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It has been near three months now since the tipping point of the community. Many of us are still very not happy with SE.

The situation with Monica is at an impasse SE has told us:

"We aren't going to re-litigate the past." - Sara Chipps

"We’ll be reaching out to her directly to apologize for the lack of process, privacy, and to discuss next steps." - David Fullerton.

Monica's "Last resort" post was over a month ago... in that post she says:

"I posted it here because I have exhausted all known private communication channels available to me short of legal proceedings. I would have preferred a private conversation, which I have asked for repeatedly. I remain open to that option." - Monica Cellio

"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." - Juan M

There was a GoFundMe page set up by Monica for the impending legal battle and links were removed.

Other actions SE has taken include making a "no comment" policy.

"Moving forward, we will release an official process around removing moderators." - Sara Chipps

Which they did in the Moderator review and reinstatement processes.

They completely rewrote the FAQ for pronouns

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

In the spirit of better communication SE started a new blog series The loop explaining how they make decisions and gather user input.

In short SE's actions have been spurned this year, here is a screen shot of the lowest voted question on meta as of this writing.

Meta questions sorted by votes Don't forget about another unpopular one that would be in second on that list.

Meanwhile scores of mods have left; hundreds of users have indicated support for Monica [1][2]; many letters to SE have been written; users have started to build alternative Q&A platforms. The community is not happy

So the question is what do we (as the unhappy community) do now? What are our next steps? We don't want to just sit here and hope everything gets better, or do we? Is it better to wait (who knows how long) for some legal decision between Monica and SE? Or do we finally say enough is enough and walk away?

SE has been rather clear about their next steps and actions, what are our next steps and can we take them?


Sorry for the original title, it was never my intention to mislead anyone or impersonate the staff (not that I'd want to), it was simply a play on two famous titles from this saga.

I did not mean to simply rehash old hurt and bring all those feeling back again. My purpose in asking this is because it is a question I'm asking myself.
A while after the mods of BSE went on strike, we had a talk in our mod room about when will it end, what do we do now etc. I still do not have a good answer. I know it is silly to think SE will "reinstate Monica" now (why I outlined the history above) so us users who took a stand against SE's firing of Monica - I have to figure out what are my next steps.

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    Stop asking questions and start giving suggestions. Your question lists a couple of outcomes and the answer is "all of the above is done by one or multiple users". – Mast Dec 16 '19 at 8:07
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    What do you practically hope to achieve? For example, I've been asking this of people who still have "Reinstate Monica" in their usernames. She's suing them, for god's sake. They're almost definitely not going to reappoint her in that light, now or ever, and that's the final nail. So... what's the point, and is that really the best way? Alternatively: anyone know SMART? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. People are going to have to start looking forward. – user206222 Dec 16 '19 at 8:19
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    Monica Cellio is currently suing the company for defamation, so it will take some time for this to resolve. There is no chance that we will get any additional information from the company regarding this matter, as Juan wrote. They messed up with her, weren't willing to get to an agreement, she is taking care of it right now, I don't think there is much more we can do regarding this specific matter. – Groo Dec 16 '19 at 8:22
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    @Aza If nothing else - its the one way they can show anger. And quite frankly - While I personally haven't - Its probably less disruptive, and more noticeable than soapboxing on meta. Unlike a post, unless it got dumped, it gets seen every time someone with one has posted. It clearly serves the goals of the folks who do it well enough - hopefully to keep attention on an issue – Journeyman Geek Dec 16 '19 at 8:51
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    @JourneymanGeek The same question applies. "Reinstate Monica" isn't an achievable outcome. So until there's some kind of consensus about what actually needs to happen to move forward... it's just reminding people they should be angry, with no real outcome in mind. – user206222 Dec 16 '19 at 8:52
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    @Aza and yet, none of this should have happened the way it should have. Maybe a reminder of unintended consequences may not be a bad idea. And that things could have been done better, rather than barreling on forward. – Journeyman Geek Dec 16 '19 at 8:58
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    @JourneymanGeek At what point is dwelling on the past just ossifying in a state of pain? It's not barreling on forward -- proceeding carefully is possible, but right now, no one is trying to build healing, and many are being cut down for trying to point in that direction. – user206222 Dec 16 '19 at 9:03
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    Aza has a great point. What's the actual problem to be solved here? Why do you need to know what people personally think their next step is going to be? – Tinkeringbell Dec 16 '19 at 9:19
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    The next steps will likely involve a direction (away from here) for many participants. – Trilarion Dec 16 '19 at 9:26
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    @Tink, most of the purpose of Meta is being... repurposed. Bug reports, support questions, feedback and announcements are being phased elsewhere. That only leaves us with "self-governance discussions", which I would argue this question is representative of. If you take this away from us, you're removing the last thing this site can be used for. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 16 '19 at 9:38
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    @Tinkeringbell "What is the actual problem to be solved here?" The actual problem is that users here feel company does not listen and is making missteps (see downvotes on posts) and we (as users) are trying to figure out how to change that. Regardless of how futile our attempts may seem. – Resistance Is Futile Dec 16 '19 at 10:18
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    @Tinkeringbell Please, do you happen to know what's the 'actual problem to solve' here is?? – LаngLаngС Dec 16 '19 at 15:21
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    The way forward is: SE's lawyers get an agreement from Monica not to sue, in exchange for a public statement saying they were in error when they accused her of intolerance. Maybe a small monetary award. She won't be reinstated. This isn't even a complicated legal issue. SE is just inflexible and won't solve the problem, and so the pressure on them shouldn't be lessened. – Ask About Monica Dec 16 '19 at 15:35
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    And another reason pressure shouldn't be allowed to decrease: We need to know whether SE is a company that is worth our patronage. Their behavior is informing us. Will they continue on their course or reverse direction? Should we support alternatives? I have absolutely no doubt that if the most active 0.5% of posters leave, SE is over. – Ask About Monica Dec 16 '19 at 15:38
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    Just a thought - I'm from the codidact project and we don't really refer to ourselves as a "clone SE system", but rather something more along the lines of an "alternative Q&A platform". – connectyourcharger parted ways Dec 16 '19 at 16:51

12 Answers 12

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I think it's safe to say that nothing is going to change here. You can post as much as you like, but SE has changed and do not care for "the community" anymore like they did in the past. I doubt they're really listening to these anyway. They're not going to change anything because of these posts.

So it's time to redirect your energy, and find a new place to help. Discover a new site to work with. A New Year's resolution to just ignore SO will do us all good.

As for SO, just treat it like any other faceless Internet resource. Use it, but otherwise forget about all the behind-the-scenes stuff you used to know. It'll have to survive on its own merits now.

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SE has been rather clear about their next steps and actions, what are our next steps?

The first thing would be to acknowledge: there is no "our" here.

The real "problem" (for us MSE followers) is: there isn't one community. Instead there are plenty of different groups:

  • People like you and me, writing questions and answers here, or maybe sitting together in some chat on this site, and we would probably call that group the "community".
  • But then there are thousands and thousands of users who rarely or never come here, who probably not even heard of what happened during the last months. And guess what: for those people "life" just continues. When you turn to the top users on Stack Overflow for example, you find: none out of that group suspended activity in order to support "the community". I randomly clicked on 20+ profiles. None of them even mentions Monica, or any other form of conflict that keeps "us" so busy here. And make no mistake: each one of those top users might contribute more "value" to SE Inc. in one day compared to what "we" concerned users get done in a whole week.

So, unfortunately (from "our" perspective): "we" the users aren't organized in a meaningful way. Thus the option space for us hasn't changed:

  • You as an individual can still decide if/how you intend to contribute to MSE, or to any other site on the Stack Exchange network.
  • You can still decide to contribute to the GoFundMe by Monica, or the other one about the licensing question.
  • You could decide to completely leave here, and participate in alternative projects that try to establish something new, that works better for a dedicated community.

And that is about it. Your only freedom is how you mix the above options for yourself. And for me it is exactly that: a mix of the above options. I still try to make a difference here, but I also (somehow) contribute in other places.

If we would be in a real union, we would have some sort of meaningful way to come to a real consensus, and then a powerful community that has leverage to bring to the table. If "we" could create a significant drop of traffic going to the Stack Exchange network (namely: Stack Overflow), then there would be a chance of making us heard.

But we can't achieve that, thus we can only hope that SE Inc. also listens here, and acts on it in a positive way, even when they are pretty silent about that part.

And note: even the relatively small group of moderators isn't organized in a meaningful way (see here). If those folks can't get "some act" together that gets all (at least: most) 500+ moderators to "work together", to bring leverage to the table ... then sorry: don't expect the "users" to even get close.

Update edit: there is one option I forgot about: of course you can also closely follow what SE Inc. does about their new feedback mechanisms, and try to be part of that. Personally, I am doubtful what will come out of that, but still: it is the path that the company suggests will drive their future activities, so why not use that to express feedback?!

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    This. There are millions of users that either don't know or don't care about all this. And literally thousands new users are coming daily. There is very little we can do, if nothing at all. – Resistance Is Futile Dec 16 '19 at 8:19
  • @ResistanceIsFutile "There are millions of users that either don't know or don't care about all this." Got a source with that? – Mast Dec 16 '19 at 9:10
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    @Mast stackexchange.com/leagues/1/alltime/stackoverflow there is 11,455,478 users with reputation less than 200. Do you really think that most of them knows what is going on? Even if 5 millions would know... you would still have 5 millions that don't. – Resistance Is Futile Dec 16 '19 at 9:16
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    @Mast stackoverflow.com/… ... sure, that list isnt complete, there are some users who go "support(s) monica", or other nick names that imply support for Monica. Even if you add all of that up, you are way below 1000 users. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 16 '19 at 9:17
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    Next step is then to form a union. Good idea. – Trilarion Dec 16 '19 at 9:29
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    @Trilarion In theory. But not practical. Because: there is no valid channel to "contact" potential union members. It is that simple. You can't send out a note to all users on stack overflow suggesting "lets create a union". You can only talk to the people that read here, and on MSO. And there we go full circle: because even those groups are not large enough, and beyond that, too heterogeneous in their goals. And of course: do you think that SE Inc. would "allow" a potential union to use SE Inc. provided "server resources" to do union work?! – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 16 '19 at 9:37
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    And as soon as you "announce" something to users directly on stackoverflow (not MSO!) ... you are in full violation of the rules there, and your input would (rightfully) be considered off-topic, deleted, and your ID suspended if you continued to advertize a union ... in the only place the potential union members look at. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 16 '19 at 9:39
  • @GhostCat This is a bit too negative. I think you are mostly right, but without even unfounded optimism I think mankind would have gotten nowhere. – Trilarion Dec 16 '19 at 11:01
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    True, there's lots of people answering questions and don't really know what's happening here. But here's the thing: the people that clean up the sites, and care about keeping it clean, are here; that's literally why Meta exists. Lose your janitors, and it eventually becomes worse and worse, and then SO isn't the place to find programmer help anymore. To be sure, there's enough content here that it'd be an incredibly slow death, but it'd die, all the same. – fbueckert Dec 16 '19 at 14:30
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    @fbueckert That is a theory, not a proven fact ;-(. A) there are millions of existing questions&answers already. This means that SE Inc. will keep to attract via search results for years to come. Sure, no "new" up-to-date content, but as said: maybe years before that becomes significant B) no matter the janitor services, there will always be plenty of people asking "good enough" questions, and top contributors writing great answers. They just ignore the junk left and right. C) have fun explaining such multiple-year long term effects on average US managers. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 16 '19 at 14:54
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    Well, we're all in uncharted territory here; nobody's managed to get a system to this scale and maintain the focus. It's certainly possible I could be wrong about what might happen; it's an educated guess, after all. But I'd have a hard time seeing how any site can survive if those experts can't actually find any decent questions to answer. – fbueckert Dec 16 '19 at 15:10
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    It degrades to yahoo answers quality. it becomes a place for the blind to lead the blind, where no one cares about quality (both in terms of question/answer quality and code quality) anymore. It will certainly still serve a purpose, but that purpose will pale in comparison to what it once was. – user400654 Dec 16 '19 at 17:10
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    Re "SEXit": The great attractor could be Atwood's place. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 17 '19 at 1:30
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    @Marc.2377 It is news to me that sede can tell you about the quality of content. Sure, you can create statistics about number of questions, answers, votes,... and then hope to define good metrics that tell you something about quality. And then you need to find a way to use such metrics in meaningful ways across the whole network. Even if this is possible, you need a solid background in doing such things, and a lot of time at hand. At least me, I lack both... – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 17 '19 at 3:46
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    Just because a lot of people don't know or care about something doesn't mean that it's not worth knowing/caring about. – April Salutes Monica C. Dec 17 '19 at 14:51
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+50

Thankfully the founders foresaw this possibility, when the company holding control of the site cared more for the shareholders than the community, that they provided an insurance plan.

We deliberately put the Stack Overflow community-generated content under Creative Commons and make data dumps of it available regularly as insurance... if Stack Overflow ever slips into the hands of an evil person who does evil things, the content of the site is freely available and someone else can set up a non-evil site. We did this because IMDB and CDDB both started out with "community generated content" which was appropriated by commercial companies trying to make a buck, and we wanted to insure that this could never happen to Stack Overflow.

  • Joel Spolsky, 2010 (emphasis added, source)

Resources:

It should only take 6-8 weeks to build, and users can "reclaim" their content by adding an ID number to their Stack Exchange profile, which the new site can use to verify ownership of the content.

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    Are you suggesting that building an SE "clone" would only take 6-8 weeks? – StrongBad Dec 17 '19 at 0:46
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    What kind of ID number? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 17 '19 at 1:38
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    This only goes so far, though, since the company could a) stop updating the dumps, or b) decide to arrogate to itself the right to change the license. – jscs Dec 17 '19 at 1:56
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    @jscs such an illegal relicensing is void of legal effect, FWIW so it can be safely disregarded. – Marc.2377 Dec 17 '19 at 3:04
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    @StrongBad I cloned the main elements of the UI as a learning exercise to learn React -- that took 6 weeks. I guess it would take a team of several (competent full-time) to clone a lot more of of it in 6-8 weeks (e.g. the back end and the web server/deployment). That first "MVP" probably wouldn't scale, wouldn't have all the Help rewritten, wouldn't have moderation tools etc., BUT you could write a lot of software in 6-8 weeks. I doubt you'd get the user-base though or the Page Rank anytime soon. A lot of tasks could be done in parallel though if there were several developers. – ChrisW Dec 17 '19 at 3:25
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    "6-8 weeks" is a joke hearkening back to the early days of development. I don't think it would be wise to clone everything, though - while the content is cc-by-sa, the mechanisms, site design, and core features are not and while there's precedent for a lot of features elsewhere, a lawsuit could bog down a new site interminably. A very basic site with few features that has the original content with appropriate attribution, and basic voting, flagging, and moderation should suffice to start. Then diverge. It would need 5-10 dedicated people to start, as well as a fund for servers and bandwidth. – Pollyanna Dec 17 '19 at 15:24
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    There's room enough on the internet for all. This doesn't have to be an angry split - it's just a business deal where some parties aren't getting out of the deal what they need for their contribution, but there's currently no other site which fulfills their needs. I have no doubt that any new site would devolve into chaos and anger as well - this needs to be expected and planned for, and it will need some leadership, be it a few strong leaders, or a board with elected leaders, or some other "the buck stops here" form of governance so it doesn't stumble or tread water for too long. – Pollyanna Dec 17 '19 at 15:28
  • @PeterMortensen It could be anything - the key is that 1) the new site generates it and 2) the user puts it on the stack exchange profile. This proves the connection between a new user to the site and a user on stack exchange. Stack Exchange does not release email information, so this is the only authentication method I can think of at the moment, but there may be other ways to claim your old content. It would have to stand up in a court of law, though, if you really want to give them attribution for their content. – Pollyanna Dec 17 '19 at 17:42
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    @Pollyanna - Copyright in most of the modern world is pretty clear. While you can copyright code of an application, if somebody choose to duplicate your work without access to your original code, they are free to do so. An example of this fact is Google's Android Java VM and Oracle's Java VM. So somebody would be able to recreate the server code, but any html, would have to be rewritten. I honestly have no idea if HTML/CSS code can be copyrighted due to the nature of it. – Ramhound Dec 17 '19 at 18:49
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    @Marc.2377 Agreed completely, which is why I chose the word "arrogate", but that doesn't mean it is void of confusing/complicating effect. – jscs Dec 17 '19 at 19:07
  • @Pollyanna I believe you can copy (reimplement) a UI design -- that it's the implementation/source code that's copyright -- that is, if the designs are dissimilar enough that there is no confusion ("trade dress"). Maybe sufficient design difference can defined in the CSS (not in what data is displayed). I assume that single words (like "Favourites" etc.) aren't copyright and can be reused in the UI -- but that SE's Help text cannot! See also some case law here. I do not recommend forking: but (so far as I know!) a UI design may be copied. – ChrisW Dec 17 '19 at 22:08
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    @Pollyanna Stack Exchange provides an api for authentication and getting user details, so users should be able to authenticate themselves without having to put something on their profile page. – Stop Harming the Community Dec 18 '19 at 1:18
  • @ChrisW, the codidact estimate for an MVP is closer to a year. – Peter Taylor Dec 18 '19 at 15:21
  • @PeterTaylor Where was that estimate posted i.e. can I see what assumptions/estimates it uses? – ChrisW Dec 18 '19 at 17:45
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+100

We should take Elie Wiesel's advice, from his Nobel Prize Speech in 1986.

If you don't know, Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born Jew, American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor.

...And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

I would add many things to his list of things that should not make a person the target of persecution. For instance, national origin, sexual identity (Joel taught me this in his writing, long ago), or for taking sides.

The issues we face today are terribly complex. You have people like me, for example, who grew up in southern Texas where non-binary sexual identity was openly ridiculed when I was a child in the 1980's and some in the 1990's. I did NOT grow up enlightened. I had questions. I had (and still do have) things I don't understand, and awkward questions I must ask if I am going to understand what it must be like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Should I not be allowed to expose my ignorance without ridicule? Should I be crucified for asking honest, sincere questions in an effort to understand people whose lives are fundamentally different from my own? The world has grown so polarized over these issues that I am afraid to take sides. I had high hopes, based on Joel's apparently excellent character and intelligence, that this would become a place where people could feel comfortable with one another, be free to ask and understand the answers to these questions, and perhaps aid in the resolution of these societal issues. Wouldn't a well-run lgbtq.stackexchange.com have been wonderful? Imagine all the open-ended questions and answers that could have been asked there, honestly, and how many people might've been enlightended in the process. Perhaps this could still happen.

Here are my practical responses to your question:

  • First and foremost, take sides.
  • Above all, be actively kind. We can hold everyone involved accountable without cruelty or condescension. Sara is probably upset. Joel is probably upset. Probably many others at SE, both those involved and those not involved, are upset. We know Monica is upset. They are all human beings on opposite sides of a terribly unfortunate incident that is now highly restricted by legal realities. This reflects on the sad state of our legal system more than it does on the individuals involved, though certainly an olive branch at some level is still appropriate.
  • Protect yourself by anonymizing your user account, if you have not already.
  • Do not allow fatigue, apathy, or fear cause you to desist in taking sides. Have faith in people, including those at SE. They are human beings. I strongly suspect they are generally decent, care as deeply about the community as we do, and feel deeply unsettled about any harm they have caused.
  • Continue to hold SE (again, respectfully) accountable. Resist until a formal apology has been offered to Monica.
  • If necessary, cease to participate in the community. Stop posting answers. Stop posting questions. Stop moderating. Limit your participation entirely to Meta until the situation is resolved.
  • Support Monica, who appears to very clearly be in the right.
  • Hold the entire situation in your hearts and in your prayers. Commit a little time and energy to seeing the right thing is done, whatever you believe that to be.
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    I also want to state here, this is well written, and I agree with your points. I officially stopped Q&A throughout the network, and hope this does get resolved. – Goodbye StackExchange Dec 22 '19 at 2:52
  • @FrankerZ, fixed. Thanks. – bopapa_1979 Dec 23 '19 at 3:55
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    Such a beautiful answer, this really needs a wider audience. – Doctor Jones Dec 24 '19 at 10:16
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    “Sara is probably upset” Does she upset about her actions and the lies in the past? In this case why she didn’t apology? – MiFreidgeim SO-stop being evil Dec 27 '19 at 22:01
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    @MiFreidgeim SO-stop being evil - She didn’t apologize because she is legally bound not to by SE policy. Go look at her profile over the last 10 years. This is a person who has actively tried to do good. Not a bad person. She clearly made a mistake, and now things have blown up in her face. NOBODY wants to be embroiled in this kind of thing, much less to be the cause of it. My point, really, is that it sucks to be Sara right now. Personal attacks, of which there have been many, will not help to heal the community. I do think she should apologize, publicly, to Monica. But is she allowed? – bopapa_1979 Dec 29 '19 at 16:55
34

Personally, I'm someone who once wanted to further engage with SO, perhaps becoming a moderator down the line, and/or trying to land a job there.

After seeing the company's conduct surrounding Monica's situation (and through that, becoming aware of other controversies) the management culture there just feels toxic. Not Uber toxic, but toxic enough to trigger my gut feeling that it's turning into a place where management isn't going to feel at all accountable to the people that work there (whether they're paid, or unpaid volunteers outside the company).

Unless I see some genuine apologies and accountability (maybe accompanied by a voluntary resignation to make it clear the apologies are sincere), I'm going to back away from my engagement with Stack Exchange in general. Definitely not going to help triage when prompted to. And I'm going to try to use the help forums of specific products whenever possible, rather than contribute to the library of SO answers here. It'll be hard/impossible to stop all engagement, just like it's difficult to completely remove yourself from Google's/Facebook's ecosystem, but moving in that direction is the best thing an individual could do to help affect change.

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    Doing an interview (or whatever you want to call what happen with the publication in question) on a user who volunteers their time to be a moderator is not "toxic" that is extremely toxic. – Ramhound Dec 17 '19 at 18:42
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People who want to leave are most probably already doing it or did it. They are unfortunately not part of the community anymore, but they might come back under different circumstances. One should not completely forget them.

People who are fine with the way things are now, don't need to do anything.

Those that remain and remain unhappy should indeed make up their mind, in order to advance the community. It doesn't seem like the company is listening anymore and discussions about how the past was better lead to nowhere. For example, suggest that a simple be nice policy would be sufficient and you'll quickly realize that this proposal is not going to fly at all.

Building a truly independent meta (aka a union) outside of the reach of the company would be very difficult and will likely fail because of missing reach outside of the network. Ghostcat does argue that very convincingly in a comment. It's an option though and maybe somebody would just have to start it.

Waiting for the legal dispute Monica Cellio vs. Stack Overflow Inc. is over now, but the resolution to her case is not satisfying to everyone; only a part of this is about her case anyway.

I can only urge people to not waste their time with unproductive negative voting or comment orgies. Some of them gets deleted anyway. Draw your consequences now and maybe make 2020 a fresh start, either by supporting the company or by spending time elsewhere. While a critical voice here may still be helpful, the intensity of the last months when projected into the future is probably not, for nobody. All or most of what needed to be said, has been said. The company has got all the important messages, but simply disagrees with many of them.

Does this sound like a farewell? I can promise that I will check from time to time, but the intensity of the activity will surely decrease.

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    You may want to update this answer, e.g. the third to last paragraph. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 30 at 19:36
  • @PeterMortensen Thanks for the observation. – Trilarion Jan 30 at 22:00
  • The company is very actively listening. It just ignores all constructive discussion and attacks community members expressing any criticism on the network sites or outside of the network. As a proof, let's just see how quickly this comment is removed, and me being banned ... – Teemu Jan 31 at 5:59
  • @Teemu So if this comment of yours stays, you're wrong? – Trilarion Jan 31 at 8:08
  • I certainly hope I'm wrong. – Teemu Jan 31 at 8:09
18

The only reason for me to stay, and to keep Monica in my user name, is to give moral support to Monica in the hope that she will get a response from SE that she will regard as adequate, although it is very unlikely to be satisfying.

In the beginning, I hoped, and actually expected, a quick resolution and one that was generous. That hope is long gone.

I stay only because I would feel awful if I abandoned Monica (partly for personal reasons that apply only to me.) After the resolution -- and I know there may never be a resolution -- I may, or I may not, retreat to my niche in a very small number of sites which I value because of the information they offer, and because of a few people. That is, only if I can do so without feeling soiled by association with SE.

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    That's the only reason I am staying, after seeing Sarah retweet the "good riddance" post on Twitter, I decided to stay. I had already requested deletion of my accounts, but after seeing that, I noped right out of that and decided to stay so I could continue to fight. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Dec 17 '19 at 21:44
17

I suspect that this will be unpopular, but I really think that it is true and describes our situation at this point in time:

SE doesn't care very much about our feelings on this issue as a community. That's not to say that they aren't interested at all, but rather that our unhappiness has been clearly expressed over a long period of time, and that unhappiness is not enough to prompt SE to do anything other than what they already planned to do. It certainly hasn't prompted them to do anything to fix the damage they've caused to a particular, popular user.

This is not surprising. SE is a business looking to make money. SE's core product is our participation across the various stacks. That creates the content which draws visitors who see the ads purchased by other businesses who want those ads seen by the traffic that SE draws. As long as we continue to produce that content, SE will continue to be able to pursue that business model and make money.

If community unhappiness mattered to them, they would have done something to acknowledge that. They have, very clearly and repeatedly, declined to do so. There is no reason to think that expressing more unhappiness is going to matter any more than that already expressed.

There are two remaining ways that SE might be persuaded, as I see matters:

  • The harmed user will be successful in some legal action against them. You can support this by donating to that user's legal fund.
  • Users can make clear that they will affect SE's core product by visibly declining to post questions and answers. This could be absolute (I won't post again until X) or it could by more of a warning shot (until X, users that care about this issue won't post any questions or answers on Mondays, nor answer questions or moderate content posted on a Monday).

The latter is the only direct thing a typical user is going to do to express something to SE. And there are enough users that don't know or care about this issue that I doubt a full or partial participation strike will accomplish much.

We all have our own personal reasons for still being on SE, or for not being here any more. But beyond those two options, it's over for generic users that care about what has happened. The community has little leverage, and did not use what leverage it had to affect anything that SE cares about enough to change its behavior.

SE has by now demonstrated, definitively, that it can behave as it did in this case with no meaningful consequences to anything that matters to it.

If users feel the need to vent, then fine, by all means do it. But it's time to dispense with the illusion that this process is still happening, as opposed to having been decided, and that the community is both willing and able to induce any changes on these issues.

It's over.

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  • 2
    The second option is not actually an option, or rather, you need an undeniable decline in volume. This is borderline impossible; to give you an idea on a completely unrelated front, a company I give quite a bit of testing feedback to lost 75% of their userbase and justified it on "it's a cycle, they'll come back eventually". – Sébastien Renauld Dec 16 '19 at 20:55
  • 2
    I think that publicly declaring a strike is not needed. SO gets the numbers about participation and advertisement revenue fresh, every single day. If a significant number of users stops participating, they'll know much faster than any other message can convey – Trilarion Dec 16 '19 at 21:43
  • @Trilarion I agree, but I don't think that enough people who might be willing to strike would do so spontaneously and at overlapping times. A few users won't be enough of an impact, even highly active users. Per Sébastien Renauld's comment, even a large number of users doing so might not be enough. Again, that approach would not be about message-sending, it would be about demonstrating to SE that unless the community is satisfied, there won't be any community, and without that community SE will lose a lot of money it would otherwise have gained. – Upper_Case Dec 16 '19 at 21:48
8

My answer is an extension of laur34 “ idea to start a hashtag on Twitter”.

I suggest to use the #SOstopBeingStupid hashtag on Twitter, because the way how the current management is treating the community, moderators and even the most experienced community managers causes the major problem for the SE sites. They may be not obvious yet, but it will affect quality of the site in the nearest future.

I’ve considered an alternative #SOstopBeingEvil hashtag, but it may be less convincing. A business may be ok to be evil, if it helps to earn money, but they should not do the damage to themselves.

We can discuss other possible Twitter hashtags, but unlikely to come to consensus. A similar question about SE Meta tag, Should we have a tag for significant points in time?, didn’t come to a single conclusion.

As the majority of actions related to the conflict were done by the Director of Public Q&A or her subordinates (most likely by her order), it makes sense to address tweets with any concerns to top managers, in particular VP David Fullerton, https://twitter.com/df07, or CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar, https://twitter.com/pchandrasekar. You can tweet to https://twitter.com/StackOverflow, but the tweets are less likely to be delivered to the management. Or tweet to anyone else, who can influence SE policies.

Tip: ensure that your Twitter account is public, otherwise only your followers can see your tweets. My account by default was private.

The idea to use Twitter (Twitter-driven development) was mentioned in a few places:

maybe we focus on using other ways to give feedback. There is email, Twitter, Facebook,

By GhostCat salutes Monica C.

Spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,

By Apollys supports Monica.

It is obvious that the only way to get the company's attention is to twitter. Posting on meta is pointless, they just ignore that or censor it.

By Amarth.

If you have any energy left to deal with this (I know I don't), I highly encourage you to take to Twitter. It seems to be the only thing they'll end up understanding.

By Zoe - account abandoned.

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6

I think the next step we need to take is the same step that we have been taking: Keep the pressure on them. In the past three months the SE team has:

  • Communicated with us more than they have in a very long time
  • Expressed a desire to be more open about how they solicit feedback
  • Been passing changes by moderators for input before finalizing decisions
  • Rolling out updates to the UI on a fairly regular basis
  • Changed the reputation associated with question votes
  • Updated the CoC and wrote and revised a FAQ based on user and moderator input
  • Created a policy for speaking to the press
  • Formalized the procedure for removing an reinstating moderators
  • Implemented changes in the mod only chat room
  • Moved forward with their desire to provide moderator training

You may not like some of these changes and the changes may not accomplish the goals SE wants, but they are doing things. We can complain about the things they have not done. They have not reinstated Monica or publicly apologized to her. Apart from adding two sentences to the CoC, they have not really done anything to make SE more welcoming to minorities. If those types of things are your bar, I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. If however, we compare what they have done over the past 3 months to what they did over the preceding 9 months (unilaterally change the license agreement, roll out third party ads, and remove the beta label from sites), I think the change in their behavior is obvious.

I think the view that it does not matter what they do if they do not reinstate Monica does not help us forward. Instead, I think our next step needs to be to keep telling SE what we want and keep their feet to the fire to deliver on those things.

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  • Fwiw the beta label change has been long in the making and was partially suggested by the community when design-independent graduation came along. – Vogel612's Shadow Dec 17 '19 at 8:28
3

Just do what makes you feel happy.

It sounds simple, but for many of us it means different things and has nuances. If you're interested in exploring this a bit more, read the following and see if your thoughts resonate with mine.

When I google something about code or technology or computers, I want to either learn some piece of trivia, or I want to solve a problem. For trivia there are a couple of sites that can also answer my questions (such as Reddit or Wikias), but for problem solving Stack Exchange sites are kind of the best. With topic and scope limitations, but still.

When I want to solve a problem, I want to find the solution that will be the most cheap, quick, easy and will last forever. Don't we all? And sometimes when I solve my problems, I find that nobody has posted that solution in a place where I could find within the first page of search results. So I add it myself. Someone else will be happy to find it in the future just as I have been happy to find the solutions to my problems in the past. This is what my vision is for a Q&A site or a "knowledge base" that the Stack Exchange platform has allowed its users to build.

Now it is important to draw a clear distinction between the platform and its owners and the users. At the beginning our paths were similar, but today the divide is immense and it is impossible to ignore. What used to be an endeavour for the betterment of humanity, has forked into a secondary objective, while the profit earning has taken the lead. The users and the company are now working towards different goals. If only the world around us was designed so that the monetary gains were less important than the betterment of humanity... but alas, we live in a different reality.

And so you can choose -- to stay and observe the deterioration of this platform and slow but inevitable departure from its original course... or, just as when it was built roughly 10 years ago (in response to a similar issue we are facing now, which is ironic), find other such platforms which have the same goals that you have, and start using those instead!

I cannot feel happy using a platform which I know does not have the same goals as I do. I know it will ignore my efforts when it suits it. It has been thoroughly demonstrated. There is no question about it. I want to feel content with where I publish my findings and solutions to various problems, that it will not get sidelined or ever go to waste.

Just as everyone now knows that Wikipedia is the place to go when you want to get acquainted with virtually any topic, and sometimes learn a lot of in-depth information, perhaps one day there will be a Q&A search option right next to the "W" icon for a site like that. I don't suppose it will link to this site though.

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-1
  1. Pressure the company to create a separate non-profit organization to run the open network of Q&A sites. The non-profit would use the company's software, would contain the entire existing collection of Q-As, and would be self-governing.

    Possible ways to do this include "Contact Us," letters to the editor at appropriate newspapers and online publications, a petition, articles and studies in academic journals, US labor law administrative complaints (this is not litigation), requests for mediation through JAMS, in-person visits to the SE offices, phone calls to the SE offices, back-channel pressure via personal contacts within the paid staff, twitter messages, and getting the word out at each local Meta, with a featured link in the sidebar.

  2. I understand why many moderators suspended their moderating work, or resigned. However, that has had an unintended effect, of making SE a less nice, more stressed-out place.

    As long as we are working in parallel on item 1, I don't think it's unethical to contribute to the site, as a community member and/or moderator -- if one wishes to do so.

  3. We can double down on being nice to each other. This has been a painful period. By being nice, even when someone has said something hurtful, we can help each other heal, and keep up our courage to continue to plug away at item 1. It's okay to make an I-message if something is bothering us, but let's try to avoid escalating things when tensions rise.

  4. Those with writing, drawing, musical, etc., talents, can make comic strips, political cartoons, internet memes, etc.

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