295

I’m writing this post to let you know that we’re fully rolling back the changes made yesterday to the AUP and having them go through moderator review.

I also want to briefly talk about how it happened: much earlier this year - in May 2023, I received a preview copy of this from our legal team for community team review. I reviewed it personally, and thought it was okay to go out. To be explicit: I didn’t think there was anything in it that was a major change to how we operate the network and therefore did not flag it for any major risks or needs for broader community review (this was before we had agreements around it).

I was also out yesterday due to a holiday, but had already cleared the text to go out based on the above-mentioned review. After reading your comments around it, it’s clear to me that I missed a few key points on how the text reads rather than what it was intended to mean: to be clear, I think most of the issues flagged are not how we intended for this change set to be interpreted, but I understand that there is a difference between what we intended and how it reads. We’ll be re-working some of the text before presenting it to moderators.

Slate got handed this yesterday with little to no context of it because she was not a part of the review process; I was. She was further prompted with my notes that it had already received appropriate reviews and was going to be fairly trivial and non-controversial, which obviously was wrong. I want to personally apologize for the confusion this update caused and for it missing our agreement with the moderators: that’s on me. There are reasons for why it happened, but they do not excuse the fact that I dropped the ball to you all here and, for that, I apologize.

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  • 176
    👍Good apology, thanks for the update. Nov 21, 2023 at 16:40
  • 60
    Glad to hear that you're a fallible human and prepared to own errors. Admirable. Fear of reprisals usually pushes people to blame others.
    – W.O.
    Nov 21, 2023 at 16:40
  • 173
    Cesar owes me 100 internet points to make up for the ones I lost yesterday. Plus interest.
    – Slate StaffMod
    Nov 21, 2023 at 17:03
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    Thanks for taking action right away.
    – T. Sar
    Nov 21, 2023 at 19:24
  • 43
    Fantastic ownership and responsiveness. Super impressive. Nov 21, 2023 at 20:34
  • 8
    @Philippe If you ask the same question twice in 2 years, was the first question even asked?
    – Mast
    Nov 21, 2023 at 21:04
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    Seems "our legal team" was asleep at the switch if you were not apprised of what the changes encompassed or how the changes could be interpreted.... Perhaps William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2?? Nov 22, 2023 at 6:19
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    1. This apology looks like it was written by a human which is a big step up from past interactions with SE. 2. The fact that the company can unilaterally decide that scraping CC text is no longer allowed, effective immediately, is exactly why I think scraping the text should be allowed. Stack Exchange exists because of the CC license; it's a competitive advantage. If I wanted to waste my life posting behind a paywall I'd use Quora. Nov 26, 2023 at 1:51
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    I'm more than a little worried that the legal team somehow managed to suggest a change that directly and completely violates the Creative Commons license this site is quite literally built around...
    – TylerH
    Nov 27, 2023 at 21:14
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    With all due respect for the withdrawal and apology -- but I cannot shed the impression that the users and moderators only exist as an afterthought to the employees. I mean, there was a massive loss of trust culminating in a strike, for heaven's sake. The process to re-establish the minimal trust level necessary for the moderators -- and hence necessary for continued existence of the site as we know it! -- was arduous, taking months and resulting in a hard-negotiated agreement. (ctd.) Nov 28, 2023 at 10:39
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    (ctd.) And now, at the first opportunity to put this into work, with a minor issue that should not be particularly contentious, you just shrug and completely ignore (personally, and institutionally) the hard-wrought process agreed upon for exactly this scenario. Entirely baffling. This can only be explained with "everything you signed was just because you had to, you didn't really mean it". That's like a husband coming home and plopping in front of the TV the day after he saved his marriage by swearing under tears that he'll help more in the household. What will the wife say? Nov 28, 2023 at 10:41
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    @DewiMorgan The failure that preceded it is much more impressive, in my opinion. Nov 28, 2023 at 10:46
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica Everyone, everything, every structure whether physical or social, fails. That's an inevitability. The measure of the thing is how well it handles failures. For people and social structures, the first part of handling is how well they respond: initially, that's about whether they accept that the fault exists, take ownership, and take swift action. Later, we'll see if that's carried through to a retro with action items to prevent recurrences, but at this point, I cannot fault this response. Nov 29, 2023 at 0:03
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    It hasn't yet been presented for moderator review, @Jonathan - presumably legal is still going over it to fix the issues already pointed out.
    – Mithical
    Dec 3, 2023 at 23:18
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    @JonathanLeffler We should have a draft for the mods next week
    – Cesar M StaffMod
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:12

3 Answers 3

149

Thank you for recognizing the mistake made, and doing the right thing with taking responsibility and rolling it back. It's appreciated.

I understand that people, particularly Slate, are working on updating the processes internally to make sure that this doesn't happen again, so hopefully we won't have a repeat of this situation.

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    Yes, Slate is on this, and I've prioritized it internally as well. It was a process fail, not an intentional choice. We appreciate the extra measure of calm as we figure out how to prevent recurrence, and still allow Cesar to take holidays. Otherwise, I'm going to have to have the dungeon renovated and keep him there at all times.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Nov 21, 2023 at 17:44
  • 3
    @Philippe If you figure it out, do let us know. It's one of the two hard problems in computer science, and I'd hate for one of you to find the general solution only for it to be locked up in an electric eggbeater calibration routine.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:41
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    @wizzwizz4 At least Cesar will have plenty of beautifully working eggbeaters in his dungeon. Nov 21, 2023 at 19:18
104

I want to say thank you - especially to you, Cesar, and Slate - for handling this. Not only did you do what I think is the right thing by quickly rolling back the changes and putting them through the moderator review process, but also a very clear apology and giving a very specific overview of the things that went wrong in the process.

Looking forward to the moderator review when that happens, and whatever else we can do to help avoid misses or process failures in the future.

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    Who's "you" in this answer? The question was posted by Cesar M.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 22, 2023 at 14:30
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    @wizzwizz4 Which "you" are you referring to? The one in the second sentence? That "you" is referring to the company, and specifically the people involved in approving the rollback, the revisions, and putting it through the mod review process - I would suspect it would include Cesar and Slate, but also Philippe and likely others from other teams, like Legal. Nov 22, 2023 at 15:14
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    I think they are referring to "you, Cesar, and Slate" which could be interpretted as being 3 people if you treat the second comma as an Oxford comma (rather than "you - Cesar - and Slate", which is what I think it is meant to mean). Nov 22, 2023 at 15:30
  • 2
    @AndrewBennet Yeah. You got it. Is this a non-typical construction? Because the comma is separating "Cesar" from the rest of the sentence and not part of a list. Nov 22, 2023 at 22:14
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    @ThomasOwens For what it's worth, to me it reads perfectly clearly as addressing two people.
    – Jacob
    Nov 22, 2023 at 22:22
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    I think it is clear given the context of the question; without that context it would be ambiguous. But also I can see it would be possible to be stuck in the mindset of it being a list of 3 people, and being confused. Nov 22, 2023 at 22:46
  • @ThomasOwens Standard English grammar would be to leave out the comma between "Caesar, and Slate". You don't need a comma before "and" if the list only has two items.
    – trlkly
    Nov 23, 2023 at 1:19
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    @trlkly No, because it's a parenthetical phrase. Specifically, I think it's an apposition. Nov 23, 2023 at 1:52
  • @ThomasOwens I know it's a parenthetical phrase. But you appear to be addressing two people as "you," since you said "especially you." If you leave out the comma like I suggested, does it change the meaning of your sentence? Are you not still singling out both Slate and Caesar for additional thanks? But, if that's not satisfactory, then the other way to fix the ambiguity would be to reorder the list: "especially Caesar and you, Slate."
    – trlkly
    Nov 23, 2023 at 2:09
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    @trlkly Both change the meaning of the sentence. "You" refers to Cesar, since he authored the question. In your rewrite, you would either be ambiguous (including both) or Slate, which is incorrect. Nov 23, 2023 at 2:15
36

Message to Stack Overflow:

There's no such thing as a change so trivial it can skip moderator review. If the moderators consider it trivial and want to expedite approval, that's their call, not yours.

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    Not like SO have any obligation to the moderators whatsoever... It's their platform, they can do what they want on it. They're not beholden to the mods Nov 28, 2023 at 18:20
  • 8
    @ScottishTapWater: The platform means nothing without the content, which doesn't belong to SO.
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 28, 2023 at 19:59
  • 4
    @ScottishTapWater technically the obligation was to the CC license terms their changed violated. The point of review is to prevent such a violation which was caught by SE users within hours of posting.
    – Andrew
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:18
  • SO can find a way to make the content belong to SO - it's a company, which means the law wants to give it your stuff.
    – user253751
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:51
  • 3
    @ScottishTapWater Stack Exchange agreed to allow policy changes to be reviewed by the moderation team prior to going into effect just a few months ago: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/391847/…
    – coreyward
    Dec 4, 2023 at 17:58
  • @user253751 Sounds like uninformed speculation. You own the copyright to content you author on the network per the Terms of Service.
    – coreyward
    Dec 4, 2023 at 18:01
  • @coreyward It's informed. No matter what the law says, companies always seem to get their way over individuals, unless those indiviuals happen to be rich.
    – user253751
    Dec 4, 2023 at 22:09
  • @user253751 - Maybe in America... That's less true in Europe and SE isn't just beholden to US law Dec 5, 2023 at 14:03

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