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Is there a constructive way to put pressure on Stack Exchange (the company) without putting any pressure on the community in general and the moderators in particular?

Goals

  1. Give Monica her diamond(s) back, with a public apology if the accusations were not founded.
  2. Address the underlying issues that led to this blowing up:
    • Significant policy changes without review;
    • Not assuming good intent when people ask questions;
    • Dictating to—rather than working with—moderators and the community;
    • Attacking or going silent when challenged;
    • Insufficiently asking the community they claim to want to protect for their input on how to do so.

Desired properties

The methods to achieve these goals should:

  • Be constructive. No trolling, no personal attacks, no targeting of minorities.
  • Be sufficiently effective to change some of the company's KPIs to red (whatever they are)
  • Not require any additional work from the moderators. There's an extreme amount of pressure already, but it's been mostly directed towards the community.
  • Be reversible as soon as improvements are noticed. The goal isn't to permanently damage the company but to force the company to realign with the community. Stack Exchange is still doing a lot of things right.

Past actions

Those actions didn't seem to impress corporate very much:

What else could work?

  • Offer a platform for SE employees to anonymously share information relevant to the current problems. Some of the employees clearly feel a strong link to the community, but they are apparently forced to either stay silent or repeat corporate buzzwords.
  • Stop using Stack Exchange paid products at work (e.g. Teams)
  • Advise everyone to enable Ad-Blockers on Stack Exchange.
  • Change our avatar.
  • Reach out to a prominent Twitter user and let them publicly complain about one of the many recent problems.

Any suggestion is welcome.

This question has an open bounty worth +100 reputation from Monica Cellio ending in 8 hours.

This question has not received enough attention.

The current answers mostly describe actions we can take on SE sites; that's important and please keep it up. I'd like to also see answers that describe external pressure in enough detail to act -- for example, not just "Twitter" but finding specific influencers, not just "customers" or "advertisers' but finding specific ones who might alter their purchasing from SE, and so on. How can we best bring external pressure to bear on SE, with an eye toward getting them to reverse their ill-considered actions sooner rather than later? (The legal path, while in progress, is also slow.)

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    I dunno... I think a lack of moderation activity is definitely having an impact. – Makoto Oct 19 at 22:03
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    Personally, I don’t know if I’d say "Those actions didn't seem to impress corporate very much” just yet. They’ve definitely noticed the pressure and have promised changes based on it (due Tuesday). That being said, it certainly can’t hurt to keep up the pressure. – divibisan Oct 19 at 22:14
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    There's another option: we could adopt this image as our avatar – Mari-Lou A Oct 19 at 22:26
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    Post on Twitter. Stop participating. Troll. But really, do you really think there should be more pressure? I don't get it. What about waiting for their reaction next week? I don't like stirring up the mud much. The decent and professional way to react if your concerns are not heard is to simply walk away and nothing more. No more pressure is needed. – Trilarion Oct 19 at 22:56
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    Anonymous reviews are already found on Glassdoor. Not sure how legit they are – curious Oct 20 at 0:08
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    @Mari-LouA If I were Monica, I would not be wanting to be reinstated. I would be sueing them now. – Victor Stafusa Oct 20 at 0:16
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    Monica has asked to be reinstated, and presumably has her own reasons. (It might help counter the libel and clear her name, for one.) – treat your mods well Oct 20 at 0:25
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    Un-sign up for Stack Overflow for Teams. – user474678 Oct 20 at 0:45
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    I guess that KPI means "Key Performance Indicator". Given the context of that tweet, I think that it is just an euphemism for massively blocking people that might go to tweeter to criticize her. – Victor Stafusa Oct 20 at 0:51
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    Imho there is no effective way to exert pressure. The community has no leverage against the company - they already control all content (which would include avatars sporting telltale references), and their avowed focus is on new users vs existing user base. A mod diaspora mostly harms the community. The Teams product is aimed at corporate clients, circumventing a community boycott. As SE is a Q&A site, the issues wouldn't be the prime concern of most users, if only for a lack of awareness - in-site means to increase that are controlled by SE. A new Q&A site may help but that takes time. – collapsar Oct 20 at 13:46
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    @Mari-LouA - how about same image and same user name? It's an "I'm Spartacus" moment. – Reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 16:26
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    #2: Address the underlying issues that led to this blowing up -- significant policy changes without review, not assuming good intent when people ask questions, dictating to rather than working with moderators and the community, going into attack mode when challenged, asking the community they say they want to protect for their input... that stuff is all super-important; just reinstating me (though they need to do that too) won't fix the rest. – Monica Cellio Oct 20 at 17:49
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    @Mari-LouA they did both -- maligning my character and violating my privacy were attacks, and then they went silent. Anyway, feel free to adapt however you like. – Monica Cellio Oct 20 at 18:22
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    @ReinstateMonica, and now there are 3 of us – Reinstate Monica Oct 21 at 11:19
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    At a shareholder level, profit and growth (i.e., future profit) is all they are looking at. The company's actions mostly flow from that. And their revenue plans are company secrets, so you will be forced to make educated guesses based on company actions. In order to effectuate pressure, you need to put this revenue at risk. But it can be hard because you don't know their plan. For example, most USA TV news channels feature editing designed to reinforce the beliefs of either the left or the right. It may be the SO Inc. foray into politics is not an accident. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 21 at 14:18

20 Answers 20

85

I would posit that you can't put pressure on SE without damaging the community. Little else damages the fundamental engine of their profit and is plausible within your control. (Although hey, more work on legislation protecting or even preventing unpaid volunteers would always be welcome.)

My own approach so far has been this, and requires little to no ongoing additional work:

  • Remove my name, image, bio, etc. from my profile (disassociate my personal identity)
  • Stop providing my free services to SE (don't ask or answer questions, don't perform edits, don't flag problems...)
  • Provide my services, free or paid, elsewhere (re-post my best answers on my own blog, participate in help IRC channels, check and participate in Github issues...)

Unfortunately, you can't meaningfully take back past contributions. SE has a license to your prior works, so if you were to delete everything, they could just roll back your changes as "self-vandalism", lock your account, and kick you to the curb.

Ceasing your contributions does not have an immediate effect, but probably has the strongest effect. The community will begin to slowly degrade right away, and will continue to degrade. It's also reversible: If you start contributing again, the effects will slowly be remediated. (But I would caution against putting in extra work in such a case. SE needs to not be able to gamble on this happening.)

They already have what they want from you. The most you can do is stop giving them more.

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    Good points, but I don't agree with "Unfortunately, you can't meaningfully take back past contributions." That's a good thing. There's a huge amount of knowledge over the network, and it should be cherished as the treasure it is. We can complain by not providing new content, we should still stay proud of what we've achieved so far. – Eric Duminil Oct 20 at 8:12
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    @EricDuminil I don't think it's per-se a good thing. If it's treasure, it is still my treasure. I retain ownership, even if I did license it. I am proud of it, but if things go off the rails here, I am certainly not proud of it being here, or of my work being used by a company I am opposed to in order to gain revenue. Things haven't fully degraded to that point, but they certainly could, in which case I regret that my treasure is used as bait to lure people into something that has become detrimental. – Chris Oct 23 at 15:51
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Past actions have been effective

The actions have drawn attention to the updated CoC – over 100k views in 9 days with a score of -1745 and counting. It led to the creation of Meta's 4th most upvoted question in history with a positive score of 1606 and viewed over 121k times in only 21 days. The uproar also attracted the attention of the press, here, and here.

Above all, the significant number of moderators resigning on Stack Exchange and on Stack Overflow has successfully drawn attention to the company's appalling handling of Monica Cellio's demodding.

What is the mood among SE staff and its CEO?

In order to gauge something, I listened to the revived Stack Overflow podcast entitled: compilers, turtles, and a brand new crew with host Ben Popper and guests; Sara Chipps, the director of Public Q&A at Stack; Paul Ford, a writer, technologist and CEO of Postlight; and special appearance by Prashanth Chandrasekar, Stack Overflow’s newly appointed CEO.

enter image description here

The first ten minutes of conversation isn't enthralling unless you are starting a career as a developer, computer engineer or programmer, the explanation of what a compiler does will probably be of interest and useful to know. What particularly struck me was how often Ms Chips interjected with her laughter.

Around 10:24 the new CEO is introduced to podcast listeners and around 15:27, Chandrasekar begins to talk about his vision for the Stack Overflow community and company. In the first two days as CEO he talked to almost 130 Stackers which he said was an “eye-opening learning experience”, he soon realised what made the company ‘tick’ was the SO team

…(16:45) that cares about this community so much and wants to do the right thing. There are probably a handful of companies in the world that has such a large impact around the world. With 50 million developers coming here to seek answers to their most technical questions, there is no way that you could replicate that magic. And so, we're really really blessed to have a phenomenal community of people that are willing to share so much, and be open about the knowledge that is resident in their heads and ready to promote a truly borderless sharing of information around these topics…

Around 19:45 the topic shifts to turtles. I particularly like freshwater turtles, they're cute, but my blood ran cold when I realized that small children could manipulate these poor turtles at their will, to draw things on computers.

My level of engagement plummeted from this point on.

Around 25:50 mark, the topic shifts to something called “Logo”.
Around 27:00 mark, the host (I think) talks about “Net Logo”.

Feedback

The atmosphere on the podcast appeared to be relaxed, buoyant and cheerful. The host and guests chatted freely, little if anything seemed to be scripted, but it was clear the primary scope of the show was to introduce the new CEO to Stackers and users alike. Everyone showed a unified front, which did not even hint at any possible simmering tension.

Unsurprisingly, there was no mention of the diaspora of moderators fleeing across the network, especially the resignations from SE's jewel in the crown, Stack Overflow; Robert Harvey, George Stocker (a staggering 1,408 votes supporting his decision) and just two days ago, Jon Clements. Unsurprisingly, there was no mention of the recently updated CoC, Sara Chipps' article, Iterating on Inclusion, which was published on the company's blog just ten days ago and praised by Fullerton on Twitter; where else?

Fullerton's congratulatory message to Ms. Chips

Yet, in the podcast there was no mention of the importance of inclusivity, no mention of the LGBTQ+ community, no mention of the updated CoC, no mention of SO's infamy of being toxic and unwelcoming to minorities but how, finally, they were dealing with it, head on. And last but not least, no mention of Monica's demodding from six SE sites, nor how the dismissal was compared to shipping software by the Director of Public Q&A herself.

enter image description here

Why? Simply because it's embarrassing to admit in public.

Next course of action?

I suggest that we wait. We wait to see what Wednesday brings. My patience; however, is wearing thin, similar to that of an eggshell.

enter image description here

On October 15, Shog9♦ wrote an answer to the question on everybody's lips

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

[Emphasis his]

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...

[…]

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. @Shog9♦

This is Stack Exchange's last chance

This is Stack Exchange's last chance to begin repairing bridges with its core users, and rebuild that trust, which has been slowly eroding for well over a year. A trust that George Stoker, in his resignation, states began crumbling as far back as 2014

  1. Stack Overflow Inc. has forgotten how to lead, how to persuade, and how to talk with the community. This has been a slow decline since 2014 and we are now at the point where the company's actions show they no longer want to build a relationship with the community they have.

He brilliantly summed up the proposed moderator process

[Emphasis mine]

  1. Since the current people in charge also make the decisions regarding the Moderator review/removal process; I am not confident that moderators are seen as partners in community building; but rather volunteers to be tightly controlled. The proposed Moderator Review process lacks due process, codifies the decision making in the hands of the same people who have created the mess we're now experiencing, and treats oversight of the process in a token fashion. They may as well have retained their previous statement that "community moderators can be removed at any time, for any reason", because that's what the proposed process codifies, with the illusion of impartiality.

There's not much room for optimism, is there?

enter image description here

But there's a glimmer of hope, the process seems to have been vetted, and the moderators have been shown the draft and have suggested ways in which to improve it.

enter image description here

Let's hope to see the company and Monica begin talking to each other, in private, by Wednesday. Let's grant Stack Overflow Inc. this one last chance to get it right.

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    logo is a kids programming language involving moving a turtle around a screen if memory serves. – Journeyman Geek Oct 20 at 14:12
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    I am not sure how you can say, past actions have been effective they they steadfastly refuse that what they have done was wrong. As you point out, the only mistake they have enumerated specifically was we should known better to not have done what we did on a Friday, and now they are spinning it as process failure, that they did not have a quick and fair trial, and then fire her, so nope, in the past few years nothing can even be remotely considered effective. – user148287 Oct 20 at 14:44
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    @SomeoneWhoUsedToCare moderators resigning, users posting questions and answers on Meta, such as yourself, has meant that the news outlets have gotten wind. The SO team know that many are unsatisfied. You suggested, quite recently, that we delete our accounts, how would that have changed anything? Even if you were to have 1,000 users deleting their account it would be a drop in the ocean. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 15:23
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    Someone who doesn't care wouldn't spend so many hours pouring their heart and soul in their posts. Someone who is indifferent, would easily walk away, silently delete their account or just stop contributing. @SomeoneWhoUsedToCare change your username! – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 15:29
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    1000 random people, no big deal, 100 influential people is a completely different story.I can tell you in the java tag the correct 10 people deleting their accounts and it got as bad as the php tag! I saw the quality drop in the java immediately when I saw ~10 stop voting to clean stuff up around the time I quit SO. It has just gotten progressively worse across all the tags so it s hard to relatively judge now, but on a whole the quality is approaching total entropy rapidly. – user148287 Oct 20 at 15:50
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    You seem to be describing how past actions have not been effective, and have possibly not even penetrated the bubble which is the CEO's consciousness. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 18:00
  • @einpoklum I'm saying that we have reached a point where SE has one last chance to make good. If I was alone in making a fuss nothing would have been achieved, but there's a lot of users on Meta at the moment, and many are still making noises, and they're not shutting up nor shrugging their shoulders. And that also counts for the LGBTQ folk, which include also the more silent ones as well as the more vocal. I think that the time that Fullerton, Chipps, and maybe even Post thought the storm would blow over has long past. The storm is still present. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 18:06
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    @Mari-LouA: I see what you mean, but - that's not the bar for effectiveness. We haven't changed anything significant, if at all, to better fit our expectations or demands. So yes, perhaps we've not been feeble or negligible, but there's still far short of being effective. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 18:15
  • @einpoklum and what was your aim in suggesting that we bake a key lime pie? – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 18:20
  • @Mari-LouA: A key lime pie is certain to get the CEO (or main stockholders') attention. Although, to be fair, if he is somehow completely unaware of what's been going on (which I doubt, but still) then he may not deserve a pie. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 18:37
  • @einpoklum But the article, thanks for the link, appears to advocate that the pie be thrown at the person targeted. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 18:40
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    @ZevSpitz why am I not surprised? – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 at 0:19
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    I hoped the podcast had been recorded months ago, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As this crisis unfolded, my wife told me how every online community she's invested in eventually imploded, with one tell-tale sign that the end (for her) was imminent: when wide-scale dissatisfaction within the community was met with complete apathy from the higher-ups. She said, "It's hard, but you get to a point where it finally sinks in: they just don't care." I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but I'm afraid the Chipps laughter tells me everything I need to know: as usual, my wife is right. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 22 at 14:54
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    Well, since Jeff Atwood left there is a history of content-free (as Scott Hanselman once put it when he was on a guest panel on the podcast) podcasts, going for 100% entertainment and even more disconnected from the actual site(s) (though there are exceptions, like the episode with the employee living in Brazil (I can't find the reference right now). The newest episode (2/145) also has some, about React and mechanical keyboards). Let us hope it will improve. – Peter Mortensen Oct 23 at 20:23
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    @PeterMortensen but this is today, the climate is not the same as it was six, five or even fours years ago. A mod was demodded by a director for violating a code that didn't even exist in print. We have something like 20 mods resigning, and dozens of others who have suspended their service. If that's not worthy of broadcasting, I don't know what is. The opportunity to discuss this in the open was ignored, when the new CEO could have tried unifying the community by promising to rebuild a more transparent future, missed. – Mari-Lou A Oct 23 at 20:27
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+100

As discussed in the comments:

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A number of users (many dozens now) have changed their usernames to "Reinstate Monica" or some variant like "{username} says Reinstate Monica", and/or changed their avatars to this image:

enter image description here

(if someone knows who to credit this image to, please edit it in here. Mari-Lou A posted the first link to it, I don't know if she designed it or not)

...and added text to their bios explaining and linking to relevant Meta posts for users encountering the issue for the first time. For example, and see further discussion on What would be good “call to action” elements for “Reinstate Monica” profiles?:

The recent actions of Stack Exchange have been reprehensible. The lack of professional conduct, the tone deaf way they've been dealing with the community, and the unfair and unjustified way they've dealt with Monica Cellio.

Monica is an exemplar of the community, it's incredible how she's managed to keep a level head during this time when emotions have been very high.

REINSTATE MONICA

Pros:

  • If you have many high-views questions and answers on main sites, it's a good way to raise awareness of the issue to users who don't visit Meta
  • It sends a very clear message, and shows Monica personally very clear support (not that I think she has any doubt that most of us support her, but still, it can't hurt to show appreciation)

Cons:

  • The decision makers at Stack Overflow Inc. probably won't see it, because they aren't people who use Stack Exchange very much. That said, if they do (e.g. some are light Stack Overflow users), it might be a good wake-up call, especially if they find themselves using content from one of your high-quality answers.
  • There are a number of users simply called "Reinstate Monica" now, which has a nice "I'm Spartacus" aspect to it, but can get confusing in comment threads when people @ notify someone. If you want to anonimise your profile in protest but still be @-able you could append your user number from your network profile page URL (e.g. mine is https://stackexchange.com/users/275533/user568458 therefore it would be Reinstate Monica 275533)
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    The first time I saw this avatar was when J.R adopted it (about 10 days ago?). He is an ELL mod, and soon after, a co-mod, ColleenV also adopted it. – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 at 11:20
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    Thank you for writing this excellent answer. I'm the profile that you've quoted. I considered the cons of not being recognised, but I felt that becoming a faceless user account with a single message was more important. It might be insignificant, but it's my personal way of protesting. I've also become more active, to increase visibility of my username. If anyone has suggestions for improvements to my user profile message, I'd love to incorporate your feedback. I hope Monica does see this, and that she knows we're doing all we can for her, even if it's not likely to work. Thanks. – Reinstate Monica Oct 22 at 19:20
  • I'd love to see this gain some traction, it'd be great to see the avatars get adopted, or the usernames, or both. It doesn't have to be prescriptive, but it'd be brilliant to see people with some form of this popping up all over the network. – Reinstate Monica Oct 22 at 19:24
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    If you want, using the avatar makes sense. Changing your usernames is silly though because it makes it seem (from the perspective of a reader) that there is just one of you and you are talking to yourself in comments. – Caleb Oct 24 at 11:19
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    I can get behind this idea – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 16:20
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    I've gone a step further: – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 24 at 18:58
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    This is a good idea. – mkt - Reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 10:42
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    As mentioned by Caleb, discussions between @ReinstateMonica users might look like "Multiple Personality Disorder" at first. Something like "Username says Reinstate Monica" might be a bit clearer. – Eric Duminil Oct 25 at 13:10
  • I've seen things where you can access statics data from the underlying StackExchange DB. Could someone create a link that shows how many user names contain the string "Reinstate Monica", or some variant on it? (If they can go further and show a graph of that number over time, w.r.t. the date of this post that would be even more awesome!) – Reinstate Monica --Brondahl-- Oct 26 at 7:11
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    @ReinstateMonica--Brondahl-- Here's a start: stackoverflow.com/… – Eric Duminil Oct 26 at 13:55
  • I like that, if enough users adopt this, SE will have to do something about it – Reinstate Monica Oct 28 at 23:24
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    I think it started with this comment - please correct me if I'm wrong. – Reinstate Monica Oct 30 at 11:28
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    If you're reading this: will you join us? – Reinstate Monica Oct 30 at 11:42
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I think the only viable strategy at this point is getting media attention, be it Twitter or newspapers. However, attracting the attention you want won't be easy as going against woke policies is likely to be interpreted negatively. There're a lot of context and history which lead to this disagreement, so the story is hard to sell to readers.

Technically, moderators resigning is probably the hardest hit both to the company and the community. However, at the large scale, nobody is indispensable for big companies. Even if the site loses 10% of moderators and active users, it won't massively affect the company in the long run.

Whether you should suspend your activity or not, you should decide based on your own plans, relations and feelings. Going on a strike just to lower "KPI" is probably not a good idea and is unlikely to succeed. The same thing with using ad-blockers or not promoting Teams at work — you're likely a very small minority, so you should make such decisions yourself rather than join an inefficient strike and then measure random fluctuations on SEDE. But that's just my opinion. Maybe I'm overly pessimistic.

The company is clearly aware of the backlash, the reaction is unprecedented already, so I'd rather wait for the company's next step rather than focus on destructive actions.

Anyway, it's been proven many times that what really gets the company's attention is social media. Random posts on Twitter cause immediate reaction and massive changes. I don't know anybody who may be interested, but if you know any prominent users on Twitter, YouTube etc., you should try getting their attention. I think this approach has much higher chances of having a visible effect.

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    It's a sign of how backwards the company is right now. Social media is irrelevant, and it's what they react to. Quality community moderation is absolutely essential to their long term existence, and they want to pretend it doesn't matter. – Ask About Monica Oct 20 at 2:13
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    @kbelder Spent half an hour searching, but stll couldn't find a post which discusses this problem... iirc, an employee explained in it why employees aren't biggest fans of Meta. Meta has been for some time getting more and more negative, so the employees naturally don't want to visit Meta and discuss things there. A lot of decisions are made by higher ups, so it's hard to blame either side. Anyway, as a result, Meta loses its value and it's hard to do something about it. – Athari says Reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 2:42
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    I would worry that if this story got a lot of media attention, it would end up getting out of our control. I worry that we’d pull in outside groups who don’t care at all about SE and just see the problems here as a opportunity to troll or push their political views. I worry, then, that the ultimate solution would then have to be built around satisfying those outside groups, not what would be best for SE and the community. I don’t know if I’m right and it might be naive, but I would really prefer if we could, somehow, reach a solution within the community – divibisan Oct 20 at 3:00
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    @Athari thanks for the answer. Meta must have become soul crushing indeed for the SE employees who grew with the community and still feel part of it. – Eric Duminil Oct 20 at 3:03
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    @divibisan The angel sitting on my shoulder agrees with you that it's better to resolve the conflict without outsiders, but the devil on the other shoulder demands to know whether only one side is listened to on social media like some users claim. I'm torn. – Athari says Reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 3:12
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    @Athari I agree with you wrt a promising strategy (find social media bigshots to support the cause). This avenue is open to SE as well, so the promise may be limited ... – collapsar Oct 20 at 13:51
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    Even if the site loses 10% of moderators and active users - but what if the 10% of active users are the 90% of experts who provide valuable content like in the Pareto rule. This would mean (huge) troubles. – Christine H. Richards Oct 20 at 15:25
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    The weaponization of Twitter (by someone outside of SO/SE) seems to be what got the CoC uproar on META_SE going last year. Your idea to apply Twitter as leverage isn't a bad strategy. Whether or not it achieves the desired effect I cannot predict. – KorvinStarmast Oct 23 at 0:38
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    @ChristineH.Richards They'll still get 90% as much ad revenue so they won't care. Until 3 years down the line when there's a lack of up-to-date content. – user253751 Oct 23 at 8:57
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  1. Start a competing site.
  2. Bring over all the Creative Commons Q&A
  3. Do a better job managing the site.

If you build it well, they will come.

We can all think of several dot coms that fell to poor management and good competition.

Update See Welcome to the Codidact project forum, a place to discuss the best way forward to develop a community-driven alternative to replace Stack Exchange with something healthier.

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    Related question: would it be possible to migrate the reputations or is the information a property of StackOverflow? One appeal of the network is that it's a meritocracy. Experienced users might not want to start from scratch. – Eric Duminil Oct 21 at 12:49
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    @EricDuminil technically this seems possible - if I understand correctly such rep-preserving migration already succeeded in an opposite direction when SE network on-boarded Math Overflow and Russian Stack Overflow – gnat Oct 21 at 12:56
  • @gnat Was Math Overflow a completely separate entity at first? – Eric Duminil Oct 21 at 12:57
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    @EricDuminil per my reading of their meta, they started separate and, possibly, still remain somewhat separate: "should MathOverflow wish to migrate its data outside of the Stack Exchange network, Stack Exchange shall, within thirty (30) days of receipt of a written request from MathOverflow, provide MathOverflow with a complete and current database that contains all the data necessary to recreate MathOverflow on MathOverflow's own servers and software..." – gnat Oct 21 at 13:07
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    Also, we shouldn't underestimate the amount of work SE is doing right. If the current situation can be saved, we should really try to save the relationship first. But yes, your suggestion could work as a last resort. – Eric Duminil Oct 21 at 13:54
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    @EricDuminil: Good point. SE sites perform well, have good features, and almost never go down. It would be hard to replicate this. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 21 at 16:09
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    +1 There's a big opportunity here to also do some big refused feature requests, like sorting answers by votes weighted by recency to avoid the "Fastest Gun In the West" problem, fixing HNQs, basic threading of comments so e.g. "we should/shouldn't close this" back-and-forth is in an accordion, adding a very basic, moderator-visible direct messaging system, allowing high-rep users to flag questions as "easy" or "hard" which is then fed into the front page algorithm so users who usually answer easy or hard questions see more of what they want, etc etc... – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:22
  • @EricDuminil you could migrate rep like for example, on your new site profile you hit a "migrate a profile" button and paste the url of your SE profile, it gives you a one-use code, you edit that code into your SE profile description to prove it's really you, it reads the page, validates the code, and migrates the rep. No action on SE side needed. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:25
  • @user568458: Sure, it's technically possible. I'm not sure it would be legal though, if reps are copyrighted info from SE. – Eric Duminil Oct 22 at 10:27
  • 3
    Then don't copy the exact number. The new sites probably won't have the exact same rep scoring anyway. It could be, for example, you get X * 500 rep on the new site for each X * 1000 rep you had on SE. No laws against reading a publicly published number then making a decision based on it. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:30
  • @EricDuminil Are reputation scores considered a creative work? – user253751 Oct 23 at 8:58
  • 1
    Imagine that you screw so much at your community management job that you are the element triggering a whole schism of the most implicated part of your community. – aloisdg says Reinstate Monica Nov 8 at 15:36
  • 3
    A new site would need to calculate rep anyway (for ongoing contributions), so it's sufficient to import the posts and then calculate rep. Edit rep might be harder but is probably an acceptable loss if so. A decision would need to be made about bounties. – Monica Cellio Nov 8 at 16:38
  • @MonicaCellio I think bounties would be site specific. Once the new site is up, you would need to bring over new posts at SE, presumably SE is going to do the same when it realizes it is losing market share to the new site. Ultimately both sites would host all the Q & A until one fails. – James Jenkins Nov 8 at 16:54
42

A note on this suggestion:

Stop using Stack Exchange paid products at work (e.g., Teams)

Boycott campaigns can be very successful, but they succeed only if the target knows they're being boycotted and why, and can see that the small dip on their charts has a clear explanation and could become a downward trend.

If senior staff in the Public Q&A team don't follow what the community behind the public Q&A are saying here on Meta, then the sales team definitely don't.

Write to Stack Overflow Inc. and tell them

Don't just post here; very few Stack Overflow Inc. employees actually use their own network. It won't be seen.

Instead, write directly to the appropriate sales team – see for example https://stackoverflow.com/company/contact – and also post to social media and/or blog about it.

If hardworking sales professionals see that their hard work trying to promote their company is being actively undone because one colleague in a different team refuses to take responsible action after breaking the company's own rules while pursuing an inexplicable personal grudge against a valuable volunteer, they may apply the kind of pressure we can't.

What can I do?

If you're a software developer:

  • You can tell them how you advise colleagues to use other platforms for Q&A and knowledge sharing (e.g., GitHub issues) because of the failing quality control, moderation and community engagement you see at Stack Overflow. I believe that SO Inc. is complacent about Stack Overflow's (slipping) market leader position, but they must have noticed and have some concerns about how (even a year or two ago) its reputation began to fall steeply.
  • You are a key part of the target market for Stack Overflow Jobs. You can tell them that you no longer use this for job searches, and that you tell companies who advertise there that it is a platform you won't use (e.g., in surveys, or if you see their own website link to a Stack Overflow Jobs page, etc).

    Something that could be quite effective is, any time you see a company advertise exclusively or primarily using Stack Overflow Jobs, you could send them an email saying that you do not use this platform due to the company's unethical treatment of its volunteers, and you therefore will not apply for positions at this company unless an alternative method is offered, and bcc the relevant SO sales team in the email.

  • Your employer is the target market for Teams and Jobs. You can tell them that you have advised your company not to consider such products, because, as a long-standing member, you have observed that Stack Overflow is a burning platform. Even if your company was never considering such products, they will be hoping to reach companies like yours with their marketing and it will concern them to learn that their marketing will be reaching decision makers who are already briefed against them.

If you are a senior person in a software company (even a very small one):

  • You can say very similar things to above but with much higher impact – "My company has made the decision to [x]" is stronger than "I am advising my employer to [X]",
  • You could blog about it on the company blog, if there is one. This could be very high impact, if you get the tone right.

    For example: you supported their talk and ambitions about inclusivity, but having observed how the company appears to be abusing the name of inclusivity as a cover for staff to pursue unrelated personal vendettas against volunteers, you believe this is a company you cannot trust to be part of your company's operations. You now favour [x] for recruitment, [y] for internal knowledge sharing, and [z] as your recommendation for employees seeking support from the wider developer community.

If you don't work in software, it's harder to make an impact because the other sites are so much smaller and less monetised, but there could still be an impact if enough people directly tell them things like:

  • You no longer promote the SE site among other enthusiasts in that field, and/or you promote [rival site] instead,
  • You advise people you know in that field to use an ad blocker if they visit that site
28

Not much of this would work sadly, not as you understand it anyway.

We're currently hearing some comforting noises but the effect is to be seen.

be strong enough to change some of the company's KPIs to red

We would need to know what the KPIs are. And well - I'm pretty doubtful that anything we do can make a massive impact on SE's revenue streams. Historically the big causes of SE not meeting performance goals was... shooting themselves in the foot.

not require any additional work from the moderators.

Literally any form of public protest involves extra moderator work.

be reversible as soon as improvements are noticed. The goal isn't to permanently damage the company but to force the company to realign with the community.

Looking at current events, well there's always a risk things spiral out of control.

Offer a platform for SE employees to anonymously share information relevant to the current problems. Some of the employees clearly feel a strong link to the community but are apparently forced to either stay silent or repeat corporate buzz words.

And such a platform would still be under corporate thumb

Stop using StackExchange paid products at work (e.g. Teams)

We're often not the decision makers. Also if there is a widespread boycott, and losses - we can't be sure what the effect is

Advice everyone to enable Ad-Blockers on stackexchange.

So far. for most part SE dosen't particularly mind if you use an adblocker.

Reach out to a prominent Twitter user and let them publicly complain about one of the many recent problems.

Honestly if I had that sort of influence and could cause change, I would never stop tweeting about it

The moderator open letter and such had an effect. But what you want will determine what change you want.

I'd personally love to see more investment in the community -both in terms of "physical" resources like more employees on the community side and better more productive engagement from folks here. The latter might take a while at this point. Its what I would lobby and push for.

So a start would be deciding what you want SE to be and working towards that

  • Thanks a lot for the interesting feedback. You're probably right on all counts. I'll keep thinking about it and try to refine the question. – Eric Duminil Oct 20 at 3:07
  • 1
    If you work out something let me know 🤣. We need like another dozen CMs – Journeyman Geek Oct 20 at 3:08
  • 1
    Also interesting homework question - maybe for myself. What is the actual value in the community for someone in the company, or investing in it in money, but not an active member of the community. What's the selling point of the community here, and how could we convince management that it is.... – Journeyman Geek Oct 20 at 6:12
  • "Literally any form of public protest involves extra moderator work. " <- Not if it's physical rather than on-line. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 18:12
  • Uhm. Who exactly is going to go to New York and start or join a picket line? – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 at 1:30
  • 1
    People already in or near New York? There must be quite a lot. Several of our Director of Public Q&A's posts differentiate between staff, who we are frequently reminded are "real people", and users and moderators, who it is implied are not. Maybe seeing some users for real might change some attitudes? This assumes the people who turn up can be trusted to be polite, respectful and dignified (no pies!), else that will just make things much worse. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:36
25

I think SE will respond in significant ways to a few actions:

  • Customers dropping the Teams product because they don't want a vendor who's embroiled in social controversies, or is careless with releasing PII, or because IT decision-makers are making a stand against SE management.

  • Negative press exposure, in a 'real' newspaper. Not Hacker News, not Reddit. Their worst nightmare, right now, should be the fear that some news magazine will write a sympathetic story about how Monica was betrayed by an organization she had trusted and volunteered for for years.

  • Social Media... IF the critic comes with a certain level of popularity, and is active in the same social media circles as SE management. That won't be of any aid to the actual SE community, of course.

Downvoting Meta posts is ignored. Resigning moderators are an annoyance, but I suspect SE thinks that moderators are interchangeable, and can be easily replaced. Of course, we're already seeing the average level of moderation descend as principled mods leave; but I don't think SE cares about the slow decline of quality.

Most of all, though, they shouldn't be given a break. This is like chemotherapy, and letting up on the bitter medication will just allow the disease to re-establish itself even stronger. The temporary harm to the community is nothing comparing to the death of the community if you give up.

If your only weapon is annoyance and pestering, which is all we have on Meta, it needs to be non-stop and never-ending.

Until they fix the issue.

  • What's "real" media depends on the audience. The people who decide on buying SO Teams in a company are usually people who likely read reddit and related tech news sites. – allo Nov 8 at 14:43
24

Is there a constructive way to put pressure on Stack Exchange (the company) without putting any pressure on the community in general and the moderators in particular?

Donate to Monica's GoFundMe. Of all the various avenues, this seems the most likely to get results. By donating, you are no longer just angry words on the internet, but show SE Inc you will hold them accountable. This also puts no pressure on the moderators or community.

  • Please edit to include the goals of the funding (legal action against SE). – Fermi paradox Nov 9 at 13:43
22

One way to help Monica without even involving the community of users would be to visit Monica's GoFundMe page. This would be a below the radar way to really get SE's attention, privately, for the injured party, Monica. Tanks.

21

If you want to very quickly change your avatar without losing your original visual identity, and you don't feel like messing with real image-manipulation software, I recommend using https://addtext.com/ . You can drop your current avatar in, add "Reinstate Monica", and save the resulting image in less than a minute. It comes with a watermark, but I don't care much in this (hopefully temporary!) case, and anyway, it makes this simple technique more discoverable.

Example:

My standard gravatar with "REINSTATE MONICA" superimposed at the top, and an addtext.com watermark at the bottom

  • 1
    Good suggestion. There must be a website that provides this functionality without any watermark, though. – Eric Duminil Oct 21 at 13:12
  • 3
    That's nice to provide moral support to Monica, but if you continue to otherwise use the site unchanged then they will be more than happy to ignore the protest. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 21 at 14:33
20

Place community ads on as many sites as possible.

Based on this design

dark ad

light ad

light ad outline

Community ads are supposed to be relevant to the site they are posted on. I would argue that current issues relating to the network as a whole and its interactions with its volunteers and users are extremely relevant to each individual site, and how avid users decide to spend their time moving forward.

It would almost certainly help raise awareness of Monica's situation if this (or other community ads like it) were posted on all sites - or preferably if multiple variants of this ad were posted on each site on the network to increase the chance of it displaying to users.

In case anyone else wants to make their own community ad or profile image: enter image description here

  • 1
    Not sure if I should add a list of sites with the ads posted, but I just added one to Blender. blender.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2675/5426 – X-27 Oct 29 at 2:28
  • 2
    I have to say the graphic looks a bit like a traffic accident between two Pacman ghosts. But whatever, this is neat. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 31 at 22:09
  • 3
    I saw an ad that used my gravatar (the larger one from the GoFundMe page) and superimposed text/graphics. So that's another approach. – Monica Cellio Nov 8 at 16:42
  • 1
    This was a good idea, so SE decided to can it – Reinstate Monica 2 days ago
  • @ReinstateMonica SE trying to silence the community's support for Monica almost creates more of an outcry than what they did to Monica in the first place. I hope everyone who sees what is happening donates to help her legal battle. – X-27 yesterday
  • Someone should start a GoFundMe to make those ads paid. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica 16 hours ago
17

ASK QUESTIONS

Asking and answering questions is what this network is all about, isn't it? So, as long as the questions we ask are appropriate, relevant and and respectful, they can't possibly damage the community, can they?

Most people come here to learn, to share knowledge, or both. So let's do just that.

What to Ask

We need to ask questions and provide answers about every nuance of the things that are bothering us.

Where to Ask

On any and every relevant site,

For example, do you have questions about:

Anything else? Then go and ask where you would normally ask.

How to Ask

This isn't about generating spam. This is about asking good quality questions that generate good quality answers. That's what the community thrives on... and also what will raise awareness of every dimension of the issues that face us right now,

Will it Work?

I think that it already is.

  • 6
    Other sites of possible interest: Community Building, Law, Interpersonal Skills, Writing, and maybe Skeptics. – Monica Cellio Oct 22 at 22:07
  • 2
    Good suggestion. For the last sentence: do you mean that it's already being done or that it really is working? If so, how can you tell? Do you have links? – Eric Duminil Oct 23 at 2:00
13

Almost by definition, moderators are very involved with their sites, but every site also has a group of active users posting, reviewing, editing, etc. It's clear to me that SE doesn't value this involvement by active users.

Since SE doesn't value a high level of involvement, my response is to be less involved.

A visible sign of my lowered involvement is that I've reverted to the default gravatar and I'm considering changing my username to userXXXXX. (I think the latter step could have some impact if lot of active users did the same.)

It doesn't take a lot of time to keep on top of flags on Server Fault, so I'll keep doing that. But I don't see myself doing any other clean-up functions: voting, closing/re-opening votes and reviews, etc. On other sites where I was active, I'll probably still read and lurk, but nothing more than that. (Except for meta.SE where I think some voting on all the discussion around these issues is warranted.)

9

I suggest we consider baking a Key Lime pie for senior SE officials. Perhaps if they taste the superb heavenly lemony sweetness of it, their cold, cruel hearts will soften.

When they go low, we go pie.

enter image description here

You can also buy the pie if you're not much of a baker.

  • 3
    I thought we were supposed to chill their hot hearts with a cool island song? – Stop Harming Monica Oct 20 at 16:15
  • @OrangeDog: Metaphors don't mix that well. But pie filling does! – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 16:32
  • 3
    I'm not American, is baking a key lime pie code for something? When I visit the link it tells me to disable my ad blocker... I'd prefer not to. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 16:54
  • @Mari-LouA: It doesn't tell me that... maybe you should improve your ad blocker. I use uBlock Origin and EFF Privacy Badger. Anyway, try here. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 17:56
  • It certainly advocates that the purchaser or baker toss the pie at the person's face, it's usually a politician: Pieing is a particularly fitting form of political action in our troubled times. It is as ridiculous as its victims are malicious. It is guaranteed to go viral, especially when set to music, like a mazurka or a nice waltz. Pieing is safe for work, suitable for children, and highly unlikely to cause long-term damage to its victims (besides, perhaps, Pie-TSD.) Your answer suggests that the directors and CEOs tuck into it! :P – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 18:45
  • @Mari-LouA: Wow, that would be quite the event, wouldn't it? Interesting suggestion. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 18:46
  • 3
    A horrible video, the pie was thrown by a coward, they immediately fled. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 18:49
  • 1
    This pie looks delicious. Do you happen to have the recipe? – Eric Duminil Oct 21 at 12:47
  • 1
    @EricDuminil: It's a stock photo... but here's a recipe which results in a pretty similar one. The recipe is lacking with some final garnishing with thin lemon slices though. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 21 at 13:25
  • Apparently my flag was not helpful. I might be reading this in an unusual way as someone on the 'spectrum, but this answer feels extremely noisy to me -- Advocating direct action. Hoho, am I crufting up the page with a joke, or is this a serious answer. Oh, let's provide a clarification using the word "director" -- If this is an on-topic answer, why is the key info hidden behind a link? If a joke, why is it on-topic on a question that asks to be constructive and avoid trolling? – sourcejedi Oct 31 at 22:02
  • I heard that they fired their pastry chef(s); businessinsider.com/chefs-at-stack-exchange-2014-2 – Richard Nov 9 at 16:47
  • My favorite meta post of the last 90 days. Keep up the good work. – KorvinStarmast yesterday
8

I have moderate[1] activity on the Stack Exchange network and I don't often protest any person or organization. On the other hand, I like this community and feel responsible to do something against the events, which are harming the community and some users in person.

After observing the discussions (and the company's attitude) on Meta for a few weeks, I decided to take (and took) the following actions.

  1. I uninstalled the Stack Exchange Android app.
  2. I unfollowed @StackOverflow on Twitter.
  3. I removed my Stack Exchange flair from my blog.

I believe these actions don't damage the community and they are easily reversible.

However one user is just a drop in the ocean, many "-1"s (on any platform) can make a difference.

[1] 170 posts in 2.5 years

6

Part of the difficulty is that the overwhelming majority of users don't know or care about how SE (the company) is ignoring the community; they're just interested in finding an answer to their question/problem.

Perhaps when writing questions or answers, we could insert a single-line banner, something like the following:

The company behind Stack Overflow is ignoring the community. Please take action now, and feel free to spread this banner.

with embedded links to relevant Meta posts.

Recommended actions might include communicating with the CEO and others in management positions, with current and potential investors; making noise via social media, etc.

This would bring the issue to a wider audience than just visitors to Meta.

If enough people participate, this would also force the company to recognize just how much the sites depend on active moderation.

  • 4
    Hmm. My worry with this is, it'd create yet more work for the remaining moderators (inevitable edit wars where someone edits these notices out then the protester edits it back in again), for very little impact because the decision makers behind the main problems don't really use StackExchange sites beyond occasional google => copypaste and very occasional, very reluctant visits to meta (which is one of the root causes of the problem - they believe in magical answer fairies and magical moderation fairies; they don't understand what keeps these sites strong, and won't until it's gone). – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:07
  • (not my downvote btw, I think it's a worthy suggestion worth considering. There's got to be something like this that would work) – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:09
  • @user568458 Could we get the moderators' tacit approval? Nothing formal, just some sort of feeling that they'd let this slide? – Zev Spitz Oct 22 at 10:29
  • 1
    Maybe, but you can't get the tacit approval of all the regular users who would see these notices and decide to edit them out. Maybe the notices could be accompanied by a link to a site-specific Meta page which demonstrates a clear consensus to allow these notices? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:32
  • @user568458 Also, I would think anyone who is invested enough to edit content would also be invested enough in these issues. – Zev Spitz Oct 22 at 10:34
  • 2
    Oh yes. And many of them will be very invested in enforcing the "Questions and answers must contain only relevant content" rule, which is why the edit wars will start. But I think many of these users would respect a clear, written consensus on their sites' meta. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 at 10:38
  • 1
    The only way you will get "the overwhelming majority of users" to see a problem is if they can't get their questions answered. Full stop. – user253751 Oct 23 at 9:10
  • @user253751 True, but that could take 6-8 additional years of SE's community relations (mis)management. This would have a far more immediate effect. Particularly WRT answers, I think the average user who poses a question is eagerly awaiting an answer, and hyperfocused to some degree on getting that answer; when the user clicks through and is greeted by such a banner, that hyperfocus is involuntarily applied to the banner. Like GDPR notices -- you click on an interesting link, and get a GDPR notice; the net effect is that everyone knows GDPR is a "thing", even if nobody actually reads the ... – Zev Spitz Oct 23 at 9:47
  • @user253751 ... particular compliance of the site with GDPR. – Zev Spitz Oct 23 at 9:47
  • @ZevSpitz as a result, lots of people (especially USians) see the GDPR as "some stupid law that means I have to click through more popups". This may or may not be intentional on the part of the websites. – user253751 Oct 23 at 10:44
  • @user253751 Even having that kind of result would be better than the current situation, where nobody outside meta knows anything about all this. But such a banner would actually be less intrusive than a GDPR notice. – Zev Spitz Oct 23 at 11:53
  • @ZevSpitz it will make people go "those stupid mods are such idiots, I can't believe they'd make people put these banners up." They will be on SE's side because SE doesn't like the banners either. – user253751 Oct 23 at 12:04
  • @user253751 Many people would certainly react that way. Others might just ignore it. But there might be quite a few people who would see the banner and be interested in understanding further. I think SE is actually terrified of these people, each of whom might be a powerful influencer in their own circles. – Zev Spitz Oct 23 at 15:49
6

This answer is an offshoot of the answer I wrote regarding possible SE violations of New York labor law, where I share my research that appeared to show that for-profit companies are not permitted to use volunteer labor except for short-term projects. See also https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm and https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/PDFs/FAQs_NonProfit_and_State2016.pdf.

Here is the way I see the basic problem, from the point of view of the volunteeer moderators and community members who are frustrated about recent mismanagement of the network of public Q&A sites (this is going to be quite boiled down, that is, very simplified):

Traditionally, people contributed their time, knowledge, creativity and patience out of altruism, because the work was felt to be valuable, for oneself and for others, and it was rewarding. But this fall, it has become a lot less rewarding for many of us, myself included. (I am a garden variety participant.)

So I started thinking about how to encourage SE leadership to dialog with Monica and be more transparent with moderators and participants.

I reached out in several different ways to request the opportunity to speak with someone in a position of authority, such as David Fullerton. There was no response, ultimately.

Also, I looked into filing a complaint with JAMS (cost in most states in the US: $250). See my post here. However, after speaking with a labor relations expert, I came to have some doubts about the speed and effectiveness of filing with JAMS.

Then I became curious about where the volunteer moderators and the SE company fit together in relation to US and New York State labor law. I've spoken with an investigator at the Wage and Hour Division of the New York Department of Labor, and with her supervisor. I have a phone appointment for Monday with the next person up the ladder at NY DOL. (I want to make sure I understand correctly the status of the volunteer moderators. Even though the two people I've spoken with so far have given consistent guidance, I want to be triply sure I'm not misinterpreting something.)

Here's my current understanding:

Anyone living in the United States can file a Wage and Compensation violation complaint, regardless of state, and regardless of whether they are a moderator or not.

(A complaint could alternatively be made at the federal level.)

The initial complaint to the NY DOL would be filed by phone. It can be filed as a systemic complaint.

The idea is to exert pressure on the company to:

(a) create a non-profit network that would take over the existing Q&A sites;

(b) donate hosting, software and technical troubleshooting to the non-profit;

(c) treat the volunteer moderators and contributors with respect and transparency -- and that would include Monica;

(d) and allow self-rule at the new network.

The company would still benefit from the effect on potential customers being able to see the software in action at the public network. However, the public network would no longer provide a direct source of revenue to the company through advertising.

It would be up to the non-profit to decide whether to run ads, and if so, what kind.

The non-profit might decide to hire some paid staff. Perhaps some or all of the CMs would be interested in applying.

The NY DOL has told me that once a complaint is filed, things move pretty quickly, on a time scale of weeks (not months or years, as I've seen happen at the Office for Civil Rights).

The first step would be for the DOL to do an initial evaluation of the complaint and decide whether to open an investigation.

The complainant(s) can provide a list of volunteer moderators and their contact information. The DOL would then contact those people as part of the investigation. They would be focused on moderators who perform their volunteer work on US soil. In other words, if you are a citizen of Country Y (other than the US), but you reside part of the year in the US, then even if you're in the US on a tourist visa, the DOL would be interested in interviewing you.

The goal would not be to force SE to come up with enough money to cover all the moderators' unpaid back-pay. I am quite hopeful the violation could be resolved by shifting the volunteer activities over to a non-profit. There would hopfully be no need for the company to actually make reimbursement payments.

I do want to clarify that the idea would be to pressure the company to treat its moderators right, all the while avoiding a strategy that would make the company go bankrupt.

I do understand that nobody became a moderator hoping to earn some dollars. The labor complaint would simply be a way to get SE to wake up and smell the coffee. We've been writing persuasively for a couple of months now, but SE, and we, appear to be stuck in a holding pattern. It may now be time to speak in a way that will get their attention.

4

Be reversible as soon as improvements are noticed. The goal isn't to permanently damage the company but to force the company to realign with the community. Stack Exchange is still doing a lot of things right.

Don't worry about the company. The company is a means to serve the community, not the other way around. If the company breaks down, a new company will be very interested to support our community. This community can be used to make profit with very little investment, they just need servers and a listening ear. The other way around is harder, the company cannot do much without the community, it will have to pay its employees and without money coming in, for which they rely on having a community, that's hard.

So basically, what you need to do to change a company's direction is to force it. There are two things the company listens to:

  • money

  • the law

Money

You've already suggested two ways of attacking revenue:

  • Stop using Stack Exchange paid products at work (e.g. Teams)

  • Advise everyone to enable Ad-Blockers on Stack Exchange.

That's probably not enough. They'll get the bulk of their money from investors, attacking that supply is hard as you'll have to convince investors not to invest. It's clear what's needed to change investors' minds, make clear that it's a bad investment. The 'problem' is that it's not, SE has unique access to a great community.

Alternatively, you can make investors be more picky. They pay, they can demand. This is again tricky, how do you convince investors that they'll have a better investment if they condition their money on certain demands? Can you even convince yourself that the requested changes have a meaningful impact on return on investment? If so, please provide the argument, then share that en masse. Note that such an analysis is probably enough to convince many in the current leadership to change. As Clinton strategist James Carville coined it:

The economy, [censored]

The law

The law can be a great tool. If the company breaks the law or a court of law agrees they renege on some of their obligations then that's a fact you can use to convince investors to push for change.

It's also a good way to convince others in the community who aren't aware of wrongdoing. Nobody likes injustice, not even those who work for Stack Exchange. It may compel change and it may empower others to stand up.

The question, of course, is whether there is a legal case. I can think of at least one, that's already working, as SE staff says:

This has taken a legal turn and we want to be as transparent as we can. Under guidance from our legal team, we are not able to respond to anything regarding Monica's situation. We will not be answering any questions or comments about that going forward.

That's great, teams are expensive, legal teams even more so. Let investors know they're spending their money in the courts, I'm sure they'll wonder if that's really necessary and if it wouldn't be more economical to have better policies that don't end up in court.

And if SE wants to play dirty, go ahead, we have larger numbers. Some states in the US legal system allow SLAPP, this may be an opportunity to use it for good, to compel the network we love to change for the better. And compelling it is, from Wikipedia's page on strategic lawsuit against public participation:

In the typical SLAPP, the plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs, or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization's ability to operate.

The only downside to this is that it takes money to take it to court. The upside is that only takes one person with a load of money overwhelm SE. And again, don't worry about the company. Even if it breaks, someone else will buy it and they'll want to keep the good elements. Worry about the community, not the company.

-6

I suggested a protest action as an answer to a separate but similar question: How can we resolve the current drama without causing any more harm to vulnerable groups?

The idea is to paradoxically ease up on the pressure in order to give SE room to safely act, give our community a chance to heal, and build unity.

The proposal? For two weeks:

  • Refrain from discussing the CoC changes, or the pronoun elements of the incident. No upvotes either.
  • Be nice. Be very nice. Channel your inner Mr. Rogers.
  • Redirect users to this answer when they do try to discuss the CoC.
  • Continue with other protest actions that don't conflict, and don't let the core issue die.

In that last point, "don't let the core issue die" refers to the behaviour that led to Monica's termination, and everything that came after. Namely:

  • Failure to follow due process.
  • Lack of respect for, and trust in moderators.
  • Lack of engagement with the community.

The original post goes into much more detail, especially about the why. It needs some community love before adoption, specifically in crafting realistic demands. Help is appreciated!

  • 19
    Two weeks where no one posts about the CoC? The SO team would be relieved and overjoyed! "Finally, a break, from those pesky meta users who never stop complaining." They might even think that users have forgotten about Monica and how badly they treated her. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 15:39
  • @Mari-LouA Focusing on SE's treatment of Monica instead of the CoC changes is the point of this action. Demanding respect for our moderators is something everyone in the community can get behind, whether or not they agree with the CoC changes. Kind of a "stay on message" kind of thing, not a "go away" kind of thing. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 15:45
  • Where do you talk about Monica in your proposal? In the actual answer, here? – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 15:47
  • @Mari-LouA in the last point "don't let the core issue die" although I could have elaborated more. In the original post I describe it as: SE abruptly fired a community moderator without due proccess, spoke to the press about her in a defamatory way, and will not participate in two-way dialogue with her about it." – Obscerno Oct 20 at 15:51
  • @Mari-LouA I've clarified a bit in this post. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 15:55
  • 2
    I'm not against easing the pressure as a tactic, but this answer doesn't begin to indicate what's the overall strategy other than that. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 20 at 16:14
  • And how do you make sure that the "core issue" doesn't die down, if you suggest that we be very nice, and refrain from discussing the CoC, when the excuse of firing her was the violation of the CoC. – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 16:18
  • Seems to me that what you consider the core issue is only part of much larger issues that have been festering for much longer than just the recent CoC debacle – charlietfl Oct 20 at 16:21
  • @einpoklum do you mean this answer specifically or the linked one? If it's this answer specifically I may just block quote the majority of that answer to clarify. If it's that answer obviously I need to rework it. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 16:33
  • @Mari-LouA that was their excuse, but the real problem was the lack of warning, due process, communication and respect. I think we can focus on all of those things without making it about pronouns. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 16:42
  • 1
    @charlietfl I agree; Monica's termination is more of an inciting incident than a core issue. Part of resolving the core issue is resolving that incident, but doing that won't fix everything. I'll take a stab at improving that part of the answer. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 16:46
  • @charlietfl Okay, made an edit attempting to improve on that. – Obscerno Oct 20 at 16:58
  • Logo has been around for decades I had it on my amstrad 6128 back in the 80s, indeed it is a turtle app, down, lt 90, fw 100, ... to make it draw like an etchasketch – BugFinder Oct 22 at 11:37

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protected by Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Nov 10 at 8:53

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