41

While Sara Chipps, the Director of Public Q&A did make a response to the Stack Exchange Community, it has been very negatively received and the tag isn't enough to keep it visible to the broader network community. It also triggered additional resignations and suspensions of moderator activity.

Given that Stack Exchange is currently in the middle of on-boarding Prashanth Chandrasekar as the new CEO, perhaps it is time for someone from the senior leadership team to schedule a town hall meeting to address the concerns of the community?

  • 53
    And do what? Double-down on their double down? – Oded Oct 3 at 21:16
  • 31
    I really like this idea. Where? – Sara Chipps Oct 3 at 21:18
  • 9
    @Oded if my math is correct, that's a quadruple down. – user622361 Oct 3 at 21:20
  • 38
    @SaraChipps this will not end well. – StrongBad Oct 3 at 21:25
  • 28
    Without an actual public apology first, what is there to say? – Sklivvz Oct 3 at 21:25
  • 6
    What about something sort of similar to moderator elections? Make a Q&A post where the "answers" are questions from the community. Highest voted posts get answers in a separate Q&A. – TheWanderer Oct 3 at 21:26
  • 4
    If you're worried about the visibility of Sara's question (which is indeed problematic), then the solution is obvious. I hereby declare that I will put a 500-rep bounty on their question as soon as that option becomes available (42 hours plus change from now). Problem solved. Do consider, however, that more visibility on that question may not be the right move to make right now, as spirits are running high. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 3 at 21:30
  • 11
    Perhaps someone from the Stack Exchange Leadership Team should give a sincere apology first? – user35594 Oct 3 at 21:45
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog perhaps an actual conversation between Sara and Monica in private would be a good first step. SE isn't taking my calls; I can't initiate that. I still believe that there has been a profound misunderstanding that they could have fixed last week if only there'd been actual communication. – Monica Cellio Oct 3 at 21:46
  • 51
    OK, stop asking for apologies. An apology and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee. Ask for meaningful changes instead. – Robert Harvey Oct 3 at 21:47
  • 21
    @SaraChipps if you want my advice, start by addressing existing concerns before you start further discussion. There's a lot of questions to say the least that need to be addressed. With over 20 answers on the apology, there's a lot that needs to be addressed just there. Maybe clear that and start defusing the heat before you get more input to process? Going about the situation wrong after the "firing mods" meta post will only lead to further problems (and rightfully, at least so far). – Zoe Oct 3 at 21:50
  • 4
    @RobertHarvey It's been pretty clear from the very beginning that along with an apology, what most of the community is asking for is that the existing procedures on CoC violations by moderators be followed. This would involve reinstating Monica and then following those procedures with transparency and community involvement. SaraChipps clearly admitted the policy was not followed, but dismissed the idea of following procedure. THAT would be "meaningful change". Saying, "we'll do better in the future" is NOT meaningful change. – Avi Cherry Oct 3 at 22:36
  • 13
    @SaraChipps It's not too late to mitigate the damage SE has done, but stonewalling the community that is SE's lifeblood will not make this go away. You've admitted to not following your own procedures and that this situation was handled poorly. Therefore how can you possibly justify not even attempting to go back and doing it right? Imagine you were arrested, tried and convicted, but the court admitted you were not given due process. But then they said, "but what's in the past is in the past, let's just move on!" – Avi Cherry Oct 3 at 22:42
  • 22
    @einpoklum Her job isn't "messenger". It's Director of Public Q&A. As in, the main reason the entire site exists. She's been promoting tolerance and acceptance of others, and her actions and inactions here are directly responsible for this community uproar, even if she isn't the only one at the wheel. This is an entirely self created problem - the company caused this. As the face of this company to our community, she needs to fix it, or step aside and let someone else take over. – mason Oct 4 at 0:40
  • 12
    For the benefit of everyone here who doesn't participate in US (I assume) politics, what on Earth is a "town-hall style meeting"? – Peter Taylor Oct 4 at 7:24
67

I don't see how this is any more meaningful or different than meta for this purpose. Town halls are for open conversations/discussion. Not preexisting questions.

In fact, in this case, I'd say this would be worse than nothing when there are so many clear questions on meta being ignored around the recent events.

  • 11
    also less public, just not what we need – Sklivvz Oct 3 at 21:27
  • 4
    And a chat would only open the door to abuse from the worst users. – Andras Deak Oct 3 at 21:28
  • The best and biggest questions on everyone's mind are floating at the top of the pool currently for all to see. In the words of Palpatine: "How ironic". – user622361 Oct 3 at 21:30
  • 3
    Imagine being able to be ignored in a real time public Q&A meeting. – Script47 Oct 3 at 21:38
  • @rjzii they just had like 3-7 days to work on this update/apology and this is what we got... as for other questions, they've had years, look through MSE/MSO and see the old questions and when they date from. – Script47 Oct 3 at 21:46
  • 5
    no one said the chat had to be a livechat, could be a super delayed chat where 3-7 days pass between each question @Script47 – enderland Oct 3 at 21:48
  • @enderland I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not but why can't they just answer those questions..? – Script47 Oct 3 at 21:49
  • @rjzii they already have this option. Just be more open and communicate with us like they used to, no need for this new method. That option has never been removed from them they just seem more closed doors now. – Script47 Oct 3 at 21:50
41

The only way this would work is if everyone agreed to put down their pitchforks or pointy implement of choice, and hear this from a neutral stance.

I...don't see that happening in the short term. In fact, I see this as a prime chance for those who are just anti-Sara to simply throw her under the bus in any manner they can muster.

So how about no, we don't have a town hall on this. I for one am not interested in reading either side's arguments; not really keen on hearing for the umpteenth time about how things are gonna get better, and I'm not really keen on hearing about how such-and-such should've been phrased or how this should've gone or if heads should roll or any of that nonsense.

We've all got better things to do with our time.

  • 4
    A "Moderator questions and answers" style post would lend some much needed decorum and order to the proceedings... But yeah, I totally get what you are saying. – Robert Harvey Oct 3 at 21:54
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    @RobertHarvey: We lost the privilege for decorum and order on Sunday, if I'm going to be honest with you. No sense in closing the barn door when that horse is already halfway across the county, y'know. – Makoto Oct 3 at 21:55
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    @rjzii: I'm really not going to judge how long you've been in the corporate world, but every meeting I've had with leadership under these pretenses - both when directly facing them in academia and in the business place - it has been their MO to basically make "no" sound like "yes", and to spin optimism and hope while remaining intentionally vague. I'm far too pessimistic to believe that anything that's conjured up now is gonna change that impression of mine. Furthermore, I'm really not sure what you're expecting when that happens. What do you want as an outcome/takeaway? – Makoto Oct 3 at 21:58
  • What neutral stance? The rules are clear and published. The actions taken by the parties involved are visible and can be inspected by anyone with an internet connection. – user160254 Oct 3 at 23:54
24

I believe there's a real urge that the new CEO introduces themselves to the community, and what are their plans to solve the actual problems.
Meta is burning and many users are just confused.
Don't forget: The community made the product you have right now!

— Günther Makulik (@GntherMakulik) October 3, 2019

Just citing my Twitter message to Joel Spolsky's announcement.

One thing I can predict for sure is, the company will fail without supporting their core product, which is the community and repository of Q&A.

The problems with Stack Overflow and other sites at the SE network go far deeper than the recent hype and storm of protest about Monica Cellio's kick-off from moderation.

There's need of intervention and clarity about what the company's direction is in cooperating with the community culture that has been build up since decades.

The statement of a subordinate company member like Sara Chipps doesn't mean a lot, and only addressing the particular case (which is only the tip of the iceberg) is useless.

12

In this case, I believe it wouldn't accomplish too much. I'm willing to see it if it were to happen, but I think meaningful change should happen in conjunction with company transparency.

In my opinion, the best course of action for SE at the moment would be to make a few changes first:

  1. Release the new CoC: As it's directly related to the recent debacle, this should definitely be released.
  2. Release the new method of relieving moderators that was mentioned in the apology. It would show that positive change was being made in relation to Staff - Community Moderator relations.
  3. Release some information regarding the incident. For legal reasons they can't release some of what transpired, apparently, but I do believe the specific reason for the moderator in question's dismissal should be mentioned.

All of this to say that meaningful change should be presented that should spark productive discussion. A lot of answers to the apology Sara posted earlier (many now deleted, to be fair) got off topic, and ventured more into the realm of "dunking" on her post rather than presenting meaningful solutions to future related problems.

  • 4
    The moderator agreement (a legally binding contract) only states that personally identifiable information cannot be released. Other things that are private aren't prevented from release as a result of legal reasons, but simply due to an informal agreement. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 3 at 21:46
  • I see. Thank you for the clarification. That makes request #3 all the more valuable... We need to know what happened specifically, and how the community as a whole can do moving forward, and offer meaningful, targeted critique to SE. – Spevacus Oct 3 at 21:49
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog companies generally don't have an informal agreement when giving someone access to privileged information such as a private chatroom. All agreements that companies and users (mods) have are probably legally binding. – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 21:51
  • @StephanS Here is the agreement all moderators are required to sign as a condition of becoming a moderator. Note that it only prevents the disclosure of "personally-identifying information". – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 3 at 21:53
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog Whoever wrote this contract really knows how to departmentalize the elements of the contract to make it more confusing to follow but if you look at SS (i.) it states "I will abide by the then-current Terms of Service of Stack Overflow, and other moderator policies made available to me" this would include the agree the moderators agree to before entering the mod chatroom and other mod only areas, if you're looking for a more fleshed out answer about this ask the question on Law.SE and I can explain alittle bit more. – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 22:17
  • "agreement" not "agree" – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 22:23
  • 1
    This agreement may be legally binding, but what are the legal consequences of breaking it? If it is just "being revoked as a moderator", well, I got news for you... – dim Oct 4 at 10:59
  • @dim the contract doesn't actually outline what damages would be so it's more of what a court would determine the damages for breach of contract. – User37849012643 Oct 4 at 18:36
11

If it happens, it can happen now

The site already selected the questions we are having. It's pushing them to the top. This comes at the unfortunate expense of the official statement sinking to the bottom, but that's some pretty clear insight into the sentiment that is shared by all.

My recommendation: answer what's already there

Stack Exchange is a site where people with questions can get answers. Silence, in my opinion, can be in many ways worse than an unpopular answer. The questions that need addressing have been at the top for hours and in many ways having a town hall where only a privaliged few can participate is throwing mud in the face of the people who cared enough to ask.

Disclaimer

I am not a moderator, nor an employee. I do not have a personal understanding of what either go through on a day to day basis to get this tremendously helpful resource working, but I am a person who is concerned with the updates to the policy and licensing.

7

This sounds like a great idea. Some suggestions for how this might be accomplished because the logistics for this type of thing can be tricky:

  • Stack Exchange staff could collect common questions that have already been posted around the network metas, especially over the last week, but there may be relevant concerns from earlier that are worth addressing.

  • Create a new, MSE post soliciting additional questions from the community. Seed it with a community wiki of the aggregated questions from previous posts

  • Stack Exchange hosts a livestream with leadership, with a public link for users to view. Maybe invite a few moderators to participate in the livestream as well so it can be a conversation.

  • Pair the livestream with either an SE chatroom or something like https://www.sli.do that lets the audience submit (and potentially vote on) follow-up questions in realtime.

  • Post a video and/or transcripts to meta afterwards as a public artifact.

  • I also suggest using a token system, where at most 3 questions can be answered with "unfortunately we cannot disclose information due to the sensitivity of the subject". – Andras Deak Oct 3 at 21:32
  • @AndrasDeak Thats kinda already their answer to all question I'm not sure a token system would change their minds – User37849012643 Oct 3 at 21:33
  • 6
    I like the idea of a meta post, in the same style as "Moderator Questions and Answers." You can probably dispense with the livestream for awhile, at least until things have cooled down a bit. I'm a bit worried that the community will see all this as a parlor trick, though; at the end of the day, the community wants to see change, not just more words. – Robert Harvey Oct 3 at 21:46
  • Part of why I like the livestream bit is because I think it’ll take some time to plan and execute, which will give people time to cool off a bit. I also firmly believe this is a solution to be pursued in addition to - not instead of - better and deeper engagement with the community here on meta. – Laura Oct 3 at 22:17
  • 1
    This sounds like a lot of humdrum for not a lot of result. Like, I think there's two big questions. One regards the CoC, one regards the relicensing. There's subquestions to that sure, but those concerns are well documented here and elsewhere. No reason to poll the community when the big questions are answerable here (in my opinion) – user622361 Oct 3 at 22:17
3

My idea is similar to Laura's. I think it could work to create something similar to moderator elections:

A new question is created on Meta, where the "answers" are questions submitted by users. Other users upvote the questions they want to see answered. After a period of a week or so, the Q&A is locked.

However, instead of a livestream with a live chat, it might be better to create a new Meta post with the answers to the upvoted questions.

That way, there's a bit of a buffer, where overly-harsh or offensive questions are pushed to the bottom, and the ones the community most wants answered are the ones that actually get a response. Livestreaming it would open staff up to a lot of angry comments in realtime.

If there needs to be a follow-up round, there can be another post with the same process. I just personally don't think a live interaction would go very well, even if it could potentially resolve the situation more quickly. Also, even if the answers a pre-prepared, it's possible for the people reading the answers out live to misspeak or interject their own opinions without a review process.

Of course, the answers should definitely start with the questions that have already been asked and highly upvoted/discussed already. Compiling future questions into one Q&A, though, means Meta is a little less cluttered (not really the right word), and it's easy to browse through questions you might want to see answered.

  • I like how you want to create a Q&A as a question in a Q&A site about Q&A sites – Luis Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 11:27

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