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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. Source

The timing of the removal is very relevant. It was done on a Friday evening, and from personal experience I know that staff, which also includes CMs (community managers), generally do not respond to private correspondence or tickets during the weekend. The fact that this was communicated Sep 29 on a Friday evening (as the Director of Public Q&A informs) is shameful. The user was denied a fair hearing and the opportunity to defend themself. It also meant that a real person, had to wait until the weekend was over before even hoping to receive some form of official communication and clarification.

Imagine the effect it must have had on their physical and mental well being to hear that their status, title, and responsibilities to several communities (Mi Yodea, The Workplace, Worldbuilding, Writing, Beer Wine & Spirits and Meta Stack Exchange) had been removed with immediate effect. Imagine living through those 48 hours, not hearing a word from the very company you had dedicated years of selfless work; nurturing newcomers, housekeeping sites, keeping "law & order", supporting and defending the company against glib accusations but also constructively criticising it when the company needed to hear the truth. Volunteering not weeks but –years–of work, love, and curation until a site flourished and could finally graduate from beta status. All gone. The very company that owes so much to this single user, kicked them out on a Friday evening.

Finally, why has no employee of SE publicly supported this user? As of today, Friday 4 October, not one single employee has even attempted to be the voice of reason in the comments.

  • The implied message of that silence is the following:

    1. That the dismissal was not without grounds.
    2. That the user was guilty of gross misconduct.
    3. That the user's performance ability and performance was lacking and/or not up to expected standards.
    4. That the user's publicised version of what happened was flawed, imperfect, inaccurate or worse, false.

The dismissal has not only affected the community's trust in SE, it has also adversely affected real human beings. Their health and safety have been completely ignored.

The SE corporation (while wrapped in the false flag of diversity) has shattered any illusion that they respect me as a Jew (given the timing of what they've done to M–). They claim firing M- was to keep Lavender users (specifically trans users) safe. Yet they've unleashed a torrent of vitriol against every single one of us.

and [emphasis mine]

[The Director] has deeply flawed ideas and has behaved outrageously, but she is still a human being deserving of civil behavior. I, unlike [the Director] and like (I think) the rest of our community, believe that it is possible to disagree and still be respectful. I do want her to feel terrible about the wrongs she has done (and I wish her as many sleepless nights as I've had) -- and then I want her to do teshuva: make amends, apologize, and strive to do better. SO Inc. could still fix this if they choose to, but the silence has been deafening so far. – source

Questions:

  • Is this is the first time that a serious decision undertaken by SE was "shipped" on a Friday?

  • What actions or process can be put in place so as to avoid similar situations in the future? Or at least ensure a user does not needlessly suffer in silence for 48 hours?

  • 134
    I still can't believe they compared firing people on friday to shipping software on a friday. It's dehumanizing and hurtful for the people involved. They also can't use that as a comparison when they've ignored replies from the mod in question for over a week now IIRC. – Zoe The Lockdown Princess Oct 4 '19 at 12:17
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    just to add some more context several SE employees were actively responding in the Teacher's Lounge for several hours after the announcement. Doesn't change the other effects of the timing, but it wasn't just like they dropped the message and went away for the weekend. – Mad Scientist Oct 4 '19 at 12:19
  • @MadScientist Thanks, I didn't know that but as you said, the effects of the timing remained the same. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 '19 at 12:21
  • 1
    Your post contains two things: advice not to ship on Fridays (as per your title) plus a familiar rant against the behaviour of SE. We've got several of those rants already, on other posts. Why combine the two? – Raedwald Oct 4 '19 at 12:25
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    As much as SE has done many irrepairable wrongs over the past few days, and has a lot that they need to answer to, the bad timing of the firing is one of the few mistakes that they've actually acknowledged responsibility for and "promised" that they'll learn from (whether or not this is true is yet to be seen - I'm not getting my hopes too high). Creating a new post to criticise them yet again on this matter feels like we're chastising them just for the sake of it - and that pile-up isn't very constructive. As Zoe said, the shipping software/firing moderators comparison is more concerning. – angussidney Oct 4 '19 at 12:32
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    @angussidney Another post criticising them. Yes, I agree it's an overload but they deserve it. And I needed to get this off my chest. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 '19 at 12:36
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    It's also worth noting their "apology" got locked, which prevents concerns from being added there. – Zoe The Lockdown Princess Oct 4 '19 at 12:43
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    @Zoethetransgirl Tim just locked it temporarily so he could get some sleep. See here & his other comments in that thread for details. – PM 2Ring Oct 4 '19 at 12:49
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    Would it really make a difference to not deliver bad news on a Friday? Here we are a week later, and they still have yet to provide any sort of meaningful statement to the community. If they had waited until Monday, then we'd be even further behind than we are now. Though I will grant you their timing for Monica sucked terribly, with her holiday and everything. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 13:18
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    @mason as I mentioned earlier, receiving this type of notification on a Friday means having to wait at the very least Monday before you can even hope that someone might reply. Cellio didn't deserve that, and it being a religious holiday too, it's like being fired on Christmas eve at 18.00. I mean, who does that to another person? And to a mod, a mod who represented the face of sanity and reason here on Meta. It's nuts. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 '19 at 13:24
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    @Mari-LouA I worked at a company where my team lead (a father of 4 kids) got fired shortly before Thanksgiving (with Christmas right around the corner) after being falsely accused of "sabotaging" the company. The exec that did it later pulled us all into a room and told us she made a mistake, she was crying etc. But for me that was inexcusable. A few months later I quit, and cited that event as one of several that led to my decision. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 13:29
  • 1
    It more felt like un-shipping :( ... – rene Oct 4 '19 at 15:57
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    @Zoethetransgirl I'll think it over, I'm just concerned that the comment might get deleted. If only there was a way to superglue it, it would make things easier :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 '19 at 7:17
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    Hey, Mari-Lou. I just wanted to say, I see your dedication and perseverance, and I respect it immensely. Thanks, sincerely. – user206222 Oct 13 '19 at 5:47
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    @Mari-LouA I reeeally hear that. It's super shitty how this all came out suddenly, too. Like, we just pretended people didn't harbor these kinds of beliefs for... years, and suddenly we know. And, jeez. – user206222 Oct 13 '19 at 5:52
95

The whole "Friday before Rosh Hashana thing" is, to some degree, a red herring. Don't get me wrong, it was extremely unfortunate timing, and it shouldn't have happened that way.

But it's not about shipping on a Friday. It's about letting someone go on a Friday, and that's an entirely different thing. The commonly-accepted corporate wisdom is that you let people go late on a Friday afternoon, because if you let them go on a Monday they have the opportunity to make your life miserable for the entire rest of the week without a cooling-off period (the weekend).

The thing that you should take away from the manner of the firing is that it was done in an entirely corporate way, without any consideration of the community whatsoever. The folks that contribute and curate content to this network are not employees, they are volunteers. They're not here to tow the line of some corporate juggernaut, but rather to provide value to others with their contributions. In the corporate vernacular, they are a resource, but an incredibly precious one.

In other words, the corporate philosophy that is being expounded by the leadership team is entirely at odds with the nature of community development. "Shipping on a Friday" is just a small symptom of a much larger problem.

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  • 17
    You hit the nail on the head: in an entirely corporate way, without any consideration of the community whatsoever. That has been my biggest thought about this whole crazy situation - the way it was done, the lack of "real" answers from the company, etc. It is all extremely "corporate". All part of what is, to me, the difference classically between small business and big business (though there are exceptions on all sides). I praise large companies that act like small companies (agile, customer friendly, etc.) but unfortunately appearances are that SE has crossed from "small" to "big". – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Oct 4 '19 at 15:00
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    "if you let them go on a Monday they have the opportunity to make your life miserable for the entire rest of the week" -- Well, that only happens if they'll still be working after being let go. (Isn't the usual US custom to immediately escort people out of the office even if they quit themselves? At least that's what it seems like if you read workplace.SE.) If you remove someone's privileges on the site, they won't be able to use them after the fact, Friday or Monday. – ilkkachu Oct 4 '19 at 18:42
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    @ilkkachu: One doesn't have to be an employee to wreak havoc. And I never said it was a good policy. – user102937 Oct 4 '19 at 18:45
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    I mean... The CMs probably spent 30-60 hours combined over the weekend addressing this (not complaining, just stating) so... I think the shipping on a Friday concept is still appropriate. The site is 24/7/365. Traffic is less on the weekend, sure, but I’d guess the TL was busier than it’s been in a long time. There was no cooling off period. – Catija Oct 4 '19 at 23:54
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    @Catija: The concept is bunk anyway. Most employers apparently now believe that Wednesday is the best day for firing, not Friday, for various reasons. My point is that we're all experiencing boneheaded corporate thinking. It's certainly not what you would call "community." – user102937 Oct 4 '19 at 23:55
40

Focusing on just that:

Finally, why has no employee of SE publicly supported this user

Easy: because that is not what they get paid for.

The implicit loyalty of person for corporation X... is with company X. Of course, everybody is entitled to have their own opinion. But commenting on a "scandal" around your own company X is something that easily can get you fired. At such a point in time, a single "bad" comment here or there can easily add more fuel to the fire.

Nobody here can say what happens inside Stack Exchange.com, and whether Stack Exchange employees internally supported Monica (or not).

Long story short: manage your expectations. To assume that any employee of a company that is in the midst of such a situation goes public with his opinion, possibly contradicting the company statements: that is just unrealistic.

I hope that the sane, experienced people at Stack Exchange give helpful guidance to their unlucky communication leads, but as said: it is perfectly okay when they do such things behind close doors. Actually: we should really avoid putting such pressure/expectations on these people.

( I wouldn't be surprised the least if aforementioned sane, experienced people would really like to talk to the community, but they avoid doing that for good reasons. So please do not push those people. Their job would be on the line, not yours)

Finally: yes, never release "things" late Friday. I totally concur with that. Given the global nature of this community, even "early" Friday is a no-go.

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    I'm not a big fan of this "they're afraid to speak up because they might get fired" stance. While true, a person with principles needs to stand up for what's right. We need to see a true leader emerge from SE. If they're finding no success as internal advisors, then it's time to step up externally. Yes, they might get fired. They may also save this entire situation and have the company indebted to them. That should be worth risking the job for. I'm willing to best most SE employees are developers anyways - and dev jobs are aplenty in the US right now. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 13:21
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    @mason And I am not a big fan of telling other people to risk their job. You know, maybe, just maybe it could be much better ... to simply sit things out. Hope that certain higher up people change course. Or worst case (for them), get replaced with people who are "luckier" communicating to the community. I like this platform, I like being here. And I would very much prefer if those trusted SE employees that worked with the community for years ... are still here when the storm clams down. Meaning: if staying silent means that the reasonable folks are still here in the end, ... – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 13:27
  • then be my guest: I want those people to be still here in the end. – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 13:28
  • @mason "a person with principles needs to stand up for what's right": what if they are people of principles, and they believe it was right to fire Monica? Or they are wise enough to understand that they do not have all the facts? Your comment is close to suggesting that none of them have principles, which is unkind. – Raedwald Oct 4 '19 at 13:53
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    @Raedwald: Oh, they have principles, all right. The real question is whether you agree with those principles or not. – user102937 Oct 4 '19 at 14:40
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    @RobertHarvey And there we are again: in speculation country. Of course, long term moderators like you probably have a better chance of guessing what the various SE employees "think", but at least me: I have no clue. There are good reasons to speak, there are good reason to not do so. – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 14:43
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    @Raedwald Based on the information we have seen available to us, the firing of Monica was improper to do. Not only that, but how it was done was not right. Now perhaps there's more to the story we haven't been made aware of that would justify her firing, and so a person in good conscious may not need to come forward. But we can only go off what we've been told. Even if we haven't been told the full story - we need more communication from the company as to what's going on. They have people who's jobs revolve around communicating with the users, but they've been largely silent. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 14:44
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    Erm... Well, if they're not firing Monica on a principle, then what are they firing her for? Talking back? That seems pretty specious to me. It's not speculation; corporate has made it crystal-clear why they did this. Respecting people's pronouns is supposed to promote inclusion and protect people from hurt. I think it's profoundly wrongheaded, but it's still a principle. – user102937 Oct 4 '19 at 14:45
  • Most of us posting here on Meta have real jobs too - jobs where we aren't paid to communicate with other users on SE. Yet we're here, and we're communicating with each other a hell of a lot more than the people paid tens of thousands of dollars a year to do so. I've closely followed all these pronoun-gate controversy posts this past week - I'm not sure if I've seen more than 10 combined posts/comments from SE employees. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 14:48
  • @RobertHarvey Careful. I think we are mixing up two different things. You implicitly claim that "they" means SE.com leaders, and employees, and that they all share that "principle" that got Monica fired. But we only that first group is (more or, well, less) openly talking about their view/principle. What the employees think, that is speculation. – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 14:53
  • @mason Have you walked in their shoes? Have you ever worked in a company that got in such kinds of trouble? Did you then follow your own principles, and made your opinion public, risking an maybe otherwise great job? – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 14:55
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    @GhostCat: The employees are not the ones steering this ship. – user102937 Oct 4 '19 at 14:56
  • @RobertHarvey Exactly. I really have no idea this specific discussion right now is going to. – GhostCat Oct 4 '19 at 15:00
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    @GhostCat If you look at my last comment on the question, then yes, I have chosen to leave a company when they did things I could not respect. I choose not to associate with companies that I do not respect. If I were to find myself in such a company, then I would evaluate whether I need to remain. I'm not saying it's time for them to jump ship, but it's time for the employees to have internal discussions, and if those aren't productive, then it's time to think about going external. Yes, quitting your job or risking getting fired is a big decision, but those risks may be worth taking. – mason Oct 4 '19 at 15:35
  • @mason I would suggest that it's not just the current job at risk. When this employee has been fired, or even pressured to resign, and they get an interview at another job, I'm guessing the prospective employer would be very interested to know under what conditions this employee left; and once it comes out that the employee was a whistleblower, many employers won't touch the employee with a ten foot pole. – Zev Spitz Oct 6 '19 at 21:47
34

Bad code can be rolled back. Someone's weekend is ruined, but the damage is limited. The folks here are very good at fixing code, and hardware. This might count is something similar to a S1 event.

Ruined reputations can not be. Something on the internet stays on the internet. It spreads, often shedding context. It never really goes away and you can't roll it back

People are not code. We can't just ship it, test it and its good. Building a community is something that takes time and effort. Change needs buy in. This is hard. We can't just roll back to the last checkin and figure out what happened later.

We talk about inclusiveness and diversity a lot. My personal issue with this is timing. It's almost like firing someone right before Christmas, or Deepavali or Chinese New Year or... you get the idea.

As for the employees, I'm sure many of them are in a hard place. I know many folks are from and part of the community.

Quite honestly - that I have faith in many of them is the only reason I feel that the situation is salvageable.

Patience is often taken for granted. To act swiftly is seen as a virtue. One often finds that more damage is done from acting impulsively. An employee breaking ranks wouldn't be an employee for long. The damage would probably be even worse. Patience cannot be infinite.

I have this soapbox. I speak. I need someone to listen. I need someone to advocate for me - to walk the halls of power that I cannot. To speak where I cannot be heard. If someone is in the company, and can stand for us, I'd rather have them doing so there than here.

We already lost someone who was capable of being heard, even though she stood were we do now. I'd rather not have someone act impulsively so we'd lose their voice inside the company.

Imagine if you're one of those folks. You're watching this unfold, and your choices are to work with what you have, and maybe fix things, or go in one glorious fireball.

I do not envy these folks. Once this passes, if it passes, we may never know who stood for us. I wouldn't quite blame them for not speaking for us in public.

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  • "firing someone right before Christmas, or Deepavali or Chinese New Year or..." Or Rosh Hashana. – user Oct 4 '19 at 18:57
  • Well, that especially. – Journeyman Geek Oct 5 '19 at 9:28
  • Well said, well written. Bravo. – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 '19 at 1:55
17

The whole "ship on Friday" thing is just a ruse

It's first of all not valid to compare affecting real life humans with valuable lives as "shipping software".

That being said, this isn't the problem. It's just a cover-up. Delivering the news on Friday left us confused for the weekend. Delivering the news on Monday would leave us confused for the day. The problem lies in the presence of this confusion in the first place - if a reason for decision and actual communication and information was presented with the delivery of the initial news, there would be questions, but not widespread uncertainty, confusion, and uneasiness in the same large extent that events conspired to recently.

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