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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

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I'm writing this answer because I've just seen the latest episode of the tv show "The Show" which tells a story of several characters in the wake of the #meetoo movement, and so far none of the previous answers tackle an important topic for the future. Essentially, one of the show's main points was «if only people hadn't stayed quiet about these affairs, if only people had spoken up».

Well, with an NDA, a similar wrong signal is being sent. This seem to be symptomatic of larger behavioural issue that is beginning to show up. In my opinion, hushing this up, is self-defeating, specially for the purpose that Stack Exchange is implementing their new CoC. This way is not the way to go.

I don't know Monica's exact status at the moment, and I'm not trying to criticise specifically her action. What I'm saying is that if everyone will stay quiet, nothing will get solved, and more problems will just show up later on.

Maybe in 10/20 years, we'll see cases on TV of people who were tossed aside, and unduly mistreated for the seemingly purpose of ensuring wide respect for person's essential characteristics.

And, if Stack Exchange still exists at this time, we, from the community, will remember how and when that behaviour started creeping into society, and how it helped fuel exact extreme counter-movements similar to the ones we currently see in societies at large on the political scene.

If you want to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, it must be done in unison, or at least in collaboration with significant part of the whole community in Stack Exchange. Otherwise, this will only fracture the whole community, and create more frictions. Take a too big of a step, one most people are not ready to take yet, and it will just create discord. And this is a critic to SE actions so far...

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First off, I am glad SE and Monica have come to an agreement.

But I am very disappointed by the (legalese) wording and the timing (close to holidays). As a company you are doing something very good in this world. The way this firing and this agreement with Monica is handled has been bad. You could, no should, have handled this better. And you have no excuse with the feedback you have gotten from this community.

We are human. We make mistakes. In how we fix those mistakes we show a lot of who we are. There might be very good reasons for why it has run this course, but I sure was hoping for more than this. Something good, something what heals, something that rights wrongs, something more human.

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    no one from se is reading anything here, it's all going into the void – DForck42 Jan 6 at 16:47
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    I don't expect the void to react. But I got my disappointment out. There are others sites that will do this better. See you there. – Flummox - don't be evil SE Jan 7 at 8:43
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I’m going to post this as a separate answer from my previous one for voting purposes: why not just have an election or something (rather than having her go through the reinstatement process)? Since she’s a community moderator, why not let the community decide?

I’m not sure exactly how that would work with the legal agreements, but just a thought.

  • She's already been elected as moderator, over and over – George M Reinstate Monica Jan 6 at 23:27
  • @GeorgeMReinstateMonica Odds are she would be again, too. From my perspective, though, this would be the most fair way to settle the issue. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jan 6 at 23:31
  • It's not like her communities unceremoniously booted her out – George M Reinstate Monica Jan 6 at 23:35
  • This suggestion does nothing about the lack of trust, and does nothing to address that she was de-modded without a process to begin with. The best case for her as far as being a moderator would have been for her to be completely reinstated, then for her to resign immediately and never look back. – rgettman Jan 8 at 18:02
  • @GeorgeMReinstateMonica That's true - but a reinstatement process would likely erode trust even further if Monica wasn't reinstated (plus, Monica evidently already indicated that she's unwilling to go through that process), plus allowing her to stand for election again would allow SE a face-saving way to extract themselves from the whole situation. (If they just reinstated her without following the process it would be widely perceived as an admission of guilt on their part; as much as I'd like an unqualified admission of guilt from them, it doesn't seem too likely at this point). – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jan 8 at 19:11
  • @rgettman Why resign immediately? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jan 8 at 19:13
  • @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica So she could leave on her own terms. – rgettman Jan 8 at 20:05
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I don't see much variety in the responses to this post. First, there's a presumption that there's a problem with drafting things carefully, as lawyers do. Second, there's a presumption that the company hosting this service needs to apologize for something. If you just read the post without making these assumptions, the meaning is quite clear.

It is about two people (one of whom is a natural person). One had a theory under which the other acted with "malicious intent" (i.e., acted in a calculated way to bring about concrete harm). The other had a theory that the other it suffered a damage in reputation due to the other's carelessness. These theories, when articulated, are threats. So the two have made an "agreement" (i.e., an enforceable promise) to stop threatening each other and mutually discontinue the challenged behavior.

Also no one has paid much attention to the fact that announcement of this agreement was made public. I don't think it's required under SEC regulations, etc. Announcement of the notice must then have been consideration in the agreement. This network being the main forum for the alleged intentional harm that one person must have been complaining of, it would have been essential for the onlookers lately rooting for a fight to know that the show is over.

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    Your presumption that there are presumptions in play here is presumptuous ;) there's a presumption that the company hosting this service needs to apologize for something No. There is no presumption, instead there are strongly articulated reasons why the company should apologize for specific actions. It is about two people. Yes and no, but mostly no. There is a third person involved, and its ... you. By that I mean the community. We care about about each other as well as the site and we won't be silent. If this is what you mean by the "show" then, as you can see. it's not over. – President James Moveon Polk Jan 1 at 3:17
  • @JamesReinstateMonicaPolk Users have real, personal commitment and emotional attachment to a community that exists on a private corporation's servers. As far as the running of a business goes, however, the "community experience" is what is offered to get users to spend time on the site and generate marketable data. This incident should reassure SE that a little bit of controversy doesn't hurt traffic at all. – user676744 Jan 1 at 4:07
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    The notion that private corporate interests / profit making comes first and that everything else is subordinate is only one perspective. Some may argue that the community exists because of Stack Overflow Inc. Others may counter that Stack Overflow Inc exists because of the community. A holistic view might be that there is symbiotic relationship and that each exists because of the other. When one party attempts to turn a symbiotic relationship into a parasitic relationship, both parties may suffer. – Rounin Jan 2 at 14:37
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I doubt this was posted with any intention of gathering or addressing feedback from meta. Meta isn't really the place for that sort of thing anymore -if it ever was at all. I suspect that Sara's legal's post is here on meta, rather than the blog or nowhere, specifically to satisfy some provision of the agreement.

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Referencing @thebjorn comment on What is the process for reinstating a moderator?:

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Sharing the rules with community and following a due process is necessary but not enough. It is perceived that listening and taking actions accordingly is not fully attended by SE lately. I love what we have here and I want to believe that we can work together to put this behind us, while learning from it and improve. We have an open forum, so we can all talk, but we cannot be sure of SE listening unless they respond. And then we cannot take it as granted that SE is taking our feedback into consideration unless we hear their arguments; there will always be disagreements though.

Nobody expects SE to be bullied into changing decisions, but getting involved in conversations, stating reasons and counterarguments is vital. So responding to community's feedback should follow certain standards.

Now that we have an "Updated agreement with Monica Cellio", which is the igniter of all this, and considering that "Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process", it doesn't seem like a bad idea for community to review the new reinstatement process and provide feedback. Shall be updates based on the feedback.

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    Actually - it was discussed way back with that specific post for feedback. and you can find Monica's concerns here. Its worth considering though that the reaction to the actual posts isn't as negative as the feedback post. But these things have been discussed. Pretty much,there's no easy way to get trust back, and that's a core issue – Journeyman Geek Jan 5 at 3:34
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    @Journeyman Thank you. I am aware of that post. TBH, I think Monica's case is doomed anyway. All the unnecessary actions, bad decisions, bad timing, etc. made it impossible to come out of it with everyone's being absolutely happy. This legalese is the best we get. Last paragraph of my post is just an invitation for further involvement of community in discussions with SE, in lieu of condemnation. Most of it though, is about asking SE to make better decisions and actively trying to gain back as much trust as they can for future. – M-- Jan 5 at 3:44
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To me this post looks entirely a lawyer text written down here just to defend yourselves in front of court.

My question regarding this is about the first line:

Stack Overflow and Monica Cellio have come to an agreement.

Did Monica Cellio agree with any of the things mentioned in this post?

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    As mentioned on other answers and comments, usually, when both sides settle, they agree on many things, being (amongst other) 1. no further comment about the case 2. a notice (please note that Ms Chipps and Ms Cellio did publish the exact same statement) – OldPadawan Dec 26 '19 at 20:24
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    @OldPadawan just because a contract is called 'agreement' does not mean that the parties who sign it (possibly under protest) agree with any of it's contents. It is a fallacy of ambiguity to call this agreement something that Monica would agree to. – Sextus Empiricus Dec 28 '19 at 2:28
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    @SextusEmpiricus: In this case it seems obvious that both parties agree to it. There's no other entities to apply pressure to the parties. Monica's lawyers work for her, not the other way around. The same is true for SO lawyers. Or perhaps you're suggesting that circumstances have forced their hands? – President James Moveon Polk Dec 29 '19 at 13:04
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    @JamesReinstateMonicaPolk yes, given how SE/SO has been handling this I would not be surprised if they had turned it into an ugly legal battle, possibly even threating to countersue or threating her to pay high legal fees in case of a potential loss, where they have pressured Monica to sign some "agreement" (but under protest, meaning she is far from happy with it). Just because it is called agreement does not make it an agreement. It is obvious that SE/SO does not see their wrong doing and does not want to admit guilt, let alone reinstate Monica or do something else to relieve the pain – Sextus Empiricus Dec 29 '19 at 15:47
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    Given the pattern so far, I too would not be surprised if the plaintiff was put under pressure to sign a document which stipulated that they could never mention that they were pressurised to sign it. – Rounin Dec 30 '19 at 12:13
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So in essence, SE is saying Monica made a mistake by assuming the CoC meant what it said, instead of divining its "full intent" and they forgive her, if she subjects herself to a questionable reinstatement process, which she won't do. And they now triple down on the implication that she did do some unspecified wrong, again without specifying what exactly that was, despite repeated - public - requests for such a clarification by Monica.

They also apologize for regret doing the thing they legally weren't allowed to do.

Why Monica accepted this settlement is beyond me, since it certainly wasn't about money. My best guess is it was the result of some binding arbitration she agreed to.

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    Here's what I take from Monica accepting it: While some of us are okay with the endless churn, and perhaps on some perverse level find it occasionally distracting in an almost entertaining way, she's just over it and wants peace from it. I wish her well. Despite the injustice of it all, if I were her I'd spend some amount of time in the fight and then want to move on and have my life be about something else. – Scott Hannen Jan 7 at 13:53
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