Recently, Sara Chipps posted her message Update: an agreement with Monica Cellio. After reading it, I wanted to compare it with her previous post about this subject. It turns out that she deleted it. Does anyone know why? It looks strange since (as far as remember) it was a sort of official position of SE. Why would such a statement be deleted?
The obligatory disclaimer: I am not a lawyer but…
The official Stack Exchange announcement, entitled An Update to our Community and an Apology, was deleted 18 hours ago. Possibly SE lawyers advised Ms. Sara Chipps to take this action. Possibly, Monica's lawyers demanded its deletion. Who knows. And no one will know because for legal reasons the agreement cannot be discussed in public.
I wonder if it is expected that Ms. Monica Cellio must delete any of her contributions as a sign of good will or as part of the agreement?
Perhaps not: Her question, Stack Overflow is doing me ongoing harm; it's time to fix it! is still visible.
I would assume that Sara's old posts are gone because they contained slander against Monica. We know there's an agreement. Thing that could be legally actionable in such an agreement include removal of slanderous posts, and a post stating Monica had done nothing wrong. Those are the two things we saw happening. I would assume this is what the agreement was about.
Here is why I find this sad and insufficient:
- It took the involvement of lawyers to get SE to say that much. Seriously, SE? Unless a lawyer twists your arm, you're willing to run over a dedicated volunteer, and wouldn't admit to any wrongdoing? That's disgusting. Honesty, justice, admitting mistakes - these should be basics, basic human decency. It shouldn't take a lawyer to make you act like decent people. Especially since you profess to be "nice" and "inclusive" and "welcoming" and all those good qualities.
- SE still did not apologise. Amid all the lawyerspeak, where's the simple human "we're sorry, we were wrong"? Instead, Sara Chipp's post starts with "Monica did not understand [...] and was confused" - subliminally laying blame on Monica. Then there's the passive-voice "responses to her requests for clarification were not satisfactory. The verbiage in our Code of Conduct could have been more explicitly detailed". Where's the admittance of guilt - where's "we didn't give satisfactory responses", "we didn't word the CoC well"? The active voice only appears when SE pat themselves on the back: "We always valued Ms. Cellio’s contributions". The whole "apology" was carefully worded to make SE look good, and Monica look bad. They're adding insult to injury.
- Finally, Monica is still asked to "apply for possible reinstatement", rather than just be reinstated. In this, SE maintain the stance that their removal of Monica from office was OK, and she should ask to possibly be reinstated.
So, to sum up, SE had their arm twisted by lawyers to remove slander, but they still do not wish to admit they'd done anything wrong. I'm disgusted by this attitude.
I would not be surprised at all if the previous statement and Stack Exchange's answer to Monica's statement on Mi Yodeya Meta were deleted as part of the terms of the agreement. Monica's statement here made two demands:
- Retract negative statements about her (explicitly including and linking to these two and one other that I can't see).
- Reinstate her as a moderator.
We see here that they're still not doing (2). With respect to (1) (which she made clear is the one she considers a "must"), it seems to me that deleting the statements on the SE network that Monica had asked them to retract could very well be part of SE's end of whatever agreement they now have. I wonder if they did or are going to do anything about the Register article; I hope so.
For me it looks like SE is trying to rewrite the history in the hope that people will forget about this big mistake. At least for new users and those who hasn't heard about this situation at all.
There is no point to delete such posts, because the Internet never forgets. So, even if a lawyer asked about this, it doesn't make any sense.
I agree with the other answers that most likely, that deletion happened due to the legal agreement between Monica and SE Inc. mentioned in the question.
If so, we might never know for sure.
And that is the essential issue here: far too often, the community is baffled about this or that action of the company and in most cases, we have to ask for explanations. Which rarely happen. Leading to: endless speculations.
Dear SE Inc., if there is only lesson to take away from all this mess: please make transparency your first priority. Understand: you absolutely can't do anything that goes unnoticed. Remember that: the community will notice, most likely within a few hours after you doing something. So whatever you do, consider to let us know why. Right then when you do things.
I am not asking for endless apologies here. Just remember that nothing happens without someone noticing. Provide reasonable summaries of "what and why" when taking actions that are likely to resonate within the community.
Without explanations, that leads to speculations, leading to a huge waste of everyone's time and motivation. YOU can fix that part easily!
And sure, I am not saying that such communication is easy. But saying nothing is rarely an efficient communication strategy!
In an attempt to keep this conspiracy-theory free:
- The new official messaging from Sara Chipps is likely one that was reached through the result of legal action/mediation. This would then be the new official position of Stack Exchange, Inc.
- The previous message was more a policy-oriented reaction as opposed to a legal one; it has been my personal experience with mediation that the terms of the mediation agreement supersede any prior agreements/deals/messaging, and it would make sense to remove it.
- The previous verbiage may have also contained libelous claims against Monica, and instead of doctoring that out (and/or risk invalidating lots of answers as a result), removing it wholesale is a cleaner option.
- There is little additional value that can be gleaned from the old post in the wake of the settlement. All of the information that was discussed there, including the formation of new policies for moderator reinstatement, are echoed again in the new statement.
(Totally posted in my role as a grumpy regular user who wasn't all too happy about much that happened. The following post may not reflect the views of the moderation team or anyone else other than me.)
One would assume that as an official message that no longer reflects the company's views - it no longer belongs. Maybe it belongs in the trashheap of history - the thing that did not give joy, yet seems so hard to let go.
As something that caused that much pain, heartache and drama, maybe it's better buried. Certain parts of it certainly contributed to things being worse than they could have been.
Both forgiveness, and forgetfulness might be hard, undeserved, maybe even impossible. That said, if something is a festering open wound that won't heal, sometimes it's better it is excised.
It is less the mistakes of the past that matter, than hopefully the lessons learned.
That's to say... good riddance?
I hope the lessons learned are etched into the collective consciousness of the company - the story told to new employees as an object lesson.
But to those for whom it does matter - I guess the chapter is closed.
Maybe it's time for a new chapter.