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I understand that there is a moderator strike action that many diamond moderators are participating in.

Should striking moderators resign their diamonds and/or have them taken away? During the major issue that happened in the fall of 2019, many moderators explicitly resigned or turned in their diamonds. Some later completed the formal reinstatement process to regain their diamonds, while others chose to either leave the network or remain as ordinary users. Should this process be repeated, or should it be acceptable for moderators to strike but retain their diamonds and/or moderator privileges? It appears at this moment that many of the striking moderators have not formally resigned or had their diamonds taken away.

To be clear, this question is not intended for discussion of the merits of the underlying issues provoking the strike or the usefulness of striking as a means of change, but discussion of the procedural matter of whether striking should be treated differently from resignation, and if so, how.

So, my questions are:

  • Should moderators participating in a strike be directed to resign?
  • Should moderators participating in a strike who refuse to resign be subjected to invocation of the formal process for moderator removal?
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  • 11
    Do you want network to lose over a hundred active moderators at once, and extend impact of strike not til end of negotiation, but until they will be reinstated (if anybody of them will decide to apply for reinstatement)?
    – markalex
    Jun 10, 2023 at 14:32
  • 37
    You're asking if all members of a strike should be fired from the job they're striking from? That's not how these things usually work. A strike is about righting some wrongs and then coming back to the job, not about demolishing the workplace for a bit of fun. Jun 10, 2023 at 14:34
  • 31
    First of all, accuracy: this is not a "moderator strike action". This is a moderation strike. Not only diamond moderators engage in the action of moderation. On this platform, regular users are enabled to, and are expected to participate in the maintenance of order and quality. Out of community members on strike, only a fragment are diamond moderators. The rest is regular community members.
    – Levente
    Jun 10, 2023 at 14:39
  • 10
    Is there any reason you think they should lose their diamonds? I haven't seen anyone else suggest this, and your question doesn't explain why you think this is something that needs to be discussed.
    – kaya3
    Jun 10, 2023 at 14:40
  • 1
    Also, by striking, we are excercising our agency in the face of percieved persistent, blatant disregard. Why would you want to disenfranchise us from being able to stand up for our needs?
    – Levente
    Jun 10, 2023 at 14:43
  • 4
    Downvoted as this may be (perhaps due to the fact it looks like you're pushing for diamonds to be removed), the question of what will happen to these moderators stands. Only an individual can decide if they will resign (and at least one person has) but for the rest who want to stay moderators, I'm not convinced it's entirely safe to be striking.
    – Laurel
    Jun 10, 2023 at 15:44
  • 10
    What is motivating you to ask this? How does this discussion benefit the community?
    – Rubén
    Jun 10, 2023 at 15:46
  • 14
    Standard policy allows for a 6-month period of moderation inactivity before one would face removal for inactivity. Jun 10, 2023 at 16:13
  • 3
    @Laurel, what do you mean by "not convinced it's entirely safe to be striking"? Are you afraid that SE will take your ♦, in retribution over strike, or something else?
    – markalex
    Jun 10, 2023 at 19:44
  • 3
    So what you are implying is that everyone that goes on strike needs to lose their job? Like the people that strike for unfair pay and treatment at their work and once they go on strike corporate notices and gives them a pay increase or the conditions at the job get better. The little people have a voice to and if you aren't willing to exercise it you will always be walked all over. Striking is a good thing.
    – Big Joe
    Jun 11, 2023 at 0:25
  • Are you planning to obliterate the network altogether? :D
    – M--
    Jun 12, 2023 at 15:55

11 Answers 11

37

Should moderators participating in a strike be directed to resign?

I would say that this would probably a malicious action and unlikely to end well. While we do in theory serve at the pleasure of the company, asking a large number of moderators who are otherwise in good standing with their communities for resigning over essentially what is a protest action against something we feel is an injustice is pretty much tantamount to, well, declaring the company can do very well without community support.

Should moderators participating in a strike who refuse to resign be subjected to invocation of the formal process for moderator removal?

Ah, but for what, we've done nothing wrong. There's no COC violations alleged or otherwise, insufficient inactivity for grounds for removal unless this drags on for months, and a lot of paperwork for the few CMs we have and about a 5th of the moderator community.

Last time we had a near / actual strike action, people resigned as a matter of conscience or as a way to show displeasure at the company voluntarily.

If the company wants my diamond, they can remove it, not make some show of a 'voluntary' resignation. I don't think they are that dumb, but it's been a week that's tested my belief in that quite a bit.

33

No. The 2019 fiasco was fundamentally different. The reason I and others resigned and others were revoked had to do with alleged CoC violations and our refusal to sign some modified terms we did not think we should be bound by. A few did effectively strike then too in solidarity with what they thought was unfair treatment of moderators.

This time around the issue is different and not something directly related to eligibility for the moderator role.

26

No. Before I was appointed moderator for the first time, a Community Manager explained to me:

Again, this is strictly a voluntary activity. We are very respectful of your time. You can come and go as you please and we wouldn't ask you to do anything you are not comfortable with. (…)

Stack Exchange was a different company then than it is today; however, we might want to remember some of the elegant principles from a more civilized age.

1
21

No

There is a missing step in your argument

Your argument is: "some people resigned last time, so let's fire everyone now". I cannot understand how the premise leads to the conclusion. Can you clarify that? Resigning is very different from being fired.

Such a move would harm the company much more than the moderators

The company would lose the >100striking moderators plus many more that would resign in protest. That's probably more than 150 volunteers (i.e., free workers). It would be very hard to find replacements (would you take a job/volunteer position at a place that just fired 10% of their workforce for complaining?).

The fired moderators would lose their zero salary, their interest in Stack Exchange, and would move on somewhere else.

The right to strike is an important achievement of many democratic systems

It prevents the employer side from abusing their power and balances the negotiations. We are talking about volunteers here, but removing their right to strike leaves the remaining moderators with only one option next time they do not agree with the company's actions: resign. It would be very hard for the company to keep their team of volunteers if it were to treat them that way.

16

The "June 5th 2023 moderation strike" is calling to take time off of moderation duties; it is not calling people to act against the platform terms and conditions, the code of conduct, or make anything that infringes any policy, even the policy that has triggered the strike, so there isn't any reason to ask moderation strike participants to resign as community moderators if there have such role, or to expect that the "Stack Overflow, Inc." removes their "diamond", if they have it.

Serving as Community Moderator and doing moderation tasks is a volunteer task; there are no quotas, rates or performance goals. Community Moderator's inactivity for six months might trigger the suspension of the special privileges, but this is set in place to prevent a security breach, not as a performance measure.

The open letter doesn't mention the Community Moderator inactivity policy because nobody thought this could take more than a few days to be solved.


Let's take this opportunity to look at A Theory of Moderation, the blog post published in 2009, still referred to in the Help Center.

According to the blog article "Stack Overflow, Inc." believes in community moderation. For this reason, there are pro-tempore moderators and community moderators, but most of the moderation work is done by users who have earned moderation privileges through the reputation system.

The "moderation strike" is not an exclusive action for "diamond moderators"; it's an action that could be done by anyone having moderation privileges. The open letter has a FAQ clarifying the specific actions a non-diamond-moderator might avoid during the strike.

10

This moderation strike is not restricted uniquely to moderators, nor to the way in which they operate. It has to do with the community no longer being able to properly curate the sites in the network. Even users without diamonds are participating in the strike, in hope that our concerns are heard and the conditions described here and in the open letter fulfilled. Then the curating community may decide whether to get back to moderation activities.

That I can think of, the idea that those participating in the strike should all "resign" instead of entering a strike has at least two problems.

  • Those who are not moderators cannot easily rescind their privileges without terminating/suspending their account, or spending bounties like crazy until their reputation is below those thresholds.
  • It would show less interest in making amends with the company, and rather in testing the consequences of under-moderated and under-curated platforms with less of an opportunity for conflict resolution.

And please don't get me started on the process of reinstating moderators.

9

Perhaps a personal note will help you understand better.

When I got elected, I made a commitment to the community to serve them and to protect their interests. I have since renewed that commitment a few times, when running on other sites, and during graduation elections. It’s a promise to a site’s community, i.e. the users there, not the company (with them I have another agreement called the Moderator agreement, outlining what I can do with the role and what not).

Recent events made it technically impossible for me to fulfill the agreement with the community, put me in a place where I could be forced to act or communicate in a way that violates that agreement, and in short, put me in a difficult situation with regards to my personal integrity and reputation.

There are two ways to deal which such a situation.

  • One is to step away, resign, and yes, I have been thinking about that, as have others. Some have left. Many of us have been around during the 2019/2020 events and we were asking us: Do we really have the energy to go through something like that again?
  • The other is to pick up the pieces, rally round and try to work on a solution. Which, in a nutshell, is exactly what this strike is. I still and very much feel like a moderator for my sites. It’s for them I have signed the letter, follow the ongoing discussions on various channels and, frankly, spend more time on the network than usual. And for the record: I have “broken” the strike in a case of severe CoC violation when no other mod was available. I don’t want to see anyone harmed by this.

So asking the mods on strike to give up their diamonds (or worse, firing them against all rules) would accomplish the opposite of what your question implies, namely sending away those that are really throwing their hearts and energy towards the site and towards their communities.

7

TL;DR: No.

I think a good discussion of this would be interesting. Unfortunately the Q&A format here isn't well suited for that, and comments are not the place to have a discussion (contrary to common usage.) To be clear, I am not a mod, on any site. I am a relatively low reputation user on the sites I do use, which is small compared to the whole of the network.) I only have over 1K rep on 5 sites and only 1 of those is over, barely, 5K. I am, however, one of the "curators" mentioned, in an active sense. Any user who raises flags one in a while, even on spam, is curating the site, so odds are you are also a curator. Lastly, I am also on strike. I've raise no flags, made no edits, and done nothing else to curate the sites. I've not even voted on questions and answers outside of the meta sites, and then mostly posts related to the strike, or the company's assorted attempts to spin it their way.

The prior upheaval, where so many moderators resigned, was around the things they were expected to comply with in order to keep doing their volunteer work. Imagine returning to work on a Monday and finding that the company has a set of policies. All employees must arrive at work astride a green color 5-speed bicycle and wearing a purple helmet. All managers are henceforth to be addressed as "Your Lordship" of "Your Ladyship" as appropriate, and the CEO is to be address as "Your Highness." To ensure that all employess comply with this new policy it is required that all employment contract be rewritten to include these conditions. The new contracts are to be signed by the employee as well as signing to acknowledge receipt of the new policy handbook. Any employee not signing the new contract and then for receipt of the manual will be denied access to the building. Thereafter, any employee not in compliance with these conditions is subject to termination. I would speculate that there would be a massive wave of resignations at that company.

Granted, there were some moderators who resigned in protest of how one of there own was treated, and it was, no doubt, a factor for many others who decided to resign. In some cases the mistreatment, and in others the evidence that the company was accepting no compromise. While all the factors for each might be different, or have different amount of influence, the bottom line for the majority was that "I cannot work under those rules."

This situation is completely different. The largest points, of many discussed, is that the newest version, as of this writing anyway, basically prevents the mods from controlling the level and quality of AI generated posts, and that the actual policy they are expected to enforce differs from the one presented to the public, which includes me and all other curators.

In addition, the details of the policies issued directly to moderators differ substantially from the guidelines outlined publicly, with moderators barred from publicly sharing the details.

open letter ¶ 6

The second part is rather troubling in that it requires the mods to either lie, or remain silent when a regular user flags suspected AI policy violations, even under the new rules, which they cannot moderate under the private rules. If I complain on meta that all my AI flags are being ignored, or even denied, the mods cannot tell me "why" and I cannot change my flags to match the rules really in effect. The problem with AI-generated content, in general, is that the sites are designed as a collectin of expert knowledge for other experts to use.

In taking their actions into a strike they are not resigning. The are, actually, still working for the sites and communities they moderate, only at a higher level. They have not said "I'm not working here no more." They are saying "There's this giant elephant in the room and dealing with it will make me too busy to handle flags and other low-level activities."

There is even precedent for that level of work in prior actions initiated by the company. Over the years there have been various times where the moderators have been involved in business-related activities rather than moderation activities. Focus groups, councils, working groups, or what ever other names they have used, have been started and used by SE to work on network-wide policy changes - slightly outside their normal duties as moderators, and even on UI/UX design and options - totally outside their "moderation" duties. The mods who have done those things did not get involved because it was required, or part of their duties, the did so to make the sites better for everyone. Often, getting involved in such projects would mean they would have to take a break from their regular stuff, like handling flags. This time is no different than any other in that regard. They are still working for their sites, trying to make them better, actually trying to keep them from getting worse, but the concept is the same, and have no reason to give up their diamonds, not to have them removed.

Lastly, just to be clear, the mods are not saying that AI is evil, or even bad. Many of the mods use AI at work, and I'd bet there are even some who work in developing LLM professionally. Many of their communities, however, have determined what is, and is not, acceptable for AI-content on their site, and the mods are expected, by the community, to follow what the community has decided, whether they agree with it or not. Part of the strike is that the voice of their community is not being heard and they are unable to follow the community's guidelines because SE has made a global, this or else policy instead. So, again, they are acting for their communities, the users who decided they were worthy to be elected and given the diamonds in the first place.

6

What are you hoping to get out from this? What benefit is there for anyone if these moderators have their diamond stripped off? Moderators on strike have made their communities aware of this strike and the reasons for their participation. If a certain community opines that their mods on strike ought to give up their diamond either voluntarily or be stripped off by SE staff then the community members can discuss that on meta and the reasons for such a harsh decision. We, the members from other communities, have no business telling these moderators to resign or be forced to go through diamond removal process. It would simply be meddling into the affairs of other communities.

I hope that such a discussion on a meta never comes to fruition.


PS: I am not participating in this strike.

5

No, because moderators are often away for other reasons. There would be no way to distinguish a striker from someone who took vacation that week (false positive). Also I bet many mods on strike are attending to critical essentials (false negatives).

Moderators have not violated their agreement in any way. There is no commitment to participate on any given day. Moderators as a bloc do not owe StackExchange a fully completed task; that's StackExchange's job and that's why they "get the big bucks" as it were. If StackExchange needs the job done their recourse is to recruit other mods or direct staff bandwidth to the task.

You could say in some cases that moderators spoke out against StackExchange, but now you have a free speech problem. While largely legal, it severely hurts volunteer recruitment, as it is seen as practically unAmerican.

Moderators are elected. As arose in 2019, it subverts the election process to fire a mod without a reason agreeable to the overwhelming majority of electors.

3
  • They can always suspend the electors, then fire the mods. The only consideration is whether they alienate enough of the electors that they care to retain.
    – prusswan
    Jun 17, 2023 at 7:49
  • Being on strike and "away for other reasons" are different things even though indistinguishable to the common user. It's not like they can't moderate due to other commitments, they're straight up saying "I am not going to moderate to promote some agenda". Which, although is in their rights to do so (this is a voluntary site after all), should come with some consequences. Also, I don't understand bringing up "unAmerican". Most of the rest of the world isn't American and this is a global site with users from everywhere
    – user13267
    Jun 17, 2023 at 16:34
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    @anonymous You're confusing "strikers" with "people who got on social media and declared". A great many strike silently, you would imply they are not on strike. I know it rankles you whenever you hear "America", but you gotta quit with the knee-jerk responses. StackExchange is located in America, owned and run by Americans, and the American experiment is the crucible that proved out that citizens can demand those freedoms in their own country, which is why this conversation is possible. You want America to disappear? Fine. Make it disappear in 1937. No Lend-Lease, no NATO. Jun 17, 2023 at 17:36
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They don't need to, I consider their actions to be as good as resigning and new moderators should be elected to replace them ASAP.

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    Where exactly are you going to find 3-10 people willing to do that per site? Jun 17, 2023 at 8:01
  • @JourneymanGeek that would be SE inc's problem not mine, I am not responsible for the survival of their sites
    – prusswan
    Jun 17, 2023 at 8:11
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    I'm confused, so... the idea is to just find moderators who will blindly follow the company line (and in our view, hurt the communities we work with) or just let it all burn cause no one's willing to find something we can live with? Jun 17, 2023 at 8:41
  • @JourneymanGeek we will find a way? some of the tech subs I really "need" are closed indefinitely, but I won't have any problems with jQuery for a very long time
    – prusswan
    Jun 17, 2023 at 8:46

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