17 votes

Is anyone here involved with Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow? How do you feel about the new moderator agreement?

First post on Tildes (though I've commented some before). I'm a mod on one of the "beta" sites, and have been for almost four years now.

I don't follow any of the other sites really, and certainly not Meta, so the whole Monica scandal kinda happened without me noticing. After the fallout (or amidst, I guess), Shog9 and several other community managers that I liked were fired, with seemingly no notice or cause.

Then after that, there seemed to be a push to create a "mod council" to create standards for behavior and for removal and reinstatement of moderators.

But the whole thing has seemed so needless, everything could have been cleared up with a few heartfelt announcements (and/or apologies), and the executive team at SE has just been so damn opaque about everything.

Then, to top things off for me personally, the community leaders were explicit in stating that the votes for members of the mod council would not be treated as binding, so what's the point? They can just be a rubber stamp at that point if they're not freely elected. The new moderator rules are "abide by the council-approved rules and whatever the community managers say." The new moderator rules also say "moderators will be removed and reinstated per the council-approved procedure for doing so, except when SE doesn't want to use that policy."

The mod council vote was non-binding, and then SE is making it a point to clearly state that the rules approved by the council don't matter.

It's this last bit that is coming as too much of an insult for me. I've told my fellow moderators that I'm not planning on signing the agreement. I don't understand why there has to be such an adversarial relationship here when I'm volunteering my time.

I don't want to leave, but everything is just rubbing me the wrong way. Please someone help me understand how I'm wrong. I just can't understand the way things have been publicly announced.

24 comments

  1. [10]
    arp242
    (edited )
    Link
    I too was a mod too during the incident (although I am no longer, just due to shifting interests) and saw the entire thing pretty up-close. The problem wasn't a lack of procedures – there were...

    I too was a mod too during the incident (although I am no longer, just due to shifting interests) and saw the entire thing pretty up-close. The problem wasn't a lack of procedures – there were already procedures – it was the casting aside of already-existing procedures, as well as basic standards of common decency IMO. As far as I know, none of this has been addressed, and only barely acknowledged.

    So ... you can create all the procedures if you want, but it seems to me that it's far more important to actually build trust that you're actually going to follow them, even when it's inconvenient or against your personal beliefs. This doesn't really do anything to (re)build that trust.

    7 votes
    1. [9]
      ChuckS
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Right, but that "following the procedures you define" is what's chafing me the most about this. Please let me be specific now - from the actual moderator agreement Like my original post said, why...

      So ... you can create all the procedures if you want, but it seems to me that it's far more important to actually build trust that you're actually going to follow them, even when it's inconvenient or against your personal beliefs. This doesn't really do anything to (re)build that trust.

      Right, but that "following the procedures you define" is what's chafing me the most about this. Please let me be specific now - from the actual moderator agreement

      i. I will abide by the current Code of Conduct (which is a part of this agreement), and enforce it to the best of my ability.
      ii. I will abide by the current Terms of Service of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange sites (which are part of this agreement).
      iii. I will abide by the Privacy Policy.
      iv. I will abide by all other officially announced moderator and user policies made available to me.
      v. I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

      Like my original post said, why is it that I have to agree to abiding by the Code of Conduct (council-approved) and to "additional guidance" that doesn't need to be council-approved? Reading on:

      Stack Exchange, Inc. reserves the right to suspend or terminate my privileges as a moderator at any time without warning in the event Stack Exchange, Inc. determines I have violated any of these terms. Whenever possible, moderator removal will follow Stack Exchange, Inc.’s moderator removal processes. I will be informed via written communication of the specific reason that I have been terminated. I have the option to appeal termination through the moderator reinstatement and appeal process.

      That "whenever possible" bit is the loophole that kills me there - the moderator removal process already has an emergency removal clause, so why then do they need to write into the agreement that they're not bound to use it?

      (edit - didn't actually link to the moderator agreement before)

      1 vote
      1. [8]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        I'm not so sure the "whenever possible" really matters, since Stack Exchange already ignored then-existing procedures to fire Monica. I mean, you can write anything on a piece of paper, right?...

        I'm not so sure the "whenever possible" really matters, since Stack Exchange already ignored then-existing procedures to fire Monica.

        I mean, you can write anything on a piece of paper, right? It's all about trust in that they're actually followed in good faith to the best of their ability. Five years ago, I had that trust. Now ... not so much.

        In that sense, the whole song and dance about the "new code of conduct" 2 years ago or so was also pretty meaningless IMHO. There was nothing wrong with the old "be nice" policy (in fact, I think it was a lot clearer), the problem was just that it wasn't enforced very well (which is a hard task, I admit), and the new CoC also isn't enforced very well, so ... little really changed. I actually wrote an entire rant about this.

        3 votes
        1. [5]
          wcerfgba
          Link Parent
          Thanks for your rant, I found it through HN a while ago and enjoyed reading :) I can't tell you how many times I've searched for help on DDG or Google and found a StackOverflow post which has...

          Thanks for your rant, I found it through HN a while ago and enjoyed reading :) I can't tell you how many times I've searched for help on DDG or Google and found a StackOverflow post which has answered my question, and also has been closed for not being 'relevant'. ¬_¬

          I'm starting to see downvotes as an anti-feature. If you agree with a post, you may not have anything to add, and so an upvote makes sense, it's the equivalent of a "+1" comment. But if you disagree with a post, you should always be able to explain why you think the post is wrong or low quality or whatever. Being able to downvote something without providing a reason is the equivalent of shouting "wrong!" or commenting "-1" and it does not elevate the discussion at all.

          Sorry, kinda off-topic for the thread.

          5 votes
          1. [4]
            arp242
            Link Parent
            I think Stack Overflow is kinda different than Tildes though; as someone looking to answer questions I want to be able to quickly see which questions are worth looking at and which aren't:...

            I think Stack Overflow is kinda different than Tildes though; as someone looking to answer questions I want to be able to quickly see which questions are worth looking at and which aren't: downvotes are useful for that, and I think removing them would be a loss.

            But ... there is no reason why the score needs to be shown to the OP. There's a lot of different things you can do, such as having a minimal value of -1 or 0 for the OP and instead adding a message like "hey, we noticed your questions isn't received too well, here are some tips on how to make it better: [..]".

            None of this is rocket science or requiring fundamental changes, it's just tweaking UI and adding an if or two. There's been some movement here since I wrote that with question closure, but I haven't really followed so I don't really know the details.

            Then again, all of this rests on the assumption that people aren't going to abuse their votes...

            But if you disagree with a post, you should always be able to explain why you think the post is wrong or low quality or whatever.

            The problem with that on Stack Overflow is that people are going to leave shitty comments. To be fair, it does take more time and effort to write thoughtful and kind criticism, especially if someone is a bit, ehh, clueless. It's probably better to "automate" that through votes/flags/etc.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              ChuckS
              Link Parent
              Upvotes serve the same purpose, though - Upvoted answers "rise to the top." The only way downvotes are helpful are if all of the other answers have a score of zero.

              as someone looking to answer questions I want to be able to quickly see which questions are worth looking at and which aren't: downvotes are useful for that, and I think removing them would be a loss.

              Upvotes serve the same purpose, though - Upvoted answers "rise to the top." The only way downvotes are helpful are if all of the other answers have a score of zero.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                arp242
                Link Parent
                But how do you distinguish between "question no one looked at" and "question people looked at and decided was bad"?

                But how do you distinguish between "question no one looked at" and "question people looked at and decided was bad"?

                2 votes
                1. ChuckS
                  Link Parent
                  If it's a good question, it's got answers. If it's a bad question, leave comments asking for the user to clarify and/or vote to close it. Enough close votes will close the question without...

                  If it's a good question, it's got answers. If it's a bad question, leave comments asking for the user to clarify and/or vote to close it. Enough close votes will close the question without moderator intervention.

        2. [2]
          ChuckS
          Link Parent
          It matters to me because there wasn't a clear moderator dismissal and reinstatement procedure before. So they created a moderator council (with a non-binding election) and then had the council...

          It matters to me because there wasn't a clear moderator dismissal and reinstatement procedure before. So they created a moderator council (with a non-binding election) and then had the council approve a dismissal and reinstatement procedure.

          And then, after all that, to try to "prevent what happened to Monica from happening again," they took exception to being bound by that agreement with the "whenever possible" clause.

          2 votes
          1. arp242
            Link Parent
            Okay, that makes sense. To be honest, I've kind of given up for the foreseeable future, which is why I haven't really followed the more recent developments all that closely. At some point a former...

            Okay, that makes sense.

            To be honest, I've kind of given up for the foreseeable future, which is why I haven't really followed the more recent developments all that closely. At some point a former employee contacted me after reading my SO post and we exchanged some emails, and their descriptions of the Stack Exchange culture was ... not flattering: no clear leadership, many committee meetings, managers protecting their turf, new CEO just wanting to monetize Teams, etc. You know ... the classic Enterprise-y stuff. This is just one person's perspective of course, but it does match up pretty much exactly with what I've been able to observe over the years.

            The vi.SE site is still nice; actually I think it's by far the best place to ask your Vim question on the internet as far as I know, and I'm modestly proud of being a small part of building that. I still hang out there occasionally :-)

            2 votes
  2. [5]
    Macil
    (edited )
    Link
    I've found it hard to sympathize with the drama around the Monica firing since it had to do with her trying to play word games to avoid following the spirit of a rule about respecting trans...

    I've found it hard to sympathize with the drama around the Monica firing since it had to do with her trying to play word games to avoid following the spirit of a rule about respecting trans people's pronouns. I don't think it's too much for a site to select for moderators that will enthusiastically enforce and support their rules, and from the way you describe the new mod agreement, it sounds like they're looking for moderators that agree with that.

    I feel like there's some aspect I'm missing (is there a lack of precedent of SE introducing rules or actually enforcing them?), but even then, I still question people that choose to die on a hill against a rule about referring to a marginalized group how they want to be referred to.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      arp242
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This is not really what happened. Monica says she doesn't like "they" and "them" as singular pronouns for grammatical reasons, and that instead she prefers to avoid using gendered pronouns...

      This is not really what happened. Monica says she doesn't like "they" and "them" as singular pronouns for grammatical reasons, and that instead she prefers to avoid using gendered pronouns altogether in her writing. You can find that take a bit pedantic and that she was being a bit stubborn (I do, as well), but she really wasn't trying to "play word games" or "not respecting pronouns", and it's in no way proportional to how she was treated.

      The take from the opposing side was that you must using the preferred pronouns – which are more "required pronouns" if you must use them – or that you're otherwise not recognizing people's identity.

      Monica – and myself as well – found that a strange take, as it's requiring of people to explicitly use a particular vocabulary to validate your identity, which isn't really a requirement for respectful or inclusive communication, IMO, or was it covered by the rules (either explicitly or in spirit). The entire conversation in the mod thread was also pretty abstract; in spite of invitations to do so, no one actually gave any concrete examples where Monica's writings caused hurt or offence. In my reading, Monica was plenty open to re-adjusting her views if people would be more specific.

      I still have screenshots of the entire mod thread that started this entire things* and have re-read it and the many comments just now. I think Monica was plenty clear and empathic, and hardly "playing word games".

      Again, I don't especially agree with Monica's perspective; I use singular "they" as pretty much the default pronoun and have for a long time, but honestly, the entire thing was a very minor disagreement blown completely out of proportion. If we want inclusivity (great!) then we must also be inclusive to these kind of small differences of opinion. Kicking people in the teeth over it is not how you win people for your cause (quite the opposite). I'm familiar with the Paradox of Tolerance, but this really wasn't a case of transphobia, either explicit or subtle. The fact of the matter is that if you want to change how millions of people use the English language you're going to have to have some amount of patience; people have strong feelings about what is and isn't "correct" all the time, and this is no different, and disagreement about it doesn't mean they disagree with your identity as a person.

      Monica spent over 8 years and untold hours of volunteer work on Stack Exchange; it was a big part of her daily life. Almost every interaction I've had with her or seen her be involved in over the years was exceptional, even when the interactions were challenging (she didn't moderate the easiest sites). Disregarding all existing procedures to fire her over a pet peeve really wasn't appropriate, and neither was making misleading statement to the press about it, or refusing to enter in to a conversation with Monica about it. Monica was treated like an anonymous Reddit troll making low-effort comments.

      Some people literally cheered in the mod chat room over her sudden firing. I still find the lack of empathy, compassion and kindness astounding, and it has been a major contributor in making sure I really don't want to deal with this community in the near future again, as I found the entire experience profoundly unpleasant and negative to the point where I would call it toxic.

      Even if you strongly feel that she was being tone-deaf and/or low-key transphobic, it really was no reason to treat her like this over it. You don't fix these kind of issues by inflicting a great amount of personal hurt on someone and then cheering. I don't like seeing anyone hurt and will gladly speak up when I see trans or non-binary folk getting hurt (and even have done so), and Monica's case is no exception, and I'm still upset about seeing someone hurt like this.

      Sorry for the long reply here. I have no doubt of your intentions as most people just read the short "Monica something something pronouns something something trans" summary and draw their conclusions from that, but things are rather nuanced and subtle here which makes a huge difference, and I get a little bit peeved when that is lost 😅


      *: I've considered sharing an anonymized version of this, to clear up the confusion/assumptions people have about this, but have decided against it since it would go against the mod agreement – something not to be taken lightly, in spite of SE's breach of trust.

      11 votes
      1. ChuckS
        Link Parent
        Yeah, this exactly. This is the general feeling that's been growing in me - that this in particular was an action I felt was taken in bad faith, but then not only was nothing done to correct it,...

        I still find the lack of empathy, compassion and kindness astounding, and it has been a major contributor in making sure I really don't want to deal with this community in the near future again, as I found the entire experience profoundly unpleasant and negative to the point where I would call it toxic.

        Yeah, this exactly. This is the general feeling that's been growing in me - that this in particular was an action I felt was taken in bad faith, but then not only was nothing done to correct it, but that there were a lot of other subsequent actions also taken in bad faith.

        3 votes
    2. [2]
      ChuckS
      Link Parent
      Like @arp242 mentioned, there's a post Monica wrote that said, as a technical writer, she doesn't want to use personal pronouns ever. The guidance from the community managers said to use whatever...

      Like @arp242 mentioned, there's a post Monica wrote that said, as a technical writer, she doesn't want to use personal pronouns ever. The guidance from the community managers said to use whatever personal pronouns the user says they prefer, so Monica said, "But I don't want to use personal pronouns at all," and was fired.

      I'm an engineer, but not a technical writer by any means, and I still vividly remember the writing courses and feedback on project reports - write it as impersonally as possible, basically.

      But to the point of my post, why did SE execs allow such a scandal to happen? If they were in the right, they could have clearly stated, "Here's what was said and why it's against the rules," and if they were wrong or made a mistake then they could also have clearly stated, "A community manager misunderstood the intent and mistakenly fired Monica, after a private discussion we're reinstating her and creating new rules so this doesn't happen again."

      Instead the response was to make a new set of rules "so this doesn't happen again," and then the new rules say SE doesn't need to abide by the new rules.

      3 votes
      1. arp242
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I don't know. The mod question happened way back in January (2019) after a discussion in the chat room about this, and after that it went pretty quiet on this topic as far as I've seen;...

        Yeah, I don't know. The mod question happened way back in January (2019) after a discussion in the chat room about this, and after that it went pretty quiet on this topic as far as I've seen; nothing was really resolved but people seemed to "agree to disagree".

        Then in late September it was suddenly announced in the mod chatroom that "we'll be amending the CoC regarding pronoun use, which will also include avoiding using pronouns". I didn't even connect it with the January discussions initially; I think Monica asked some questions about what this meant exactly, and then suddenly she was fired to pretty much everyone's surprise. I didn't follow the last part of this very closely as I was busy relocating to a different country at the time. After 2 days of travel and adjusting for jetlag I had decided to resign as I felt 5 years was enough, and I only learned a few hours later that I resigned in the midst of a massive fire-storm and many mod resignations in protest haha

        I suspect there was quite a bit of non-public "lobbying" on this, especially considering the cheering about it, but I don't know for sure 🤷‍♂️ It would seem that the decision was made by one person who has since pretty much refused to comment on it at all, leaving basically other people to deal with it all. I don't think they really see anything wrong with their actions (or if they do, they never said so as far as I've been able to see). I suspect there were many heated discussions inside SE about this as well (which fits with Shog9's and Robert's sudden departure, as well as Jon resigning), but people are professionals and you don't really air this kind of dirty laundry.

        It all sounds a bit conspiratorial, but that's what happened as near as I'm able to determine these kind of things: people got so upset they continued working at trying to change things "behind the screens" – not necessarily a bad thing, although a person should have the ability to defend themselves – which eventually cumulated in Monica's firing.

        2 votes
  3. suspended
    Link
    BTW, this is your second post on Tildes which is great! Your first was this one. I'm sorry that you've had to endure all of that nonsense with SE. I've been volunteering a great deal of time with...

    BTW, this is your second post on Tildes which is great! Your first was this one.

    I'm sorry that you've had to endure all of that nonsense with SE.

    I've been volunteering a great deal of time with academic subreddits for approximately five years. Five years may not seem like a long time to some. On the other hand, when you factor in the many hours per day that I've devoted to it, then it feels like twenty years. Dealing with low-level posts/comments, trolls, assholes, etc. It can become overwhelming and exhausting.

    I've had to take breaks and step away from it all in order to reassess what I was doing. I kept coming back to the subs because I knew that there were always a small handful of people that were genuinely seeking information that would, ultimately, liberate them in some way.

    I came from a background of woefully ignorant parents and peers. Thankfully, I was lifted out of that situation and was fortunate to have been exposed to many learning opportunities. Therefore, my desire is to carry the torch of education and learning onto the next group of people that are looking for it.

    5 votes
  4. [2]
    silfilim
    (edited )
    Link
    I used to be a moderator on one of the network sites. I'd already resigned before last year's fallout but followed it with interest. It might be interesting to read the thoughts of moderators who...

    I used to be a moderator on one of the network sites. I'd already resigned before last year's fallout but followed it with interest.

    It might be interesting to read the thoughts of moderators who chose to stay instead of resigning.

    Note that those were written in response to a meta question asked only about ten days into the debacle, which was before the then-new moderator review and reinstatement processes was posted and the new Head of Product and Community posted the company's resolve to rebuild trust. The climate might be different now. I haven't been following the happenings around SE since then, so I'll leave it up to you how to assess.

    For what it's worth, my own take is that SE has realized (or decided) that it needs to make money and has resolved to do so. While it has also realized that it has to maintain a good standing with the community, when it comes down to it, SE is a corporation that will die unless it can make profit. This resolution probably led to a cultural shift that led to the letting go of the veteran community managers. I personally don't think a corporation has to operate that way, but that's their choice to make.

    Aside from the money aspect, I can understand that the company would have to have the final say in exceptional cases.

    What I think is it boils down to trust: do you trust the company enough to believe that it'll act in good faith? If not: do you still value your community, the content it produces, the good it does to the world, and the people? The day you get disappointed by the company may be far away yet, and until then, you might decide that it's still valuable to spend time for the community. Or you might not.

    As an alternative Q&A platform, Codidact was founded by those who left SE during the fallout. I don't know about how the communities feel like or operate, but most of the sites seem to be active at least.

    4 votes
    1. ChuckS
      Link Parent
      This is exactly the feeling I've got. I'm not saying the two are equal at all, but I feel like Monica's firing was done in the same spirit as when reddit closed a bunch of offensive sites back...

      For what it's worth, my own take is that SE has realized (or decided) that it needs to make money and has resolved to do so.

      This is exactly the feeling I've got. I'm not saying the two are equal at all, but I feel like Monica's firing was done in the same spirit as when reddit closed a bunch of offensive sites back when Ellen Pao was in charge - to try to remove anything that could be seen as negative PR to make the site more attractive to sponsors in the ramp up to monetization. To be clear, I don't think anything Monica said was offensive like the reddit sites, but I think it was the SE executives taking a response to a fear that a moderator might not toe the line.

      Similar to that time, too, Pao fired the AMA director with zero notice to anyone else, SE fired a bunch of senior community managers with zero notice to anyone else, and then a lot of veteran users are left feeling alienated.

      I definitely think monetization is coming, and it makes me sad to think about. I guess I hope that there are "just" ads in the results? By which of course I mean I hope there isn't a paywall to get at the answers.

      1 vote
  5. [2]
    nacho
    Link
    (Some context for my thoughts: I've been active on various forum sites for a long time, and have actively moderated different forums for more than 15 years. I've given SE several chances over the...

    (Some context for my thoughts: I've been active on various forum sites for a long time, and have actively moderated different forums for more than 15 years. I've given SE several chances over the years, but I just can't get into the culture of the site and how pedantic every discussion quickly becomes)


    I think SE like other social media sites are too concerned with doing their own thing internally rather than embracing and opening up to their communities.

    As streamers, youtubers, influencers, indie computer projects and games, open alpha ane beta tests, and online culture in general becomes more and more open, it's just too counter-intuitive that social media platforms don't open up and engage their communities like everyone else is doing.

    This will always rub those communities the wrong way because it betrays an unspoken distrust of the users of their communities: Those behind the curtains see so much abhorrent behavior and interact with it all the time that they undervalue actually showing that they embrace and believe in their platforms by using it to guide how the platform works. (even though engaging with users over and over on the same topics gets old fast)

    Volunteer mods across online forums also suffer strongly from this, i don't know, "platform fatigue" ?


    A pedantic community that takes itself and acts highly self-important in all conversations will require a pendantic and overly specific set of rules and guidelines.

    With haughty and self-important language throughout the community, it'd only be out of character for the site guidelines not to be the same way.

    That language really does something to the discussion because it's just over the top, impersonal and just doesn't convey any degree of trust. Trust is what the site needs from its users. Easy to lose, hard to regain other than by actions over time (again using and embracing their own platform).


    Checking the boxes with "mod councils" rather than actually engaging and using their site is something I just won't understand social media platforms doing.

    If you don't trust and believe in your own communities, why not? Why not change those things so you can embrace your own platform and use it?

    As a user this'd be a very red flag for me and believing that those who work and run for the site are normal users, and that it's just not a day job. With people who spend waaaaay too much time on any social media site, and especially volunteer mods often being highly qualified people who understand the intricacies of sites in ways it takes employees who care months to reach, that creates a strange dynamic between users and employees. It doesn't ever seem like the company has control.


    As a mod, the balance between staying on despite disagreements with some admin policy and walking away is always hard. It's personal. There's all the sunk time. The belief you could be part of changing the aspects you don't like, or that it's better to be some part of change rather than just giving up.

    How far is too far?


    To me it's depressing, but expected that SE has to put all the obvious exceptions that their employees can't be beholden to volunteer folks if it'll seriously hurt the company, or some pedant has found a technical loophole.

    They must have known that'd create the reaction they got and weighed it as a necessary cost, mustn't they?

    4 votes
    1. ChuckS
      Link Parent
      The ironic thing to me here is that this is pretty much exactly the gist of the theory of moderation post that I've tried to take to heart as a moderator - the community should run itself, with...

      If you don't trust and believe in your own communities, why not? Why not change those things so you can embrace your own platform and use it?

      The ironic thing to me here is that this is pretty much exactly the gist of the theory of moderation post that I've tried to take to heart as a moderator - the community should run itself, with moderators only taking action in extraordinary circumstances. In that vein, I would think then the community managers should be the ones engaging with moderators to help set the direction - a battlefield general to the lieutenants. That would require some interaction between the community managers and the moderators, though, and the only community manager I ever interacted with (Shog9) was fired.

      2 votes
  6. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    I'm not currently active in any StackExchange communities, but I've followed them ever since StackOverflow was first announced, including listening to Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood's podcast as...

    I'm not currently active in any StackExchange communities, but I've followed them ever since StackOverflow was first announced, including listening to Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood's podcast as they discussed its development, and being a user in the private beta. I was used to the horrors of the "experts-exchange" type sites and SO was an absolute breath of fresh air when it first launched.

    Sadly, they seem to be falling into the trap that sooner or later befalls every site that is a) profit-driven and b) based around user-generated content.

    They need content to drive the site. Not just that, but to keep their investors happy, they need to show an ever-increasing amount of content, active users, etc. All graphs must go up and to the right.

    User-generated content requires moderation. And the number of moderators generally scales linearly with the amount of content - if you get twice as many posts/questions/answers/whatever, you're probably going to need about twice as many moderators.

    Sooner or later, this reaches a breaking point as the moderators realize they're an unpaid labor force propping up the business, and the site could not function without them. The business people at the top tend to view those moderators as replaceable cogs in the machine (they are volunteers, after all) and don't understand that you can't simply fire the moderators and recruit new ones without fundamentally changing the nature of the site (or more likely, killing it entirely and forcing everyone to migrate to a new community platform).

    3 votes
  7. [2]
    post_below
    Link
    I don't think you're wrong... I think SE made, and continues to make, a huge policy mistake with regard to moderators. They exist only because of volunteers. That isn't hyperbole, the entire...

    I don't think you're wrong... I think SE made, and continues to make, a huge policy mistake with regard to moderators. They exist only because of volunteers.

    That isn't hyperbole, the entire business model fails without free user generated content, and that content falls apart without mods.

    They're big enough that they can treat their moderators with no respect and count on a long line of people willing to take their place. From a cynical perspective there's no issue there.

    But they've opened the door to alternatives, almost encouraged people (many of them talented developers) to jump ship and build better Q&A sites for coders.

    Maybe none of those projects will gain enough traction to compete with SA/SO but I'm hoping they do. I hate to see the kind of tone deaf corporate thinking that inevitably sets in once companies reach a certain size get rewarded.

    2 votes
    1. arp242
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Stack Exchange as a company does more than you'd might think, not just in building the software and hosting it (which is already quite a task at this scale), Community Managers do a lot of...

      Stack Exchange as a company does more than you'd might think, not just in building the software and hosting it (which is already quite a task at this scale), Community Managers do a lot of invisible work in making sure the community runs well, ranging from identifying voting rings and other outright abuse to resolving personal conflicts to dealing people who are suicidal*. In other words: the community wouldn't exist without Stack Exchange, either. They both need each other.

      But yeah, there is a bit of a power imbalance; like the landlord needs the tenant just as much as the tenant needs the landlord, generally speaking the landlord is the one with the largest amount of power (unless the tenant are given power by laws and such).


      *: People post suicidal stuff on Stack Overflow. I don't recall the exact numbers off-hand but there's a bunch every month 😟 Dealing with that is really hard not-fun work.

      2 votes