-1775
votes

Stack Overflow and Monica Cellio have come to an agreement. We believe that Ms. Cellio was not acting with malicious intent. We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

We acknowledge our responses to her requests for clarification were not satisfactory. The verbiage in our Code of Conduct could have been more explicitly detailed about what was expected. We always valued Ms. Cellio’s contributions to the community and respect her intelligence, integrity, and professional writing skills.

While our initial statement did not address her specifically, we regret that we used her name when responding to a reporter's follow-up. We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered.

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure we are more careful in our public communications, and that there is a clearer process anytime a moderator's status is revoked as well as a process for reinstatement.

We respect Ms. Cellio and believe she is a good person with much to offer and contribute. We sincerely hope she remains an active member of our community. In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process. Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

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    The comments have been moved to chat. – Journeyman Geek Jan 1 at 0:14
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    Folks - this post had about 250 comments total and 3 pages of answers at this point. A few things to take note. Some of the comments have been pretty ugly - I realise this is emotive but personal attacks on anyone involved is unacceptable. This includes calling for staff to resign or trying to assign blame. I'd also add that this is pretty much a statement both sides appear to have legally agreed on- and I doubt any more details are forthcoming. – Journeyman Geek Jan 1 at 0:17

68 Answers 68

1442
votes

Maybe a harsh critique but I believe a fair and honest one.

Your post sounds as though your lawyers drafted this for you. The humanity has been sucked out of it, canned lawyer speak is what remains.

Stack Overflow and Monica Cellio have come to an agreement. We believe that Ms. Cellio was not acting with malicious intent. We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

We had already established this. What wasn't established was why her requests for clarifications were shut down so forcefully.

We acknowledge our responses to her requests for clarification were not satisfactory. The verbiage in our Code of Conduct could have been more explicitly detailed about what was expected. We always valued Ms. Cellio’s contributions to the community and respect her intelligence, integrity, and professional writing skills.

Really? Then you'd have done her the courtesy of responding sooner and not waited until it required lawyers. You'd have treated her with a little bit of dignity and decency by not talking to the press.

While our initial statement did not address her specifically, we regret that we used her name when responding to a reporter's follow-up. We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered.

Lawyer speak...

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure we are more careful in our public communications, and that there is a clearer process anytime a moderator's status is revoked as well as a process for reinstatement.

You changed the policies as a result of the unending trouble. Not because you saw the light.

Let's be quite clear here, mods repeatedly tell users that they don't discuss user suspensions so why is it that an employee thought it appropriate to do so with press?

Gross negligence or plain simple malintent?

We respect Ms. Cellio and believe she is a good person with much to offer and contribute. We sincerely hope she remains an active member of our community. In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process. Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

Lawyer speak and it makes you seem so unbelievably unaware.

How NICE of you to 'invite' her to apply for reinstatement EVEN though you've acknowledged it was YOUR mistakes.

This whole post screams that you're making amends not because you genuinely feel a mistake has been made but because it's something your lawyers have said you need to do if you want things to settle. If you're going to apologise, do so without talking about the other person's shortcomings.

Monica must've had a real good case for y'all to even post this.


Anyhow, I'm glad Monica got a resolution she could sign off on.

  • 555
    "In recognition of the mistakes that led us here". This sentence is actually quite clever: it doesn't specify who made the mistakes. – Eric Duminil Dec 23 '19 at 18:34
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    Sure this is lawyers speech, what did you expect? If two parties come to an extrajudicial agreement, usually negotiated by their lawyers, you won't hear anything else from them. – Doc Brown Dec 23 '19 at 18:42
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    Of course the lawyers wrote it. This post is most likely part of a legal settlement of the defamation lawsuit. I'd be surprised if a law firm hadn't been over every single letter a dozen times. – mag Dec 23 '19 at 18:42
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    I expected an apology to be more human-like but I see your points. – Script47 Dec 23 '19 at 18:46
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    "We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered." That's not lawyer speak, that's a non-apologize. Change the subject and adverb with hitting someone: we regret to punch you and the concussion it caused. An apologize should recognize one mistake, not just regret the results. – Braiam Dec 23 '19 at 19:08
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    @Braiam by lawyer speak I meant it as though something their lawyers had suggested to make it sound almost human but it fails magnificently at that. – Script47 Dec 23 '19 at 19:10
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    "You'd have treat her with a little bit of dignity and decency by not talking to the press" or retracting the statement after realising it was a mistake. Making that statement was a big mistake, but it would have been a forgivable one if they had simply retracted it. People make mistakes - it's the fact they have proved to be completely unwilling to rectify their mistakes that is the problem. – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 23 '19 at 20:47
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    I didn't read it as lawyer speak at all. Rather, well composed. Except that almost the entire answer set up expectations quite the opposite of the last two sentences. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 23 '19 at 21:44
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    @Script47 Boilerplate apologies are not apologies. It is especially ironic that she is offering an opportunity for Monica to reapply, with a possibility of further rejection. – Ṃųỻịgǻňạcểơửṩ Dec 23 '19 at 22:01
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    @yshavit more like "I'm sorry your truck got broken." They carefully avoid admitting to taking any of the actions that led to the situation. – Kevin Dec 23 '19 at 22:01
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    Monica Cellio is ok with the agreement, she even signed an NDA. The two involved parties are no longer in conflict, so why are we angry about again? Monica agreed to whatever is happening here. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 5:18
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    @ByBw We do not know that Monica is OK with the agreement, only that she agreed to it. It might be that she is OK with it, but it also might be that she is tired of everything and agreeing to this is preferable to losing her health and sanity. I view the latter possibility much more believable. – Amadan Dec 24 '19 at 7:37
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    @Amadan She was the one suing, not the other way around. She doesn't need to sign anything she doesn't agree with. If she isn't happy, all she has to do is not sign, without any consequences whatsoever. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 7:46
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    @ByBw - I don't think there's anything stopping SO from counter-suing Monica. If they take steps to do that, they could inflict substantial financial damage on Monica as they can afford a lot more legal muscle than she can. Her $30k GFM account won't go far against an army of SO lawyers. – Steerpike Dec 24 '19 at 16:47
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    "What wasn't established was why her requests for clarifications were shut down so forcefully." - I would go so far as arguing that requests for clarification signify intent to comply with the new CoC, once it has been understood. Anyway, this was a forthcoming CoC and not an active one! Since when is SO the movie Minority Report? – John Dec 25 '19 at 4:22
1178
votes
+100

I can't comment further for legal reasons.

  • 134
    Can you at least comment whether this statement is true? "Stack Overflow and Monica Cellio have come to an agreement." – Wildcard Dec 23 '19 at 18:23
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    @user-2147482600 just assume that any agreement includes "Monica may not comment on the terms of this agreement." (Which would also preclude calling the terms fair or unfair.) I'm just hoping for confirmation that they have come to an agreement, which should be possible to confirm regardless. – Wildcard Dec 23 '19 at 18:32
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    I don't think it's fair to Monica to try to speculate here about the terms, since she wrote that she cannot comment. I do think it would be reasonable for her to say, "Yes, we have come to an agreement," but I'm not even going to conclude anything from the fact that she hasn't done so. – Wildcard Dec 23 '19 at 18:36
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  • 110
    @Wildcard: I assume that if Monica cannot comment on the current situation, it must mean that some agreement has been reached. The first rule of the agreement is: You do not talk about the agreement. – Eric Duminil Dec 23 '19 at 18:37
  • 67
    I'm going to assume this is a win for you, and that you agreed to some sort of Non Disclosure Agreement because you found the outcome acceptable, so Congratulations! – Davy M Dec 23 '19 at 18:46
  • 15
    Congratulations on reaching an agreement Monica! – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 5:50
  • 47
    @user35594 For better or worse, not publicly discussing anything is a standard part of settlements in the US. Likewise no one at SE can say anything beyond the statement that Sara posted in the update - whose wording was agreed to by both sides lawyers. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Dec 24 '19 at 15:15
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    "I can't comment further for legal reasons." I wonder if you actually found the outcome acceptable because this screams to me that you felt compelled to accept their conditions. – user35594 Dec 25 '19 at 20:32
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    The fact that you agreed to this statement which accomplishes nothing for you (but helps SE cover their legal backside) implies to me one of two things: One, they paid you a cash settlement to get you to agree to letting them get away without apologizing, retracting statements, or admit wrongdoing -- or Two, they threatened to counter-sue you and you decided to cut your losses. I Hope it's the former, I fear it's the latter, and it frustrates me that the rest of us may never know which =^/. – LindaJeanne Dec 26 '19 at 2:00
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    @Stormblessed there will be a final accounting for the money when all the bills are in. – Monica Cellio Dec 27 '19 at 2:53
  • 54
    If Monica isn't allowed to comment anymore, then perhaps it's best if I don't participate on SE anymore, either. Sad as it makes me, I have a bad gut feeling about just carrying on here, anymore. – laur34 - inactive Dec 28 '19 at 11:07
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    @LiamMorris-ReinstateMonica I am not going to stop pushing and I hope you won't either. Of course there's more than one path to reinstatement! It's only SE management that's pretending the only way forward is to do that new process that has no appeals, no transparency, no safeguards against bias, and no promises (as if they don't already know how they'll rule!). Why should we accept their framing? We need to push for what they should have done after their mistake (a mistake they claim to regret): full unconditional reinstatement with no hoops to jump through. Please join me. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 30 '19 at 6:05
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    An apology a la "I'm sorry you feel like you deserve an apology". They just won't admit any wrongdoing on their side. Hence obviously also no reinstatement. Even worse, no retraction of the public slander. (They "regret" it - but probably mostly that people didn't just go along with it.) And a post from Monica where she doesn't agree with anything - just saying that she's legally gagged. People, just connect the dots. The very best case is that she got a bunch of money to shut up. It's probably much more sinister. – Raphael Schmitz Dec 31 '19 at 15:39
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    I can't comment on certain topics. I am participating normally on Mi Yodeya. – Monica Cellio Dec 31 '19 at 21:55
712
votes

I'm so happy disappointed that after months of frustration, hundreds of well-reasoned responsible adults advising you, and untold hours of people working to persuade your company to take action, that your lawyers finally allowed you to say the absolute minimum necessary to check all the boxes on the list of things to redress, under the threat of litigation.

So, let's be perfectly clear, that this does not read as a heart-felt personal apology. Coming from Sara Chipps feels calculated, or possibly legally-required. All language has become "We" now, as in "Stack Overflow". So, despite the personal level of the accusations that were initially leveled, this redaction is impersonal.

The verbiage in our Code of Conduct could have been more explicitly detailed about what was expected.

We all already knew this, based on the countless hours of moderator and community feedback to Code of Conduct and FAQ changes. You literally proved every step of the way after taking the bad actions, that the CoC expectations were murky at best. There is zero value in stating the blindingly obvious at this point. What's absent here is an admittance and acknowledgement that despite knowing the expectations weren't clear, you took extreme action against one person, and created a hostile environment that made many, many others afraid of suffering similar extreme actions.

I know much of the member base and many employees want to start healing. Some people may see this as a form of closure that allows us to move forward.

It's not. This is not an apology. This is not a form of redress for anything except one of the wrongs done specifically against Monica: It serves to be evidence to clear her good name so as not to damage her reputation and threaten her livelihood.

This does nothing to make amends for the harm caused to the communities.

We still have valid fears of being harmed by You. Not all of us have Monica's network of support to raise enough funds for legal fears to scare you into doing the right thing. Most of us would be stuck.

We still have no reason to trust that You will do the right thing on your own. Our legitimate concerns and worries over how you handle our content (licensing changes, profile vandalism, intrusive ads) have not been addressed.

We still have no personal apologies from anyone for the hurt they've caused members. And this agreement all but guarantees that we won't, because your legal team is apparently disallowing any further comment on the topic, and was likely involved in drafting this coldly impersonal post.

We still have networks whose communities were irreparably harmed by the sheer volume of moderators and influential users that had to leave the network or cease contributions, because You dug in your heels.

So please, everyone, make no mistake, this isn't good enough. It may satisfy the company's legally-required list of requirements, but it does not satisfy their ethically-required list of requirements.

Stack Overflow, you need to do better.

  • @WebHead - on top of it all, the context involves a "code of conduct." I lack words to express the revulsion I feel considering that juxtaposition. How can anyone dissociate the "code of conduct" from the conduct surrounding it? You can't look at that page without remembering. – Scott Hannen Dec 24 '19 at 1:49
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    Monica is ok with what was said in the post. She copy-pasted it on her fundraiser and cancelled it. Seems that it's what Monica wanted, and what people wanted was resolution for her. People that keep steering the drama wheel seem to be more worried about complaining about everything than worried about Monica's well being and best interests. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 5:30
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    “It serves to be evidence to clear her good name so as not to damage her reputation and threaten her livelihood.” — at least the post accomplishes that… hopefully. – user289905 Dec 24 '19 at 7:19
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    @ByBw Monica is just one aspect of our discontent with the network. An important one, sure, but only one of many. Speaking for myself, a public retraction of the comments made to the press would be a good start, this is just a tiny step in the right direction. But in any case, it only addresses Monica who was simply the straw that broke the camel's back and not really the core of the issue. She just came to represent our anger at SE. – terdon Dec 24 '19 at 11:03
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    @terdon-stopharmingMonica I'm talking about Monica's case in particular. She has moved on, SE has moved on, that conflict is done. There are more issues in the community and the network, of course, and we should address every single one of them in a constructive, assertive manner; but some people seem to be more interested in indefinitely perpetuating the drama around Monica's case than in finding solutions or having a constructive conversation. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 11:27
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    @ByBw And some people seem to be more interested in letting Stack Overflow get away with how they treated the rest of us just because a single person got a piece of a resolution that they hoped for. And "moved on" is quite a reductive way to say "handled everything behind closed doors and are now legally bound to not talk about the resolution, including whether or not they're fully satisfied by the agreement reached". How can I even have a constructive conversation if they won't converse and now can hide behind "If it's even remotely related to Monica, we can't talk about it."? – user287266 Dec 24 '19 at 17:14
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    @terdon I think it's more than that, yes. Monica deserved her own form of justice, absolutely, which maybe this "agreement" gives. But they didn't only do it to Monica. The mishandling of this specific situation caused harm and discontent among the network, especially among moderators, and we've effectively lost the chance to get a satisfying resolution to the way that we were affected. And for those who only cared about Monica's well-being, we can't actually be sure she's happy with this situation. There's a spectrum between "Ideal outcome" and "outcome possible given resource limits". – user287266 Dec 24 '19 at 17:37
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    @ByBw You say "Monica is ok..." Have you heard / read that somewhere, or are you making an inference? B/C her actions could also be explained as someone who has been told by a lawyer that this is the best she's going to get. She could be anything from ecstatic to resigned. I see no evidence that strongly supports any one conclusion. – Van Dec 25 '19 at 1:31
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    @ByBw - yes, of course there should be (far) more effort being put in to sorting issues. However, the recalcitrant top echelons at SE still seem to feel they're untouchable. They haven't yet given a genuine apology and admitted what they did wrong. What they say amounts to 'we're sorry - for being found out'. And their offers regarding Monica's re-instatement are derisory. – Tim Dec 25 '19 at 9:19
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    My number one takeaway is SO's continued claim that she violated the then-current CoC, which is simply not true. She questioned a proposed, upcoming, not-yet-active CoC, and was punished for having violated that same not-yet-active CoC. This is nonsensical, and it is actively wrong for SO to avoid acknowledging this. – Stephen R Dec 30 '19 at 15:43
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    (licensing changes, profile vandalism, intrusive ads) have not been addressed In the spirit of XKCD #1053, would you consider linking to other posts concerning the issues you mention in this statement? Personally, I'm only aware of two out of the three and have no idea what the other is referring to. I doubt I'm the only one missing at least one piece of the picture. – jmbpiano Dec 31 '19 at 5:23
598
votes

I find this statement to be a continuation of your (= SE inc's) inappropriate, underhanded, approach to this matter and to relations with the SE community so far.

We believe that Ms. Cellio was not acting with malicious intent.

This implies Ms. Cellio did something wrong (albeit inadvertently).

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

This implies even more strongly that you stand by your claim that she had broken your Code of Conduct. I remind you, Ms. Chipps, of the highest-voted reply to your last post on this site: "Did you lie in claiming that Ms. Cellio broke the code of conduct?" You seem to be claiming you didn't. Well then, again, what did she do that broke the code?

We always valued Ms. Cellio’s contributions to the community and respect her intelligence, integrity, and professional writing skills.

This does not square with her termination on the spot as moderator - a termination you are still justifying and have not undone.

While our initial statement did not address her specifically, we regret that we used her name when responding to a reporter's follow-up. We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered.

And how will you compensate her for this damage? More importantly, what's to prevent you from acting in this "regrettable" manner against other users - even valued and respected contributors, to use your words - with whom you disagree?

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure ... there is a clearer process anytime a moderator's status is revoked

In that case, then - please apply this policy and tell us why Ms. Cellio's moderator status was revoked.

Also note, that a "clearer process" does not help much when you can be sanctioned unilaterally without even the opportunity to rebut the charges against you.

We respect Ms. Cellio and believe she is a good person with much to offer and contribute.

And yet, you still stick by her termination as a moderator; and have not reinstated her. Why?

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process.

That would be a non-recognition of the mistakes that led you here. Any terminated moderator can apply for reinstatement, after all.


Bottom line: You (= SE Inc.) seem to be "cutting your losses" w.r.t. the most legally vulnerable point, which is the slander in the media, while holding your position otherwise, and presenting all wrongdoing as an unfortunate conjunction of circumstances.

  • 16
    It's called "no admission of liability or wrongdoing" which is standard for extrajudicial settlements. Still, I completely agree with every word you've written. – Benjamin R Jan 4 at 11:43
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    The author of this answer (einpoklum) has been a repeatedly outspoken person w.r.t. the controversies on SE and appears to have been suspended. Seems like the mods are still deleting comments, answers - and now users - that they do not agree with. The staff of this god-forsaken website sicken me. – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Jan 7 at 20:48
538
votes

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

What a patronizing comment; in the discussion on the mod Q&A back in January a large majority of the moderators agreed with Monica's interpretation, which proves that she's not the confused foolhardy individual that this sentence makes her out to be, but that there was an actual disagreement on what the CoC actually mandated from people. This is also demonstrated by the fact that the CoC had to be updated to reflect this: there would have been no need for an update if all we had was one confused individual.

Stack Exchange still shifts the blame on Monica, instead of recognizing that it repeatedly kicked Monica in the teeth and treated her like an anonymous internet troll over an (IMHO fairly minor) disagreement. The only party that clearly breached the spirit of the CoC is Stack Exchange.

In other words, I feel this is a non-apology, and it's a disappointment this is the best Stack Exchange can come up with after 3 months. It seems there is still little understanding of the real problems with the entire situation.

I'm happy there is a solution which satisfies Monica sufficiently so she can move on from this stressful and emotional situation, but this has done little to put my mind at ease about the future.

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    The patronizing irks me as well. It indicates that SE in general and Sara Chipps in particular have learned nothing. I can identify the "confused" party here, and it is not Monica. Unfortunately the contents, and perhaps most importantly, the tone of the post also does not indicate a change in attitude towards the community. The damage Sara has done is untold, and this post makes me believe it will continue. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '19 at 8:50
  • Do you know that Monica is satisified or are you making an inference? I don’t know the terms of the agreement or how Monica feels about them. – canon Dec 30 '19 at 9:37
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    I don't know if she's happy with the terms, but she did accept them @canon. I don't have more information than anyone else, but it seems to have satisfied her sufficiently to accept them and move on. – Martin Tournoij Dec 30 '19 at 11:17
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    You don’t have to be satisfied to give up on a legal battle with a corporation and take what you can get -if anything. Given that SE admitted no fault and has not vacated its original judgment, I sincerely hope there was something more than Sara’s post (and the deletion of the old one). I certainly hope the terms were satisfactory. At this point, though, I personally wouldn't presume that Monica is satisfied; only that she's accepted the terms. – canon Dec 30 '19 at 19:36
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    @canon Yeah, hence the phrasing of "satisfies Monica sufficiently so she can move on". – Martin Tournoij Dec 31 '19 at 4:48
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    I can't imagine Monica would be truly satisfied, since this "agreement" apparently does not even include a retraction in the press, which you'd think would be the minimum to try and limit damage to her reputation – user625792 Dec 31 '19 at 23:24
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    @canon The SO user agreement has a binding arbitration clause. If Monica didn't opt-out, then both sides would be forced to abide by the arbitrator's decision, whether they like it or not and with no chance of negotiation or appeal. – bta Jan 2 at 19:06
  • @bta: The SO user agreement has nothing to do with it, as moderators have other agreements which supercede it. The option to opt out of binding arbitration available to the community probably never was available to moderators. – Ben Voigt Jan 3 at 16:36
  • @BenVoigt The moderator agreement is public, doesn't mention arbitration at all, and is written in such a way that it is not clear that it is actually legally binding on either party under US law, which I have to assume was intentional. – Stop Harming the Community Jan 3 at 18:35
  • @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica: All that really tells you is that it is not the entire agreement. "and other moderator policies made available to me" Not being a diamond mod I don't know what those are, but it's definitely been mentioned that there are such policies. – Ben Voigt Jan 3 at 19:16
412
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You said (my emphasis),

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process. Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

I applaud you for admitting responsibility in this matter, but a better response would be to offer her her diamond back. Why should she go through a process without a clear likelihood of success if the problem was largely caused by your failure to communicate with her? If I want to make amends for hurting someone, I make them. I may ask them what they want or expect in terms of amends, but I do not give them a form and tell them to fill it out to apply for possible consideration.

Another thing to consider is why the initial actions took place. Admitting wrongdoing is hard, but I have read in multiple sources that lasting behavioral change requires an understanding of the contributing factors. In other words, "I'm sorry, my bad" is necessary but not sufficient. One must confront the source and handle it.

For example:

  • Ignorant or poorly-qualified staff can be trained or educated in the proper procedures, policies, principles, ethics, or best practices.
  • A rogue employee can be fired, and safeguards put into place to dissuade future employees from "going rogue".
  • Bad legal advice can be handled by getting better lawyers.
  • Conflicts of interest can be handled via recusal.
  • Physically and/or emotionally burnt-out staff (who might lash out irrationally due to stress) can be asked to take a vacation to recharge.

In software development, we sometimes speak of "root causes". Maybe a particular kind of error keeps popping up, and it gets fixed each time the customer complains, but the real reason it is such a problem is a poor requirements-gathering process. What is the root cause of the mistakes above?

  • 382
    Technically SO didn't admit responsibility, just that there were "mistakes that led us here". They never said they made the mistakes, and the post seems to throw all the blame on Monica for not understanding the new CoC. – GreySage Dec 23 '19 at 18:40
  • @Grey honestly, I thought it did admit responsibility, at least in a moral sense. It does have a lot of legalese (which I don't appreciate), but it is more than a "something went wrong" post. – Robert Columbia Dec 23 '19 at 18:50
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    I think there is honestly nothing to applaud here. Well, maybe (hopefully) the amount of money they had to pay, but I wouldn't count too much on it. They said "she didn't understand our rules, and since it was an honest mistake we might think about reinstating her". Pretty sure that what happened is that the lawyers said "Everything is fine, except for that going public thing. Apologize for that and you'll be ok. Here, sign this". – ChatterOne Dec 23 '19 at 21:01
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    @GreySage Monica agreed to what is being said here. She copy pasted all of it on her fundraiser and cancelled it. Both parties are 100% ok with what is being said, monica even signed an NDA. There's no longer a conflict between them. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 5:27
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    @ByBw That is one way to look at it, true. Another way is that she submitted to the stronger power (read: expensive lawyers) to avoid more trouble. That is not the same as being 100% ok with it. – ChatterOne Dec 24 '19 at 7:10
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    @ChatterOne Submit to what? She was the one suing, and the one that signed the agreement and NDA. She was the one that brought lawyers, and started a fundraiser. Seems that she will make the legal costs public, so we'll know if it was a case of "can't afford it" soon enough. – Von Huffman Dec 24 '19 at 7:30
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    @ByBw She could have been under threat of a countersuit or other arm twisting. There are lots of avenues that make it expensive for individuals to sue corporations. Even if the legal costs are made public, we won't know if that's just because she didn't expend the money because she realized it would be futile. Overall, this statement just tells the public that the two parties have decided to go separate ways and we will never know the details of that separation. It admits no wrongdoing on either side, and does nothing to rectify the situation. It just says it is over. – SRM Dec 26 '19 at 5:35
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    I know from personal experience that these kind of conflicts are very emotionally draining and stressful @SRM. At some point you need to make a choice and settle with a "good enough" solution – rather than the "fair" one – so you can move on with your life. – Martin Tournoij Dec 27 '19 at 3:03
  • @MartinTournoij That's another valid possibility. – SRM Dec 27 '19 at 5:17
  • @ByBw I imagine she got some reasonable consideration out of the agreement. Hopefully millions of considerations. – Rob Grant Dec 27 '19 at 9:00
  • 2
    First two strongly apply – cs95 is disappointed with SE Dec 29 '19 at 8:50
  • 2
    What none one seems to know or say is that the SO culture is protective of the kind of lashing out that happened against Monica. If the company did anything to censure the employee, even a paid leave to 'recharge', it would have a chilling effect internally, which would impact their hiring initiatives. The company is better on their ease of culture/HR over the sentiment of their user base. – New Alexandria Jan 3 at 3:48
315
votes

Stack Overflow and Monica Cellio have come to an agreement.

Great!

I am happy that you have reached an agreement. I am especially happy that this happened sooner rather than later for Monica's sake. Clearing her good name as soon as possible was imperative here.

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process.

Plain wrong!

After all the missteps you have done from day one handling this, you still had one chance to make things right.

And you spectacularly failed.

You should have given Monica her diamonds back. If then she decided she is no longer willing to moderate sites on SE, she could step down on her own. While nothing could totally erase events in last few months, this would show good intent on your side and true desire to fix wrong moves and truly move forward.

Under the circumstances reinstatement process would be mere farce. I fully support and understand Monica in her decision to not go through the process.


This incident had great impact on how people perceive and value SE.

You have broken the trust between company and you users. The ones that provide you content for free. The ones that moderate sites for free. The ones that ultimately brought the company to the position where it stands today.

I don't see how can you regain that trust now.

Maybe you no longer care about mutual trust and cooperation. Maybe you think company can thrive without it. Certainly the platform is huge enough and has enough momentum to keep going for a long time.

But one day, mistake upon mistake and all the future mistakes (I am sure there will be mistakes - this kind of thing does not happen by accident, rather incompetence (at company level - because while one person can always make innocent mistake, others should act like safety mechanism and help correcting those) and inability to learn from mistakes and grow) will accumulate and become too heavy burden to keep on going.

  • 2
    Really, "sooner rather than later"? I think it's much too late already, and the affair hasn't been finished yet. If this was sarcasm, I didn't detect it. – anatolyg Dec 29 '19 at 10:33
  • @anatolyg It is both. From one side it is way too late... but on the other hand legal process could last for months and years (I am not familiar how fast it works in US) so having this part resolved now is much better option for Monica (even if it is too late by some standards), than having this issue unresolved and dragging on... – Resistance Is Futile Dec 29 '19 at 10:38
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    I don't think that Monica's good name was cleared. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who is not familiar with all this post-demotion thrashing. They may only know Monica's name (full name, mind you) from the article in The Register. They've concluded that Monica is a bigot because why else would a company take such a drastic action. Now they see this settlement statement. Would they change their mind about Monica being a bigot? I don't think so. These apologies and admissions are all about process and nothing at all about content. – President James K. Polk Dec 29 '19 at 13:38
  • 1
    @JamesReinstateMonicaPolk It is always hard to take back things that were publicly said. So, to a point her good name will never be cleared. But she has reached an agreement with SO and I assume that she was satisfied with it and with the statement (and other actions we don't know about), otherwise she would never signed it because clearing her name was (for her) the most (only) important thing. – Resistance Is Futile Dec 29 '19 at 14:02
303
votes

This doesn't fix the serious breach of trust SE committed by their actions for me. The agreement is of course between Monica and SE, and that is entirely her business, but the actions by SE were very public and have affected the way I and many other active users see the company.

I didn't have any high hopes for a legal resolution here, not every unethical action is also illegal, and there is a serious power imbalance here between a single person and a company. But I'm still disappointed that this statement doesn't actually resolve anything.

The problematic actions started much earlier than when SE talked to the press, or made disparaging statements on meta. The fundamental issue to me was that the actions by SE put a huge target on Monica, and that was entirely predictable. And still, SE took several actions over a longer time that all made this worse, and put an even bigger target on a single person. And while I do believe that SE would not talk to the press the next time something like this happens, I am not convinced that SE won't create a next time.

  • 44
    "The problematic actions started much earlier than when SE talked to the press, or made disparaging statements on meta" - Or earlier, such as posting a pinned message in the TL announcing her dismissal. What assurances do we have that ex-moderators will be given at least the same level of courtesy as suspended problematic users? – Mithical Dec 23 '19 at 18:20
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    @Mithical that's one part I mean, but even earlier the entire pre-announcement of the CoC change in TL seemed to be targeted at a single person. The language and emphasis of that announcement were simply too different from the actual CoC change. – Mad Scientist Dec 23 '19 at 18:26
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    I think your “I'm not convinced that SE won't create a next time" wraps up part of the gut feeling most of us have meanwile. +1 – e-sushi Dec 29 '19 at 8:49
246
votes

This is certainly a positive step. But it's not enough.

Offering Monica the chance to go through your reinstatement process is an insult. Either you're going to reinstate her to her previous positions or you're going put her through the wringer and reject her.

If you are planning to reinstate her, just do it! The new processes don't apply to her anyway since she was not removed with them. If removing her diamonds was a mistake, then fix the mistake.

Why force her to go through this unnecessary review unless your end goal is to say "see, we were right to de-mod you all along!"??

  • 8
    While I agree with your post, I suspect SE is working on a reinstatement process for any & all defrocked moderators. Considering Monica's sacking was bad procedure & poor procedure, that malpractice should have been overridden by an offer of a priori reinstatement directly from the company, without the need for resorting to due process. Strangely, institutions are never at fault in these situations. Thereby, reducing their liability. However, they should have just done it in reinstaement. – a4android Dec 25 '19 at 0:00
  • 26
    @a4android They have a reinstatement process. They released it a couple months ago (after de-modding Monica). There is also a new process for how to de-mod (also post-this fiasco). It would have been easy for them to say "we took away Monica's diamonds before we had these processes, so we're going to give them back to her without making her jump through hoops." Like super duper easy. So why aren't they? That's the question to ask. Why make her jump through hoops at all? The only reason is so they can officially refuse to reinstate her. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 25 '19 at 6:23
  • 1
    Yes I know & agree. Easy to say whoops! we made a mistake & fix it by reinstating her unilaterally. Now they're going all we have a proper procedure & this how we do it. And they don't need to, it's in their remit, gift & power to undo the harm to Monica. Everyone would know this would be the right thing to do. Instead they're trapped in their institutionalisation. – a4android Dec 25 '19 at 7:56
  • 8
    " So why aren't they?" -- I mean, could it be any more obvious that SE doesn't want to reinstate her? – Steve Jessop Dec 26 '19 at 0:42
  • 29
    @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole: It's even worse: there was an existing moderator removal process even before this whole fiasco. This process was deliberately ignored. What possible reason could Monica have to assume that she would be treated fairly under the new process when she wasn't treated fairly under the old one? After all, there have been zero consequences regarding the people involved. Which means that she would subject herself to judgment by the exact same people who broke her trust and ignored due process before. – Jörg W Mittag Dec 26 '19 at 1:27
  • @JörgWMittag Good point. You're right, there was a mod removal process, which was not at all followed. – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 26 '19 at 5:59
  • 13
    "Offering Monica the chance to go through your reinstatement process is an insult." Exactly. Couldn't have said that better. +1 for that. – cmaster - reinstate monica Dec 27 '19 at 0:01
  • 7
    I disagree. This is not a positive step. This is a step taken to restore SE's reputation, not a step taken to undo any damage SE has done to others. "We are sorry that you feel hurt by what we did." – user253751 Dec 27 '19 at 11:44
203
votes

This seems like you are attempting to strong-arm Monica into losing any of her own legal leverage, by having her agree to go through your sham reinstatement process that rests on a presumption of guilt and tacitly agree to your lack of accepting responsibility.

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

This is quite similar to the assertion made before in a post where you stated that users disagreed with policy updates and other Stack Exchange issues for "reasons they do not understand."

It is perfectly within the realm of possibility that a user can believe things correctly based on the merits and that it rests entirely on the flawed approach of another person. If I announce to a group that I intend to remove the wheels from their cars at the stop light, and they protest, it seems absurd to me to react with "I am sorry that this group did not understand." It's deflecting responsibility.

Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

She wrote why in her response before. The new reinstatement process starts with a presumption of guilt, and the process of her removal was flawed to begin with. She should not lower her dignity further by taking up that banner of guilt to go through a reinstatement process that's not transparent or kind, and that process seems to be for a case any other than an abberant one like this.

It was a mistake to remove her, so the mistake should be reversed. Even in this post, you are agreeing with the (new) policy does not forbid neutrality. Her requests meet the policy. But even if her requests did not, the policy was not in place yet, and therefore I do not personally understand how it breaks policy.

For example, I am not beholden to a Google policy that Google will release in 2025. I am simply not, because as of right now, it's 2019, and not 2025. Do you disagree with this being reasonable? Or do you believe that I should have my Google accounts deleted for the policy that isn't out yet?

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure we are more careful in our public communications.

Where can we review this? Because last time I checked, it was an answer that Shog9 posted to a question that stated "No comment" is the policy moving forward. I'm not sure how binding a post is. I'd feel a lot better if it was in Terms Of Service or Privacy Policy, because a post feels like as binding as a note written on a napkin. I definitely feel like a more codified approach would give people more peace.

The last sentence reads to me that Monica does not want to go through the reinstatement process, so she won't be reinstated. So perhaps don't wait too long for that diamond to reappear, it sounds like it won't. – Tinkeringbell ♦

Is this interpretation from this user true? This seems quite unfair. This is contradictory to the other features and processes of the site. If someone were to unfairly serial downvote me, their downvotes would be reversed. If someone were to deface my question or do anything else to my question, that action would be reversed.

Imagine if we took what's happening here and applied it to these other cases. I'd have to go to you on my knees and apologize for the actions that other user took, and go through a process where you restore my content. This isn't morally sound to me. Just reinstate her.

  • 7
    Re: your last section - "Is this a fact?": ...No, it's just Tinkeringbell's personal interpretation of that line of the post. (Somehow I doubt either side's lawyers will let them comment further... Monica's answer, and a reply by Sara to a comment on the question, indicates that neither side actually can comment further, so it's likely a stipulation of the agreement between the two sides.) – V2Blast Dec 24 '19 at 3:15
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    To clarify: My comment was made in reply to one that stated something like I'm glad to see this, I'll be waiting for her diamond to reappear and is indeed only my interpretation of the last lines in the question: Monica refused the reinstatement process, so her diamond won't reappear, at least for now. – Tinkeringbell Dec 24 '19 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Tinkeringbell I think my writing was sloppy. I was asking Sara or Stack Exchange if your interpretation was correct. I'll modify what I wrote. – The Anathema Dec 24 '19 at 17:17
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    you are attempting to strong-arm Monica into losing any of her own legal leverage... We'll never know for sure, but it's almost certainly the case that Monica was paid to drop all legal claims arising from this and to keep all details secret for a long period (probably forever). I wouldn't call that strong-arming, I'd call that a mutually-agreed upon settlement. Here legal leverage got her paid. – President James K. Polk Dec 25 '19 at 3:41
  • @Tinkeringbell - Did she refuse it, explicitly, after the settlement result was announce? – aparente001 Dec 29 '19 at 8:22
201
votes

...But it isn't over yet

I invite you to give this Radio Lab episode a listen on the Right to be Forgotten.

You (SE) have irrevocably damaged Monica's reputation by allowing her name to be used in a public context alongside accusations of bigotry, in a format that can't be readily altered (as presumably, this article was featured in print form, as well as digitally). Furthermore, Monica herself cannot have these attributions redacted, as while they are about her, they weren't from her: they're from you (SE) and it is your (SE's) duty to contact all outlets where this article has appeared and request redaction. It's your fault, and you need to clean up the mess.

We believe that Ms. Cellio was not acting with malicious intent. We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

Oh good, another non-apology.

"We're sorry you didn't understand" is about as sincere as moldy cheese.

It's not Monica's fault for not understanding the CoC; it's yours for not making it understandable. As part of Monica's responsibility to point out places where the CoC was not understandable, she did her job and said, "Hey, XYZ doesn't make sense, can you clarify?" and in response you (SE) said, "IT'S FINE, EVERYTHING'S FINE, ALSO THAT STATEMENT VIOLATES THE COC, BANNED!"

Everything is not fine

  • 16
    It's about as sincere as 🎵 a bad banana with a greasy black peel! 🎵 – rgettman Dec 23 '19 at 21:57
  • Where'd you find that comic strip? I need to get a new avatar. – user651518 Dec 23 '19 at 23:37
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    @JL2210-SupportMonica: It's by KC Green (language warning), who also made the original "This is fine" comic (slightly graphic cartoon imagery). Bonus: a short narrative game based on the original, that's a little more hopeful. – V2Blast Dec 24 '19 at 3:32
  • 1
    Note: I specifically picked these three frames as to avoid swearing. :) – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Dec 24 '19 at 5:21
  • 1
    You need to put the eventually... in. – user651518 Dec 24 '19 at 14:22
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    I'm all for supporting Monica, but can we please not invoke Orwellian legal abominations to do so? The USA does not recognize a "right to be forgotten," and with good reason. Phrased in proper active voice, it's a "right to force others to forget about you," which is a horrifying weapon to place in the hands of people with ulterior motives, and the uses to which this weapon has been put so far -- primarily criminals and politicians (but I repeat myself) hiding past misdeeds from public knowledge -- proves exactly why it's a bad idea that should never have existed. – Mason Wheeler Dec 24 '19 at 22:39
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    As Monica didn't do anything wrong here, and thus has no sleazy misdeeds to force others to forget about, this doesn't apply even if it were recognized in the applicable jurisdiction; what's actually relevant is the much simpler (and far more legitimate) right to a fair reputation, to be secure against defamation. – Mason Wheeler Dec 24 '19 at 22:43
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    @MasonWheeler But as the article makes it appear that she performed sleazy misdeads, she would just as readily want it "forgotten" (i.e. not to show up in a search for her name). – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Dec 24 '19 at 23:06
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    @Draco18s Yes, but that's not what the RTBF is about. It's about taking down true facts that are supposedly "no longer relevant." Taking down defamation is a completely different matter. – Mason Wheeler Dec 25 '19 at 0:22
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    @MasonWheeler Yeah, I think retraction would be what should be requested, not redaction. As in, SE should issue a statement to the media outlet to be included in an editorial note at the top of the article stating that their previous statements about Monica were false and unfounded and that they apologize for making them. But it would appear that SE didn't agree to that degree of civility in the settlement. – reirab Dec 27 '19 at 11:41
189
votes

Here is what I expected to read when I saw the title of this question. IANAL and IANAW (writer), so this won't sound like legalese.


Stack Exchange and Monica Cellio have resolved their differences. Both sides have seen what a waste of time and resources it is to battle over something that started relatively insignificantly. It was in the best interest of both Stack Exchange and Ms. Cellio to settle, so both parties agreed on a settlement. While we and Ms. Cellio cannot comment on many specific details of the settlement, the following is what Stack Exchange is releasing publicly per terms of the settlement.

Ms. Cellio is hereby reinstated as a moderator on all Stack Exchange sites on which she was previously a moderator. Stack Exchange did not follow our own previously established process, and a lot of hurt has occurred either directly or indirectly because of our actions. For this we are truly sorry. We hereby retract all defamatory statements made to the press about Ms. Cellio. By now you should be able to find an article online in the press about this retraction using your favorite search engine.

Stack Exchange welcomes all positive, constructive criticism, and expects active users to ask for clarification if our communication is unclear. Ms. Cellio did not break any of our rules, even if we previously mistakenly judged it differently. She as well as we fully support inclusivity and everyone's combined effort to make everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, or physical disability feel welcome and comfortable posting and contributing to all Stack Exchange sites.

While the Code of Conduct expects users to use proper pronouns upon request, Stack Exchange does not expect a user to know the pronouns of another specific user when not told first. While Stack Exchange recognizes that there are many different, varied opinions on the legitimacy of such neopronouns, users are expected to use them when using a third-person singular pronoun as stated on a post. Users may respectfully disagree, but if a user needs to respond on a post referring to a user with pronouns stated on that same post, then that user should comply. No user shall be punished, either with de-modding or suspension, for disengaging, for avoiding any pronoun, or for using a gender-neutral pronoun. Use of neopronouns does not necessarily mean that the user implicitly condones these neopronouns, but it does show respect for the referred user. The bottom line here is that we expect all users to treat each other respectfully.

Both Stack Exchange and Ms. Cellio fully support those users who identify with the Lavender community in ensuring that they feel as comfortable as any other user when posting on Stack Exchange sites.

Per the terms of the settlement, there were damages awarded, although neither Stack Exchange nor Ms. Cellio are at liberty to discuss the amount. Both Stack Exchange and Ms. Cellio have agreed to donate any leftover funds previously designated for legal costs to charities benefiting lavender causes.

Stack Exchange realizes that while most users may not even be aware of this situation, many long-time, long-contributing users feel that trust has been greatly damaged, even beyond repair. While we respect those feelings, starting NOW we intend to earn that trust and respect back. Lately we have increased our Meta interaction, specifically addressing concerns the community has brought up, from both years ago and recently. We understand if many never want to return, but we appreciate those have respectfully called for the right actions -- respect, civility, constructive criticism, transparency, honesty, and integrity.

As part of this, Stack Exchange will be more transparent with our actions and business decisions. While we reserve the right to make changes without consent, we will at least discuss changes that affect the community in a non-negligible way. After all, the community makes Stack Exchange possible. There are many that may not believe the preceding statements, but we believe that this is the first of many necessary steps that we will take to regain trust and improve relations between Stack Exchange and the community.


But that's not what I read. This wasn't what was posted by Stack Exchange above. It may look like a small step forward, but a giant leap forward was required, so it looks like things are still backwards.

  • 69
    This just makes me sad because it could have been this good :( And if it were, it might truly end the debacle – HFBrowning Dec 23 '19 at 21:33
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    Thanks for pointing out a way that this could have been handled constructively in the contex of current US legal culture. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 23 '19 at 21:35
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    My take on this, having absolutely no inside knowledge of the situation, but based on my own past experiences (tangentially) with a number of court cases is: Monica could have pushed for more - and likely gotten it (as described in your wonderful sample above) - if she had the time, energy & money to continue the legal battle for several months. But unlike a corporate entity, she couldn't/wouldn't devote that time & energy to it. (Money is the "easy" part thanks to GoFundMe and similar options). So it ends in typical legalese with an outcome that satisfies SE (end of the "problem"),... – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Dec 24 '19 at 0:16
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    satisfies Monica enough (i.e., that she was willing to agree to whatever terms that satisfied some of her concerns) and lets her get on with her life, but as is often the case with legal cases leaves the rest of us scratching our heads. But we are not parties to the lawsuit, so that's the way it goes. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Dec 24 '19 at 0:18
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    Very well put - and may you never become an L or a W, and forget how to do it! :) – Calum Gilhooley Dec 24 '19 at 0:49
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    Your pronoun obligation doesn't allow gender-neutral writing via not using pronouns. The CoC isn't clear about that, but in the reams of interpretation it does more or less say it's allowed. Which I support. Other than that I support this post. PS You "expected" something like this? You had very high hopes. – philipxy Dec 24 '19 at 5:05
  • 8
    Cannot agree more that this is what SE must answer. Currently, SE tries to cover its wrongs and that destroys trust and good will. – Maxim Egorushkin Dec 24 '19 at 15:27
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    @philipxy I spent my lunch hour yesterday writing this up, and I still forgot that particular point. I added it. High hopes? Maybe. I'm idealistic. – rgettman Dec 24 '19 at 18:43
  • 3
    This would have been the ideal solution in an ideal world. Pity it wasn't so in our imperfect reality. A brilliant reposte in contrast to the actual outcome. – a4android Dec 25 '19 at 0:12
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    Perfect potential response from SE. Probably won't even be read by those in power, let alone considered! +1. – Tim Dec 25 '19 at 9:38
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    Although the pronoun issue was the trigger to Monica's unfair dismissal, it is not otherwise relevant here. The issue is: was the proper process followed in demodding Monica? The consensus is that it wasn't, no matter what the trigger was, so it should be considered null and void as if it never happened. After that it is up to Monica if she feels she can trust SE enough to continue as a moderator or resign. The middle part of your post would be better if it wasn't there. – Cool Fool Dec 26 '19 at 4:51
  • Both sides have seen what a waste of time and resources it is to battle over something that started relatively insignificantly.” I would be careful with your wording. It may come across as dismissive to those who were hurt by the inciting incident. – Stevoisiak Dec 29 '19 at 19:24
  • 2
    You do realise you did better job in writing this statement than all the lawyers involved who took probably tens of thousands of dollars for their work, do you? – Piotr Dobrogost Jan 3 at 21:35
  • Wow. My jaws would have dropped beyond my ability to get them back in place without major surgery if SE's reply had been as good as what you've written. I think you might have a wonderful career in the future as a meta-moderator and communications officer of tech companies! 😲 – Gwyneth Llewelyn Jan 5 at 19:25
  • And now they hire you to do the damage control :) – mlvljr Jan 6 at 22:56
182
votes

This is a similar answer to Columbia's, but I have a slightly different take.

The last paragraph just doesn't make sense to me. It's nice that Stack Exchange seems to be admitting fault, but that's negated by the last couple sentences.

Monica was removed without warning or process. As far as the rest of us know, she didn't even have a chance to argue her case before she was fired. Why should she have to be held to a process for "possible" reinstatement, if no process was used in her removal? That just doesn't make sense.

Of course, there's a very good chance Monica just doesn't want to bother with moderating for a company that essentially threw her under the bus, but that should be up to her, shouldn't it? If she was wrongly removed, she should have the option of being reinstated; not the option of applying for possible reinstatement.

  • 6
    We don't know what the agreement was. But usually there is a give and take from both sides. We don't know the full terms, so we should give it all some time and see how it plays out. – user204841 Dec 23 '19 at 17:51
  • 6
    @ModusTollens There definitely could be, but this is the information that the company decided to give us, so I personally think it's fair to respond to what we have. – TheWanderer Dec 23 '19 at 17:53
  • 2
    Monica's apology was even called a "non-apology" – Ṃųỻịgǻňạcểơửṩ Dec 23 '19 at 17:56
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    She just commented that she does want to be re-instated. The fact that she has not applied to be re-instated under the new process is likely because of the fact that, as she explained in detail in her answer to the announcement of that process, she has reservations about the effectiveness and fairness of said process. – Jörg W Mittag Dec 23 '19 at 18:55
  • "I want to be reinstated (more specifically, for the removal to be reversed)"; she said she wants the diamond back. It might not technically count as the definition of reinstated under the new definition., – Ṃųỻịgǻňạcểơửṩ Dec 23 '19 at 18:58
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    Her (now edited) comment seems to imply that she feels that the removal was not following due process (the non-apology posted here seems to support that viewpoint), and therefore should be nullified. Therefore, she was never removed, and thus doesn't need to apply for re-instatement. I tend to agree. – Jörg W Mittag Dec 23 '19 at 19:01
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    I understand it to mean "reinstatement process" == "You are 'out' and get to go back 'in' but forever have it on your record" where "removal to be reversed" == "back to the previous status as if the removal never happened". – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Dec 23 '19 at 19:03
  • 5
    Sara didn’t admit fault, she just regret, that some events happened. – Michael Freidgeim Dec 25 '19 at 3:29
176
votes

In other words: "we wish this didn't happen, we're absolutely not sorry at all and did nothing wrong. Oh, and the new CoC obviously applied retroactively; shall we call you a waaaaambulance?" That is not an apology, that is yet another insult; do you think the users are bad at parsing it (yeah, you Did Something and that's it, fixed)? Merry Christmas to you, too (oh yeah, plus the traditional "posting this right as the holiday starts in the hopes of avoiding Streissand effect," very cute)

Edit: whence "this is not an apology"? A glossary:

  • "I apologize": "I wish to fix my fault"
  • "I'm sorry": "I acknowledge my fault"
  • "I regret": "I wish I wasn't involved"

See what that means, and see the OP.

  • 5
    Quite right. Man, I wish we could find a solicitor as good as whoever wrote the text at the top of this page. It's hilarious that comments are now blocked, too. (OK, if anyone is rude or personal - delete that comment.) – Fattie Dec 28 '19 at 20:08
  • 1
    You're absolutely right: how typical of SE to post with such timing. – maxathousand Jan 3 at 13:55
158
votes

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

At the time of the relevant events, NO-ONE understood the Code of Conduct.

The details were still being worked out. FAQs were still being explained and re-explained. Problems in the wording were being addressed. No moderator, no-one in the community, and no Stack Exchange employee could claim in good faith to understand that which had yet to be defined.

As things stand, it's still not really the case that the community has come to a common understanding about these issues.

Monica was trying to help you guys out by helping to move the community towards a common understanding.

Saying "we believe she did not understand" sounds rather patronising.

158
votes

As a 35-year veteran of startups (including legal issues with employees), this is not as good an outcome for Monica as I would have hoped. I wonder if she spent any of the $30k from her GoFundMe account to get this 'agreement'? It doesn't seem like she got much for her money, if she did.

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct and was confused about what actions it required and forbade.

Not many posters today seem to be commenting that there were several COC's floating around at that time - the original one, and several draft versions of a new one. It's my understanding that only the new one(s) contained references to the 'gender' topic in detail, and this COC was not yet in force. So ... what exactly is 'our Code of Conduct' as referenced here?

We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered

I can handle 'regret' rather than 'apologize for' as basic legal weasel-words, but she may have suffered is a far cry from 'we may have caused'.

Overall, this is a big non-apology. If, however, it hadn't been for the last paragraph, I'd have said - at least reading between the lines, 'this is an apology by the company and you can move on'. But the last paragraph is a low blow.

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here

(not 'mistakes we made'),

we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process.

This really sucks. Since she was - by their own admission - removed from the position without due process and without following stated guidelines, her removal should simply be 'negated' and she should be a moderator in good standing as if nothing ever happened.

My heart goes out to Monica. She must have been emotionally drained by this process and ready to accept this poor substitute for an apology.

As a startup with healthy venture funding, SO needs a squeeky-clean track record if they want to go public. Getting this issue swept under the rug was probably a priority.

  • 12
    Maybe they thought it was under the rug in this way, but their cheap cleaning solution is destroying the rug. They will see when they come back after holidays. – Sextus Empiricus Dec 25 '19 at 17:42
  • 12
    They're obviously looking for investors who don't know how to do Google searches. Their mistreatment of Monica will be high in the results for a long time. – Ask About Monica Dec 26 '19 at 22:55
  • 2
    Aaah, thank you Steerpike, now I get the real reason for all this weaseling... – user625792 Dec 31 '19 at 23:37
144
votes

When you state that

We believe she did not understand all of the nuances and full intent and meaning of our Code of Conduct

If I recall clearly, she was asking in order to comprehend such nuances and full intent. I believe this source of distrust will never be remediated, at least for users old enough to remember a different place and a different way of doing things.

For Monica, it seems, it's clear that the trust is not there.

  • 13
    There was a COC in place at the time she was asking for clarification on a new COC. She can't (logically) be accused of violating the 'new' COC as it was not yet finalized, so we must assume she's accused of violating the old (existing at that time) COC. It's not clear at all that she really violated the old COC. – Steerpike Dec 24 '19 at 17:06
  • 10
    @Steerpike But she DID lose her diamonds for supposedly violating the not-yet-in-effect CoC! Which is one reason, even without SE bad mouthing her to the press, why this whole situation is absurd. – Michael Hampton Dec 27 '19 at 3:11
  • 2
    Just to be clear: Stack Exchange has described the changes to the CoC as a "clarification" of the existing CoC, not as a "new" CoC. (I'm not getting into arguments in the comments over whether or not people believe that's the case.) – V2Blast Dec 27 '19 at 21:54
138
votes

Confession is good for the soul.

So far, you're still doing everything exactly wrong. As plenty of people have already pointed out, this is a non-apology that essentially says "we're sorry that Monica misunderstood the rules and ended up accidentally breaking them, but we didn't do anything wrong."

Well... screw that. Yes you did! You absolutely did do things wrong. I'm sure your lawyers are advising you to not admit wrongdoing "for legal reasons," but they're wrong. That's how you deal with a case you expect to be able to win, but you can't win this one because you are clearly, objectively in the wrong.

The only correct course of action in this case is to capitulate. Openly admit your guilt, reverse Monica's firing without any need for admissions of wrongdoing on her part, publicly retract your libelous comments against her in the media, and make restitution. The things you've done were obvious enough and public enough, and angered enough people, that I honestly don't think the community will accept anything less.

This post? This is beyond inadequate; it's straight-out insulting, both to Monica and also to all of us, for expecting us to be dumb enough to fall for it.

  • 2
    Perhaps there are more events in the pipeline that will be announced in the future. There is almost certainly nothing in legal agreement to prevent SO from doing all the things you suggested. In fact, the legal agreement almost certainly removes any legal repercussions for admitting all their guilt and coming clean about all their misdeeds. – President James K. Polk Dec 25 '19 at 4:16
  • 7
    @James You sure you're reading the same post I did? Because it sure looks to me like they're trying to wash their hands of the whole thing and use their "legal agreement" that they oh-so-conveniently can't discuss as a shield to avoid actually addressing any of these important issues. – Mason Wheeler Dec 25 '19 at 14:20
  • I am reading the same post, and no, there is nothing in it to make me hopeful for the short term. What I'm talking about is the legal agreement, not the content of this post. The company is now free to do everything in your paragraph The only course of action... without fear of legal repercussions. This will never happen with the current SO crop of managers, but employees move in and out of companies. Perhaps someone sane will take a job at SO and begin to right some of these wrongs. – President James K. Polk Dec 25 '19 at 14:41
  • 1
    What do you mean by "correct" here? Tactically or morally? If "tactically", then whatever you think SE's goals are, I think probably are not their goals. If "morally", then whatever moral code you hold to, I think SE does not hold to. And, for that matter, why would anyone expect one arbitrary person and one arbitrary corporation to fully understand each other's goals or morals? – Steve Jessop Dec 26 '19 at 0:47
  • 6
    @SteveJessop Sorry, but I don't believe in moral relativism. – Mason Wheeler Dec 27 '19 at 1:37
  • 3
    Mason, your last sentence nails it for me. I had hoped that something better would be the outcome, but am not surprised at how this turned out. I appreciate the brevity with which you were able to hit the heart of the matter. – KorvinStarmast Jan 3 at 14:18
127
votes

Enough is enough. The delay is far more than enough.
We do not want another nonapology, this situation should've been ended way earlier than 2020.

The post seemed ostensibly good, that the company officially acknowledged their misjudgment and revoking Monica's diamond. This is not a good statement at all. It already faced the same trajectory as her last post [now deleted].

Scenario

Imagine that: You deliberately broke or discarded someone's collectible item, which could be anything ranging from a small toy to something as as valuable as a diamond. You promise you will buy a new and identical replacement later on and directly give it to her in apology.

Will that person still feel the same to you after receiving the new "identical" diamond?

This is what Sara officially stated to “apologize”:

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process.

What‽‽‽ She is asking Monica to reapply for the new diamond. Keywords are “apply” and “possible”; her application might be rejected. She is not even guaranteeing that she will give out a replacement diamond for her, in which being a staff she may instantly give out to her because this is an exception that needs to be handled. Figuratively, you [or an official statement under your name] sprayed more corrosive salt to the wound, which leads to more pain and even infection.

Impact

It also affects other people who regularly contribute or even read this site including me, which at that time I am mostly away for work-related and research-related reasons. I only recently came back to SE and found out the gravity of this exception; I barely even contributed to Meta before that. I am not a high-XP user but just another SE user who shows general interest in programming, topics, and the site. Also, I am one of the first to see and comment on that post.

The best outcome is if this chaos never happened in the first place; that SE follows everything that should be done to moderators and ordinary users alike. Or that her diamond is found and given back seconds after; when Monica's diamond was given back minutes after her wrongful dismissal. Monica is very upset and many other moderators wholly lost their will to contribute. The staff has delayed for months and months and refused to give back the intangible diamond they took away.

Please, we need to take real action, not get into more "non-apologies" and "I regret that…" statements. Staff can give out the replacement diamond to her, and if they would otherwise offered the replacement minutes after taking it away, this exception won't even happen.

This is not even a halfway-acceptable resolution to a historic SOF event which resulted in the resignation of numerous diamond-moderators and an atomsphere of general distrust and exasperation among the SOF community. Indeed, it will not negate the damage already done, either to Monica, nor the collateral damage done to the other users. The post resulted in zero effective action despite her publicly statement that she [maybe representing all of SE staff acknowledges the company's miscommunication. Her response is not a solution at all to this catastrophic SOF event.

115
votes

So you're still not going to accept that your statements about her were actually wrong, you just "regret the damage to [her] reputation"?

It seems you've decided not to take your last opportunity to make this right and instead targeted getting the maximum you possibly could from the legal process. The community resentment and distrust will stay with Stack Exchange, and particularly the people most directly responsible, for years.

I'll be keeping the "Apologise to Monica" in my name for a while yet.

  • 52
    Also they are putting the blame on her, with statements about how "she was just confused." – Kevin Dec 23 '19 at 19:16
  • 12
    I still feel "un-slander" needs to stay in mine -- I know it's basically an impossible option, but it's the only true resolution. ... and "only sorry about the media..." that's like their "apology" before about "shipping on Friday", eh? – April Salutes Monica C. Dec 23 '19 at 21:28
  • 3
    This is retraction of any slander, by any definition that matters to the parties involved. Whether you like or not, an agreement between SO and MC has been reached, and the issue is resolved as far as they can or will accept. Harping on about making apologies or retractions is to completely ignore the fact it has already been done, and only adds to the feeling that too many people are just here to attack SO using MC as a martyr, not actually caring about what MC wants or has. – Nij Dec 26 '19 at 5:17
  • 11
    As someone who formerly spent a lot of time on the English Language Learners Stack Exchange, I think this latest Sara Chipps post would a great example to explain the idiom a day late and a dollar short. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Dec 26 '19 at 15:26
106
votes

A disappointing, but unsurprising result that only confirms that Stack Exchange Inc. is now infested with a corporate culture that not only fails to take responsibility when it is wrong, but refuses to even admit it's wrong. That sort of mentality is well-documented to doom companies, and I for one cannot wait to see that happen, because sometimes the only way to fix something that has been unbelievably twisted beyond its original purpose is to let it destroy itself so that you can rebuild from the ashes.

As for Monica, I hope she received a decent settlement, although I doubt anything will make up for the damage to her reputation and personal distress she's endured. Part of me is sad that she didn't fight to get the apology and retraction that she deserves; but I also appreciate that she likely has little wish to continue dealing with the bad-faith actor that is SE Inc., and just wants this whole sordid business put behind her.

Amazing how much goodwill a simple apology can achieve... amazing how much goodwill the lack of one can destroy.

  • 52
    The Long-Forgotten Flight That Sent Boeing Off Course - A company once driven by engineers became driven by finance. ... "For about 80 years, Boeing basically functioned as an association of engineers. Its executives held patents, designed wings, spoke the language of engineering and safety as a mother tongue. Finance wasn’t a primary language." ... nowadays planes are falling from the sky and basic security features are sold as "add-ons" – brasofilo Dec 26 '19 at 0:48
  • 4
    Sad to see SE turn into myspace, but it'll be so well-deserved – user625792 Dec 31 '19 at 23:48
  • 1
    @brasofilo This seems like a familiar pattern with tech companies. – SurpriseDog Jan 6 at 18:49
98
votes

I do assume that SE Inc. respectively the OP is telling us the truth, and that there is some sort of agreement between the two parties, and yes, we can find the same statement also on her gofundme page. But let me say the following, which raised like all my eyebrows immediately.

You start with this:

We sincerely hope she remains an active member of our community.

To then continue with:

In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process.

Honestly, together that reads naive and awkward at best.

But it rather feels like a bully who challenged the wrong person and who still tries to put up their own rules, to then blame the other party who refuses to follow said rules.

If you really want her to stay because of her great contributions, then ask yourself why you start with ignoring her objections about the process you want her to go through. To give her back something she earned from community members electing her. And which you took from her in the most dubious way possible.

I wish I could change my user name to

Ghostcat says: SE Inc should have reinstated Monica

but alas, too long to fit into the 30 character name limit.

But that is what I feel and think right now. It is probably a good thing that there is an agreement between the two parties, but it is a sad day for this community that Monica won't come back as moderator (here). We lost a lot, and SE Inc. gained nothing!

87
votes

While our initial statement did not address her specifically, we regret that we used her name when responding to a reporter's follow-up. We regret any damage to Ms. Cellio's reputation and any other damage she may have suffered.

It is hopelessly inadequate. IIRC, part of the problem was the reporting of the incident to the press with all the implicit connotations made against Monica's personality. If this isn't followed up with a retraction in the press as well, then it's a bit of a nothing. "we're not even sorry we implied she was a bigot which will remain on the Internet forever, but we regret saying her name even though we didn't say her name, right".

The entire incident with the press was unacceptable, and now they simply wheedle out of it with more "and we did nothing wrong" faux apologies.

This may end the legal threat, but it (again) does nothing to suggest to us that SE is a reputable company led by people with integrity.

84
votes

Now… look what Santa put under the Meta.SE Christmas tree.

Geez, it is sad to see that it took ages for Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow to finally recognize that there actually might be some kind of problem for them to fix. Though, personally, I am not able to detect any hint that Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow also grasps that the problem is on their side. I mean, like it or not, but fact is that this whole drama was started by a knee-jerk reaction on the corporate side and has been evolving in a bad way ever since. It wasn’t something the community’s or an individual Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow user did.

I have long kept my mouth shut about why I once dropped my mod gig, but it’s about time to note that the way Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow – as a company with a community of hard contributing users – slowly slid towards where they are now, was one of the main reasons why I stepped down as a Crypto.SE moderator in December 2018.

Seeing how things evolved left and right during the past twelve months, then standing on the sidelines while watching this whole Monica event turn from a “misunderstanding” to a full fledged community drama fueled by Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow, and finally stumbling upon this post at Meta, merely confirms that my stepping down and pulling back from investing time and efforts in a Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow community site obviously was not the baddest idea. From my perspective, things got even worse than I suspected them to become. It feels like having to watch a company shoot itself in the foot in almost every way possible, while I can’t do anything to make it stop.

Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow was once such a great community to be part of and I loved contributing. Now, it just feels hostile – not because if its users, but because of the way the company running Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow handles things.

Just look at the most recent example:

…we regret that we used her name when responding to a reporter's follow-up.

I mean, really?

It’s things like these that are anything but constructive and it’s things like these that strongly impact the public image of Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow as a company.

If it weren’t that sad, I would joke that it’s not the users but rather Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow as company who needs a working “Code of Conduct” for itself. One which would prevent Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow from bluntly kicking benign users and (as in Monica’s case) mods who represent the better pieces of the cake Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow Inc feeds on.

user management – you’re doing it wrong

(No worries, the kid is not tied up but rather standing behind the cardboard. It’s a halloween costume. This is how it works.)

Last but not least, I would like to note that this “Update: an agreement with Monica Cellio” post should actually have been posted in the Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow Blog, as that’s what the world sees and reads. Putting it on Meta.SE – where it is bound to be buried by the dust of time and new Q&As – merely underlines that Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow obviously has not fully grasped how their public image suffers from the way things like these are handled.

Anyway, merry Xmas to y’all.
Peace on Earth et al.

  • 6
    @e-sushi - looking at the bigger picture, I wonder if the downfall of SE started when they tried to apply the strict 'Q and A' process and supporting engine, which arguably applies well to techie questions, to more nuanced topics such as 'Christianity', 'worldbuilding', etc. Trying to define one process (and associated toolset) that accommodates such a different set of subjects seems 'ambitious' (or naive). – Steerpike Dec 25 '19 at 17:24
  • 17
    @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica, did you see any constructive dialog from SO Inc side during the last three months, in particular from Sara Chipps? – Michael Freidgeim Dec 25 '19 at 21:52
  • 6
    Also, to be fair about the last paragraph, Monica's demodding was discussed here, and the "apology" posts were made here too. It would seem strange to me for them to put it on the blog (whose audience is generally programmers, not the general userbase of the network) when it was never previously mentioned there. It would likely rehash the drama rather than resolve it (and rehashing the drama is obviously not something SE wants, but I don't think it's something Monica wants either). – V2Blast Dec 27 '19 at 22:19
  • 3
    @V2Blast Well, to be fair, Stack Exchange Inc's actions even spiralled this whole drama into the general media amd news outlets outside this website… where the audience isn't even part of this community and notneven part of the usual SE blog readers. See where I'm getting at? Once things left SE networks, stuff became generally public to everyone out there — therefore I think it's strange but very telling they now try to hide the end in the depths of Meta. SE was once hugged for its public comms, but not anymore.Yet, that's just my perspective of course. – e-sushi Dec 29 '19 at 8:18
  • 8
    @BelovedFool - That's actually a Halloween costume. The child is dressed as Hannibal Lecter - there are other examples that show that the child's feet are behind the cardboard so they can walk themselves around. They aren't as restrained as they appear, just so you know. I imagine it could be quite upsetting if you thought it was real. – ColleenV Dec 29 '19 at 19:27
  • "I imagine it could be quite upsetting if you [weren't familiar with this in context]." I don't know what the deleted comment said, but to confirm imagination, I was upset when I saw this post a few days ago. And I didn't feel like engaging with it. // Thanks to everyone for improving it! Particularly including the Hannibal Lecter link. Because I didn't recognize it, and trying to work out what that image meant led me to other dark places. (Setting aside the merits of the horror movie reference. Personally that doesn't bother me). – sourcejedi Jan 2 at 13:17
  • 1
    @sourcejedi It wasn’t a comment, it was an edit to put the image in a spoiler block to hide it. I thought it was important to let folks know it wasn’t what it looked like, because I wouldn’t want anyone having that image in their brain as anything other than a halloween costume. – ColleenV Jan 2 at 21:43
  • @Steerpike there are a number of users with long standing, and a lot of new users at SE sites, who find that the shoe-horning of the techie centric Q&A model that works well on the professional stacks to be a bad fit for the "softer" stacks. Been in a variety of discussions/metas on that very topic. – KorvinStarmast Jan 3 at 14:23
79
votes

So you've made an "agreement" that you're going to claim legally prevents you from even starting to do anything to win back the trust of your user community? (Such as giving the user community an explanation of what happened and what you've done to guarantee that other users who happen to catch the random unfounded ire of some SE employee won't be treated in the same way).

This is not a smart move.

I'm out.

  • 10
    Another clear message that will go unheard... – GhostCat Dec 26 '19 at 10:54
  • 9
    With their strategy, trying to burry this case and do as if nothing happened, it is a smart move. While the StackOverflow is being replaced with something else on the Internet (which will take some years) they will already have made a well established dominance with their 'teams' product, and that is all they want (Why should they, from the point of view of making profit, care about the community at this point? The community has delivered a website complete with an enormous amount of Q&A and meta data, we are not useful anymore). – Sextus Empiricus Dec 26 '19 at 18:54
74
votes

Why are all of these sweeping — and somewhat dramatic — declarations from the staff to the “community” being made during various holidays and seemingly at the last minute?

So I am barely invested in this whole mess — and let’s admit that, it is a mess — but as a bystander who is looking at this from a fairly neutral high perspective, I want to dig up a fairly basic quote from you Sara Chipps from the now deleted October 3rd post titled, “An Update to our Community and an Apology.”

“We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday.”

Really? This was a lesson learned?

Because this post right here was posted on December 23rd, a day when many people are traveling for the holidays and on the second night of Hanukkah. And not for nothing, today — December 24th — is Christmas Eve; another fairly major holiday that affects a huge chunk of the Stack Exchange community.

Granted, Hanukkah is not considered the most important of holidays in Judaism, but still…

I’m not trying to be snarky, but seriously… Come on… Either everyone involved in truly unaware of the holidays this time of year or there might be an effort to bury this stuff so it just goes away.

I want to accept this post as heartfelt and true, but I read this and I see something “off” about this all: From the initial incidents, to the update about the initial incidents to this post itself.

I genuinely wish all who read this — and who are involved with this — have a happy holidays, but seriously… There are issues here that still suffer from open wounds and covered ears.

  • 16
    This latest message likely had nothing to do with holidays or even "end of year". It had everything to do with when the lawyers could hammer out an agreement to the satisfaction of both sides. That can happen at odd times. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Dec 24 '19 at 20:28
  • 5
    @manassehkatz-ReinstateMonica: That was my thought as well. Monica would want the public slander retracted ASAP, and Stack Exchange Inc. ostensibly wanted the situation resolved as quickly as possible as well. Both sides would find it better to post about the agreement as soon as it's done, rather than arbitrarily force themselves to wait due to holidays. – V2Blast Dec 24 '19 at 21:27
  • 3
    @manassehkatz-ReinstateMonica Eh, I think we can all be “right” in a case like this: Yes, end this nonsense once and for all and as soon as possible before the end of the year. But it’s a fairly common political move to state and issue things at the end of the week, at the end of the day, before a major event, etc… Hopefully in a few months the dust settles enough so all are happy or at least not as “ruffled” as the community seems to be now. – Giacomo1968 Dec 24 '19 at 23:11
  • 20
    Whether or not the timing is intentional, it's solid evidence that even the minor lesson Stack Exchange claims they were taught from this catastrophe is already forgotten, or was never really learned in the first place. – tripleee Dec 25 '19 at 9:26
  • 16
    The timing may have been unintentional but the irony is truly unsettling. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Dec 26 '19 at 19:10
74
votes

This is not a remotely adequate response from Stack Overflow.

Outside of a fairly weak response to the defamation (I'd expect a strong apology in the media linked in the question above, given that her name was publicly trashed in the media), there seems to be nothing here we hadn't seen months ago, and in fact it seems to be a strong step backward from the tone of David Fullerton's post. None of this remotely addresses the issues that led me to stand down as moderator. It seems to be an even more strident digging-in of heels, but now with Monica completely silenced to boot.

This is not how you mend fences with your community. It's now quite clear what the attitude is to people that contribute value to your company for free - one totally lacking in even basic respect.

Whatever the agreement with Monica, it presumably doesn't stop SO from reinstating her unconditionally (or offering that). Then if there was some problem, you can readily follow the proper procedures; it might give us a chance to see how they work (if at all). It would be a trivial matter to do so (to just reinstate her), but it's obvious why those proper procedures won't be followed -- because it isn't certain to get rid of someone you decided to get rid of; accountability and openness are just too difficult for SO, apparently.

  • 12
    What makes you think SO wanted to "mend fences with community" ? They have dealt with Monica – Kromster Dec 25 '19 at 4:17
  • 10
    SO doesn't need to care about mending fences with the "community". This is, at worst, going to cost them a few single digit percentage of content generators, who will be replaced with new content generators within months, if not already. And as data-driven as the company is, they've surely run these numbers already and determined that it doesn't matter what you content generators think because you're still generating content despite everything. This is why I stopped moderating AND answering questions on SF the instant I first heard about this situation, and haven't done either since. – Michael Hampton Dec 27 '19 at 3:21
  • 1
    @MichaelHampton: Even if I accept the premise that SO doesn't have a strong business incentive to mend fences, it's still seems to be the case that mending fences with the community has no downsides at all and could only help them business-wise. However small that improvement is, it's still an improvement. That's assuming that SO will act rationally in their own interest. – President James K. Polk Dec 29 '19 at 13:19
  • 4
    @JamesReinstateMonicaPolk If SO were going to act rationally, Monica would have gotten her diamonds back months ago and the lawyers would never have gotten involved to begin with...or she never would have lost them in the first place. I wouldn't hold out much hope of rationality, especially now that the lawyers are involved, and probably advising SO to not mend fences with the community. – Michael Hampton Dec 29 '19 at 19:56
72
votes

One good turn deserves another.

You've unconditionally, unarguably and unilaterally fired Ms. Cellio. Since you've admitted that it was your fault, now it's time for you to reinstate her back in the same manner.

That aside, I'm delighted to see a positive step towards a resolution of the ongoing stream of issues. I'm sure you're more than eager to prove your sincerity with your actions, aren't you?

69
votes

So... what's the agreement?

Besides the acknowledgement of wrongdoing here, nothing in this post seems to reflect a change from where we were months ago. The only bits that sound like any action has been taken are these...

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure we are more careful in our public communications, and that there is a clearer process anytime a moderator's status is revoked as well as a process for reinstatement.

We respect Ms. Cellio and believe she is a good person with much to offer and contribute. We sincerely hope she remains an active member of our community. In recognition of the mistakes that led us here, we invited Ms. Cellio to apply for possible reinstatement on all six sites following our new reinstatement process. Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

... but all those actions were already taken in October. (See Under what circumstances will Stack Exchange, Inc. share private/sensitive information with the press? and Feedback post: Moderator review and reinstatement processes.)

I therefore don't understand, upon reading this, what's new. Is the "agreement" something that's happened behind the scenes (e.g. a payoff to Monica in exchange for her not pursuing her libel case and not publicly commenting further on this issue) that we're never to be privy to?

  • 11
    Any legal agreement was always almost certainly going to happen roughly like this: behind closed doors with us only getting some public lawyer-vetted statements. I do have to believe the agreement was at least somewhat favourable for Monica. I really would've liked to see them do more publicly to try to repair her image though. I wasn't optimistic about reinstatement; it's been way too late for that for a while in my opinion. It probably would've been hard to work together again after all this public conflict and lawyers. – NotThatGuy Dec 23 '19 at 23:41
  • 11
    My best guess is that this post is (part of) the agreement: By countering almost any negative claim about Monica that could be floating out there, it's a 'legal' but 'public' thing that can be pointed to whenever someone finds the negative claims, thus mitigating 'defamation'. JUST A GUESS though! – Tinkeringbell Dec 24 '19 at 9:44
  • 15
    The "An Update to our Community and an Apology" which claimed that Monica "repeatedly violated our existing Code of Conduct" and that Monica was "unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change" was also removed yesterday @Tinkeringbell, which is almost certainly part of the agreement. – Martin Tournoij Dec 24 '19 at 13:01
69
votes

To add my two cents worth...

Firstly, at the time that Monica was fired, there was no Code of Conduct that covered her alleged and as-yet undisclosed infraction. Of course she didn't understand it... no-one did, since it was still being formulated.

Secondly, Monica was fired in error... The existence of this question is an admission of that error. Monica has previously stated that she wants to resume her moderator positions, but that she is unwilling to apply to have them potentially restored, as that would be an admission that there was justification for their removal.

So... Unless Monica chooses to state that she does not desire reinstatement...:

Stack Exchange, please consider this answer to be an application to have all of Monica Cellio's moderator statuses restored, on the grounds that they were removed in error by your own admission, and that prior to the agreement being reached between Monica and Stack Exchange, Monica had repeatedly expressed a desire to resume her former positions as moderator of multiple stack exchange sites.

I would invite all Stack Exchange users who read this and who wish Monica to be reinstated to upvote this answer and add a comment indicating your support for Monica's full and unconditional reinstatement.

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