "branded" Monica (on the site and with the media). I no longer trust Stack Exchange to "have my back". – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 20:55
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    She [Monica] said the moderator linked to her question and called her a bigot sounds like someone else violated the COC tbh – Tas Oct 3 at 23:21
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    Thank you Cyn, Cerberus and roganjosh, for expressing my feelings about this better than I could. I've been in state of near-shock all evening (having only just learned about it), cold and almost shivering. I'm not sure I'll sleep tonight, but I do feel better for knowing I'm not the only one who feels viscerally threatened by bureaucratic measures that are supposedly taken to help "people like me" (I'm vaguely trans - I can't put it more clearly than that), but only serve to victimise good people and stir up even more prejudice, ill-feeling and misunderstanding all round. Sad and frightening. – Calum Gilhooley Oct 3 at 23:32
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    @Cerberus: To clarify -- rolfl isn't saying that (s)he is LGBT+; rather, (s)he's saying that (s)he has close family and friends who are LGBT+. (Not that it matters. I'm gay, which I suppose makes me "LGBT+", but that doesn't give me a magical ability to never mess up when it comes to trans issues -- or even when it comes to gay issues, since, I mean, no two people have had exactly the same life experiences or will see things the same way. In a world where SE employees do what they did to Monica, I'm under no illusion that being gay would somehow make me immune.) – ruakh Oct 4 at 0:45
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    @CalumGilhooley I'd say you are pretty eloquent about this issue yourself :) I totally agree with you; it was SE that pulled the trigger on this and, if they had any understanding about the actual situation they were supposedly defending, they had every opportunity to figure out their response before they pulled the trigger. Instead, I fear that they took a cheap shot for popularity. Real life just is not like this. I feel so much empathy for Monica in this, not some sense of being defended. – roganjosh Oct 4 at 8:08
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    We need a honest inclusion, not a forced inclusion. To me the self-designated term "queer" communicates full self-acceptance, which makes it easy to accept for others, than this LGBT letter soup. – Martin Zeitler Oct 6 at 6:49
501

You're making some very serious accusations about Monica. You wrote:

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.

Monica has presented her side of the story on various platforms by now, so I would expect Staff to release concrete proof (sanitized if it must be) about what exactly led to the removal.

Moderators generally scrupulously avoid casting aspersions on community members without presented proof, and do usually present proof if the target of a suspension makes a Meta post or presents their side of the story. If that is not the case, they usually refrain from casting any aspersions.

I would expect SE staff to abide by higher standards of behavior, so I expect some proof to be forthcoming. I'm not taking your word on this, as I've known and trusted Monica for a long time and she is directly contradicting you, and when it comes down to it in the absence of any evidence, I'm taking her word over yours.

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    That largely quote is congruent with how Monica presented the situation, it's just that opinions differ substantially on whether the current CoC mandates the use of pronouns. – amon Oct 3 at 16:10
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    @amon Not how I read it. "Repeated CoC Violations after being asked to stop" thats diametrically opposite to Monica's version of events. – Magisch Oct 3 at 16:47
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    If you keep saying in chat "a single person cannot be they, they is not an ok pronoun to use when referring to an individual" could that not constitute repeated violations? Honest question. – Kate Gregory Oct 3 at 16:53
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    @KateGregory I don't know, I haven't seen the CoC clarification they published, and I haven't seen any chat transcripts, I steered well clear of any leaks due to respect for the involved. I would expect, if that were the case, for SE to make that argument and support it with citations. This guessing game is unfair to Monica and pure character asassination imo. – Magisch Oct 3 at 16:55
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    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, using 'they' in this manner is now accepted enough to be included in the dictionary (update as of a few weeks ago): merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/… – Phlarx Oct 3 at 19:23
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    In this case, @KateGregory, usage of singular "they" is highly likely to be influenced by fake linguistic rules that early English "linguists" came up with to try to turn the language into Latin 2.0, along with other fake rules made for various reasons, none of which have any actual basis in English usage and examples. It's just like how a lot of linguists hate splitting infinitives (note: actually a Latin spelling rule, Latin infinitives are 1 word but English ones are 2), or claim that a preposition is the worst thing to end a sentence with. Only, those ones don't have political baggage. – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 20:14
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    Monica is on the record as not prepared to use "they". The What If part is "repeatedly in chat" -- since SE says there were repeated problems. – Kate Gregory Oct 3 at 22:05
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    @KateGregory I don't see how it could be a violation of the current CoC, which is what SE (or at least Sara) alleges. I haven't seen the new one yet, so I can't say whether or not it could violate that. – reirab Oct 3 at 23:11
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    This has been discussed elsewhere. a lot. Refusing to use just one pronoun is not "accepting and respecting everyone's pronouns." I'm not going to keep going back and forth on that and explaining it over and over, @reirab. – Kate Gregory Oct 3 at 23:30
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    Among other places, she was quoted in the Register article as refusing to use singular they, also chairwoman. In one of the 400 or so other questions, answers, blogs, resignation posts and comment threads, you can find a number of people repeating that this is over a pre-refusal to ever use "they" for a single person. Writing around the problem only for one pronoun may seem find to you, but it is not fine to people who use that pronoun, many of whom you will also find in this whirl of information saying just that. – Kate Gregory Oct 3 at 23:39
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    @KateG - My take on your honest question: It sounds like Monica was discussing a hypothetical situation in a chat room. That doesn't sound like a "violation" to me. Similarly, sticking to one's viewpoint during a heated debate in a chatroom would hardly constitute a "repeated violation." At worse, her stance should have put her on a watch list for instances when she actually broke the Code of Conduct – but arguing that she would try to work around one interpretation of it? That seems more like a stretch and a grudge gone awry. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 4 at 18:39
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    @KateGregory I said I would treat everyone equally -- no singular they and also no he or she. I naturally write in a gender-neutral manner; this shouldn't be an issue. I almost never need third-person singular pronouns, but the new policy apparently is that I must change how I write to inject them. They didn't say that directly, but when I asked that question they first ignored me and then fired me, so I guess that's going to be the new rule? I don't know how they could even enforce it, because they have to decide that you could have used a word and chose not to - so, mindreading. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 22:33
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    Thanks, @MonicaCellio. I think refusing "they" while not refusing "he" or "she" would be othering. I think really awkward constructs to avoid pronouns would also be othering. It sounds like your plan wasn't a bad one. And as I have said elsewhere, even if you had planned only to other nonbinary people, that is still no reason for what unfolded after that. I hope this ends up resolved amicably. I admire your moderation on the sites we share, and that won't change. (I also hope you end up changing your mind on they, but that's for another medium.) – Kate Gregory Oct 4 at 22:38
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    @KateGregory when pronouns came up in TL maybe a year ago?, I didn't yet understand that using he or she but not they was a problem. That point was raised in the recent discussion, and once somebody actually said that (I don't remember that happening before) my reaction was approximately "oh, yeah, I see how that would be unbalanced, so I won't do that". On SE I rarely talk about specific individuals and when I do it's usually by name, OP, a link (e.g. "this answer"), and stuff like that. If I'm talking to someone then, of course, the pronoun is "you". I don't understand the problem here. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 22:48
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    Seems like it's all been over nothing. What a waste and what a lot of misery. Wish I could help in some way, @MonicaCellio – Kate Gregory Oct 4 at 23:25
408

Four seconds before this Meta question was posted - literally, four seconds, - I amended a Worldbuilding meta post I had written a couple days, to state specific concerns I had about the entire situation. Here's what I added:

Now that it's been a few more days, and things have continued to snowball - about 35 moderators have either resigned in protest or gone on strike in relation to the chain of events - I thought I would elaborate a bit more on the things that bother me about the whole thing.

  • I'm bothered that an elected moderator was summarily dismissed without consultation with other moderators, as is the established procedure for cases where users raise severe complaints about a mod.
  • I'm bothered that Monica was dismissed based on opposition to a change in the Code of Conduct that had not yet been published or even finalized.
  • I'm bothered that, by Monica's account, this happened before discussions between her and Stack Overflow had concluded.
  • I'm bothered that this occurred less than an hour before the start of Shabbat, which, coupled with the start of Rosh Hashanah 48 hours later, meant that Monica would be almost entirely offline for 96 hours. Either this was intentional on Stack Exchange's part, or it was completely insensitive to Monica's religion, which is a major part of who she is and is well-known.
  • I'm bothered that this was done in a way that effectively shamed Monica and hurt her reputation.
  • I'm bothered that Stack Overflow has done essentially nothing to help trans moderators and others in the LGBT+ community. Mods network-wide have expressed strong support for formal sensitivity training, but this has yet to be implemented.
  • I am, further, bothered that the company has failed in some cases to act against certain users who have written posts and chat messages that are clearly transphobic. The users who make them should at the least be treated more harshly than Monica was, because she is not a transphobic person. This supports the idea that a double standard is being applied.
  • I'm bothered that the company has failed to make an adequate statement in response after more than five days. Responses to resignations and meta posts (e.g. this one) have been copied-and-pasted and say basically nothing of any substance.
  • I'm bothered that Stack Overflow talked with the Register and provided quotes for a crappy article that poorly explains most aspects of the sequence of events, while refusing to spend as much time communicating with the community.
  • I'm bothered that Stack Overflow does not seem to have acknowledged the human cost if all of this - on users, on moderators, and on their own employees.
  • I'm bothered that Monica - someone who has contributed an extraordinary amount to sites across the network, who has indeed contributed to efforts towards inclusion, who has represented religious and gender minorities online, who has done so much more good than harm - was treated like none of her contributions mattered.

Rereading all of this, I have to say, it is quite tempting to hang up my mod hat. I don't believe that Stack Overflow can adequately address all - perhaps even most - of these concerns. But I still believe, after this time, that I can do a better job advocating for the users on Worldbuilding and across the network as a mod than as a regular user - and I will continue to do so.

I was, really, really hoping that Stack Overflow, Inc.'s first public statement would address these. At the moment, it seems like this question addresses maybe the first one . . . and none of the others.

I'm not convinced SO cares about the human cost of the debacle. Boilerplate responses on resignations don't mean much. A fairly boilerplate response here on Meta doesn't mean much. Individual employees - folks I trust immensely - have expressed concern for everyone, but the company itself has not.

I'm not convinced SO had any appreciation for what Monica did for the network. She did an incredible amount for so many folks and so many groups, and there is no denying that she did more good than harm - even though I think her stance here, and some actions, caused folks pain. On balance, she did a heck-ton of good - and that has not been recognized.

I'm not convinced that they actually care about trans users, especially as they have not participated in any of the recent discussions about how those of us who don't identify as trans can help those who are. There are way more ways that they need help, in an environment often incredibly dominated by those of us who are cis.

And I'm honestly not convinced that I shouldn't resign.

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    re point 3 in the last part of your post (not the quote - after): at least two trans users participated in discussions here. I'm one of them. I also disagree - I believe they care, but I don't believe they've had any trans or non-binary representatives involved in creating the new CoC. Or, as I said elsewhere: good idea, horrible execution. – Zoe Oct 3 at 16:09
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    They will be sorry to see you go. – Andras Deak Oct 3 at 16:10
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    "Stack Overflow has done essentially nothing to help trans moderators and others in the LGBT+ community" - as a matter of fact, I have seen more transphobic and LGBT-phobic remarks in the three days since this kicked off than in the entire time I've been using Stack Exchange until now. I appreciate their efforts in trying to help but it seems to me that they've only made things worse. – F1Krazy Oct 3 at 16:10
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    @PrincessOlivia I've been amazed at the wherewithal of trans users in the community when it comes to shaping these policies. The emotional load it must place on you is incredible, and the fact that you're still here speaks volumes about your character and how much you care about the community - and I'm immensely grateful for it. I wish that SO had, well, put the same amount of effort in. – HDE 226868 Oct 3 at 16:11
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    @PrincessOlivia (cont.) A recurring theme is that y'all really shouldn't be forced to essentially lead these discussions. Many trans mods I've listened to have emphasized that it's emotionally exhausting, as I'm sure you well know. I really wish you had more support on this front - and especially in the face of some of the transphobic remarks I've seen folks make. – HDE 226868 Oct 3 at 16:13
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    And I totally agree: having trans folks involved - either company employees or users who volunteered to help out shaping this stuff - would be great. I am slightly cautious of criticizing on that front because I don't know for sure that private conversations between SO and trans users didn't happen - and as many are quite happy with the pending CoC update, that could very well have happened. But it doesn't seem like enough. And that's added to my frustration here. – HDE 226868 Oct 3 at 16:21
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    @HDE226868 That's my concern as well, and something I alluded to here: "[these discussions] have already put a heavy burden on marginalized users to continually justify themselves, when the CM team could be helping to facilitate that discussion more productively." The radio silence from SE staff has meant that a very small number of trans users have felt compelled to be the faces of these discussions, without any visible support from staff. – Zach Lipton Oct 3 at 17:06
  • @ZachLipton Yup, I saw that, and I agree 100%. – HDE 226868 Oct 3 at 17:09
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    "I'm not convinced SO cares about the human cost of the debacle." Ideologues never do, do they? And this entire mess appears to be ideologically driven, so... that's kind of to be expected. – Mason Wheeler Oct 3 at 20:35
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    At the moment, it seems like this question addresses maybe the first one And it doesn't even do that! It's like SE is entirely unaware that a process already existed. – Mr. Bultitude Oct 4 at 0:16
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    So well summarized. Thank you. – anongoodnurse Oct 4 at 3:25
379

To continue your "shipping" analogy:

You shipped buggy code late on Friday. It appears it lacked proper code review and didn't pass unit tests, and I'm guessing from the results that you didn't even run integration tests first. As a result, you pushed out a massively-destructive change that caused ongoing performance problems and even data-integrity and governance problems across many client systems, as well as causing ongoing, melt-down-the-server-level harm to one client system in particular.

If you were to consult your own developers and SREs, based on their past practices they would tell you to revert that change immediately to stop the bleeding, and then have a proper review with all the key stakeholders when it's not late on a Friday and people are rushing.

I think they would tell you to revert this change even late on a Friday, to restore the status quo.

It's time to do that.

  • 3
    Monica, have you had any correspondence with SE since you lost your diamond? Have you indicated to them that they aren't permitted to disclose any of the events surrounding this situation? Should they have any reason to believe -- outside of their own skewed sense of self-preservation -- that they can't be transparent with the community about what happened? – forresthopkinsa Oct 4 at 21:19
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    ugh, their analogy is invalid. Regardless of whether it happened on a friday or not, they still ignored it throughout the entire week. Not addressing it during the weekend is fine, but they cannot use that as an excuse to ignoring not just your questions, but questions from the community as a whole. – Zoe Oct 4 at 21:19
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    But then SE would have to admit having made a mistake but since their actions are very unprofessional, they would never do such thing as undo anything. – shiny-metal Oct 4 at 21:19
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    @shiny-metal everyone makes mistakes; some people even make amazingly bad ones. The important part is what comes next: do you ship a fix, ignore or get paralyzed by the problem, lash out, or something else? They can still ship a fix. If they think there's still a bug and their only problem was using a blowtorch instead of a flyswatter, then they can review that separately, calmly, and with all required parties involved. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 21:24
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    @forresthopkinsa SE has not answered any email I've sent since September 23, including (calm, professional, polite) messages I sent after they fired me. I would like them to disclose to me how they say I violated the CoC and show me these warnings they say I got. I have a right to know what the charges are before granting an unlimited release license; anything released from TL has massive amounts of context and that would have to be represented too, which is difficult for them. I'm not saying a public release isn't possible, but I am saying not without coordination to show a full picture. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 21:28
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    @Zoethetransgirl I know their analogy is bad, but it's the one they chose so I followed suit. Their "re-litigation" analogy is also wrong because there was no litigation in the first place. Or, at least in the US where SE operates, the defendant is customarily informed of the charges and allowed to attend the hearing. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 21:31
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    @MonicaCellio if they ever ask you to come back I would seriously NOT reconsider. They do NOT deserve your hard work. You need to find a new community outside of SE and succeed and forget about them. – JonH Oct 4 at 22:22
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    @JonH - That's a personal decision that only Monica can make. However, unless the transcript becomes available and reveals something egregious -- which Yvette's description was not -- I would support her reinstatement, if she decided to step up to the plate again. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 5:31
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    I wasn't aware of all the incidents and just read about it now. (I haven't used the network much during the past two weeks). Now that I know what happened, I must say that I am truly shocked. Specifically, the amount of ignorance by the SE team in response to these incidents is both SHOCKING and unbearable. And a word to you Monica, I don't know you much and just read some of your post here and there. And judging by those, I must say that I feel nothing but respect. This will be a great loss for the SE and more importantly, for us regular not-so-active users... – polfosol ఠ_ఠ Oct 5 at 8:04
  • I'm not saying a public release (of transcripts from the TL, and warnings) isn't possible I assume a public release is impossible, but perhaps it should be released to other/remaining moderators (?) -- and that SE might and perhaps should do that, even without your approval or though you might approve if asked -- given that the TL is and was public to other moderators. That is, unless their complaint lies in messages you wrote to them "privately" (and not in the TL that's known to be visible to other moderators). Anyway I guess you've had a stressful time and hope you feel some liberation. – ChrisW Oct 6 at 16:17
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    @ChrisW anything at one privacy level can fairly be shared at that same privacy level. For example, if these alleged violations happened in TL, telling mods and me what they were is fine. We shouldn't broaden exposure of private information (TL -> public or email -> TL) without careful discussion, for two reasons: 1. A disclosure with full context brings in a lot of tangential harm, and 2. A disclosure with edits/redactions requires a trustworthy editor/redactor, and I do not trust SE to do that job. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 at 17:14
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    I mean, if you're gonna follow this bad analogy, you forgot "dont code without a spec" - at least some intention of their purpose.... :-) – Reinstate Monica Oct 7 at 0:04
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    I think the "Friday" excuse is as good as the "apology"posted here. Because it's been over a month and there appears to reasonable explanation or how they're going to fix this mess. Their (SE Inc) "strategy" appears to be "Ignore it as if nothing happened and these idiots will bark for few weeks and everything will calm down". Their response (or rather lack of it) so far is horrendous to say the least. – P.P. Oct 29 at 20:03
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    I think the "Friday" excuse is as good as the "apology"posted here. Because it's been over a month and there appears to reasonable explanation or how they're going to fix this mess. Their (SE Inc) "strategy" appears to be "Ignore it as if nothing happened and these idiots will bark for few weeks and everything will calm down". Their response (or rather lack of it) so far is horrendous to say the least. – P.P. Oct 29 at 20:04
290

I believe that the new policy was made with good intentions, to protect a vulnerable group. But:

  1. Based on the previous statement, people may suspect that Monica is transphobic. Assuming that she isn't (I haven't seen evidence of her being that at all, neither in the moderator room nor elsewhere), doesn't she deserve a public statement explaining that she is not (suspected to be) transphobic? If you do have evidence, show it to the community, with Monica's permission; if she should object to this, then tell us so.

  2. Will Monica be allowed to go through this new process, and have a chance at not losing her moderatorship? That would seem only fair?

  3. As Snow says above, there is an existing process for demodding a moderator from a site. The site's other moderators are an important party to the process, as they should be. It is a very formal, conscientious, and meticulous process. Why wasn't (some variant of) this process followed? Or was it? If so, please give us more information.

  4. This post is only announcing the new process. As most big companies do, the rest is all SE's saying how everything was due to miscommunication. But that is not (mainly) the problem; it is SE's acts.

As to the policy change in question and its effects, I think people should consider voting for or against this answer above: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/334266/156039

  • 80
    Most of the behavior, in the way it was presented, is in no way transphobic. Honestly, there's a lot of worse problems out there. Intentional misgendering and deadnaming (which rarely applies on here) is a hell of a lot worse than using a gender-neutral pronoun and names when in doubt – Zoe Oct 3 at 15:57
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    Regarding point 3, see my comment to Snow. Fellow moderators are not necessarily a party to the process of removing a misbehaving moderator. SE has always reserved (and on several previous occasions exercised) the right to remove a moderator all by themselves. – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 at 16:59
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    I think that there's ample evidence that Monica is NOT transphobic. There are (were?) multiple comments in TL indicating that she is very much accepting of who they are. – user194162 Oct 3 at 17:55
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    @GlenH7: That was also my impression. If SE think she was lying or hiding something, let them publish it. There is a reason why courts are public in the real world (save some exceptions): it is just for the accused, and it preëmpts speculation. – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 18:00
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    FFS, it's nobody's goddamn business if Monica is transphobic or not. All that matters is her behavior on stackexchange. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 3 at 23:36
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    I can only say "What new policy?" AFAIK nothing new has been published at all. – Andrew Leach Oct 4 at 13:54
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    @Zoethetransgirl I guess SE forgot that it operates globally and that some of its users come from countries where they still have the death penalty for homosexuality. I don't suppose they have a voice in all this. – roganjosh Oct 4 at 18:36
  • Most of the behavior, in the way it was presented, is in no way transphobic. Um, was that most..was not as in some..was ? – TaW Oct 5 at 10:32
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    @Zoethetransgirl: Monica commented with more details, that she does (or plans to) avoid all third-person pronouns after someone pointed out that avoiding only "they" would be unbalanced. And that usually 3rd-person pronouns are easy to avoid on SO without awkward sentences, especially for a skilled and practiced writer like her. +1 for this answer; things like the article in The Register did temporarily give me a less-positive impression of Monica, completely unfairly. – Peter Cordes Oct 6 at 10:04
286

This is not what the community expected or deserved. An apology would have been appropriate, and this does not qualify as one. And as Monica said, "citation[s] needed" for a great deal of this post.

I was officially inactive for several days on my sites while most of this unfolded. When I returned on Monday evening, I found one of the most valuable members of the SE network unceremoniously tossed to the curb, with no notice or meaningful opportunity to respond, and everything on fire. I took the time to read everything I could on the public sites, mod team site, and various mod chats before reaching the conclusion that I needed to resign my diamonds and walk away from roles I loved and responsibilities I took seriously.

The evidence I have seen rebuts at least the following statements in your post:

Last week we made an important decision for our community.

This is partially accurate. You did make the decision for the communities in the sense of taking away agency and autonomy. Not so much in terms of making a decision for the benefit of, much less with input from, said communities.

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

I have seen no evidence of this whatsoever. The evidence I have seen is clear that Monica was trying to determine how to comply with the vaguely-described, proposed, future CoC, not violate it, that she did so in private contexts, and that she did so respectfully.

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

I have seen no evidence of this whatsoever. Quite the opposite.

We recognize it has caused concern in the community as a whole.

To put it bluntly, I don't think you do. This kind of boilerplate "sorry you were upset by our decision" non-apology indicates to me that you have no idea how much damage has already occurred.

We made a hard decision, and we stand by that decision.

Not false, perhaps, but a grave error.

We have a policy for users, but this is the first time we’ve had to suspend a moderator for a Code of Conduct violation.

Unless memory fails me or the official explanation of certain past incidents is something other than the CoC, I do not believe this is accurate. (Edit: the OP keeps getting edited, but your statement is incorrect regardless of whether it says “suspend” or “remove.”)

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.

The “confusion” has nothing to do with the fact that this happened just before a weekend. Blaming the widespread reaction to your decision entirely on timing indicates either a complete failure to comprehend the situation or utter indifference to how the communities affected feel.

People aren't upset because you made a decision at 6 PM on a Friday. Nor are they upset solely because you did so right before a major, religious holiday that the person most directly affected observes by going offline.* They're upset that you removed a popular, highly respected, professional, competent, and extremely kind and decent person from multiple moderator positions simply because she didn't agree to toe the line on a still-unpublished policy without at least asking some questions. And on top of that, you disregarded your official, published, community-vetted process for moderator removals.

I have not always agreed with Monica on everything, but she has always been among the kindest, most respectful, all-around best moderators on the entire network. Even when we didn't see eye-to-eye, I respected her take and always felt that I was treated respectfully. I have seen nothing whatsoever that could justify how I have seen her treated.

We do value every one of you.

Again, to be blunt, I think I speak for many people when I say that I don't believe this anymore. The evidence strongly indicates quite the opposite.

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

6-8 isn't going to cut it. The response so far has been unapologetic, dogmatic, boilerplated, and slow. At this point, I'm personally disinclined to participate at all on these sites if this is how the communities can expect to be treated.


* But, to be clear, that timing was appallingly inappropriate and insensitive, and people are very upset about it, with good reason.

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    To be fair, the timing in this case is extremely relevant and many have pointed out that it just added insult to injury and was, at the very least, shockingly insensitive. That she addressed the timing is the only useful thing I can find in this post. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 3 at 17:46
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    Oh, I absolutely agree that the timing was appallingly insensitive and inappropriate. I just want to make the point that, as you said, it was adding insult to injury. The timing is relevant, but it’s only part of the problem. – elixenide Oct 3 at 17:48
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    This pretty well sums up my feelings. Thanks Ed. – James Oct 3 at 18:48
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    "You did make the decision for the communities in the sense of taking away agency and autonomy. Not so much in terms of making a decision for the benefit of, much less with input from, said communities." 100+ – user141160 Oct 3 at 20:36
267

You start off with,

Friends

Any friend of mine that acted this way wouldn't be a friend anymore. It implies a level of respect that I don't see from the company, and haven't for years. So, sorry, but you don't get to call me a friend.

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.

That's...a pretty unnuanced depiction of the event, and directly contradicts what Monica has said about the situation. It really doesn't fit what I saw, either. I'm making no judgement on whether it was the right or wrong thing to do; I'm not qualified, one way or the other, and don't have any of the history of what happened beforehand.

But as statements go...this one is lacking. It doesn't seem accurate in any sense.

We don't need a postmortem. We need a commitment to openness, transparency, and communication. Talk to us. We've been yelling for a good long time. All this talking at us isn't helping.

  • 6
    Note that the greeting "Friends," has been removed during various edits of the post. This was not done by Sara, but seeing that there were some changes made by Tim, I guess we can agree that the SE Team is OK with the removal. – Maarten Bodewes Oct 4 at 14:29
  • 2
    I wrote that comment because I was looking in vain for the - now removed - greeting and wondered what happened to it. This was not a criticism of your post in any sense. I was just trying to explain what happened to it for others having the same question. – Maarten Bodewes Oct 4 at 14:57
  • 1
    I would say that the removal speaks volumes, in and of itself. The company no longer sees its community as friends, but as neutral or (more likely, given the company's actions) enemies. – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Oct 5 at 22:18
  • 2
    Whenever someone calls me "my friend", I instantly get suspicious about their means. – Martin Zeitler Oct 6 at 7:09
251

"repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct": citation needed. "CM’s repeated requests to change": citation needed.

Monica Cellio

  • 8
    To your original answer before edits: usual policy when a user is suspended is that reasons/details are not made public unless the user wants them to be. In this case, if there was private email communication between Monica and SE, she has the option to publish that. I've commented to ask her whether she would be willing to do so. It might clear up some things. – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 at 16:06
  • I found it. Still, you're just re-quoting someone's comment as an answer. – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 16:09
  • 1
    @Sam I felt it expressed my sentiment better than what I originally wrote. – Kaz Oct 3 at 16:09
  • 18
    @Randal'Thor violating the CoC would require public actions, which SE certainly should be able to point to, even if it were just to moderators. – Kevin Oct 3 at 17:17
  • 3
    @Randal'Thor that's at least mod-public, as I suggested. I find it difficult to believe that enough repeated violations of the CoC to de-mod her were all contained in the one email she sent SE. – Kevin Oct 3 at 17:23
  • 3
    I'd take it a step further: 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. [Citation needed] We’ve seen your pings on chat and on the network and have been actively working to get you answers as soon as possible. [Citation needed] We never wanted to leave people wondering about their future in the sites they've worked very hard to moderate. [Citation needed] – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 6 at 10:43
230

Sara,

I don't envy you right now. I realize you are getting absolutely hammered by negative feedback, and more is rolling in every minute. If I were in your shoes, I'd be a mess. I'd be seriously tempted to write off all these criticisms as the result of a poisoned culture that needs to be overhauled.

I hope, though, that you'll remember that this criticism is not coming from a bunch of neanderthals. This criticism is certainly passionate, and at times may be unfair, but nonetheless it largely comes from people who are the recognized leaders of their communities.

This isn't just a bunch of people with three followers tweeting you. These critics are largely people who have demonstrated their ability to work with others patiently and kindly, despite disagreements. These critics are largely people who want to see Stack Exchange succeed. Indeed, many of them want to see you succeed, though it may not feel that way.

So I ask you to please attempt to dispassionately consider all this criticism. Filter out the excesses and learn from the truths, and ask people you trust to help you distinguish between the two.

Perhaps this will only be possible after the dust settles. But please don't dismiss all this as mere negativity from the rabble.

  • 45
    Basically, read the advice she wrote in her blog post on negative feedback – CalvT Oct 3 at 17:11
  • 19
    This does mirror Sara's own blog post from a while ago: stackoverflow.blog/2019/07/18/… – Oded Oct 3 at 17:13
  • 7
    @Oded Yes. But the key difference here is that some critics here are "questioning my ability as a manager, throwing around insults". I hope that she is able to receive this criticism despite any excesses that did not occur in the story she relates in that blog post. – Nathaniel is protesting Oct 3 at 17:19
  • 11
    Which is why I brought it up - she's been in a similar place before. Most of the responses are from people who care, and are directed towards the situation. – Oded Oct 3 at 17:21
  • "I hope, though, that you'll remember that this criticism is not coming from a bunch of neanderthals." - I see some intolerance against neanderthals in your answer. [Just kidding] – Victor Stafusa Oct 5 at 15:34
  • In other words, "People are saying mean things about you, and it sucks, but those people are probably right, so stop screwing up"? – GreySage Oct 8 at 18:54
229

Here are the 12 most common non-apology apologies:

Lets play non-apology bingo and see how many of these she was able to cross off in a single "apology".

“I am sorry if . . .”

This is a conditional apology. It falls short of a full apology by suggesting only that something might have happened.

Examples:

  • I am sorry if I did anything wrong
  • I am sorry if you were offended

“I am sorry that you . . .”

This is a blame-shifting apology. It is no apology at all. Rather, it puts the onus on you as the problem.

Examples:

  • I am sorry you felt hurt
  • I am sorry you think I did something wrong
  • I am sorry you feel I am so bad

“I am sorry but . . .”

This excuse-making apology does nothing to heal the wounds caused.

Examples:

  • I am sorry, but most other people wouldn’t have overreacted like you did
  • I am sorry, but other people thought it was funny
  • I am sorry, but you started it
  • I am sorry, but I couldn’t help it
  • I am sorry, but there was truth to what I said
  • I am sorry but, you can’t expect perfection

“I was just . . .”

This is a justifying apology. It seeks to argue that hurtful behavior was okay because it was harmless or for a good cause.

Examples:

  • I was just kidding
  • I was just trying to help
  • I was only trying to calm you down
  • I was trying to get you see the other side
  • I was just playing devil’s advocate

“I have already . . .”

This deja-vu apology cheapens whatever is said by implying that there is nothing left to apologize for.

Examples:

  • I already said I was sorry
  • I have apologized for that a million times

“I regret . . .”

This sidestepping apology equates regret with apologizing. There is no ownership.

Examples:

  • I regret you felt upset
  • I regret that mistakes were made

“I know I . . .”

This whitewashing apology is an effort to minimize what happened without owning any hurtful effects on you or others. The whitewash may seem self-effacing but on its own it contains no apology.

Examples:

  • I know I shouldn’t have done that
  • I know I probably should have asked you first
  • I know I can sometimes be a bull in a china shop

“You know I . . .”

This nothing-to-apologize-for apology tries to talk you out of your feelings or imply that you shouldn’t be upset.

Examples:

  • You know I am sorry
  • You know I didn’t mean that
  • You know I would never hurt you

“I will apologize if . . .”

This pay-to-play apology is not a clean, freely offered apology. Rather, you have to pay to get it.

Examples:

  • I will only apologize if you apologize
  • I will apologize if you agree never to bring it up again
  • I will say I am sorry if you will just stop talking about it

“I guess I . . .”

This is a phantom apology. It hints at the need for an apology, but never gives one.

Examples:

  • I guess I owe you an apology
  • I guess I should say I am sorry

“X told me to apologize . . .”

This is a not-my-apology apology. The person is saying he or she is apologizing only because someone else suggested it. The implication is that it would have never happened otherwise.

Examples:

  • Your mother told me to come apologize to you
  • My friend said I should tell you I was sorry

“Fine! I’m sorry, okay!”

This is a bullying apology. Either in words or tone you are given a grudging “I’m sorry” but it doesn’t feel like an apology. It may even feel like a threat.

Examples:

  • Okay, enough already, I am sorry for chrissakes
  • Give me a break, I am sorry, alright?

Faux apologies such as these 12 seek to avoid responsibility, make excuses, shift blame, downplay what was done, invalidate or confuse the hurt or offended person, or move on prematurely.

A true apology, by contrast, has most or all of the following characteristics:

  1. Is freely offered without conditions or minimizing what was done
  2. Conveys that the person apologizing understands and cares about the hurt person’s experience and feelings
  3. Conveys remorse
  4. Offers a commitment to avoid repeating the hurtful behavior
  5. Offers to make amends or provide restitution if appropriate

An authentic apology starts with listening. If you seek to apologize, you first need to hear what happened from the other person’s point of view and how it affected them.

When all you needed to get right was 3!

  1. Tell them what you feel
  2. Admit your mistake AND the negative impact it had
  3. Make the situation right

Whatever this was you posted, it is NOT an Apology!

  • 80
    ...this is honestly a really handy reference sheet in the larger online and real world. – James Oct 3 at 18:55
  • 8
    The only one I see is "I know I", which makes it seem a bit misguided to include the others and use the "let's play bingo" phrasing. That one is not perfect, but I can live with someone using it (as opposed to "sorry if" or "sorry but"). I feel like the apology overall ticks a lot of the boxes for a decent apology. But the rather condemning problem is they're apologising for the wrong things, trying to fix the future and ignoring the past and standing by what we want an apology for. – NotThatGuy Oct 3 at 21:41
  • 1
    "I know I..." Isn't it an important part of any apology to say exactly what you did wrong? – Brandon_J Oct 4 at 16:44
  • 6
    Oh, I think I'm going to print this and put it on my refrigerator door.... – aparente001 Oct 5 at 5:34
  • Wow, where did you get this? Very useful!!! – TaW Oct 5 at 10:40
  • 4
    This post is hilarious, bravo! – Fattie Oct 5 at 15:49
  • 1
    @TaW - the headers are the links to the sources – user148287 Oct 6 at 8:19
  • @Brandon_J - "I know I should not have done this on a Friday" is a non-apology. – user148287 Oct 6 at 8:20
  • @JarrodRoberson yes, of course. I was speaking generally. – Brandon_J Oct 6 at 8:31
  • @JarrodRoberson - Bingo. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 6 at 10:52
  • I'm late to call bingo! amazing contribution thanks. The post ist indeed a pretty canonical non-apology up to an insulting level – fr_andres SupportsMonicaCellio Oct 24 at 12:54
208

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

I take issue with this. All the indications (most of them visible only to mods) are that the Code of Conduct is changing and that Monica violated the updated, unpublished Code of Conduct. I suppose you can argue that Monica violated the current CoC if you squint really hard at it but there are several points against that argument:

  1. Your initial announcement that the CoC was changing and that we would have to abide by it used the future tense. Indeed, the very fact that you are planning to change the CoC is an indication that the CoC did not cover the issue at hand or, at the very least, that it was unclear. Even if you merely admit that the current CoC is unclear then why wouldn't you give a respected moderator the benefit of the doubt and wait until she (and we all) saw the clarified CoC and decided whether or not to abide by it before summarily and coldly removing her as a moderator?
  2. Last January there was a discussion in the moderators' Team about the exact issue which is triggering the CoC update.1 I won't post exact quotes from it since it's mod-only, but the post with the highest score advocated essentially the same course of action which Monica was removed for taking (no points for guessing who wrote it). Furthermore, the Teams discussion would have been pointless if the existing CoC actually covers the issue at hand -- if Monica violated the current CoC over this issue then any SE employee could have and should have immediately answered that the CoC already covers the issue and no discussion is required. The fact that we moderators had the discussion is strong evidence that the current CoC does not cover this issue. Morever, three SE employees posted an answer in that discussion and not one of them said that the CoC already covers it (one of them specifically says that the employee's answer is not an edict, another asks us moderators to bear with the company as the employees try to figure it out).

It would be much more accurate to say that you removed a moderator for insisting that she would refuse to abide by the CoC update you were planning to release, and that you pre-emptively removed her. Even that would be questionable, though, since you can hardly hold someone to abide by a CoC before you've actually released the text of it.


1Link to the discussion for those with access is here.

  • 19
    Monica says that she was asking questions about the exact requirements of the updated CoC, and in the middle of that they unexpectedly fired her instead of replying. – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 at 16:40
  • 50
    One point I've not seen raised yet: we probably should be asking the hard questions before a new policy is adopted and published. Otherwise, we'll get policies that are riddled with problems that no one saw coming, because it wasn't sufficiently analyzed. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 3 at 17:09
  • 11
    @J.R. Yes, Monica and other moderators have been asking hard questions about implementation details. That's basically why I've suspended my activity as a moderator -- I want to know exactly what we're being required to enforce before I actually try to enforce anything. – Null Oct 3 at 17:20
  • Monica didn't even violate the new CoC. She merely questioned it. – A. Donda Nov 15 at 15:05
194

So we've waited (nearly) a week to get.. a slightly longer version of the same boilerplate nothingness we had previously. Strange that it took this long to respond to the community (if this can be classed as such) but significantly less time to respond to The Register.

Nice to see you putting your "friends" first.

  • 12
    There is more coming, apologizing here was our first step. We've been working hard. – Sara Chipps Oct 3 at 16:22
  • 144
    If only this were a proper apology, it would have gotten a better reaction, @Sara – Oded Oct 3 at 16:27
  • 92
    Sorry @SaraChipps but if it takes ~6 days to produce a "first step" that is (and I'm being generous here) at most an hour's work. I'm not sure that inspires confidence if this is what "working hard" on something means at SO Inc. – motosubatsu Oct 3 at 16:31
  • 12
    @RobertGrant I imagine she and most others in the company have been working hard. I'm not a fan of all this, but as much as the "users' side" is demanding undertanding and compassion, the same should be shown to the "other side". The past week hasn't been easy for anyone, except perhaps those who enjoy watching fires. If we demand respect, we also have to show it. – Cindy Meister Oct 3 at 17:05
  • 4
    @SaraChipps Hang in there; work through it and come out a stronger and more experienced human being at the end of the tunnel. Believe in the good intentions of all involved... – Cindy Meister Oct 3 at 17:07
  • 33
    @SaraChipps I'm sorry to say that, but you didn't do a very good job apologizing. As your post stands, it adds more to the current sentiment of incompetence towards all of this than anything else. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 17:10
  • 9
    @Sara I gotta hand it to you, this "apology" of yours is on a race to be the most downvoted post on all of meta, reaching a dept that would go even further beyond your other boilerplate post. – reg Oct 3 at 17:30
  • 11
    "The past week hasn't been easy for anyone" if it's not been easy for anyone, but one particular set of people (the people paid - and failing - to be any good at all at this) caused it, then that's still absolutely terrible. Respect is earned by years of diligent, thoughtful volunteerism. See also: Monica. – Robert Grant Oct 3 at 17:31
  • I am not sure all understand the sarcasm of this answer. (Though TechLead's is much harder.) – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 17:35
  • @reg: Downvoting this question is a very bad idea. It only brings Meta one step closer to being shut down (as in cease to exist). – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 17:38
  • 1
    @PeterMortensen I don't believe that to be the case because it seems there are more downvoted questions on other meta sites by staff – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 17:49
  • 23
    @SaraChipps ... apologizing here was our first step. ... we are still waiting for that apology, because this is not it, not matter how many times you put in in the title and say that is what it is, it is a non-apology, actually it is about 8 non-apologies. Every time you post it is a non-apology. I am ASD, I am an expert on making real apologies at this point. – user148287 Oct 3 at 19:10
  • 2
    If that is the case, @PeterMortensen, then how should the community express dissatisfaction with what they consider to be a very poor communication attempt (and the company efforts related to it), and express their opinion that the company needs to do a better job here? This isn't snark, or an attempt to shut you down, or anything of the sort; I'm seriously unsure of what other means you expect us to provide feedback with, if we eschew the feedback mechanism that forms the core of the entire network. – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 20:30
  • 9
    @SaraChipps There is no apology here. Again, a requirement of an apology is to make amends for or undo the past bad action. You have not done so. You do not even attempt to apoplogize to Monica for not following the existing system and punishing her for asking questions about new rules that weren't actually in effect yet. Let's be clear here: this level of mistake suggests you cannot do your job, so you need to be contrite and trying to fix it. Most companies would have fired you for this. – trlkly Oct 4 at 2:01
  • 1
    @SaraChipps any idea of the general timeframe of the next step? – Brandon_J Oct 4 at 16:41
176

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.

I was there in the debate from the start and we discussed the new term of a new CoC to be more inclusive. Future tense was used.

I personally see it as an argument between two person that went bad and out of control, but her argument was valid. I never used he/she/they when I moderate, I always talk to the user directly. The debate started that way, simply.

I agree with you that a pronoun misuse would be against the be nice policy and Monica too agreed to that, but the debate was more than that in the end, it was talked to force the use of they or such pronoun.

Please publish that new CoC

  • 9
    "I personally see it as an argument between two person that went bad and out of control…" I wouldn't even say out of control. It went on for a while with both sides stubbornly rehashing the same points, but unless I missed something (possible, there was a lot to see), it seemed generally civil to me. – Kevin Oct 3 at 17:14
  • 9
    @Kevin I agree it was civil, but as it finished by a expelling, I told out of control for that reason. – yagmoth555 - GoFoundMe Monica Oct 3 at 18:22
  • 5
    I see your point, though I'd say that's more a disproportionate or nuclear reaction solely on SE's side, not directly the conversation itself. – Kevin Oct 3 at 19:01
  • 3
    I wonder how they can force users to use they instead of the username, especially on the sites like Stack Overflow на русском and Stack Overflow em Português which use, respectively, Russian and Portuguese. It doesn't seem there is the equivalent of the singular they English has, on those languages. – kiamlaluno Oct 5 at 17:57
170

While conducting this postmortem and deciding what to do better, I'd suggest it would be useful to keep communications open with the mod team, rather than leave us feeling abandoned. Give us status updates - they really help. Respond to some of the key queries (especially the heavily starred ones!)

We had no updates, no actual evidence that you were even listening.

The handful of CMs who tried to help couldn't provide us with info - they did their best and were definitely appreciated, but to us as a group it even felt like they were abandoned, pretty much.

Seriously, you need to involve an incident handler who understands communications, both with internal stakeholders (mods and CMs) and external stakeholders (members of the community, and the media and public) because as a company you keep hurting people with the way you do this.

  • 16
    Sanitized minutes from their meetings released to moderators under our standard confidentiality would at least let us know what points they are actioning. – StrongBad Oct 3 at 16:02
  • 15
    "We had no updates, no actual evidence that you were even listening." Nor even answers to any of Monica's or anyone else's questions or requests for clarification/examples, before or after Monica's dismissal. – Kevin Oct 3 at 16:24
  • 1
    There's supposed to be more coming, @Kevin. Hopefully some of it can defuse this tension, but I don't know how anything short of falling on your own sword would appease the communities right now. I wait to see what comes next. – fbueckert Oct 3 at 16:32
  • 5
    As a fact, she's got at least 3 super experienced CMs capable of doing damage control or helping her do so. She also has many people from the LGBTQ+ community as reports that can clearly support Monica if asked. I just don't think she bothered asking for help... – Sklivvz Oct 3 at 18:52
  • 1
    We do have the word postmortem. That means primarily: 'looking into a it', but it is now dead. Sad story, but a fact. Done. Now we wait for water under a bridge to pass? Have a wake perhaps? That is what my friend Freud suggested. – LаngLаngС Oct 3 at 19:26
  • 1
    @StrongBad "under our standard confidentiality" feels a little... I don't know--dead?--since the leaks. It makes me sad that we can't have nice things, like frank discussions with staff. – nitsua60 Oct 4 at 0:54
152

We didn’t follow that rule last week and as a result there was a lot of confusion over the weekend

Not just weekend. It's been a week since things started happening.

Still Stack Exchange didn't released enough details, which will clarify what led to removal of the moderator. As a company, you have the right to keep it confidential and we, users don't have any right to ask you to publish it. But Monica, gained a lot of trust among users across all SE sites she moderated and among other moderators. The tsunami of resignations you've seen is because of that. Thousands of people voted to elect her as a mod and she tried to reach up to their expectation.

You people took 1 week to release an official (incomplete) statement.

While you claim the site is moderated by the public, this isn't the right way to treat the users or mods. Even if you have the right to do whatever you want, you should understand that moderators are people, who have their own things and still they spend a lot of time to keep the site clean, without expecting anything in return.

As mentioned in one of my other answer, Monica didn't get anything by moderating this site. She may raised concerns regarding the new & yet to implement CoC. But she's a moderator on many sites and she may have to respond to queries from Millions of people in the community. It's not just her voice. It's the community's voice.

When she ask you something as a mod, she is not representing herself. She's representing the entire community

This isn't the right way to treat them.

  • 13
    And let's not forget we're still waiting for a proper followup to the illegal licensing change a month later – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 4 at 15:37
144

I'm not sure how to take this to be honest. I can see that there's a willingness to learn from this and to be more transparent about this process going forward. I can see there's a sense of regret for not being better this time around.

What I don't see is an apology to Monica, and to the moderators who have felt they've been let down in trust from this whole issue.

You admit that you got things wrong. You really need to send an apology to Monica for doing things wrong. You don't have to reinstate her - you just had to admit to her personally that you treated her badly.

And you treated us badly in treating her badly.

And I continue to feel bad because you're not owning that fact.

  • 39
    Given this is the new SO PR staff, any expression of being willing to learn from this must be taken with the largest pinch of salt possible. – Robert Grant Oct 3 at 16:29
  • 22
    @RobertGrant - Aye. This is merely the pro-forma "non-apology apology" you get when someone's mucked up. I'm sorry you're upset and I'm sorry you've taken offense... but – Richard Oct 3 at 16:39
  • @RobertGrant Wasnt Sara Chipps appointed in July, almost 3 months ago? – Zev Spitz Oct 3 at 16:50
  • @ZevSpitz I've no idea, why? – Robert Grant Oct 3 at 16:59
  • @RobertGrant "Given this is the new SO PR staff" Not so new. – Zev Spitz Oct 3 at 17:14
  • 7
    3 months is new. I mean the new guard who've ushered in a variety of unrepentant groupthinky missteps. – Robert Grant Oct 3 at 17:28
  • 5
    "I can see that there's a willingness to learn from this and to be more transparent about this process going forward." what personally bothers me is this is included every time SE have to issue some sort of apology/statement. It's become a stock phrase by now and seeing as we get less and less communication I'm not convinced that this time it would be different. – VLAZ Oct 3 at 20:07
  • 9
    What I don't see is an apology to Monica, it's not an apology. They're sorry. They're sorry that this blew up and got as much attention as it did. – JAD Oct 4 at 8:28
  • @JAD It's a statement of regret. That's what this really is. There are fundamental communication problems happening here, so there's a lot of learning still to be done. – user351483 Oct 4 at 8:34
  • @RobertGrant This LinkedIn profile says "July 2018 -- 16 months". – ChrisW Oct 6 at 16:21
137

A couple of thoughts and perhaps a bit of mentoring as well.

First, "Friends," is really not a appropriate start to an open letter like this. "Dear Colleagues," or perhaps "Dear Members of the Stack Exchange Community," are much more appropriate. As others have pointed out, we aren't friends and a professional relationship does not imply a personal relationship.

Second, I'm a bit surprised that management at Stack Exchange wasn't aware of this:

We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday.

While it is generally acceptable to inform someone before the weekend that they are being laid-off, generally that decision should be made days to weeks in advance. There might be occasions where it is necessary to remove someone in an expedient fashion, but it doesn't appear to have been the case. Even assuming good faith and there was communication going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of, we encounter this situation,

Even more, this weekend was a religious holiday observed by many on the site.

That was a really big mistake. Despite your personal options about Monica Cellio, she was a fairly high profile person on the site. Between that, the Shabbat, Rosh Hashana, and the fact that all of the issues were "behind closed doors" from the standpoint of the general public, there was no need for a expedient dismissal.

Third, it's a really bad idea to use canned responses and to talk to the press before a general response like this is written. Going back to my second point, a much better way of handling this after the determination to dismiss Monica was made would have been to have an official statement ready to go before Monica was even informed of the decision. Properly managed, the community may not have even needed to know that Monica was fired and a graceful exit strategy could have been employed.

Quite frankly, as someone that's been around since the private beta and has around 40K worth of reputation across all network sites, I'm very disappointed in the direction Stack Exchange has gone over the years. This really was one of those situations that could have been handled much better and I suspect a lot of good people are moving on as a result.

Finally, as Director of Public Q&A you are being held to a bit of a higher standard than other employees of Stack Exchange. Be mindful of that.

  • 89
    And comparing the forced removal of someone from an organization to "oops, don't deploy on Fridays" is rather insensitive, IMHO. You're not making changes to 1s and 0s, you're implementing a huge, unexpected change in someone's life (luckily not their livelihood, in this case at least). – TylerH Oct 3 at 17:10
  • 9
    @TylerH In this case its not just that it happened on a Friday, but that it happened half an hour before the moderator in question goes offline for religious reasons. – Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 17:15
  • 2
    Thanks, more level headed than I could be. – Sklivvz Oct 3 at 18:45
124

Monica's repeated violations of the code of conduct were only that she kept saying she didn't want to use "they" as a single-person pronoun and she kept trying to find an alternate way to be respectful that would meet her needs (to not use "they") as well as meeting the needs of others to be respected.

I went back and read a lot of the discussions that came before her removal and in everything I read, Monica was very respectful in what she wrote.

So the only "violation" was that she kept trying to find an alternative to the use of singular they that would work for her and would be respectful to others who preferred it.

To me, it isn't disrespectful and it's not a violation of "be nice" - to say, "that doesn't work for me, is there an alternative? how about this? or how about if I do this other thing to try to find an alternative?"

  • 29
    It's also violate a CoC not yet in effect. – Andras Deak Oct 3 at 16:11
  • 12
    I think their argument is that by saying she didn't want to use "they" even when someone requested it, she was being "not nice." – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 16:12
  • @AndrasDeak I think it said that it was in effect internally, but I could be wrong. – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 17:46
  • @StephanS Initially, what was being violated was always referred to as an update to the CoC, later it was referred to as a clarification. Regardless, the violation was that it's hurtful or not nice that Monica kept wanting to discuss alternatives to using "they" (even when someone requested the use of "they"). – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 17:52
  • @Ward I got that but it's this quote- "We’re finalizing the policy internally now and will ship it ASAP.", I think the question after this quote does internally mean the policy was staff only, or was it staff and mods. – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 17:55
  • @StephanS Frankly, I've lost track. I would say that it was at first very clear that it was a future iteration of the CoC that she was/would be violating by avoiding the use of singular they. But I think it morphed into "you're not being nice when you said you won't use singular they, which violates the current CoC." – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 17:59
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    @Stephans Ward, not sure it's all that hard to understand - it's possible to violate current CoC in the course of a discussion about a future CoC. That seems pretty clearly to be what's being claimed. – Alex M Oct 3 at 18:03
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    @AlexM Sorry, this is spread over multiple comment threads... Monica did not refuse to use "they" in response to a request by someone to use "they." This was all in the context of: In the future, if someone says "please use 'they' when you need a pronoun for me," then you have to use that pronoun. Monica kept asking "If it comes up, is it ok if I find another respectful way to refer to someone?" and it was considered a violation to keep saying "I want to find an alternative." – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 18:11
  • @ward the thread we're mainly discussing it in meta.stackexchange.com/a/334264/622311 covers what is being suggested that she said that constituted the violation. Here I'm just saying I don't find the distinction between current/future policy at all confusing. – Alex M Oct 3 at 18:19
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    If this is the case, then the issue is a culture clash that has quite literally been centuries in the making. It would likely be the collision of the fake linguistic "never use singular 'they'" rule with the effects of a (relatively) sudden explosion in popularity of the desire for specific pronouns in a gender-neutral language, essentially driving the party in question's probable linguistic education headfirst into others' pronoun-preference, and leaving everyone unhappy because a square moose is neither circular nor a peg, and thus won't fit a round hole. – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 20:42
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    Perhaps useful to add: Monica commented with more details, that she does (or plans to) avoid all third-person pronouns after someone pointed out that avoiding only "they" would be unbalanced. That makes it crystal clear that "refusing to use they" doesn't mean she will ever use incorrect pronouns for anyone. I'm assuming it's a writing-style / English language usage issue for her (a former moderator of writers.SE even), not a problem with how some people self-identify. – Peter Cordes Oct 6 at 10:46
117

This statement reads more like damage control than anything else. It doesn't really give us any new information about what happened, and the apology doesn't actually address what the community was upset about. It only apologizes for it happening on a religious holiday weekend.

It comes down to Monica having different values, which lead her to believe that forced top-down moderation on this subject wasn't the correct path, the Stack  Exchange network wasn't willing to respect Monica's choice to bring an opposing viewpoint to the conversation.

It's a noble goal to make an area safe for everyone to use, but can that be done by alienating a large population of the site's agency?

Monica was and is a polite person that believes in making her interactions with other users pleasant and friendly. To my knowledge, Monica didn't object to the use of preferred pronouns; Monica objected to the agency of moderators being challenged.

Quote by Monica Cellio :

I completely agree that it is rude to call people what they don't want to be called; knowingly misgendering someone is not ok.

  • 65
    Monica's values are not different. She supports the use of correct pronouns for everyone. She was questioning implementation. We may not agree with her choices on that but it's not the same as saying her values and culture are different. That's simply not true. – Cyn says make Monica whole Oct 3 at 16:10
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    @Cyn thank you for that information i'll fix my answer to reflect it – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 16:12
  • 3
    "Monica didn't object to the use of preferred pronouns; Monica objected to the agency of moderators being challenged." How do you know this? This is incredibly important evidence. – Alex M Oct 3 at 18:04
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    @AlexM "I completely agree that it is rude to call people what they don't want to be called; knowingly misgendering someone is not ok." - Monica Cellio – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 18:12
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    So, quoting one half of a dispute as evidence of the truth of the facts in dispute is not, let's say, super compelling. Changed my +1 to -1 as you're making assertions you don't actually know. – Alex M Oct 3 at 18:17
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    @AlexM I can only make statements about the information we have, Monica's post, and allegory from Cyn, if and when Stack Exchange comes out with evidence contradicting the statement I'll change my answer but I can only speak about the information that we have. – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 18:22
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    You're not 'speaking on' information. You're making factual claims that you can't back up. You didn't say 'Monica said she didn't...' You said 'Monica didn't.' – Alex M Oct 3 at 18:25
107

While you're at it, will you please consider instituting an official process for reinstating moderators who have been removed? Such a process is sorely needed in this case, in particular.

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    Given the drama involved here, the well is likely tainted. It'd be somewhat ironic if the communities re-elected Monica in defiance of SE's decisions. It would, however, send an extremely pointed message. – fbueckert Oct 3 at 16:00
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    @fbueckert: I suspect a ton of people would vote her into a new moderatorship on half of the sites on the network if she ran... – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 at 16:22
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    Severing this suggestion from the current situation: no. Or at least, not reinstatement by the community (cc @fbueckert) - maybe by a process involving internal communication with CMs. Some people are utterly unsuited for a moderator role and yet win landslide victories in mod elections before being removed (and might do so again if permitted to run again). – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 at 16:31
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    @Cerberus I'm not sure people forcibly removed from moderator positions are eligible for running again... that wouldn't make a ton of sense. Mods typically can ask to be re-instated at any time after stepping down, so if the company wanted her to be a mod again they could simply just reach out. – TylerH Oct 3 at 16:49
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    Violating the Code of Conduct to the extent that their moderator privileges had to be revoked really suggests that they are not suitable to be a moderator. If there is a disagreement on whether the ex-moderator should have been "fired", then that's a separate thing to investigate. – Daveoc64 Oct 3 at 17:13
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    when 20+ mods resigned already, I don't see how reinstating Monica would help. This is 100x bigger than firing one moderator. – Sklivvz Oct 4 at 6:19
  • When someone was improperly removed without the required process, there most certainly should be a process for reinstating them (even if in a suspended state) and beginning that removal process to see whether the suspension should be lifted or the removal should be re-done. – Dewi Morgan Oct 7 at 2:42
98

SE has since released a new statement here that attempts to communicate.

Update 14.10.19: The situation took an unexpected turn and the communication channels, as well as any hope of progress are in my eyes currently dead. See my linked answer for the details - I also highly encourage everyone to go on a strike until SE realizes they have to communicate if this site is going to continue to survive.

You've already gotten more than enough feedback you'll never reply to, but this is a plea for sanity and repaired communication.

  • Fact: You're updating the CoC in a way that's likely to be bad. That being said, I believe you have a good intention, and I do agree an update is necessary - but not in the way it's been presented.
  • Fact: You've treated LGBTQ moderators so horribly it's outright disgusting.
  • Fact: You fired a moderator.

    • Fact: You did so without following your own procedures
    • Fact: And you "apologized" in an extremely dehumanizing and hurtful way.

      I've been tempted to flag this question as rude or abusive entirely because of that sentence. That you're comparing firing moderators to shipping software is a horrible sign, especially when you compare that to the way you've treated LGBTQ moderators. Moreover, when you ignore their questions for over a week, blaming it on "shipping on a Friday" is a bit like blaming what happened on something that happened last year - it's an invalid excuse.

    • Speculation: The community as a whole may never truly know what actually happened, and to a certain degree, I can live with that. But you fired a moderator - if you can't justify your actions to them, you probably shouldn't have fired them in the first place.

      And yeah, it might've been completely justified, but that doesn't justify throwing out a person you considered hiring and ignoring replies. Regardless of what Monica has done, you still did this to another human. And we make mistakes. I personally haven't decided whether I support Monica or not, but I know I strongly oppose the way you handled and are handling this situation.

  • Fact: You've been ignoring questions from the community in this situation for over a week.
  • Fact: Currently 46 moderators (!!) have resigned, been fired (one), or stopped moderating. I have no idea how many moderator positions this affects, given that some of these moderators are moderators across the network. Additionally, an uncountable number of users have deleted their accounts or stopped moderating. This will damage the network, and unless something changes, I hope it continues.
    • Fact: Stack Overflow has lost users and moderators before this mess started, thanks to other corporate issues and the paywall homepage.
    • Fact: Currently, one site is without active moderators, and multiple others are down to one.
    • Fact: Even Stack Overflow, with now twenty two active moderators (three resigned, one with what from the outside appears as ceased activity. Resignations not exclusively limited to this mess), are struggling to keep up with flags and handle them quickly. MSE isn't doing better, thanks to the insane meta volume this has caused.
    • Fact: Elections take time. The longer you wait to put out the fire, the more moderators will step down, and the harder it'll be to recover.
  • Fact: You want to regain trust.
    • Fact: many users want increased transparancy.
      • Fact: Increased transparency != "share all details and leak PII everywhere". (You're not Facebook - you've proven to be competent in that area)
    • Fact: You've lied to us several times - including on the license change and on whether SO was trying to start audio or not.
    • Speculation: You're unable to coordinate responses between employees to make your own views abundantly clear. (see the mismatch in the last link and in this answer for one)
    • Fact: You talked to the media before your own community.
  • Fact: You (Sara) are the director of Public Q&A.
    • Guess: You have real power and you're in a position to make decisions. You're not bossed around by someone else from what I can tell. (but I might be wrong - corporate structure is something I'll probably never understand)
  • Fact: You still have a chance to recover.

Fact: We need answers.

As I tried to tell you in a comment you presumably ignored, we want replies. Individual replies, personalized replies (not more copy-pasta "apologies"). Many users in the community are, with good reason, angry. We've been ignored, moderators are apparently treated in an unwelcoming manner (which is ironic, because it's from the company that launched the Welcoming Wagon), you're piling more work on moderators, trying to disable Meta further without presenting an alternative, pushing nasty ads on your users, and trying to push your products in a negative way for the community.

You need to work with us. We've tried, over and over to suggest things to you, but on income matters, it seems you're so centered around that that you forget you have a community. A community that powers a network of millions of questions of answers about everything. If you lose that, what do you have left?

I jokingly suggested somewhere that you should rename the site to "Spam Overflow" if a significant amount of users, and more importantly Charcoal, suspended operation. Far from all the sites in the network have a chance in hell of combatting the wave of spam alone, in an uncoordinated manner.

When I say we need answers, I mean we need replies. We will not agree on everything, but if we at least have an open communications channel between users and the company, the site might actually have a future. This is also why I'm saying it's not too late. you still have users, and people are still actively participating in this discussion. However, participation is dropping, and the longer you wait, the harder it'll be to recover.

If, for some reason, you have no idea where to start, why not start by letting Monica have answers regarding the diamond removal? Next time someone asks for more information, reply and say something to let us know you're actually working on it. Saying nothing feels an awful lot like "we're ignoring you".

Your developers are doing an amazing job on feature requests - at least they were. I haven't seen much [status-complete] on MSO lately. That was motivation when at least I thought a lack of feature request implementation and unscaled moderation tools were the biggest problems. What we need this time are answers. You can reinstate Monica right now and it still won't be enough, because this has surfaced multiple other issues not just surrounding your future change, but regarding how you treat moderators.

Please start answering concerns your users and moderators raise.

  • "Fact: Currently 48 mods (!!) have resigned" source please? – rocketsocks Oct 5 at 9:53
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    @rocketsocks meta.stackexchange.com/q/333965/332043 - it's actually 46 (two asked to be reinstated) – Zoe Oct 5 at 9:54
  • There is some conflation between "resigned" and "is currently abstaining from work" here, as well as perhaps counting moderator positions (per site) vs. the individuals that fill(ed) those roles. – Caleb Oct 5 at 14:57
  • I get that it's probably a bad example, but stating fact when saying You've treated LGBTQ.. is kind of not a fact but one persons view/feeling on a situation with no fact in the post other than again, someone's feelings. It would actually be pretty nice if for once, one of those "they are biggots" contained some form of source or verification to the claim. Otherwise it's just smearing and a rally of who said who. Again, not out to say it's not true - but for ONCE in this god forsaken internet place - could there be some facts thrown around when we actually use the word fact. – Torxed Oct 5 at 15:38
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    @Torxed you can view it whatever way you'd like. You could call it "awesome" if you want to, but it still doesn't change the details presented in the post, and they're not even remotely good from any human point of view. – Zoe Oct 5 at 15:58
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    @Zoethetransgirl Don't think I ever used the word "awesome". There's no details in the post. There are rumors/smearing on a person or product without any source of information. Again, this particular instance is more than likely true - but anyone can write up a pretty well written wall of text about a hot topic and call it true. Unless some hint of sourced material is given, you can't really state that something is a fact. definition or fact is that it can be proven. Not just spoken of. – Torxed Oct 5 at 16:05
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    And honestly, I'm not in the mood to defend my use of "fact" on something I see as a horrible way to treat people, regardless of whether they're LGBTQ or not (that they were singled out here made it worse). If you disagree, there's a perfectly useable downvote button associated with my answer. – Zoe Oct 5 at 16:06
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    There is a source. every other word in that line after You've is a link. If you don't consider the experience of a mod good enough, see the last sentence of my previous comment. – Zoe Oct 5 at 16:08
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    67 out of approximately 670 moderator positions have resigned, been fired, or gone inactive in direct response to the mess, plus five related resignations. The effective loss rate is even higher than the raw numbers would indicate, because many of the losses are to high- and mid-activity sites that require their current moderator counts, rather than low-activity sites that don't. – Mark Oct 6 at 2:07
95

Is there an internal contest somewhere for the most downvoted post? A new secret badge maybe?

Thanks for finding the courage to answer, but unless you provide real evidence that "We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct " you will continue to meet skepticism and deep unhappiness.

Suggest you get ahead of that train before it becomes unstoppable. I can guarantee you this will be written up as a case study of wrecking up a company unless you treat this with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.

Some of your users (starting with me) have experience in crisis management. You should feel free to ask for help, as I know you would get highly-trained experienced volunteers willing to help you build an action plan to turn around the situation, fix what can be fixed and work on restoring Stack Overflow Inc.'s reputation. Serious.

Now is the time to stand to the challenge and lead.

Update: I wrote a A proposed turnaround plan after Monica's firing to get the ball rolling and to shift the focus away from "piling up on the criticism pile" to "what can be done to get out of this?"

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    Downvoting will only provide ammunition for shutting down Meta (as in cease to exist). See e.g. the blog post from August 2019 about panic attacks. Better vote up - as in for the courage to do it on Meta and not in a blog post (with comments disabled). – Peter Mortensen Oct 3 at 18:32
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    I understand and I promise all downvotes are not mine. But the community needs a way to signal agreement and disagreements. And for now down and upvotes are all we have – mbloch Oct 3 at 18:36
  • @Peter Which blog post are you referring to? – DonielF Oct 4 at 3:00
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    @DonielF I don't remember such a blog post, but maybe Peter was talking about meta.stackoverflow.com/a/387633/2072269 – muru Oct 4 at 4:49
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    Does management training (crisis management) say anything about beginning a correspondence with the line Is there an internal contest somewhere for the most downvoted post? A new secret badge maybe? I would be offended if that was directed at me, an employee in a fairly high position. I am not condoning Sara Chipps' official response in any shape or form. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 at 6:24
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    "a case study of wrecking up a company singlehandedly in less than a week" Just added a few more qualifiers in case somebody needs a title for the case study. – Trilarion Oct 4 at 14:03
  • @mbloch I requested this as a badge and it didn't turn out well – User37849012643 Oct 4 at 16:04
  • @Mari-LouA It's perhaps not the author of this answer who seems to have a crisis right now. Is everything at the company going as planned? – berendi - protesting Oct 4 at 16:35
  • @muru possible that Peter was talking about the blog post he linked in his comment? – Alex M Oct 4 at 21:26
89

The dismissal process is a small part of this problem

Yes, that process might be bad, and improving it is good. But if people thought the behaviour justified a dismissal despite the bad process, there might've been one or two complaints; you wouldn't have been in this mess.

The real issue here is disagreement with the reasons for dismissal.

Unless the updated process would be so radically different that Monica wouldn't have gotten anywhere near a dismissal. But then why would you stand by your decision to dismiss her?

Saying "we're updating the process" is also vague corporate-speak that doesn't really give any concrete information.

Even if you make an updated process publicly available (which it's not clear you'll do), this would only add a bit more accountability. It wouldn't prevent you from just doing it again if you felt particularly inclined (especially not if you wait some time).

The timing of the decision is not the problem

A delayed response might've been a bigger factor had your response done more to put anyone's feelings at ease and, ideally, if it also involved some actions to rectify the situation. Although, had this been the case, the outrage likely would've died down rather quickly.

But the response wasn't satisfactory, at which point it having been prompt wouldn't have been much better than it having been delayed.

The timing might've been bad for Monica, who only found out about it a few days later. That can't feel great, but this probably wouldn't have caused much outrage had the dismissal felt justified or the (eventual) response felt satisfactory.

So it's good to realise the timing could've been better. A lot better.

But this is far from the biggest issue here.

You're still not communicating

You say communications could've been better. I'm assuming this is referring exclusively to communicating with the moderator in question at the time of their dismissal.

Because, as for actually explaining the reasons for the dismissal and communicating with the other moderators (as far as I've gathered) and the community as a whole, any explanation provided so far has been extremely vague and you've chosen to remain silent about the explanation which paints you in an extremely bad light (which we can only assume is true then). If you want to improve this part, there's still time with respect to this dismissal. If you choose not to now, there's no reason to believe you would in future.

What about the bigger issue here?

While I don't have or remember their exact reasons, I've seen a few people refer to this as the last straw of a bigger issue (although perhaps using different words).

You're only addressing this one issue without addressing the bigger problem.

So, where does that leave us?

With an apology:

  • Doubling down on the problem
  • Apologising for some things we don't care about
  • Apologising for other things you can still fix (but are choosing not to)
  • Ignoring a large part of the problem
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    The timing of the decision is not the problem The timing of the removal is very relevant. It was done on a Friday evening, and from personal experience I know that staff, not CMs or mods, generally do not respond to private correspondence or tickets on the weekend. The fact that this was communicated on a Friday evening (as I understand it) was a deliberate ploy. It meant that the user has to wait until the weekend is over before even hoping of getting any reply. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 at 6:43
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    That is two days of stress, hurt, humiliation and confusion. In my books, communicating such a major (almost life-changing) decision, to a respected long-standing user of SE, on a Friday evening, regardless of it being a religious holiday, is nothing short of cruelty. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 at 6:45
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    I don't think it was deliberate, just thoughtless. For instance, from a culture of project thinking where everything ends (deadlines) at week boundaries, because it looks nicer or is more convenient. There is a rush to get things out, no matter if it is incomplete, of low quality, or causes a huge waste of time for others (adjusting the scope instead may be more appropriate). – Peter Mortensen Oct 4 at 13:30
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    @Mari-LouA having seen this type of action before (not from SO, another imploding community), I agree with you. However, its not just 2 days, it is 5 - since after the weekend is Rosh Hashana, and they know full well that Monica would not be online at all until Wednesday. Even if it was not purposefully deliberate with malice aforethought, it is thoughtless to the point of erasing her identity (she is a mod on Judaism.SE fercryingoutloud!) - the very problem they were accusing her of. – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 10:18
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    @AviD I don't know how well-known Rosh Hashana (The Jewish New year) is in the US, if it is anything like Hanukkah, with which I am most familiar, then shame on the board of SO and shame on Ms. Chipps. However, the fact the firing occurred days before an important Jewish holiday would not have stopped any of the staff or the Director from replying to any of Monica's private emails, the weekend would have. 1/2 – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 at 10:46
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    If any SO paid employee was Jewish, which is a possibility, and despite being aware of the decision being undertaken didn't warn Ms Chipps, then everyone in the company should just come out in the open and admit that the concept of inclusivity, the CoC and respect ethnic minorities is just... I can't think of the word...disingenuous, .... going through the motions, paying lip service. That's the one. 2/2 – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 at 10:52
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    @Mari-LouA Absolutely. Rosh hashana is generally more well known than Hanukkah, but especially in this context (firing a Jewish moderator of the Judaism site), not to mention that (I'm pretty sure) it was mentioned in some of the conversations. The problem isnt that staff wouldnt answer - it's that Monica would not be able to respond, if she even happened to see it. And yes - there are plenty of of Jewish paid employees, even on the CM team (or there was) - don't forget the CEO is Jewish (no idea if he is practicing, but that is rather irrelevant IMO). – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 12:17
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    Bottom line - they either knew, and did it purposely; they knew, and knowingly chose to ignore it; or pretended not to know, and used willful ignorance as an excuse for plausible deniability. – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 12:18
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    Btw @Mari-LouA I mention these issues as well on my suspension post. meta.stackexchange.com/a/334122/135923 – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 12:19
  • @Mari-LouA I rewrote most of the timing section. Although if you feel it was deliberate calculated decision (as opposed to thoughtless), I can understand how you might feel it's a much bigger problem than I do. – NotThatGuy Oct 6 at 15:22
88

This is NOT an apology. This is a disculpation.

I've read through your response to the community, and it does not address ANY of the concerns raised since.

Yes, I agree it's the first good step to open up and talk to the community, but given how this response is stubbornly written, avoiding key concerns, and how noninductive as your previous series of We're sorry to see you go canned responses to mods' resignation notices (which I don't take personally, but rather think you posted those on behalf of Stack Exchange), I'm afraid we're not going to accept it, at least for me.

Please, Stack Exchange, be genuine, be honest, be truthful, or the community you've built will vanish, sooner or later.

  • Sooner if I had to guess. – OnStrike Oct 4 at 4:06
  • @theNamesCross Thanks. I just mistyped. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 4:14
  • @ iBug. Ironic, I missed your typo. I simply meant to comment that at this rate, it feels like it will vanish sooner than later. Totally agree with your answer, cheers! – OnStrike Oct 4 at 4:20
87

Instead of a direct apology, you pour more gasoline to the fire.

If the new Code of Conduct demands that we must refer to others by their preferred pronouns and not by their names, I will blatantly refuse. I have the utmost respect for people of any background and gender but I will not accept that anyone of any gender would be offended if you use the name they chose to give themselves.

Anyone can change their username on Stack Exchange. If someone was called Tom, I would refer to said person as @Tom, Jennifer as @Jennifer, and userxxxxx as @userxxxxx.

If there ever came a scenario where someone tells me that using their name insults them and that I should use a certain pronoun instead, my response would be for the said person to simply change their username to match their preferred gender pronoun so that others would not make the same mistake.


On a follow-up point, how would the notification system work if names would be banned?

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    I don’t think you entirely understand the goal here. It’s fine to continue addressing people by their usernames. But if I write “After reviewing user35594’s code, I think user35594 may have overlooked a necessary increment in user35594’s main class which would make user35594’s class consistent with the rest of user35594’s package,” it should be obvious that I’m taking pains to avoid addressing you with a pronoun because I’m unwilling to do so. – VGR Oct 4 at 1:30
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    @VGR - based on what I was able to gather, refusing to use pronouns in favor of usernames is now considered to make you a fireable nazi scum. – DVK Oct 4 at 1:45
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    @VGR Whether I agree with this position or not, there are plenty of ways to avoid using pronouns entirely which are neither awkward nor insulting. Consider: "After reviewing user35594's code, I think a necessary increment in the main class, which would make the class consistent with the rest of the package, may have been overlooked." – DonielF Oct 4 at 3:05
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    @DonielF Correct. There are ways to retain your religious beliefs without demeaning others. I imagine your recommendation would have been a smart thing to put in that mysterious new code of conduct which still hasn’t seen the light of day. – VGR Oct 4 at 3:09
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    @VGR It’s my understanding from what’s been released that my recommendation was precisely what Monica was arguing for and what got her the boot. – DonielF Oct 4 at 3:10
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    @DonielF So far I understand that she refused to use “they.” Whether that meant doing what you suggested, or using he/she all the time, is something I don’t yet know. – VGR Oct 4 at 3:15
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    @VGR Yes, Monica refuses to use singular "they", but she also said that she would not misgender anyone by using an inappropriate pronoun. BTW, from what I've gathered from Sara Chipp's posts, the changes to the CoC are just a clarification of the existing CoC that make some matters more explicit, in particular, the issue of respecting people's pronoun choices. It's not a radical addition to the CoC. – PM 2Ring Oct 4 at 6:24
  • @Veljko89: "their messed up", not "there messed up". See e.g. How to Use There, Their and They're. Why do you make a mistake that is usually reserved for native speakers from the southern United States? Have you lived there (or still do)? – Peter Mortensen Oct 4 at 13:58
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    @DonielF: Yes, The Chicago Manual of Style has a section, "Bias-Free Language" (5.221 - 5.230), and 5.225 (page 302 in the 16th edition, 2010) has nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality. Avoiding singular they also avoids the concern that some think singular they is no longer gender-neutral... (That comment has been deleted now.) – Peter Mortensen Oct 4 at 14:05
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    @VGR Another (possibly incorrect, but still not rude) way to write it would be: “After reviewing user35594’s code, I think they may have overlooked a necessary increment in their main class which would make their class consistent with the rest of their package”. This doesn't use passive voice (which often tends to be confusing). However, some people don't like it (take Richard Stallman for example), and that's fine. They can use the way mentioned in DonielF's comment, or the way they prefer. – user474678 Oct 4 at 15:52
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    Can anyone explain to me why you must use the pronouns someone prefers when the whole point of pronouns (3rd person) is to describe someone you're not talking to? If a person identifies as a man, but on a stage with other men they look like a woman, then if I want to identify them to someone else, I'm going to say "she/her", because otherwise it would be ambiguous. I guess I'm against policing language, but it's even more weird to have my language policed when I'm not even talking to you. – Greg Schmit - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 21:16
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    @PeterMortensen reserved for native speakers from the southern United States citation needed? Many native speakers erroneously mix homophones (your/you're has the same problem). I'm not aware of any significant difference in the south re: their/there – D. Ben Knoble Oct 5 at 20:02
  • @GregSchmit "If a person identifies as a man, but on a stage with other men they look like a woman, then if I want to identify them to someone else, I'm going to say 'she/her', because otherwise it would be ambiguous." As a non-passing trans person, please don't do this. If you see someone in a crowd and have no idea how they identify, that's one thing, but if you know someone uses a certain pronoun, then use it. There are plenty of other ways to disambiguate who you're talking about without disrespecting that person, whether they know you are or not. – anon Oct 6 at 2:27
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    @GregSchmit Firstly, it's a public website and 99.9% of the time when someone is talking about someone else, the other person also contributed on the same page (meaning they're likely to see what was written). Secondly, while I can't speak for you, I know I try to avoid saying things about people (which may include implied gender by using a pronoun) behind their back that I wouldn't say in front of them and I appreciate others doing the same when talking about me. Thirdly, even if the person you're talking about isn't there, it could still make the person you're talking to uncomfortable. – NotThatGuy Oct 7 at 15:53
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    @GregSchmit If you don't see the problem with the person you're talking about seeing the pronoun you're using, consider that there's a lot of discrimination and hate against trans people, many insist on classifying them as a gender they don't identify with (including, for example, which bathroom they should use), many wish to "pass" (be identified by the general public as the gender they identify with) and many have struggled with their identity for years. Your use of some pronoun might not seem like a big deal, but it does remind them of all of these issues. – NotThatGuy Oct 7 at 16:01
86

I am loathe to post an answer here, because the community is especially charged right now. However, I feel I must speak out.

  1. Full Disclosure: I am trans. I'm not really open about this fact with SE, though I did recently out myself on Parenting.
  2. I have no idea about the details of the new CoC. I haven't been able to find anything directly from the source yet. However, I have read over what Monica said in the Teacher's Lounge. I will not share it here out of respect for Monica and the rules of the Teacher's Lounge. But what she said is more than a mere disagreement over pronoun use. She used strong, visceral language that was definitely a violation of our current Code of Conduct.

    Side Note: I don't want to get into the details of transphobia and enbyphobia (non-binary phobia) here, but I do want to say that I don't think Monica meant any offense or that she harbors any ill will toward the trans community. Sometimes, however, people's actions can be harmful even when there are good intentions.

  3. Nevertheless, I disagree with what appears to be a one-strike-you're-out approach. I think some form of discipline was in order, but the immediate removal is out of line.
  4. This is a delicate issue. People were bound to be hurt however this went, but I feel that the cloak and dagger approach ultimately created more problems. And unfortunately, as pointed out by a few others, this puts trans issues at the center of a scandal.
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    The only strong visceral language I saw her using was talking about how she felt when something else was done to her, the implication here that she evidenced any form of phobia towards another persons identity is simply not accurate. – Caleb Oct 3 at 18:07
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    @Caleb As specified in the side note box, I'm not engaging in discussion of phobia and I don't think Monica meant any harm. What she said was harmful period. – called2voyage Oct 3 at 18:08
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    So she's being sacked because of harm she did not mean? – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 3 at 18:11
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    @called, this is an incredible can of worms. Now there will be more debate about what constitutes harm and where to put the cursor between "fragile snowflake" and "actually abused person", and what to do with people who cross the line in good faith, etc., etc... Nowadays sometimes it looks like the whole world is revolving around those issues. I'm feeling... saturated. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 3 at 18:18
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    "I don't think Monica meant any harm"...Does this imply Monica may still not understand what she did wrong? There's just a huge disconnect here - others are saying she's the nicest person ever (more or less), and Sara is accusing her of being persistently nasty. I don't doubt you saw something, but this is all bewildering to an outside observer. If she did something entirely unknowingly despite seeming a careful and considerate writer (more so than me!) that got her abruptly defenestrated without discussion, I'm not sure how much hope there is for the rest of us. – Stuart Whitehouse Oct 3 at 18:19
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    @called2voyage intentions matter when establishing punishments though. The best we can do is help people who make unintentional harmful comments understand the problem. Punishing people because they don't know better is, well, evil. – Sklivvz Oct 3 at 18:38
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    It's problematic that you've made an accusation against Monica while ostensibly not reporting what was said within the Teacher's Lounge. Other than that I am also saddened that the question of what's respectful towards trans people on SE is now caught up with coercive corporate authority. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:07
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    @einpoklum I wish there were another way, but there were lots of people saying that all she did was disagree on a policy change and I didn't feel that was the case so I felt the need to say something. I don't feel that I have the right to share what was in that private room. – called2voyage Oct 4 at 0:07
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    @einpoklum That said, the crux of the matter here is that this whole situation is unfair, and I think we can stand united on that. – called2voyage Oct 4 at 0:07
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    There is another way. Two, in fact. The first is to actually share what she did. Not quote or even paraphrase, but just name it. Did she dead name, misgender, etc? There is no wrong action that doesn't have a name. And if even that minimal amount of sharing is too much, then there's the second option: don't say anything at all. The bad option is to mirror the administration and say she's done something wrong without saying what. This doesn't work as a rebuttal, as you've provided no information. It just besmirches her name, rather than showing her any respect. – trlkly Oct 4 at 2:34
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    @trikly She referred to someone using gender neutral pronouns in an edit to her post as something that is physically nauseating to her. – called2voyage Oct 4 at 2:40
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    @called2voyage Thank you. Unfortunately, the specifics mean that I can't agree with your post. Such is not inherently hurtful. It would depend on context. If she's talking about having to use it for trans people, then of course that is hurtful. It's invalidating the trans identity, while saying that they make you physically sick. But saying that singular they makes you sick? I know trans allies and nonbinary people who say as much. I think the hurtfulness depends entirely on how you interpret the statement. – trlkly Oct 4 at 3:07
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    @trikly I hear you and I appreciate you sharing. I disagree, but ultimately I think we can agree that SE's behavior toward Monica and the community was inappropriate. Thank you for wading through this together! ❤ – called2voyage Oct 4 at 3:38
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    Re #2: are you talking about something from the TL discussion on Sep 18 or the teams post that was being discussed there? I certainly don't recall saying anything in TL about nausea, and the teams post was from January so my memories are fuzzier and I no longer have access to check. You are welcome to contact me privately to discuss this; it's not hard to find my contact information. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 14:06
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    I would like to state that I've read through the mod post & I've identified the comment at issue. Monica did not use the word "nauseated". The sentiment is at best superficially similar when taken out of context, but not at all similar, IMHO, in context. I won't quote it, but to be explicit, she did not say "nauseated", nor did she ever imply disgust with trans people. She has said repeatedly that she cares about trans people & would not deliberately misgender anyone. – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 at 2:54

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