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Teresa Dietrich asked moderators who have resigned or suspended activity to post on Meta if issues remained unaddressed.

I haven't resigned or suspended activity but I am a moderator and as indicated by my current username, my relationship with the company remains substantially fractured as long as what happened to Monica is not properly acknowledged. The flaws in the "agreement" are clearly documented in many answers to that post.

Of course the immediate reaction will be "we can't say any more for legal reasons". But I'm sure that you could, by mutual consent, vary the agreement you have with her to allow you to post a real apology, even though it's likely too late to bring her back to the network.

One of the many mistakes appears to have been to work on the basis of a strict legal position without proper balancing of the other consequences of that position. By not properly remedying that situation to the extent still possible, that mistake is continuing.

This isn't just a question of treating an individual appropriately, but also of building trust that something like this won't happen again.

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    @V2Blast Well, she did ask for posts on meta, and the rules are a bit fluid about actual questions. I suppose I could change the title to "Why won't you apologise to Monica?" but I suspect the real objection is that I am reopening an old point yet again. – GS - Apologise to Monica Feb 19 at 22:16
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    All the parties involved reached an agreement. Monica moved on, why can't we? Given the situation, where all individuals involved are already worrying about other stuff (aka left this behind), this kind of efforts seem dishonest, and quite honestly a waste of time for everyone. Are we bound to see this same question every week, just worded a little differently enough to not be closed? We ask to be listened, but we also attempt to keep the drama stream open indefinitely. We ask the admins to keep being involved in meta, but we keep an awful signal to noise ratio. – Von Huffman Feb 21 at 23:51
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    @VonHuffman It was in response to a specific "we're going to do better" post. I won't repeat it unless there's some new trigger. – GS - Apologise to Monica Feb 22 at 0:00
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    @GS-ApologisetoMonica There's an infinite number of reasons to bring this back. That doesn't mean that it's helpful or productive to bring this back an infinite amount of times. For legal liability, or other stuff not being disclosed because of the NDA, they can't apologize publicly, officially. But both parties gathered, talked about it, and reached an agreement. An agreement that might have involved personal, out of the record, apologies. Whatever happened there made all parties involved move on. You are doing things in the name of Monica, that Monica is no longer pursuing or interested in. – Von Huffman Feb 22 at 0:09
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    Its so strange that they avoid this topic altogether. To me and Im not a CEO but the first thing Id do is say look guys we will NOT move forward until we fix this. Fix this and everything else should come back to normal and we can finally move ahead and past this. Why is this so hard to do? Why do people who work for this corporation continue to take the wrong route. What are they to lose? Maybe they upset an employee or employees that were behind this mess up. I say so what - one or two people mad vs 1000s is just a simple decision to make. I dont know ive always learned to humble myself. – JonH Feb 22 at 3:31
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    Such events can of course happen again anytime: SE might at any time need to decide to revoke moderator privileges if they don't trust the judgement of a moderator, without being (legally) able to disclose all the details of that decision. An apology would not change that situation. What could change the situation is a shift of power such as created by a union of moderators, which can oppose SE decisions at the threat of a general strike. – tkruse Feb 22 at 8:22
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    @vonhuffman Monica moved on by breaking up with SE/SO. At this point that seems the only way to move on for those that are unhappy with the situation. A true apology and a more clear vision that shows this disrespect by the company won't happen again, that would make it easier to move on for other people that are not yet breaking with the network. A lot of people are on the edge now. – Sextus Empiricus Feb 25 at 8:41
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    I just looked at the community roadmap for Q1 2020 and no, Monica is not mentioned there anywhere. So I guess, it won't happen anytime soon. – Trilarion Feb 26 at 15:23
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    @tkruse: That is only a very narrow subset of the events. Did you sanitize it intentionally? – Piskvor left the building Mar 3 at 14:37
  • @Piskvor I don't understand the question about sanitizing. Yes, I refer only to the demodding and not further events like what was said in the press. The OP does not list the events for which a public apology to Monica is required as opposed to those for which the given agreement is sufficient to restore trust. – tkruse Mar 3 at 16:18
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    @tkruse: iff the issue was "yeah, a mod was removed for making mistakes, it happens", then your comment would make sense. Except, well, that's not what happened, at all. – Piskvor left the building Mar 3 at 16:20
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    No, my comment is: a mod can be removed for loss of trust in that mod, and the reasons for the loss of trust may in such cases remain unclear. This can happen again (unless power structure change). A demand that only breach of rules can lead to mod removal and a demand that in such cases the breach must be made public are not realistic in the current power structure. – tkruse Mar 3 at 16:37
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    Sure. I can agree with that. Just wanted to clarify that you did not mean that as a commentary on the Monica situation. – Piskvor left the building Mar 3 at 20:22
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+50

Totally agree with this suggestion.

There seems to be an agreement in the dialogue around The company’s commitment to rebuilding the relationship with you, our community that actions speak louder than words - and one of the easiest and most straightforward actions that can be taken would still be to fully and wholesomely apologise for the specific wrong turns that were taken in the course of the 'Monica' events, and make them right.

One reason for this, IMHO, is that the Monica events showed that a small group of people within SE were allowed to push their own agenda against the wishes of SE's communities. If this is still the case, then it means that those communities are still under threat from that same small group of people. If it isn't still the case, then it's hard to see what the barrier is to finding a way to make things right.

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    No apology is going to sway that belief. – user400654 Feb 19 at 22:41
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    @user400654 given the difficulty SE have had in apologising so far, I honestly think that a proper apology would be seen (by some people at least) as a meaningful thing. – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 20 at 8:17
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    It would certainly be seen very positively by me, which was why I posted this. – GS - Apologise to Monica Feb 20 at 8:49
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    @topoReinstateMonica Seen as meaningful to us, but as a libel confession to juries and lawyers. – Von Huffman Feb 22 at 0:11
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    @user400654 It would at least demonstrate that SE-corp is willing to perform the first step towards righting what is currently wrong. Everything else is just round 12 of meaningless talking so far. – vicky_molokh Feb 22 at 9:17
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    The problem is, though, what is a "proper" apology? Of course we can probably agree it's more than just calling her "confused" about the CoC and such. But still, it's ultimately just words and at one point even Dave Fullerton's "apology" was once hailed as sincere, until time and (in)action showed it was just empty words. I'd appreciate the company (or even specific directors) falling to their knees and just finally admitting that they dropped the ball, but I doubt it will change much beyond the warm fuzzy feeling of being right, which we already know to be anyway. – Christian Rau Feb 25 at 10:17
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    @ChrissaysReinstateMonica I think just going some way to recognising the truth of the situation is enough - as you say, rather than inventing some bizarre fiction that she was "confused", acknowledge that she was dealt with outside of any accepted process, and that many people feel she was incorrectly removed as a moderator for discussing a policy, rather than violating it. It wouldn't have to be a huge self-debasing admission of guilt. – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 25 at 12:46
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    An apology is not what's needed. Reinstating Monica's moderator status is what's needed. I would even recommend that Stack Exchange reinstate Monica's moderator status regardless of whether Monica wants them to - that's the only action that would acknowledge that removing her was a mistake. – Brilliand Feb 25 at 23:25
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    @Brilliand I agree with the spirit of your comment - see my username! - and although I'm not sure that I'd agree with reinstating mod status against someone's wishes, I do agree that SE should find a way to make things right other than just pretending they are. – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 29 at 15:02
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+100

In his public apology, the CTO, David Fullerton, said that he "was personally involved at each step along the way" with the actions taken against Monica.

The CTO doesn't deal with community issues, day to day, so that means someone, who was involved in managing the community, and who was high enough on the org chart to march into the CTO's office to ask for his approval, is primarily responsible for how all of this went down.

Any apology to Monica will feel hollow without this person:

  • Owning up to their role in this
  • Explaining why they did what they did

  • Explaining why they refused to engage with Monica as she repeatedly
    asked for dialogue, before the lawsuit.

  • Convincing us they regret their actions, and what lessons they've taken away from all this

Edit I've noticed a couple of answers here suggest the legal settlement would prevent an apology of this nature. But there's absolutely no reason to believe it would be difficult for SE to come to an agreement with Monica about issuing a sincere public apology like this.

Edit 2 In the comments below, @user56reinstatemonica8 points us to the blog post of Jon Ericson, former Community Manager for Stack Overflow. He recounts how his efforts to mediate the situation were undermined and ignored, and how Monica's removal happened on his day off. It seems to reinforce what I wrote above. See the "Job" section of this blog post

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    There's been a legal agreement, so there is every reason to believe that nothing further will be said. – Mari-Lou A Feb 26 at 14:36
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    I'm just saying that, while I doubt SE will say anything more about the issue, it's not really because of the settlement, because there are straight forward ways to work around that. (addendums to existing settlements are possible) – BobbyA Feb 26 at 16:51
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    Have you read Jon Ericson's blogs about it? Mostly the "Job" section here. Your instinct seems to be right that a few members of senior management planned and executed the whole thing behind the backs of the community team, ignoring Jon's efforts to mediate and even waiting until his day off to pull the trigger. We know who two of those instigators are, and they're still in their senior positions, letting the little people take the flak, cheerfully acting like they did nothing wrong. Can't trust any of the recent nice words. – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 4 at 8:42
  • I am no experts in such settlements, but I don't see why the settlement could contain anything that forbids any party to speak out an apology. Rather, such a settlement might contain the extend of to what SE will admit (and nothing more), and what repairs it thus is willing to pay. Apologizing more would mean paying more repair, I assume, unless Monica waived her rights to any repairs, which probably a lawyer would not recommend. (Sorry if I use the wrong words, I am really no expert.) So it's not just a matter of adding a section to a legal settlement, there is money involved. – tkruse Mar 5 at 1:25
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Update 03/03/2020: Another bounty!

TL;DR

If it wasn't clear by now: More than one apology has been issued by the company, they could issue another dozen and it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. Monica Cellio, Josh Heyer (aka Shog9), Robert Cartaino and Jon Ericson have been permanently demodded, abruptly fired, or fled the burning building, respectively. No amount of apologising will bring any of them back. The company should ask them to come back, but it will not happen.


The OP admits the likelihood of Cellio returning to Stack Exchange if the company issued a more heartfelt apology is remote.

Of course the immediate reaction will be "we can't say any more for legal reasons". But I'm sure that you could, by mutual consent, vary the agreement you have with her to allow you to post a real apology, even though it's likely too late to bring her back to the network.

But the truth is, the company has already apologized, several times. Emphasis in bold, mine.

I will make it up to you, I promise to

An apology by the recently appointed, Chief Product Officer, Teresa Dietrich

I want to personally apologize for our actions or inactions, as the case may be, in the past that had a negative impact on our relationship.
@Teresa Dietrich February 19, 2020

By @Shog9, former Community Manager and Stack Overflow employee

Believe me, I know how stressful this is to watch, especially when so little is being said. There's a lot I want to say right now, but it would be careless of me to do so; and again, we've already been a bit too careless with what we've said in some situations, and hurt folks by doing so.

@Shog9October 15, 2019

The following apology was by David Fullerton♦, CTO of Stack Overflow, Inc., and VP of Engineering since 2012

In the last few weeks, we made a series of mistakes, both in our actions and in the ways that we communicated those actions. […] and I’m deeply sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused.

First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community […] I am responsible for that, and I am deeply sorry.

…we also acted at a time which coincided with a Jewish holiday which she and many other members of our community observe, and we should have taken that more into account in the process.

I’m responsible for that, and I’m sorry.

Third, we hurt the moderators and members of our communities. […] I’m responsible for that as well, and I’m sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused.

@David Fullerton♦ October 6, 2019

However, the first official apology to the community was posted just three days earlier; entitled

An Update to our Community and an Apology

It was then deleted by its author, @Sara Chipps♦, on December 23, 2019.

Posting a link or citing excerpts of deleted content carries the penalty of suspension. And after having served a one month suspension for this very offense, I could be suspended for a year. However, I believe, citing just the title of any deleted post is not punishable

Words without actions

Another apology at this stage, sincere or not, would be insulting unless it was accompanied by an offer to reinstate Monica Cellio, without trial, as a moderator.

A possible compromise could be limiting the reinstatement on those sites where Cellio was democratically elected. This would, consequently, deny her moderator privileges where she was appointed for example, on MSE.

But in my opinion, that golden opportunity to really amend and include restitution for the hurt and wrongs inflicted collapsed when an agreement was settled between the two parties. Furthermore, if we cast our mind back to the official announcement, dated December 23, 2019, the term "regret" was used twice:

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.

A regret is also a synonym for contrition and remorse. It implies the speaker or organisation expresses shame for something they have done or failed to do. Fundamentally, "we regret" is a formal way of saying "we are sorry".

From Merriam-Webster dictionary

regret

2: to be very sorry for
- regrets his mistakes

Whether these "regrets" and repeated "apologies" are sincere acts of contrition is an entirely different matter. One thing is sure though, there are no victors in this mess.

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    Re But the truth is, the company has already apologized, several times. But the truth is that almost all of those apologies was accompanied with a "but ..." clause, or even worse. Some of those so-called apologies were along the lines of "I'm sorry you have acted so irrationally". Not an apology. I have yet to see an acknowledgment that Monica was right, that one can write in a perfectly gender neutral fashion without resorting to using preferred personal pronouns. – David Hammen Feb 25 at 13:07
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    @DavidHammen I have yet to see an acknowledgment that Monica was right, that type of apology, admitting that Cellio was in the right, I seriously doubt will ever come. Miracles do happen... but I don't believe in them. – Mari-Lou A Feb 25 at 13:09
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    Until that miracle happens, an "apology" is not an apology. – David Hammen Feb 25 at 13:12
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    The only remorse I see from SO/SE management is that their Vogon-like mismanagement has resulted in a significant slide in Alexa rankings. – David Hammen Feb 25 at 13:17
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    @DavidHammen Like I said in the answer: Another apology at this stage, sincere or not, would be insulting unless it was accompanied by an offer to reinstate Monica Cellio, without trial, as a moderator. – Mari-Lou A Feb 25 at 13:23
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    Those were not apologies, those were weasel words. An proper, serious apology in situations like this one involves: (1) cessation of wrongdoing (stepping off the victim's foot, returning a stolen jewel etc.), (2) admission of wrongdoing, (3) preferably an explanation of the reasons for the wrongdoing, (4) a request for being forgiven ('I regret' is not that - it's unilateral) with a question of what actions and conditions are necessary for the apology-receiver to consider forgiving the wrongdoer, (5) a convincing commitment to not doing it again. We haven't even seen SEI do points 1 & 2. – vicky_molokh Feb 25 at 14:50
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    They fired her for trivial reasons, seemingly because she accidentally stumbled across an employee's emotional trigger. Amazingly, we know that after discussion, other employees agreed that Monica should be fired. They haven't said they were wrong. They haven't said that they shouldn't have done that. They've just word-smithed around it. Without that honest acknowledgement, how can you trust they won't abuse you if you happen to do anything to annoy an employee? – Ask About Monica Feb 25 at 17:58
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    @AskAboutMonica I don't recall reading about any employee agreeing that firing MC was justified. No one in management publicly denounced the act, but that was to be expected. However, after five months, and a legal agreement to boot, it's too late for "sorry". Although I totally agree, at this stage, if I were an employee I wouldn't trust SE management not to stab me in the back. Just see how Shog9 and Robert Cartaino were betrayed. – Mari-Lou A Feb 25 at 18:05
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    @Mari-LouA "I don't recall reading about any employee agreeing that firing MC was justified." The place I saw something about that was in one of Jon Ericson's blog posts (about 2/3 of the way down). It's not absolutely explicit but it seems the most natural interpretation of what is written there. That said, it's hard to keep up with at least five major discussions on two metas, twitter feeds, and blogs all involved. I might have missed something. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Feb 25 at 18:52
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    @dmckee--- thank you for the link! Very enlightening and also very very sad. What a waste of resources and human talent. – Mari-Lou A Feb 25 at 19:06
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    Err, that was something we saw with our own eyes. People did exactly that ( like reposting mod deleted content) and got banned for that. But then, it is open to debate if such suspensions are "wrong". They aren't necessarily in my eyes. – GhostCat Feb 26 at 3:59
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    @TravisJ I was suspended for a week for posting image of deleted post. See: meta.stackexchange.com/q/339874/313443 and answer meta.stackexchange.com/a/340466/313443 I would say that posting links is fine... there are plenty of those around, but once you get burned, you may find yourself not doing even things that are acceptable. Just in case. – Resistance Is Futile Feb 27 at 11:42
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    "authoritarian alternate universe" Sort of; this chat thread is relevant: chat.meta.stackexchange.com/rooms/89/conversation/views-of-mse – jscs Mar 3 at 20:46
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    That's a heck of a lot of words to say "but they did apologize" (poorly) in response to the request that they apologize properly - which they haven't, as that would've included unconditional reinstatement. – cp.engr Mar 5 at 2:16
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    @gnat Thanks for the info. This whole secrecy about deleted content that half of other users can see is ridiculous. It is not like we were violating DRM rights or something. I also reacted to other user request. To add insult to injury most of users involved in conversations here have high reputation on other sites, just not here, because there was never need to get involved before. – Resistance Is Futile Mar 5 at 7:30
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As sad as it is, but this extremely unrealistic, for two reasons:

  • There was a legal agreement between the two sides. We have zero insight what it was about. But it is likely that an essential part was: "no more public talk about this".
  • For good or bad, SE Inc. and this network ... still up. Maybe not the greatest times, but so far, survival.

Now you are basically asking that SE Inc. risks re-opening a huge unpredictable legal can of worms. Why? It didn't kill the company during the last months, so chances are: they will survive without doing that.

Maybe a single human being could, would act differently. But you are talking about a corporation here. Their primary obligation, in the end, is towards their investors and employees. Not to uphold standards of morale and ethics that we consider necessary.

"We" are probably reaching cross-roads here. SE Inc. is moving forward with open announcements, timetables, such things. Something is happening. If that is "good enough" ... I can't say right now.

What I mean is: it is unrealistic to expect SE Inc. to change course regarding Monica. To a certain degree, she has accepted that, and spends her time and energy to build a different place now.

Now ask yourself: if you really can't accept SE Inc's position, why are you spending your time in this place?

If that "real" apology and re-instantiation is a "must have" for you, then it might be time to accept: that it won't happen. If so, not getting your "must have" means that nothing else here means enough to you to stay here.

Or the other way round: if you see enough value in this place even without that "real apology", then stay, and work with what they give us to get to a better future.

But you can't have it both ways.

Please: don't get me wrong. I am not telling people to move away. Rather: to be honest about their own situation. If you think staying means "giving up on Monica", and you don't want to give up Monica, then for your own sake: live up to your conscious. Otherwise, consider to let bygones be bygones.

Asking SE Inc. for the zillionth time to spare you that decision will not work. They made it clear how they will proceed from here on.

The only thing left for you and me is: gain clarity on our priorities, and act accordingly.

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    I plan to stick around even without the apology, at least until there's a viable alternative platform. But Teresa explicitly asked about unaddressed issues and this is one of them. If she chooses not to address it that wouldn't be surprising, but it certainly sends a message about the limits of SE's new-found community engagement. Without the apology I probably won't engage in things like the Moderator council, and my username will stay. – GS - Apologise to Monica Feb 26 at 8:29
  • @GS-ApologisetoMonica Sure, those are valid points. It is on us individually to decide when "asking again" still feels right. Compared to the common definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that this time the outcome will suddenly be different. – GhostCat Feb 26 at 8:38
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    It would be extremely easy for SE to come to a legal agreement with Monica about making new and sincere public apology about and accounting of how they treated her. – BobbyA Feb 26 at 14:05
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    I'm still not sure it didn't kill SE. It's possible that they just don't realize they're dead. Momentum shifts, and sometimes it's not clear that the consequence of the PR screwup 6 months is a 20% sales drop 12 months from now. Short term metrics don't tell the whole story. – Ask About Monica Feb 26 at 22:10
  • @AskAboutMonica True. But it could also be that the "other" parts of business of SE Inc were already in trouble for other unknown reasons. And note: and if they only manage to solely keep stackoverflow . com in "good enough" shape, and convince people to contribute there ... then they survive. Even if the rest of the SE network sites/communities slowly or quickly die. – GhostCat Feb 27 at 8:19

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