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An apology to our community, and next steps

A good sign. Hopefully they will follow through well and all mods who have resigned will return, assuming they want to.

Glen_b has already referred to this in an update to the Moderator resignation post. I'm sharing this as a new post for those who are not checking updates and may have missed the latest episode in this fracas.

Edit: Unfortunately, the follow-through has been very poor so far. It increasingly appears that the apology was disingenuous.

Edit 2: Along with the lack of action to fix the earlier problems, a new FAQ on gender pronouns and the code of conduct changes is proving deeply unpopular. gung has a comment about it below.

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    $\begingroup$ I thought "can" was correct; just wanted to make it clear there was already a policy about that rather than something done in response to the recent events. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 7 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ The issue has always been whether @MonicaCellio could return, not the tons of moderators who resigned in protest at her blatant mistreatment and the false accounts put out by SO corporate, namely that she did not violate the CoC in place. The second apology tries to shroud that in secrecy and obfuscation: "We’ll be reaching out to her directly to apologize for the lack of process[!], privacy, and to discuss next steps. We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community." $\endgroup$ – smci Oct 7 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @smci In case I wasn't clear, rectifying the situation with Monica Cellio was implied by "Hopefully they will follow through well". There's plenty of discussion of the merits and problems with the apology at the linked thread; my goal was not to summarise the situation, but to make people aware of a recent development. $\endgroup$ – mkt - Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ @smci For some moderators this crisis has been something like last nail in the coffin. I have seen meta posts where they say that they had been contemplating this decision for long. This crisis doesn't seem the right way for moderators to leave the community that they served with keen interest and devotion. They deserve much better. $\endgroup$ – naive Oct 8 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ @mkt: ok but I don't understand why you couldn't just post the basic facts without the narrative, 'good sign', 'hopefully' etc. The second apology is less bad than the first, but still weasell, dishonest and utterly inadequate for the reasons I spelled out. So if the first apology scored an F, this is an E-. This matter is not over yet, not at all. I can't see that the phrase "We made a big mistake, we were wrong, we apologize to Monica Cellio and she was been reinstated" is so complicated to utter. 'Next steps' is simply weaselly... $\endgroup$ – smci Oct 8 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ ...It's up to all us SO userbase to decide who in SO corporate needs to apologize or be fired for this garbage. One SO employee's name springs very much to mind, and she hasn't apologized. Also, why has new CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar been so very conspicuously silent? The buck stops with him. Hiding behind David Fullerton is cowardly. Tell Prasanth all about this on LinkedIn. $\endgroup$ – smci Oct 8 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ ...also the fact that ex-CEO Joel Spolsky, the man who volunteers opinions on almost everything, is also mysteriously silent since Sept 24. Since telling us what a great leap forward Prashanth's appointment was, ironically. And Spolsky is still Chairman, so the buck stops with him too. $\endgroup$ – smci Oct 8 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ @smci My primary goal was to inform, but I thought a minor, cautiously optimistic note was warranted (those few words hardly constitute a narrative). You're welcome to post more details in an answer or a new thread if this one offends you. $\endgroup$ – mkt - Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ Previously I stated that I was retracting my upvote, but might reupvote or downvote later. In light of the heavy handed change to the CoC (which is inconsistent w/ my & other mods' comments on the drafts), & the lack of satisfactory action on Monica's case, I am forced to conclude that the 2nd 'apology' was insincere & was a stalling tactic to buy time & hope this blows over. I have now downvoted it. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ Certainly Monica is dissatisfied with he current situation. It sounds like she got sent one email after the second apology and then nothing since, so no actual discussion as was promised. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 11 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ This new CoC seems like trying to kill a fly with a hammer. Obligatory pronouns have little to do with respect for people. For uncommon pronouns, it should be respected when others have discomfort in using them. This is not pronoun-fobia but can be reasonable. The use of 'they' has strong associations with plural (even when it has a history of singular), and novelties like xe, zir, ne might turn social norms into a Christmas tree. If a person tries to avoid using these terms, without avoiding the person or having problems with his/her/their identity, then this should be equally respectable. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 11 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ I can see that it might hurt, since the pronouns relate to gender classification and this might misrepresents ones identity which is hurtful when it happens often. However asking people to use pronouns which are weird to them should be a request and not a demand. And especially a rule set in code of conduct goes much too far than neccesary and could be detrimental when it states that preferred pronouns are obligatory. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 11 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ That twitter stuf is more like intentional bullying and has little to do with regular daily language use. By the way, you can not say it is a minor adjustment, like others can not say the wrong use of pronouns is not hurtful. It is up to the person who has to make the adjustment to decide how much the adjustment is. It is just as disrespectful for A to make this adjustment a requirement for B (and not acknowledge B's pain of the adjustment) as it is disrespectfull for B to not make the adjustment (and not acknowledge A's pain of the pronouns interferring with gender identity). $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 11 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ The acceptance has become intertwined with the use of pronouns (and maybe it has become circular: it hurts because it's disrespect and it's disrespect because it hurts). But this goes both ways. The pronouns have become important for LHBTI as a sign of respect. But in the other direction this now turns people that have otherwise nothing against LHBTI into disrespectfull people when they do not like to use pronouns. And now since the Monica-SE quarrel it also has become disrespectfull to just state that it is problematic (even when you accomodate). This is going into the wrong direction. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 11 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @anon Interesting conversation. I am curious about your position on the following: if somebody is fine with saying "he" or "she" or "they" correctly as requested by another person, but refuses to say "ze" and similar invented pronouns (and would e.g. say "they" instead, or reformulate without pronouns), would you say this is also disrespectful and should be condemned? $\endgroup$ – amoeba says Reinstate Monica Oct 13 at 19:58
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It has become obvious that the second beautifully (management-style) written apology is not sincere.

The follow up actions are not only dissatisfying, but in addition the StackExchange employees are even joking about the moderators quitting.

StackExchange is displaying a lack of talent in how to deal with this difficult matter and is doing more harm instead of trying to do good. And in the process they show that they do not care about their community (and this issue with the change of the Code of Conduct is just a last drop in the bucket).


I believe that moderators resigning seems not to be enough. I guess that a larger signal is necessary like a lot of users going on strike.

I myself have little power (just 1% of the answers here) but I will kick off and see if many want to join the list and make StackExchange understand better that they have not been behaving well to the community and have not been leading by example (showing how to be respectful).

No more answers from:

  • Martijn Weterings (pseudonym StackExchangeStrike aka Sextus Empiricus, following this)
  • Aksakal
  • mdewey (including from review queues)

To any person that is not identifying as he/she. Note that this post is not against the LGBTQ community. It is against the disrespect of StackExchange towards their contributors. I hope that respect may come to the LGBTQ community without this respect being fabricated by a management that distrusts their contributors and creates hollow draconian rules (that do nothing to change non-accepting people into accepting people, or worse might do the opposite), but instead by a community on StackExchange that is typically caring about others and is just trying to help.

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    $\begingroup$ But what are the demands? $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 13 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ It is difficult to put this into exact words (and I realize now that this drifts towards a yellow vest movement) but for me, the demand would be that the contributors to StackOverflow/StackExchange should be having more influence. Either by listening better to them (and show this in response) or by giving them more explicit and effective power in the decision process (although this second option I do not see happen for a commercial company). $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 13 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ The changes in the code of conduct an-sich are not so bad (just a bit odd specific focus on gender issues). But the FAQ relating to it goes out of hand. It is describing mores, what should be unwritten rules, in fine detail and examples with a one-sided point of view (no freedom for the community). The matter of bigotry explained in this FAQ is focussed on gender issues (ignoring religion), down to the extreme an obligatory accepting of neopronouns (not that this occurs in Overflow/Math/Phys/other-tech, but that does not change that the nonrespectful rule is there). $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 13 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ In social groups it's give and take. We wheigh our rights agains other's rights. Strict rules like the FAQ cut through the dynamics of this process. Most people don't care about pronouns like 'they' when this helps a sufficiently large group. But when you make it out of balance (e.g. neopronouns, or obligatory 'they' as standard genderneutral language when referring to a person with unknown gender, which is like almost everybody given the many anonimous users) then you get opposition. Instead, let the community develop the details more naturally, instead of these condescending pre-chewed laws. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 14 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Scortchi the two demands from this recent post from Monica are a minimum requirement (in addition it must become clear that this can not happen again and SE will take contributors more seriously instead of regarding them as disposables). $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 24 at 9:39

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