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An apology to our community, and next steps (stackexchange.com)
282 points by SnarkAsh 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

From the comments.. for anyone that didn't scroll all the way:

Before "apologizing", you need to come clean: did you lie?

Earlier, you (Stack Exchange) wrote:

>We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change that behavior.

However, Monica disputed that she had received repeated requests to change her behavior.

Clearly one party here is lying, and much of the community believes that party is Stack Exchange.

So—did you lie, or not? Your "apology" is meaningless until you clean this up.

I think this is probably the most important part of this whole issue, whether or not Stack Exchange is acting in good faith. And it's true, how can anything they say be trusted anymore if they would lie like that to the community?

Whether or not they lied, I wish they'd say something about it. Staying silent about it really gives a bad impression.

It seems pretty clear that Sara Chipps is effectively lying. Even if she's convinced herself that "we've been as clear as we can and your values are out of alignment".[0] At least, if "An employee with a 'director' title" is in fact Sara Chipps. If it wasn't her, there's the possibility that the two SE employees miscommunicated, or could pretend so.

0) See https://cellio.dreamwidth.org/2019/10/05/stack-overflow-fias... at the second September 18 paragraph.

neither party may be lying. for example, Monica may not have received explicit official reprimands, however SO may feel that rejecting her position multiple times during communications meets this criteria.

That’s a pretty low bar and if accepted will place a chilling effect on any debate in moderator lounges.

Note that the essence of the debate is: “you must always use the person’s nominated pronouns” versus “you can write in such a way that pronouns aren’t used at all.”

To me there is a huge difference between, “you can write inclusively without talking about a person in the third or second person” and “I refuse to accept this attempt at inclusive regulation.”

But we will see what SO dredges up in order to justify their position that debates in a moderator lounge are the equivalent to formal requests.

Oh I agree that it's a ridiculous reason and SO needs to clean up it's act.

I just don't think fixating on very small factual ambiguities helps anything except political ratholeing.

From a comment by rolfl[0]:

> This apology has come not a moment too soon.... for the past days, almost a week, now, moderators from across most sites have collaborated on communicating our concerns to the SE staff. We have been working "in plain sight" of the SE staff (using the TL to collaborate). ... The timing of this apology appears to have been in a race to beat our statements about the issues.

The comment was updated to include a link to https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334575/dear-stack-e... , which in turn links to: https://dearstackexchange.com .

[0] https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/334570/346001

Note that Fullerton's apology lacks any reference to Stack Exchange's turn towards the press during the controversy. As brought up in the Dear Stack Exchange letter (and in numerous Meta posts over the last week), it is concerning that SE would be willing to make a (potentially libelous) statement to the press, while refusing the same to the community.

This conspicuous absence makes me question the authenticity of the apology.

In this post, Mr Fullerton 'takes the brunt' of the blame, clearly defusing any more singular issues with the various individuals involved. This has the unfortunate side effect of highlighting how SE is not a community run system, but is more of an oligarchy. One wonders how it could have been handled better, but still, all decisions went through one person and it wasn't a community that did it.

My take on that decision is it's because SE is a business: They use the community to MAKE money.

Now, it's not entirely one-way as they need to be providing value to the community in order for it to continue but business decisions need to be made at some level and the community level isn't the place for it.

If SE perceived a loss in profits from community members' actions then they need to take steps to mitigate that loss and I suspect that's what they did(rightly or wrongly).

Not trying to defend SE's actions, or those of the community (I have no opinion on the matter and, not to make light of the issue, I don't really care either) but a mistake that I sometimes make is thinking businesses make decisions for reasons other than profit.

In saying that, if SE thought that putting it to a community vote (or whatever best decision making tool the community could use) would make them more money then they likely would have... makes good business sense.

Just my £0.02

For other folks who might have made the same misreading I did:

This thread is a new post from stack, not another link to 21153224 which has the similar title "update to our community and an apology"

The new post is @ 199 upvotes versus -1278, so the reception so far seems to be very different

Codes of conduct tend to be driven by (and serve to protect) the group's intended purpose. Gender is a big part of our language for many reasons, some better than others. We should be aware of our goals when dictating what is and isn't acceptable, especially on a technical Q&A forum like StackExchange.

Wanting to know someone's gender can be reasonable. But... on StackExchange? I can count on a single set of digits the number of times I've personally witnessed someone knowing someone else's gender leading to anything better than a neutral outcome. Doctors factor highly in that list. Then dates. Online people... well, only when it was extremely on-topic. Like a time I saw someone getting advice on 6-point racing harnesses vs. 5-point (re: strap geometry to protect the lower body).

As an example, let's take scicomp.stackexchange.com (computational science). Neither a participant's sex nor their gender is an appropriate topic there, with few exceptions. Is a reasonable policy there to avoid all gendered pronouns when referring to other users, unless there's an on-topic reason? Is using "they" or the user's handle worse than bringing gender into the conversation, when this is clearly off-topic? Monica seems to be negotiating for the option to use gender-neutral language. What are the pitfalls if we mandate it? The language can be a little awkward at first but that's a small molehill to die on.

Personally, I've always found it strange that we collectively broadcast our gender so far and wide. We don't continually mention each other's race, hair color, handedness, or preferred sleeping position on every tenth word, yet we often know someone's gender even before we know their name. Why is it so?

Thoughts? Very curious to hear from others. To be clear I have no problem with someone expressing their sexuality, gender, or other aspects of their individuality. I'm a fairly odd cat myself (particulars are irrelevant) and I relish being able to express myself authentically when it's helpful to some goal. I guess I'm mostly challenging the central role gender plays in our language, and asking whether or not we should change this to allow people more flexibility in what they disclose.

> technical Q&A forum like StackExchange.

I believe most of these issues have risen after SE has opened doors to topics beyond tech. As soon as you stop talking about things but about people, you will encounter people problems.

> We don't continually mention each other's race, hair color, handedness, or preferred sleeping position on every tenth word,

In many written languages, and English in particular, you have gendered pronouns which you more or less have to use. Sentences that avoid referring to people with pronouns are awkward and forced.

> yet we often know someone's gender even before we know their name. Why is it so?

In real world relations you often see a person first and "assume their gender" based on how they look, before knowing their name. In some cultures the greeting is different depending on the gender of the other person.

It's not just cultures, it's languages!

In my native Hebrew, I'd greet a man like "מה שלומך" "Ma Shlomcha" ("How Are You" literally, "How is your peace?") and a woman gets the female noun form/pronounciation "Ma Shlomech").

Nouns and Verbs have gender in Hebrew

Actually the name alone might not help as names can be gender neutral or families not having gender specific endings (like Slavic languages).

Indeed, there are languages (Baltic ones) here even 'Hello' has multiple versions depending on the target person.

> Sentences that avoid referring to people with pronouns are awkward and forced.

Your post avoided pronouns. Was it awkward and forced?

This is how I write so no. But I did not actively choose to avoid using pronouns, only gendered ones. In this case it was easy because there was not much need for them anyways.

"I" and "you" are pronouns in the post.

Rewrite the post without them; it will be awkward.

Gender/sex roles are a part of a bigger cultural story we all participate in. Sex is in everything. You can't remove it, without losing an essential part of humanity.

A lot of young men work hard for symbols of masculinity as a form of validation. A job that doesn't pay can still be rewarding in part if it increases the validity or reputation of your sex drive. Gender can change how you reward people.

Compsci may be discussing video games where women prefer completion and fantasy while men prefer destruction and competition. Knowing the gender of the writer and the context of the post can cut down the time and awkward social questions needed to deliver the relevant information.

Gender can change your attitude for risk taking. Suggesting a low risk low reward solution to a young guy looking to prove himself will likely get ignored.

Estimations of the trustworthiness and gut level assessment of competence of a answerer offering an answer that has an unknown quality to the questioner can be assessed on non-rational levels like their competence in other areas of life, including perceived gender role success or attractiveness.

You can't cut out the gender of the speaker and maintain a human conversation that uses most tools of conversation available. Some people work towards a better sex life via money and competence. Cutting out the ability to discern what is important to the questioner makes for spammy answers before you figure out what he/she wants.

It is fundamentally anti-human to cut out the motive force that propagates the species or recreation from a discussion about what people want to achieve in life. It may work as an experiment or produce hyper rational results and be heralded a success. I don't think people will favour the move over all.

The removal of pronouns is fine for the symbol of masculinity at the moment, as a part of a much bigger story. But the symbol of femininity is taking a hit for it, whether you want to continue that trend or reverse it is up to you.

It is true that sex and gender is important cultural factor, but it is also stereotypical and reductionist to take a complex person full of individuality and reduce them down to a single bit of information; is it a he or she.

Taking a historical perspective with gender equality, there is two opposing camps pushing in opposite directions but with the same goal. One side want to eliminate gender, seeing that the shared humanity, traits and behavior is vastly larger than any differences. The other side want to highlight the diversity of gender while maintaining equal value for both.

So looking at both camps, gender is extremely important to people and essential part of humanity, while at the same time the least important part of an complex individual. It is important for gender equality and at the same time an unnecessary detail among a sea of commonalities.

As I identify myself as belonging to one specific camp, I would strongly disagree with the claim that "you can't cut out the gender of the speaker and maintain a human conversation". I try to do that every day and in particular when I see a gender stereotypical (or non-stereotypical) situation. If I meet a male kindergarder teacher I treat them as a individual interesting in working with children, and if I meet a female mechanic I treat them as an individual interested in working with cars. Cutting out the gender of the person makes it easier to maintain that human conversation.

Those two camps "eliminate gender" and "obtain every gender" are not rational positions. They are the simple categories of nothing and everything applied to gender. We don't need to push our definition of gender into the chaos of everything or nothing. A black and white binary. The meeting in the middle of those two is he/she. We have had it forever and though many will heroically go out to the edges, to boldy go where no man has gone before, to find something new you will end up with the same when you come back.

Your virtuous behaviour towards female mechanics and male teachers already has a name. It's politeness.

I understand the US wants to shrug off the last remnants of the UK's culture as it no longer works in our new authoritarian world. You can throw away the gendered line from one of the greatest accomplishments science produced "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". You can take down the pictures of all the gloomy old men that advanced 'mankind' and call it whatever you want.

But there doesn't seem to be a reason to believe that reality is any different from the past. The advance of gendered science gives us greater understanding of the world, and new ways to be polite. There isn't a requirement to change english to suit. You can simply be polite to everybody involved on an individual basis.

The idea of gender equality is fundamentally impossible to begin with, we have unassailable differences and preferences. The feminine role should be celebrated for what it is and not jammed into the masculine role for the sake of future politics.

> The language can be a little awkward at first but that's a small molehill to die on.

It's my understanding that the issue is conflicting self expression. If in some circumstance the author feels something is awkward, are they allowed to make a judgement call?

And, as moderators, are they given the agency to also make judgement calls in how they moderate?

I guess you could call that a molehill, but I don't know why we need to put people out who feel otherwise. Seems like extending the same courtesy as using preferred pronouns, in a way.

> conflicting self expression

Hm, yes! That's indeed a tricky part. My specific proposal oversimplifies the situation. The term "chosen mode of respect" is cropping up recently, perhaps an amicable solution lies the direction of mutually expecting and accepting each other's respect, and not assuming malice quite as easily.

All this being said if disagreements often escalate all the way to a CoC incident, that's a sign of a disrespectful community that needs more than just a document.

In any case it is encouraging that conversations such as this can still be productive in some forums, like this one.

Edit: Looks like people have been editing others' posts to use gender-neutral wording for a while, to various degrees of acceptance:



There are more. I didn't realize people could edit other people's posts. This adds a whole new complicated dimension.

>central role gender plays in our language,

You mean 'English'. (Although most[all?] Indo-European languages do have a gender concept)

There are languages that have no gender specific pronouns (or cases) and the best/funny part is that native speakers of a similar languages tend to call everything 'he' in English.

Personally I don't care what people would call me at all, if the rest of the argument/discussion is on point.

Yes I was a unclear. I meant "our" to imply the language being used in this very conversation. I should have used "this".

My first language is Italian. Even though almost everything is gendered in that language, gender tends to fade into a purely grammatical role. Unless it relates to humans.

> tend to call everything 'he' in English

yes I've noticed this too. Like referring to a machine... "he" will encode the frame into mp4 and pass it to the database...

Your last comment reminds me of an interesting anecdote I observed. Mom and son, the son having new long hair. Mom asked regarding the hair, "aren't you worried people will mistake you for a girl?"

She was genuinely surprised and confused when the son replied that they didn't give a toss if someone does. The landscape is changing fast.

I'd note that in English, the default pronoun actually is "he". The movement to remove that is relatively new and almost purely politically driven.

The most frequent case for me, even on the purely technical sites, is talking about the question author in third person (because writing "question author" or their username [which they might choose to change later!] repeatedly is not really an option).

But even ignoring that, there are several other avenues of communication on SO/SE beyond QA. Comments, different chat rooms, flags, mod messages... And a few of those can be intrinsically personal, so avoiding pronouns may be difficult there too.

> We made a decision to act quickly, which I personally approved, but in doing so skipped several critical parts of the process.

Okay, got it. Acting in haste can lead you to make critical errors of judgment. Smart to slow down so you don't make the same mistake again.

> On Monday, October 7, we’ll be sharing a second draft of an update to our Code of Conduct with all moderators for feedback.

Good call. Get feedback on the revised plan from the moderators to whom it will apply. Smart move.

> On Thursday, October 10, the update to the Code of Conduct will be announced publicly.

Wait, what?

You just said that you need to slow things down because you acted too quickly the last time and ended up screwing things up and causing a lot of pain, which is the reason you're apologizing in the first place.

And now the timeline between "solicit feedback" and "release document publicly" is three days?

How in the world are you going to be able to thoughtfully incorporate any feedback other than typo corrections and still meet this deadline?

There is no reason to solicit feedback unless you actually plan to listen to it and to be prepared for that feedback to say that the draft still needs work. But this timeline does not allow enough time for that to happen.

I suspect they've essentially decided on the new Code of Conduct and any solicitation of feedback will be perfunctory.

The CoC is almost certainly already written, but this quip is a cherry on top:

> 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.

So they're going to demand she stays hush about what they say to her unless they approve? Seems extremely dishonest and scummy to try and control someone you've already wronged.

I think he's just trying to avoid suggesting that if they don't release it all, it's because she didn't agree to it. If he'd said, "We'll release it publicly as long as Monica's ok with that," it could easily be seen as pressuring her to do so.

The We in "We’ll keep those discussions completely private" is SE, not SE and Monica.

The "unless we both agree" bit implies they reserve a veto on her releasing anything.

Literally speaking, sure. Absolutely it could mean that or half a dozen different things.

In the context of an apology about being heavy-handed, I highly doubt it means they intent to suppress speech from a third party that they have no power over, implied or otherwise.

She mentioned in her post that she did not think it would be legal to release some of the conversations she has had with SO employees.

It seems to say that StackOverflow -- as is only professional -- will not share anything unless the fired mod agrees.

> We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share

Reads to me as StackOverflow will not share anything if they feel revealing the conversation would hurt their PR.

The schedule is a dead giveaway that there are no plans to actually take significant action on feedback. The feedback process is likely only there so that they can say "We requested feedback," and to appease the type of person who thinks "there was a written process, therefore the outcome must be unassailable."

Some CoC have an explicit "we will not discuss ${issue}" they are basically retrofitting this.

And the funny thing about this and every other “code of conduct” is that it’s so vague that it reads like a corporate “mission statement”. So vague, in fact, that it can be (and is) used as a weapon arbitrarily by anybody with an axe to grind.

Perhaps they just want to find out who the dissenters are, so they can be summarily dismissed. There is at least one other instance in the gender wars of requesting feedback, only to publicly fire the hapless person which happened to take them up on their word.

just leave the community. The only real vote you have is, well, your participation.

I did delete all my accounts when this first came out. Fortunately I've been around long enough that I don't find stackoverlow that useful for myself, but it does mean I won't be providing help to other people anymore. Hopefully a new stackoverflow will arise soon.

I would do this, but I wonder what damage it would do to people like me several years ago. It was a fantastic resource for me when I was a junior, and I see juniors today relying on it too. I don’t care about SE the company — in fact, I’d love to see anything with a hint of SJW meddling implode — but I don’t want to hurt the resources and opportunities of the people coming into the industry.

I'm sympathetic to that line of thought. On the other hand, if you support SO.corp, nothing will change. If everybody kept supporting experts-exchange.com and not migrated to SO, we'd still deal with hidden text. My guess is that we will do that again, as SO is aggressively pushing for more monetization, and that might be the point for people to switch again - or they may not, because of the time and effort they've put into SO and not wanting to give that up.

I think they were in a rush to beat / get in front of the dear stack exchange letter that was coming from the mods. It's not a bad tactic - they may be getting better PR advice.

I can’t follow what they’re apologising for because I don’t have the context on what happened. Understandably, they don’t elaborate on their mistakes and instead focus on the apology.

Can anyone give a short summary of what happened?

A good summary and the timeline here: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333965/

Read this related thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21176712

...and in particular the link in the top comment, copied here for convenience: https://cellio.dreamwidth.org/2064709.html

The answer by Squeamish Ossifrage is interesting because they try to call out SO on a variety of stuff that sounds like what any other large tech company tries to do, with the slow and steady tactics of trying to gain more control or power and encroaching on user rights. [0]

It's also interesting to ponder if the StackOverflow community format is subjecting them to more calls of transparency than other sites might get.

[0] https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/334573

Reddit goes through waves of the same kinds of issues.

So they still won't say exactly what Monica did to deserve being de-modded, and they still won't reinstate her. Nothing to see here.

> So they still won't say exactly what Monica did to deserve being de-modded

Direct from the apology:

> 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.

> ...and they still won't reinstate her.

Again, a direct quote from the apology:

> We’ll be sharing with our moderators this week our proposed processes for handling situations like this in the future. This includes a process for handling moderator removals, and a process for reinstating moderators who wish to be reinstated.

I don't want to provide too much additional input in this reply, because I believe David's words adequately speak for themselves. However, I do believe that taking those two points private and discussing them outside of the public view is the correct choice. Emotions are already running high on both sides of the argument, and it's not a bad idea to give everyone a moment to breathe, and come at the situation rationally. We should give them a chance to work it out.

According to Monica they've failed to return her emails so please understand why I'm sceptical of SE here.

That's kind of like punching someone in the stomach, then later apologizing for not following the correct punching procedure and for not respecting their privacy by punching them in public.

Except there's never a good reason to punch someone in the stomach, but mods do sometimes need to be removed.

True, the analogy doesn't really hold in that sense. The point of not apologizing for the 'what' but only the 'how' still stands I think.

>apologize for the lack of process, privacy

But not for what they did to her.

> We’ll keep those discussions (with the erstwhile mod) completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.

Does this mean they're looking to prevent the mod from speaking out unless SE agrees to public release? Or is the first "we" (in "We'll") different from the second we ("unless we both")? Hopefully this is just sloppy/rushed drafting, not forced secrecy.

> First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.

So wait - what are they apologizing for?

If I understand this situation correctly there are basically two sides:

- The people who put in place the new code of conduct, who think that they "hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn't participate authentically..." by not putting this code of conduct in place fast enough.

- The moderator who fired/the people who resigned who think they "hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they couldn't participate authentically..." when they put in place the new poorly thought out policy

Is this intended to double (triple? quadruple?) down on the original position? Or apologize for it and move to the second?

They are apologising for 1) not implementing the new CoC fast enough and 2) not being clear enough when they did, which led to people arguing about what happened, whether a CoC is even a good idea, whether or not people should be forced to use other people's preferred pronouns, etc.

So yes, this is intended to strictly double down on the original position.

This resignation notice [0] coincided closely with the Judaism moderator's firing by SE. It should provide a bit more context with respect to their apology to the LGBTQ+ community that felt let down by SE:

0: https://literature.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1195/res...

I would encourage Monica to watch out for any "Let's keep this private" language. In situations like this one some organizations have tried to disempower people by barring them from discussion with advisors, family or others.

Another way they do this is by saying, as in the apology "keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community" but they will phrase it as a binding agreement.

> Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made [members of the LGBTQ+ community] a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify

I wonder how is that possible, the QA are as anonymous as each user wants to be and regarding QA, is there any question in which people cannot ask anything and should not be replied with a proper rationalized argumentation?

How does it help a bullied child to be the protected kid of the teacher? In the other hand the day we stop having open debates, QA and knowledge, we will be going backwards in scientific evolution, no matter what the topic is.

It really is absurd! Bullying anyone for anything will already get you kicked off of those sites. It is such an odd hill for them to want to die on.

> the QA are as anonymous as each user wants to be

A queer mod that resigned shortly before all of this went off actually elaborated on this in their resignation:

> They [the community managers] draw vocal bigots from the woodwork with prompts to discussion, and then vanish, forcing us to decide between tacit approval through silence or defense of our own against an unchanging torrent of bigotry. I think they hope that the more we share, the better the situation will become. That has never been true.

Note that just because the core QA does not leave much space for harassment doesn't mean the other aspects of the site (comments, chat, mod chat, flags, mod messages etc.) are home free. In particular, there was no shortage of "prompts to discussion" in the context of the recent events.

My cynical self noticed that there are a lot of "apologize" and "sorry" in this update, yet I believe this is a first good step.

However, the update accumulated to the 'fix' being SO will release an updated CoC on Oct 7/10/11 with inputs from all mods, and an updated mod firing process. These are absolutely essential, no doubt, but incomplete.

What is missing, in my opinion, is the update still did not address how the original conflict came to the firing of a respected member. The most sincere way to apologize would be to use this failure of process as an example, to showcase how SO erred and how SO intends to change. Finally, a separate, public apology to the fired mod, with specific example of how SO mishandled each step, is crucial in regaining the trust.

EDIT: After giving some thoughts, I realize that SO is apologizing, not for wrongful termination, but for not privately firing the mod with due process. In SO's management eyes, the firing is still justified. Fine. Explain to us, with examples, how the firing is justified, and how pronoun usage would re-conciliate with moderators with religion restrictions.

>Explain to us, with examples, how the firing is justified, and how pronoun usage would re-conciliate with moderators with religion restrictions.

It's clear they have no desire to explain and would very much prefer nothing further is made public:

>We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.

> how pronoun usage would re-conciliate with moderators with religion restrictions

It seems clear that, in their updated CoC, the requirement to be respectful trumps religious restrictions. And that's pretty much the standard here, isn't it? I can't imagine rudeness being OK here, even if it's required religiously.

You are writing as if there is a conflict here.

Rudeness never was OK.

Problem is she wasn't rude. She was communicating exemplary and no examples have been given of anything else. What is happening is she's been tried for thought crime in a secret court and it seems her professional[0] writing style can be construed using the necessary mental gymnastics as her not wanting to please the wishes of certain people.

[0]: again, not only professional but also exemplary based on all we've heard.

I'm not saying that Monica was rude. I'm not even talking specifically about her, here.

I'm postulating the existence of a religious person who would (for example) refuse to use "he" for a biologically female person who identifies as male. But would instead use singular "they", or passive voice, to evade the issue. I'm not saying that they would insist on using "she". Just that they wouldn't use "he".

That might be her position, based on two meta threads.[0,1] But she doesn't actually say that. Others sort of say that, and she doesn't correct them. And certainly I may have missed her clear statement. But as I've said, I'm not claiming that to be her position.

So anyway, if someone actually did refuse to use declared gender, that would arguably be rude. Or at least, it would be perceived as rudeness, which is arguably what matters in communities.

0) https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333965/firing-mods-...

1) https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5193/stack-...

I don't know why religion gets involved. Requiring every else in the world to treat them with gloved hands at risk of public shaming seems rude to me. Bullying, even.

Is there a thread I can follow so I can "woke" myself on pronouns? I definitely fear LGBT+ now in a practical way. I'm naturally anti authority and I don't like this authoritarianism -- but I don't want tar and feather.

Religion only gets involved when people cite it to justify their behavior.

As much as I intellectually and emotionally support people's right to self-determination, it is a little frightening how fast things are changing. It's even more frightening how polarized things are getting. My best bet is listening carefully, being polite, and avoiding offense. Not that I'm always successful.

This isn't really hard. Use the pronouns people prefer. If you accidentally mis-gender somebody, it's not that big of a deal. Hell I do it with people I know and love. It happens. If you intentionally mis-gender people, then you are just an asshole.

On one of your links she writes the following:

> In my email I said clearly that I'm on board with "use preferred pronouns when using pronouns"

I think this rules out using singular "they" if the person would rather be referred to by "he" or "she" for example. At least I hope so.

OK, good point. That does rule out using singular "they" after someone expresses a preference. For her, that is. But not for my hypothetical religious person. Who, it's hard to deny, wouldn't be all that unusual.

However, she doesn't flatly say "use preferred pronouns". And she also talks about not using pronouns at all.

So, as an alternative hypothetical, even avoiding pronouns completely when someone says "I declare as female" could be perceived as rude.

> even avoiding pronouns completely when someone says "I declare as female" could be perceived as rude.

Would it be rude if I simply ignored the comment and disengaged from the conversation? Hypothetically, I am doing it with the motivation of avoiding pronouns completely.

Not at all.

But if you were the moderator of a forum, or her supervisor, that probably wouldn't work. Maybe if you were very clever at it, I suppose.

The contentious point in the TL discussions that led to all this appears to have been Monica's refusal to use singular "they" in particular. But there is certainly more context to that than I could hope to fit into a comment here, even if I knew all of it.

> I'm postulating the existence of a religious person who would (for example)

Postulating the existence of a person with the traits you want to attack is a nice trick and is often referred to as a strawman.

It is not hard either, I could also want to postulate about the existence of certain people with unfavorable traits (no no, not pointing at anyone, just postulating), and then go on to paint large targets on them etc but I think we are better off without going further down that street.

Here are a couple real ones, ex-moderators Caleb[0] and Nathaniel[1].

Edit: Also, for context, an eight year old post from Caleb.[2]

0) https://christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6718/b...

1) https://christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6717/r...

2) https://christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/193/br...

You wrote:

> I'm postulating the existence of a religious person who would (for example) refuse to use "he" for a biologically female person who identifies as male.

Here's what the first of those you accuse has to say (in between a lot other):

> For the record, I personally don't usually have a problem using peoples' preferred pronouns online. I don't go around trying to figure out if the way individuals are representing themselves online is consistent with my beliefs about the nature of the universe.

Something else entirely, isn't it?

Right above that, he wrote:

> If person A comes along and demands that I refer to them by their "preferred pronoun" (even if it is a mismatch for their genetic sex or the grammar of the language being spoken) and I refuse, that's considered an insult. Now, SE staff's enforced interpretation is that if I deliberately avoid pronouns altogether, whether by carefully avoiding sentences that even need pronouns at all or by sticking to proper names or by disengaging from the individual — those are all being considered insults too if the other party says they are insulted.

And yes, he does say that gender issues about pronouns aren't an issue for him. But then he goes on to say:

> Unfortunately the new CoC (as interpreted by staff) specifically enshrines the rare and awkward scenario where those issues in particular are brought up and the other party demands affirmation of their specific world-view, and the staff interpretation makes no accommodation for agreeing to disagree or politely disengaging.

So no, I don't agree that it's another issue entirely. But a broader issue, yes.

Edit: Cut misquote.


> Ironically in the specific the issue at hand called out (using people's preferred pronouns) [Monica] is on record as being much more accommodating than I would be.

It was dumb of me to invent a hypothetical when I could just have quoted ex-moderators Caleb and Nathaniel. And broadened to issue from pronouns to being forced to actively support issues that violate religious beliefs.

> for a biologically female person who identifies as male

"biologically female" is a much more loose concept than one might think. Hermaphroditism, sex chromosome aneuploidy, androgen insensitivity etc etc etc... when it matters, doctors ask and run tests. Don't just assume you can guess what someone "biologically" is any more than you can guess what they identify as.

Yes, I know that it's a continuum.

But this isn't about me. It's about my hypothetical religious person. Who might say, "she looks female to me". I'm not arguing that it would be a valid assessment.

It' thinkable that silent disagreement is a thought crime sort of rudeness :)

It's no longer exactly thought crime when someone realizes that you're doing it.

That's a pretty large canyon you're leaping across to conflate someone's personal preference to how they get addressed and rudeness being "required religiously". Oops, I just used "they" without asking the hypothetical "someone" how they'd like to be addressed.

I assume youd also say someone believing a man cannot be a woman is someone who should be wiped from the public discourse of the internet as well. Can you be offended by it? Absolutely, but there is nothing inherently "rude" about such a statement.

I prefer to be addressed "Sir Knight of the Round Table". Failure to do so will constitute breaking HN and SE CoC. It doesn't take far down the rabbit hole for the shoe to land on the other side.

Well, Sir Knight of the Round Table, I don't have any problem with that. It's a little on the long side, but whatever makes you happy.

Seriously, though, that just simplifies to male.

I'm just an old anonymous coward who doesn't get out much. But I did ask a younger friend about this, and got that people who care advertise their declared status in their sig and/or username. As does, for example, "Zoe the transgirl".

> Seriously, though, that just simplifies to male.

Seriously, I'm tired of this. In what company that HNers want to work in does being a male give you any advantage?

Or in what school? (I'm aware of certain nurse and chemistry studies prioritizing men, but that's it.)

If you cannot come up with any I kindly suggest stop insulting men. You don't need to do that to support others.

- Someone who has gone out of his way to help women and immigrants

Sorry. I have no agenda against men. I am one. Isn't it obvious? But some of my personas are female, I admit.

I was just pointing out that "sir" implies male gender. And given that we're talking about gender pronouns, not titles, the rest of it is irrelevant.

I can't really understand this sentence of yours

> My cynical self noticed that there are a lot of "apologize" and "sorry" in this update, yet I believe this is a first good step.

in particular with the "yet". Would it be a better first step without apologies?

It reads like a clinical PR piece. Mostly it reads as they're sorry it blew up in their face, and it doesn't really feel like they're sorry about what they did except harm themselves.

Then again, I might just be a bit jaded like GP.

On the plus side, this issue has taken the spotlight off of the advertising and tracker issues for them.

Does anyone else find it ironic that Stack Exchange, a company which replaced a website that was often misnamed "ExpertSexchange", is now going through controversy related to the misnaming of sexchanged people?

Mostly another non-apology. Not sorry for what they did, but for doing it arbitrarily, without following a procedure, and for not taking account of the Jewish holiday Monica was observing. Instead of just imposing the CoC they’re going to rush it through three days of discussion, then impose it.

Disagree with the non-apology part. It's clearly very grovelling, although it's late and a response to the snowballing community reaction rather than because it's the right thing to do.

Of course, it's possible that that reaction has prompted genuine reflection and contrition and the apology is sincere as well as a panic measure.

Groveling isn't an apology. If you ever have to make an apology of this type, always apologize to individuals before groups and before stating your mission. It reads better and gives the impression you care about the person. Also, undo what you did if you can, otherwise it's "sorry, not sorry".

A grovelling apology is certainly an apology, even if sometimes unseemly and issued in desperation rather than (or in addition to) regret.

But sure, there might be better ways to do it.

A grovelling apology is certainly an apology

Well, yes by definition, but groveling is not, in and of itself, an apology. Generally in an apology you undo what damage you did to the maximum extent allowable or offer some sort of compensation.

That is not how any apology I've heard of has ever worked. Apologies are an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, or of pain caused, usually combined with an attempt to avoid the same wrongdoing in the future.

All of that is evident here. Actions to make right a prior wrong (of which there are some here too) are not normally a requirement, although they can apology.

I guess I was taught differently. Apologies without positive action are hollow. Repentance requires positive steps and attempts to fix and undo the harm you have caused. How can a person truly trust an apology has meaning when harm is left in place?

Positive action need not be to fix what has already happened. Steps to prevent a repetition are still positive action, and imo do more to instill confidence that a behavior won't be repeated than an attempt to fix the existing mess.

Not to say that one shouldn't do both, but often it isn't possible to fix something you're apologizing for. That doesn't make sincere apology impossible.

In this case, it would be easy to give her the mod position back. So why wasn't that done?

Perhaps that is what is happening behind the scenes, but I think everybody would feel better about this apology if they said that right up front.

Note that no where did they apologize for removing her from her position.

Ultimately this was an apology for procedural failings, not their ultimate impacts. Reinstating the removed mod would be correcting something they aren't apologizing for.

It really isn't.

The former is redress and the latter is compensation. One of the great problems with the legal process is often all it can give is compensation and no apology, and often people really do want an apology.

The fear of being held legally liable for giving a simple apology is why various legislatures have recently passed laws that make it so apologies or assistance do not amount to legal liability for negligence. UK example: the Compensation Act 2006 s2.


Knowing the difference between an apology, a form of redress and compensation is important because a process may give a person one thing when they really want another.

Not sure how this is relevant to my comments - I haven't used "grovelling" except to describe the apology.

Disagree with the non-apology part. It's clearly very grovelling

Disagree with the non-apology part - "I disagree with the 'non-apology' part of your comment"

It's clearly very grovelling - "the apology is clearly very grovelling".

I'll assume my comment confused you in some way due to me not typing every implied word or punctuation mark out (no snark intended - was on a phone), I can see that I suppose. Fair enough.

I don't know, seems pretty apology-y. I'm not familiar with what happened, but here he repeatedly stated "I am responsible for that".

It would take them a few clicks to undo their mistake and reinstate the mod, no?

> We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.

So unless they agree to it, she can't publish what they talk about in private, no matter the words spoken or the outcome. That's such a weird commitment to privacy in this context, it's not like this has anything to do with private stuff as far as the moderator is concerned, unless I'm completely mistaken. So it's basically offering a conversation with the option on their part to pretend there never was a conversation, should it fail to achieve the goal they no doubt already outlined in meetings.

Yeah, that stuck out to me as well. She’s been discussing this openly, so it reads like a threat to keep all future grievances private unless SO allows otherwise if there’s any hope of being reinstated.

That sentence starts with "We", meaning Stack Overflow won't publish anything unless both sides agree to it. She's free to share whatever she wants, whenever she wants.

Granted, the sentence in question is awkwardly written I agree.

> 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.

I don't know... it's really awkward if so.

There are three "we"s here. First we = SO. Second we = ambiguous, following on from the first we it could be read as meaning SO like you say. But then, clearly, the third we = SO + Monica (and incidentally she is not named).

The part about her being free to share whatever she wants is not stated.

It's a small point to be sure. But consider: these statements are almost always run through multiple layers of approval before they go out. PR, legal, and relevant C-level execs, typically. And if it is an issue that has blown up, everyone is doubly and triply cautious about phrasing.

At best, the phrasing is innocently awkward. At worst, it's... revealing, I guess?

> It would take them a few clicks to undo their mistake and reinstate the mod, no?

I'm not convinced that removing Monica as a moderator was a mistake.

She made it clear in a comment quoted by The Register that she refused to use the singular they in any circumstance, even when it was known that it was someone's preferred pronoun.

And in the leaked transcripts (if you trust them) it seems she was repeatedly asked to rethink her stance on this by other moderators, and repeatedly refused.

Obviously SO could have done a better job in terms of the process, timing, and communication (which is what they apologised for), but ultimately it seems that she's just not not a good fit for SO. There's no suggestion that SO is not going to enforce a rule requiring moderators to use people's preferred pronouns, when known and when appropriate, and Monica was very clear that in at least some cases she would not do so. So...one way or another, she was clearly going to be removed, right?

Arguably she could be re-instated today and then re-removed later in the week when the CoC changes come into force, but to what end? That doesn't help her, SO, or the community. (And that assumes she didn't violate the existing CoC, which is still disputed.)

I regularly write emails on mailing lists in reply to people whose gender and pronoun I do not know. Sometimes their name is ambiguous (as an American English speaker — maybe it’s reasonably clear in another language or region). Sometimes someone’s name is in an alphabet or other orthography that I can’t read at all. In general, this isn’t a problem, and I usually manage without pronouns.

In fact, I would find a policy that would require me to know someone’s pronoun at all to be deeply problematic. Imagine for a moment a purely binary world in which everyone was simply male or female. I would still prefer to think of kernel contributors I’ve never met as people, not as men or women. Adding LGBTQ+ into the mix changes nothing. If someone sends me a patch to review, my response should not depend on whether the sender is male, female, “they”, “xe”, or anything else.

So I tend to agree with Monica’s publicly stated point: if I’m going to use a potentially gendered pronoun to refer to someone, I should respect their preferences. But I don’t think I should be required to do so in the first place.

For what it’s worth, there are contexts where personalized pronouns are a nonstarter. If someone is anonymously reviewing an academic paper or a blinded resume, the reviewer must not know the pronoun in question.

Fully agree - I believe one of the core stated issues about writing in a non-gendered way when the "preferred gender pronoun" is known is that is it can be considered rude and disrespectful to the persons identification. And, to me, this seems quite forced and too "inclusive". I have absolutely no issues with any preferences, identifications or anything similar, but I don't think anything positive for any community can come out of characterizing people as rude when they simply try to write/speak in a way that is as neutral as possible, and instead require them to go out of their way to find and recognize the person's preferred pronoun. Especially so when the topic/context is one that has nothing to with the person / gender / identification - as is mostly the case on sites like SE...

Is using "they" as third-person pronoun across the board potentially problematic on SE?

I can get that a person identifying as "she" shouldn't be referred to as "he" and vice-versa, but if somebody's having issues with the only all-inclusive alternative, it's not something anyone should be expected to accommodate for.

I seriously hope this is a straw man. Same thing as the few individuals who make a ruckus whenever they're not referred to as "Dr". If I'm forced to keep track of people's gender identities to be able to contribute, I'm out.

> She made it clear talking to a journalist from The Register

I'm not sure what you're referring to: Monica didn't talk to anyone at The Register..? Only Stack Overflow knew that article was coming.

If there was a formal policy in place, Monica would not violate it. If the differences were unresolvable, she would have resigned, but only after looking for a compromise.

Under no circumstances would she have broken with policy and needed to be forcibly removed. We have eight years of character evidence from her, including several posts from Stack Exchange employees over the years commending her reasonableness and contributions. Sara Chipps' actions ignore all of that and assumed the worst.

I fixed my wording relating to the Register article; it's getting a little confusing to try and track all the different comment threads, edits, and updates.

As for the rest of your comment, that seems to contradict claims made by others, including other moderators, but alright. Even granting it to be 100% true, that suggests as most that she should have resigned (or been removed) this week instead of a week and a half ago, right?

Potentially. The policy still hasn't been finalized, so I'm not ready to assume that it's something she wouldn't have been able to comply with.

> She made it clear in a post quoted by The Register that she refused to use the singular they in any circumstance, even when it was known that it was someone's preferred pronoun.

So just fire her pre-emptively without warning because she might violate a policy that's not yet in place?

> she was repeatedly asked to rethink her stance on this by other moderators, and repeatedly refused

I don't know what transcript that refers to, but her account reads very different:


> I raised some issues with the formation of the policy and asked some questions, the vast majority of which were never answered.


> On Monday I received email from a different CM explaining why they were making the change and mis-stating some issues I had raised. Concerned that I had not made myself clear in my haste to respond quickly on Friday, I replied with some questions. This was an amicable exchange; I thought we were having a productive conversation. I was promised a reply by this past Friday.

> Instead, I saw my diamond disappear before my eyes and briefly saw an announcement from a CM in TL that contained false allegations against me. When I tried to respond I was booted from the room. Around this time I received email firing me. This email did not cite anything I have done wrong; this was a pre-emptive move that runs counter to how SE tells moderators to treat users when considering suspensions. (Moderators suspend in response to behavior, not speculatively.)

I agree that it wasn't a mistake though: a mistake is pressing the wrong button. This is just a shoddy way to treat people, and a shoddy way to not-apologize for it.

> SO could have done a better job in terms of the process, timing, and communication

Namely a.) not fire for precrime, b.) not ever c.) respond to questions as promised, rather than answering with a ban for no valid reason.

Yeah, that's a good point. If they're keeping the rule that you must use someone's preferred pronouns, then it sounds like Monica can no longer be a mod there regardless of their conversation.

And, I guess, that's the crux of the problem really. Does SO want people like her around? Ostensibly they do, if they're trying to have sites for Judaism, Islam, etc. But it seems incompatible with the new CoC. Monica offered the half measure of only using names, but it seems a hard needle to thread if you're trying to support incompatible ideologies. I think SO is going to have to give up something, and I'm betting it's going to be the goal of being a central place to discuss religion.

You mentioned:

> She made it clear in a comment quoted by The Register that she refused to use the singular they in any circumstance, even when it was known that it was someone's preferred pronoun.

But this is more subtle than that. Monica didn't say that she would use "he" or "she" even when someone prefers "they". She said that she would write in a gender-neutral manner while avoiding gendered pronouns altogether.

Here is the full context of Monica's stance:

> I completely agree that it is rude to call people what they don't want to be called; knowingly misgendering someone is not ok. But the policy was about positive, not negative, use of pronouns. I pointed out that as a professional writer I, by training, write in a gender-neutral way specifically to avoid gender landmines, and sought clarification that this would continue to be ok. To my surprise, other moderators in the room said that not using (third-person singular) pronouns at all is misgendering. The employee never clarified, and this is one of the questions I asked in email. In my email I said clearly that I'm on board with "use preferred pronouns when using pronouns", but from the fact that they fired me without warning (or answering the question), I conclude that that's not the policy. I haven't seen an actual policy, though I am being accused of violating it.

Link: https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5193/stack-...

They all acknowledge that they made mistakes, name those mistakes reasonably accurately, take personal responsibility for those mistakes and apologize for the harm those mistakes caused.

What else were you looking to see? I would have liked to see more of an explanation of why these mistakes were made, but this is a far better apology than the last one.

Of course, an apology is just words and should be taken with a grain of salt until actions are taken to back up those words. It seems to me that they could easily have reached out to Monica BEFORE posting a public apology.

We will see how they handle feedback on the new CoC and what other actions they will take to restore trust.

Darn I might have to peel the SO sticker off the back of my MacBook.

SO has been on the decline quite long already, drowning in a sea of homework question, fix my bugs beggars and editors running perfectly fine answers. finding relevant solutions is as hard as ever and asking moderately difficult questions just gets you nowhere. long standing issues, like a way to tag library versions to avoid people ending in stale answers or restrict your area of expertise properly as to be able to quickly network with other in the field working on the same problem were never addressed, meanwhile we got a disfunctional job board that did the opposite of attracting talent, resulting instead in a horde of resume padding desperados copy pasting answer off a script in all questions tagged java or xml

the moment to remove that sticker was c.a 2013

Heh, I hadn't considered that. I was trying to find space for a new sticker last night, I think I may have just found my answer.

This is so dumb. Just disallow people to use real names and switch to aliases completely. Voila! Nobody needs to know or worry about anyone's genders or pronouns. It's a tech forum, nobody should give a shit about your gender or lack thereof.

It's not how it works. Some people will volunteer this information anyway, and then either them or someone else on their behalf will raise a stink about how the information is being ignored.

Well, ban those people then. Problem solved. They're clearly on the site to cause trouble.

That simply won't work for half the questions at, say, the interpersonal stackexchange, the workplace one, several of the religious ones, and possibly others (there's 175 stackexchange sites now I believe?).

That would mean a pretty draconian anonymity policy. Haven't seen that anywhere yet. But beyond that, you start banning people for revealing gender pronouns, you risk finding yourself trending on Twitter for sexual discrimination and transphobia - after all, you've been banning people for revealing their gender pronouns, which will be shortened to "for their gender pronouns"...

I see what you're saying but don't quite get it's "discrimination" if the terms are the same for everyone and gender is not even visible if the site is used in accordance with the terms.

I go to SO to solve problems. I couldn't care less about pronouns one way or the other. I'd use the "anonymous" version of the site, no problem. In fact I'd prefer it that way.

And Twitter? Really? Who cares? It's not like people would stop using SO just because a few activists shit on it on Twitter.

> I see what you're saying but don't quite get it's "discrimination" if the terms are the same for everyone and gender is not even visible if the site is used in accordance with the terms.

It doesn't have to be actual discrimination; half the time the mob is screaming "discrimination" there isn't any. There are issues you aren't supposed to touch unless you're willing to defend yourself from people who care about winning, and not at all about truth or accurate accusations.

> I go to SO to solve problems. I couldn't care less about pronouns one way or the other. I'd use the "anonymous" version of the site, no problem. In fact I'd prefer it that way.

You may not care, I may not care, but enough people at important enough places care enough for this to explode into a shitstorm, as you can see in front of you right now.

> And Twitter? Really? Who cares? It's not like people would stop using SO just because a few activists shit on it on Twitter.

If you're the site owner, you may care, because behind few activists on Twitter there comes a mob, and behind a Twitter mob come the journalists. This story has been repeating itself over and over for almost a decade now.

I'm not sure if it's possible to please everyone in a world where it's easier to call a lynch mob than to parse a compound sentence.

Not sure if it's been covered, but I started getting spam emails from them for the first time too.

This response covers some additional issues people would like to see addressed, but does not mention that complaint.


I tried unsubscribing but none of the options actually worked. I stopped participating in the network about two years ago and I can’t say I’m disappointed.

> First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically

> thank you for acknowledging that. I will be able to sleep in peace tonight knowing that I have still a place here

If users were genuinely unable to sleep because one random faceless person asked if they could continue their practice of only using gender neutral pronouns, then this seems to be a situation in which you shouldn't apologise to them, because they'll never be satisfied. It must be a nightmare being assigned to a CoC project now.

In legal cases, it often happens that the first person to be accused of violating a new regulation often gets a slap on the wrist.

For example, if a brand new tax regulation is vague, the first person accused of violating that regulation has a drastically reduced penalty, or just a warning. Along with that, the judge writes a clarification so there can be no mistakes the next time. The clarification sends a clear message to the community that the next person accused will not get a break.

Perhaps, based on third or fourth party accounts, Monica was repeatedly asked to use specific pronouns in a moderators-only chat. If that is true, she may have driven one or more moderators away from participating there, and violated the existing CoC.

However, even if all those accusations against Monica are true, since there is no established procedure for removing a moderator, it would seem that the "judge(s)" in the new process to remove or re-instate Monica could walk a very fine line. The judge(s) could declare Monica guilty of those offenses, but give her a lenient sentence. Perhaps re-instated, but under probation or double-secret-probation.

I hope David Fullerton and his coworkers have the wisdom to consider this course of action.

I am still not clear on whether or not avoidance of pronoun use is allowed on SE...

You will be in less than a week, when the new CoC is officially in place.

What do you mean by 'avoidance of pronoun use'...avoiding them entirely or ignoring some kind of signal about what pronoun a specific person associates with?

How would refusing to use requested pronouns be avoiding? In what way could what I said be interpreted to mean refusal?

It's not clear if speaking in passive voice will be acceptable on SE come October 10th.

Sorry I just don't know what your original comment meant and was trying to understand it better.

Honestly, I think you do.

Hey if you're on the front lines of all this i get not taking what i'm saying at face value, but for what it's worth i am just trying to understand.

I think you're asking if submissions to SE will (or will not) be permitted to dodge the identity issue by writing in a way that avoids pronouns.

This just seems so over the top to me that it's hard to believe, which is why I also included another option. I wouldn't call it 'refusing' as much as 'not bothering to do the legwork for every party you refer to in your content'. Which is, of course, also onerous but possibly a bit less so.

What's over the top about writing in passive voice?

Hey I appreciate you hanging in there but i think we’re on two different wavelengths and aren’t communicating well. I don’t know what passive voice has to do with avoiding pronouns, you can write active and passive with and without. But let’s call it even its been a long day. Take care.

It's easier to write without pronouns in passive voice. "The ball was kicked" vs. "he kicked the ball".

And no, I'd rather not call it even, not after you slip in with a, "you're wrong but I don't want to talk about it, bye!"

Not sure I understand what happened and who why people were offended. If there's wrongdoing by SO, what does this have to do with a holiday(jewish or other)?

Thanks for clarifications and filling in the gaps for me.

She is Jewish. They canned her at 6pm EST on a Friday then were a bit flippant about it using the no-class phrase We learned (or were painfully reminded, rather) to never ship at 6 PM (EDT) on a Friday in a previous update. It was also before a Jewish holiday.

This is not the way to treat people, but, if you think cynically, is an excellent way to make sure you have time before the person fired can make a proper response depending on how they practice.

To clarify further, they removed her moderator privileges but didn't actually tell her.


> Not sure I understand what happened and who why people were offended.

I'm pretty sure no one outside of SO does (except perhaps the terminated mod, if they have already reached out to her a they just said they would), since the whole reason for controversy was termination of a mod without explanation (there was circumstantial reason to suspect it was connected with the new CoC, which seems confirmed implicitly, but even then he exact relationship was an remains unclear.)

People are offended because the CoC changes concern a culture war issue, so people on both sides are keyed up for a chance to be offended, which ambiguity always provides.

I think they realized that having a time-sensitive process unfold during a religious holiday when observant individuals would be forbidden from being online (guessing here) was not a good idea. It could give the impression that they were trying to ramrod something through when a certain group of people would not be able to weigh in.

There is also the additional irony of being disrespectful of one's identity in the process of enforcing respect for others. It undermines the initial effort.

SO removed a Jewish mod during a Jewish holiday, when she would not be using the internet. She complained about it, and they apologised for the timing.

Oh, the mod was observing a holiday (during which internet usage is usually not possible) and got 'fired' right beforehand.

Ah, kinda like getting a 5PM meeting on a friday and getting fired ... classy.

I read this thread, read topvoted links to meta and still not sure if I get what’s happening.

Is it that ‘they’ does not count as a neutral addressing anymore? If yes, what’s the solution?

I feel like I've wasted my time reading into this controversy for how absurd it sounds unless I'm missing some other crucial information.

From what I've gathered from the various references, a mod questioned if the use of gender neutral pronouns such as "they" would be acceptable in response to new rules being announced to moderators that the persons specified pronouns should be used. Despite the fact these rules were not even implemented officially, the mod was terminated immediately.

Now what we see here is them backtracking, but I don't believe they have reinstated the mod. So I don't believe they think are truly remorseful and have realized they overstepped the mark.

It's kind of the reverse: The mod in question adamantly refused singular "they" in particular, not for religious or transphobic but rather stylistic reasons (from what I could find). But that's hours of chat and months of context boiled down into one third-hand sentence.

SE has not said whether this in particular was the cause for the firing, but it seems evident. Regardless, there is no indication that SE intends to undo the firing.

Thank you for summing up.

What I still don't quite get is: did the mod reject singular they a) when preference was unknown (ie: prefer to rewrite), b) reject singular they, when preferred (someone not identifying as male/female), c) Choose the conventional "he" over singular they when preference was unknown?k8s

From what I've read it's a) - and it's pretty hard for me to imagine a scenario in which that seems like a good reason to drop a moderator.

Also, is this a volunteer being kicked, or is it some kind of paid position?

Ed: from tfa: "Second, we hurt a longstanding member of the community and an important volunteer moderator." So I guess that answers my last question.

From what I can tell it's a) and b). Side-stepping the issue by avoiding pronouns or disengaging altogether was suggested by the moderator but dismissed as not an option because similarly hurtful in (perceived?) intent.

So that’s what happened. Thanks for your time and explanation!

will this be followed by an apology for being rushed and shallow or will the new CoCs take care of the nonsense known as nuanced thinking?

Whatever else anyone thinks of this brouhaha, I'd say that this answer is extremely useful: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/334294

Stack Overflow is just beginning this new stage in its growth

Growth? Well that’s optimistic.

mlang23 7 days ago [flagged]

Poor Stache Overflow. I left Debian as a dev when it finally became apparent that gender and identity politics were dominating the community. I originally joined for the technical aspect, which felt like a byproduct at the time I left again. And I am a member of a fringe group. But I would never ever behave like most SJWs seem to do these days. And now downvote me, for not agreeing with the underpriviledged.

The problem with focusing on the behavior of certain SJWs is it ignores — and lets stand —the actual underlying issues.

If you want to solve any problems you need to move past getting baited or triggered by each provocative statement and engage the underlying issues.

The problem (as I see it, and agree with gp's formulation) is of communities failing to police their own by using double-standards.

One set for "us", one set for "them."

It's okay for one of "us" to be rude, aggressive, or argue outside of good faith. Because it's in service of justice.

But heaven forbid "they" do the same thing. In which case they're terrible people, how dare they, etc.

This happens in both liberal-dominated and conservative-dominated forums.

And the solution is for each and every one of us, at all times, to call a duck a duck. If someone is an asshole, they're an asshole. Full stop.

They should be held to the same standards as anyone else, encouraged to modify their behavior and more closely adhere to general common decency towards other people, or kicked out of their role within the organization.

Because, ultimately, they're a cancer. It's just a question of how long before it metastasizes. And idealogical purity is no balm for failing to be a good person.

PS: Which isn't to say that one can't pursue just causes. Just make sure your own house is in order before throwing rocks.

This is really tricky, because sincere and respectful words by one party can still be perceived as hurtful by another. Especially in this issue, there is frequently no middle ground where both parties are happy.

I mean, it's kind of ironic: Calling someone an asshole is undoubtedly rude and aggressive (even when done in good faith). And you said that it's not only ok but necessary when you perceive someone as an asshole. But above you complained exactly about "being rude/aggressive in service of justice". So... which is it?

Forest, trees. You should call both conservative and liberal assholes assholes.

I did not mean this in the sense of political parties but parties on different "sides" of the pronoun issue at hand.

I feel it extends the same way. Allegiance is not... politeness and decency.

FYI, I think that your comment has merit, but I simply can't bring myself to upvote comments that ask to be downvoted.



I think it was sarcasm...

Hard to tell in a time like this...


I think we need to be very careful when we talk about tone in text-based communication. One of the worst things about this new world of text-borne communication is that we lose most of what makes a conversation. There is no tone, there is no body language, there is no inflection.

So how can we truly judge the tone of a comment without inferring details? People today /seem/ to be so ready to disagree, so ready to argue, so on the edge when it comes to opinions, that even objective discussions and comments are taken as personal slights and overlaid with reader inferred malintent.

It's the reason why /I believe/ that people who argue on the internet would otherwise get on with each other in person.

I don't buy that, it's a convenient myth. There is obviously tone in written messages too.

Tone is not only about body language, a lot of it is about the choice of words.

Tone can literally be inferred by machine learning, check Grammarly, for example, they do that now.

Tone can absolutely be extracted from anything written, but the fidelity and accuracy of what was imparted from the source is suspect.

Sarcasm in particular is difficult, and is so universally recognized as such that we've constructed a mechanism to signify it.

That is why it's important to be mindful of what we are writing, trying to not write things that might be misinterpreted.

Not think, tone can't be inferred from writing so I'm just going to write whatever I want if someone does not like it it's their problem.

It's our problem too to care about the tone of what we write and think about how it's going to come across to other people, and not have this illusion that there is no tone in writing.

Assuming objective tone interpretability seems like a leap.

Some people are Shakespeare with words. Others, especially those for whom English is a second+ language, may not have such a nuanced box of crayons to work with.

So one person's intended offense may simply be another's obliviousness to the particulars of their chosen phrase.

It'd be better if everyone wrote with care, sure; but I'm not ready to hold everyone accountable for premeditated tone violations.

And its because written tone is so easily misinterpreted that is important to be careful. It's not just about the intention, its also about the objective end result.

Sure, you might not have intended to run over someone with a car, but that person is still dead. Not everything is about intentions, consequences count too.

Not caring about the tone of what we write is almost as bad as saying something bad on purpose.

For example, at the receiving end the end result is objectively the same, making someone else feel like crap.

There absolutely is tone in writing. But people shouldn't be negating each other messages based on it, and drawing attention to the tone instead of the content is just a way to derail the conversation and not actually helpful.


* contrition

* the moderator dismissal was too hasty

* they will create a process for reinstating moderators

* new Code of Conduct announced Oct 11

i mean... most people are already on the moderator side, but she might need to take it slow too. i might be reading all this wrong but she is coming off as the side that is slightly aggressive to me. she's been going at every single post they make or people on these post.

i mean, that wasn't like her job, was it? again i might be reading all this wrong or maybe we aren't being shown everything.

> i mean, that wasn't like her job, was it? again i might be reading all this wrong or maybe we aren't being shown everything.

From what I've gathered, there seems to be additional angle here in which SE talked to the press, apparently using her real name and telling falsehoods about her, and now her name is attached to a slanderous story. This means for her it's no longer about a volunteer position at a tech company, but about her entire life.

EDIT: here's the article in question: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_cont....

She feels wronged. What’s the issue with her engaging in the ensuing discourse?

Seems like now is the time for the new CEO to make themself public.

Does anyone else remember the days before the tech community became filled with all these CoC writers?

Yes. Those were not good days. In those days, every tech savvy person somehow automatically got the privilege to be rude to the less knowledgeable people. If a user came for help without doing sufficient homework, a project author or community would rudely ask the user to go RTFM. There are more civil ways to send the same message. CoCs are a way to bring in that civility in discourse. Do you have a better idea?

>Yes. Those were not good days. In those days, every tech savvy person somehow automatically got the privilege to be rude to the less knowledgeable people. If a user came for help without doing sufficient homework, a project author or community would rudely ask the user to go RTFM.

Two things.

1) 'RTFM' isn't as rude as expecting to be hand-fed. That's the grace in the statement, it's meant to be used as a retort to the expectation that the person being asked the question even has the time to entertain the notion of training someone, given that the manual is available and ready for consumption.

It's (supposed) to speak to the laziness of the person asking the question.

Personally, I think a lot of 'RTFM's that got thrown around have historically lead to the person asking the original question to become a lot more knowledgable on the subject than had a simple answer. I know that I learned that way.

2) I don't have a lot of faith that the politeness that many CoCs enforce got rid of 'RTFM', it just shifted it to "Hi User! Have you tried scouring our extensive question-base for that frequently asked question?" , and that kind of unnecessary glad-handed wordiness irks me as an individual.

In historical context, RTFM was often times unhelpful.

* The manual was accessible via a set of arcane commands, if it was at all accessible. Poor usability and lack of good search was common. Remembering the incantations required for accessing the manual was a task in itself, which left very little brain space for the actual task.

* The manual was usually a mere list of API calls, with little in the way of big picture explanations, usage examples or tutorials. There was no widespread internet content and search to supplant the paucity of the manual.

* The person asking the question had a task accomplished by combining several parts in the manual. RTFM translated to: read the equivalent of 200 print pages, filter out the 197 pages irrelevant to your task, but keep enough of them to grok the big picture, then aggregate the remaining 3 into a working incantation. And better get it right, or else a stream of cryptic and undocumented errors will come your way.

My suspicion is that RTFM wielding persons often times didn't know on top of their heads how to solve the task either, and were too caught up in protecting their expert status image to admit so. RTFM, you lazy intellectually challenged person vs. I dunno, try RTM.

An effective CoC simply outlines a community definition for abuse. The use of "glad-handed wordiness" is unnecessary, a simple "please read the docs" would likely suffice.

I think the bottom line is that 'RTFM' is not a professional way to reply to anything. There's no need for a "retort" when a stranger is asking a technical question - it's not like it's personal or anything.

I completely disagree. Yes, you can word it less directly by saying "Please Read the Manual", but there's really no better answer to a low-effort "do my work for me" question. Those have become more and more common, just putting the question title into Google often serves up another question that solves that exact problem, but people don't even bother using a search engine - they go directly to asking others to do the thinking for them, then complain when they are given a solution that they can't just plug into the client project they are working on.

Ironically it is is almost impossible to engage on this topic in a thoughtful way without stepping on some sort of social landmine. As someone who has been around for a while I find much of the back and forth in this area exhausting and at times bewildering. Treat others how you want to be treated, count to ten before replying, don't engage with annoying people, pick your battles, life isn't necessarily fair. This sort of advice has been around forever and I much prefer it to the legalistic CoC approach.

I would also add give people the benefit of the doubt.

Don't assume that just because someone accidentally misgendered you that they were being malicious. They probably weren't. I mean, if you continually find that you see aggressions and 'isms everywhere then maybe you are just tilting at windmills.

CoCs aren't about regulating behavior, they're about group associations. They cover pretty much the same things that have always been covered in forum rules and moderation policies, only worded a bit differently to justify their existence. The point of replacing your old style of rules with a CoC, named "Code of Conduct", is that by doing so, you signal allegiance. You pay fealty. The mob can now go on and harass some other community.

(At least, that was some time ago. Today, CoCs are frequent enough that people just add them by default.)

If I understand what you are saying, I agree. The show of "fealty" associated with adopting a CoC with all the approved progressive language is problematic to me.

"pick your battles, life isn't necessarily fair"

What is that supposed to mean?

... in the practical terms and in the particular situation discussed in the thread.

I was referring to the formality of CoCs vs more informal approaches to disagreements.

So in this context, "pick your battles" means that not every dispute is worth escalating and mediating in the context of a CoC. More often than not, when you have been wronged it is better to just walk away rather than intensifying the dispute.

As for "life isn't fair", It is misleading to think that a CoC is going to eliminate unfairness, sometimes things won't go your way and you should accept that and move on rather than reach towards contractual or legal frameworks for some sort of resolution.

> CoCs are a way to bring in that civility in discourse.

Like posting on reddit that someone is a bigot because they disagree with a change in the CoC? Because that happened here. There's a whole class of people online that it's literally impossible to have civil discourse with if you disagree with them on any level. It's better to not even engage.

Some community.

> CoCs are a way to bring in that civility in discourse

I can’t even conjure up an example of anything that is failing harder at it’s intended purpose, then.

Yeah, thicker skin and reading manuals.

All jokes aside, there's surely a middle ground between being rude to everyone and "hi guys wowzors dinosaurs and ninjas! this project is made with <3" and the overwhelming passive-aggressiveness of this inane dumpster fire drama over CoCs.

I feel without a head to roll this is a little too little too late.

This is the kind of attitude that got them into this mess in the first place.

I used to participate in SO but it is really turning into a hit n run site for me now. Overzealous duplicate and notconstructive flags combined with the dumbing everything down for new users policy made it frustrating and unrewarding experience. It still is to be frank when the "answer matches actual question in title" rate is about 10%, but what else is there?

> Overzealous duplicate

This one is really killing me lately.

In almost all cases it points to something only tangentially related and is of no help.

SO used to be a place that smart people could go to get other smart people to help them with a problem.

Now it mostly seems to be a place where people help students with their high-school CS homework and then bitch about not being there to help with homework!

Quora is even worse!

I am eagerly waiting for whoever comes up with the next reasonable knowledge-sharing site to leave these two POS sites where they belong!

Who would have thought that organising literally all of human knowledge in a linear Q&A format would have been so hard?


With great fear of this, I opened a question on SO a while ago and at the bottom linked to several other SO questions under the heading "similar but different, because ...", and it went quite well, although moderation was quite angry that I didn't choose an accepted answer within a day.

> although moderation was quite angry that I didn't choose an accepted answer within a day.

I don't know about Stack Overflow, which is the largest SE site, and may have some cultural differences.

But I'm pretty sure that accepting an answer within a day is strongly discouraged on all Stack Exchange sites in general. You should wait, at least one day before accepting it - some users may still want to answer it. I only accept answers when nobody posts new answers. Also, a user doesn't have to accept an answer, if none of the answer is helpful for solving the question - it has been discussed on Meta before.

Personally, if I asked a question and none of the answer solves the question, I'll accept the most helpful one. If none is helpful, I don't accept any answer, and usually I will be able to answer my own question and accept myself in the future.

I've tried that before too, but over-zealous mods still closed as a duplicate - I really believe a lot of them do that without even reading the question, or the question they say is a dupe :/

Can you mention the tags you are experiencing this in? I see this complaint all the time and yet I don't observe it myself despite being quite active on the site (but in only specific tags)...

I don't have a list of tags at the ready, but it has happened enough to piss me off as a pattern.

I can say that I am usually on there looking for help on "advanced" programming or hardware issues. So think long-tail type questions, not the type that you stumble onto early in your career.

At one point I was beginning to think that the mods just did not technically understand the questions and that was why they had an itchy "dupe" trigger finger.

I agree, I was actually watching this situation with glee, hoping every moderator on the entire site would quit en-masse. Maybe then it would be useful again.

Anyone who thinks that moderators quitting will stop questions being closed as dupes doesn't understand how StackOverflow works. The moderators are the ones doing the absolute dirtywork of handling cases of abuse, harassment, vandalism, spam, vote fraud, and so on. If half the mods quit, all you get in return is more spam and hostile comments. The remaining community will keep closing questions like before - that's simply not the job of moderators.

It's sad what it's become.

Are Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky still involved? It seems hard to believe they could mismanage SO as thoroughly as this without having a complete change in personality.

It looks like Jeff Atwood left in 2012 to create Discourse [1], and Joel Spolsky recently stepped down as CEO [2].

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/jeff-atwood-bids-adieu-to-...

[2] https://stackoverflow.blog/2019/09/24/announcing-stack-overf...

Totally unrelated to the matter of hand, but I find it amazing that SE now have forums like "Christianity", "Judaism" etc. where people can upvote and downvote religious questions and answers, and select the "accepted" answer about what Gods opinion is about this and that.

Edit: I didn't mean to imply that the answers are actually Gods opinion! Just found it fascinating that a site specifically designed for technical questions have grown to encompass questions about what Jesus meant with a certain phrase.

It is totally possible to ask (or even answer) a question about a religion without believing in it.

"What are the differences between Shi'a and Sunni belief?" is a totally valid question even if you are an atheist or a Hindu. The answer to "What does the Catholic Church teach about abortion?" is totally independent of your own personal views on the topic.

One doesn't have to be a believer in a religion to be able to answer factual questions about it. Sometimes, an atheist, or a follower of a competing religion, may actually know more about a religion's teachings and history than many of the people who actually believe in it do, and so may actually be able to give more accurate answers about it than some of its own members can.

Theology and interpretation of scriptures is one of the classic domains of academia (the four domains being theology, law, medicine and philosophy - with the latter including everything from physics to sociology) with extensive research, so it makes all sense for having a forum where solid, objective research based answers are possible. And you don't even have to be a theist to study theology and provide analysis on what the scriptures and associated practice (e.g. Torah vs Talmud distinction in Judaism) has to say on particular situations or behavior.

> and select the "accepted" answer about what Gods opinion is about this and that.

You're misrepresenting the idea behind those sites. The questions there don't ask about god's option. They (usually) ask about customs, about text interpretations, about rules of given church / denomination, about texts relating to a given situation, and many other things. (Of course there are some exceptions) You don't have to believe in them to respect people's choice to engage with religion and look for a way to live their life.

For example recent questions in christianity right now: "Does the Bible explain why God chose Israel?", "What kind of food is Jesus referring to at Luke 22:16?", "What does modern scholarship conclude about the shape of the cross and the method of crucifixion?". Those aren't even questions about beliefs.

Current top question "Where does a baby's soul come from?". Actually I really want to know the answer to that now!

I also like this question: "Do angels possess 1) a body, soul and spirit, 2) a soul and spirit or 3) just a spirit?" - it even have multiple answers. (Sadly none of them accepted.)

I can’t speak to the Christian one, but the Jewish one isn’t about what God says. Orthodox Judaism (which is what Mi Yodea is focused on) has a massive reference work called the Talmud, which is basically a hardcopy wiki that contains all of the decisions and thoughts the rabbis had on how to interpret stuff over a 1000 year period or so. That document in turn is itself very difficult to interpret due to the volume of contractions, initialisms, and self-reference, and because it’s what amounts to a hardcopy wiki, it’s also not well organized. Mi Yodea is mostly about how to read and interpret that document. So yeah, if I squint very hard, it’s about what God wants, I guess, but it’s really about what the rabbis thought about things when they wrote the Talmud, and what current “best practice” is based on their thoughts.

Don’t think that’s the specific purpose. Seems more geared to “who did what,” “what is meant by this passage,” etc.

That may seem to be “accepted answer about what God’s opinion is” but I’d imagine the intent is to aggregate what is online for interpretations. To be fair, their format is probably well suited to it. Multiple opinions given with rank based on similarity to what others interpret it to be, but multiple interpretations, should they exist, should be listed there.

A bit late, but a good response, I'd say.

from my limited understanding of the issue some dude/dude-et got thrown out of Stack Overflow Moderators. Big deal to me stack exchange operates like a party you both add value and get value and if you shit in puch bowl you get thrown out. Now please let me know who shat or didnt shit in the punchbowl the contents of the shit and does anyone even drink fruit punch !! fight !!

You just have to look at the Twitter feeds of these two to see why things are going where they are going.



<< we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.

I am responsible for that, and I am deeply sorry. We absolutely support the LGBTQ+ community. >>

GPT-2 could have written a better and more genuine apology.

First of all, you don't just use the new PR formula of naming the wrong, saying you take responsibility and then saying you're sorry. You need to dig deep and identify why you committed the wrong in the first place (homophobia, sexism, mean heartedness?) and commit to therapy and reforming.


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