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As part of the follow-up to their hurried removal of Monica Cellio from her moderator position at six different Stack Exchange communities, Stack Overflow, Inc. has committed to "releas[ing] an official process around removing moderators." I strongly recommend that as expeditiously as this new moderator-removal process is developed, a parallel process for reinstating moderators is developed as well, to be released as one policy.

When it comes to regular users, the established process allows moderators to suspend their privileges through suspension, which comes with a built-in sunset. At the end of a finite period, the user's privileges are automatically restored. The presumption is that the suspension period will provide the user a chance to reconsider whatever behavior triggered the suspension and commit to changing it. There is also a mechanism for permanently deleting a user account, but that is only meant to be used to remove active users in extreme cases of ongoing abuse.

When it comes to moderators, it makes sense for the processes for removing and re-instating privileges to be different, but it seems that starting similarly with a temporary suspension "to cool down" and work out issues would be similarly helpful. Had such a measure been invoked in the present case, I suspect that a resolution could have been worked out with much less public visibility, and with almost none of the cataclysmic upset across the Stack Exchange network that firing Monica as a first move brought on.

Short of an automatic sunset, there ought to at least be a clear path for manual reinstatement, paralleling the path for removal. Whatever communications between SOI staff and the moderator in question are required to lead up to removal, parallel communications should be structured to lead up to reinstatement. Whatever due consideration is required within the SOI team before a moderator is removed, parallel due consideration should be applied toward that moderator's reinstatement.

The institutional memory, technical and personal skills, and subject-matter expertise that moderators build up in the course of doing their jobs makes them too valuable as volunteers to simply give up on with the finality that a removal process without a parallel reinstatement process suggests.


Finally, although the firing of Monica followed no clear procedure, provided for no clear expectations by Monica or her communities, and did not allow for time for due communications or consideration, I recommend that a path be created for Monica to return to her positions, with clear expectations for a fair process, implemented with integrity by all involved. One of the benefits we may find at the end of that path is partial healing from the present crisis.

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    A great sentiment, but depends on whether Monica actually wants to be reinstated or not. I sure wouldn't. – Snow Oct 3 at 18:14
  • @Snow I would imagine that's a point that any worthy reinstatement process would require. – Isaac Moses Oct 3 at 18:14
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    I find it kind of sad, that so many people are grasping at so many tiny straws of most trivial contrition from SE, just so they can rationalize their desire to just ignore what has happened and justify them supporting the sites again. If you have to ask much less beg for an apology or the right thing to be done, it is neither one. – Someone Who Used To Care Oct 3 at 18:15
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    @JarrodRoberson If you mean that as a characterization of this post, I take exception to that. I'm trying to get the company to take action to bring back my colleague, not for a tiny straw of contrition. And I don't by any means mean to excuse or ignore either the firing itself or the manner of it. – Isaac Moses Oct 3 at 18:19
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    My loyalty is to my communities here, not to a company that did this to me. If I didn't care so deeply about Mi Yodeya in particular, I'd have already walked away. (Out of votes for today so I'll have to come back later to continue.) – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 18:36
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    This comment indicates that there's a plan to create an "appeal" process. – Isaac Moses Oct 3 at 18:46
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    We could hold speedy elections and re-elect @MonicaCellio. On all SEs where she's active. In fact, that would be a show of the community's support. – Galastel Oct 3 at 20:15
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    @Galastel That would kind of be making a mockery of the process. She already has community support by the barrel, the thing that needs to change is SE's support of its volunteers. They don't need elections for that. – Caleb Oct 4 at 19:15
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    @Snow: irrelevant; we could reinstate Monica and it's her business if she wants to resign in protest if she so wishes, and post a statement on SO why. Or go on strike until further notice. The important point is to establish the facts: that she did not violate the CoC in-place at the time. (nor did she violate the proposed CoC either). Anyone who called her a bigot did however violate the CoC, and has not been punished for that. We're still waiting for truth and justice. – smci Oct 4 at 21:56
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There is no set of rules that can be published to fix the situation. Stack Exchange has provided numerous, clear demonstrations of disregard for their own rules.

Another StackExchange user has been kind enough to collate these demonstrations: Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?

6

Publish a procedure for reinstating a removed moderator

I'm going to talk about reinstating a moderator removed by mistake and not because of the mod's activities. And currently there's no public discussion on reinstating Monica by the officials.


Prevention is better than cure.

The company shouldn't have fired Monica in such a way. Sara said they'll follow a procedure while removing a Moderator in future.

Mistakes are common. But repeated mistakes are not. First mistake of Stack Exchange is the removal of Monica. Second mistake is, the no one cares like responses to resignation posts by moderators across the network in per-site meta.

Past is past

If Stack Exchange is willing to correct their behavior, we should support them because it helped us a lot in our work and day to day life.


Returning user after suspension and reinstating Mod after removal are 2 different things. Moderators are not employees, they are volunteers who contribute their time and efforts to keep the site clean and useful. After hurting them emotionally, apologizing or reinstating won't work as expected because they're already hurt. They were treated in such a way they're not supposed to be, ever. Their contribution, dedication, time, efforts and everything was forgotten by the company.

Removing a moderator is not like firing an employee. Employees are getting paid for their time and efforts. While firing a moderator/volunteer, the company should never forget that the moderator worked till date to keep the site clean, without getting anything in return. The company should respect their dedication and treat them accordingly.

Here's what I think, if the company wants to reinstate a mod.

  1. The company should apologize to the moderator and promise the community that this'll never happen in future.
  2. Investigate this internally, take appropriate actions (if it's not by mistake, take disciplinary actions against the staff) and update the removed moderator about all of this.
  3. Ask the moderator, whether they're interested to be reinstated or not.
  4. If they're willing, the company must appreciate their decision to moderate the site even after getting hurt by the employees.
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Procedure for reinstating inappropriately-dismissed moderators:

  1. Apologize to moderator.
  2. Reinstate moderator.
  3. Think carefully whether there was actual cause for dismissal.
  4. Repeat step (3.) a couple more times + Take good long look in mirror.
  5. Conduct reasonable dismissal consideration procedure - if and when causes for dismissal present themselves again in the future.
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    This answer is not constructive. – Robert Columbia Oct 4 at 1:58
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    Reminds me of the line, "The floggings will continue until morale improves." In reverse. Drop the whip, ya'll (or not) - it's beginning to sound like 'forced outrage'. They heard you the first 50-100 posts. "Ruthless: having or showing no pity or compassion for others." At what point do the victims become the victimizers? – tblue Oct 4 at 5:06

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