608

This surfaced in the apology thread, but I believe it deserves more exposure.

The apology thread was posted October 6th, 2019. In it, the idea was expressed that SE, the company, had done wrong by Monica and were reaching out to try to mend that situation.

As has become habit the management of SE then went radio silent. Despite the company announcing a new CoC, Monica remains in limbo. No one has addressed whether she violated the CoC, and the new process for moderator reinstatement has not been announced.

I'm calling this out in an attempt to not let it wither and die in an ignored thread. Monica is one of our own and she deserves closure, as do we as a community.

It’s been 8 days, and the words in the apology ring more and more insincere with each day. The only conclusion I can reach is that the apology was an attempt to silence the controversy, and that the core issues (the debacle around Monica's treatment, and the lack of transparency and disregard towards community feedback reflected in the behavior of SE staff) will remain unaddressed.

What can we, as a community, do to get a response from the SE staff?

EDIT: SE Has now provided a process for reinstating moderators

However, the critical question, "What did Monica do that violated the CoC" has not been resolved. She remains unsatisfied, and the process that has been outlined presupposes the guilt of the person being reinstated.

While I appreciate the efforts taken so far on part of the SE team, I believe we as a community have an obligation to continue to pressure them until the issue is fully resolved.

EDIT2: Monica has replied to the reinstatement issue

EDIT3: The Situation remains unfixed and I am beginning to think that SE will not take action unless forced to.

EDIT4: It looks like Monica is being forced to resort to litigation to get an answer. Help Monica afford legal recourse via gofundme

  • 99
    Isn't it the same with licensing, arbitration, inappropriate ads, etc.etc.? First we'll get at least some reactions, and then when everyone calmed down a bit and waits hopefully for a positive change, they're playing dead. And as it can be seen with things like licensing, it doesn't matter if it's 8 or 20 or whatever days. – deviantfan Oct 15 at 5:11
  • 81
    And btw., since the (here evidently illegal) arbitration thing, I 99% stopped my activity on SE; and I only came out of my hole temporarily to follow the whole moderator/COC fiasco here. I can only recommend to do the same. – deviantfan Oct 15 at 5:17
  • 73
    @deviantfan That's why I'm in contact with an attorney to force their hand. It's my opinion that the relicensing is illegal, and as such they may have to may be a very large sum (six, possibly seven figures) in statutory damages for copyright infringement. – jhpratt GOFUNDME RELICENSING Oct 15 at 6:01
  • 5
    All signs indicate SE handles this as an HR case and those are private by default so there is no chance SE staff will comment in public. – rene Oct 15 at 6:01
  • 61
    Monica case is just a big spotlight on SE true nature. I'm done with it. All that remains is my announcement, still working on it. But now it's for sure: I'm done with Stack Exchange. Game Over. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 6:54
  • 51
    What can we, as a community do to get a response from the SE staff?, Literally nothing!. But it'd be helpful to show that SE is nothing without it's contributors by ceasing all of your activity on network. Mr. Fullerton's apology seems huge at the beginning, but since then it became much much less valuable. They are playing dead and possibly already forgot everything just happened. – Vishwa Oct 15 at 6:58
  • 3
    Just want to voice my dislike to calling it "the Monica situation". It sounds so...impersonal. As if talking for an object or something like a storm. – VLAZ Oct 15 at 7:01
  • 2
    It is going away. Mods are going back to modding and nothing more seems to be happening – Richard Oct 15 at 7:45
  • 3
    the new process for moderator reinstatement has not been announced — not yet publicly but it has to moderators on October 11. – gerrit Oct 15 at 8:22
  • 12
    The problem will (seemingly) go away. Mods who object (or even just question) the ideology and agenda that SE is trying to push will be scared away and silenced with the threat of suspension. New mods will be established, who follow the same ideas as the authorities. Sure, this only means that a small problem (as "inconvenience for SE") will go away, to make room for a much larger problem that then can no longer be solved easily. But people tend to notice this when it is too late. – Marco13 Oct 15 at 14:05
  • 25
    I mentioned this elsewhere, but this isn't merely an issue about Monica anymore. It's about being able to trust StackExchange, and merely reinstating Monica won't regain trust. It's merely a first step. – Mehrdad Oct 16 at 0:01
  • 1
    @Philipp It looks like it's actually going to be Friday when we find out more: meta.stackexchange.com/a/335607/388335 – divibisan Oct 16 at 0:15
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - You're right, I made a bit of a mess with that edit. I've rolled it back. Thanks for the nudge. – aparente001 Oct 16 at 6:10
  • 9
    @Marco13 I expect costs to rise; I'll know more on that front tomorrow. – Monica Cellio Oct 31 at 1:54
  • 2
    Beware thet SE may remove links to Monica's GoFundMe campaign. – Raedwald Nov 14 at 15:11

18 Answers 18

154
+100

I had been glad to see David Fullerton's post when it first came out. It sounded sincere, and exactly like the kind of thing that we needed. I was hopeful it was a sign of the situation getting under control and positive steps finally being made.

Since that post, however, I've seen no indication of any further action. I can only think that he either has no influence on the rest of the company (which I find difficult to believe) or that his words, while exactly what we wanted to hear, were devoid of any actual intent.

I've seen no indication of action on the following things expressed in the apology:

  • Monica's situation being addressed fairly. (It may be in process, but the lack of any information makes that seem unlikely.)

  • Working with the community. There's been a lot of feedback. It seems like none of it has been responded to in any real way. (Perhaps the feedback has influenced some things. But, again, the lack of any information makes that seem unlikely.)

  • Policies around moderator removal and reinstatement. This was supposed to have have been shared and discussed with moderators four days ago. (Perhaps everybody was happy with it. But, again, the lack of any information makes that seem unlikely.)

In short, the lack of communication is continuing. Above and beyond anything else specific, this seems to be at the core of most of the discontent in general. Many things might be better than they seem—but there's no basis for us to assume that, because nothing has been communicated.

For such an important issue as this, I find it somewhat boggling that there isn't some level of communication from one or more staff members at least once or twice a week. If in no other form than to simply say, "Yes, we've heard your input on the following points and would like to acknowledge our appreciation of your concerns."

I am still somewhat hopeful that the well-worded apology was more than simple lip service, but that hope is slowly dwindling.

  • 11
    "Many things might be better than they seem". Perhaps, but it grows likelier by the day that they are not speaking because they have no good news to tell. – SolveIt Oct 15 at 5:48
  • 1
    Policies around moderator removal and reinstatement. This was supposed to have have been shared and discussed with moderators four days ago. — it has been shared with moderators four days ago. – gerrit Oct 15 at 8:25
  • 45
    I changed my vote on Fullerton's post yesterday: when it came out I upvoted because I was pleased that there was some recognition that they needed to fix things, but since there doesn't seem to be any progress towards actually fixing them I changed it to a downvote yesterday. – Peter Taylor Oct 15 at 8:32
  • 4
    I'm pretty sure that it accomplished precisely what it was supposed to accomplish, to make it look like SE were doing something about the situation and to tempt wayward moderators into going back to work (which seems to be working) – Richard Oct 15 at 11:01
  • 2
    They weren't devoid of intent. Monica did say she got the promised email, and that was all David had promised as far as she went. The problem is it doesn't sound like there was any intent to open a dialogue with her. In other words, the email probably apologized for the method, but not the result. – Machavity Oct 15 at 12:51
  • 3
    @PeterTaylor Yes, I have now exchanged my upvote of his apology to a downvote. Should something actually get done after all, and his post his edited, I might change it another time. (As a kind of running indicator of its actual sincerity.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 15 at 13:30
  • 11
    @Machavity the post also promised that the email would discuss next steps, but the next steps are just "wait for the process and then you can apply for reinstatement". The process exists (apparently) but I haven't gotten any further information from SE about it. Also, they still have not told me what the specific charges are. I got email, but I don't feel it covered what was promised in the post. – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 17:06
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio Just to be clear, I think they did the "legal minimum" here. They set a low bar and met it so they could say they met it. I'm not saying they answered your questions at all, which, sadly, reinforces the premise of this particular question. – Machavity Oct 15 at 17:41
  • 7
    @Machavity well, "discuss next steps" to me implies a discussion, not merely a notice of a future policy, but I can see how others might interpret that differently. In any case, I'm still waiting for any motion on "next steps". – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 17:58
  • 1
    SE just deleted all the downvotes and comments on David Fullerton's "apology" post at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334551/…! – sfors says reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 14:14
  • 1
    @AnothervoteforMonica I still see downvotes and comments (oldest from 2 days ago). There was an experiment about hiding downvotes although I think that's over, so maybe it's a bug? You could try in another browser or incognito window to check. – Em C Oct 25 at 14:38
  • 1
    @AnothervoteforMonica The downvotes on the question still exist. I don't know what you're referring to when you say that downvotes are missing. If the number is less than it was before, it just means that people must have changed their votes—or others voted it up. I also see nothing wrong with comments being removed at any time. Comments are not designed to be permanent, even on meta where they last longer than most child sites. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 25 at 16:15
  • 1
    For those that weren't aware, David's "apology" was asked 18 days ago. All those comments that were originally cast, are now gone. Only new comments from the last few days have been retained (for now). I can't confirm or deny the downvotes but the downvote count was well below what it is now (currently at -99) a week or so ago, and that makes me suspicious. A few hours ago it was at -95 and it's -99 now. That's interesting. – sfors says reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 17:59
  • 4
    I saw a question from Tim Post back in August that they're not going to allow meta to go toxic. So, the community is getting censored, and we don't know what everyone thinks any more. I don't like that, but I see why they're doing it. – sfors says reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 18:01
  • 6
    I downvoted David's post right away. Unlike Sara's post, it did have the right tone, but its timing was way off. That apology was a week too late. It was clearly just another attempt to mitigate the damage, without any intention of actually changing strategy or solving the problem. – Reinstate Monica Oct 28 at 14:41
193

The moderators don't know either.

  • We don't know whether Monica is actually going through the new process as discussed.

  • We don't know the content of the emails sent between Monica and SE.

  • We don't know what SE's take is on the situation.

  • We don't know the formal reason for her removal.

  • We (as moderators) aren't formally blocking the reinstatement process (many of us also want her back, I've not seen any calls for her to remain excluded).

  • We don't know what we can do to expedite proceedings toward any kind of resolution.

In short, we don't know anything that we haven't learned from the public side of the network.

We are in the dark as much as anyone else, and not particularly enjoying that experience.

  • 12
    I think that we know little more: meta.stackexchange.com/a/334646 (I believe Monica). – franiis Oct 15 at 6:03
  • 23
    I'm just making the point here that we, as moderators, have no inside knowledge of what's going on here. – user351483 Oct 15 at 6:06
  • 7
    This whole thing reeks of foregone conclusion anyways. – Magisch Oct 15 at 8:08
  • 4
    @Magisch Either forgone conclusion, or a deadlock of indecision behind the scenes (which is sort of the opposite)? – gerrit Oct 15 at 8:28
  • @gerrit let me know when you find out. – Magisch Oct 15 at 8:31
  • Hey @snow, I've seen a few scattered comments suggesting that there is some sort of limited consultation with moderators going on currently. Can you comment on that (or if you can't share any details, even just if it's happening and if it is, what the scope is)? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 15 at 8:56
  • 1
    We're not being consulted regarding the situation with Monica. That's between SE and Monica. – user351483 Oct 15 at 9:15
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    @user568458 I don't think consultations are going well I'm resigning as a Stack Overflow Community Elected Moderator – Resistance Is Futile Oct 15 at 12:31
  • 2
    @franiis As a moderator having access to moderator-only channels I can just confirm Snow's answer: Just for being a mod here you don't have any additional information on that specific case. – jknappen - Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 12:31
  • 7
    We don't know what SE's take is on the situation., yes you do, @SaraChipps said it very clearly. Sorry that we did it on a Friday. Nothing about sorry about what we did only should have know better than do it on a Friday. That is their take. Can not be any clearer. – user148287 Oct 15 at 14:23
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    SE has not told me what the alleged violation was. (It seems like the story changed between the email firing me and Sara's public statements, too. The email did not come from Sara.) SE has not told me what the new process is or how to invoke it. I don't know what I can do to move things forward either; SE isn't answering my questions. – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 17:03
  • 5
    Hang in there @MonicaCellio. Whatever you do though, don't sign anything that prevents you from talking about this elsewhere. They've certainly tried to muck up your public image. – tgm1024--Monica was mistreated Oct 15 at 18:01
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    @tgm1024 oh trust me; I haven't signed anything like that, and the only scenario I can imagine for doing so would be if they first completely clear my name. Without satisfaction on that point, it's not at all in my interest to agree to secrecy. – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 18:06
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    @tgm1024 they can't erase the damage they've done, but (1) they're really good at SEO so they can mitigate, and (2) they might need to take other actions too, especially given the lack of alacrity in their response. All that's premature, though; first they need to actually respond to me. – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 18:29
  • 1
    We now know the first: Monica does not like the new process and "shan't submit to it." – WBT Oct 24 at 16:07
157

Ok, here's where we're at:

As noted in David's apology, we created a lot of the problems in play here by not following process. So now we need a process to follow for handling issues involving moderators that our existing process didn't seem right for, and also we need a process for what to do when a moderator has been removed and wants to come back. That last process is the process we need here - that's the big test, really: can we build a process that'll give Monica a fair shake even after all that's happened these last few weeks? Good question...

So we've written up two processes that we think will fit the bill here. And, we've given them to the moderator teams to review. This is delicate: we've tried to think of every eventuality, so these processes got complicated. There are things we overlooked, paths that don't make sense, and probably straight-up errors.

The mods have been giving us feedback for four days now; we're trying to incorporate that. Not everyone has had a chance to look it over, or time to really chew on it. We'll give them until the 18th - Friday - to finish doing that. Then we'll have to make sure we've actually addressed their concerns.

Yeah. That's a lot of work, and it's going to take a while. But rushing this stuff hasn't exactly been panning out, and I'm not sure anyone involved has the energy for more mistakes at this point. So we're gonna try to do it right.

Once we have these processes nailed down in a way that the remaining moderators feel are acceptable... We'll share 'em with the former moderators. At that point, anyone who wants to come back - anyone - can go through the "reinstatement" process...

...If we get that process right, then we'll finally be able to do something useful here. If we didn't, we'll likely keep circling. That's why, frustrating as it is right now, we're moving slowly.

Believe me, I know how stressful this is to watch, especially when so little is being said. There's a lot I want to say right now, but it would be careless of me to do so; and again, we've already been a bit too careless with what we've said in some situations, and hurt folks by doing so.

Thanks for both your patience, and your gentle prodding - it's folks like you being attentive to the work we're doing that keeps us focused.

  • 150
    "we created a lot of the problems in play here by not following process" can you not undo those actions while you come up with a new process? – Andrew says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 23:24
  • 112
    Can you elaborate on that? Why is it not easy to reinstate Monica? – Andrew says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 23:38
  • 129
    I appreciate this explanation, and I'll note that nonetheless, from where I sit, both the apparently careless abrupt removal of Monica and the apparently super-careful silence toward and about her now seem to fall short of the level of humanity that I have valued in your company in the past. – Isaac Moses Oct 16 at 0:00
  • 111
    "can we build a process that'll give Monica a fair shake" - how can that new process give her a fair shake if she wasn't given a fair shake in the first place? It's like saying to someone "yes, we wrongly convicted you, and now we have to re-integrate you into our society as a convicted criminal" – Zac Faragher Oct 16 at 0:32
  • 320
    Meanwhile, the damage from Sara's inappropriate defamatory accusations continues. The longer that goes unchecked the harder it is to fix. :-( – Monica Cellio Oct 16 at 3:35
  • 55
    ...Most people here are not interested in having these two processes finished as fast as possible (because not needed immediately), but instead they want to correct the errors that were made. Like ... properly explain what violations Monica had, simply reinstate her before maybe applying the proper removal process, fire a certain employee., give the promised possibility to mods to influence the CoC content instead of giving feedback to dev/null, don't ignore the license issue, have Tos that are legal somewhere in the EU at least, ... – deviantfan Oct 16 at 5:10
  • 72
    From your description, it seems to me that you're working on a process that would have given Monica a fair shake. And I wonder why the existing process wouldn't fit the bill. At this stage, giving Monica a fair shake involves quite a bit more work, and if you need a process for that, it means that you expect to make bypassing existing processes and slandering volunteers in declarations to the press a regular thing. That's not a good sign. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 16 at 6:40
  • 76
    So, someone gets booted out from all six sites without solid evidence being provided that shows the booting was deserved and complied with the company's policies. That said person now has to formally apply to be reinstated because of a mistake, which Fullerton admitted to, in the process system? Let me get this straight. If Monica wants to be reinserted, she has to formally ask SO, she'll have to admit to some wrongdoing, or promise to not repeat the offense, otherwise SO will reject her application. Will there be a hearing, will there be a jury or will a single judge preside? – Mari-Lou A Oct 16 at 7:53
  • 102
    @Shog9 (more like @ SE, but yeah): Even if you guys come up with a perfect policy and reinstate Monica, that's at best going to "undo" her firing. You'd still be left with the unsupported public accusations that ruined Monica's reputation as well as the community's trust in SE. Are you guys planning to take responsibility for those accusations directly? Because I think I speak for much of the community when I say we want to see legit confession and/or evidence, and that we really do not want to see another half-vague-apology+half-non-apology filled with thoughts and prayers from SE... – Mehrdad Oct 16 at 8:41
  • 56
    @ColleenV if Monica doesn't have to admit wrongdoing then why does she need to wait until the two processes have been formalized? If someone confiscates my drivers licence for a parking fine I committed before the single red line had been painted, why do I need to redo my driving test? Why do I need to apply for a renewed licence? “At that point, anyone who wants to come back - anyone - can go through the "reinstatement" process...” – Mari-Lou A Oct 16 at 11:29
  • 30
    @ColleenV Last comment because it's pointless discussing this in circles before we know anything on...Friday? How many moderators, to the best of your knowledge, lost or voluntarily renounced their moderator privileges only to ask the company to be reinstated? Oh, I know. Two Workplace.SE moderators, who within days were immediately re-appointed. Did they go through any complicated delicate process? Doesn't look like it. Instead, Monica has been waiting since September 27. Either she did something wrong or she didn't. Either she was rightfully "fired" or she wasn't. There's no gray area here. – Mari-Lou A Oct 16 at 12:00
  • 164
    Let's forget about the "process" and let's at least get a single, binary and straightforward question answered. One of the CM claimed publicly that Monica was violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change that behavior. That is a very strong and straightforward accusation, the question is: IS THIS STATEMENT TRUE OR NOT? – WeTTTT Oct 16 at 14:12
  • 98
    I have trouble seeing how a process that starts from a presumption of guilt can be fair, but moderators who've seen it say it seems ok so I look forward to seeing it. I still feel that the proper move would have been to reverse the admitted-process-failing removal first, recant the libel, and then talk about whatever issues remain, following the removal process which I assume starts with disclosure and warning. – Monica Cellio Oct 16 at 16:36
  • 79
    The one thing I don't understand is this constant line from SE saying "We can't relitigate the past", "what's done is done", "we can't change things", etc. Yes, you can change things. We're talking about reinstating a mod that can be done with a click of a button, not bringing someone back to life. – berry120 Oct 17 at 10:30
  • 64
    "We can't relitigate the past", "what's done is done", "we can't change things" is just double speak for we did what we did and do not see anything need to change what we did or apologize for it so it is not up for discussion, and for the record the only apology has been sorry for doing this on Friday, not for sorry for what we did. – user148287 Oct 17 at 19:37
69

What can we, as a community do to get a response from the SE staff?

Little to nothing.

  • The relationship between the users of the SE network and the decision-makers within the company has changed; whereas before, veteran users may perhaps have been looked upon as peers or partners w.r.t. the decisions affecting SE sites, it is clear from recent decisions made by the company that the SE community has little to no influence. This seems to be due to a divergence in priorities and concerns between the company and the user base which is increasing over time.
  • It appears that the recent changes to the CoC, as well as the manner in which the termination of Monica's tenure as moderator occurred, were ideologically motivated.
  • In connection to this, it has been demonstrated that company employees empowered to institute network-wide changes are sensitive to accusations of discrimination or bigotry from social media users given that those users have non-negligible numbers of followers, regardless of whether such accusations are well-founded or not.

The company places high value on how it is perceived by people outside the company who are of a particular ideological persuasion; in a certain sense, the status or standing of the company in the minds of its employees depends on some of the stances the company takes on current political or cultural points of contention, even if these issues have little to no bearing on the day-to-day activity of the vast majority of sites on the network. From the perspective of the company, protecting this status is a higher priority than respecting the opinions of site users. There is a certain logic to this, since site users have no leverage; even if they disengage, it will have a negligible effect.

I should also add that if SE intended to re-instate Monica as moderator, they would have done so by now.

  • 16
    even if they disengage, it will have a negligible effect It's exactly those community users that are managing quality control, that are disengaging. The effect won't be negligible. – dfhwze Oct 15 at 6:13
  • 10
    @dfhwze I hope you are right. Truly. – julian Oct 15 at 6:29
  • 10
    "The company places high value on how it is perceived by people outside the company" <= If I trust twitter, the public vision is now of a site full of transphobe and more toxic than ever. If the goal was to appear better, that's a miss. – Tensibai Oct 15 at 9:48
  • 2
    A good deal of this non-reinstatement might be SE attempting face-saving at this point. – tgm1024--Monica was mistreated Oct 15 at 13:07
  • 2
    There is one thing I can do as a simple user; I can stop clicking on SE. It's a shame and it's a place I have felt welcomed until now. But the magic is broken. – RedSonja Oct 24 at 5:19
65

The only response the community will get is from Shog9, Cesar CM, and other staff deleting questions and answers they don't want discussed any further on the site they control.

Stack Overflow, Inc is no longer going to react to Meta users, they've long stopped interacting with Meta users, and it's very, very likely that Meta.SE will be closed to new content shortly.

The community that developed here, which Stack Overflow, Inc tried hard to avoid in the first place, is not only not serving SO in any useful capacity, but is considered actively detrimental to the company and network as a whole.

SO will continue to provide pronouncements from their mountain, and we will get in line or leave. If the community doesn't adopt the intended culture then when they introduce their new bug/feature mechanism meta will ultimately be archived.

SO needed us early adopters. They needed a lot of good people to help them make the network, define the game, and tweak the system so it could largely become self-maintaining. The only thing they couldn't easily control without a lot of pain was getting rid of community elected moderators that were problematic. They now have a way they've justified to the communities to impeach those that don't fall in line, thus taking the final thing away from the community that allowed self-determinism.

They don't need us any more, and they have already concluded we are a liability. They know that shutting us down altogether will make waves that will be difficult to manage, but they've been seeding the message over the last few years that Meta isn't working for its intended function, which is bug reports and feature requests, and that they are working on a replacement.

They are fast-tracking that internally. They will not be interested in a debate, so it's likely that they'll release a blog post coincident with disabling of new content and the release of the new tool(s).

They feel they can control the message externally well enough that it won't affect the 99.8% of their users who fund the site - I don't think they're wrong.

Don't take it personally.

It's just business.

  • 1
  • 16
    "and it's very, very likely that Meta.SE will be closed to new content shortly." [Citation needed] – Cerbrus Oct 15 at 13:47
  • 6
    @cerbrus I've advocated for just that in the TL. If they're not going to interact with us on meta, why continue to maintain an outlet that will only frustrate the community and cause interactions to get worse? – George Stocker Oct 15 at 13:51
  • 5
    I'd be curious to see what was deleted. Based on what I can see that hasn't been deleted and what I know of the moderators you've mentioned, I'd guess that 90% of it was stuff that deserved to be deleted as swiftly as possible, and the rest was deleted for good reasons and in good faith. It's hard to look at this site right now and think that anyone is deleting dissenting viewpoints. – Scott Hannen Oct 15 at 14:01
  • All they need to do to make this go away in most peoples mind is remove links to meta from the main site. Meta is not read by over 90% of users anyway. – Ian Ringrose Oct 15 at 14:24
  • @GeorgeStocker: And were you being serious or were you joking? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 19:32
  • 1
    @IanRingrose: 90% of users probably don't answer any questions... – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 19:34
59

I am a mere user on SO, but

I've read it all, and I'm out.

Tomorrow I will begin voting to delete my own posts-- all of them, back ten years.

Surprised as anyone to read about recent events. I read original posts, apologies, chat room transcripts, lots and lots of answers and comments, and the newspaper article.

SE management's handling of this incident has been appalling. This was a professional-level screwup. Someone must lose their paying job. The person who needs to go is very, very clear. After that, Monica needs to be offered full reinstatement, no questions asked. Nothing less than these two actions would make me believe that management takes the problem with sufficient seriousness, and is resolved to fixing its community relationship.

But I don't think they are resolved. So short of that, I will do what little I can as a user to get their attention. I will begin liquidating all of my own contributed content, where able. I'll miss SO, but there are lots of other resources out there.

Jeff Atwood would never, EVER have permitted this to happen. His belief that we are all striving to be good meant a tireless willingness to forgive and try again. I've seen his spirit in a lot of what I've read the last couple of days (and I've seen it missing in a lot of places too). I miss you, Jeff; you were the conscience of SO.

  • 24
    Please don't deface or remove your posts, this is considered vandalism. Moderators will undo the damage and suspend you if you persist – meagar Oct 17 at 3:54
  • 5
    SO's continued silence is speaking volumes about their corporate character... There are other resources out there, but many of them are inferior in many ways. I, myself, have been seriously considering my continued involvement with this site in light of recent events. – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 17 at 23:34
  • 5
    Damn, s/he left. That's bad. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 18 at 21:07
  • 3
    Well they were not joking. – Zhuinden Oct 21 at 13:14
  • 2
    I fully and sadly support this answer, but these alternatives really are worth a read: meta.stackexchange.com/a/334709/340909 Regardless of the content-related issues, removing ourselves from the discussion rather helps SE to flush it away – fr_andres SupportsMonicaCellio Oct 25 at 21:54
  • 2
    Removing your posts being almost impossible is one reason I pretty much stopped posting on SO. The database dump share horrified me when I found out about it, and I tried to get everything I'd put on the site permanently removed. Unfortunately, the "deleting is vandalism" means we've signed away control of what we do on here, with no recourse to undo it. It feels to me like the action of a sleazy corporate mindset that has no respect for its contributors, and that seems to be borne out by recent events to me. – zippy72 Nov 13 at 18:24
57

The last thing that Sara Chipps posted was a comment indicating that they are working on a response to the letter that was signed by 500 moderators/ex-moderators/users. That comment was over one week ago, though, so the response is starting to feel overdue.

But perhaps SE doesn't think there's any problem. This Meta community is a tiny fraction of the overall Stack Exchange userbase. Most SE users don't know about this issue, certainly not most of the millions of drive-by posters to Stack Overflow who only care about getting their questions answered, and then once they do, they vanish until the next programming problem they encounter. Stack Overflow is SE's main source of revenue, and as long as traffic there isn't impacted (and there has been no indication that this situation has had any impact on that), then SE will feel free to do (or not do) whatever they want.

  • 7
    I think "we're working on it" is pretty much like me saying "Sure, I will take a look when I find some time" to someone at work pestering me with a problem that I'm hoping they'll figure out themselves or find someone else to bother about it. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 15 at 11:24
  • 12
  • 2
    Pretty much all of the network moderators know about the situation though, and without them the network falls apart and turns into Quora/Reddit trash. – Lundin Oct 15 at 13:51
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    @Lundin I don't think those drive-by posters would care if it did, as long as they continued to get their questions answered. – pacoverflow Oct 15 at 14:53
  • 2
    @pacoverflow Until they start to realize that they often receive incorrect answers. Then they too leave. – Lundin Oct 15 at 15:19
  • 1
    @Lundin The situation is more perverse than that. SE sites would get swarmed with blatantly off-topic questions, with noone around to monitor and close them. Unexperienced users would answer these and the bad-quality posts would thrive. – dfhwze Oct 15 at 18:21
39

It has been clearly stated only problem as far as they are concerned is all the people complaining about what they did is that it was done on a Friday. And as far as they are concerned, they already apologized for shipping on a Friday.

That is the only mistake that has been actually enumerated and specifically mentioned so that is the only only one they really care about.

Given that, I am not sure what you are expecting from them?

Expecting an apology from them is like expecting Palpatine to apologize for issuing Order 66!

33

First: I actually don't spend too much time here. More during the last 10, 15 days ... maybe 30 minutes on average per day. But still: I get what is going on. I can look at the big vote counts, and clearly identify the issues that the community has.

It really feels like this meta community has turned into a one-way street. Stack Exchange Inc. occasionally dumps something here, and then walks away, following up their own plans and ideas.

Coming back to my first paragraph, I find that is strange. It really doesn't take too much time to get the key messages from the community. Thus: if I would call the shots at Stack Exchange Inc., I would have asked one full time employee to do nothing else but follow what happens here, to give daily briefings. To understand where things are going. To see what behavior would be considered helpful, and what exactly is behind the terrible negative feedback. (I see that shog9 is around most of the time, but he seems to be focused on moderating things).

But it seems: nothing like that happens!

Of course: every reaction carries the risk of causing more trouble, but heck: when you are in a deteriorated relationship then doing nothing (because of being afraid of doing the wrong thing) will not help.

Note: the above are observations and a bit of speculation on my end.

My real answer is: we won't get answers from Stack Exchange Inc. via the meta community.

Two choices left: we keep sitting here, talking to ourselves, and an "empty audience" ... or maybe we focus on using other ways to give feedback. There is email, twitter, facebook, ...

Thing is: there is a ton of (still!) polite and reasonable feedback given here that Stack Exchange Inc. should look into. If they don't read it here, maybe parts of that should be expressed, well, using these other channels.

Interestingly enough, the latest response by Stack Exchange Inc. claims that they intend to listen. But as said elsewhere: walk the talk!

  • 2
    It does seem like all other (public) channels have been awfully silent (or silenced) about this, save for several tweets at the CTO. There should be more uproar. – user622505 Oct 15 at 7:46
  • @user622505 Well, I do not intend to use a service hosted by "SE.com" to call for a shitstorm towards SE.com . But yes, I am surprised, too ... that these other channels are that silent. And just to be really clear: a shitstorm is the last thing we need. But as said: there is plenty of polite reason to be found here, and that information and style could be sent in other ways, too. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 7:48
  • 1
    Don't get me wrong, I would never advocate for things like insult or threat campaigns, that disgusts me as much as the compelled speech CoC and treatment of Monica. But there should be uproar (not a shitstorm, although to be honest at this point even that could help - if only by turning potential users away from the platform therefore reducing SE's bottom line) about it outside of the platform. So that casual users can actually become aware of what's going on and decide for themselves if they mind it. I myself found out pretty much at random - I'm not a regular meta user. – user622505 Oct 15 at 7:53
  • 1
    @user622505 I doubt that many regular but non-meta SO/SE users spend time on SE.com facebook or twitter. You have to distinguish about the audience. These people can only be reached with articles, like on register, or reddit, or elsewhere. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 7:58
  • 1
    @user622505 Just responded to one of Joel Spolsky's tweets, suggesting him to come back and save his company, like Steve Jobs saved Apple. I am really curious if that tweet will still be there tomorrow. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 18:07
  • @user622505 So, that tweet is still there, but not surprisingly, neither a response, nor a "like" on it. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 6:49
  • Yes, I have checked in on it several times today. Not that I expected a response, but was wondering if they would delete it. – user622505 Oct 16 at 6:54
  • There are also the Terms of Service, which provide for arbitration for a filing fee of $250. When submitting the case, one can request a crack at mediation prior to beginning the arbitration hearing. – aparente001 Oct 17 at 7:19
30

Honestly? Yes, I'm guessing that SE is just hoping to wait it out. I think they are aware that some of us - or many of us - are unhappy, but we are replaceable.

Or it might be that they are completely silent right now because they and their lawyers are in the process of putting together a settlement for Monica.

Those are the only two options I (in my infinite lack of wisdom) can come up with.

But one way we can fight this and feel better about our voices id to give Monica a voice that will be heard. We can help her assemble a team of lawyers to make right the wrongs, or at least to slap a satisfying bandaid on the wound.

Please consider visiting Monica's GoFundMe page and contribute. Every contribution is a contribution towards forcing the much needed conversation between Monica and TPTB.

28

Citing Monica's answer with updates from here:

David said in this post, and in that email to me, that SE would develop a process for reinstatement appeals and I could go through it. I understand that a policy was announced to moderators on Friday, October 11, as indicated in the question here. I received no email about it, so I sent David email on October 13 at 19:30 UTC asking for the process and how to trigger it. I have not received a reply as of October 15 at 02:45 UTC.

The current state of affairs seems to suggest that Monica will only be told more once they finalize & publicize the moderator removal and reinstatement process. A draft of this has according to moderators been shared internally for moderators to review and comment on, although it is unknown how long this is from being published.

23

It seems to me, that if Stack Overflow really cared about the value of community (even if only in the sense of community being an important part of their profit model), and about the experience of transgender people, they'd have done a little more work up front to save a lot of pain later, by doing something like:

One. Post explaining the problem, and that a new code of conduct is working on.

Cue questions, both good faith and bad faith. Is this really that big of an issue (yes). Isn't it covered by "be nice?" (in theory, but it's become clear more is needed). And, you'd be able to see who flat out objected to any sort of policy about pronoun usage, independent of its details / manner of implementation. Monica's initial questions would be handled here.

Two. Use feedback from the initial post to modify the draft of the CoC, and present it

This is where Monica's requests for clarification would be handed. Again, there would be questions, both good faith and bad faith. Handle the good faith ones in good faith, and handle the trolls like trolls.

Three. Address concerns raised about the specifics in the final draft.

And then, hang around throughout the process to help deal with the fall-out -- rather than riling up the bigots, and then leaving the community to deal with them alone.

Instead,

they first fired a well-respected long-term moderator (!) without explanation (and smeared her to the press (!!) on a day when they knew she wouldn't be available for comment to defend herself (!)). Thus, greatly shaking the community's faith in their good intentions.

Next, they plopped the new CoC down, without feedback from the community it was meant to protect, and then vanished to leave others to deal with the fallout.

And what was up with the Monica firing?

If Monica were really a bigot refusing to call people what they want to be called, there would be evidence in her copious publicly viewable participation;

if SE's firing her was really just about trying to protect a vulnerable community, there are far worse people they would have gone after first, and they wouldn't have just dumped the new CoC and then gone silent.

If it were just a misunderstanding, it would have been corrected by now.

The only explanation I've been able to come up with that fits the evidence is that someone at SE has a grudge against Monica for unknown reasons, and that grudge is more important to them than the community -- and the good will of the person with the grudge is more important to SE than the goodwill of the community.

There may well be a more wholesome explanation for the firing; however, given the publicly available evidence, I've been unable to come up with such a wholesome motive thus far.

22

I would encourage contributions to Monica's legal fund in excess of the stated goal of $10,000 (as of October 30, 2019). A single motion could easily cost $15,000. If it is SE Inc's strategy to just wait everyone out here, it will be very surprising if they don't take the same delay and exhaust tactic in a legal battle.

  • 10
    I just raised the limit on advice of counsel. – Monica Cellio Oct 31 at 16:31
14

The new "processes" may well offer a way forward, but I'm not sure what to make of Tim Post's recent statement that "There are some former moderators that just can not, under any circumstances receive access again."

Hopefully Tim is referring just to those few mods removed at some earlier time for some seriously grievous behaviour, before the current debacle.

On the other hand, can I trust SO/SE do do anything right at the moment? Probably not. The weekly moratorium is one tool (amongst many) we can use to remind SO/SE management that their company's future is heavily dependent on how our user community assesses their reparations to Monica. An offer of reinstatement (as opposed to an invitation to Monica to apply for reinstatement) is a minimum condition.

  • 1
    TBH, the announcement of the moratorium was too close to the 18th. For example, I somehow managed to miss it. Anyway, thanks for this post. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 21 at 8:55
14

I've not been following all the action that closely, but it's clear from this question and its answers that it's basically back to "business as usual" in the SO corporate offices. It seems to me that the most glaring issue that keeps recurring is the lack of communication. Over and over again, SE users are asking for answers but getting little to nothing in return - not even so much as a "we can't comment on that right now" - from the "higher-ups". The moderators have been allowed (or have taken the initiative) to make some comments here and there, but that does very little to improve the perception that the people who are ultimately in charge and responsible for policies and such are actually doing anything. Sure, they're probably running around trying to put out the fires, but the SE community and volunteers need to at least have some idea of what's going on and what to expect. This far into it, we should have a much more concrete understanding of the overall situation.

While I was initially hopeful and appreciative about Mr. Fullerton's apology, the noticeable lack of ongoing and proactive "official" communication only serves to erode that hope. From what I've been able to tell, the only way that we know what's going on with Monica's current situation is her reply on Mr. Fullerton's apology post and speculative or incomplete comments from some Community Moderators. While I don't personally have any "skin in that particular game"[1], the attitude that we are seeing from the SO corporate office is apparently (at best) one of general indifference to the community at large or, (at worst) a concerted effort to "sweep this whole situation under the rug"[1].

Since being made aware of this situation/incident, I've gone back and reviewed some of the history of (to put it nicely) corporate faux pas made by Stack Overflow, much of which I had no prior knowledge. It seems the old patterns simply keep repeating themselves and SO (the company) either cannot or willfully refuses to learn the lesson the community keeps trying to teach them. SO corporate hasn't increased their level of communication with the community with respect to this topic, even though they've admitted that they screwed up. Instead, they've chosen to remain mostly silent as they've done in the past - especially on inflammatory or controversial issues, concerns, and/or topics of conversation.


Here's my suggestion:

In a corporate environment, pretty much any time you have an "official" meeting, someone is there taking notes. In many/most larger companies, such meetings have someone explicitly designated to record the minutes of the meeting. Even if there are other smaller and less formal meetings going on, I would assume that such is the case with at least some of SO's meetings regarding this particular topic. While I'm not necessarily suggesting that SO makes these minutes publicly available without any sort of approval, proactively allowing the community to see at least a redacted version of these minutes would be tremendously helpful in battling the growing perception that nothing's actually being done.

It's no longer enough to wait until someone asks "what's going on?" and then just let one of the Community Moderators give some vague or incomplete (through no fault of their own) explanation of what they've experienced or only the information to which they're privy. SO needs to enact the transparency that they've promised (sort of) and for which the SE community has been clamoring.

[1]links to idiom definitions from the Cambridge Dictionary for those for whom English is not their primary language

11
+100

is SE hoping the problem just goes away?

It's not just hoping "the problem" goes away, it is driving "the problem" away.

That is, driving moderators and users who are critical of SE Inc. actions away from the network.

(In case it's not clear, I'm being facetious here - I don't accept their view of critics as the problem.)

  • I'm pretty sure we are being Unwelcomed, at least what we represent, the ideals we found exciting about the network. They couldn't have chosen a more symbolic and perfect sacrificial lamb than Monica. It's not a screw up, it's deliberate action. – brasofilo Nov 15 at 6:01
4

Monica started her GoFundMe on October 28th. As of that moment, Stack Exchange's legal staff has, as is the standard response in this situation, advised Stack Exchange to refrain from commenting on the situation while the specter of a lawsuit is hanging over them.

So, at this point this whole thing needs to be hashed out between lawyers before tho community is going to hear anything of it.

-10

There are actually 2 questions you have asked:

The Monica situation continues unresolved, is SE hoping the problem just goes away?

and

What can we, as a community do to get a response from the SE staff?

Now, please note that the answers are my personal opinion on the matter. I don't think that there is a right or wrong answer, only speculation.

You may be right that they are waiting for the problem to go away, however, Monica was JUST a moderator, not a staff member of StackExchange. I fear that there is no such thing as wrongful termination in this case. I am not saying that what they did was right, but they sure can do it. And I am more than certain that they could just wait for this to blow over and come out fine. If they suddenly suspended Jon Skeet for no reason, it would create much more ripple, and then I doubt it would end well for them. The man has had an outreach of 284 million people on the most used platform - StackOverflow. Monica, on the other hand, was on Meta and Judaism, which are by no means as big.

What the community can do they are already doing - Actively participating in the discussion, creating commotion and clearly expressing their discomfort with how StackExchange is handling things. And I think that the community has done rather good so far. So if they can keep the tension high for long enough, perhaps StackExchange will address it properly.

At the end of the day remember - They really do not owe us anything, so moderate your expectations.

  • 40
    Monica is a person. She was tossed out like garbage and then kicked under a bus. – user630063 Oct 15 at 11:14
  • 38
    @user9517 not just a bus, the Welcome Bus, carrying the Welcome Wagon as well. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 11:47
  • 24
    "there is no such thing as wrongful termination" - not true, there was a whole process for firing moderators which they ignored. And Monica was on much more than just Meta and Judaism (not that this should be required to be treated with basic human courtesy and following your own rules) – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 15 at 11:51
  • 2
    @user568458 You are correct. There is a process for firing moderators. And what if they do not follow it? Do you have any legal recourse? – Atizs Oct 15 at 11:55
  • 4
    Well, you brought up the term termination. I haven't seen any post that claimed that SE.com acted in an unlawful way. Everybody understands that this is not about laws. It is how a company interacts with a community, and the agreed on practices to do so. I think nobody here believes that the community has any legal leverage here. Besides the one idea that users delete their account, and then send in those DRM based "take down" requests, for their content. One request per post ... basically a DDOS using legal means. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 15 at 13:45
  • 58
    Arguably, SE can fire any mod or suspend any user for any reason at all, or no reason. They own the platform; they can be capricious and unjust if they want to. But then they followed up a no-due-process firing with public defamation, and that's a much bigger problem. – Monica Cellio Oct 15 at 17:16
  • 4
    @MonicaCellio As you said, SE can fire any mod or suspend any user for any reason at all, or no reason. They own the platform; they can be capricious and unjust if they want to. Well, SE didn't select moderators. WE (USERS of SE Networks) voted for moderators. SE can do with their staff whetever they want to do. But with publically elected Moderators, general public (voters, users) need to know what happened in the situation. – Vir Oct 16 at 17:12

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