58

Back in late September, at the inception of the current mess, I was under the impression that if SE had immediately reinstated Monica and withdrawn the new CoC, the furious atmosphere would have ceased soon thereafter.

However, Green Day failed to wake SE up even one month after September ended. Things have drastically changed since, especially after SE released several official responses to various things / events, with some received controversially and some received terribly. I'm now in the belief that a wide section of the community has been driven away by SE, and previously satisfactory solutions no longer remain.

Is SE still able to resolve the matters of the present mess quickly? If so, what should SE do for the best for now? If not, what else must be resolved first before things go back to normal once more?

  • 46
    They can still resolve the part that's about me, but further work would need to follow to show the community, and particularly the departing moderators, that they have learned and will change. It seems like they could similarly address the other issues (like licensing), one at a time, and each successful collaboration would make the next one easier. Will they? Who knows? Can they? Yes. Quickly? Only piecemeal. – Monica Cellio Oct 24 at 18:10
  • 8
    We've seriously lost trust about that ship. That's nothing to fix "quickly" just like fixing leaks in a boat. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 24 at 18:10
  • Related MSO question – Machavity Oct 24 at 18:10
  • 9
    Responding to criticism about illegally mislabelling the licensing on all our content would be a good start. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 24 at 18:12
  • 6
    @πάνταῥεῖ "... fixing leaks in a boat" - Right now, it rather seems like the boat is filled with water, and they are drilling holes to let the water flow off... – Marco13 Oct 24 at 18:14
  • 1
    They could at the very least try. – Amarth Oct 24 at 18:25
  • 2
    @Amarth you know, I think if people thought they were being sincere, it would go a long way – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 19:33
  • 15
    Trust comes on foot, but leaves on horseback. It can be fixed, but not quickly. – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 19:41
  • 1
    @DonThermidor_LobsterMobster My must I think that they are sincere? It doesn't work that way, we need actions not words. Wouldn't it be better if they were genuinely sincere, instead of ignoring the whole situation and refusing to talk about it, let alone resolve it. – Amarth Oct 24 at 19:46
  • 2
    @Amarth exactly my point. until, and unless we think they are sincere, they will never regain out trust. Right now, I wouldn't trust them to tell me up is up, or down is down. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 19:48
  • They could toss every user a 5$ bill real quick and call it square – dustytrash Oct 24 at 20:35
  • Is "Green Day" a reference to American Idiot? – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 22:14
  • 3
    @ReinstateMonica It's a reference to the song Wake Me Up When September Ends, whose band is named Green Day. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 3:34
  • 4
    Quickly would have been weeks ago. They are either uninterested in resolving the issue or dragging their feet (which I very much doubt). – Oded Oct 25 at 12:26

10 Answers 10

70

Not really. To deal with this situation, they need to:

  1. Retract the comments made to the press
  2. Reinstate Monica
  3. Issue a public apology to her
  4. Issue a public apology to the community
  5. Come up with a roadmap to deal with the various other issues the community has. To whit, the licensing issues, the advertising issues, and the stark lack of communication.
  6. Publish the roadmap
  7. Stick to the roadmap, especially any part that relates to updating the community

It's not going to be instant, but the community would like for things to be better. We want to work with SE Staff to make this site the best it can be. They just need to work with us.

  • 2
    There's more to fix. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 24 at 18:15
  • 31
    "1. Retract the false claims made to the press". – S.D. Oct 24 at 18:18
  • @user437611 Yep, good point, added – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:20
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    Yes. Despite all their failings, there are still engaged community members here who want to work together with SE to fix the problems and come back from the brink. We need a willing partner. – Monica Cellio Oct 24 at 18:31
  • 2
    We've had a lot of apologies. I don't see much value in asking for more apologies—in the worst case, well-worded apologies serve only to mollify outrage by making people feel good without actually solving underlying problems. I suggest focusing on specific demands for action. – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 24 at 18:50
  • 3
    @SqueamishOssifrage The issue is the apologies we've had have been big nothing-burgers, unless the company understands what went wrong and can express that via an apology, I don't have faith they can invent a satisfactory roadmap. – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:51
  • 2
    @SqueamishOssifrage what SE issued are what are commonly called "non-apology apologies". I would just like to apologize if you took offense to anything I've said. That sounds like an apology, but what I just said was that it's your fault you were offended. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:52
  • 3
    @MonicaCellio it would help if, that every time an olive branch was offered, they would stop beating you (and us) with it. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 19:49
  • 1
    To show that points 3 & 4 are honest, I guess the only action which could proof this is to fire someone from the SE staff immediately, probably the person who was responsible for making the claims to the press. I doubt SE inc will go that far, however. I am not even sure it would be enough to convince the larger part of the community. – Doc Brown Oct 24 at 21:56
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    I'd dispense with point 4. We've had two apologies: one was a mockery, the other a well-expressed sham. The best apology they can give us is action on the remaining six points. PS "I'm Spartacus!" ;-) – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 22:20
  • 1
    I'm not wholly sure the apology we received from the CTO was, well, relevant. His involvement in the situation was minimal, and much of his post was him taking blame for subordinate's actions in a way that I felt was intended to shift focus from other employees. It was certainly good leadership, getting his people out of the fire, and I commend that. Nevertheless, the intent did not seem to be repentance. – Web Head Oct 28 at 8:24
57

SE.inc is taking a page out of Carrie Lam's book: double down on something that is not, in the grand scheme of things, a really big deal to retract, and then flail around unable to govern.* Beyond the immediate reinstatement of Monica and commitment to follow the established moderator removal policy with no ex post facto enforcement, I have some suggestions for resolving the outrage:

  1. No mandatory binding arbitration. Take it out of the terms of service, and acknowledge that the past band-aid to mitigate backlash—allowing opt-out if you supply your legal name up front—can hurt the very queer people the CoC change is supposed to help.

  2. No mass surveillance of users. Forbid fingerprinting ads and trackers. Mass surveillance is wrong no matter what laws and regulations and industry practices it doesn't violate. If you must target advertising, base it solely on the content of the questions and answers where it appears.

  3. No animated ads. Animated ads are universally reviled and are an abuse of the privileged position SE.inc is in to affect the display of a site.

  4. Process for license changes. License changes should be done according to a documented process that respects the will of the community with input from the community, not by a quiet change to the ToS when nobody's looking.

  5. Community representation. If SE.inc cares about the community for any reason other than as a vehicle to attract eyeballs to ads, the Board of Directors should have representatives of the community and of the moderators.


* Whatever it was that Monica did behind closed doors to upset SE.inc, even if it was hurtful to queer members of the community (hi, I go by ‘they’), it is clear that SE.inc is abusing her as a scapegoat—and SE.inc's ongoing stubborn refusal to reconcile with Monica continues to hurt the queer community by framing us as an authoritarian minority wielding illegitimate unaccountable power.

38

Is SE still able to resolve the matters of the present mess quickly?

Not at all. The real problem is the huge gap between community and company. That gap grew over years (not days, or weeks).

And when a relationship has that much deteriorated, it takes (almost) equal time to repair things.

There is nothing harder to fix than loss of trust. And that is exactly what we see here.

Long story short: Stack Exchange Inc. can do nothing to fix things quickly.

Instead: they have to walk their great talk, constantly, for many weeks and months to come. The slightest mistake can undo 5 great steps easily!

Just one example: the other day, they announced the new ideas regarding dealing with moderators. Good approach. The next day, I figured that version one of the "CoC FAQ" got deleted, as they put out version two. Alone that caused a lot of churn, for no good reason at all.

And just to be clear: of course Stack Exchange Inc. can and has to do a ton of things. But nothing they can do quickly will resolve things completely.

We need patience, and they, for heaven's sake ... need to stop digging the hole they put themselves into!

22

What else must be resolved first before things go back to normal?

Nothing. Things will get back to "normal" no matter what we do.

The general course of events is already set:

  1. SE Inc. will realize (if they haven't already) that, by now, to keep ignoring Monica will not cause any more harm than it already has.
  2. Monica will grow tired of talking to a brick wall and will sue them for slander, libel, or both.
  3. SE Inc. will use any media coverage of the case to present themselves as defenders and champions of the LGBT+ community's rights. They don't even need to paint Monica as the "bad guy" for that (see #4).
  4. Monica's reputation will be harmed even more; because, while SO/SE users are usually attentive to details like "she refused to use a certain pronoun BUT (she offered sensible alternatives, the then-current CoC wasn't clear, etc.)", the general public is waaay less prone to take such nuances into account and will just throw her into the bigots' bucket. This will happen no matter the final verdict.
  5. If Monica wins, the monetary compensation SE Inc. will have to pay won't be but a small annotation in their "expenses" column; they might even chalk it up to promoting the new values of the company (see #3). If SE Inc. wins, Monica will be done, both professionally and economically.
  6. SE Inc. will move on, Monica will move on, and the SO/SE community will slowly forget about the whole deal and also move on, as it always happens.

It is a sad situation, but I think we're at a point where in-network actions don't really matter anymore. The CoC is here to stay and Monica will not be reinstated. And in just a couple months, that would be the new "normal".

  • 17
    I find this post a bit cynical, but I've a hard time denying its plausibility. – Tensibai Oct 25 at 12:03
  • 3
    Fully agree, but “normal” won’t be the same “normal” as before. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 25 at 15:23
  • Even if the rest of the network gets back to "normal", I like to believe that we will still be able to make our voices heard on meta, and let them know that we haven't forgiven or forgotten for this mess, regardless of how long it takes. The only way they can move on from this and pretend it didn't happen is if we let them – Reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 15:39
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    7. Eventually we start the cycle over as community & company make small strides which are burned down in another issue caused by SE. 8. Eventually these cycles leave so little of the userbase or a user base that is grabbing for anything to get out that we end up in a similar situation we found ourselves in with ExpertExchange (unusable site, not enough experts, etc) and new company is born as SE was once. – LinkBerest Oct 25 at 17:46
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    And this is why we all need to stop posting on this site (everywhere except Meta) and let it die a slow, painful death. Let's start today. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 19:48
  • I don't like what you write. But you write the truth and hard reality. So I concur. – planetmaker Oct 30 at 9:39
17

Is SE still able to resolve the matters of the present mess quickly?

No

Honestly, I don't think there is much to add to that. This has been going on since September 29, 2019 which puts it up there with Dongle-gate or the pushback by conservative Google employees.

17

Further to the other @ReinstateMonica's excellent answer, all of the points made need addressing, but none of that will happen until the company, and the employees, acknowledge that they have done something wrong. Without that, nothing will change.

They've feigned this realisation, twice, but it just turned out to be empty rhetoric.

There are many indications that the company and the CM team are blissfully unaware, or unwilling to believe, that they have committed any wrongdoing.

You can see this by the attitude of certain staff members on social media, lauding the fact that people are leaving in protest, and blocking people from being able to engage in discussion.

You can also see this from the attitude of moderators deleting Q&A threads, I believe the quote below sums it up.

So we get what we have here: a clear statement that this is how it must be. ...[snip]... So I recommend dropping it.

These are not the attitudes or actions of people showing remorse or contrition. These are the actions of people who have stopped listening, and are absolutely certain that they are in the right. They are saying that "this must be done", and are telling us to "drop it".

You can understand their behaviour, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You've got to either admit to yourself that you've done some pretty terrible things over the past several weeks, or you can rationalise your actions, and justify to yourself that what you're doing is "the right thing to do".

So, to summarise: the current challenge is not for SE to resolve the current crisis. That cannot happen until we manage to get the message through to them, and to dispel them of the notion that they are currently taking the correct course of action.

12

The only thing I could see working is the following

  • An honest, SINCERE, public apology to Monica no more "non-apology" apologies
  • A public retraction of the libelous statements made against her
  • An acknowledgement of the lies told by SE staff about Monica
  • Stop all the deletions of comments and posts that disagree
  • Acknowledgement that questioning something is not bigotry
  • No spying on SE users
8

The "ongoing outrage" isn't about a single thing, so there's no way it can be resolved quickly, or perhaps at all - some people are outraged about Monica (I wasn't following the situation before the CoC blew up and can't comment one way or the other about that portion), some are outraged over the treatment of LGBTQ+ members, and probably some people are outraged about both. At this point people are sufficiently dug in that some will see any attempt to resolve one situation as worsening the other.

I'm not going to take a stand on "what should be resolved first", because there's tremendous disagreement on that front too. I know what my personal preference would be, but I suspect I'm in a minority on that front. I think SE needs to decide what they want to prioritize and do so - either way they're going to lose members, and they just have to decide who.

  • 1
    I think there are very few people who will "see any attempt to resolve one situation as worsening the other". Quite the opposite: correcting their attacks on Monica will help restore the number of moderators who can act on flags of anti-LGBT+ content; and the good work Cesar M & co have done clarifying the CoC into something workable and practical seems to have been mostly appreciated (albeit with some lingering frustration at things like deleting the old posts and studiously ignoring Monica's limbo; though I think most of us understand that's coming from higher up). – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 25 at 16:06
8

No.

That ship has sailed. The time to do damage limitation was in the immediate aftermath of Monica's firing. If she had done anything that merited immediate dismissal followed by further investigation with cooler, clearer heads is no longer up for grabs. Subsequent events and inactions have utterly dwarfed the original incident.

It is no longer healthy for Monica to be reinstated. She is in a position where she will always be unsafe on SE.

It is not healthy for SE either. From their perspective, any hypothetical future issues with Monica will always be overshadowed by this incident.

The tragedy is that this is all something that could have been avoided if SE had behaved better in the first place. What could have, and should have, been a simple "sorry about the misunderstanding" item, resolved in a day or two, became this huge drama and it's all to be laid at SE's door.

4

Define "mess".

So I alluded to this a while ago, but it seems to be the case that there are several factions at play which is causing a lot of either noise or unrest on the site.

The solutions that Stack Exchange has presented to the matter - that is, the fact that they produced two new policies which actually give insight and clarity into how moderators are removed and reinstated - were met negatively with the side that wishes to see Monica reinstated.

The problem with that is...not many other sides are really satisfied.

  • Some people want to see Monica reinstated with no conditions.
  • Some people want to see their contributions have an immediate impact with the new policies, and see them changed/tweaked.
  • Some people are still calling for heads or more public apologies.
  • Some people are upset about everything else under the sun, from the whole ads debacle to the license changes.

No one's really taking the time to see what's actually happened.

  • Stack Exchange actually delivered a policy.
  • Stack Exchange changed their CoC policy based on actual user feedback.
  • Stack Exchange is making efforts now to try and hear people out.

But that's not enough, apparently.

I'm not sure if there's a good way out of this. Everyone wants what they want and no one's getting it (by some measure), and it's starting to get stressful playing this game of whack-a-demand to the extent that I'm starting to feel some sympathy for the employees.

Yes, they made a mess. No, the fixes to that mess aren't what everyone wants. But, they're fixing it. Everyone lacks the patience to see those fixes actually work.

So...there's not a lot that can be done. Being patient doesn't seem to be a lot of people's MO right now, which is unfortunate because we need more patient people right now.

  • 1
    Many of us have appreciated and praised how the CMs listened to feedback and improved the CoCs. They did a good job and many/most of us now see that people like Cesar M, Catija, Shog9 etc are doing a good job under difficult circumstances and very poor leadership. "But that's not enough, apparently" - enough for what? For us to say, "Okay, you put out one fire that your company started. We'll now forget about Monica's mistreatment, ignore the trashy VI4GRA ads being rolled out, forget 2 years of community requests being ignored but any anti-community tweet causing reckless knee-jerk action"? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 25 at 16:16
  • @user568458: At a minimum I can appreciate that they're finally starting to take this seriously... – Makoto Oct 25 at 17:16
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    They're not making any effort, though. So your last point is plain incorrect. Where are you getting that claim from? – Apologize and reinstate Monica Oct 25 at 19:45

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