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Recently there has be a lot of discussion regarding Firing mods and forced relicensing: is Stack Exchange still interested in cooperating with the community?. A number of moderators have resigned or are taking time off in relation to issues that arose out of SE's incompetence in instituting changes to be more welcoming to LGBT+ users. Some of the issues LGBT+ users face are well expressed by Aza in their Resignation Notice. To prevent people who do not care about these issues from having to read on, the bottom line is that I will NOT be resigning or taking time off because I think I can be a positive influence in helping support the needs of our LGBT+ users. That said I am extremely disappointed by the SE team in their lack of support for our community and in particular the LGBT+ members.

The SE team is proposing changes to the Code of Conduct that I think will make it harder for moderators to ensure LGBT+ members are respected. SE employees removed stars from dissenting comments in the private moderator chat room where the changes to the CoC were being discussed. Further, the most strongly dissenting moderator was fired and other moderators step down (e.g., Gilles) in support of her. While I do not believe the fired moderator was without fault (in my opinion her behavior unintentionally hurt LGBT+ users/moderators), what SE employees have shared with us and how they went about removing her (including the timing on the eve of one of her most holy holidays) makes me feel betrayed because they have muddied the waters regarding their efforts to support our community.

About a year ago, SE revisited their theory of moderation and promised moderators Trust. Support. Agency. Accountability. Autonomy. The SE team has yet again failed to deliver on this promise and is again letting our LGBT+ users and moderators down. The SE team has lost an opportunity to proactively provide us with the support we need.

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    So, if I am understanding your post correctly, SE is changing the CoC to be more welcoming to LGBT+ users, but (at least some) moderators think the change will actually make it harder to ensure LGBT+ users are not abused/mistreated? – TylerH Sep 30 at 16:17
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    @TylerH you know our hands are tied regarding some of this. I have no idea why SE is changing the CoC. I am concerned that the proposed changes will make things harder when dealing with issues important to LGBT+ users. Most importantly, I am pissed that the SE team has let everyone down. – StrongBad Sep 30 at 16:30
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    Sure, I'm not expecting you to detail any specifics; I just wanted to make sure I was parsing your description correctly. – TylerH Sep 30 at 16:33
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    @TylerH I think I fundamentally disagree with the beliefs expressed in Caleb's answer, but I hope you can see how some of the issues he brings up are a moderation nightmare. – StrongBad Sep 30 at 16:39
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    Is there a good summary of what's actually happened? The links that I've followed are very vague, and I don't have time to wade through lots of meta.SE looking for hints.... @StrongBad, FWIW, you have my respect and support :-) – Flyto Sep 30 at 20:12
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    ...reading a little more, it looks like people are upset that Stackexchange wants them to respect users' preferred pronouns. That's not a position that I have much sympathy with. But, I may very well have the wrong end of the stick, because it's all more or less "private"... – Flyto Sep 30 at 20:25
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    +1 for fundamentally disagreeing and not concluding that automatically implies evil intent. – Caleb Oct 1 at 12:19
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    Maybe I missed something, a sincere question: Where exactly is the connection of recent events and LGBT+ (which you mentioned 7 (!) times)? There are allusions about the CoC, but I have only seen speculation about that. You also referred to the post by Ava, but admittedly, I haven't seen anything there that goes beyond accusing others of "bigotry" (and I will not watch 9 (!) videos at the off-chance that they clarify things). You don't know whether I'm LGBT+, and I don't know that about you. That's totally none of each other's business. How is this relevant for moderation? – Marco13 Oct 1 at 15:49
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    @Marco13 if you don't see anything in Aza's post other than accusations of bigotry, then there is nothing I can say to convince you. My suggestion would be for you to talk to someone who you respect and who understands LGBT+ issues about Aza's post. – StrongBad Oct 1 at 16:21
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    I "respect" people who answer sincere questions in the context of a civilized, open discussion (even if they think that the other side may just be ignorant or what...?). Aza talks about unwelcomeness, pain, resting, and hostile behavior. There seem to be some severe accusations hidden in there, but if this is the case, they have to be articulated much more clearly. I'd really try to understand it, but it has to be clear and factual (I'm a nerd, and almost certainly in the spectrum - maybe this explains what others may perceive as stubbornness...) – Marco13 Oct 1 at 17:15
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    I indeed missed something - I just saw that this is already discussed in more detail in meta.stackexchange.com/q/334058/248000 - still reading, a lot of things are happening right now... – Marco13 Oct 1 at 18:05
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    @Marco13 I agree with you Aza's post was highly confusing and insubstantive, I had to dig through a ton of posts to figure out what they were talking about too. – Azor Ahai Oct 2 at 1:05
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    Yeah, a lot of the arguments are about things that only moderators have actually seen, and nearly everybody is being disciplined in not "leaking" that. So for the rest of us, looking in, there's a lot of strong feeling but very little info or context. (unless something's changed in the last 24 hrs. I'm out of date) – Flyto Oct 2 at 16:19
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    Why do you find particularly remarkable that she was fired on the eve of a religious holiday? I wouldn't consider it more disrespectful than any other time, and I am not sure why it deserves to be mentioned. I could possibly see your point if this was her main job that provided food on her table, but as far as I understand she was just a volunteer moderator. – Federico Poloni Oct 3 at 10:43
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    @TylerH: The CoC will not - as far as I can foresee and speculate - be "more welcoming to LGBT+". That might be a stated purpose of the new CoC, but it is doubtful that this atmosphere of coercion, oppression and mistrust will make things more welcoming. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:51
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In case it gets lost in all of the noise, Sara Chipps (Director of Public Q&A) posted an official response on Meta Stack Overflow: An Update to our Community and an Apology

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    Spoiler: There's no apology there, and very little information... But that's not anonymous' fault of course so +1 for the link. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:46
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    The CTO of Stack Exchange has now posted a new apology. – Arnaud D. Oct 7 at 9:26
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@StrongBad, thank you for balancing your expressions of concern with a willingness to continue to stay constructive and to moderate.

I have been following the discussions, and while it certainly appears that the company's employees did not handle this situation well, I also am not impressed by the most highly voted responses of the community. In reading those reactions, I come away with an impression of people who have come to feel rather entitled based on their degree of activity in the StackExchange community.

Personally, I try to remember that at the end of the day, this place is really about the people who come looking for answers---most of whom never even ask a question. That some of us enjoy spending time here, providing those answers, and even building some community seems to me to be quite secondary.

We'll see how the company sorts things out on its end---frankly, I think that responding slowly and giving people a chance to settle down may be one of their best choices right now. In the mean time, carrying on with the things that brought people here in the first place seems like a good idea.

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Preamble

Wow.. I stumbled on this subject when I went to SO.meta to post about perceived decline in quality of answers and increasingly level of garbage, so I was going to ask about whether or not there was a decline in interest as well as lapse of moderation.

It took a great deal of time to figure out the sequence of events and try to get the nuances of the whole ordeal, and I am sure there is a lot happening behind the scenes that we "mere mortals" don't get to see.

I don't have the rep to write this on the SE.meta where the "apologies" from the SE staff came out, so it partially relates to your post @StrongBad, and partially to the subject as a whole. I hope you forgive me if parts of what I write here don't seem relevant to you.

Speculating at the "why"

I feel this is extremely discouraging but to some extent a natural consequence of the near exponential growth of SE sites.* The main income of these sites is traffic so as the network grew, it needed to cater to a larger and larger crowd. The way I see it that has several critical and profound challenges (in no particular order):

  1. It became harder and harder to have guidelines that was relevant and agreeable for all the communities.

  2. SE staff became more and more distanced from the community, I remember the times where the SE staff would often post on Meta, and occasionally give insights to the way the company reasoned behind the scenes. They weighed in on feature requests as well as encouraged growth on newer communities

  3. As the network grew hungrier for new users, and reach out to more people, the level of "noise" increased. Here I mean duplicate, low-quality questions and answers. The need for moderation increases as the crowd increases. This too has an important implication, as the community grows in size, the dissent also increases. Despite sometimes pretending otherwise, there are inevitable differences even within a community. What seems like a normal way to express an opinion to one person may come across as offensive or insulting to another. There are cultural components to that, as well as other personal factors which are clearly hard (if not impossible) to know in advance. So staff, moderators and users will likely clash at some point, inevitably so...

  4. Together with the previous item, as the network grew the perceived value of the network may have changed in the eyes of the "subject-matter-experts", especially if the "noise" is not kept below a certain level.

Where I stand

All that being said, I am not sure where we are headed. I don't believe it'll be "business as usual" not after this much turmoil. I also don't believe things will be "fixed". Most of all I don't believe in the sincerity of the apologies provided by the SE staff.

Personally I don't really care about how they will do right by the people they have wronged, that's between company and the individuals. I don't care for the apologies, since I trust actions not the words.** I also don't care much about the change of CoC relating to the use of pronouns (possibly because my native language does not use different pronouns based on gender).

What I do care about is how the company treats people who volunteer to improve their product. Let's remember one thing, the primary unique value proposition of this place is the fact that this is a place that brings "experts and enthusiasts" together, where we help each other solve our problems, learn and grow. So we bring the value, they provide the medium. In other words, we are the product not necessarily the customer. Let's try to keep that in mind.

Moderators especially voluntarily take time to improve the site, and to make sure there is productive, respectful and civil discourse. As far as I know (please correct me otherwise) community moderators get zero financial benefits for doing the extra work.

That's the real issue in my eyes, the network is too large, perhaps too large to fail. So they probably feel (or felt) that roughing some feathers is not gonna be an issue. There will be people sticking around, or joining a year or two down the road, to provide the content. They treat their main assets as expendable objects. That's what I find the most troubling!

TLDR

Last but not least I have no trust what-so-ever for the staff/executives at SE, for no other reason than that they are representing a company. Companies have financial interests, and in general (at least in my experience) only care for their customers (or ethical/moral standpoints) when it's profitable i.e. when not doing that would be harmful for business.

Trust is an inherently human thing; I trust the people I can shake hands with, look into the eyes of, and perhaps, have a beer with. I don't trust anyone that's on the other side of the ocean from me, and more importantly has a vested financial interest in the subject matter.

That's what I would have liked to write as an answer to David's or Sara's "apology". You want to win back people's trust, show them you actually care about the community, and not see them as a business asset.


* Not immediately relevant perhaps, but the company is based in NYC as far as I know and I am guessing at some point they have started to cave in to pressures of finances, reason in the more conventional terms of economics and profitability.

** When I was reading the apologies provided by SE staff, specifically David and Sara, it is clear to me that the language has been carefully structured, probably heavily consulted by the legal team. In that sense, reminiscent of the apology letters/statements by professional athletes after some PR scandal.

I see no remorse, and no acknowledgement of what really went wrong. I also see no real change in sight. It's essentially; "our game our rules, if you don't like it then stop playing"

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Frankly, holding elections in this environment, without informing users, or worse, candidates, that this was going on, was the wrong thing to do.

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    Well, the whole election process started well before the current moderator situation blew up. Hard to go back in time... (The question collection started September 9th, the questionnaire was 9/16, etc.). – Jon Custer Oct 2 at 15:21
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    It seems like keeping people in the dark about things is sort of an official SE approach now, so - par for the cours? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Oct 3 at 22:48

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