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We have reached the following conclusions during negotiations between community-selected strike representatives and representatives of Stack Exchange, Inc. This aims to address most of the concerns detailed in the strike letter, the initial strike announcement, and the conditions outlined in the update post.

Negotiations took place in a private Discord server, with Yaakov Ellis and ArtOfCode serving as server admins, to ensure a neutral balance of power in a neutral location, avoiding a space entirely controlled by one party. Negotiations took place between three negotiators on each side, at Stack Exchange, Inc.'s request. Striking community members elected Cody Gray, Makyen, and Mithical as representatives to negotiate; Cesar M, Philippe, and JNat served as representatives from Stack Exchange, Inc.

Agreeing to some basic ground rules, all representatives were invited to the Discord server, and then discussed the issues that led to the moderation strike and how to resolve them in a way satisfactory to all parties. After several weeks of discussion and negotiating, we have reached the following conclusions:

AI-generated posts

Replacing the "self-admission" policy and allowing moderation of AI-generated posts

Stack Exchange has agreed to allow the removal of content based on a single strong indicator of GPT usage, or on several weaker indicators. Effective immediately, the interim standards that we have agreed on will serve as policy until a more permanent policy is established with the help of the broader community, including determining further heuristics and what category they will fall into. Moderation should follow the standard escalation for suspensions, beginning with a warning and then escalating suspensions if infractions continue.

  • Strong heuristics include almost definite signs that a post was AI-generated that do not occur in human-written posts.
  • Weak heuristics include details that are often a sign of GPT generation but are not as definite.

The negotiators established a preliminary list of heuristics as a way of making sure that Stack Exchange, Inc. was willing to engage in good faith on this issue and not summarily dismiss any proposed heuristics. However, three people in private cannot themselves discuss and debate every possible indicator of GPT usage; further development on this policy will happen with a broader group of people.

Further developments to the policy

The above interim policy will serve until more permanent standards are determined. We've set up a Stack Overflow for Teams instance to work out establishing further heuristics and gathering data that can be used as "indicators", as well as further fleshing out what each heuristic involves. The Teams instance is open to Stack Exchange network moderators, users active in the AI Domination private chatroom, and members of Charcoal. If you're a member of one of those groups, check the relevant chatrooms and private places for information on how to gain access.

Development of further additions and changes to heuristics and indicators has begun and should produce some results shortly. However, this is a long-term process. As the technology around generative AI continues to develop, our "tells" and identification methods will evolve with it.

Heuristics and indicators will be proposed and discussed by mods and users, with data being provided and arguments made. As of right now, a Community Manager will be required to sign off on adding a heuristic to the official lists; this may change as the process surrounding this develops and matures.

Currently, heuristics are going through several stages, including proposal, definition, and various levels of accuracy testing, in concert with Stack Exchange, Inc.'s data and research teams. The heuristics will go through these stages in the Heuristics Working Group Team, and then, once they're approved as a strong heuristic, weak heuristic, or non-weighted indicator (i.e. heuristics that are useful for spotting something suspicious but are not accurate enough to delete based on them), they will be added to a list maintained on the Stack Moderators Team. This process will be streamlined as much as possible.

Releasing the private "self-admission policy"

Stack Exchange, Inc. has released the private, prior version of the policy restricting moderation on AI-generated content. This policy is no longer in effect. It can be found at (Historical) Policy on the use of GPT Detectors.

Testing moderators' capabilities to detect AI-generated content

Stack Exchange, Inc.'s research team is developing a process to test Stack Exchange network moderators' capabilities to detect AI-generated content. The methodology for this is supposed to be rigorous enough that the results of this experiment can later be released publicly, such as in a research paper (provided that the individuals involved consent). Several Stack Exchange, Inc. staff members have participated in this experiment already and moderators will be invited to participate shortly.

The data dumps, the Stack Exchange Data Explorer, and the Stack Exchange API

A long-term commitment to freely maintaining and providing these services

Stack Exchange, Inc. has posted a public commitment to freely maintaining and providing these services for the benefit of the community. That commitment can be found at The company's commitment to the data dumps, the API, and SEDE.

Changes to the Moderator Agreement

A mandatory review period for binding policies

Any proposed binding network-wide policy must undergo a mandatory feedback and review period, of a minimum of seven business days (as defined by standard Stack Exchange, Inc. corporate business days), where Stack Exchange network moderators can provide feedback and have the policy revised before it goes live. This is the bare minimum; it is strongly encouraged for Stack Exchange, Inc. to have a longer feedback gathering period and involve a broader group than just network moderators. Afterwards, any binding network-wide policy must be publicly posted here on Meta Stack Exchange and tagged with the tag.

Stack Exchange, Inc. staff cannot mandate moderation actions be taken without a public policy supporting those actions

Staff of Stack Exchange, Inc., including Community Managers, cannot mandate that actions be taken that would affect non-moderator users without a public policy stating that these actions must be taken. This disallows further private binding restrictions, such as being mandated to "ignore/decline" flags raised about GPT content (as was the case in the formerly private "self-admission policy" linked above).

However, this does allow for private instructions in two cases:

Non-public enforcement guidelines in cases where making those public would be detrimental to moderation

In cases where having the exact criteria for taking action public would facilitate abuse, they may be kept private, as long as there is a public policy that outlines what type of criteria exist. It's a fine line to walk, and there are very very few cases where anything has to be private; anything kept private will be very carefully considered and discussed to establish if it actually needs to be private.

All of the policies around, for instance, voting fraud are public. It's very clear that this behavior is not allowed anywhere on the platform. However, the exact criteria for when the fraud detection scripts will automatically take action are private. The criteria for when diamond moderators take action or escalate to the Community Team are also private. If these were public, this would allow for much easier evasion of these scripts and tools.

In the same vein, the basic policies for when moderators will take action on AI-generated content are public (a single strong heuristic or several weaker heuristics). However, the precise list of heuristics is available only to moderators and select users, and as further heuristics are developed and changes made, those heuristics will also be kept private to prevent users using these lists to evade detection. This is also why the AI Domination chatroom is private and invites sent out manually and approved on an individual basis.

Private guidance during the Moderator Conduct Review process

Private guidance may be issued during the Moderator Conduct Review process that is applicable only to that individual moderator. This is still subject to the restriction that this cannot mandate actions that affect non-moderator users, and the moderator in question may still choose to reveal the guidance they were given, either to their fellow moderators or publicly. This is akin to a moderator sending a mod message to a user; it's kept private by default, but they do have the option of choosing to make things public. This does not apply to content from the Teachers' Lounge or the Moderator Team, where the contents are still confidential and may not be copied out.

Updating the Press Policy surrounding statements on moderation

In light of the comments sent to the press by Stack Exchange Inc. in response to the strike, the Moderator Agreement will be updated to reflect further restrictions on such comments.

In the future, any comments made to the press that involve moderation must undergo the approval of at least one member of the Community Management Team, as that did not happen in this case. Any comments made in such a scenario will be kept as general as possible and no comments will be made on specific cases. This is in addition to the current restrictions of not discussing individual moderators or their actions without their express written permission.

Determining if Stack Exchange, Inc. violated the Moderator Agreement

As of V2 of the Moderator Agreement, there is no provision for determining if Stack Exchange, Inc. violated the Moderator Agreement. There exists a process for determining if a moderator violated the Agreement, as well as a process for moderators to determine if another moderator should be removed, but no process for determining if the company violated the agreement.

We have negotiated an outline for such a process.

In the event that Stack Exchange, Inc. is found to have violated the Moderator Agreement, Stack Exchange, Inc. must:

  • Retract and nullify any actions taken or comments made during the course of the violation; and
  • Issue a public apology to Meta Stack Exchange detailing the violation made.

In order to establish that such a violation took place, a consensus must be reached by a certain number of Stack Exchange network moderators. The numbers that we are working with at the moment were initially proposed by a moderator, not by the company, and haven't been finalized. The numbers will be discussed on the Mod Team before being finalized. The placeholder numbers are:

  • a minimum of 20% of Stack Exchange network moderators must vote on if a violation was committed
  • a minimum of 90% of moderators voting must vote that a violation was committed

At the time of writing, there are 541 network moderators. These percentages would require there to be a minimum of 108 moderators voting, with at least 97 of those agreeing that a violation took place. These percentages may be adjusted during the feedback and review period for changes to the Moderator Agreement.

Standard feedback and review period for changes to the Moderator Agreement itself

Any changes to the Moderator Agreement mentioned here are still subject to the standard feedback and review period for changes to the Moderator Agreement. A minimum of 30 days for feedback and review is required before changes go live. With any change to the Agreement, moderators are required to re-accept the agreement, with a minimum of 60 days before the deadline to agree to the updated agreement.

Because the Code of Conduct is considered to be part of the Moderator Agreement, changes to the Code of Conduct also require re-acceptance of the Moderator Agreement. We (the negotiators) asked Stack Exchange, Inc. to delay requiring moderators to re-accept the agreement after the recent changes to the Code of Conduct so that we could make these changes to the Agreement and not have the hassle of re-accepting twice in a short period of time.

Changes to internal Stack Exchange, Inc. processes

Communicating with moderators in unclear cases

We discovered a severe disconnect in expectations around Stack Exchange staff reviewing actions taken by volunteer moderators. Stack Exchange internal guidance stated that moderators should almost never be contacted to discuss moderation actions they took while performing that role. This meant that if a user sent in a complaint through the Contact form about a moderator action, Stack Exchange internal policy dictated that staff should not contact the moderator who took that action to ask them to justify why that action was taken.

This was drastically different compared to the expectations that moderators have; diamond moderators direct users to contact staff if the user believes that a moderator is acting in error, operating under the belief that Stack Exchange, Inc. will do their best to objectively investigate the situation and ask the moderator why they took particular actions. This apparently was not happening, with staff by default upholding actions taken by moderators and not contacting the mods in question.

This internal guidance has been updated to reflect that moderators are not opposed to explaining to staff why they took certain actions, and in fact expect staff to review their actions and bring up cases where the mod may have acted in error. Moderators are human and do make mistakes. The expectation is that staff will investigate when contacted about possible moderator mistakes, by looking into the matter themselves, and then, if it's still unclear to staff what happened, discussing with the moderator who took action. If the end result is that the moderator was in error, that should be caught, and complaints about moderator error should not be automatically dismissed.

Not making irreversible changes to the platform

An announcement was made to the Moderator Team, stating that a major change was being made to a foundational system of the platform and that this change would be applied network-wide and irrevocably. (This planned change, which is still private, was referred to as "the second shoe" during strike coordination.) That change was temporarily paused shortly prior to the strike while the impact was reevaluated, mitigations investigated, and potential adjustments investigated. It has since been clarified that this will not be an irreversible change and that that was a mistaken assumption on the part of the person posting the announcement.

The internal Stack Exchange, Inc. process for making announcements has been updated to reflect that system changes are almost never irrevocable or irreversible and should not be announced as such.

Gathering community feedback before committing to a major change to the platform

Committing to transparency

Stack Exchange, Inc. staff will be as transparent as possible about product development and policy, regularly sharing updates and proposed changes. Releases will be communicated in a timely manner. Whenever possible, staff will provide insights behind key product and policy decisions to the community.

Taking into account community feedback

Staff will work with the community when making decisions about product development and policy, taking into consideration community feedback and suggestions while also considering other data points and research. Feedback on releases that substantively impact the user experience will be sought at the earliest possible opportunity, ideally during an initial ideation and requirements gathering phase of work, but absolutely far enough before the release of a “beta” product such that the feedback given can still influence the direction of the tool or change, and be incorporated into the design.

Improving day-to-day communication between staff and moderators

Aside from the disconnect mentioned above where staff wouldn't reach out to mods in unclear moderation cases and appeals, we've discussed the issue of staff feeling attacked by moderators in mod spaces such as the Teachers' Lounge ("TL"). We've established that staff will make better use of the tools available for dealing with toxic messages, such as raising flags or contacting an elected Teachers' Lounge Room Moderator; the TL Room Mods will also attempt to be more proactive in calling out toxic messages directed at staff. This does not mean that the TL will lose its purpose (or, one of its purposes) as a place for mods to privately vent frustrations, but that people should be aware of the effect that their messages may have.

With staff feeling more comfortable interacting with mods and community members in general, Stack Exchange, Inc. will increase the level of feedback gathering and working with the community when it comes to software and policy changes.

Changes to the Stack Exchange platform

Notifying users about the policies around AI-generated content

Data gathered by Stack Overflow moderators indicates that a significant percentage of users who were suspended or warned for posting AI-generated content were not aware of the prohibition on posting such content. Stack Exchange, Inc. will implement a warning that will show to users pasting in content to the answer box, notifying the user about the prohibition on AI-generated content and hopefully decreasing the number of users who are unaware of the policy.

The text for the notice to users will be customizable on a per-site basis and able to be enabled/disabled on a per-site basis. Initial work on this has begun. Stack Overflow moderators have very recently been given a mockup of a first concept and their feedback has been requested.

Tooling for mod communication and determining if the company violated the Mod Agreement

Stack Exchange, Inc. commits to developing and implementing tools for moderators to communicate and vote on if the company violated the Moderator Agreement. These tools will be developed in conjunction with moderators and alongside the discussion around the numbers required for the process. Stack Exchange, Inc. will not in any way hinder or obstruct discussion on the matter of Stack Exchange, Inc. violating the Moderator Agreement taking place on the Stack Exchange platform.


I would like to thank everyone involved in negotiations for working to come to these conclusions and dedicating a substantial amount of time and effort towards achieving them, including the representatives from Stack Exchange, Inc., the community representatives, the server administrators, and the Stack Exchange Network community at large.

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    I confirm this is what we've agreed on in negotiations, and I support this resolution.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:19
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    I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mithical for their hard work on this. While all of the moderator representatives participated, Mithical was substantially the most active, and definitely put in the most work. Thank you.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:19
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    From "across the table", I also wish to thank the three elected negotiators, who dug in deeply on the substantive issues and took things very seriously. Moderators were well-represented here, and I am pleased that we were able to reach agreement on so many fronts.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:25
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    Thank you all (both the company's representatives and the moderators'/strikers'). I'll admit I didn't have the energy anymore to do something meaningful here for the past few months, but this is definitely helping me to come back in full force.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:30
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    Does this effectively mean the strike has ended?
    – Timothy G.
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:32
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    @TimothyG. The strike is not as well organized as that. It was never the intent that the representatives have the ability to bind the people striking to an agreement. Each person will need to determine on their own if this resolution and the various additional posts already made and to be made shortly by Stack Exchange are sufficient for them, individually, to return. The groups that have suspended operations will need to discuss the situation internally and decide if the situation is to a point where they feel comfortable resuming operations.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:43
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    In other words, it's a very significant step, but there's more discussion that needs to happen within those who are participating in the strike.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:43
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    This is a huge success! For what feels like the first time in eternity, SE has budged on something significant. Aug 2, 2023 at 19:44
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    "This does not mean that the TL will lose its purpose (or, one of its purposes) as a place for mods to privately vent frustrations, but that people should be aware of the effect that their messages may have." You're better off just creating another room for venting, then. If not, you'll either end up the same way as today, or be annoyed to death each time you needfully vent, and an RO points fingers at you for doing so. Aug 2, 2023 at 19:46
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    @TylerH Your second comment is addressed under the "Non-public enforcement guidelines in cases where making those public would be detrimental to moderation" heading: "However, the precise list of heuristics is available only to moderators and select users, and as further heuristics are developed and changes made, those heuristics will also be kept private to prevent users using these lists to evade detection."
    – zcoop98
    Aug 2, 2023 at 20:19
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    This post was reviewed by at least two representatives from each side of the table before being posted, @anx, and it was confirmed several times that everyone was on board with its contents before it was released publicly.
    – Mithical
    Aug 2, 2023 at 20:50
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    @anx My goal in posting my initial comment was to quickly and publicly indicate that I support what's stated here. It seemed the most effective method of doing that in a verified manner that remains clear and clearly verified as coming from me. I'm happy to do that some other way, if it's seen as better than as a comment. I did actively participate in the preparation of this post prior to it being posted here. I guess I could have posted an answer, but that, at the time, felt superfluous given that I'd just been participating in the preparation of this post.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:05
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    @Levente, for the avoidance of doubt, I am satisfied that this is a true and complete report on the outcome of the negotiations, and I believe that both SE and myself are as bound by this statement and my agreement as if I had posted it myself. I will endeavor to live up to the letter and the spirit of the agreement, and I believe that will be the case for the company as a whole.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 3, 2023 at 4:48
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    @Philippe An accepted answer written by a staff member acknowledging that the company fully supports this record of the results of the negotiations would be a good idea for the historical record. All of these comments and answers are difficult for non-native English speakers to wade through, and I think an explicit highly-visible official statement would reassure some of the community.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 3, 2023 at 12:38
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    @ColleeenV thank you for the suggestion, I'll do so.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 3, 2023 at 14:11

21 Answers 21

314

Official response from Stack Exchange:

It was requested that I post an answer here, stating the position of the company as it relates to this report of the moderator negotiators.

As the principal negotiator on behalf of the company (and in my role as Vice-President of Community Management), I believe that this report is a true and faithful reporting of our joint agreements, and I accept the outcome as agreed in negotiation and memorialized here as binding. Both I and the company will use our best efforts to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the agreements reached during the negotiations and laid out here.

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    "and laid out here" this is hard to comprehend. P.S. English is not my native language... Aug 6, 2023 at 7:19
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    @RandomPerson you can parse it as "Both I and the company will use our best efforts to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the agreements ...[described] here. Aug 6, 2023 at 7:29
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    Considering the immediate context of the strike and also previous struggle between the company and the community, I recognize that this communication looks like a remarkable improvement on the company's part. "Both I and the company will use our best efforts to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the agreements reached during the negotiations and laid out here." — I find this part especially reassuring and worthy of acknowledgement. I also recognize and appreciate the effort where SE staff apparently mediated our position succesfully enough for shareholders to approve this agreement.
    – Levente
    Aug 6, 2023 at 11:34
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    Please don't edit an official answer from a company employee to put words in their mouth, if you are not a company employee. Thank you.
    – D.W.
    Aug 7, 2023 at 4:24
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    Could you ask the CEO to come and reassure us too? Why's he so silent? Aug 7, 2023 at 12:25
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    I echo the sentiment expressed by @curiousdannii about having the CEO indicate his assent. It is a reasonable request given that the CEO wrote those two (three?) concerning blog posts in April and May about adding generative AI to SO. Aug 12, 2023 at 14:37
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    @Levente: The rhetoric is nice, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 13, 2023 at 19:20
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    @einsupportsModeratorStrike I know.
    – Levente
    Aug 13, 2023 at 20:15
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    I find this official answer quite satisfactory. Thank you very much. Sorry for the late response. Sep 4, 2023 at 17:07
373

First and foremost: thank you to everyone who volunteered to participate in these negotiations. This is a situation that should never have occurred; that y'all were willing to devote (a CONSIDERABLE) amount of your time and energy to resolving it over the past couple months speaks to your dedication and enthusiasm for the folks who make up these sites, to the value of their work and to the camaraderie that has grown up among y'all over these many years.

Other thoughts on this are in a separate answer, but I wish to emphasize this sentiment by letting it stand alone.

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    Actually, thank you for being inspiration to good people who learned how Stack Exchange should be managed and moderated in the correct way. I wasn't in the loop at any point on either side, however I do watch and see interactions between people. And yours had no doubt a positive effect on everyone. Aug 3, 2023 at 6:29
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    I assume "everyone" includes the three SO staff, as well as the three moderators. Yes, thank you all! Such a relief that such progress was made in negotiations. Aug 3, 2023 at 17:00
227

Thanks, Yaakov Ellis

Lack of communication was the main reason the strike was necessary. At the start of the strike Yaakov helped us a lot in understanding how the company was thinking and why they were making the decisions they made, while (I hear) explaining to the company why we made the decisions we did.

I'm sure many employees of Stack Exchange did invaluable work to allow a peaceful conclusion, but since bad communication was the root of the issue, I think a special thanks is warranted for one of the first to offer clear communication.

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    <blushes>Thanks so much, I appreciate it</blushes> Aug 2, 2023 at 21:15
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    Quite right. It should also be mentioned that Yaakov also did the reverse, helping me to understand the concerns of moderators at times. He deserves a good deal of credit here.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:31
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    @Philippe Does the "good deal of credit" include a raise? Ok, non-public data. Still, "value" to the company ought to somehow be reflected in "value" received by the employee. No response actually expected here, merely food for thought and, perhaps, a strong recommendation.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:10
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    @Chindraba_on_strike you're correct that I won't discuss the remuneration of any team member in a public forum (or actually, at all), but I trust that Yaakov knows how I feel about the work that he does (in as much as I am in a position to evaluate the work of someone outside of my reporting chain) and I have assured that when we talk about the incident internally, Yaakov's name has been mentioned as a strong contributor to the positive outcome.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 3, 2023 at 4:57
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    I trust Yaakov more than anyone on the actual community team. Take that as you will. He's a huge asset to the company, and the community! Aug 3, 2023 at 6:43
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    I hope this process of communicating and (better) understanding of each other will continue after the dust settles! Aug 12, 2023 at 11:47
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Some thoughts on specific parts of the agreement:

However, three people in private cannot themselves discuss and debate every possible indicator of GPT usage; further development on this policy will happen with a broader group of people.

This (which the next section follows in tone) is a good move, and sets the right tone for the rest of this. Let's face it: nobody is an expert in handling this stuff right now, and those who claim otherwise are kin to those claiming 8 years of professional experience writing prompts for ChatGPT 4. It's going to take a lot of collaboration and... Flexibility... to moderate - immutable rules and closed policies are a hindrance.

Stack Exchange, Inc. has released the private version of the policy restricting moderation on AI-generated content. This policy is no longer in effect.

This is a huge win, IMHO - not to take anything away from the rest, but I feel like this was THE big sticking point: an arbitrary gag put on a subset of community members after so many years of both policy and UI bent in the direction of encouraging communication between elected moderators and "curator" moderators (the folks flagging, editing, reviewing).

Years ago, I found myself on a call with a colleague on a Friday afternoon, discussing some unfortunate trends within the company... After several hours and several more beers, he summed up the problem thusly: "they don't want to have the hard conversations." I think that still applies, perhaps even more than it did then: posting that policy publicly would have been a difficult conversation to be sure, but... It would've resulted in better, more productive policies. Instead, we got two months of acrimony. That's what trying to take the easy way out via unnecessary secrecy gets you.

As much as I hate that this strike was necessary, and lament the pain it has caused so many... I do hold some hope that it has been painful enough to warn folks against taking this sort of "shortcut" next time around.

Testing moderators' capabilities to detect AI-generated content

SPEAKING of things I hope don't get half-assed! This is actually very exciting, and could provide a lot of value not just to the folks using these sites but to the Greater Internet. Fingers crossed...

Stack Exchange, Inc. has posted a public commitment to freely maintaining and providing these services for the benefit of the community.

They reallly need to improve their communication here, as the feedback on that post indicates... But I think we're all happy with the results for now, and - as with the above - hopefully these responses hammer home the need to be proactive and honest in future communication.

Stack Exchange, Inc. staff cannot mandate moderation actions be taken without a public policy supporting those actions

We've all gotta just trust the mods to hold them accountable here; exceptions to the "public policy" bit should be so rare as to be nearly forgettable; if that isn't the case, then the spirit if not the letter of this agreement will have been violated. As anyone can easily verify, we've had numerous conversations about everything from voting fraud to sensitive suspensions over the years - while expecting moderators to be judicious in how they communicate sensitive details is both admirable and expected, any prohibition on communication should be looked at with extreme skepticism. As certain people have repeatedly reminded me over the years, "we're not mushrooms".

Updating the Press Policy surrounding statements on moderation

This remains silly. Every time expectations have been violated here, it's been someone getting in a hurry and doing something stupid - I expect next time will be the same. Realistically, this isn't something we can stop - either the company gets tired of looking stupid in the press and enforces this themselves, or ...

Determining if Stack Exchange, Inc. violated the Moderator Agreement

This is pretty silly too, but the fact that it was negotiated is at least encouraging. IOW, just because it is performative doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the performance.


Lest the last two comments seem too negative, I wanna reiterate: the network has lost a LOT of time, energy, and the goodwill and participation of good people over the last couple of months. That's not gonna come back. This should've never happened; there's no excuse, no explanation that justifies it. If there's a real guarantee against future occurrences, it's not some voting method... It's that the good folks working for Stack Overflow Intergalactic Mining and Software, LLC have realized just how costly this sort of screw-up is... and will go out of their way to avoid seeing it happen again.

Fingers... And toes... firmly crossed.

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    I think you'll need a lot more appendages to cross, but let's hope for the best. Aug 2, 2023 at 20:42
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    Re: publicly releasing the private version of the policy – To be fair, the relevant staff were willing to communicate that (now-retired) policy publicly, shortly after it was shared with the mods; however, some mods disagreed with doing so without/before retracting that policy. I can understand folks' frustrations with the policy itself or how it was communicated, but I would not consider this part a case of "trying to take the easy way out via unnecessary secrecy".
    – V2Blast
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:27
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    Normally, policies are public either before or when they go into effect, @V2Blast - for example, the original policy. While I can't fathom what concerns were expressed about making it public afterwards, that was still y'all's choice and I'd argue one that should not have been a possibility in the first place.
    – Shog9
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:42
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    @V2Blast The offer to publicly post the secret policy was made, and nearly happened. As mentioned in another answer about the organization of the strike, it's a bunch of individuals, not a union. The release of the private policy was linked to having another version available in short order and there was some question as to if the "short order" was practical. As it turns out, the short-order was not practical, or this would have been done a month ago. The offer was presented, and I think it helped "good faith" momentum even without happening.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:43
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    @Shog9 The policy was still in effect, and many of us (not understanding why that policy would have been written) didn't know whether the company would ever go back on it. Telling bad-faith actors exactly what to say to not get in trouble didn't seem like a good idea, for the same reason that details of the targetted voting algorithm aren't public. (Of course, some mods were straight-up ignoring the policy, so it wouldn't have impacted those sites.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Aug 4, 2023 at 20:02
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    Understandable, @wizzwizz4... But also more of an indication of how fundamentally unworkable the policy was than any intrinsic reason to keep it private. IMHO, if it had been public on day 1, it would've been mocked so mercilessly by day 2 as to have been retracted by day 3 - and I'm pretty confident folks at SO knew this.
    – Shog9
    Aug 4, 2023 at 21:34
  • @Shog9 Has merciless mocking ever been considered enough for SO to retract a policy? Haven't they made a lot of very poorly received announcements of things that they've bulldozed ahead with anyway? Aug 6, 2023 at 10:13
  • 4
    Oh yeah, @rand - remember "Twitter-driven development"? It didn't become a meme because folks on the bird site were adept at making constructive, compelling arguments... Much as it pains me to say, vicious mockery has a much better track record of affecting change here than polite conversation does. Which is why I'm happy to see these results - while it may have been threats that finally brought SO to the table, they HAVE demonstrated an ability to discuss constructively now vs just reacting impulsively.
    – Shog9
    Aug 6, 2023 at 12:39
  • 3
    @Shog9 Yes, fundamentally unworkable, that has been the striking moderators' position all along. But, in the meantime, it wasn't clear that releasing the policy without retracting it would have done much good. I think we got a far better outcome here: it was still important to release the policy to make clear why moderators felt so strongly, and I think the response since the policy was released validated what moderators have said all along, but we didn't need to make it even easier for bad actors in the interim which we would have had to clean up eventually. Aug 6, 2023 at 13:48
  • "vicious mockery has a much better track record of affecting change here than polite conversation does." <- Now he's the epithet we were looking for to serve as the background graphic for the MSE banner. Or, at least MSO.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 13, 2023 at 20:23
138

One of the other answers asks if the strike is over. While I hate doing this in another answer, let me offer an explanation why that's not a simple "Yes or No" answer

The strike has comprised over 1600 people (and that's just signatories). That's a LOT of people. Like a freight train, it doesn't start easily, and it won't end easily either. The time for easy passed a long time ago. There's a lot of groups in there as well (moderators, SOCVR, Charcoal, etc).

The strike was voluntary. Some people will read the post above and take it as the strike is over. Others will have to discuss within their groups. That process will take time and there is no fixed time for that to happen. I do expect that many of them will start discussing it, as the groups I follow already have.

Please be patient a bit longer. I promise you things should start moving again soon. But the strike isn't over as of this moment.

10
  • 8
    So, your point is that while all conditions have been met, one shouldn't expect all activity to be resumed immediately? Aug 2, 2023 at 21:16
  • 29
    @HolyBlackCat Exactly. I expect a great many people to accept the terms, but that will take time for conversations to be had.
    – Machavity
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:18
  • 7
    Let me state now that I never considered the strike to be binding when I wrote my answer. I was asking more what the organizers thought
    – Seggan
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:45
  • 9
    First, I'll preface with my thanks to the people who devoted so much time and energy to hashing this out. For me, since math.se is kind of my "home" SE, I'll wait until the mod team there announces that they are done striking, but I appreciate the hell out of hearing the good news of all the progress that has been made.
    – JonathanZ
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:22
  • 2
    1.) "Please be patient a bit longer." — is this aimed at SE or community members? 2.) "But the strike isn't over as of this moment." — do you mean that individuals now evaluate their own positions and assess their own willingness to return to productive contribution, or that it takes time until the news reach those who had already started to visit less frequently? 3.) "I promise you things should start moving again soon." — the CEO of SE is known to make —sometimes unwelcome— statements apparently on behalf of the community. After what we had been through, such pattern might wake a concern.
    – Levente
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:45
  • 12
    In my mind (and perhaps those of others) Charcoal has been a bit of a demarcation line. Once Charcoal/SmokeDetector is re-enabled I would assume that the strike is generally lifted.
    – jla
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:56
  • 4
    @Levente 1. Community members 2. While there might be a person or two who has restarted their pre-strike activity, they seem to be few and far between presently 3. FWIW, the agreements hammered out seek to avoid that going forward. Yes, it's still built on trust, but that's the only currency we have here.
    – Machavity
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:41
  • 2
    @HolyBlackCat Whether all conditions have been met is not entirely black and white, which will be a factor as well.
    – Mast
    Aug 4, 2023 at 14:43
  • 5
    It's worth mentioning that the strike is in no way binding on anyone, so individuals decide for themselves whether their strike is over. Mods and organizations can only do as much as voicing and sharing opinions. For ordinary users, whether the strike is over only reflects on how much moderation is taking place on the sites, and it is a judgment to be made subjectively based on one's own observations. Aug 4, 2023 at 21:06
  • 5
    I think it is also important to realize that, at least for some moderators and/or curators, the AI policy was not "the reason" for the strike, but "one of many reasons". The straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. And even if this particular straw has been removed, the camel is still carrying a heavy load. For example, this is (at least) the second time that SO has aired out internal moderation matters publicly in the press, and they were already told the last time that this was unacceptable. So, I can understand that some mods and curators may be skeptical about SO's trustworthiness. Aug 6, 2023 at 12:33
87

The negotiations and the strike were mostly about resolving a specific, immediate problem that SE caused by decreeing the new AI policy. I think this issue has been resolved for now with the new policy.

But there are more issues that concern the striking users, and the trust between the community and the company has been seriously damaged. Those can't be easily resolved by negotiations, and it will take time to regain some of that trust. Some of the results of the negotiation (e.g. the communication policy and feedback for major changes) try to address these issues in part, but those are really more like signposts for SE on what they should avoid in the future to keep good relations with the community. The real test of these parts begins now, and how SE acts in the future will determine what the community does.

I hope the company understands that the achieved results here are fragile, and keeps the community in mind in their future actions and plans. Ending the strike now is also a bit of an act of faith in SE in the hope that they will be better in the future. Not everyone will be willing to do that, and we will likely lose community members and moderators that don't feel like SE deserves that trust.

73

Before I'm to start significantly contributing and curating again, I demand a public apology from someone within the company, one who was responsible for the policy change and/or the metrics that caused it.

I cannot get past being ridiculed to the point that they claimed that at least hundreds if not thousands of flaggers per day were collectively wrong for months on end.

There never was a low point of 10-15 GPT-generated answers per day on Stack Overflow and you know that. Say you're sorry; say you were wrong.

Reference: GPT on the platform: Data, actions, and outcomes

13
  • 1
    Have you been satisfied by the apology in the interim AI policy post, or should you consider posting an answer here? Aug 7, 2023 at 21:42
  • 5
    But that's not what i said. What I said was - summarized - "I'm sorry that we wrote and then released language that reasonable people could read and - from it - get the (incorrect) impression that we believe you to be racists, when that is not the case at all."
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 8, 2023 at 6:44
  • Alright @Philippe, thanks, I've removed that misinterpretation. My grievances are not with that particular part of the policy though, but with the overarching principle.
    – CodeCaster
    Aug 8, 2023 at 7:42
  • 2
    TBH, I'm surprised how weak is the memory of many of the ~♦ which have already forgotten Monica drama, and the dramas before that. The expectation that "it's temporary", "it's getting better", "we achieved a success"... it's a really perfect display of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-deception . A frog is best boiled slow, but in this case the frog has already been boiled, and is still happy, because "it was a learning experience" or whatever :) Seems some people will never realize that being a mod here is not "community service", but "unpaid work done for SE, Inc., to boost one's ego".
    – user213769
    Aug 29, 2023 at 17:17
  • @spamove Although late to the party, you can leave an answer here, but you’d have to give a good justification for why you’re answering it so late. I also see your reputation, voting and flagging numbers are very low too, so you’d have to also explain why your opinion is relevant. Aug 29, 2023 at 20:34
  • @AndreasismovingtoCodidact I won't, because, obviously, my opinion is completely irrelevant here, even more when you take into account the fact I already disassociated once, 4 years ago, and don't plan on doing it again. You can do the preliminary research yourself by inspecting the link to archive.org I provided in my profile. I posted that 4 years ago, shortly before disassociating. I was active on meta for 6 years by then already, and been a lurker before that. As long as you only see the numbers and not the person behind them, you're prone to exactly the same errors SE, Inc. does.
    – user213769
    Aug 29, 2023 at 20:51
  • 1
    But yes, it's awfully sad to hear the "your reputation, voting and flagging numbers are very low" mantra again, especially after hearing it so many times for so many years, usually from people who never got to the "numbers" I once had :D I'm not one of the "XYZ remembers Monica" zombies, I'm the "IDGAFF, do what you want with this account, because a) fake internet points no longer have the bling they used to for me, and b) I have a real life outside of this cesspool and find this both borderline funny and sad at the same time" zombie :D
    – user213769
    Aug 29, 2023 at 21:00
  • @spamove That link took forever to load on my phone, but I eventually waited it out, and got it open. So I see you’ve been an active member here previously. But your activity on this site is relevant in terms of what you have to say about the matter. For instance, there’s been one or two users around here with only a few days old accounts, that said the strike should now be called off, because the results of the negotiations were satisfactory. They didn’t justify it in any way, so yes, that was just the opinion of some random guy on the internet with no connection to the strike. Aug 29, 2023 at 21:04
  • @spamove Additionally, I’m one of the upvoters of your comment, and I carry your same opinion on it, and I have been opposing ending the strike, so I’m not trying to disregard you, even when not knowing that you used to be active. I don’t care about the size of your reputation or curation numbers/efforts, I care about at least some relevancy as opposed to none. Aug 29, 2023 at 21:07
  • @spamove I also don’t think your opinion is irrelevant here at all. Your statement was already good without any further justification, but I did suggest to provide more of it, if you’d actually turn it into an answer. It doesn’t matter who says something, as long as what they say, has good arguments coming along, and, is convincing. If you can’t provide that, you must use the power of authority. If your understanding of this is backed on experience, then surely, that’s a good reason to listen to you. Aug 29, 2023 at 21:16
  • Also, I have been yelled at by 300K users while doing my curation efforts on the site, saying I’m useless here, because I have so little reputation compared to them. For instance, it happens when I tell them not to post endless numbers of duplicate answers. So, I know it’s quite a pointless metric. Aug 29, 2023 at 21:24
  • @AndreasismovingtoCodidact sorry if I sounded condescending, but that was the society-wide "you" I used. I don't differentiate, not any more, I think. You <=> one etc. I mean that the problem is related to what you said alongside - I honestly think that what I (or you, or anyone) thinks on this is irrelevant. Same with those "random guys from the internet with no connection"... TBH, nobody has the real connection here. I work in a big-ish (5k people, multinational) corp as my day job. I've seen how those things are handled internally. We aren't important here and never were, nobody was.
    – user213769
    Aug 29, 2023 at 21:37
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – user213769
    Aug 29, 2023 at 21:38
71

Thank you to everyone involved for all the work put in to this. I know it was hard, and there will still be work ahead to repair some of the relationships that have been strained along the way. I hope we can remember that all interested parties ultimately want to have a successful public Stack Exchange network.

This agreement is sufficient for me to get back to work. Each moderator and community member will make that decision for themselves.

As a reminder directed more towards the casual Meta reader rather than the company: moderators are volunteers, they can leave whenever they want, and the company is very clear about understanding this. Please understand that some moderators may choose not to return, and this is not necessarily a signal to you that something is wrong or that this agreement is unacceptable, unless they explicitly say that. Everyone has a right to walk away when they're done; please let them do so.

3
  • 30
    I would imagine that for some the "break" from moderation gave them a view of just how much of their "free" time they've been "working" and what else of benefit for themselves which they could be doing. Especially on the larger sites: Unix, SU, SO, and AU. Work-life balance is something easy to loose sight of and the time off for the strike made them realize they'd lost sight of that. And, volunteer though it be, make no mistake about it, moderation is work. Unless someone gives their reason for nor returning, or returning less, presume nothing from it other than they had their Reasons™.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:05
  • 24
    Personally, taking a break (trying to) from curation showed me that it's largely a time-wasting addiction and that it would take thousands of clones of me (with varying areas of expertise), working together in some clearly coordinated way, to begin to make headway on the issues I see with the site's content. Spending that time in Meta, meanwhile, left me butting heads more than I expected, and the points where I can't find agreement are honestly deal-breakers for me. A few days ago I essentially had a mental breakdown over that. It's better if I leave completely, for good. Aug 3, 2023 at 5:23
  • 7
    @KarlKnechtel I appreciate all of your hard work. I've benefitted from it multiple times. Bye bye! Aug 3, 2023 at 15:21
43

Let's take a crack at rewriting this answer (now deleted; link requires 10k rep on this site to view) with a different tone, because I think there's a useful point hiding there...

During the strike, there has been a lot of spam and other problematic content on the Stack Exchange network. While commonplace on many sites with user-generated content, it's historically been exceedingly rare for most people to actually see spam on Stack Exchange, due to how quickly it's eliminated by volunteers in the community.

Hopefully, this strike has underscored the value of the work that the community has put into maintaining the quality of the network free of charge, and made it clear to everyone at the company that the community is critical to the network's success and cannot be taken for granted. The community cares deeply about the network, they have insights that may not be obvious from a different perspective, and the best chance for the network's success is for the company to work together with moderators and the community.

And hopefully, now we can all get back to removing spam, spammers, and other rule-breakers from the network, together.

1
40

Improving day-to-day communication between staff and moderators

This is a key point. And I think there is even a deeper level of communications that needs to improve at Stack Exchange itself. There have been more than a few times when I've felt that the 'staff' were just as surprised as us mods and users at policy changes being dropped on their heads from up above.

There's no point in better communications with staff if the only end result is that we're all just stunned at the same time, instead of them having a few hours/minutes to digest things beforehand. I realize that's out of our view, and I suppose even out of our purview. But I do hope that improved internal communications takes place as well.

35

First of all I wish to say I am deeply thankful for our representatives and others who put up the work in organizing the strike. Also for all the moderators, current and former, former members of SE staff, and all regular users who supported the strike.

I also want to thank the moderators who kept the lights on, out of their dedication to the sites and users that elected them (I know this was a hard choice), as well as members of SE staff who helped during the negotiation process and who haven't forgotten that we share the same goals. We all want to see the sites prosper.


While I am glad that negotiations are completed, I cannot say I am fully satisfied with the results. Partially, because no matter the resolution, the mere fact that we had to strike. For the rest, because there is still a lot of work ahead of us and plenty of room for things to fall apart. We can only hope that our voice will be not only heard but also acted upon in the future, but there is no guarantee.

I am ready to continue my participation (to some extent), but as far as company is concerned, they are on probation period until further notice.

To illustrate my position I will say this:

This morning, I went down the memory lane and 2020 mod elections on Stack Overflow, when we elected two fine mods Makyen and Machavity. The prominent topic in questionnaire was how well prepared are they for company turning their backs to mods and how dedicated will mods be to serving the community if company goes awry.

They passed with flying colors (just like the other mods we elected before, and those elected after them).

I have to say for the last elections held, I didn't think those kind of questions are necessary. Now I think they should become mandatory.

25

Does this mean that the strike has ended? It would certainly seem so, as the old AI policy has been removed and a new one has been installed.

As a side note, thank you to everyone negotiating, moderators and Stack Exchange staff, for being willing to compromise for each other and the groups they represent for the benefits of all of us.

6
  • 47
    The representatives never had the ability to bind the people striking to an agreement. Each person will need to determine for themselves if this resolution and the various additional posts already made and to be made shortly by Stack Exchange are sufficient for them, individually, to return. The groups that have suspended operations will need to discuss the situation internally and decide if the situation is to a point where they feel comfortable resuming operations. It's a very significant step, but there's more discussion that needs to happen within those who are participating in the strike.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:46
  • 5
    I made a more elaborate answer on this here meta.stackexchange.com/a/391852/244695
    – Machavity
    Aug 2, 2023 at 20:37
  • 5
    As an "outside observer", I wouldn't try to say "the strike is over"; the most I would say is "the reason for the strike appears to have been addressed in a reasonable way". As in the "real world" when a union strikes an employer, the strikers need to ratify the agreement before the strike can be considered "over". Even if striking workers return to work at the union's behest before ratification, there is always the reservation that the strike will resume if the agreement is not ratified. more... Aug 3, 2023 at 10:44
  • 3
    ...more I would say that right now, we are in the "ratification phase", and individual moderators or groups of moderators must now decide for themselves whether to "ratify" the agreement and resume moderation activities. Aug 3, 2023 at 10:46
  • 4
    It seems reasonable to wait for a statement from the company itself that's well-received by the community, and doesn't take sideswipes like some of their other apologies.
    – ggorlen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 15:27
  • I'll note that the open letter has been updated with a banner pointing to this post and noting the open letter as historical.
    – tripleee
    Aug 4, 2023 at 4:06
22

While the part about reworking the AI generated content detection polices seems good on paper, the rest of the agreement looks quite mild in my eyes (and to be completely honest I could easily see even this first part to fail if the company was to play deaf on what they propose after the fire calmed down).

The data dumps, the Stack Exchange Data Explorer, and the Stack Exchange API

I already have mentioned in my answer on that post that the promise feels empty and written by a lawyer. I am very suspicious of the incessant repetition of a specific concept: making the dump available for free (only) to "Community Member" so that everyone else has to "pay". I already said that IMHO this clearly betrays some ongoing plan to add some "DRM like" trash somewhere that has so far been postpone probably only because no one can find a legal enough way that would work. Thanks to the Creative Common license for existing, I guess... and thanks to Joel and Jeff for foreseeing that someday someone could try to monetize the content.

Changes to the Moderator Agreement: A mandatory review period for binding policies

Nice, but will only work if there is an actual will to listen to feedback.

Stack Exchange, Inc. staff cannot mandate moderation actions be taken without a public policy supporting those actions AND Non-public enforcement guidelines in cases where making those public would be detrimental to moderation

Wonderful words, until you realize that something like "the only allowed way to detect generated content is unsolicited self admission" was indeed considered an implementation detail that "making those public would be detrimental to moderation". So, basically, this premise allows for the same situation that caused this mess in the first place.
Mind you, it is not like you could write this any better, it is just that again, it is empty if the company want to force a "this is the part you oppose but since it is an implementation detail you can't mention it" scenario.

Updating the Press Policy surrounding statements on moderation

... nice, so now the ritual also requires the sacrifice of a CM soul. Personally I am not that sure that they will be free to refuse if they don't feel at ease with doing that... not when there is a backstory of firing people (in some case without any warning - see the community starting fundraising campaigns to help a fired CM...).

Determining if Stack Exchange, Inc. violated the Moderator Agreement

So basically you vote and if mods win the company has to:

  • Retract and nullify any actions taken or comments made during the course of the violation; and
  • Issue a public apology to Meta Stack Exchange detailing the violation made.

Can't see the company to agree on the fact that the votes have the final word on deciding if they can do something if they can avoid that in a tribunal. So IF they really want to do something, I see this as the perfect application of that Arbitration thing.

Committing to transparency (and everything else, aka "From now on we will talk and listen more")

This is fine, but it kinda looks like this is the episode moral that gets said during the final hug scene at the end of each episode of this ongoing show, so I will wait to see how that goes on this time.

2
  • 7
    Thanks for mostly summing up why I’m not returning from the strike. I don’t have faith that SE as a whole, can take care of this platform, and the communities, anymore. Their constant failure in public communication, these past 2 months, and the continued push with genAI, have given a strong impression that they are untrustworthy, and without knowledge and competence at running this. All thanks to the individual staff members that have taken care of this platform. I appreciate it. I am sorry to not trust the organization you belong to. All the wonderful people at the company deserve better. Aug 3, 2023 at 15:12
  • 1
    @AndreasdetestsAIhype Given the history I can fully imagine your feeling; I'm not too far of of it myself. However, it does raise the question of what SE would be able to do to take away your concerns. For me the results are much more positive than that I hoped for in advance. Regardless of what you decide and your feelings towards SE inc. I hope you keep remembering SE for the communities that it brings together. They are after all the reason why mods moderate and took to the strike. Aug 6, 2023 at 13:47
20

On one hand, I welcome the good news, and I acknowledge and appreciate the cognitive effort that the representatives of the community invested for the sake of the future safety of fruitful human collaboration on this platform.

On the other hand I cannot not notice —when it comes to earning someone's trust— that an immense opportunity seems to have been missed, when instead of a representative of SE, a community member published this post.

I seem to have gathered some experience in SE's communication preferences, and now feel a strong déjà vu involving the communication that took place in 2021, when SE was sold to Prosus.

Back then, I commented on the official company answer:

"My answer was approved by both SO and Prosus leadership"

— as it is a very convenient statement to publish.

"One of our community advocates offers his personal account where he was told something to the effect of 'Absolutely not' 7.) by someone (!) and it convinced him."

That's the statement.

Who is bound by this? 8.) Compare this to, say Teresa Dietrich herself stating here: a) "no we won't do this" b) "we will do that, but we offer this as a mitigation" [...].

I believe that's the adequate format for this issue.

I feel, a similar sentiment is applicable here too:

I have noticed that SE likes to communicate in such a way as if there was a lawyer standing right next to them at all times, supervising that they never ever say anything that could enter them into too significant obligations and/or accountability.

This gesture today, where it was not a representative of SE, but a community member who posted this, seems to be in an all too convenient accord with this striving. And by now, I am not surprised by the slightest by it.


On a relevant note, the post from 2021 delivers a different inspiration: The answer by the representative of the company has an official seal (with the additional function of locking the post from edits by the community).

I wonder if SE had a method available to equip Mithical's post by some kind of permanent official seal.


With all that said, I reiterate: this could have been several times more effective in regaining our trust, had it been communicated through a representative of SE.

Keywords: "being bound by a statement", "my word", trust, gesture, "demonstrating alignment and integrity"



Clarifying EDIT:

This answer had been posted way before the highly regarded answer from Philippe got posted.

In fact, I believe that this post, combined with ColeenV's quick thinking and successful mediation, had invited Philippe's answer into existence.

2023-08-02 19:14:05Z
Mithical publishes the original post.

2023-08-03 01:06:03Z
I post my initial comment on the original post (now deleted), which is a seed idea for this answer.

2023-08-03 01:48:41Z
I post this answer.

2023-08-03 04:48:41Z
Philippe responds in a comment to my (now deleted) comment on the original post.
At that point, it's the only statement in this regard.

2023-08-03 12:32:23Z
ColleenV gains inspiration for the idea of an official answer by the company.

2023-08-03 12:38:46Z
ColleenV approaches Philippe in a (now deleted) comment on the original post, suggesting posting an official answer.

2023-08-03 14:11:42Z
Philippe confirms and agrees to ColleenV's suggestion.

2023-08-04 07:11:38Z
Stephen G Tuggy offers feedback regarding the initial statement posted as comment.

2023-08-06 06:51:24Z
Philippe posts his answer describing his and the company's relation to the original post.
Considering a scale representing SE's communication preferences, that answer appears to be lightyears ahead —in terms of credibly expressing accountability— than the earlier statement posted as comment.
That answer is treated as the official company answer (even though it did not receive the "Official post" banner that other company communication usually carries).

2023-08-07 19:28:12Z
I comment on the answer, mentioning that the "Official post" banner is missing.

2023-08-07 22:11:47Z
Philippe equips his answer with the "Official post" banner.


A remark regarding the timeline:

I stand by my awareness

  • that Philippe is under pressure to post only such things that does not promise us more than SE, the company, would want to promise us.
  • that coordinating the approval of communication regarding binding agreements —involving superiors at the company, perhaps also lawyers and representatives of shareholders— needs time, even when it's about communication regarding an already approved agreement.

With all that acknowledged, I believe, we will have to arrive to our own individual interpretations whether what we see in the above timeline

  • is due to foot-dragging on the part of the company, in hopes that they can get away with making as few tangible promises as they can (as precedented by earlier occurrences), or
  • it is mere logistical delay imposed by having to improvise in response to our hereby relayed expectations that they did not sufficiently anticipate.

To put my personal expectation here, I believe that trustworthy partners strive to preempt the above discussed logistical challenges, and earn the basic, elementary trust of their partners by sufficiently anticipating the conditions for constructive collaboration, and by providing the expected reassurances in advance.

I acknowledge that the company is learning flexibility, which is demonstrated by the very agreement described in the original post. I however seem to also observe that the company will further need to contemplate and practice integrity, to meet fundamental expectations.

25
  • 36
    IMO a positive message from the people striking carries much more weight than a positive message from the people they're striking against. How much credibility would the corporate overlords have by saying, "The strike is over, go back to work"?
    – jamesdlin
    Aug 3, 2023 at 3:15
  • 11
    Yeah, I've heard that argument too, @jamesdlin - from staff even. I don't buy it. Is their credibility hurting right now? Yeah, a bit, for sure! But... The 2nd best time to start rebuilding it is today...
    – Shog9
    Aug 3, 2023 at 3:18
  • 14
    To me, the fact that the message was posted by a community representative and featured by a company representative was a very strong indicator that it really was a joint statement from both sides of the negotiating table. Aug 3, 2023 at 6:42
  • 3
    I agree there's value in how this was posted. But on the other hand, the CEO could have visited and posted too. Is this not worth his time? Aug 3, 2023 at 6:46
  • 27
    I completely disagree with this. This message should come from a community member and not a company representative. I trust Mithical far more than I trust company reps, and this is the result of our negotiations so it makes perfect sense for it to be presented by our representative.
    – terdon
    Aug 3, 2023 at 8:31
  • 3
    I do agree. It would have contributed more to What is needed for users to trust the Stack Exchange company?. Of course we trust our representatives 1000%, but we must feel we can trust the company. An official statement would have helped (a little). Aug 3, 2023 at 8:41
  • 2
    @terdononstrike 1.) "I trust Mithical far more than I trust company reps" — sure thing, but Mithical has no leverage over what the company actually does; the community representatives had leverage to steer and achieve an agreement, but that agreement is only as good as much it is implemented by the company. 2.) "this is the result of our negotiations" — true; but our question remains how much trust we can place in the longevity of these agreements. The company's published word is an indispensable ingredient in lending these agreements the desired amount of weight / percieved longevity.
    – Levente
    Aug 3, 2023 at 9:34
  • 10
    I hear you, but I still disagree :) A company announcement, to me, would be meaningless since they have managed to completely erode my trust in them. I wouldn't trust it to accurately represent negotiations, and I wouldn't trust it to be honest. Frankly, I don't care what the company has to say anymore. I trust Mith, so this is the post I would have wanted to see and I'm glad this is how it went down. I also appreciate that Phlippe explicitly endorsed it, but I wouldn't have wanted it to come from the company.
    – terdon
    Aug 3, 2023 at 9:48
  • 3
    @terdononstrike the post still could get some sort of "official post" tag or some sort of indication from the company that "yes, this indeed is what the company believes we agreed to". When there is a lack of trust and communication breakdowns, it's best to be redundantly explicit about everything. I trust that Mithical states accurately what he was told by the company's representatives. I even believe that the representatives thought what they stated was accurate. I don't trust that the company's upper management understands and fully supports these terms.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 3, 2023 at 12:32
  • 1
    @XanderHenderson I don't expect the company to keep its word anyway. I would love to be proven wrong, but I have no trust left. Given that philippe has endorsed it, albeit in a comment, I am personally happy with this. An official post would have been full of weasel words and would be written to make it easier for them to claim they never agreed. Think of the various non apologies we've had over the years or the "commitment" to the data dumps for the "foreseabke future".
    – terdon
    Aug 4, 2023 at 16:34
  • 3
    Well, now there's an official answer here... Aug 6, 2023 at 9:29
  • 2
    It does seem a little weird that my comment is gone, but not Philippe's responses, but I wouldn't blame moderators if they wanted to be extra careful about removing staff comments under the circumstances. My comment got archived in one of the wayback machine snapshots for those that are curious, but honestly, I'm just happy there's an official statement. I try to avoid writing comments that would bother me if they were deleted after being addressed.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 7, 2023 at 14:57
  • 1
    @ColleenV There’s a comment archive. Aug 7, 2023 at 22:32
  • 3
    Adding to your timeline: ColleenV's original suggestion comment was at Aug 3 at 12:38, and I added the official post banner to my answer at 2023-08-07 22:11:47Z.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 8, 2023 at 6:58
  • 3
    @ColleenV Your most recent statement is ridiculous for these circumstances and for what Andreas detests AI hype was suggesting. That "archive" was created by users to maintain a record of comments regardless of main site deletion without the need for an independent archiving site to happen to store a copy of the page with the comment someone is interested in. There may be real issues with comment deletion, about which you might say much of the above, but that comment archive has none of the motivations which you ascribe to it. Categorically, it's not worse than just deleting.
    – Makyen
    Aug 9, 2023 at 0:16
12

Edit: (Before they confiscate my keyboard as an unregistered dangerous weapon.) Everything in here is may understanding from trying to read the announcement(s), and is off-target in a few places. Errors and misunderstandings are kept, and the actual results are best taken first hand from reading the announcement itself, as well as the clarifications and corrections in comments below.

In another answer someone new to MSE asked about the timelines for these implementations. A valid question for someone just arriving on the scene in this place. I had a few of the same questions. Without considering that the negotiated changes to the Moderator Agreement required the 7-day review period, I was even expecting the posting of the new version of the AI content policy. For their benefit, and to clarify my own understanding I decided to make an answer to that question - and it's much too large for a comment (as originally planned.)

  • Public disclosure of the old "secret" policy was already done.
  • Cancelling the enforcement of the old, secret and public versions of the AI moderation policy was already done.
  • Restoration of the data dumps was already done. The policy for changes to the Moderator Agreement is done and in force.
  • The final version of the AI content policy: As a change to the moderator agreement it requires a minimum of 7 business days - as per the negotiations on the subject of such changes.
  • Development of heuristics for detection of AI content: never-ending, more methods will be found, technologies of AI will change, detection technologies might develop that actually work, etc.
  • Public release of the heuristics: never - the actual heuristics are not part of the policy, only that they exist; it's the same as the methods for detecting voting fraud are not part of the policy on voting fraud.
  • Testing moderators' ability to sniff out AI-generated content: not something the rest of us will know about (nor should we) any more than we know how audit reviews are determined - which everyone doing reviews will eventually encounter.
  • Elimination of the concept of a public-secret policy duality is "in force" now.
  • The piece about determining if SE violates the Moderator Agreement seems to need some tooling built, and perhaps some final adjustments to numbers. Non-moderators will never see this, of course.
  • The company's press policy still has to be rewritten. I don't think users will ever see that policy. I've not looked real hard, but I don't think we ever had access to the press policy, only its effects.

Everything else is on-going. There's no time for them to be completed as they are day-to-day processes. Communication, in theory, never stops and hopefully gets better over time, not worse. It is my hope that the on-going things stay positive, and that will prevent the need for any of the other, more "legalese" things to ever be remembered, let alone needed.

5
  • 2
    "The final version of the AI content policy: As a change to the moderator agreement it requires a minimum of 7 business days - as per the negotiations on the subject of such changes." Couple notes: It's not a change to the Mod Agreement itself, but to a [mod-agreement-policy]. The new change to the mod agreement hasn't gone into effect yet. The interim policy was planned to go out yesterday, depending on the schedule of the person going to post it; that hasn't happened yet, but it should be released shortly. The policy is laid out in the agreement post above, though.
    – Mithical
    Aug 3, 2023 at 9:52
  • 1
    "The policy for changes to the Moderator Agreement is done and in force." - If you're referring to the standard feedback and review period, that's correct - that's been a part of the Mod Agreement itself for a while. The change to require a minimum review period for new [mod-agreement-policy] posts has not yet gone into effect.
    – Mithical
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:04
  • 2
    "...if SE violates the Moderator Agreement seems to need some tooling built, and perhaps some final adjustments to numbers. Non moderators will never see this, of course." - Once finalized, this will be enshrined in the Mod Agreement, which is visible to everyone. "The company's press policy still has to be rewritten. I don't think users will ever see that policy." - The relevant section will be enshrined in the Mod Agreement as well.
    – Mithical
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:07
  • 1
    And here we have a shining example of how easy it is to be completely off target when you know exactly what you're talking about. I stand corrected, corrected, and corrected. Whilst I sit ponder my errors.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:44
  • Note: Changes to the Moderator Agreement, which includes the Terms of Service, and Code of Conduct, require a minimum of 30 days available "for discussion and review". Specifically, that full point in the Moderator Agreement is "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.". As mentioned in the question here, moderators resigning the Moderator Agreement is already necessary, due the Code of Conduct change earlier this year.
    – Makyen
    Aug 4, 2023 at 0:06
11

Great strides have been made in reaching a consensus, and that finally everyone's on the same-ish page. This in itself is a milestone - the communication pipes were clogged and have thus been opened, which is great for the network. One thing I would certainly like to know is the timeline for these implementations. Yes, I know it wouldn't be easy to define one, but it would help carry the positive momentum ahead.

2
  • 2
    As someone new to MSE, presumably with no idea how time works on Meta, this is a very valid question. I had some questions of my own, though I think I have as good as I'll get for answers. I started to make a simple summary, and it grew too large for a comment. It is a massive work they've accomplished. So I made an answer instead.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 3, 2023 at 9:27
  • 3
    I've been following this matter closely and been around a bit. :) Aug 3, 2023 at 9:32
11

Moderation should follow the standard escalation for suspensions, beginning with a warning and then escalating suspensions if infractions continue.

Stack Exchange, Inc. will implement a warning that will show to users pasting in content to the answer box, notifying the user about the prohibition on AI-generated content and hopefully decreasing the number of users who are unaware of the policy.

Genuine question- for sites that enable this warning feature, does it really make sense for moderators to still (have to) give users a warning upon first violations (instead of suspending right away)? Like- presumably, they'd have been warned already (unless they manually re-type the content instead of copy-pasting, which I have a hard time imagining). I'm fine if mods still have to warn first, but it... just wouldn't really make sense to me.

Okay, ColleenV has pointed out in the comments that there could be browser support issues, but what if another user has already pointed out to the AI-poster that AI-content is banned (in accordance to site policy, linking to the associated meta post) and the AI-poster continues?

9
  • 4
    Well, they can't say they didn't know can they? Aug 3, 2023 at 10:33
  • 3
    @JourneymanGeek yes, that's exactly my point. Aug 3, 2023 at 10:34
  • 3
    worth noting that even on sites with warning enabled there may be offenders who haven't seen it - primarily those who posted before the warning was enabled. One can argue that such users "deserve" mod warning prior to suspension - and if so, then system may become a bit complicated: moderators would have to first check if the warning was displayed and act depending on whether it was
    – gnat
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:53
  • 14
    And what if the code fails to trap the paste command or fails to display the warning because they’re using a weird browser? What if they’re using a screen reader and the warning doesn’t get read before they submit? Just give them a mod message warning so they know it’s not just a guideline and that yes, AI copypasta can be detected. Then, when they try to bypass the detection you know its on purpose and you can suspend them for a significant amount of time.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:59
  • 5
    It would be good however to have a mod message template about AI-generated content policy violations (if one doesn't already exist) to make sure that the warning/suspension message has a very well-worded explanation of the policy.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 3, 2023 at 11:52
  • 2
    Relying heavily on the warning banner would also mean relying on the ask question wizard consistently showing a banner, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ there's no harm in continuing to start with a warning regardless.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 3, 2023 at 14:39
  • 4
    While there can be reasons to go straight to a suspension, those are exceptions, rather than the norm. For example, if the user is right this minute rapidly adding post after post to the site, that could justify a very short suspension in order to make sure the user stops now. Other possible reasons include that there are additional compounding violations of other policies, etc. As with most things, it's something which is generally left up to moderator judgement, but the general policy is that the user should get a warning, except in exceptional cases.
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 18:12
  • 15
    The goal is to get the user to change their behavior such that they are contributing productively to the sites. The goal of suspensions isn't punishment. It's to convince the user that in order to participate here, they must comply with the rules and participate productively, or at least not in a way that's detrimental. Only after the user has been shown to be unwilling to change does the purpose of suspensions change to being about just keeping the user away from the sites, so they don't cause more damage. For most users, a warning is sufficient to get them to change their behavior.
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 18:14
  • 6
    The easiest way to be certain a user is aware that some behavior breaks the rules and that continuing that behavior will result in a suspension is to send them an official warning from the mod team. This gets recorded for their account, so if there is any question about whether they were warned, it’s easily answered even months later. I don’t see any value in skipping that step unless there’s some sort of disruptive or abusive behavior that needs to be stopped immediately.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 4, 2023 at 1:43
9

Can someone please explain about the Heuristics Working Group Team? Who are members of this team? Can members be elected to this team or is this a staff team or a moderators team?

Or are we talking about this: https://stackoverflow.co/teams/ (P.S. I've never used SO Teams).

6
  • 9
    The Heuristics Working Group Team is a Stack Overflow for Teams team where heuristics for identifying AI-generated content on the Stack Exchange Network are discussed. Any moderator can be a member, but they have to ask to join/indicate they want to join. Some non-moderators are members. Those non-moderators are users who have already been involved in identifying AI-generated content on the network. No, membership is not through elections.
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:40
  • 7
    The non-moderators who are involved are, primarily, self-identified by their user-level actions on SE/SO sites to identify AI-generated content, mostly through flags. In other words, it's currently, primarily users who have already been working on identifying AI-generated material over the last several months and raising flags on such content. There is, currently, no codified method of joining. As with most volunteer things here, it's primarily been "these people are interested and already working on this as well as they can".
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:44
  • 6
    While more structure might be beneficial, such structure doesn't currently exist.
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:45
  • 3
    this would be better as its own question post I think. Aug 3, 2023 at 5:41
  • @starball Feel free to post a question ;) Aug 3, 2023 at 5:56
  • 1
    As noted by @cocomac in a comment on the announcement above, the correct URL is stackoverflowteams.com/c/gen-ai-heuristics. The link you have is a generic one for the Teams product; but each individual Teams instance has its own membership and URL (which doesn't get you much unless you sign up for membership, and are approved; the contents are private).
    – tripleee
    Aug 4, 2023 at 3:55
9

I appreciate the tone of this and the immense amount of work that went into it from all parties; thank you.

It is possible that there are moderators who lack trust that this agreement is binding. Policies are made and unmade by corporations all the time. Stack Exchange is almost unique due to its conventional corporate ownership and use of volunteers to deliver its product.

It would be reassuring to see recognition of Stack Exchange's unique structure and that policies that are the result of a lot of hard work by staff and volunteers are recognized at the corporate level as being essential to its success.

1
  • 4
    Staff, volunteers and users
    – MT1
    Aug 5, 2023 at 18:56
1

The data dumps, the Stack Exchange Data Explorer, and the Stack Exchange API. A long-term commitment to freely maintaining and providing these services.

Will the license of the future data dumps change?

1
  • 26
    It seems like this would be much more appropriately asked under "The company's commitment to the data dumps, the API, and SEDE", which is actually directly about the thing you're asking about. As to what you're asking about, the data dumps are stated in the Terms of Service (TOS) as: "The Creative Commons Data Dump is licensed under the CC BY-SA license." So, the license of the dumps can't be changed without changing the TOS, which would trigger at least a 30-day review period and all moderators to have to re-accept the moderator agreement.
    – Makyen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:33
-16

Did the company representatives and community representatives sign this agreement on a paper?

P.S. I'm not a legal expert, but AFAIK, agreements are generally signed on a paper.

3
  • 22
    No.‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​‎​
    – Mithical
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:13
  • 4
    Legal Agreements are formed all the time without paper signatures: law.stackexchange.com/questions/5299/…. For example, you consented to a legal agreement to be bound by the ToS when you browsed this page. Under common law all you need is some form of evidence that both parties consented. Electronic communications are considered perfectly valid for this. Aug 7, 2023 at 20:11
  • 4
    Actually, in the U.S. certain contracts must be in writing, such as real estate transactions and sales above a certain amount. Most do not though.
    – Mark
    Aug 8, 2023 at 22:36

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