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Update

On August 2nd, 2023, negotiations between community representatives and representatives of the company concluded with an agreement being reached. The details of the agreement can be found at Moderation strike: Results of negotiations.

On August 7th, 2023, based on the result of several polls held by various sections of the community, the coordinated call to strike concluded. Further details can be found at Moderation strike: Conclusion and the way forward.


Introduction

Since our strike announcement, a number of new developments have occurred. Philippe, VP of Community, posted data they have regarding GPT content on the platform. Stack Exchange staff reached out to strike organizers and asked us to choose three moderator representatives for the strike. Also, a former DBA for Stack Exchange, Inc. disclosed that data dumps have been disabled. This post strives to speak on these developments from the perspective of strike participants.

Strike representatives

We have been coordinating action on our Discord server, as Stack Exchange, Inc. has instructed us in no uncertain terms that we cannot organize on their platform. Through this server, we were reached out to by employees of Stack Exchange, Inc. to designate representatives for the strike. These representatives will later meet with Stack Exchange, Inc. representatives and will negotiate on our behalf. These representatives must be moderators, as requested by the company, because some of the discussion points will involve information that is currently confidential and covered by the moderator agreement. Additionally, new data may be disclosed by SE that may not be cleared for public release, and must be protected for privacy reasons.

In order to decide the representatives, a poll was organised which ended at midnight UTC on the 11th of June. As a result of that poll, the following users will be representing us in discussions with Stack Exchange, Inc.:

    

The full, anonymized results of the voting can be seen here.

The Data Dumps

A former database administrator (DBA) for the company has disclosed that Stack Exchange, Inc. quietly disabled the data dumps in March 2023, with a note that they should only be re-enabled with approval from senior leadership. Shortly after, the CTO, Jody Bailey, confirmed this to be the case, citing the need to “protect Stack Overflow data from being misused by companies building LLMs” and the dump has been stopped until “guardrails” are in place.

The Stack Exchange data dumps have been in place since 2009 and have been used to make network data available in an alternative format that allows people to take advantage of the open CC BY-SA license.

Disabling the data dumps in this manner is yet another example of poor communication with the very community of contributors who is at the heart of the network. The data dumps were turned off for several months, with no advance warning or communication until a user asked about it. And, even then, the company's decision was only revealed by a whistleblower, who effectively forced the CTO's hand to confirm it.

Perhaps more importantly, the data dumps serve to emphasize the very reason for the existence of the platform: Guaranteed, free access to a repository of knowledge. The network was founded to be an alternative to a paywalled platform and to guarantee that information was freely distributed. The data dumps were an insurance that no matter what happened with the company in the future, the information shared on the platform would always be freely accessible to all. Disabling these dumps is a betrayal of the founding philosophy of the network.

It would be hard to put it better than one of the site's founders, Joel Spolsky, did, when speaking on the Stack Overflow podcast #84:

We created Stack Overflow to be against [expropriation of community content]. If there's anything that's more in the DNA of Stack Overflow than that, I don't know what it is. That's one of our most core things. You can see this all over the place in the design of Stack Overflow.

First of all, from day one, we use the CC-wiki license. And it's basically a license, it says that we don't own the content that's on there, which is why we make those database dumps that are available.

Because we wanted to make sure that if no matter what happens, literally no matter who we sell to, or raise money from, or turn the site over to, and even if they take Stack Overflow, and make it an evil site where you have to pay to look at things and there's pop-up ads and pop-under ads, and you know, dancing chariots of fire that cross the screen and punch the monkey, and, man, I can take so many evil things anyway. And it just becomes a big gigantic spam site.

Doesn't matter because just take the latest CC-wiki download that we provided and go start your own site saying, you know what, this is gonna be the clean version. And I think a lot of people will follow you. We very, very deliberately built Stack Overflow in a way that there wouldn't be any chance of locking and we're pretty much doing the same thing with Stack Exchange.

Beyond promoting openness, in the spirit of the CC BY-SA license, and serving as the final bulwark of the community and its contributors against a company that ever turns "evil", the data dumps were also key to innovative uses of Stack Overflow's knowledge base in environments like prisons and Arctic research labs, where no Internet connection is available to access the live site. You can read more about these initiatives, called the "Overflow Offline" Project, on the Stack Overflow Blog and in a Verge article by Mitchell Clark.

The impact so far

Stack Exchange, Inc. has claimed in a statement to the press that 11% of Stack Exchange moderators are participating in this strike. We would like to clarify that, while this was technically an accurate statement at the time that it was made, it was, even then, a misrepresentation of the actual percentage of moderator workload that had gone on strike (the moderators and flaggers who had gone on strike and suspended their activity were drawn disproportionately from those who were actively raising and handling flags). Therefore, this cited number failed to put the strike's effects into their proper perspective.

On Monday, June 5th, the notice about the strike was posted to Meta Stack Exchange, and the strike kicked into effect. The open letter, however, had been available to sign beforehand, as organization and coordination required. Some moderators signed the letter before it went "live" on June 5th (although their signatures publicly display as the 5th due to the strike not starting before then). The 11% of moderators cited is the percentage of moderators who had signed the letter before it even went live.

Currently, the vast majority of moderators on Stack Overflow have suspended their activity. The pending flag queue has grown from just over 130 pending flags prior to Stack Exchange posting the moderator-private version of the AI generated content policy to an excess of 3,000, even while many of the most active flag-raising users have also ceased raising flags.

On multiple other sites (Super User, Software Engineering, Math, Academia, etc.) the majority of—or all—site moderators are on strike.

As of the time of writing, 113 out of 538 total Stack Exchange network moderators have signed the open strike letter, a percentage of 21%, and this number continues to grow.

The GPT data analysis

Stack Exchange, Inc. has released some of the data behind their decision to override community consensus and prohibit moderators from handling AI-generated content. This data analysis has several flaws and unverifiable underlying assumptions, which have been examined in detail in the answers to that post. We do not believe that this data sufficiently backs up the perceived need to implement such a total prohibition on moderating AI-generated content, nor does it excuse the manner in which Stack Exchange, Inc. went about doing so.

One of the issues that bears specific mention is the company's focus on the accuracy of GPT detectors. This is a red herring. Although Philippe continues to characterize this as the basis of the strike to the media, moderators do not rely blindly on GPT detectors. As has been noted repeatedly, moderators have long known about and warned flaggers about the inaccuracy of these detectors. We have no objection to ceasing reliance on the detectors, since we already were not relying upon them.

To summarize points raised in just a selection of answers:

  • Stack Exchange claims to have a reliable method of detecting GPT posts through draft count. This method has been called into question: it does not appear to consider ways this detection method could fail through trivial action. It also does not match reality as observed by multiple commentators. Many of the remaining conclusions depend on this method being accurate. That is, if the conclusion that GPT posts have fallen based on this detection method is inaccurate, many following conclusions are invalidated. (discussed by Mithical, Gilles, Kevin, CodeCaster, etc.)
  • Methodology for handling appeals from suspended users is in question. - Moderators could have been conferred with, for example. (Ryan M, Chris)
  • Multiple answers question or disprove the validity of the data and the claims drawn from it by Staff as a whole. (starball, kaya3, CodeCaster)
  • Staff appeared to have identified a problem (declining user activity rates), but answers provide alternative solutions for the data displayed that staff appear to have not considered. (Bryan Krause, starball)

…and this is just a brief overview of some of the first half of the first page of responses.

Our conditions for ending the strike

In both the open letter and the Meta post, we have issued several conditions that must be met in order for the strike to end. In light of the developments mentioned above, we wanted to reiterate them here:

  • The prohibition on moderating GPT content must be retracted.

    This is the immediate, first action that Stack Exchange, Inc. must take in order to begin resolving this issue. This is a non-negotiable, fundamental requirement.

  • The private policy on GPT content that was issued to moderators must be revealed publicly.

    Stack Exchange, Inc. has put moderators in the untenable position of having a private policy dictating how to handle flags and moderate content that differs from the public version of this policy. The private policy must be retracted and revealed publicly so that the public knows what restrictions moderators were placed under.

  • The data dumps must be re-enabled, and SEDE and API access guaranteed.

    The data dumps of Stack Exchange content serve to further the goals of free knowledge-sharing. The content posted to the Stack Exchange network was done so to further that goal and with the understanding that it would be freely distributed to anyone seeking knowledge. The data dumps safeguard that collected knowledge and must be continued.

    The Stack Exchange API and Data Explorer both serve as major parts of moderation. Userscripts, queries, bots, and others are used to find, identify, and improve content across the Stack Exchange network. Access to these resources and the data dumps must be allowed to continue unimpeded.

  • Stack Exchange, Inc. must communicate, gather feedback, and act on that feedback before making major policy or software changes to the public platform.

    Stack Exchange, Inc. has consistently made harmful changes to both policies and the software running the public platform that run counter to the knowledge-sharing goal of the network. Moving forwards, Stack Exchange, Inc. must consult with the community to gather feedback in order to safeguard the goals of the platform.


We continue to hope for a speedy resolution to this conflict. We look forward to Stack Exchange, Inc. taking the steps required in order for the network to return to its normal operations, focused on building and maintaining a repository of freely accessible, high-quality information in the form of questions and answers.

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    It should be noted that while the company and the striking mods can of course negotiate outside of this meta, the community center is still here. Would the community be put before secretly negotiated outcomes, it may not like that much. As much involvement of the community as possible is the best, I think. On the other hand you seem to do that here. But I'm curious to hear more. I want to form my own opinion about things. If statements are made I want to hear the arguments for and against it and I want to be able to comment on them. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 19:57
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    I am very happy to see the data dumps being added to the strike demands. We're finally standing up and demanding some real action, so we should demand that all of the major wrongs be righted, and that includes decisions revealed after the strike started. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:33
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    Frankly, I hope the discord continues after the strike is resolved and it includes a private channel of only volunteer moderators (no SE staff). Moderators need to organize independently of the company, or management will continue to view you as replaceable flag handlers. From my own experience dealing with clueless management, it is critical that the group sort out details in private and speaks with one voice when giving feedback on policy (as y’all are doing here).
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 2:20
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    Results from the vote: chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/56428351#56428351
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 7:23
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    worst part is that even if the company was to "communicate" now, I trust them to just "communicate until the next time we won't"
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 9:26
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    In the interest of being scrupulously accurate: "Stack Exchange claims to have a reliable method of detecting GPT posts through draft count" could be a bit misleading. Philippe was pretty clear that this method is not a reliable way to detect individual posts as GPT-authored; rather, it's a way to estimate the aggregate volume of GPT posts on the site.
    – DLosc
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 18:59
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    @Script47 Not unless staff has a sudden change of heart
    – Zoe
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 20:22
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    @Chris-RegenerateResponse no, we haven't gotten it back. What we have so far is a promise that it will come back, given by a company with a long track record of lying and breaking promises. Maybe they will come back and maybe they won't, we don't know right now.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 23:51
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    @wimi because the upload finished basically 5 hours ago (at least confirmed by SE, see update to Philippe's post), and we are not (as opposed to staff) full-time employees to be obliged to react immediately to every update the company makes, especially during the weekend. Updates also take time to write. Everything will be updated in due time. Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 7:26
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    I just got an email from SO starting with "Stack Overflow is investing heavily in enhancing the developer experience across our products, using AI and other technology". That feels... counterproductive at best. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
    – Jorn
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 15:30
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    Is there any indication that the company even cares about the impact of the strike? We've seen how their main motivator is increased traffic, not quality. Is there a way to measure impact of the strike in a way that the company cares about? Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 16:18
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    The last answer and updates here are from 11-12 days ago. I'm not on discord regularly and couldn't really navigate the site, to be honest. Is there any progress? Anything to report? Anything? Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 15:07
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica I sadly don't have time to draft up a proper update other than discussions are ongoing, and the reps appear to be making some sort of progress, I have raised it in discord to see if others want to provide a more extensive update. Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 21:26
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    @Peter now there is. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 6:47
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    Update/followup (posted by Mithical): Results of negotiations
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 21:00

11 Answers 11

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Negotiation updates are primarily posted on Discord. For those without access to Discord for any reason, here's a summary (that will be updated as the negotiations progress, though with some delay after the Discord announcements) of the progress so far (latest updates are on top):

  • 2023-08-02: Negotiations concluded

  • 2023-07-26: As mentioned as would be happening in the 2023-06-14 update, Stack has released the (Historical) Policy on the use of GPT Generators previously issued only to moderators. As previously covered here, and as covered in that announcement, that policy has since been superseded, and the release of this policy should not set an expectation that all or any other moderator policies will be released.

    The company also published a meta post saying they commit to maintain the data dumps and SEDE for the foreseeable future.

  • 2023-07-20: The following update was posted to Discord:

    Negotiation update: Due to a combination of factors, including several people involved on both sides of the table being less available lately for varying reasons and at least one apparent miscommunication, progress has been definitely slower over the past couple of weeks. However, we have made progress.
    Some of the issues called out above as not having been resolved have now been figured out, to a certain degree, such as:

    Issue: Stack Exchange, Inc. made inappropriate comments to the press.
    Result: Apparently, the statements sent out in Philippe's name did not undergo his approval and were put together by a PR team. In light of that, Stack Exchange, Inc. will commit to having at least one member of the Community Management Team approve any press comments that involve moderation. Stack Exchange, Inc. will also commit to only speaking about moderation and mods in the most general of terms and not comment on specifics; this would, for instance, preclude comments stating that the reason that the mods were on strike is because of AI detector tools.

    Issue: There is no recourse if Stack Exchange, Inc. breaks the Moderator Agreement.
    Result: Stack Exchange, Inc. will commit to issuing an apology to Meta.SE and retracting any actions taken that were found to have broken the Agreement, as determined by a consensus of moderators. Currently, that consensus would require at least 20% of Stack Exchange network moderators to vote on whether or not the Agreement was violated, with at least 90% of respondents agreeing that it was violated. Additional tooling for this process will be developed, and these numbers aren't quite finalized.
    Both of these changes will be enshrined in the Mod Agreement and will be subejct to the standard feedback and review process for changing the Agreement.

    Issue: Stack Exchange, Inc. is still insisting on having binding, private guidance.
    Result: Stack Exchange, Inc. is apparently willing to commit to not having private binding guidance that would result in actions being taken on user accounts (such as mandating declining flags) without a public policy to back it up. This would allow for private binding policies that are only applicable in moderator spaces or do not otherwise impact non-moderator users.
    The Team for determining heuristics for AI-generated content has now been set up. Moderators and AI Domination users can find information on how to receive an invite to the Team pinned in the Teachers' Lounge and the AI Domination chatrooms.

    We are now discussing the issue of major software changes to the platform being made without the community's input, and waiting for Stack to announce some of the agreements we've reached. Once the public announcements have been made from Stack's side, we'll post an update to Meta.SE with all of the results of negotiations.

  • 2023-06-26: Philippe takes over as primary negotiator on SE's side. Mithical, one of our representatives, posted a list of our demands and updates on progress (link requires Discord access to work, and being in the previously linked server):

    Demand: The prohibition on moderating GPT content must be retracted.
    Progress: We have tentatively established a broader replacement interim policy, that will allow moderators much more room to remove AI content (although not to the same extent as before). This policy will go into effect upon release, replacing the current private policy. More permanent standards will be established by a working group of moderators and users who are active in removing gen-AI content, in a private Stack Overflow for Teams instance. Information on how to be invited to the Team will be available when we move along a little further in the process.
    The replacement policy will be based on "strong" and "weak" heuristics, with guidelines on removing based on which heuristics are present. Moderator judgement calls will still be required. These standards will be open to revision as technology changes and data is gathered on identifying AI-generated content.

    Demand: The private policy on GPT content that was issued to moderators must be revealed publicly.
    Progress: Stack has agreed to release it publicly on Meta. However, it will be released with a disclaimer (as-yet unwritten) stating that they do not plan on releasing all moderator policy guidance publicly, but are doing so in this case. This disclaimer will have to be approved by reps before it's posted. This will be released after the new interim policy goes into effect.

    Demand: The data dumps must be re-enabled, and SEDE and API access guaranteed.
    Progress: We have reached the agreement below. This commitment will be announced publicly by Stack Exchange, Inc. (I don't know exactly when).
    Agreement: Stack Exchange, Inc. commits to: Continuing to operate the data dumps; continuing to provide Stack Exchange Data Explorer access; and continuing to provide API access. All of these will remain operational and free of charge for individual network users, for the foreseeable, long-term future. For companies and organizations, other terms may apply.

    Demand: Stack Exchange, Inc. must communicate, gather feedback, and act on that feedback before making major policy or software changes to the public platform.
    Progress: The representatives from Stack Exchange, Inc. have indicated that they are willing to add a stipulation that binding policy changes (i.e. anything tagged ) go through a mandatory seven-day review period by moderators. This is not yet finalized, and we have not yet reached a conclusion on software changes.
    Stack has also indicated that toxicity in staff/mod communication is a sticking point in increasing this interaction, particularly in the Teachers' Lounge. While I disputed many of the examples that were brought, some examples were brought that did cross the line. I've handled those cases, and I will be speaking to the other Teachers' Lounge elected moderators about making sure this is addressed more consistently in the future.

    Issue: Stack Exchange, Inc.'s data analysis is flawed.
    Progress: The representatives from Stack have indicated that their experience on the network during the course of the strike has shown that their internal estimates were inaccurate, although not yet convinced that they are as inaccurate as we (the moderators and community) believe. They are not willing to retract the policy change based on that alone.

    Issue: Moderators were not spoken to by CMs when their actions were in doubt.
    Progress: Stack has stated that their internal guidance was to almost never consult with moderators about actions taken, due to a belief that moderators want to moderate and are not interested in justifying their actions to staff. We have established that the vast majority of moderators would welcome any questions about their actions and be more than willing to explain - or, even better, to train CMs in how to figure out why those actions were taken. Stack Exchange Inc. will revise their internal guidance to reflect this.

    Issue: Stack Exchange, Inc. made inappropriate comments to the press.
    Progress: We are debating this issue and have not yet reached a conclusion. Stack is so far unwilling to agree to a blanket policy of "no comment" when asked for comment on anything involving moderators; we are considering what our options are here. Stack Exchange, Inc. would like to keep open the option of commenting on general moderator actions not taken by an individual; the representatives are pushing for Stack to refrain commenting even about groups of moderators. Stack has also indicated that they think it would be unfair for the company to be bound to not comment while individual moderators are free to comment, citing my own personal statements to the press. I've reminded them that they are a billion-dollar company, while we are a group of volunteers.

    Issue: There is no recourse if Stack Exchange, Inc. breaks the Moderator Agreement.
    Progress: Frankly, there's been no progress. It was floated that a group such as the Moderator Council should have the authority to rule that an action taken by Stack Exchange, Inc. broke the Agreement, and is so rendered null and void; however, the Mod Council is currently defunct and is unlikely to be revived. We have not resolved this to any degree; suggestions are welcome.

  • 2023-06-25: SE commits to continuing to operate the data dumps (and provide them free of charge), and continuing to provide free access to SEDE and the API for individual network users for the foreseeable, long-term future. Companies and organisations may get other terms.

  • 2023-06-22: A CM dropped by the SO mod room to talk through GPT-related suspension appeals needing clarification.

  • 2023-06-21: AI policy progression: nothing finalised, but negotiations are headed towards establishing a few baseline agreed-on heuristics, and broadening the heuristics. Data collection started to determine heuristics (in cooperation with mods and curators heavily involved in AI moderation).

  • 2023-06-14: The company agreed to release the private AI policy.

    • Note that it has not been released yet, presumably pending discussions on an explanative introduction, or further progress in the strike negotiations.

      This policy has since been published. See the 2023-07-26 update above for details.

  • 2023-06-13: Negotiations started; logistics and ground rules sorted.

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    Please, abstain from leaving comments unrelated to negotiations under this answer: it's followed by many users to get updates on negotiations.
    – markalex
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 15:59
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    In light of the above (and since weeding through 91 comments to see what is/isn't 'useful' to keep after months): Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please consider if it is really relevant and necessary to notify the many users following this post, or if it could just be a remark in the chatroom instead.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 14:20
158

One thing I'd like to add is that it is entirely SE's decision to not engage with the community on this topic right now. It was their decision to only negotiate with a few selected representatives out of the striking mods, and mostly stay silent in public.

I can understand this to some extent, it's difficult and often not particularly productive to discuss this with this many people, especially when the whole atmosphere is already pretty adversarial. And I appreciate that they published most of the data they also showed the mods, it's very useful to have that information in public.

But SE could engage with the community in public as well, especially if they were willing to roll back and rethink some parts of those changes. But they haven't moved an inch so far, despite the overwhelmingly negative reactions from the community.

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    I'd change "despite the overwhelmingly negative reactions from the community" to "because of the overwhelmingly negative reactions from the community". Back in 2019 it was already said by staff that they get panic and trauma from posting and getting negative feedback. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 14:26
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    Can't speak to the current situation, @Shadow but I was inside for the 2019 nonsense and that statement was completely misleading: folks trying to make a power play and take over public communication, finding out they're bad at it and panicking as a result is certainly a problematic situation, but not... Exactly... A problem that I would personally throw at the feet of the annoyed and bewildered audience.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:03
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    @Shog9 well it certainly looks like that's the case now. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:24
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    @ShadowWizardStrikesBack yes, some salty language may appear here and there, and downvotes will flood your post, but if one is panicking over those, they would again fall under what Shog9 explained. They're bad at public communication and more importantly are not familiar with the nature of the network they are supposed to "manage". I know of people today that are still effective in communication (when allowed by senior "leadership"). In short, don't blame the comments, they're just a reflection what you've posted.
    – M--
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 17:41
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    The core value of SE was created by people they didn't pay. SO/SE then changed "leadership" whose track record in the last five years has been "we take you for granted." Those are their actions, regardless of what words were presented. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:03
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    "It was their decision to only negotiate with a few selected representatives out of the striking mods, and mostly stay silent in public." Honestly, I don't fault them for this. In most labour organizations, the union elects representatives to be the face of the workers in negotiating with management. However, the labour representatives cannot generally make decisions without a vote of the union (presumably, the same holds here). This helps both sides, I think, to keep communication clear. I do not see this as a major problem. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:15
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    @XanderHenderson we're not as organized as a real union. We don't even have a way to contact all striking users, only those active and involved enough to make a Discord account on that server. I think it makes sense to do it this way for the strike specifically, but those issues go beyond the strike. And the general issues are something SE could discuss with the community Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:19
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    @MadScientist-onstrike I agree that we aren't organized like a traditional union, but I also see the problem of trying to communicate with a large number of disparate moderators. It makes sense to elect representatives. The logistics of this are problematic, and I feel that, but it simple isn't feasible to negotiate with 500 people. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:25
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    I mean, even in this thread, I see multiple answers asking for subtly different outcomes. Some of which are, perhaps, somewhat contradictory (e.g. how are the data dumps licensed?). Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:27
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    @Shog9 the main issue that I have with letting those old event go is that they are a clear show of a mentality that is ready to misrepresent information to the press and throw scapegoat under a bus in order to come out clean from whatever the current scandal is. Even if lucky enough this time no actual named individual was sacrificed to Internet shaming, the company once again reached out extremely fast to a media site (I refuse to believe said site had nothing better to do with its time than to call SE) to post a public misrepresentation of its volunteers. So it seems that is still here
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 9:47
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    Who said anything about letting anything go, @SPArcheon? A lot of the same folks are still around, and by all appearances doing the same miscommunication-as-a-feature jazz - so go in informed.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 2:20
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    @Shog9 oh, don't worry, I was just adding to what you said, not implying you were saying the opposite.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 7:35
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The data dumps must be re-enabled, and SEDE and API access guaranteed.

I hope you will take a very strong line on the "guaranteed" part. This parallels what I said last time:

Nope, sorry. This just isn't good enough any more.

The handshake agreement is no longer sufficient. It has already been broken, along with whatever trust we placed in it. Going forward, regular release of data dumps should be a binding legal commitment on the company. If you all need to hire a lawyer to help with negotiating this, I am more than willing to send dollars to help.

P.S. Many thanks to all of you for continuing to represent and fight for the good of these sites.

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    Maybe put together a gofundme to help with that? Get it in writing, legally binding. Good approach. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:02
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    Just to play devil's advocate, and in no way am I suggesting I want the dumps to stay disabled, but why would/should the company be legally bound to spending additional money and resources on making an alternative version of the content available? I see a lot of "well you've always done it" arguments, but not a whole lot of other reasons behind "and this is why you should keep doing it." What exactly would they be violating (outside of an implied gentlemen's agreement and fee-fees) by just continuing to provide free access to the web site only? Founders' intent is not a legal position. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:06
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    They're not bound to do it now, and that's the problem. It is an expectation that many participants have, and that expectation is not being met. There's a negotiation happening. An enforceable commitment to meeting that expectation should be a part of the negotiation, to obtain continued participation and restored good will.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:23
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    But that's what I'm saying - just because it's an expectation doesn't automatically mean they should be legally bound to do it. I think you need to convince the company (and probably at least a small chunk of the audience here) why, other than the fact that "a lot of people expect it." And since they've officially stated that they are exploring ways to continue offering the dumps while "protecting" the data - which, granted, they haven't explained very well - I don't think trying to strong-arm them into committing to something before that happens is going to have the effect you expect. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:25
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    Sure, that's part of negotiating. But I'm not involved in the negotiations. I'm just making a suggestion to those who are.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:28
  • Agreed, and my comments are meant for them, too. I think they need to think about presenting SE with valid reasons - other than Jeff said so 14 years ago - that the company should continue spending money and labor on this resource that they clearly think is vulnerable to exploitation by AI. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:32
  • And again, I am certainly not suggesting we shouldn't ask - I definitely want the dumps, and SEDE, and the API to continue working as always. I just want to spur thoughts about how to get the result we want. They are clearly trying to control the narrative about how AI should use (and be used on) the site, and if I'm sitting on their side, I'm probably thinking, "why should we?" Give them some reasons other than "because we want you to." Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 18:36
  • Just change "we may" in the TOS to "we will do everything possible to". But good luck with that request. I guess a strike of 10000 or more would be needed for that. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 19:47
  • 26
    I don't trust "legally binding" with SE right now. They've already shown that they'll just "whoops" it if they want to. This is the moderation agreement notice the legal banner it sits under. Now notice under "Stack Exchange, Inc. agrees that it will" section, vi: Announce changes to the moderator agreement no less than sixty days before the deadline to accept the new agreement with a period of at least thirty days for discussion and review. Whoops
    – Andy
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 21:23
  • That's a fair point @Stuckat1337. Making that case would certainly be part of the negotiation.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 23:44
  • Well, it's kind of the ultimate backstop we could possibly expect @Andy, so if that isn't sufficient then it's probably just time to pack it all in.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 23:44
  • 19
    Just to be clear: this is not "we're going after you for breach of contract". This is "here is a new contract clause we want, and otherwise we aren't going to keep doing this volunteer work for you". Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 0:06
  • 3
    These terms could be written into the moderator agreement as commitments from the company's side. They were already implicit (in that these commitments were in place when our moderators were elected) but spelling them out in the agreement would give the moderators more clout in attempting to enforce these requirements going forward. (Not saying that the company has stuck to the mod agreement very well so far, either; but it is a legally binding contract.)
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 4:08
  • Exactly right @KarlKnechtel.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 17:08
76

Our conditions for ending the strike [...] The data dumps must be re-enabled, and SEDE and API access guaranteed.

Please add that the data dumps must continue to be licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, and the access to SEDE and the API should continue to be free of charge.

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  • 40
    I don't believe that they can change the licnese on the data dump; it's licensed under whatever license it was submitted to the site under (a mixture of CC BY-SA 2.5, 3.0, and 4.0). We mention that "Access to these resources and the data dumps must be allowed to continue unimpeded."; does that not imply free of charge?
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:42
  • 19
    @Mithical SE can use a different license since SE content is dual licensed and the second licensed allows SE to do whatever. Better state free of charge explicitly. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:44
  • 15
    @FranckDernoncourt A few things. (1) Citation needed for the content being dual licensed. That's not what the ToS says. (2) The ToS states that data dumps, as a whole, are CC BY-SA. According to the moderator agreement, a change would require at least a 60 days notice to moderators, although we see how effective the agreement is. (3) Although I agree that SEDE should be free, I don't agree with saying that the API must be free. I would say that there must be a free tier with reasonable limits for individual usage (with limits to be discussed). We shouldn't preclude various paid tiers, though. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:49
  • 9
    @ThomasOwens 1) When did Stack Exchange start to dual-license user content? 2) ToS can change for future dumps 3) fair enough. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:50
  • 5
    @FranckDernoncourt For (1), I don't agree with the answer on Open Source. That seems to be a clarification of the rights granted in CC BY-SA and not a dual license. All of those rights are granted by CC BY-SA. Of course, only a lawyer can make a final interpretation, and neither I nor the answerer on Open Source appear to be lawyers. I'd also point out the comment confirming the problematic language has been removed from the ToS. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:55
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens I hope you're right. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:58
  • 12
    Whatever the legal status is, the important point of this answer is that it is a concern for the users, and the mods are only "carrying the message," so to speak, as the ones selected and elected to moderate the sites. I don't like referring to mods as "representatives" of the community, because that's not the job they applied for, even if they end up having to act in that capacity. SE shouldn't be needing them to be representative as SE should be dealing with the entire community on big issues.It does seem that such is not going to happen soon, unfortunately.
    – Chindraba
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 14:13
  • 5
    I'm not sure it really matters all that much that the content is dual-licensed either (assuming it is in the first place). No matter what, the original CC license still applies as it's explicitly irrevocable, and just because I downloaded a data dump vs. copy/pasted it from the website doesn't really matter. Perhaps the ToS does allow SE to use the content without attribution for example, but that's a bit of a different thing. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 14:51
  • @MartinTournoij "because I downloaded a data dump vs. copy/pasted it from the website doesn't really matter." You may violate the license of the data dump Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 15:17
  • 5
    @FranckDernoncourt we've been through this
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 15:36
  • 4
    @OrangeDog: More to the point, for those of us living in the US, the data dump either has no separate rights at all or it's limited to the "selection and arrangement" of the data in the dump, depending on exactly what you mean by "license of the data dump."
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 17:27
  • 1
    Thanks Kevin and OrangeDog, I didn't know, great info! Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 17:37
63

Stack Exchange, Inc. must agree to publicly disclose the outcome of negotiations.

Significant damage has been done to the relationship between SE and its users and must acknowledge that it is not only moderators who are shocked and dismayed by these events. Those of us regular users who are suspending our participation are doing so partly out of solidarity for the moderators, but also partly because we want to know what we're contributing to.

Aside from asking and answering questions across a number of communities, voting, and commenting, I have also promoted communities like Conlang.SE Beta and Skeptics.SE and was a proponent at my company of SO for Teams, which we now use.

SE should not expect me to resume my regular activities of answering questions, voting, exercising other privileges, and promoting its communities and products if it chooses to keep the outcome of this event a secret, and I would be disappointed if the striking moderators decide to end their strike on the basis of a secret agreement (though I would not assign them the blame).

2
  • 44
    The representatives and Stack Exchange, Inc. have agreed that any conclusions must be shared as publicly as possible.
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 21:06
  • 16
    @Mithical sharing conclusions is not enough. The discussions need to be shared too, with the possible exception of any private site analytics data. Sharing the conclusions without sharing the path that led to them won't cut it. Don't forget that this is about the community fighting the company, we don't have any obligation to help them keep things secret.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 23:54
58

Our conditions for ending the strike

[...]

The data dumps must be re-enabled, and SEDE and API access guaranteed.

The data dumps of Stack Exchange content serve to further the goals of free knowledge-sharing. The content posted to the Stack Exchange network was done so to further that goal and with the understanding that it would be freely distributed to anyone seeking knowledge. The data dumps safeguard that collected knowledge and must be continued.

The Stack Exchange API and Data Explorer both serve as major parts of moderation. Userscripts, queries, bots, and others are used to find, identify, and improve content across the Stack Exchange network. Access to these resources and the data dumps must be allowed to continue unimpeded.

Stack Exchange, Inc. must communicate, gather feedback, and act on that feedback before making major policy or software changes to the public platform.

Stack Exchange, Inc. has consistently made harmful changes to both policies and the software running the public platform that run counter to the knowledge-sharing goal of the network. Moving forwards, Stack Exchange, Inc. must consult with the community to gather feedback in order to safeguard the goals of the platform.


I see two things happening:

  • As history has shown us, SO will make a whole lot of promises and commit to a whole bunch of things and they'll never follow through. But, it'll give them enough time to smooth things over so people start contributing once again until their next inevitable mess
  • SO will not budge

Regarding the first demand, SO has potentially found a way to further monetize our contributions probably in a massive way as AI is currently the "new thing".

I really can't see them reversing this.

As for the second, fundamentally SO is not interested in communicating and gathering feedback from us. We're not the target audience, we're the thorn in their side that gives them bad press.

They're at the stage in the company where they believe they've exploited us enough for content to be able to kick us to the curb and continue running smoothly. They want our time and effort but not the constructive criticism.


If SO does come bearing gifts and empty promises I implore everyone to be more critical and reluctant to go back to business as usual. Those who are striking, have a plan to return to the strike if they start failing on these guarantees.

Don't be fooled by their words. Talk is cheap and SO has shown us that enough.

We've had too many fake apologies/guarantees made to us and then had the rug pulled from beneath us, over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

What they're doing with the data dumps especially flies in the face of everything that these sites originally stood for. SO has had the stench of empty suits sacrificing this site on the altar of profits for quite some time now. It's nothing new.

With that in mind, I also hope everyone involved is ready and willing to let their respective communities decay for the greater good if things don't change - ironic, right?


I'd be more than happy to be proved wrong but history is not on SO's side.

12
  • 1
    From what I could gather (I might be wrong), SE cannot both resume publishing the dumps and restrict access to them at the same time. Therefore, if publishing the dumps is a sine qua non condition for ending the strike... then the strike will never end. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 13:53
  • 1
    @FrédéricHamidi guess they can restrict access by requiring logging in, require certain rep, etc. They don't care how realistic it is, or not. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:04
  • 17
    @Script47 Next up: Stack Overflow premium accounts. Free access to the data dump and bonus reputation points! (The worst part is, I can see them actually doing that... :-S ) Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:07
  • 6
    @Sha, if they do not publish dumps and they require us to subscribe to something in order to generate them ourselves, then your solution could work... but I believe that as soon as a dump is published somewhere, the license that applies to its content won't allow SE to restrict access in any way. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:07
  • 6
    @S.L.Barth I see you already heard about the monthly subscription. Access to the data dump, weekly SE blog newsletter, and 100rep/day for 30 days. And only on your first sub, free 10 summons with SSR hat guaranteed
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:41
  • 12
    @FrédéricHamidi that is why the "we are trying to find a way to regulate access" probably actually means "we are trying to find some borderline legal scam to be able to copyright the dump and/or to include a DRM on it"
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:46
  • 2
    @SPArcheon They could for example only upload the questions and keep the answers for premium access. I somehow share the thinking of this answer. I don't think this can end well. In the next weeks SO will at most offer minimal compromises if at all. If they acknowledge the strike it will from a position of superiority. In the worst, worst case they will pull an Elon Musk and fire moderators until morale improves. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 16:59
  • 14
    @Trilarion Right now, they are clearly "sitting out" on the issue - wait until the community vents out before throwing a bone (maybe even planned in advance: say something, get users mad, and then make a "better than nothing" change that you already planned that they will agree on just to move forward). Furthermore, next time most user will have "reset" their memory and take every new issue as if there wasn't a quite negative background already.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 17:36
  • 1
    @S.L. Barth: Quora already has that. Prior to that, even sweatshop moderators became too expensive and were replaced by moderation bots of unspecified IQ (for example, they didn't know the difference between the conspiracy-ridden "5G" and the entirely innocent frequency "5 GHz" (used by Wi-Fi). It was very clear from context what it should be). The company may repeat ExpertsExchange's mistakes. Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 17:35
  • 2
    Related: How will Stack Overflow succeed where The Hyphen Site didn't? - "Stack Overflow is similar in concept to The Hyphen Site, but I'd hate to see Stack Overflow follow in The Hyphen Site's footsteps. How will Stack Overflow succeed where The Hyphen Site didn't? ... Since then, they also ceased to be a convenient resource because of the requirement to register to see answers ... No one at my workplace treats it as a valuable site." (my emphasis) Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 17:36
  • 1
  • 2
    This is the first I've heard of the "the hyphen site" epithet. Amusing. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 1:03
47

Stack Exchange, Inc. has instructed us in no uncertain terms that we cannot organize on their platform.

What does this entail? "Organising" a community response could include almost anything, including expressing opinions about what SE are doing wrong and what they should do instead, and voting on those opinions to reach a community consensus; if that's no longer allowed on Meta SE then an awful lot of posts are going to get deleted.

Can we see the full wording of what, exactly, is forbidden ─ or is this another secret rule?

4
  • 31
    Quote #1: "We appreciate that strike organization is centered on discord and not bonfire and hope that this will continue. Though we understand that mention of the strike will be made there, agree with what has been started so far to not use it as center for organization."
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:41
  • 34
    Quote #2: "y'all have approval (from Philippe) to post a single link in the TL advertising the rep election here. [...] Whomever posts it - please note in the message that this message was approved by Stack, and that this is not a general lifting of the prohibition about strike organization on Stack Platforms. And please refrain from an MSE post on the topic."
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:41
  • 11
    I kind of agree with this answer. The problem is that the boundary between moderators on strike and the community disagreeing with the company is not well defined. For example, every moderator is also a user. Everything that users need to discuss they should discuss here. The formal organization of the strike can be elsewhere but the discussions would ideally take place here where every user can read them. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:29
  • This seems to be a question asking for a more generic interpretation than one about the current situation. This does require a proper answer from SEI.
    – Joachim
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 6:42
27

The recent action by this company is a perfect example of how so-called "artificial intelligence" is about deskilling.

Deskilling has affected many other sectors, and now it's affecting coding. Coders won't get such good answers from bots as they would from fellow human beings who know about coding. But guess what. Most coding is part of the economy. And the economy is about profit.

Coding is a craft skill. So was printing. So was clockmaking.

"The very reason for the existence of the platform: Guaranteed, free access to a repository of knowledge."

No. It's never been anything like that. The reason for its existence is now, and always has been, PROFIT.

If I had to offer a clue, it would be this:

don't work for free for people who make profit out of your work.

There is no "community" here. That's a mirage. They let you use the tools you need to work for them, and they let you have a sense of camaraderie while you're working for them. That's all.

12
  • 79
    "The reason for its existence is now, and always has been, PROFIT." - That's rather unfair. The reason Stack Overflow came into existence is because two fine people identified an issue, and went out of their way to create a solution. Don't discredit Jeff and Joel. Things have changed since, and with Prosus' acquisition certainly not for the better. Them folks are tremendously successful in making money, but haven't got so much as a clue on how to create value.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:43
  • 39
    I respectfully disagree with your last paragraph. I have met people here who I now call friends, whom I met with in real life, who I turn to if I want advice (and vice versa), and a whole lot of others who’s company and banter I have come to appreciate very much over the years. If I ever choose to leave here, there are a few people of whom I will make damn sure I have some form of contact outside the network before cutting ties here.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 16:54
  • 16
    me when I first read "deskilling": "who are these desks, and why are they being killed!?"
    – starball
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 6:02
  • 1
    @starball "desk illing" (-: Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 6:37
  • 9
    "Coding is a craft skill. So was printing. So was clockmaking." I think you have a logically false equality here. The skills of printing and clock making are almost entirely independent of any context. Whereas coding is almost completely dependent to its context. That's a big reason why the misnomer of 'AI' is generating so many incorrect answers here. These generators can't test anything they produce. They can't have enough perspective to understand that the 'answer' they are generating can't possibly apply to the given situation. This isn't true artificial intelligence.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 11:14
  • 2
    "Coding is a craft skill. So was printing. So was clockmaking." The only threat to the skills of software engineering that these chat engines represent is their inability to actually be able to think and carefully consider the possibility that the information that they are generating is entirely correct, or grossly incorrect. That is a threat is because so many have come to rely on sites like this to get the information they can use to move forward within their contexts. This is a social phenomena that will pass. I hope Stack Exchange is forward looking enough to understand this.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 11:17
  • 1
    Deskilling wasn't merely a passing phase when it ploughed through so many other craft skills in the economy. It doesn't matter to the big owners that the support and expertise supplied by programs, and the programs written by programs, will be inferior to those supplied directly by human beings. Most clocks produced today are garbage compared to most clocks produced say 100 years ago. In case there's any doubt: I support the strike and oppose the company bosses' latest effort. That's not the point though. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 12:53
  • 1
    @ouflak "These generators can't test anything they produce." - That's not correct. As an example, the latest update to Bard introduces the ability to run code. "They can't have enough perspective to understand that the 'answer' they are generating can't possibly apply to the given situation." - That's understating their abilities, by a lot. ChatGPT can very much discover errors in text it produced with using Chain-of-Thought prompting (see Chain-of-Thought Prompting Elicits Reasoning in Large Language Models).
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 19:00
  • 1
    @Tim, You're telling me that they can setup up a bespoke piece of kit from a unique environment, debug the hardware to get it up and running, understand the customer on-site requirements no matter how unintuitive they might be, keep track of any dynamic compliance issues, and sort what's going wrong from code that should, by all technical description and implementation, be behaving one way, but is in fact behaving unpredictably different? Sorry Tim. That takes an engineer, not a chat bot.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 20:37
  • 2
    @Tim, "ChatGPT can very much discover errors in text it produced with using Chain-of-Thought prompting", 'Discovering errors' is not the same thing as having perspective and understanding. If it was, the answers they would be producing would be far closer to the human level of being correct than the disturbing low percentages we're seeing now. Further, there would be a lot fewer such garbage posts because the rep farmers would find themselves getting, "I don't know" back from the bots an overwhelming percentage of the time they asked pretty much anything that required genuine understanding.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 20:38
  • 4
    @ouflak "Sorry Tim. That takes an engineer, not a chat bot." - Right. But that could be a "Prompt Engineer", too. Getting LLMs to produce correct answers requires effort. The large amounts of "garbage posts" are indicative of a certain demographic shying away from putting in up-front work rather than the systems they are using being ineffective.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 20:57
  • I get this same vibe from the likes of Reddit. Reddit reveals that it has never been a forum, but has been a place to attract users to view ads. It was recently alleged that Reddit actually runs its own spambots that re-post old posts to attract viewers, and if you report too many Reddit Inc spambots you get banned for wasting admins' time with "false" reports. And Reddit Inc is definitely willing to entirely remove the forum aspect and make it an AI-generated content feed, without telling the users, if that improves revenue. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 19:59
22

Thanks for this update. Going forward, it would be nice to have a place other than Discord for periodic status updates from the community's representatives; if Meta is not allowed, what would you suggest?

5
  • 2
    A Discourse site (just a suggestion; I haven't given it any thought)? Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 4:35
  • 9
    Well... IRC channel. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 4:49
  • 4
    I wonder if they really have to be called strike updates. In a way it affects all users on SO. Current demands from the company on the striking mods might be a topic worth for all to be read and then should be here. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 5:35
  • 4
    There could be updates posted to the signing site?
    – CodeCaster
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 6:39
  • 6
    The open letter has a distinct use case, which is to collect signatures. While the FAQ section on the site could be updated to contain maybe a couple of links, we would not want to overload it with too many secondary use cases. (I have submitted a PR to add a link to the strike announcement and to Discord to the FAQ.)
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 7:27
19

I would like to express my support for this strike from the perspective of a newcomer to the community. Background: I became active around two weeks ago, and am currently active in SO and CS-SE.

Before actually becoming a contributor, I have benefited from SE a lot. I was astonished by the sheer amount of high-quality content targeted to almost all possible questions. This would have never been possible without the hard work of the moderators, who regularly clean the content to keep the quality.

The influx of GPT into the community, therefore, would wreck complete havoc by increasing the amount of potentially erronous content. SE would no longer be the high-quality resource that it is now.

My interpretation of SE management's decision is that they consider the potential benefits of GPT to outweigh the potential harms. However, by doing so, it means complete disregard to the amount of work moderators would have to do to keep the quality standards.

I believe that I, like many others, would not have loved and joined SE had it been a low-quality GPT-based site. Moderation standards is what makes SE special and reliable. Hence, I would like to express my support for this strike from the perspective of a newcomer.

I urge that SE management reconsider their decision, and appreciate the moderators' efforts. After all, they are the ones who keep the community alive. No effective moderation, no Stack Exchange community. We all owe the moderators so much.

Edit: Additional rebuttal (again from newcomer perspective) to some anti-strike posts framing the issue as a clash between "new technology" (AI) and "old technology" (Human Intelligence).

This issue is unrelated to new/old technology. Most people now should understand the power of AI, and AI ethics is also a hot topic nowadays. But GPT and AI are not the core of the issues here.

Again, to us newcomers, SE as we know it is a large collaborative effort to create truly useful content. Meanwhile, AI and "new technologies" are definitely useful tools if applied correctly.

The core problem is that unregulated AI makes it much easier to flush the site with low-quality content. Therefore, discussion upon "new technologies" and "old technologies", and attempting to frame the strike supporters as luddites, is entirely unjustified.

The AI vs Human Content conflict is far from inreconcilable. If the two sides of the debate collaborate to form a constructive set of guidelines for using AI, SE would be much better than the humanpower-reliant site it used to be.

This strike, however, is a response to the ignorance of SE management to the importance of moderation and the efforts. GPT is more of the ignition fuse rather than the dynamite.

Clarification:

Thanks to TinkeringBell for pointing out the confusion. Yes, technically my account is 7 months old. However, I only started contribution 2 weeks ago. Apologies for my mistake.

0
2

Issue: There is no recourse if Stack Exchange, Inc. breaks the Moderator Agreement.
Progress: Frankly, there's been no progress. It was floated that a group such as the Moderator Council should have the authority to rule that an action taken by Stack Exchange, Inc. broke the Agreement, and is so rendered null and void; however, the Mod Council is currently defunct and is unlikely to be revived. We have not resolved this to any degree; suggestions are welcome.

Solution #1: Procedures.

The problem seems to be related to the process of approval and publication of the agreements. In my opinion, a consensus of at least 76% of the active moderators should be required for a deal to be approved by both the company and the moderators. Once approved, the agreement can be published without changes.

There is no point in posting something that has not been reviewed by moderators or making last-minute changes.

Solution #2: Compliance with Agreements and procedures.

Stack Exchange, Inc must publish internationally in the policies as a company that will not send agreements that have an impact on the operation of the site if it has not gone through point #1, internal company policies are patterns to follow before any court of law. The policies must be a document signed by the CEO and main executives of the company.

Observations:

Also, there is no need for a board of moderators. In my opinion, active moderators who actively contribute to the community through chats, queues, and the website are the ones who should participate. If a community manager (CM) is present, he should be able to communicate with site moderators to consistently evaluate these agreements.

Sometimes, we tend to complicate things unnecessarily. Often the simplest solution can be the correct one.

Establishing policies and procedures are the pillar of trust and guarantee of the company, collaborators and community commitment.

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  • 13
    I don't see how this actually solves the issue at all. Stack Exchange is free to ignore any agreement it makes with no repercussions other than community outcry. This whole strike and negotiation ultimately means nothing if there is no third party who can hold Stack Exchange to their agreements. Stack Exchange could agree to your solution of 76% mod approval, but then ignore the results of a poll if they really wanted to. What would the mods do, quit? I don;t think they have the legal ability to really find justice in a court of law.
    – Toddleson
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 18:31
  • 2
    You are right about what is the quoted item is about but, as mentioned in the above comment, the answer, despite it includes the word "Solution" doesn't solve the issue.
    – Rubén
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Toddleson If the company leads a dictatorial direction where things are done without reaching a consensus and there is no structure or document to ensure compliance with the agreements, then the same company has a problem regarding its internal policies. and the appeal to establish the procedures is not the same as the appeal for compliance with the procedures. They are two different goals.
    – user1382556
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 16:39
  • 2
    @Rubén-PeopleFirst I have edited and updated the solution. I believe in the concept that a post should only solve one thing... and I persevere that there are so many problems that I can't solve everything in a single answer.
    – user1382556
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 16:40
  • Your view that a policy is a deal between the company and moderators is misguided. The company operates their systems and sets whatever policies they feel are best. Ideally they would listen to volunteer moderators to both leverage their expertise and to not alienate them, since they're volunteers and have nothing keeping them here except how they feel about donating their time. The only real leverage moderators have is a significant number of active moderators are prepared to quit at the same time if their demands aren't met.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 18:37
  • 1
    @ColleenV Apparently the objective of my proposal has not been clear, the company will continue editing and establishing the policies; this role or responsibility does not change, what I am trying to propose are the mechanisms (processes) and tools that must exist in the internal policies of the company and that include a commitment to listen and be aware of the opinion of the community, and in this stage the moderators representing the community. This is one of the points that have been negotiated and there has been no progress in the last few days.
    – user1382556
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 18:46
  • 1
    A missing part in this "solution" is document control and auditing done by an independent party.
    – Rubén
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 1:12
  • 1
    I have been away from the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and corporate compliance topics for a long time. I don't know if there has been progressed on these subjects and if the issues known then were solved.
    – Rubén
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 1:18
  • What could work to convince us that the company will keep its word? One mechanism which might convince some of us is if the company voluntarily froze some of its assets into escrow as a guarantee fund; if the company breaks its promise, that money is paid out (to the community, or a charity, or etc) but then there'd have to be a mechanism to also force them to replenish this fund if it's consumed, or if there are new commitments which need to be guaranteed somehow.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 8:53
  • @tripleee Although your proposal sounds like a solution, we are far from what the company would accept... the use of bonds or subciodios are not part of the mechanisms accepted by companies.
    – user1382556
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 16:32
  • 1
    We can't force them, of course; they would have to voluntarily enter such an arrangement. What I'm trying to say is that doing that is one way they could demonstrate an actual commitment from their side. Their part of the mod agreement certainly doesn't seem to bind them, in part because it's unrealistic for individual mods to have the funds and stamina to challenge them in a court of law. Thus, they need to think of ways to level the playing field if we are to take them seriously going forward.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 20:28
  • 1
    @tripleee The issue of trust between the community and the company is a long process of interoperational actions and events, it is not something that you will achieve by making one of the parties put up money. that is not the appropriate concept in this scenario.
    – user1382556
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 21:24

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