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I read a recent comment by Monica Cellio that said

perhaps an actual conversation between a person in authority and Monica 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.

Also, a slightly older comment by Monica said:

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

Let's give dialogue a chance. Allow Monica to have a structured conversation (a la mediation) with SE leadership.

An experienced mediator can help make sure both sides feel heard.

I'd like to respond to some comments.

Mediation is voluntary -- if one side says, "No way!" or even, "No thank you," then mediation doesn't begin. Even if it begins, it doesn't always reduce the conflict, or reach a resolution.

But there are lots of reasons why it would behoove StackExchange the organization to give it a try.

Some observations, conjecture and analysis:

  • Monica is a charismatic figure, having made positive connections with large numbers of users over the years. Although some users are unsure whether she stepped over some line or not in that back room they call the Teachers Lounge, solidarity with her is running very high. Even Yvette, who disagreed with her stance, has said that Monica's removal was ham-fisted.

  • Frustration with leadership has been snowballing.

  • It took until THURSDAY, I believe, before we heard a PEEP from SE leadership.

  • SE spoke to the press before they spoke to us.

  • When SE finally did communicate with us, they only shot themselves in the foot. (As I write this that post is at -826 votes.)

  • We don't know what the staff and leadership internal dynamics are like. I don't even know what shape their org chart is. (If someone does, PLEASE TELL US IN A POST here or in a new question.)

  • What we do know is that the company has been unable to put their heads together to agree on a reasonable game plan.

  • The deeper they dig themselves into this hole they're in, the less willing many people are to accept an autocratic style of leadership going forward.

  • Some users have advocated for a Town Hall style meeting -- but this could be unwieldy, and I think it would be easier to sell leadership on a small group mediation rather than a big free-for-all.

  • Despite all the drama of this week, Monica has kept a cool head -- and this should give leadership confidence that she would keep a cool head in mediation.

  • Let's say management decides to scapegoat an individual employee for the mess they're in, and tries to paper over the problems by terminating their employment. I imagine a very good severance agreement would be needed. For all I know, the company made the wrongheaded decisions, and pushed one person forward as their advance scout to catch all the arrows. I just don't know. I'm thinking that such a termination, on the (wrongheaded) theory that that would solve their problems, could be quite costly to the company.

So, at this point, what have they got to lose by giving mediation a try?

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    While this is a great idea and in a fair world this should take place, SE does not give. They are a money-making money-hungry corporation now and we mean nothing to them. I think we need an open-source volunteer maintained alternative to SE to show them that WE are not the product. – SteelToe Oct 4 at 4:15
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    @SteelToe - Would you like to write a post about that idea somewhere, and provide a link here? – aparente001 Oct 4 at 4:22
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    @Raaja That was locked because of an edit war. Take a look at the history. I locked it because I've been working for almost 19 hours and I can't watch it while I sleep. – Tim Post Oct 4 at 4:25
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    @TimPost - Get some good Z's. – aparente001 Oct 4 at 4:27
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    @Tim Post you need to talk to an employment lawyer. – henning -- reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 4:57
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    @henning No one is asking me to be here. I'm here because I need to be. – Tim Post Oct 4 at 4:57
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    @TimPost - We'll survive the night. Come on. It's time to call it a day. All the controversy will still be here tomorrow. Go in a room with no devices. Have a good rest. – aparente001 Oct 4 at 4:59
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    @Raaja I'm going to unlock it when I get in tomorrow. I simply can't rest while it's unlocked overnight (for me it's 1:08 AM) with an edit war brewing. Not ideal, I know, but we're doing what we can with what we've got. – Tim Post Oct 4 at 5:10
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    @TimPost if that is the case, then thanks and have a good night. – Raaja Oct 4 at 5:15
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    We need to remind ourselves that Monica was not a paid employee; she is a volunteer, an ordinary user of a platform. As far as we know, her livelihood has not been affected, although her mental health has probably taken a hard knock. The likelihood of a face-to-face dialogue or meeting with SE representatives are stacked against her. It's not their style, and from what I know of American politics and business culture, conversations between employers and personel after dismissals or firings is the exception rather than the rule. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 at 7:37
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    They are a money-making money-hungry corporation now and we mean nothing to them while this seems to be somewhat true, at least truer than it used to be, I don't think the convictions that led to this specific crisis are money-driven or in some other way not genuine. A lot of the criticism of SO's actions in this is VERY justified but this seems unfair – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 4 at 11:06
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    @Mari-LouA when Joel first talked about Stack Overflow on his blog, he talked about it being a platform for professionals to both help each other and build some real-world reputation. He encouraged people to use their real names and led by example. Perhaps it was naive, but I followed suit. SE's actions, particularly going to the media, have the potential to affect my actual livelihood. SE never paid me but they can affect my future sources of income. Back then I thought the biggest risk of using my real name was offline trolling (which has happened). I was wrong. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 14:20
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    @MonicaCellio Yes, sorry I should have added a "yet" in there. And you're 100% right, you are identifiable because you have a name and last name, which is also why I advised that you seek legal advice. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 at 14:26
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    @MonicaCellio On the nose. There was a throw away line in the movie Animal House that goes like this - "You messed up, you trusted us." (Messed was not the actual word). I hope that at least one person can learn a useful lesson from that, and I am so sorry that they may learn it at your expense. (Full disclosure: I feel that you have been treated terribly, given that you are a volunteer) – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 2:27
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    What's the point? SE made it crystal clear they don't want to talk with Monica and not going to reverse their decisions. They're buried very deep in the grave they dug to themselves. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 5 at 8:23
52

Based on how SE has reponded to this situation, I don't think they will do that.

From An Update to our Community and an Apology (emphasis mine)

We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change their behavior. We recognize it has caused concern in the community as a whole. We made a hard decision, and we stand by that decision.

A comment on one of the answers:

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. - Sara Chipps

This is an official response from the Director of Public Q&A. It is not one the frivolous and impromptu replies. This came after a week of internal meetings and 20+ mod resignations later. They are neither taking Monica's calls nor replying to any of the emails. I don't think a meta post is going to change their mind.

UPDATE:

David Fullerton (Stack Overflow’s CTO) has posted An apology to our community, and next steps

We hurt a longstanding member of the community and an important volunteer moderator. She deserved the benefit of a private, comprehensive process. In the absence of a clear process for handling this kind of situation, we should have taken inspiration from our existing Moderator Action Review Process. We made a decision to act quickly, which I personally approved, but in doing so skipped several critical parts of the process. In acting quickly, we also acted at a time which coincided with a Jewish holiday which she and many other members of our community observe, and we should have taken that more into account in the process.

I’m responsible for that, and I’m sorry. We’ll be reaching out to her directly to apologize for the lack of process, privacy, and to discuss next steps. We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.

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    I'm very curious about your opening words: Based on how SE has responded to this situation... Have we really received an SE response? Maybe all we have thus far is a Sara Chipps response. I know that Sara has been couching her language as though she is speaking for the company, and perhaps she is. But the rest of SE leadership has been conspicuously silent as all this drama has unfolded, so I still can't tell if Sara is really speaking on behalf of the company, or just using her official position to make it seem that way. Either way, though, this has all been bungled in a colossal fashion. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 4 at 10:11
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    @J.R. this was posted after a week and it has "we" everywhere. They wouldn't be posting this without consensus. – adiga Oct 4 at 10:19
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    Upvoted because – disappointingly – this shows the actual stance of the company and it’s highly unlikely they’ll change at this stage. – Anthony G - justice for Monica Oct 4 at 10:47
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    @adiga - Yeah, your post already links to that, and I've already read it several times. Still, I haven't seen any strong indicators that other established higher-ups strongly concur, heartily endorse, staunchly agree with, or helped draft that so-called update. Moreover, before it was posted, I was kind of expecting someone else might chime in, to show some solidarity behind Sara. Instead, it was just more of the same stubbornness. Oh, and as for it having "we" everywhere, that means nothing to me. This whole thing was started because of a spat over plural pronouns. Which "they" do you mean? – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 4 at 14:01
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    Sara's use of "re-litigate" implies that she thinks (or her handlers think) it was ever litigated in the first place. If so, it was a hearing to which I was not invited. If they want to repair this I think starting by actually talking with me would be a great idea. – Monica Cellio Oct 4 at 14:22
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    Second comment under that talks about appeal process. I agree not possible and am moving towards just not using SE anymore right now but might be worth preserving in an answer (in case comment deleted) – LinkBerest Oct 4 at 16:38
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    @MonicaCellio, it seems clear that SE won't "re-litigate" the issue and won't discuss their actions, even with you. If I were in your shoes, the last place I would want to be is back as a moderator, having to deal with SE. The unfortunate fact is that they own the sites and can do whatever they want, including firing staff or volunteers at will. There's little you can do to get reconsideration or even a response. They may even be refusing to discuss the matter in anticipation of potential legal action. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Oct 5 at 0:46
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    However, SE has made public claims about you that could be considered libel and could affect your future opportunities. It might be worth talking to a lawyer about getting SE to at least clear your name. – fixer1234 Oct 5 at 0:46
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    @fixer1234 the statements are very clearly defamation and quite likely libel. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 at 1:20
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+50

Quite honestly, without commmunication and transparency, a mediated discussion is going to get us nowhere. SE doesn't seem to be showing any signs of budging on the community's concerns at the moment (and if any SE higher-ups are reading this, take the hint: the community's still very upset).

Until the records of what exactly caused the firing are revealed, I find myself hesitant to post an opinion on this subject, since all I've got is hearsay from internet strangers I've never met. But on the other hand, the fact that all I've got is hearsay is certainly troubling. I think the first step towards getting this issue resolved is for Stack Exchange to declassify some record of the events leading up to the incident. I understand that privacy is a concern, but at the present moment Stack Exchange hasn't even revealed the exact cause of the termination.

If I were more critical of the company, I might even argue that SE's keeping quiet because everything they could reveal makes them look bad. I want to give SE the benefit of the doubt here, but I find it difficult to do so because everyone's in the dark. I know that SE cares about its community, and I believe we've got one of the best communities out there when it comes to the sense of unity we usually establish. I do truly hope that the company is simply extremely slow to react to this powder keg of an event, but as hours turn into days, I start to lose hope that SE can redeem itself.

I think, therefore, that if any mediated conversation were to be held between our ex-moderator and the current SE leadership, that two things must be done:

  • A real explanation should be provided of the causes and events leading up to the termination
  • The transcription of the mediated conversation should be posted to allow the community to evaluate the situation for themselves

So far, the outrage within the community has been centered on the fact that all the relevant information is being held behind closed doors. To move forward, someone must put a stop to the covert operations going on within the company, or else the company may lose the trust of its community.

  • User45266, I can understand your frustration, but your post seems to be mostly, or entirely, a bit tangential. Could you tighten up your post, or take that material and find a better place to put it? Maybe you were interpreting my post to mean "The troubled state of affairs at SE could be resolved through dialogue between leadership and Monica Cellio." Sorry if that's the impression I gave! That's not what I was trying to say. I'm just proposing that a mediated dialogue take place. As Monica said, it would be a start. – aparente001 Oct 4 at 4:53
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    Tangential? I think it's on the money. 40 moderators have stepped down; this is rather unprecedented, I think. Why are we still throwing out suggestions on how to fix this mess when the person who caused it seems woefully unaware of the turmoil she has caused and utterly incapable of giving an "update and apology" without pouring more gasoline on the fire? I had initially hoped that cooler heads would prevail and all this would blow over, but after reading Sara's most recent comments and hearing hardly a peep from the rest of SE leadership, I'm afraid I'm on the brink of being done here, too. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 4 at 7:46
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    I smell dictatorship heavily in SE. Many companies start with visions to change the world, then become a money making machine for only a few shareholders. The U.S. needs to take much larger actions to stop pushing its companies become rotten. It's not accidental, once you loose the principles, and only focus on maximizing the revenue despite whether that collide with the original intention when start the company, you will rotten. Check this video as an example, which analyse how Google loose their faith in recent years: youtu.be/IlF4VC3Zgq4?t=17m20s (start from 17:20 if short of time) – Eric Wang Oct 4 at 7:59
  • @aparente001 I do think my above comment is relevant here, it's the root cause of these issues, so I have re-added it, but under the answer not the question. – Eric Wang Oct 4 at 8:01
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    There are several causes of outrage. The withholding of important information is one, but not the only one. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 8:29
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    @EricWang: What, you only smell it now? The writing has been on the wall for a long time, and the practically postered it on the wall with the CoC. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 8:29
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What rights and leverage does a volunteer have?

This answer is a slight challenge to the frame of your question/suggestion. It appears that you are making an assumption that does not quite fit the conditions.

Let's give dialogue a chance. Allow Monica to have a structured conversation (a la mediation) with SE leadership. An experienced mediator can help make sure both sides feel heard.

SE has made sure it was heard. Sara Chipps' post was a clear message sent.

There aren't even two sides to have a mediation as there would be with a contract or a real life collective bargaining agreement. The SE/SO powers that be (PTB) have told a dedicated volunteer that "we no longer require your services" in a one-way conversation. Monica has shared with us (the larger user community) just how one way that is. (Other mods were witness to the one-way nature of the communication). That collection of "Us" has limited points of leverage.

What are the relationships here?

We the SE network users - and the small subset of users who are volunteer, unpaid moderators - all offer up time, talent and a knack for problem solving for no cost to support this enterprise because ... well, why do we do it? In my real life job I cost a bit over $75 per hour. Since none of us, users or mods, does this for pay, why do we contribute to this successful enterprise?

  1. We feel like it.

  2. It makes us feel good to help other people with similar problems and challenges.

  3. We feel like a part of something bigger than ourselves.

  4. We feel something in common with the various people we encounter in this venue.

  5. If you take it back to the SO roots of all of this, problem solving (and sharing in how we do it) is a satisfying thing for people who are in a variety of lines of endeavor.

I've been involved with just over a dozen volunteer-heavy organizations in the past few decades. I have watched volunteers come and go. I have recently stepped aside from three such groups for a reason that goes something like this: if you aren't paying me to put with this stuff, I am for sure not putting up with this from you under (these terms, whatever they are).

Volunteers come and go. My brother works with a non-profit in Chicago, and he has to be very careful with how he treats the volunteers ... or the non-profit loses them. SE, in contrast, seems to have a glut of volunteers (at this point in time). As @hayd points out in a comment, one would presume that there is a duty of care on the part of the organization regarding the treatment of volunteers and my brother's organization takes it seriously).

With the above considered, let's take a look at how SE/SO views the current discontent among volunteers. Of about 600-ish moderators, a few dozen are expressing what I did to the groups I recently left: my offer of time and talent are not worth being repaid in the coin {treatment/rules/drama/demands} that you offer. The PTB do the math, and they look at the size of the volunteer base that potentially offers them replacements.

And they like their odds.

The PTB have no incentive to do as you suggest. The volunteer in this system has little to no leverage other than to get the word out to any future, prospective volunteer that this enterprise is less benign than is advertised.
The other leverage is to withhold their time and talent.

I'll repeat that by saying it differently: the only true leverage a volunteer has in a case like this is to walk, and I am not just talking about moderators. I am talking about all of the SE participants who volunteer their time, their talent, and their expertise in____(a thing that one of the 150-ish SE sites is about).

  • Note: The above two paragraphs were posted before this official post was made; the above estimate may in time be shown to have missed the mark - one hopes so.

While I empathize with your appeal for a reconciliation, and I wish it were otherwise given the precious gifts that Monica has given to us all - her time, talent, heart, and wit - what you propose isn't a realistic expectation because the power relationship is one way (down hill).

As @adiga puts this:

They are neither taking Monica's calls nor replying to any of the emails. I don't think a meta post is going to change their mind.

Coda

On a selfish note, I wish the situation were one where a peacemaking / reconciliation were in the mix. I have found Monica's voice on Meta SE to be a reasonable one, and a helpful one.

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    Mediation isn't just for collective bargaining in the workplace. It can be with anyone you have a conflict with -- maybe your neighbor's teenage son practices saxophone with the windows open every evening right when you're trying to get your toddler to bed. A mediator can help you have a productive conversation with your neighbor. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 4:44
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    @aparente001 to have a conversation/mediation takes two parties. The "we are not going to re-litigate this" position is not one that demonstrates being open to being a party to such a process. I too wish it were otherwise. – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 18:50
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    Well, let's just see what happens. Right now I hear thundering silence from corporate leadership. That may mean there's some hope for them to go back to the drawing board. I've learned that in a conflict it is always good to leave a graceful way out for the other party, in case they have a change of heart. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 18:57
  • @aparente001 In re your last sentence: yep, that is a best practice. – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 18:59
  • You may also want to note that there are no shortage of people who'd quite like to do the mod's jobs on most of the sites from which they've resigned. "I quit" has bugger all leverage when ten people would step up to do your job tomorrow, for free. – Richard Oct 5 at 19:03
  • @Richard I tried to capture that point with The PTB do the math, and they look at the size of the volunteer base that potentially offers them replacements. And they like their odds – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 19:05
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    I have asked Google what "PTB" means and it said "pulmonary tuberculosis". Thank you for clarifying this point before I even asked. – John Dvorak Oct 5 at 20:30
  • @JohnDvorak Sorry, I should have added that on first usage in the original post. – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 20:34
  • Your rights are depreciated. Stand by while we collect your new ones. – user212646 Oct 6 at 2:44
  • @fredsbend well shoot, and I thought I was doing so well. Back to the drawing board .. :-) – KorvinStarmast Oct 8 at 3:46
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    I was suspended during all this mess, I am guessing for my comments expressing dissatisfaction? I have not had any response or interaction, no warnings, no information about why I was suspended rather than warned as described in the CoC. No email responses. It doesn't bode well for any user getting any kind of satisfactory conversation about issues. They won't converse with their moderators or their users, but plan to increase the ways in which they can run afoul of rules and wind up in a position to need a conversation in the first place. – Chris Oct 8 at 16:01
  • @Chris I served a one month suspension two years ago at an SE site and there were two ways for me to reach the diamond mods. One was a discrete chat, the other was an email outlet that was possible due to myself and a diamond mod having previously shared an email with each other. I had no contact with community managers, nor did I need any, nor did I desire any. But it's interesting to think through the matter of "how to you contact someone who won't answer your calls" as a problem. – KorvinStarmast Oct 8 at 16:06
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    @KorvinStarmast - There is a way to contact the staff-level moderation people -- the "Contact" button in the footer. It's not well publicized, there can be a delay, and it doesn't always result in anything meaningful, but it is worth a try in my experience. – aparente001 Oct 8 at 17:34
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    @aparente001 I used that email link, and finally got a response that basically said "if you don't like it here, leave" – Chris Oct 8 at 17:58
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    @aparente001 I had no contact with community managers, nor did I need any, nor did I desire any I was aware that if I wanted to, I could talk to a community manager, but I felt no need and no desire to do so. A month off of that SE did me no harm. Whereas, Monica was subjected to what I see as a public shaming (and I am sorry if I am guilty of hyperbole). – KorvinStarmast Oct 8 at 19:50
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Edit, October 12: When I originally wrote this post, I misunderstood something about the JAMS option described Stack Overflow's Public Network Terms of Service. Now that I've understood better where we stand, I am revising my answer accordingly.

There is a formal arbitration option, open to any SE user who feels they are in conflict with Stack Exchange

My original intent with this question was some kind of informal dialogue, with the help of an experienced mediator. I wasn't thinking in legal terms. It was more along the lines of My neighbors have their dog in their back yard, barking whenever a car goes by, while they're having dinner every evening; but that's the time when my kindergartner goes to bed. We need some help talking this through.

I still think that could be worthwhile, but I also found a more formal option at the company website, in the Public Network Terms of Service. I've done some excerpting (without ellipses) and reformatting for easier reading. To read the original just click on the link.

You agree that:

With respect to all disputes between you and Stack Overflow or its affiliates or its officers, directors, or employees with regard to your relationship with us, including disputes relating to

  • these public network terms

  • your use of the network or services

  • rights of privacy

  • rights of publicity

you and Stack Overflow shall first consult with each other to attempt to resolve such dispute in a manner satisfactory to both parties.

And that if a resolution is not reached within ninety (90) days, then the dispute shall be referred to and resolved by binding arbitration under JAMS, INC.’s rules for arbitration of consumer-related disputes.

And you and we hereby expressly waive trial by jury.

As an alternative, you may bring your claim in your local “small claims” court, if permitted by that small claims court’s rules.

You may bring claims only on your own behalf.

This dispute resolution provision will be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and not by any state law concerning arbitration. In the event JAMS, INC. is unwilling or unable to set a hearing date within one hundred and sixty (160) days of filing the case, then either we or you can elect to have the arbitration administered instead by the American Arbitration Association.

Judgment on the award rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court having competent jurisdiction.

You agree that regardless of any statute or law to the contrary, any claim or cause of action arising out of, related to or connected with the use of the public Network or these Public Network Terms must be filed within one (1) year after such claim of action arose or be forever banned.

You agree that, notwithstanding anything in the foregoing, any arbitration proceeding between you and us will be conducted in New York, NY, USA, that the language of the arbitration shall be in English, and that all arbitration proceedings shall be considered confidential in nature.

The contact address is provided as

Stack Overflow, Attn: Legal Department, 110 William Street, Floor 28, New York, NY 10038 or by email notification at team (at) stackoverflow.com

JAMS, INC. has published at their website a Demand for Arbitration Form for US complainants as a pdf, and another pdf form for international complainants. Wikipedia describes JAMS like this:

JAMS, formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc.1 is a United States-based for-profit organization of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, including mediation and arbitration.

Note: in my experience advocating for my son, who has Tourette Syndrome, ADHD and OCD, I've sometimes been able to get things unstuck --not resolved completely, but definitely unstuck-- by contacting directly the organization's attorney.

Looking at the leadership team page, I would guess that the person who could put you in touch with Stack Overflow's attorney (if you wish to give that a try) might be Jerry Raphael, Finance and Operations ("responsible for the financial health and culture of the company; he oversees the accounting, finance, revenue operations, corporate legal, people, and employee experience teams"). Or, Jerry might bring a common sense approach to the problem himself and get things unstuck. I haven't found specific contact information for him. But he looks like a nice guy:

picture of Jerry Raphael


Notes about the arbitration form

For complainants in the US:

  • For a consumer complaint in the US, there is an administrative filing fee of $250 except for complainants who live in California or Washington, DC.

  • The company is responsible for the remainder of the filing fee.

  • One may request Expedited Procedures. The company may agree to this but is not required to.

  • There is an optional checkbox which states, "If mediation in advance of the arbitration is desired, please check here and a JAMS Case Manager will assist the parties in coordinating a mediation session."

  • The instructions say to "serve" the completed form in person to the company. This means that the complainant sends the completed form to the company by mail, FedEx, etc., using some method that will result in written proof of delivery. Then, the complainant would fill out an affidavit of service. I think a notarized signature would be needed but I forgot to ask about that. Here's an example of an affidavit of service:

sample affidavit of service from wonder.legal

  • The form must be submitted in two copies, by mail, FedEx, or the like (not by email). It must be accompanied by the payment, the affidavit of service, and the proof of delivery.

  • The primary question posed in the form is

    NATURE OF DISPUTE / CLAIMS & RELIEF SOUGHT BY CLAIMANT

For complainants outside the US:

  • The form may be submitted via email.

  • I haven't studied the international form yet, so I can't outline additional differences at this time.

The list of JAMS offices is here. I was told that one should submit the form by mail to the closest office. Also, I read some fine print (Consumer Arbitration Minimum Standards) and saw that "The consumer must have a right to an in-person hearing in his or her hometown area."

Questions?

In my initial call to JAMS several days ago, the intake person was not very helpful, but then referred me to a specific person higher up, whom I was able to speak with after a couple of days of phone tag, on October 10, and again on October 11 with follow-up questions. I found out that an individual who has questions about the process may use one of the phone numbers listed here, or may fill out only the required fields (marked with a red asterisk) in an online general form, and hit "submit." The appropriate staff person will then reach out to the individual directly, to provide clarity about the process.

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    "you and Stack Overflow shall first consult with each other to attempt to resolve such dispute in a manner satisfactory to both parties" - IANAL, but it looks to me like SE did not uphold their part of the agreement here given they haven't responded to any of Monica's emails. I'd say that would void this agreement. – StoryTeller - Unslander Monica Oct 5 at 20:06
  • @StoryTeller - That's not the way I read it. The way I read it, if someone has attempted to resolve the dispute in a manner satisfactory to both parties, and has not even been able to start a conversation (!), then a possible next step would be to submit a case to JAMS. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 20:12
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    I read as saying that that a direct communication has to be tried by both the user and the company before binding arbitration. The company can't uphold someone to an agreement they don't uphold themselves by refusing communications. – StoryTeller - Unslander Monica Oct 5 at 20:15
  • @StoryTeller - Imagine a flowchart, or some pseudocode, if that helps. First, try to resolve the dispute informally. If that doesn't work, submit a case to JAMS. If a hearing date has not been set within 160 days, then you could choose to use American Arbitration Association instead of JAMS. // Separate from all that -- it also says you can go to Small Claims Court. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 20:23
  • I am "getting you" even without metaphors. However, my point is this: this is an agreement. So both parties have to engage in following the flowchart for the agreement to be a binding one (the flowchart has preconditions). Anyway, as I said already, IANAL, and am not even certain if it's worth the hassle anyway. – StoryTeller - Unslander Monica Oct 5 at 20:26
  • @StoryTeller - Okay, I'm getting that if you were in Monica's shoes, you have serious reservations about submitting a case and pursuing formal mediation. Noted. // As regards the legal information I posted, what it is saying is that an individual who uses the SE network has the right to submit a case to JAMS; if a hearing is not set within 160 days (or if the the dispute has not been resolved informally), then that individual could choose to file with the American Arbitration Association. // I understand that after everything that has happened you might be feeling pessimistic... but the... – aparente001 Oct 5 at 20:50
  • text I posted outlines how an individual may initiate a formal mediation with SE. – aparente001 Oct 5 at 20:51
  • @aparente001 sure. Decluttering – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 at 22:04
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    @StoryTeller: It appears to me that the specific clause is severable, that is to say the rest of the contract does not critically depend on it. Hence the whole agreement is neither void nor voidable because of this. However, as the JAMS mediation does depend on said consultation, that particular part of the contract is now void. This makes logical sense: without prior contact, there's no start date for the 90 days period. – MSalters - reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 15:08
  • @MSalters - Turns out I was reading the wrong form. See updated answer. // I didn't understand what you said about severable. – aparente001 Oct 11 at 13:22
  • @aparente001: severable is a legal concept. It means that part of a contract are not essential for the remainder of the contract. So if this part is found to be legally void, the remainder of the contract still makes legal sense. And usually it is agreed that the remainder of the contract will then remain in force. – MSalters - reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 17:15

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