I’m David Fullerton, Stack Overflow’s CTO, responsible for the product, engineering, and community teams.

I joined Stack Overflow in 2010 because I believed in the vision and mission of Stack Overflow. I wanted to be a part of building a community where programmers come together to help one another learn and share their knowledge with one another. I loved how the site was run in the open, in collaboration with its community, and moderated by members of the community.

I’m here nearly a decade later because I believe we can continue to build this community together and make it an even more welcoming and inclusive place than it is today.

In the last few weeks, we made a series of mistakes, both in our actions and in the ways that we communicated those actions. In doing so, we hurt people who believe in that mission and who want to help us make the community welcoming and open to all. While Sara and others were on the front lines of that, I was personally involved at each step along the way and ultimately responsible, and I’m deeply sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused.

First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.

I am responsible for that, and I am deeply sorry. We absolutely support the LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to making our community a place that is open and welcoming to everyone. We’re working on an update to our Code of Conduct which we’re sharing with moderators for feedback tomorrow and the rest of the community later this week. We’ll also work on making more resources and materials available to our moderators to help them support members of the community as we all learn together how to be more welcoming and inclusive.

Second, 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.

We’ll be sharing with our moderators this week our proposed processes for handling situations like this in the future. This includes a process for handling moderator removals, and a process for reinstating moderators who wish to be reinstated.

Third, we hurt the moderators and members of our communities. Community moderation is the backbone of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, and our moderators are a vital part of us creating a more welcoming and inclusive place. We need to be working with our moderators and community, rather than working against them, in order to create the kind of community where everyone feels welcome and able to share their knowledge.

I’m responsible for that as well, and I’m sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused. Going forward, we will be working with the community to overhaul how we gather input and feedback from our moderators and members of the community to make sure that your voices are heard and involved in the process, not just informed after decisions have been made.

Finally, I want to apologize again for all of the pain we have caused. I am more committed than ever to creating a welcoming and inclusive community across Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, and the mistakes we made over the past few weeks made that worse, not better. I know we have lost the trust of many of you, and that trust must be re-earned over time by more than just words. That starts this week with some of the concrete steps we are taking with the moderator removal process and the Code of Conduct changes, but the hard work will continue for years. Those first steps are:

  • On Monday, October 7, we’ll be sharing a second draft of an update to our Code of Conduct with all moderators for feedback
  • On Thursday, October 10, the update to the Code of Conduct will be announced publicly
  • By Friday, October 11, we’ll share the processes for moderator removal and reinstatement with moderators for their feedback

Looking forward, Stack Overflow is just beginning this new stage in its growth as a company. One of our top priorities across the entire team is to continue to make the community more inclusive and welcoming. We recognize that the community is the heartbeat of Stack Overflow, and we deeply appreciate all that you do. We know that our moderators care deeply about the future of our community, and we’re committed to involving you more as we evolve. We have an incredible opportunity to impact the world, and we hope that you will continue to join us on that mission.

Thank you for listening, and thank you for your patience with us as we continue to work our way through this.

This post was written with the input and support of Sara Chipps, Tim Post, and the community management team.

Email was sent to Monica on October 8.

  • 166
    What happened to all the comments? Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 19:57
  • 291
    @BartSilverstrim Openness happened. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 20:46
  • 313
    @SébastienRenauld Openness, sure, but don't forget inclusivity. It makes people feel included when their comments are deleted. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 23:15
  • 81
    @DavidFullerton did you delete the 115 comments that were here before? Can you comment on why?
    – logos_164
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 21:09
  • 149
    @DavidFullerton: How many downvotes would it take before a message gets through to you guys? Do you have a number in your mind personally? Is it smaller than infinity?
    – user541686
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 23:43
  • 38
    @Mehrdad You can delete posts and comments and the downvotes never happened! It's great! Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 9:24
  • 23
    Man, this is going to end up more negative than it ever was positive.
    – Jo King
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 3:54
  • 11
    Those ones who thank this post immediately after it's asked, what do you think now ? It's really ironic !
    – Eric
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 5:34
  • 35
    is it time to slowly transition to a new platform? let's not forget that SE does not exist without "us", right? hell, they are not even get paid!
    – Eugene
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 4:08
  • 73
    @DavidFullerton: I use the Internet since 1996 and I've seen many preposterously unjust actions and many preposterously hypocrite "apologies", but this one and Sara Chipp's one are undoubtedly in the Top5. But since I can't help being polite even to people who may or may not deserve it, I'll use the "please" word in << Please, retract this - and reinstate Monica ASAP >> Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 18:11
  • 106
    Notice how this post is now at -134 despite originally having positives in the hundreds. There is a reason for that. You have to actually followup your talk with actions (or, at the very least, more talk). Hopefully it's evident by now that we aren't playing along with this game any longer. Too bad: I was one of those whose now-deleted comments were positive and optimistic and thankful. Way to totally ruin a brief moment of goodwill between us all. Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:00
  • 36
    @Shadow If you think that SE has only offended one person and/or only made one mistake, you have not been paying attention! Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:13
  • 42
    Your words still mean nothing, even if you delete mine. Reinstate Monica.
    – user303172
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 22:02
  • 28
    David has now lost more reputation from this apology than he has gained, which is surely a metaphor for SO during this fiasco with the CoC changes
    – Jo King
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 0:41
  • 10
    @MonicaCellio Yes, I think that's terrible and I find Mr Fullerton "apology" insincere especially when suggesting discussions will be kept "complete private" when that seems to be part of the problem to start with. Clearly discussion isn't Mr Fullerton's strong suit. It is a shame that a site based on open dialog seems to have a CTO opposed to it. You clearly have support and I hope SE will take note.
    – Dweeberly
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 23:15

72 Answers 72


Much better.

We have a long way to go, and I still want to see licensing addressed (at least acknowledged), and some of this post kinda goes into "you guys are harassing people" territory which seemed a bit like the wrong time and place…

…but, nitpicking aside, this is the response that we hoped for and that should have been given to begin with.

Although it does not in itself undo anything that's happened, I absolutely thank you for it, and hopefully it's the start of improved relations to come.

  • 17
    Heh, someone's going around downvoting every post that says "thank you". Person, you are not helping. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 23:28
  • 3
    Have an upvote for the great off-site writeup. Btw I wasn't aware of the data breaches at all.
    – Marc.2377
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 2:29
  • 25
    For what it's worth, I received a mod message from "moderators", who were actually employees — it couldn't have been an elected mod, since they made claims based on data they don't have access to. They straight up accused me of mass-downvoting people and twisted my own words to try and make it sound bad. This all comes very soon after I ask for clarification on the license change. If that's not harassing, I'm not sure what is.
    – jhpratt
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 4:28
  • 6
    @jhpratt - I would agree that would be harassment. I suspect I will be silenced for making that statement.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 5:31
  • Excuse me, @LightnessRacesinOrbit, but I disagree. Saying "thank you" for an apology that is too little, too late, and makes absolutely no promise to set things right, deserves a downvote.
    – Auspex
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 13:48
  • @Auspex You haven't explained how you're helping by casting it. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 15:25
  • 4
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I assume the intent is to promote the answers that say a fair bi more than "thanks" so they rise to the top. As is the intention of the voting system, the "noise" gets downvoted to the bottom. Its not about popularity, its about useful content.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:12
  • @gbjbaanb The intention of the voting system is not tactical voting by casting downvotes on undownvote-worthy material to "cheat" your way to making your upvotes count double. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 23:34
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit No one said anything about making votes count double. They simply explained to you how downvotes are helpful: they push down the low quality content, allowing the higher quality content to rise up. Like it or not, some people find your comment to be low enough quality to downvote. I personally do not find your comment to be helpful, as it brings up a completely different issue, and does not note any of the flaws in the apology.
    – trlkly
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 7:03
  • 1
    I will also add that I sometimes include comments when I decide how to vote. If I see someone doing something to mess with the system, I downvote to discourage such actions, as it is my only means to do so. If you try to tell people they are bad to downvote you, I see that as an attempt to influence the vote. It not only tries to make future voters feel bad for wanting to downvote, but also encourages people who agree with you to feel outrage and thus want to upvote what they wouldn't otherwise. It's not helpful to the purpose of SE to do anything like that.
    – trlkly
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 7:09
  • @trlkly I reserve the right to make a comment on this page that doesn't "note any of the flaws in the apology". That's not all we're here for. Frankly it's not at all what we're here for. Also your rambling about "outrage" is just ridiculous. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:28
  • What we're here for is Stack Exchange: where the principle is high-quality answers are upvoted, poor quality answers are downvoted. I haven't downvoted anything that said "thanks" but provided real substance. And in any case, SE's own system "doubles" my votes. Not having enough rep on Meta, my downvotes don't get reported, so only my upvotes are visible.
    – Auspex
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:19

I have been thinking about writing a reply for days now. I came back to this post multiple times, trying to write down what I feel I have been telling you for too much time now.
I am tired of seeing the same movie being played week after week. And I hope you too are. But I am already getting ahead of myself.

Before I start, first let me thank you for this post. I will be honest, I am not entirely satisfied with this post - and I would have liked it more if a previous "attempt" wasn't made. But I am not here to discuss the last incident. There is plenty of that already and I think that there isn't much more to add to further clarify what was done poorly. At least nothing I can think off now.

I am not even there to argue if the firing was deserved. I don't have access to the actual facts, and sadly an almost perfect work was made so that now there are different contradicting versions of the story. In an odd way, this reminds me of Rashōmon, no offence intended. Either way, I am not in a position to judge.

What I am here for is to ask you to please try to not make me watch this same movie again in 6-8 time units.

I have been on Stack Exchange for... at least 7 years now. And during those years I have seen an exponential increase in the free drama we get every week.
Mind you, it is not like we didn't have our fair share of problems 7 years ago.... it is just that at the time they resonated less. I remember Shog9 getting angry "because some chatrooms are surprised that they don't get to not-be-nice" and I even remember him shutting down some of those rooms... but at the time Stack Exchange seemed to lack a defined structure to handle those "Be Nice" problems. Employees picked their "small" fights to fight and that was it. Or at least that was the impression I got back then.

And then something happened. I am not sure what was the root cause - IMHO all of this was started by the financial problem Stack Exchange was experiencing at the time and the unexpected attention April Twitter post brought on the network: something had to be done to cleanse Stack public image, and it had to be done fast. I am not asking here for you to agree with this interpretation, but what I hope we can agree on is that an unclear point in time some years ago, something moved inside Stack Exchange.
Suddenly, no longer Stack was a mere observer of the "Unwelcome/Not Nice" problems, stepping in only when something really intolerable was done (assuming they actually noticed it, I saw users quit after being harassed multiple time in the chat rooms, with almost no consequence for those responsible). No, now Stack Exchange decided it was time to act. To stop just trying to fixing holes in the hull and instead try to trace a route that didn't cross so many asteroids fields...

It was the start of the "Welcome Wagon".
And mind you, it was a good idea: we needed and still need something to be done for our network to become a better place. But... something clearly got wrong along the road. The change brought fear, endless arguments over trivial things and simple miss understanding and with it a lot of drama and fights. But again, I am not here to try to convince any of you of where I think an error was made.

What I do want to do is bring to your attention a pattern I notice in all this mess. We had an interminable list of incidents in the latest months.... yet every single one follows the same "monster of the week" script like this was a poorly made TV show.

  • An incident happens: usually it is either because a) the staff didn't communicate something they were doing, someone noticed it anyways and then posted an angry "You tried to slip the ads under the carpet!!" meta post or b) something bad happened because either the staff handled something without enough care or didn't react well enough to an unpredictable external issue.
  • The Meta storm starts, for days the Staff ignores it.
  • a poor answer is posted, usually skipping over many questions the community made
  • (optional: the answer says that "We learned not to ship on Friday and that next time the process will be better")
  • the war still rages, and now the community is split between users that want to be fine with just the answer that was given and people who now are even angrier because they think the answer is just a joke.
  • time passes and nothing gets solved until the issue is no longer discussed (often because some chat room mod /owner decides to no longer discuss it in the room and ask others to do the same. Not a solution, yep, but can be understood in order to stop the pain I guess?)
  • in a few weeks... return to the first point for the new episode in the Meta show.

Yep, sometimes fate like a wonderful show maker gives us some "unexpected" plot twist... What will happen this time?? Maybe a staff member will make a passive-aggressive threat to a user, telling him that "we could show you a form where you can request account deletion if you like"? Maybe a user will think that it could be funny to pour more fuel on the fire by using leaked e-mail addresses to send other users spam?? Yet the basic story is still the same.

And this happens again.. again... again... every single time wearing out the heart of the involved users like a water drop that consume a mountain over the years. Some users quit and get replaced by new, still "mint-condition" hearts - and the cycle continue.

I think we have a problem there. A big communication problem. This is has turned in a "blue team VS red team" mess - the only thing missing are the stadium hooligans chanting. And based on some messages I saw in the past I am not even sure.

I get everyone is frustrated.
I get your minds and hearts are tired.
I get you are angry.
But this is going nowhere.

I am asking you. All of you. Staff and users alike. Stop.
Stop acting like you hate each other.
Stop hiding stuff from each other.
Talk. And I said talk... screaming over each other like we do now only results in more rage.

And staff, please.... if you really hope to regain the trust you lost over too many small incidents, please...
Start acting faster. Reply faster. Problems won't go away if you ignore them long enough. The fact people stopped talking about an issue does not mean it is solved.
And when you reply, be sure everyone is aligned on your replies. Lately whenever an employee talks I don't know if they are talking for themselves or if their messages have actually been agreed upon before posting... Too many conflicting views to be had, too many contradicting messages to be posted.
Stop resetting character grown at every new episode: this is not a poorly made Carton Network show. I will be blunt: I have lost track of "how many times you learned to not ship on Friday evening": Monica, addresses shared with Amazon to fulfil a swag delivery, ads implementation, poorly tested April fools... the list is too long now.
Stop hand-waving valid concerns users express on the meta like they don't know what they are talking about. I agree that you get a lot of "just because" hate comments, but you should also agree that probably not everyone out there on a development-related tech site is claiming to be worried by fingerprinting ads just because they are making up things to make you look evil. Again, you need to talk. Talk inside the company and talk outside the company. I had the - hopefully wrong - impression that even inside the company there is no agreement on how things are being carried out. It is worrying for us when your own employees comment that they don't like where the ship is going.

Wonder what? There is only one ship here, and if it sinks all of us will. Users need the company if they want to have a site to post on. And the company kinda needs someone to actually post content.

Or you know, we may just stop pretending a community even exist. We can go on separate roads and try to pursue our own, personal goals. But if we have to come to that, please just shut down this parody of "community" Meta has become. I am bored to watch the same episode again and again.

Please, give me a plot twist and stop this painful Groundhog Cycle every day on Meta has become.

  • 2
    the only thing missing are the stadium hooligans chanting ... are they missing? Aren't those the voters? Or even the sub-reddits and other fora that host users that are more knowledgeable like we are? What does -1000 mean? Or +500 if only 50 users expressed their feelings?
    – rene
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:28
  • 2
    @rene as I said: "And based on some messages I saw in the past I am not even sure.". I assume that you too have seen the not-so-nice words that have been exchanged back and fort in the past. I wouldn't focus on the number of votes: that is just a way to know how "passionate" the feedback was.... but we don't get only votes - we get actual name-calling and insults. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:35
  • 14
    It's a self reinforcing feedback loop. Users feel like they aren't consulted anymore and that staff doesn't care, so they lash out. Staff feels the pain of getting a thousand pings with 500 differently worded comments on how they're wrong, and thus stop participating entirely except where absolutely necessary. Neither side is willing or able to break the cycle.
    – Magisch
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 11:01
  • Oh, I know, @Magisch, it is a tantrum spiral by now. Hence the need to break the Groundhog Day loop. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 11:08
  • 10
    'Neither side is willing or able to break the cycle.' - @Magisch, if users break the cycle it means not caring about any changes made to the system and not posting regarding them. If SE breaks the cycle, it means acknowledging their most dedicated users and at the very least, hearing their opinions.
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:02
  • 3
    Lately whenever an employee talks I don't know if they are talking for themselves or if their messages have actually been agreed upon before posting — maybe SE should consider posting from a pseudonymous group-managed "community team" account?
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:06
  • 1
    @gerrit I think that has been discussed previously but ultimately it wouldn't change anything really. The issue here is lack of communication (and when communication is done it's done terribly) not who's communicating it.
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:54
  • @gerrit that is an option, but as Script47 already said it would just work to "protect" the employees who are getting insults (and sometime even personal threats) for the posts they have to make. It wouldn't probably do much for cases that have one employee post a reply and another one posting another, conflicting reply soon after. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 8:02
  • Contrary to "be sure everyone is aligned on your replies"... I think it would solve a lot of problems if the staff would argue with each other in public rather than private. That would allow the community to be directly involved in the decision-making process, and that's the whole point isn't it?
    – Brilliand
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 18:01
  • @Brilliand I didn't had that type of disagreement in mind. What I wanted to avoid were scenarios where an employee says "we are doing this because A" or "we are doing A" and a few hours later some other employee posts a different, contradicting version of the story (like "we will never do A and are doing B instead"). Since this already caused a lot of anger in the past, with many members of the community reacting to this like they where purposely lied to... you will probably agree that is not the best option to stop all the Meta fighting we get. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 7:37
  • I downvoted this for a very good reason... a word picture to illustrate... In a marriage, one spouse hits the other with a baseball bat, hard. The one that was hit starts demanding the other own up to it and undo the damage as much as possible. The one that hit makes apologies but takes no real action. You do not go to them and say "I am asking you. All of you. [spouse 1 and spouse 2] alike. Stop." After reading this answer, in its totality, to me, that sentence seems to sum it up best, and I find it is not an appropriate answer to what has happened.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 17:04
  • @AgapwIesu I would advise you re-read the answer if you didn't already. I am not writing just about this single incident. Over the course of the last year we had a lot of similar issue (which is also the central point of my answer here) and every time it ended in the same way. Some time the staff used passive-agressive words. Some time the community overreacted and showered them in insults. I stand my point - unless both sides stop hurling insults at each others and start talking we are not going anywhere. Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 7:28
  • @AgapwIesu also, as a side notice, next time could you please use an example that does not involve beating spouses? The current one isn't making me feel very comfortable... Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 7:37
  • About your answer not just dealing with this specific incident. I did get that, from my first, and second readings, and other partial readings. But this "question" is about a specific instance, and that is part of the problem with your answer, you are going off to a broader topic. While related, the broader topic brings in so many other factors and changes their relevance to such a degree that it dilutes what's going on here. If your answer was a separate post of its own, I'd upvote it in a jiffy, because you are right, generally, everyone needs to take a step back. But in this case...
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:44
  • And you are right about the word picture. Bad choice.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:45

Until Monica is reinstated as a moderator, you clear her name in a follow-up article with The Register, and you take back the disastrous changes to the CoC and try again by asking for feedback from the community before making official changes, I can only conclude that your apology is hollow and insincere.


I've really struggled with how or whether to respond to this. I think others have already expressed my feelings in one way or another, but I fear that maybe SE will miss the message if they don't hear it from enough people.

For background, I'm a pretty active user; nearly 10 year veteran; top 2% on SO; I participate on Meta; vote in mod elections; attend SE events; have SO stickers on my computer; and fill out those developer surveys. I'm not a mod. The closest I came was considering running once. I'm just a slightly above average regular user who cares about this site, sometimes maybe more than I should.

We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.

First, you need a better and more public apology for Monica. I'm glad that you finally figured out that this process should have been private from the beginning, but that ship has sailed. You dragged a moderator's name and reputation through the mud... you gave up the luxury of privacy. I can understand why SE corporate would really like to hide this now that it's blown up, but you can't just wish this away from public view, especially not under the guise of suddenly caring about Monica's privacy.

You need to apologize to Monica, by name, for failing to follow a fair process and jumping to judgment too quickly, and you need to put it out as a press release. Then, and only then, can you move forward with private conversations. At the very least, let Monica decide whether she wants a public apology. I bet that she'll be more gracious than you have been.

Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.

Moral zealotry leads to collateral damage, always. Your intentions were honorable, but I see nothing in this apology that recognizes that the root issue here was an attempt to micro-manage a very diverse community under the pretentious and patronizing notion that a group of people needed your protection.

It's commendable to encourage honest and open dialogue, to give everyone a voice and to draw boundaries around acceptable forms of communication. But you simply cannot force everyone to speak with the same voice. Human dialogue is too complicated, diverse and nuanced to be neatly categorized by some rather ham-fisted guidelines. You have to be careful with those boundaries; the narrower you make them, the more they start to look like you and your culture and no one else's, and that creates division. You drove a wedge in our community where one was not needed.

I know we have lost the trust of many of you, and that trust must be re-earned over time by more than just words.

This, I think, is the truest thing you said. It's taken me a couple days to realize it, too. Because I really want to trust you, and it really hurts that I no longer do. I want this apology to be sufficient, but I don't really trust your sense of discernment or propriety going forward.

In short, I'm going to take a 3 month break from Stack Exchange in protest.

I'm just one developer and I rarely represent the majority. But I just want you to know that I'm logging out for the first time in almost 10 years, and I want you to know why.

I really hope that corporate reinstates Monica and issues the public apology she is still owed.

I really want SE and SO to succeed and include everyone who is willing to work in a diverse community. I hope the new CoC can be crafted without forcing divisions between people with amicable aims, who are willing to reasonably compromise, who can respectfully and even lovingly agree to disagree, even if that's not always comfortable.

I hope that the SE I log back into in 3-6 months is a better version than the one I've seen this past week.

3 months later.

Today I logged in for the first time in 3 months, and I'm disappointed. I had hoped that it would not require legal action for Monica to get a basic apology, but that's exactly what it took. Now both Monica and SE are under a gag agreement, so it is safe to assume that there will be no further updates and thus no real resolution for the community. Monica has still not been reinstated.

I missed my 10th anniversary. It's not a big deal, but it has caused me to reflect.

I've always been a stickler for the rules because I believed that they were crafted and policed by the community itself (at least the active part of it) and that they were what united us and focused our efforts. In an environment where nearly anything is possible, this shared vision was needed to prevent the community from tearing itself apart. But some very fundamental changes have taken place. Slowly at first, but now in much more tangible ways, requiring a change in my approach to this site.

My 10th Anniversary Resolutions

It's a new decade for me, in more than one sense, and I have made some new resolutions:

  • I will focus on fellow users going forward. I will not rage quit, nor will I make a fuss about the status quo on meta. Instead, I will do my best to be a good neighbor and an honest citizen in this community.

    I will answer questions that I feel are interesting. I will ask questions that I feel are useful. I will leave constructive and helpful comments.

    I will do my best to avoid trouble, but I'm not going to go out of my way to keep up-to-date on the "rules" either.

    I will not worry about what a corporation thinks of my behavior, which is how I will think of Stack Overflow Inc from now on. I'll do what I think is right and, so long as the corporation doesn't kick me out, I'll continue contributing content.

  • As the corporation has demonstrated that it has no real loyalty to the community and especially the community-elected leadership, I will no longer extend my loyalty to it.

    I will suspend most moderation activities for the foreseeable future, including the review queue, to which I contributed infrequently anyway; and close votes, down voting and flags which, combined, I cast frequently.

    As the corporation has taken direct ownership of the rules without regard for the community's input, and as it has taken on the mantle of summarily casting judgment on volunteers without regard for pre-existing procedures or precedent, it only makes sense that the rule-enforcement tasks now also belong to the corporation. I will no longer volunteer for what should be, under these new circumstances, a paid position. I'm sure that others will step up as mods, diamond or otherwise. Hopefully the corporation will pay them like employees since it has certainly started treating them as such.

I think, too, that this will be my last contribution to Meta. I have enjoyed posting here and on the SO meta and I hope some of my contributions have been helpful. To those who plan to continue fighting for a voice, I wish you well. I do hope that at some point the corporation might have a change of heart, but I will not hold my breath.

  • 28
    "Moral zealotry leads to collateral damage, always." Well said sir.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 16:02

First of all...

Thank you.


  • ...how did it get this bad in the first place?
  • ...why wasn't the new CoC proposal floated in front of the community, and placed in the hands of the people of Stack Exchange to decide whether to put it in place, and in what form?
  • ...what action, if any, is going to be taken (has been taken?) against those who ran Monica out of Modville on a figurative rail, publicly spat on her good name, and quite possibly endangered her in real life (looking at you, Sara Chipps)?
  • ...when are the staff going to stop dictating policy from on high, rather than acting only on well-supported proposals from the community (mandatory arbitration, forced [and illegal] relicencing, etc., etc., etc.)?
  • ...how and when are we going to change things so that the staff answer to, and serve, the community, rather than lording it over them from on high? (At the very least, having the staff members be elected by the community, rather than chosen by the great disembodied hand, would be a necessary first step.)
  • 10
    Staff members are employees. They are not elected, nor should they be.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 3:32
  • 5
    @tchrist: Why on earth shouldn't they be?
    – Vikki
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 3:49
  • 6
    @sean How would that work? Even if you wanted the community to be involved in (or even responsible for) the recruiting process, I don't think it is compatible with important legal requirements (think private information in CVs etc as well as background checks performed by HR). But anyway, if you honestly think they should be, that would be a highly unconventional position where I would expect you to argue why that is your position, rather than the other way around.
    – tripleee
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 4:42
  • "[...] possibly endangered her in real life [...]" — how do you figure? Is there something I'm overlooking?
    – SQB
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:59
  • 22
    @SQB: death threats for openly being for/against trans is not unknown, and Monica Cellio isn’t an alias or a user name. It’s a name that can be looked up and matched to an address. It took me approximately a minute to get what I presume is that address. Non-specific language is used for a reason, and not just CYA. And according to the article by Thomas Claburn in the theregister.co.uk when asked to confirm that Monica was the mod in question Chipps said SE plans to “even more explicitly cite misgendering users or moderators as a violation”.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:45
  • 2
    youtube.com/watch?v=aeAeL0K86DI ;) Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:12

This is a very good first step, and drastically better than the previous doubling down on the mistakes by SE. But the important part are the actions that follow in the future, as this apology acknowledges. This post stopped the situation that was quickly spinning out of control, but it doesn't solve anything unless followed by the right actions.

For me, the proposed actions are a necessary step in order to fix this mess, but they're not sufficient by itself. One aspect that creates significant uncertainty and doubt for me is that even now I don't understand how we arrived at this point. I don't understand why SE behaved in this way, and I especially don't understand the mysterious source of urgency. Without understanding this, I don't know how SE could convince me that this won't happen again.

It wasn't a single bad decision, SE doubled down on their mistakes several times. It wasn't a simple mistake, it looks from the outside like a very deliberate decision. And it's impossible to distinguish right now whether SE actually changed their stance, or just gave into the increasing public pressure.

I'm not saying it's impossible for SE to rebuild the trust, but it will be difficult and it will take much more than this apology.

  • 11
    I can think of at least two completely different scenarios that could have driven the perceived urgency and doubling down behind the decision because they cannot reveal them. There may be others. In either case I'm okay with the fact that they can neither tell us the full scenario nor backtrack on it the way we would like to see. What they can do is do some legwork to rescind the public defamation by acknowledging that the urgency did not stem from the hitherto publicly accused side, then go out of their way to make amends in other ways.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:37
  • 5
    @Caleb I hadn't thought about that aspect of it at all! I'd like to know your speculations (in general terms, of course, not mentioning anything that might be sub judice). I can only think of one scenario, but then, I've never been very streetwise! By the way, I'm trans (or TOCOTOX, "too complicated to explain", as someone used to call this sort of thing on the Usenet newsgroup soc.bi, a long time ago), and I'm not a Christian, but I thought your statement Brothers, I must go… the single best thing I've read on this whole sorry business. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 2:06

Deeds not Words

Still, first of all: Thank you for the apology.

That said: Quite a lot of bad things accumulated to get the community to the boiling point. You adressed only but a few of them. What about the animated ads? What about the fingerprinting? What about the unilateral, retroactive (and probably not legal) licensing changes? Will you attempt to rectify those issues or will you sit back, hoping that the announced changes will be enough to "placate the natives" only to resume your previous course once things have calmed down.

Words are cheap, and while the apology is an important first step I (personally) will need to wait and see if more than token gestures will follow.

  • 10
    I would add to that having very lax rules about account creation to allow drive-by users that do not want to follow SE rules and the CoC, while punishing loyal and more contributing users with higher standards and more stringent rules. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 17:26
  • 1
    @CharonX: Fullerton is telling you that there will be no deeds, only empathetic words. See my explanation below.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:51
  • 1
    That tweet is so disingenuous. It is a classic straw-man argument. The only deed that would begin to acknowledge a capacity to recognize when they have done wrong is to reinstate Monica (undo the wrong you did), and then put her through the moderator removal process, if there is any reason to even go there.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 16:36

This apology is more or less the apology made by Sara Chipps but with more details on the situation. It reads likes Stack Exchange whispering sweet nothings into our ears – yes, it acknowledges wrongdoing on the part of David Fullerton and the decisions he had made but the only remedies that are offered are "We'll do better in the future" if the community was really the:

We recognize that the community is the heartbeat of Stack Overflow

Then why is there a problem in including the community's input the direction the company goes, and allowing us to set our own standards (I know it's a big request to allow the community to set community standards)?

Stack Exchange shouldn't call the community its "heartbeat" because the company has repeatedly shown us that they could live without us.

This post is nicely worded but untimely, it undercuts one of the apologies that is being made.

we also acted at a time which coincided with a Jewish holiday which she and many other members of our community observe

Understandably, we have all been waiting for an apology (for a while), but this apology coincides with a Jewish holiday that Monica and many other members of our community observe, and you shouldn't apologize for doing the action previously while continuing the action in the apology.

Why should "Going forward, ... we gather input and feedback" be trusted:

Going forward, we will be working with the community to overhaul how we gather input and feedback from our moderators and members of the community to make sure that your voices are heard and involved in the process

The community has been giving its input and feedback for the past couple weeks and there's been no action, just empty promises that we've heard before when Stack Exchange had made missteps "we'll do better in the future".

The apology reads lovely, great job on writing it, although, it says nothing but I'm sure you'll do better in the future.

The irony is that a large amount of the user base isn't upset and don't object to using someone else's pronouns if asked to, users are upset because Stack Exchange has continuously disrespected the active user base in hopes of new users. Displaying the community's anger as anger against LGBTQ+ individuals instead of we'll all anger at the ways the company disrespects its user base is deceptive (this isn't to discredit the problems the LGBTQ+ community faces).

  • "This apology coincides with a Jewish holiday" - it was posted on Sunday though? (Yom Kippur starts Tuesday night)
    – npostavs
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 2:51
  • @npostavs I think there might be a time zone difference between you and me. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 3:59
  • 4
    @npostavs I'm not an expert scholar of Judaism but to my knowledge, there is something called "Erev Yom Kippur" (the day before Yom Kippur) that is used for preparation and other traditions. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 4:31
  • 4
    Monica responded quickly, laying out her timeframe --she was available Sunday evening, Monday, and Tuesday up until, I think, 5 pm-- and her willingness and eagerness to talk. The only problem I see with the timing of the Sunday post from management was that it came with such a delay. I think this answer could therefore be strengthened by removing the point about it being untimely. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 6:38
  • 1
    +1, but I disagree with "they could live without us". It's more they could live without many of us (but not without all of us). Without the majority of us SE would go the way so many Internet sites went in the past: into insignificance at last. The best and ultimate Ferrari Formula 1 car is never ever going to win the championship without gas station attendants, pit lane cleaners, mechanics, drivers and so on. One who develops a business model based on "we actually don't need them" should be fired in that very second. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 8:51
  • 2
    @aparente001 Thank you for your thoughts but I believe that this message was still untimely. Yom Kippur is a major holiday in Judaism, the timing of the release of this message is the equivalent as to if It were released a day or two before Chrismas. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 21:34
  • 1
    @StephanS - You would rather he had waited until after the holiday? Are you sure about that? Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 2:13
  • @aparente001 Yeah, I personally think it would be more appropriate. You shouldn't say you'll stop doing something while you're doing it. I wouldn't take issue with the timing if there wasn't a part apologizing that the timing of Monica's firing was inappropriate. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 3:25
  • @aparente001 it's like saying: "I promise I'll stop F***ing swearing". It's hypocritical, and shows the speaker doesn't actually intend to stop the thing they said they'll stop doing. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 3:30
  • 6
    @StephanS - Okay, thanks for clarifying your opinion. I absolutely disagree, since Monica and we were all going nuts due to management's silence. Of course, it would have been better to get a response earlier, but I don't think it would have been good to wait until after this holiday to hear something reasonable sounding from management. // One thing I guess we can agree on is that we hope management arranges to have a real dialogue with Monica soon. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 3:39
  • 2
    @aparente001 I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, although I did enjoy the civil back and forth, it was nice. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 3:47
  • 2
    On the timing, had the followup come on Sunday when this was posted, and had it led to action, that would have been plenty of time before Yom Kippur. That's not what happened, but even the mid-day-Tuesday email could have been fine if it had offered more than it did. I would not have wanted him to delay everything until today, though I still feel like I haven't gotten much of anything here. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 1:31

What worries me the most here is the issue of agency. SE is nothing without its users: all of its value is created by its community; and yet, there is this for-profit company that has the legal right to call all the shots, and which has now demonstrated it is quite capable of making major mistakes. Anything we, as a community, create, might at any moment be re-cast into some new context that we find utterly unacceptable. Is it really a good idea for us to work for you for free?

  • 11
    "work for you for free?" Quite a good question. Even my pitiful contribution on a couple of communities has translated into many hours... I almost said "with no remuneration", but the truth is that I have received from the SE community as much or more than I have contributed. I can't say the same for the company though.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 0:11
  • 8
    @AgapwIesu Many of us have received a great deal from the SE community... But why should we feel OK about this company that owns the results of our helping each-other? When they can so easily betray our trust, sabotage our community, and create a new environment for our content which no longer makes it acceptable for us to engage with it? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 0:13
  • 2
    Exactly. I was agreeing with your answer (+1 on it by the way). I tried, in my comment, to make the distinction between the community and the company. Did it not come across? I myself am staying out of providing any useful content (participation in the other communities) until I see how this plays out.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 0:25
  • 3
    Oh, you're right, I read your last sentence too hastily. I've also stopped contributing, after some months of highly active engagement. I wish we could have a community owned replacement for SE. Perhaps something backed by multiple non-private universities, for example, with an open governance system. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 0:34
  • By "free" you clearly mean only "monetary compensation". Presumably you get other things from SE, because here you are. If those other things that keep you coming back are no longer worth it, that's a personal decision you are free to make. But stop saying you work for free. It demonstrates a serious lack of gratitude.
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:19
  • Not downvoting because the message of your post is still relevant: reevaluating SE's worth.
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:21
  • 1
    @fredsbend I feel immense gratitude to the SE community. I guess SE the company were inspired and had a great attitude to begin with. But now we're in the money-grubbing phase, and I ask whether this reveals a fatal flaw in the entire enterprise. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:02
  • @sesquipedalias The company needs a net income to function. Would you rather pay for SE? No? Then you need to learn that commercialization and monetization is not "money grubbing".
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:05
  • 3
    @fredsbend There are things that are best not commercialised. The military. Prisons. How about adding shared human knowledge to the list? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:43
  • @sesquipedalias There's no free lunch. Those things still cost money.
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:45
  • @fredsbend I suggest researching "prison industrial complex" (yeah, in order to do so, you have to filter out the insane communist and conspiracy-theory ravings; the cold, hard facts of the matter are horrific...) Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:57
  • 1
    @fredsbend please see my 2nd comment Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:04
  • 2
    @fredsbend please see all of my 2nd comment Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:21
  • Agreed. I was rather swamped, and didn't find out about this mess till today. But this is only the logical result of unwelcome changes over the past year. I just deleted every non-essential technical account, I can't just stay and contribute to this.
    – user625792
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 23:58

I'm one of the users who felt personally hurt and betrayed by the company's recent actions. I have suspended moderation activities for a few days now, and today I was just about convinced that I could no longer act as a moderator in good conscience. I no longer wanted to be associated with SE, the company. You just changed my mind.

This is exactly what I had been hoping to see: a message written by one group of humans earnestly trying to communicate with another. This isn't the impersonal corporatespeak we've received in the past. This is an actual apology. You admit you dropped the ball and you are promising to do better. You are describing concrete actions you plan to take in the future. I do believe you mean this and I honestly hope you will succeed.

In any case, I wanted to thank you for posting this. It has restored at least some of my faith in SE as a company and lets me continue to believe that the values this place was built on are still alive in the heart of SE.

So thank you. For what it's worth, you have made me, at least, feel better than I have in almost two weeks.



Sadly, the days go by and you still haven't issued any sort of retraction or public apology for dragging the name of one of your users through the mud and making her a target. I'm still happy you at least issued a human apology, but there's a lot more work to do.

  • 7
    Glad you've changed your mind.
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:54

Thank you. This is great to see, if a bit late.

I had taken the liberty to publish my own proposal for a turnaround plan (here), proposing five + one actions (see quote below).

I am delighted to see that you committed to act on five of these six actions. I would suggest that action 1 is no less important, both to Monica herself as well as to other moderators. Knowing you won't throw a moderator under the bus publicly is key to protect them and regain their trust.

Thanks again and we're looking forward to a new way of interacting between SO, its moderators and users.

  1. retracting libelous public statements that were made in the press if the internal review confirms they do not match the reality
  2. publishing for discussion and quickly implementing a process to remove a moderator (why not start from the existing process?)
  3. publishing for discussion and quickly implementing a process to reinstate a moderator (and could start from Isaac Moses's proposal)
  4. running "Monica's case" through the new moderator reinstatement process and being as transparent as possible, even if in a sanitized way to protect individual privacy
  5. publishing the proposed new Code of Conduct for feedback and comments before implementation

The underlying and fundamental issues behind this series of mistakes need to be understood and addressed. This will likely imply changes in syndicating proposals ahead of time, behavior changes from some SO employees and possibly some personnel changes. This review should be announced now, carried out quickly and its results announced transparently.

  • 5
    It should not be a matter of running Monica through reinstatement process. She should be reinstated, and then run her through the removal process, if there is even any reason to.
    – AgapwIesu
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 16:06

This is the first communication I've seen from any of the Stack Exchange employees that seems sincere and heartfelt. (If I can use those two words next to each other without being too redundant.)

To me, it's the first sign that things can start to move in a positive direction rather than a negative one. I just hope that the spirit of this communication continues, and that the actions that take place in the coming weeks mirror the sentiment.

I only wish this kind of message could have been posted sooner. But, sooner or later, I'm glad to see it finally being conveyed at all.

  • 3
    Yeah, gotta appreciate a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. Will be following what steps are taken next.
    – Marc.2377
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 2:06

As a very "casual" user of a variety of Stack Exchange sites, this is the first I'm hearing of this situation and the events surrounding it. I do not want or intend to be dismissive of the severity of this situation, nor is this a "naysaying" post in opposition to the apology given, but I consider this a pivotal moment for Stack Overflow as a company. I've tried to do a bit of research to get up to speed on the topic of conversation and, while I'm certain there's much more to the story than I've personally read (there always is), this apology seems to be a good first step in the direction of healing what has apparently and unfortunately been a very divisive and hurtful series of events.

To be clear, I:

  • do not know the moderator in question personally, professionally, or even casually through any interactions on the Stack Exchange network,
  • am not myself a moderator, Community Manager, or related to Stack Overflow in any meaningful way other than being a question asker and sometimes answerer on various sites in the Stack Exchange network,
  • am not myself a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and therefore do not personally feel directly affected by the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct.

So, you may be thinking, "you really don't need to interject your opinion here... this doesn't affect you."

The truth of the matter is, though, that it does affect me, as it affects all users and moderators of any of the sites in the Stack Exchange network, as well as employees of the company that owns them. The way that Stack Overflow ultimately handles this situation will speak volumes about its "character" and that of the people who own and operate the company itself. A company that stands behind its people and attempts to work out a reasonable solution in the face of adversity will do its best to ensure a high-quality experience for its clients/consumers/customers. They know and appreciate the value of the individual.

On the other hand, a company that treats its employees and/or volunteers with disrespect will do the same or worse to its clients/consumers/customers. Such a company's only true motivation is its profit/loss statement and the metrics that some number-cruncher has determined are appropriate. When an "incident" occurs with one of the company's employees (or volunteers, or any other such entity that represents it), it's much more likely that those "in charge" will overreact to any perceived or assumed wrongdoing with a minimal amount of investigation into the matter in their own efforts to minimize the impact (of course, this tactic frequently backfires).

Unfortunately, this last bit is what appears to have happened in this case. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a very simplified description of the way I understand the situation: Allegations were raised against a moderator of some fairly egregious - and reportedly repeated - violations of the Code of Conduct. The "higher-ups" at Stack Overflow, by their own admission, took action - even to the point of bypassing their own internal procedures - without taking the time to fully investigate the allegations and research the details.

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.

-David Fullerton (from the OP)

At this point, whether or not the moderator in question did, in fact, violate the CoC is almost a secondary concern (I do not personally have an opinion on this matter as I'm not well-enough informed). The larger concern is why an apparently well-respected member and moderator of the Stack Exchange community was treated with such seeming disrespect and disdain by official representative(s) for the company. Bypassing and ignoring established protocols and procedures - even ones that don't exactly fit the specific situation - sets a dangerous precedent for future interactions with not only the moderation team and company employees, but also for the community as a whole.

PLEASE NOTE: I'm absolutely not trying to minimize the personal effects these incidents have had on the moderator in question. Based on my reading of what has occurred, the outcome is truly disturbing on a number of levels. However, I also know that there's very little that I can do personally in the way of "helping" aside from being a part of the discussion and, if necessary, "boycotting" Stack Overflow. I'm simply attempting to look at the entirety of the situation from as dispassionate a viewpoint as possible.

I certainly do not have any answers here and I truly hope that the sentiments expressed in Mr. Fullerton's apology are, in fact, as sincere as they sound. I do appreciate the clearly outlined apology which includes actual action steps that I can only assume are currently in progress. The Stack Exchange network - and the Stack Overflow site in particular - has been an invaluable resource to me over the years for which I am grateful. However, this incident has significantly diminished my overall opinion of the company and damaged the trust I once afforded it and the people behind it. In the end, the way in which this situation is handled going forward will make or break the company's reputation in the minds of a great many people. I sincerely hope that, when all is said and done, the statement on the company's about page will remain true:

Stack Overflow is the largest, most trusted online community for anyone that codes to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

About - Stack Overflow (emphasis mine)

  • 4
    I will note that this is close to my first hearing about it as well. I first ran into it via a question on Politics. Turned out that I should have seen it earlier, but hadn't read far enough into Dennis's post about him stepping down. But oh boy, what a firestorm. ...most trusted online community Ha! Well, I trust the community at least...but not the people running the servers. Haven't since...the time before the time that was before the time that was the time after the time that was the last last time (before the last CoC update). Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 16:19
  • @Draco18s - Honestly, I was completely unaware (blissful ignorance) of any such incidents at any time previous or current. As I said above, I'm an extremely "casual" user and am not involved with SE in any meaningful way. Hearing about this does give me a general cause for concern, but I'm reserving any sort of judgment at this time. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 16:35
  • 9
    By that do you mean that you missed the last Code of Conduct (The Welcoming) update, the change to CC-BY-SA v4, the removal of hot meta posts / HNQ, animated ads, and browser tracking? I can understand having missed things, it took me a week to see this bit with Monica, but I'm just clarifying. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 17:04
  • 1
    Correct. I apparently missed all of that. Now I guess I have some reading to do. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 17:23
  • 6
    Good point about the treatment of Cellio. The apology is lots of talk but the actionable part is just a doubling-down on the termination, all things said and done. See also my longer analysis below.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:28
  • 3
    @einpoklum - As someone who's about as "detached" from the situation (and SE/SO) as one can get, I intentionally did not want my post to play into any internal politics or anything about SE/SO for which I don't have any real, tangible referential knowledge or evidence. I wanted to look at it from as impartial and generic a PoV as I could. I hope it's not "as bad as all that", but after skimming through some of the historical issues posted above, I believe the "bigger picture" may be darker than many realize or are willing to admit. I would love to be proven wrong... Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:58
  • 2
    @G_Hosa_Phat: I'm not much of an "SE politician" either, I'm just an opinionated long-time user :-P Anyway, my own experience leads to the same concerns as yours.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:04
  • 4
    So, as a phone call with my mother made me realize, the original appology is the worst-scored post on meta by a factor of 3.6 (note that SEDE is cached weekly). Post #2? New ads. #3? The updated license. #4? New TOS. #5? Changes to HNQ. #8? New left nav (forgot about that one). #9? Licensing again (q). #11? Licensing again (a). #12: audio fingerprinting. Nine of the top twelve are from the last year or so, the other three are from 2011 or older. It isn't until #15 that we get another new one (ads/HNQ). Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 2:33
  • 2
    @Draco18s: If it helps... Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 15:02
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Oof. I forgot about some of those other ones. I'd remembered the home page, but it never fit into my comments, but I'd forgotten the data breaches and unstarring/content removal fiascos entirely. Thanks for the article. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:28
  • @Draco18s I wrote it specifically so that I never forget :) Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:28
  • From that page: "Many to this day consider Stack Overflow to be a horrible place to be, and will effortlessly spam out tales of how victimized they felt after their first experiences there (while ironically omitting the fact that they'd, in the meantime, indeed had their problem solved for free by volunteers)." +1000. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:31
  • Wow... to be honest, at this point, the deeper I dive into the historical faux pas (to put a very light spin on it), the more I have to wonder if SO has ever been what I thought it was or what it proposed to be. I have really appreciated SO as a resource, and tried to contribute when possible, but the fact that my participation and contributions are monetized - even just visiting the site - to support an entity with a track record such as this is more than a little disconcerting. The community is mostly great, but there are certainly "issues" with what goes on behind the scenes. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:42
  • 1
    @G_Hosa_Phat Its mostly been stuff that's happened in the last two years (give or take) that have been a problem. Before 2016 SO probably was what you thought it was (even if you didn't have an account). Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 20:41
  • 1
    @G_Hosa_Phat Thanks for posting this, as it comes closer than anything else I've read to capturing my own exposure to events (casual user, unaware until recently). I hope as you do, but also believe that in the corporate world, the only make-right for this kind of process abuse and resulting human damage is for someone to lose their paying job at the company. Until that happens, I'm out.
    – user95071
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 16:05

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.

I certainly hope along with an apology, Monica will be offered her Mod status again without having to go through any process.

  • 25
    "without having to go through any process." That's not very likely. They didn't de-mod Monica for no reason at all (Not that I know the reason, but still), and there are likely to be some conditions in case either party is interested in reinstatement.
    – Cerbrus
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 22:09
  • 23
    Your thoughts seem are similar to mine after reading this latest version: This is much better – but I'll believe when I see a diamond after Monica's name. If she was demodded prematurely, she can be remodded prematurely. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 23:20
  • 17
    @Cerbrus: The reason Monica was demodded was, to put it briefly, someone deliberately acting in the worst possible faith. Monica did nothing wrong at all; the only wrongdoing was on the part of at least one, and likely several, staffmembers. Monica deserves her diamond back - on every site where she was robbed of it. Please, staff - at the very, very least, give her that back. She deserves it.
    – Vikki
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 1:34
  • 3
    @Cerbrus, Without presenting evidence of Monica's alleged wrongdoings, if only to her fellow mods, such as myself, there is nothing to suggest that the accusations made against her are anything but a Big Lie (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_lie).
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 4:46
  • 1
    MontyWild / @Sean: We don't know exactly what happened. We might never know. I don't think it's likely they're reinstate her "just like that".
    – Cerbrus
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 5:20
  • 5
    Aren't you forgetting something, like, facts maybe? We don't have them. As hard as it is to imagine, Monica may have deserved it.
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:26
  • 3
    @Sean The reason Monica was demodded wasn't a good one, but that doesn't mean it was entirely undeserved. Monica did, albeit unintentionally, violate the CoC and hurt people. It shouldn't have got to that point, because SO should've asked her not to much earlier, but it is what it is.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:42
  • 8
    @wizzwizz4: did we know for a FACT she broke the current CoC? Or even worse, are we talking about the future CoC?
    – mike3996
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:56
  • 3
    @Cerbrus The correct process is to go through the de-modding process. If that process decides that she should have her mod status revoked, then--and only then--should she no longer be a mod. The reinstatement process is fundamentally different than the removal process. The former involves Monica apologizing the latter involves confirming she did anything wrong. Who apologizes for something they didn't do? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:35
  • @Draco18s: I'm not taking a side here. Just stating that it's very unlikely that there aren't some steps to be taken from both sides if/before Monical will be / wants to be reinstated.
    – Cerbrus
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:36
  • @souser12345 What she wrote was upsetting. It (obviously; it's Monica) wasn't written in order to hurt people, but the combination of her status (the (earned) respect others gave her) and the way she argued her (purely grammatical – and I know people use this as an excuse, but Occam's Razor is on her side on this one) stance served to hurt people a lot. To continue to argue the way she did wasn't Nice (and it wasn't just her… but that's another issue entirely). I'm not really able to say much more, because I don't want to reveal anything non-public without the consent of all parties.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 16:49
  • 2
    @wizzwizz4 So what? Almost everything that you say and is worth the effort of saying is going to upset and hurt somebody. Perhaps the nicest thing we can do is stop talking to each other. As an alternative to people we can talk to Google. Unlike people, which is prone to cause us harm, Google can be trained to show us only what we want to see. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:08
  • 2
    @Goyo I never said it wasn't important, or significant. I said it wasn't worth saying. As an extreme example: no matter how significant a breakthrough it is, it's not worth saying your half-a-decade-in-the-making theory of evolutionary gene propagation to a group of Young Earth Creationists.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 23:30
  • 1
    You may be ignoring the fact that the main reason for ghosting, firing, and libeling Monica was to silence her while the new CoC is rushed into effect. The owners will not allow Monica to appear in TL until all CoC debate has closed, Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 13:27
  • 3
    @wizzwizz4 I've still not heard why this was so urgent; have you? It'd been nine days since I'd spoken in TL and four days since my last email (I was awaiting a reply), and I was otherwise going about my business on the network as normal. Nobody mentioned a deadline to me, and employees neither said "this thing here is a CoC violation" nor warned me they considered my actions to be diamond-threatening. (I even asked Sara about that on that day -- no answer. I thought the strongest possible outcome was that I should leave TL, which I did on my own.) Feel free to contact me privately! Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 1:41

But I do hope you realize that this latest incident was just that. This action against the moderators just set off a lava flow underneath the volcanic pile. That pile includes the arbitration arrangements, the license 'change', the constant ignoring of feature requests/discussions (pressure that's been building up for years). Unless Stack Overflow begins to handle these issues in a responsible manner, it's just another eruption waiting to happen. I think you need to go back and revisit these topics. Try fixing these things at a fundamental level before letting things just build up yet again.

I appreciate some effort on your part. However, I myself will reserve all caution until I see those kind of changes happening.


This should be signed by the CEO.

While this is an interesting development, I cannot help be skeptical about a post about a serious crisis that is not from the CEO.

With all due respect to David Fullerton, you are the CTO and while you certainly have a responsibility to deal with this issue, a statement from the CEO, clear and unequivocal, stating that the company screwed up, regrets it and will make it right would be a lot simpler and less open to more ambiguity that a statement about intentions and futures with no actual commitment to immediate action. The company was intending to modify the CoC anyway (asking and taking advice would be better that forcing, of course), so that really doesn't count.

This is not a time for a CEO to try and keep their hands clean, but a time for them to show leadership. There is no evidence that this is happening. Caesar was not respected by his soldiers for staying out of the battle, but for appearing right in the middle of the fighting when it reached a crisis, leading from the front, not the back.

The suspicion is that, by not personally engaging, the CEO is demonstrating that they do not care about the community and see it as something they need have no contact with. This, I feel, is a key issue - engagement by the company with the community must be committed to at all levels.


As "Mad Scientist" (love that name - envy :-) ) points out the CEO joined mid-debacle. Nonetheless, the current CEO does, IMO, need to touch base with the members (who write the material the site lives on - we're suppliers!) to confirm the direction is really coming from the top, not, as it were, from the middle.

I am, BTW, not of the personal belief that management heads are the heads that need to go. AFAIK, these people have served the site and community well to date (as did Monica). I want the root cause addressed, not those in the system that were (IMO) manipulated to achieve a political goals of a small number of individuals. It's certainly a sensitive issue that kicked this off, but how in the name of all sanity did that get escalated to removing someone who has served us so well? I do not believe in accidents without causes is the way I would would sum it up, and I think out of control political agendas are the cause - something that should never be a part of SE, but were put ahead of the health of the community this time.

No group were responsible, but I think a small number of selfish individuals were. That's my impression from the evidence and my gut instinct from my life experience.

Some small number of people created this trouble for their own purposes and hurt the community. I'm a simple person who likes simple solutions: those people are a cancer and need to go. Others will differ in opinion and I respect your viewpoints.

Monica Cellio - victimized and deserves justice.

As with most people I am appalled (as should the company's lawyers be) by the disgusting public attacks on Monica Cellio. To my mind the CEO must address this issue directly and promptly.

It is my feeling, and I doubt I am alone in this, that those who drove this action to oust Monica Cellio for their own political ends should be dealt with in kind. Saying "sorry" without punishing the guilty is saying "sorry we were caught". Only if the perpetrators of this are dealt with will the company be making a statement that it actually means its words.

Monica's reinstatement should be automatic, as should a public apology in the same press you attacked her in. Why delay this?

Heads, in short, should roll. I incline, after reading as much as I can about the development of Monica's removal, that there exists a clique within the company and community who drove this action for political reasons of their own. I hope it is a small clique. Those are the heads that need to do the rolling, IMO.

I'm not sure if Monica would want heads to roll, maybe not, but I'm pretty sure I am expressing a view held by many.

I am not asking for the removal of David Fullerton, Sara Chipps or Tim Post. I do not have enough information to make a call on who, precisely, drove this car off the road, but someone did. I am concerned there is an issue with a small minority of individuals who created and pushed this issue, not with the people they pushed (who probably should have known better, but I'm not perfect either).

  • 20
    The CEO changed in the middle of this, and the current CEO wasn't in the company when the original events happened. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:11
  • 8
    "there exists a clique within the company and community who drove this action for political reasons of their own... [t]hose are the heads that need to do the rolling" - No. No heads need to be rolling. There is no "clique". There are people who have concerns, and raised them. Do not go around accusing them of malice for how SE mishandled the situation.
    – Mithical
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:16
  • 4
    @user58 You call it how you see it, I call it how I see it. "Raising concerns", IMO, should not have an endgame of getting people kicked out. SE mishandled, but (IMO) they (and I don't have any particular people in mind - not enough detail released) forced this issue along. You clearly disagree with that viewpoint, which is your right and I respect that. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 12:02
  • 1
    @user58: The people who have concerns and raised them, and the people who fired Monica Cellio and who run SE Inc. are really not the same people.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:07

" ... we made a series of mistakes ... "

Other than "should not have done this on a Friday" what do you think the mistakes were/are?

Enumerate what you consider the mistakes, because, Mistakes were made, I approved them, my bad ... is not an apology.

If you think he listed the mistakes, he did not. He listed the side effects of the mistakes. He lists We regret ... non-apologies!

we hurt ... is not really the mistake, it is the consequences or side effect of the mistake. The fact that he will not even say something like We unfairly removed Monica's moderation status and lied about why tells you this is a non-apology.

It is the exact opposite of an apology, putting the word apology in the title does not make it one.

  • 3
    Reading the paragraphs after they seem to call out the four mistakes they made. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:15
  • we hurt ... is not really the mistake, it is the consequences or side effect of the mistake. The fact that he will not even say something like We unfairly removed Monica's moderation status and lied about why tells you this is a non-apology.
    – user148287
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    To be fair, acknowledging the consequences is an essential part of an apology too, and they at least got a bit of that in there.
    – WBT
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 21:31
  • 2
    mentioning a consequence, but not apologizing for it is just implicit doubling down on what you did requires no apology.
    – user148287
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:04

That’s enough words for the moment,

Now let me see some action!

While you’re handing out the compliments,

You should also make things happen.

Since Poetry gave the gift of creation,

Take your orders then from Poetry.

You know what’s wanted here,

We need strong [commitment] to appear:

So brew me a [plan] right away!

Tomorrow won’t do what’s undone today,

We shouldn’t waste a minute, so

Decide what’s possible, and just

Grasp it firmly like a hoe,

Make sure that you let nothing go,

And work it about, because you must.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part I: Prelude, lns. 214–230 (1808).


Thank you.

This reads like you actually thought about what you wanted to say before posting.

Trust needs to be rebuild and you could start with the following:

Going forward, we will be working with the community to overhaul how we gather input and feedback from our moderators and members of the community to make sure that your voices are heard and involved in the process, not just informed after decisions have been made.


  • On Monday, October 7, we’ll be sharing a second draft of an update to our Code of Conduct with all moderators for feedback
  • On Thursday, October 10, the update to the Code of Conduct will be announced publicly

Ah... it seems I missed the part where the members of the community give their feedback to the proposed changes? We did it last time so this not only an oversight this time, it's actually a step back from what we had. Why do you always make it so hard for yourselves?

We don't want to dictate policy, this is your site, you are legally responsible, you decide. But you would have so much more support if you hear people out and find a compromise instead of forcing changes down their throat.

  • 3
    I guess (and hope) that the public announcement is meant to be the public “request for comments” instead of the moderator-only. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:24
  • 3
    Good point. But that's not even the half of it.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:12
  • 1
    Just to document... as of Oct 10, the CoC was posted, along with a FAQ that contained the myriad actual rules. There was no request or opportunity for community involvement. (As opposed to the perfunctory opportunity they granted the mods.) It was a fait d'accompli. Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 5:00

I appreciate this statement. I appreciate that you are owning the mistakes that SE staff have made and taking responsibility for them (whether you personally were involved or not).

The harm that folks who use pronouns different from those assigned to them at birth experienced is real and I applaud SE for working towards the goal of making sure that gender identity is not a barrier to participating here.

The harm that many in the Lavender aka queer aka LGBTQ (etc.) community experienced because of SE's actions is also real. Not everyone is attuned to see it and not every space on here had those comments. But it happened.

As a queer community member who is not trans or nonbinary, I did feel personally attacked in the aftermath of this. (Almost) no one said anything personal to me, but I felt it all the same. It was enough to send me into panic attacks and needing a leave of absence from my moderator position. The hate is real.

So thank you for acknowledging this backlash and working to fix it.

I ask here for two things:

  1. Reinstate Monica to all of her former moderator positions right away. Then, talk with her privately and work out whatever you feel is necessary to work out and make further changes if required later.
  2. Extend the discussion period for the CoC changes. We're about to go into Yom Kippur, the holiest and most time and energy intensive day of the year (sunset Oct 8th through twilight Oct 9th, with time needed on either side). I think you made the right decision to post this now, vs. waiting until Thursday, but the timing of the discussion means a lot of us can not participate much. These changes are important; let everyone have a chance to weigh in. Even those without a holiday may not log in every day.

Stack Exchange means a lot to me and I've been heartbroken over the reality that I might lose this community. I've only been here a year, but I've put a lot of time and energy into it and am now a moderator. I care deeply about the sites I'm involved in and want nothing more than to return to them and to my fellow users. Having Monica as my co-moderator on Writing and a moderator on other sites makes Stack Exchange a better place.


Being 'inclusive' should not be used to EXCLUDE others' rights! Nevertheless, SE, SO, etc should be used to share ideas and NOT a political platform.

I am 53 years old and have seen it all... I am going to guess that SE/SO has a new 'investor'.

I believe there should be a full disclosure (disclaimer) of who is funding SO/SE,etc, if at all. If there is one already please point me in the right direction.

  • 14
    I have a few thoughts about inclusion/exclusion and SE's choice to use their platform for activism. This apology is great as far as it goes and it's nice to see at least an first attempt to take ownership of the scenario, but it doesn't even touch on the core issue and I don't think it represents any change in overall direction. Better mod handling policies? Probably. Rooting out why this became an issue in the first place? Not so much.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:03
  • 5
    It's not about pushing a political agenda, but answering to users who felt diminished because of their gender/sexual orientation.
    – IEatBagels
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 12:45
  • How about this: ca.yahoo.com/news/… Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 13:13
  • 5
    The investor information is public. E.g. "...backed by investors that include Andreessen Horowitz, Founder Collective, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, and Union Square Ventures". I would be surprised if there was any change before the IPO. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:00
  • 1
    It should probably be qualified with main investors (on the board of directors, with some real power ("influence")), as there may or may not be smaller insignificant private investors. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 14:02
  • 10
    @IEatBagels who are the ones pushing a political agenda? After all, on SO the whole concept of your sexuality or gender is truly irrelevant and unwanted with regards to answers. I think the same applies ot the majority of sites here, except suddenly it appears to be very important to know who's LGBT and what they expect to be called. Just be respectful of others (all others, even Trump supporters), that's all that's needed.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:20
  • 3
    @gbjbaanb "Just be respectful of others". Yes, seems simple enough right. But if some users are telling you they don't feel respected, something should be done about it, no?
    – IEatBagels
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:07
  • 3
    @IEatBagels not necessarily some people will tell you what they think will further their cause without evidence. There needs to be a bit more than comments like "I feel personally attacked" - they may well do so, but if there is no evidence of that occurring, then its little more than emotional manipulation. To change the way the site works, there has to be some objectivity involved, feeelings are too easily led.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 22:27

This is a very good letter and appears to be sincere. It's appreciated.

Much is still unknown, so I will wait to see results, but just an observation: the letter seems like SE may be doubling down on some significant issues that were simmering prior to recent events, and which fed the chaos.

  • The network and its reputation were built on quality posts. Certainly, we want new posters to feel welcome to the extent possible. But making everyone feel welcome has been done at the expense of quality. The ratio of good content to noise has degraded, heading in a direction where finding good content here will become too inefficient to support the network's reputation. This has also led to losing and burning out experienced users and subject matter experts, reducing the network's ability to build quality content. Making people feel welcome can't be the primary goal, as seems to be implied in the letter. The issue of returning to a quality and meritocracy focus is one that's been raised for years that still seems to be taking a back seat to the feel-good objective.

  • All users need to be treated with respect, and the new CoC includes specific focus on one group of users who have expressed that there is a problem getting that respect here. The letter describes an intention to implement the new CoC after getting some feedback. Nobody is against including language in the CoC to better address such issues. But what was described some weeks ago had serious implementation issues that offered protection to one group at the cost of offense, hostility, even violation of religious principles, for other groups. There is even a question about whether any form of personal matter should have a place in the purely technical sites. I hope that the corporate objective for the new CoC is to ensure that it is something everyone can endorse.

  • In addition, the letter talks about the process and the style by which Monica was fired, but it doesn't address the reason, which leaves moderators vulnerable. Nobody seems to be aware of any action by Monica that should have triggered any consideration of her being fired in the first place. That is something that needs to be honestly addressed, at least with the moderators.

It isn't my intention to downplay the importance of any issues or to rain on the parade. Understandably, everything can't be fixed at once. My concern is that the fixes may enshrine long-standing issues, pushing away more of the network's talent. I hope I'm concerned about nothing.

  • 4
    Your bit about the meritocracy got my upvote. The main thing that attracted me to SE in the first place was how we didn't have to sift though so much chaff to get to a kernel of wheat. So yes, we need to remain polite, civil, and welcoming – but not at the expense of quality. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:00

Thankyou David for this genuine apology. It was sorely needed.
[Update 23 Oct 2019: This "apology" turns out to be a well-worded PR stunt: there's no admission of error in removing Monica, the second blockquote below has not been honoured, and Monica has not been reinstated. I withdraw my praise, and I've downvoted your post.]

And thankyou to all the diamond mods and other users who took a principled and caring stand, without which this apology would not have appeared.

Third, we hurt the moderators and members of our communities. Community moderation is the backbone of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, and our moderators are a vital part of us creating a more welcoming and inclusive place.

This acknowledgement is, appropriately, listed third in order of importance, but I'm glad it's been said. Our diamond mods certainly do the heavy lifting, but I'm one of the thousands of regular non-diamond users who contribute our time and effort in helping keep SE running. Flagging spam, abuse and CoC violations; voting on review queues to close bad questions, delete non-answers, approve suggested edits, and reopen worthwhile questions; editing posts to improve them; adding comments to provide useful guidance (and a positive welcoming message) to new contributors; putting thought into site management and improvement, via site meta; and doing many more generally unnoticed little things that keep our favourite sites humming along.

I have been "on strike" since last week, withdrawing from all the community moderation tasks I would normally do on the four sites I'm most active on. I'm on strike both as the best statement of support that I could give to Monica and to the mods who had resigned or taken other action, and as a response to my own feelings of discouragement and vicarious abuse as a SE volunteer.

Your apology is a significant first step towards rebuilding my trust, but I need more than words: owning your mistakes is necessary but not sufficient. There are important actions you need to take, some of which I expect to happen urgently - your direct communication with Monica being one.

I'm hoping these actions over the next few weeks will be enough to demonstrate to people like me that there really is a genuine intention by the company to improve its game and to treat our community with real respect. I am, cautiously, looking forward to ending my strike action and returning to "normal duties" in community moderation. But you need to entice me back, and if you don't do so quickly and decisively, there's a real risk that I won't come back at all.

It's important for you to know this, not because I'm a key user, but because there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of other users like me: passionate about our SE community, deeply disillusioned with the company, and on the verge of walking away.

Going forward, we will be working with the community to overhaul how we gather input and feedback from our moderators and members of the community to make sure that your voices are heard and involved in the process, not just informed after decisions have been made.

A key test will be the new CoC. Will you involve us ordinary users in reviewing the draft, or will you simply inform us of the new rules we must abide by "after decisions have been made"?

I desperately hope we can take you at your word. [Update 23 Oct 2019: it turns out that David's words were as empty as the company's ethics. The new CoC was imposed on us with no opportunity for broad community input, the farcical implementation has further alienated the SO/SE community and, most ironic and concerning of all, the process has created even greater difficulties for many of the diverse users the new CoC was supposed to protect.]

  • @Mari-LouA Oh, I get it: the new COC and the way it's been implemented might be cause to reconsider how I voted on this post, and the edit allows me to change my vote. Yes. Thankyou. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 7:50

First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them.

No, First of all apologize to Monica. You harmed her first - apologize to her first. Don't pretend to "care" about the LGBT community and whistle to them first, showing "look how woke I am - I apologized first to you, and only then to Monica." No. Apologize to Monica first. Then to any others you have harmed.

It's easy to apologize to a community - there's no personal responsibility involved. Apologizing to a specific person is harder.

  • Aza left (and posted about LGBT+ moderators feeling unwelcome) before Monica was de-modded, so I don't think there's a clear-cut case that SO "harmed her first". @jwenting that is an incredibly uncharitable hyperbole. Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 14:41

This entire post can be paraphrased as Mistakes were made, I approved them, my bad ... which is a non-apology.

Unless you specifically list what you think was done wrong and actually take action to re-mediate those wrongs and explain how they will be avoided in the future this is just more gas lighting marketing speak get back to the salt mines nothing to see here non-apology.


I just got an email from Gitlab and thought it is pretty much a excellent PR template for the situation SE has ended up in. Their response:

  • is timely (reversal - 1 day, response - 7 days),
  • the tone is much more respectful,
  • the actions (particularly "we reversed course the next day" and encouraging collaboration) far more clearly describe both the thinking, reflection, and new plan to include more people in the decision, and
  • communicates directly with the user base, rather than waiting for them to find our/back down/disappear.

I have removed context so you can fill it in in your head. :-)

This is probably copyrighted but the email was not marked as private or confidential. Nevertheless, I have duplicated it here for educational purposes only.

Dear [platform-name] users and customers,

On [date of incident], we [describe action]. Based on considerable feedback from our customers, users, and the broader community, we reversed course the next day and removed those changes before they went into effect. Further, [company] will commit to not [negative action]. This clearly struck a nerve with our community and I apologize for this mistake.

So, what happened? In an effort to [describe intended positive outcome], we decided to [describe intended action]. Clearly, our evaluation and communication processes for rolling out a change like this were lacking and we need to improve those processes. But that’s not the main thing we did wrong.

Our main mistake was that we did not live up to our own core value of collaboration by including our users, contributors, and customers in the strategy discussion and, for that, I am truly sorry. It shouldn’t have surprised us that you have strong feelings about [proposal] and many other topics, and we should have listened first.

So, where do we go from here? The first step is a retrospective that is happening on [date] to document what went wrong. We are reaching out to customers who expressed concerns and collecting feedback from users and the wider community. We will put together a new proposal for improving the user experience and share it for feedback. We made a mistake by not collaborating, so now we will take as much time as needed to make sure we get this right. You can be part of the collaboration by [reference for forum/chat/meta-article]. If you are a customer, you may also reach out to your [company] representative if you have additional feedback.

I am glad you hold [company] to a higher standard. If we are going to be transparent and collaborative, we need to do it consistently and learn from our mistakes.

Sincerely, [name] [title] [company]


I'm so glad you said all this. Looks like George's sample response was not all that farfetched. This is a complete and thorough that I'm taking to heart. I'm going to give you all the benefit of the doubt and assume this is sincere.

Thanks again. We needed this. In short, this is a godsend.


I have to admit, this doesn't sit right. It seems suspicious that you posted this reply days after it should have been posted. It almost seems like Sara's post was something you're trying to cover up with this apology.

I'm not saying this isn't sincere - something is very wrong and I can't put my finger on it.

  • 65
    They can't cover up Sara's behavior; too many people saw, publicized, and downloaded it. I assume it will be a topic of internal discussion and post-mortem at SE. It is reasonable for a company that has made such a profound blunder to focus on next steps; it's not a coverup. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 21:47
  • 14
    What's "suspicious" about it? They took their time to write a proper apology. The time they sadly didn't take at the start of all this. I'd call that an improvement, instead of "suspicious".
    – Cerbrus
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 22:06
  • 10
    This is two answers in one, and they are like completely different from each other lol. Anyway is it possible that what your spidey senses are detecting is emergency damage control? Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 23:17
  • 1
    @connectyourcharger this was the only thing left eating me. It took me a bit to identify it too.
    – egerardus
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 0:55
  • 11
    @LightnessRacesInOrbit - The whole thing reeks of damage control, literally cribbed from Bumper Big Book of Managing Angry Peons. The Non-Apology-Apology didn't work so now it's the Heartfelt-We-Share-Your-Pain-No-Really apology. Followed by bugger all action.
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:52
  • 3
    @Richard Or it's a genuine mea culpa following a realisation of the gravity of the situation. We'll see. Being vindictive about it won't help though. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:10
  • 4
    @LightnessRacesInOrbit - A couple of days ago the very same people were 'comfortable about their decision'. I see no reason to assume that they've had a conversion on the road to Damascus so the reason for this gubbins must simply be expectation management
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:21
  • I've tried to put my finger on it - please consider whether that hits the spot.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:13
  • 3
    this is a non-apology, to paraphrase it, Mistakes were made, my bad ... ... there is no acknowledgement of what was actually a mistake, other than wish we did not do this on friday ...
    – user148287
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:00

A lot of folks have answered, and I apologise if I covered the same ground.

I saw this this morning, right after I woke up, and well, after having a lot to say, I had no idea what to.

It's a start. There's so much work to be done.

This has always been about doing right by one of our own. Monica's gone through a lot and I hope SE makes it right.

I do realise there's an idea that folks on meta - and not just this one - are troublemakers and miscreants. That we're the loud 0.1%. We're also folks that care about this place.

Also, it's been a long bumpy road. I hope the relationship between the folk who run the site and and all of us gets on the road to being mended. And that the message sent is well - even if y'all are the landlords, this isn't just any place - it's home and we care about it.

It's worth recognizing that there's folks who worked in this in the background - community members and staff (and a few folks who're both). I'm sorry I can't name all of you - there's a lot of you, and honestly, it's been a complete and utter period of productive chaos once folks got in gear.

Hopefully we can work out ways that we can work together and try to stop stuff like this going out of control.

Let's get the gang back together.


Thank you, albeit: the journey hasn't even started. And of course, one wonders, what took you so long? Is it truly the outcry in the community that caused this move, or rather the damage to the public reputation/image of the company?! But I am not here to rant.

As all the other answers, and so many other postings here, and on other META sites have reminded us: the rift goes deep, and it grew over years. Every time the company made mistakes and just moved on, ignoring the breakage that decision created, every time, that rift grew deeper.

When we honestly look at the situation, there are easily 30, 50 "work items" that worry many members of the different communities.

Thus: that schedule about CoC updates and next steps: give us more like that.


  1. I am asking the company to compile a list of "work items" that they think need to be addressed (MSE should give you plenty of inspirational input).
  2. Then they should put up some kind of poll that allows to the community to give its priorities on these points.
  3. Then align that input with the business plans and come up with an outlook/schedule when and how each "work item" will be addressed.
  4. Every quarter or so, repeat that exercise.

Walk the talk. Now. And for the months to come!

And sure, that is a lot of work. But we will be with you, as long as we can trust you that you are with us.

Edit: oh, how easy it is to walk back.

We didn't solicit feedback from the wider community on this change. We have a robust roadmap and we are selective in asking the community for feedback on specific releases.

That is the exact attitude everybody here is complaining about, see here for context.

You really still didn't get it.

  • 10
    The journey hasn't even started because they're not changing what they planned to do. It's just flowery rhetoric.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:09
  • 4
    @einpoklum I agree. Maybe my point is more like: I dont care that much any more what "they" do. I made up my mind what is important for me, and this answer here just expresses what I hope and wish will happen. I didn't say I consider this hope very realistic.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 7:09

First of all, thank you so much for this apology, it means a lot.

Second of all, could you share how things got as bad as they did? Was the team under a lot of stress that caused them to act a little more abrasive than they otherwise would have? Was this triggered by a "bad apple" who has since been removed? Did you get poor advice from a consultant that told you to do what you did? I'm not asking in order to bash or criticize, but to get some understanding into not only what a long-term solution might be, but how other organizations can avoid getting into this kind of mess at all.

  • 3
    Without specifics (ie evidence), this would just be more unsubstantiated claims. Specifically, excuses. We deserve reasons (the root of which is "reason", as in, "reasonable").
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 6:12
  • 4
    Why does the apology mean a lot to you when Fullerton says they won't undo any of the things they're supposedly apologizing for?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:14

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