647

Dear Stack Exchange, Inc.,

We know you know about this already, so we'll keep this brief. The past two weeks have been rough. Lots of moderators have lost confidence in you; for some, it was the final straw. For many of us, though, we like being here and we don't want it to get to that point. So, in the past few days, a number of us have collaborated on writing you a letter.

We're worried about the direction that the company has been taking recently, and we're concerned that nobody in management has noticed or addressed that. The past couple of weeks have been the catalyst, finally, for us to write it all down in one place.

So, without further ado - please take 10 minutes out of your day to read the letter in full. It's not short, but we think it's important feedback that the company (and management in particular) needs to hear. Those of us who've already seen your recent meta post seem to be of the opinion that it's a good first step, and it's certainly touched on a number of the issues we've mentioned here, but there's plenty more work to do. We hope we can start working together with you again to get back to building communities.

Signed,
782 moderators, ex-moderators, and users.


Staff: Please do share this letter around the company. We think it's important that we have a shared goal, and to do that we need to start from some common ground.

Everyone: If you wish to sign this letter in support of the sentiments in it, you're welcome to do so - use the button at the bottom of the page. If you have your own further thoughts on the things we've touched on in this letter, feel free to use the answers here to add to the discussion.

  • 35
    Oh, my. It even has its own domain name. Was this drafted by only those folks who kept their diamonds? – user102937 Oct 6 at 22:17
  • 65
    Can a mod [featured] this? – Script47 Oct 6 at 22:17
  • 63
    After reading the letter I have concluded that the new apology is very much based off this letter. I'm not exactly sure how to feel about that at this moment in time. I guess time will tell. – Script47 Oct 6 at 22:24
  • 22
    I'm glad to see this conspiracy of light paid off.and the simple answer @script47 is we suck at conspiring and most of this was done in various parts of SE chat. Folks kinda probably evesdropped. – Journeyman Geek Oct 6 at 22:46
  • 31
    I declined to sign this letter when it circulated to me yesterday (partly because I'm not a moderator, just a pseudonymous vulture with a big beak on crypto.se, but also) partly because it doesn't call for much in the way of specific actions by SO.inc or set down specific criteria by which to judge a response by SO.inc. I agree with most of the sentiment, but when collectively bargaining with SO.inc, we must take care not to lose sight of real commitments and power structures among any sentimental platitudes offered to make us feel better. – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 7 at 0:01
  • 59
    I signed this. It's not perfect, it doesn't capture my sentiments exactly, and it doesn't hold SE to a specific set of measurable standards, but it's close enough. Thanks to those who drafted it. – elixenide Oct 7 at 2:10
  • 18
    I said this in the thread on Teams but wanted to say here as well. Thank you for getting this together, we are working on a response. – Sara Chipps Oct 8 at 2:32
  • 130
    @SaraChipps - Please, do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor, and try these two steps first: (1) admit you botched this, and (2) reinstate Monica's moderator status. Do those two things first, and I think you'll find the community will be much more receptive to whatever response you have been working on. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 8 at 11:25
  • 37
    "451 moderators, ex-moderators, and users." is the temperature at which SE catches fire and burns? – VLAZ Oct 9 at 5:23
  • 19
    Hi Nate, we are working on the draft now. We want to be thoughtful in how we approach just as you were all clearly very thoughtful in putting it together. Some of that involves changing how we do some things, so we're getting our ducks in a row to make sure we can back up any commitments we make. – Sara Chipps Oct 15 at 18:49
  • 24
    Hi @SaraChipps, It's been a month since this was posted and three weeks since your most recent comment -- are you guys still working on a response to this? How much longer should we expect to wait? – Nate S - Reinstate Monica Nov 5 at 17:49
  • 31
    @SaraChipps For being self-declared understaffed with over 250 employees, you're shockingly awful at strategizing your schedules to get the most out of it while handling the community in an efficient manner. It's abundantly clear at this point you do have time - just stop with the lies already and try to be open with your community, and you might actually have one when this mess ends. You're currently pushing away everyone with your actions - including the groups you wanted to "protect" (and I'm saying "protect" because the way you've done it has sure as hell not been protecting us). – Zoe Nov 6 at 7:24
  • 21
    @SaraChipps You personally have time to go on podcasts, you (the company) have time to spew out articles on the blog and not to forget organizing the podcasts. I highly doubt that takes 38 minutes. You personally obviously have time to tweet and talk to the media, all of this fast, but you (the company) don't have time to respond to your own community? In case you haven't noticed, multiple sites in the network are falling apart, and – Zoe Nov 6 at 7:31
  • 30
    @SaraChipps Monica is preparing to take legal action because you (the company) couldn't do something as simple as defend your own position. I have no idea what you're doing, but if you don't start prioritizing responding to the main part of your site (the community), it will fall apart until you don't have one. I hope more and more Charcoal will suspend operations, and you might see the importance when the site starts flooding with spam. You're running out of time. – Zoe Nov 6 at 7:34
  • 30
    @SaraChipps And in spite of presumably getting this reminder quite often, you (personally or the company, I really have no clue) still don't respond. You (personally) should take a trick out of Shog's book and actually reply to status requests. From the outside, you appear to not be doing anything, and ignoring the community in the process. The second you open up even a little, that changes enough for there to still be hope something is coming. – Zoe Nov 7 at 10:24
121
+3750

This is a second drafted letter (also drafted before the meta post) addressing more specifically the issues the LGBT+ community feels it is necessary to address. You can read this letter in full and sign it on the same website as the primary letter. Signatures are welcome from both members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. Thank you.

Dear Stack Exchange, Inc.,

We, the undersigned moderators and users of the Stack Exchange network, feel that it is necessary to elaborate on a few points that were omitted in our general letter, in order to keep that letter focused.

We are members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, and we are hurt.

We are hurt that in the time since the announcement of change in the Code of Conduct was made, we felt unfairly targeted by transphobic attitudes that were dismissed as "friendly discussion", not only by the community at large but also by other moderators.

We are hurt that over the years, there have been multiple users and moderators who have stepped away from using the site because they felt unwelcome due to anti-LGBTQ+ behavior by the community (and sometimes even moderators). The affected users and moderators have given multiple testimonies to that effect, yet have received no response from Stack Exchange, Inc.

We are hurt at how long it has taken for us to be heard, and hurt by how now that we are being heard at all, it has been tainted by mishandling by Stack Exchange, Inc, causing the community to be doubtful of our goals.

We are hurt that resignations from LGBTQ+ moderators have only started to receive notice due to the uproar over a correlated issue.

We are human, we are hurt, we are tired, and we ask that Stack Exchange, and the community as a whole, listens to our concerns.

We ask that several things be done:

  1. We ask that Stack Exchange, Inc does more to pay attention to the complaints and requests of the LGBTQ+ community and does more to ensure that rules are properly applied such that LGBTQ+ people are treated with the same respect everyone should be treated with.
  2. We ask that the consequences for not respecting members of the community be more explicit, and be consistently carried out. Too many times have transphobic or homophobic comments gone by with no response from the Community Team, leaving LGBTQ+ individuals to explain their own validity again and again and again.
  3. Moderating is hard, and the LGBTQ+ community has been underrepresented in media for long enough that many moderators do not know how to handle some specific situations. Some moderators have requested sensitivity training. This would help those who work so hard on behalf of the Stack Exchange community to receive the support and guidance they need to carry out their duties.

It is time for something to be done about a situation that has become, frankly, untenable. Please listen to us - each of us, individually. The ways we have been hurt vary, and the things we feel could improve the situation vary. Too many of us have already left because nothing has been done. Thank you.

[Editor’s note: LGBT+, LGBTQ+, and similar are used interchangeably. We refer to the entire group of gender, romantic, and sexual minorities, or the ‘Lavender’ community.]

[Second editor’s note: This was written before the most recent meta post by the Stack Exchange team, and we thank them for their acknowledgement of the situation, in particular of the harm they have caused to the LGBTQ+ community on Stack Exchange. However, the issues addressed in this letter go beyond just the incident of the past week, and so we are still releasing this letter, both for transparency, and the broader commentary it contains.]


Please: Sign on the actual letter here

(As of this edit, there are over 150 signatures.)

  • 58
    I wrote in my resignation that "[Stack Exchange draws] vocal bigots from the woodwork with prompts to discussion, and then [vanishes], forcing us to decide between tacit approval through silence or defense of our own against an unchanging torrent of bigotry." This pattern of behavior repeated itself again through these events. My wound from the past week runs deeper than can be corrected in a single act or apology. At least now, after the flood of bigotry, I hope it is clear how widespread this issue is. But these harms will continue until the Stack is immediately reactive when it occurs. – Aza Oct 6 at 22:43
  • 23
    This is excellent. One of the worst parts of this is that SE stirred up waves of bigotry while the CM team did nothing about it, leaving it up to a handful of users to defend their own humanity and even moderate discussions that were targeting them personally. SE staff needed to step in and make clear that the identity of other users was not up for debate. I’m encouraged by the latest meta post, but hope to see staff action that sets bounds around what’s open for discussion, what’s open to education for those willing to learn in good faith, and what we simply won’t be debating as a community – Zach Lipton Oct 6 at 23:13
  • 9
    I hesitated to sign the original letter, because of some language that I found to be a bit "iffy". Though I am not part of the "lavender" folk, this new letter did seem to be perfect to my supportive ears. Thank you! – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 23:34
  • 12
    Hmm almost perfect - some part of the current kerfuffle was (IMO) due to placing too much weight on one form of pronoun, instead of being equally respectful of any form - whatever the person preferred - and without taking context into consideration. Again, though I am not the wounded party here, I do think a requirement for more clarification of the rules, and that it be applied equally and take context into consideration would be beneficial here. (Please do correct me if I am wrong about this!) – Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 23:38
  • 127
    Thing I'm concerned most is, Why separate people in different communities like LGBTQ+ and not LGBTQ+? People are people, it doesn't matter what is that they do, or any personal,private stuff. Why can't we treat everybody as humans and not profile each other with these hurtful separations? – Vishwa Oct 7 at 4:09
  • 8
    "Too many times have transphobic or homophobic comments gone by with no response from the Community Team, leaving LGBTQ+ individuals to explain their validity again and again and again" is a textbook example of ambiguous anaphora. Why would LGBTQ+ individuals explain the validity of transphobic or homophobic comments? Oh, wait, ... Perhaps the drafters could consider inserting "own" between "their" and "validity", or using a different noun which couldn't apply to the comments. – Peter Taylor Oct 7 at 8:48
  • 19
    @Vishwa we decided to have two separate letters for two main reasons: i) we wanted to keep both letters relatively short. Therefore, trying to include the LGBTQ+ points in the other letter would not have done them justice. They would have only been mentioned in passing and we felt they deserved more attention. ii) In both letters, we tried to express a position broad enough for many people to sign. That becomes very hard when you try to combine too many separate points. Joining the letters would have led to far fewer signatures. Some of us have only signed one or the other. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 7 at 9:38
  • 7
    I believe this is the more important letter of the two, especially as the other seems to be a bit apologetic on the issues this one raises – SztupY Oct 7 at 11:05
  • 2
    I really appreciate this letter, and think it deserves its own post separate from the general letter. It will be easier to reference in the future with its own post, and unfortunately, we'll probably need to keep revisiting this. – camille Oct 7 at 14:27
  • The text of this post and the website differ in not insignificant ways. @ArtofCode can you update the website? – curiousdannii Oct 10 at 5:35
173

When you're reading through the vast outpouring of concern from our community - whether that be this letter, the comments/answers on your apology announcement(s), the 40+ meta questions as a result of this recent incident, or the vast backlog of requests over the past few years - I ask you to consider the human impact.

It would be very easy to chalk down this entire incident to just another controversy. Just another meta post. Just another loss of a few long-time users. Just another blip in our turnover statistics. Just another weekend of overtime for the community managers. Just another 'apology' post to please the masses for a few more weeks. I can understand why you'd look at it this way - that's what corporations do.

But please, don't ignore the real-world, lasting impact this is going to have on your users.

If there's one paragraph of the open letter that you should read, it's this:

Among the most serious mistakes made was that a staff member spoke to the press about a member of the community who participates here under her own name. That same community member is now described in the press with language that can be taken to imply she is an extremist and a bigot. This news article is now the top search report for her name, which may cause her serious issues in real life, with her friends, her family, and her career. In doing this, Stack Exchange has rewarded years of service by putting one of its volunteers in danger – and there’s now a very real feeling that we may no longer be safe on this platform.

One of our most valued moderators is going to find their name permanently tarnished. If you were considering hiring a person, and noticed that the top search result for their name painted them as a transphobe, would you proceed any further? Would you try and find out the whole story? Or would you simply cross their name off the 'potential candidates' list and move on? Because that's what'll happen. Their life, affected in a real and lasting way, as a result of your decision. And I don't think that's fair.

But it's not only the moderator in question that will be impacted by this. Consider all the other moderators who spend hours every day moderating this site, for weeks and years on end, only to find their valuable time unappreciated. The vast collection of active users who feel lost in the community in which they once felt at home. And the LGBTQ+ users who have been insulted, belittled, and dehumanised by recent events, to a point where they feel unsafe participating on these sites.

Think of that. Think of the human impact. It's all that I ask.

  • 15
    As a user and moderator who participates under their* real name, I think this is a particularly important point. Going public with her real name was a grave mistake that probably caused real personal and financial harm. – Carey Gregory Oct 9 at 0:54
  • 3
    * I used "their" quite intentionally. – Carey Gregory Oct 9 at 0:56
  • 1
    @CareyGregory - I am not sure whether to read your comment as saying that the "grave mistake" is on the part of Monica for using her real name on SE or on the part of SE for revealing it to the press. – Alex Reinking Oct 21 at 23:47
  • 4
    @AlexReinking I definitely meant SE's part. – Carey Gregory Oct 22 at 1:40
  • 2
    @AlexReinking: In this case, the employee shouldn't have answered the journalist's question. Period. – beerwin Nov 6 at 10:22
131
+50

I'm one of the moderators that helped draft, and then signed this letter. I'd like to offer my personal take on things.

I joined Stack Overflow in 2008, in one of the first Beta waves when you needed to be invited. I was involved in Area 51 in the definition of some of the earliest sites in the Stack Exchange network, primarily Software Engineering (where I'm user ID 4 and was elected as a community moderator in 2012).

When I became a moderator, the role of moderator was described in two different ways. Moderators were called "janitors" or "garbage collectors" or "human exception handlers". A large part of our role was to resolve issues in our community that the others could not. We had binding votes to handle the worst posts quickly and the ability to suspend users who could not follow the rules and norms of the community. However, there was also another part to our role - liaisons to the company. We had easy access to the community team and were expected to help them understand the nuances and details of the communities that we serve.

Over the years, especially in the almost 8 years that I've been a moderator, I've seen a lot of change. The network grew from 1 site to 3 sites to over 170 sites covering so many topics. However, in that same time period, the environment also changed. The company, naturally, grew up as well. There were a lot of growing pains. The engagement between staff and moderators was very high when I joined the moderation team, but decreased over time. Feature requests and bug reports and even discussions weren't as well addressed by staff as they used to be. And, as moderators, our role as liaisons decreased, I feel because of the lack of engagement between staff and moderators.

The past year or so, in my opinion, has seen the most disengagement between staff and moderators (and the broader community), with most interaction happening in proclamations of changes or in emergency situations.

I believe that this disengagement is the very root of many of the problems that the network has seen over the past months and years.

Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there are pressing concerns from various individuals and groups that need to be addressed. However, as they are addressed, I hope that we can return to a spirit of collaboration between the company and the users, with the moderators that have been appointed from or elected by each community returning to their roles as liaisons and community builders in addition to custodians of their sites.

Based on the announcement that Stack Exchange staff have made, the next week or two will be pivotal in demonstrating the first steps in a restoration of this fundamental collaborative relationship that has made Stack Overflow, and the rest of the Stack Exchange network, so successful. I truly hope that we can repair these issues.

Personally, I will be watching the words and actions of Stack Exchange very closely over the next weeks and months. I hope that their most recent apology marks the beginning of a new chapter and a return to what brought so many of us to Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network.

  • 3
    Hey, I'm #4 on Christianity.SE and a mod - I wonder how many of us nuts there are out there. – Peter Turner Oct 8 at 14:34
111

Thank you for writing to us about this. This isn’t our final response here, but in the interest of being transparent and keeping lines of communication open, we wanted to respond with something as soon as possible. While this isn’t the answer you’ve been looking for, we wanted to update you on some of what we have been doing and what we have been working towards as an answer to these letters.

Since you posted,

  • We have created a clear policy for communicating with the press regarding moderator actions. This has been coded as “No Comment”.
  • We have shared our censure/removal and reinstatement processes for moderators with them for feedback last week. You can read more on this answer. These should be ready for moderators to use, and publicly available on October 22nd.
  • We are currently working on updating the FAQ (archived version) we posted to accompany the recent CoC changes, taking in mind and heavily basing it on the community suggested one. We will share the revised version with the moderators by tomorrow - and hope to have the feedback incorporated and made public by October 22nd.

As part of reviewing this, we are also taking our time to improve our internal communication processes so that we, the CMs, can more effectively communicate between our coworkers and moderators and the community at large. As part of our response to these letters, we want to have more details on this; as it entails structural change, it may take a little while.

Here are the points that we heard loud and clear from the letter and plan to address. Moderators and the community feel:

  • Distanced from us and unincluded in changes that affect your sites and roles.
  • Frustrated with long-standing problems seeming like you need to erupt on Twitter before you get our attention.
  • That the CoC changes give less autonomy and flexibility on how to moderate a diverse group of sites that are used by people from many different backgrounds.
  • That we do not actively support our Moderators anymore, and thus placed you on shaky ground. Including serious concerns regarding our statements made to the press.
  • That it is not safe or acceptable anymore, even dangerous, to disagree with Stack Exchange on matters of major policy.
  • That you want to see a roadmap and plan for how we can work together to repair this relationship, communicating more effectively.
  • That we do not pay enough attention to feedback and complaints from the Lavender members of our sites and do not take action when necessary as quickly as necessary.
  • That we have failed to make the rules apply to everyone equitably and consistently, leaving attacks without real consequences.

A final key thing we are working on (and planning to start implementing gradually) are avenues for improved feedback on projects while they are in progress and before they ship. Depending on each project this could mean focus groups, 1:1 interviews, research, or open calls for feedback. We are committed to working alongside the community and you should be hearing more about it soon.

The Community Management Team.

  • 63
    Finally something worth upvoting. Thank you ❤️ Hopefully, communication can be restored soon – Zoe Oct 17 at 20:50
  • 178
    I don't like to be this antagonistic, but words aren't enough at this point, actions are required. You need to take some clear steps towards fixing the harm you caused Monica, and fixing the situation where transgender users don't feel safe here on meta, in part because of the way SE handled this situation. – Mad Scientist Oct 17 at 20:53
  • 90
    Well, so much betrayal of trust has happened that has made me hesitant to upvote this post. I won't downvote either, however, and wait a few days to see how this will pan out. – M.A.R. Oct 17 at 20:54
  • 26
    It looks like you guys have some ideas you feel pretty excited about, to help us all get out of the mud pit we're in. Yay! (Yay for you guys, that is.) And of course, any attempt to do active listening is progress, so thank you for that! But if you really want to get our attention, and show that you're making an honest effort, please initiate a dialogue with Monica immediately -- as a first step. Please drop the bureaucratic preconditions on an initial conversation taking place and get started, now. Today. – aparente001 Oct 17 at 20:59
  • 307
    (1) Since you now recognize that talking to the press like that was wrong, will you be taking any steps to mitigate the damage done by Sara's various public statements (press, main meta, child metas)? (2) Since you recognize that my removal did not follow due process, will you be reinstating me and then running the new removal process (if warranted), so I can get a fair shake from a sound starting point? Appealing a verdict that was reached unjustly carries a taint of "guilty until proven innocent" no matter how good your intentions, after all. – Monica Cellio Oct 17 at 21:01
  • 71
    Also still concerned about compelled speech of specific words. – Cerberus_Reinstate-Monica Oct 17 at 21:02
  • 44
    Very encouraging words; I'm just disappointed that the "final step" said nothing about reinstating @Monica (related question). – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 17 at 21:10
  • 38
    Folks: while this letter was triggered by the whole incident surrounding Monica's removal, the letter itself was about broader issues and focused relatively little on the current incident. I don't think it's unreasonable that a response takes a similar line: yes, further steps are required to mitigate the harm done to Monica, but I'm glad to see some positive affirmation of the broader concerns we had. Dealing with the consequences of SE's actions with regards to Monica can still be done elsewhere. – ArtOfCode Oct 17 at 21:16
  • 21
    @vikingosegundo I meant that Shog's "no comment" post means they recognize talking to the press is wrong, and David's quasi-apology post admitted that they failed to follow a sound process in firing me. This question and thus this answer is about broader issues, but since Cesar did mention both the press policy and the new processes, I felt it was fair to ask about their application. – Monica Cellio Oct 17 at 21:22
  • 93
    More talk, more promises, still no immediate action that is necessary to stop harm that keeps being done (to Monica and community). The community waited too long to read more of the same thing. When you push a critically broken build to release, you need to roll back immediately, not talk about how the next one will be better (especially when it was promised before). – vicky_molokh Oct 17 at 21:57
  • 65
    Note that Monica isn't mentioned once in this statement. – hayd Oct 17 at 22:20
  • 89
    Withholding my up-vote, because I'm worried that on October 22, I'll want to downvote this. – Mark Oct 18 at 1:06
  • 43
    "We will share the revised version with the moderators by tomorrow" Considering that today is Thursday, that would make tomorrow Friday. Surely you aren't even remotely considering shipping on a Friday again...? – Cody Gray Oct 18 at 3:53
  • 50
    Im not going to be happy until two things happen, 1. a formal retraction and apology is made to Monica, 2. the community is properly consulted about the CoC, putting it out to only the moderators for critique is no longer an option as half the moderators are gone. Oh and in the meantime while this slow process happens reinstate Monica and repeal the current CoC. – Not loved Not their people Oct 18 at 8:43
  • 60
    You still haven't addressed the illegal relicensing of our content. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 18 at 17:02
48

I think the final paragraph summarizes this whole letter:

We recognise that Stack Exchange is in no way obliged to take our input. We know that we are guests in the home of a private company. We don’t own the platform, and while we want to help to steer the ship, we don’t have the right to determine how it is governed.

This sentiment has been echoed more and more as the community has been ignored and while it's true, it has to be understood that folk have invested a lot of time and effort into building up the communities that currently exist. While that might not mean much to the investors it should at the very least mean something to the CMs. A lot of this is done behind closed doors so we really don't know if many of our concerns have been raised by CMs to the higher-ups, though, I'd like to think they were and that they were shot down by management and not that they were never passed on to management.

What built this network is a sense of community and common purpose, and a big part of that has always been the close relationship and communication between Stack Exchange and stakeholders, such as moderators and users.

Yes, this is what has always fascinated me personally regarding these sites. The fact that the community plays such a big role. When you look around at other websites where there are huge breaks of trust between mods and highers-ups and no one is ever held accountable the SE sites always stood out. People bash meta (especially MSO) a lot but they really are a blessing in disguise.

and the line which immediately followed it:

It’s a shame that we’ve lost something so fundamental.

  • 8
    Re "folk have invested a lot of time and effort ... might not mean much to the investors": It does actually mean a lot to investors (Stack Overflow is especially mentioned at 9 min 15 secs; the ad ends at 11 min 33 secs). – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 3:50
25

Comparing the lavender letter with the front-page letter, I am struck by two dramatically different accounts of the Stack's history, and two conflicting visions of action for the future of the site.1

The lavender letter describes systemic problems dating back to the beginning of the site, which have been reported and ignored for as long as they've existed. It asks for specific new things, for changes to the status quo which will make the Stack a place to be celebrated rather than a place to be endured.

The front-page letter waxes eloquent about a golden age of cooperation and goodwill, when the Stack listened to concerns and worked with users to correct problems. It asks vaguely for old things, for a return to status quo which will make the Stack be like it used to be.

These are irreconcilable, and the front-page letter's version is the less supportable vision of the site's history.2 If the Stack has such a great history of supporting its mods, why is mod burnout so common that it's practically memetic, and always has been? Why is the system of mod support reliant on "I'll get back to you" mechanics with single points of failure? Why aren't mods given formal training for dealing with common stressful situations that are part of their job description?

Going back to the way things were just means going to back to the Stack chewing mods up and spitting them out, when vulnerable communities were ignored so thoroughly that other people could avoid noticing the harm at all. Moving forward to a more compassionate, supportive Stack philosophy will improve conditions for everybody. And not just for moderators: a true sea change would mean a shift in the Stack's treatment of its ordinary users as fungible content machines, too.

Let's not settle for a return to what some could endure, please. Let's aim for something better than before.


1 I'm also struck by the invisibility of the lavender letter: from the front page of dearstackexchange.com I would never have known alternate letters existed.

2 I hesitate to use the word prelapsarian but... I counted nearly twenty references to a better time in the past, or the idea that something was working and is now broken, rather than that this is how things have always been. upset with you right now - There was a time when - as the company has expanded - outlook on the network has become - that has happened over the years - no longer seems to want - the company’s direction over the past year or more - have been increasingly disengaged from the team - It used to be common to see - Moderators were also seen - staff used to be - Now many of them ... feel like strangers - no longer a place - there used to be space - the human touch has been lost - heal this rift - a return to the collaborative model - to see trust ... restored - rebuild

  • 65
    Your summation of each letter is overly simplistic. The "Lavender" letter focuses on the systematic inequality of the treatment of LGBTQ+ folk (especially when they are victimized) on Stack Exchange, and that Stack Exchange has an obligation to address that issue as a result of their commitment to the users. The other letter focuses on collaboration, communication, procedure, and trust between the company and the moderators (and the community as a whole). These letters do not compete. – rolfl Oct 7 at 2:07
  • 9
    This is a great point: "Why aren't mods given formal training for dealing with common stressful situations that are part of their job description?" Thanks for that. – aparente001 Oct 7 at 3:31
  • 44
    On footnote 1: The website was made for the other letter, and I don't think the person who made it even knew at the time that the "lavender letter" existed. When they became aware of the "lavender letter" they offered to host it as well, and did it impressively quickly. I don't think it's in any way fair to complain about "the invisibility of the lavender letter" there. – Gareth McCaughan Oct 7 at 3:42
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    The front page letter says "We want you to deliver on that promise to trust us, support us, and to give us agency, accountability, and autonomy. Ultimately, we want to feel that we are safe to disagree with Stack Exchange, even on matters of major policy." However, I'd like to point out that a couple of the moderators who resigned recently have publicly made transphobic remarks — one of them specifically citing "moderator agency" in his resignation statement. I think that the the right approach is neither to give moderators full agency nor to blindly rely on a CoC with some simplistic rules. – 200_success Oct 7 at 4:09
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    @200_success Even in talking about my stance on the issue of gender language I've been careful to separate that from the issue of agency in regard to moderator duties. My resignation post explains why I've separated those issues. I've never suggested blindly giving full agency; I know SE has never been a fully free platform (nor should it be). I've acknowledged that it works best with limits in place and been willing to abide by those limits. Please consider that your accusations are a poor representation / interpretation of the views of people who disagree with you. – Caleb Oct 7 at 6:28
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    a while ago I studied data provided in SE features change log (details here). Per my reading of this data, things indeed were much better in 2013-2014 compared to 2016-2018, and I can see how some may feel like in the past there was kind of a golden age – gnat Oct 7 at 11:08
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    I agree with about half of the answer but the other half seems to be an unwarranted attack on the front-page letter. The two accounts are not in conflict. What you call a “golden age” (which is very much an exaggeration of what the letter says) came before the time that the lavender later focuses on. When I started being a moderator in 2011, I didn't always agree with management but I felt they had my back. By 2018 I didn't really feel like they had my back anymore, though it wasn't until Monica's firing that I felt I should be watching for their knife in my back. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 7 at 12:04
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    As one of the major drafters of the lavender letter, some notes: the reason the lavender letter isn't visible from the main page of dearstackexchange.com is because it wasn't originally going to be written, until I complained (along with others) about the LGBT+ issues not being addressed. ArtOfCode then quickly put the draft up on the website, and for that I am exceedingly grateful. I personally signed both letters, because I do agree with some of the major points expressed in the main letter (the improper handling of Monica's situation being one) but I do understand and to some extent agree – heather Oct 8 at 6:13
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    [cont.] with your points. I believe that the issues in the lavender letter have been swept under the rug for far too long. Obviously not all agree. Even the lavender letter was rewritten in several parts to be more broadly agreeable. – heather Oct 8 at 6:13
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    The apparent irreconcilability may be in how you're framing things. e.g., it wasn't that there was a Utopian golden age. There have always been certain problems for which we have yet to find a solution. But certain major current issues were unintended consequences of attempted solutions to other problems. The objective isn't really a return to the old status quo, but a return to the lack of these newer problems, perhaps by finding alternate solutions to what created these problems. Solutions still need to be found for some of the older problems that never went away. – fixer1234 Oct 9 at 20:52

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