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Cross posted from Meta Stack Exchange

Dear Stack Exchange, Inc.,

We know you know about this already, so we'll keep this brief. The past two weeks have been rough. Lots of moderators have lost confidence in you; for some, it was the final straw. For many of us, though, we like being here and we don't want it to get to that point. So, in the past few days, a number of us have collaborated on writing you a letter.

We're worried about the direction that the company has been taking recently, and we're concerned that nobody in management has noticed or addressed that. The past couple of weeks have been the catalyst, finally, for us to write it all down in one place.

So, without further ado - please take 10 minutes out of your days to read the letter in full. It's not short, but we think it's important feedback that the company (and management in particular) needs to hear. Those of us who've already seen your recent meta post seem to be of the opinion that it's a good first step, and it's certainly touched on a number of the issues we've mentioned here, but there's plenty more work to do. We hope we can start working together with you again to get back to building communities.

Signed,
75 moderators and ex-moderators.


Staff: please do share this letter around the company. We think it's important that we have a shared goal, and to do that we need to start from some common ground.

Everyone: If you wish to sign this letter in support of the sentiments in it, you're welcome to do so - use the button at the bottom of the page. If you have your own further thoughts on the things we've touched on in this letter, feel free to use the answers here to add to the discussion.

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    I am Catholic, I have (temporarily) stopped going to Church because of the 'sermons' which a 'politically correct' and are also a certain 'economy' based. This 'plague' is worldwide, not just North America as I travel/live in many countries. (I am,however, in communication with leaders of the Church like Archbishops, etc...) The reason I don't go is because I can get these 'sermons' by watching NEWS and other TV stations (and apparently now on SE). I don't need a priest to tell me this from the pulpit, and Frankly I don't think I need the same from SE... – Mr. de Silva Oct 8 at 2:42
  • I can't sign that letter since it asks me to sign up to SO. I would have thought that my SE account would suffice. – KorvinStarmast Nov 2 at 18:47
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I gave that letter a couple reads this morning and I have to say I'm pretty conflicted over it. On the one hand it does say some things that needed to be said. On the other hand it doesn't even touch on most of what I think is important here.

I am aware that my resignation was a bit of an outlier¹ as far as what core issues it was based on. The bulk of the outrage was focused much more on how the specific situation was handled rather than why it happened at all. The letter addresses almost exclusively the fallout, not the underlying problem that I believe led them to this point.

If I do sign, it will be My signature is almost exclusively in support of Monica's situation in particular and against the public defamation she experienced in being ⓐ accused in a way that implicated her of having done something far more serious (and even categorically different) than she actually did and ⓑ that claim being reiterated to the news and elsewhere.

If I do not sign, it will be were to have abstained, it would have been because it leaves the door wide open for SE to just paper over the whole situation with a few apologies and bit of position shuffling. Although it mentions giving moderators agency again, nowhere does it even hint at the issue issue some of us had with the Code of Conduct changes (namely the positive rather than negative form of edict) nor is there any call for the company to stop using its platform to promote a specific side of moral, religious, and political issue(s). In a very real sense using their company as an advocacy platform rather than sticking strictly to doing business has tried to trade on the good name of the many people who have contributed, many of whom do not agree with the stances they are taking.

Even if everything in that letter is addressed and 95% of the resigned moderators pick up their shovels again, the underlying cause will not have been addressed. The issue of diversity as it relates to this site will not have been addressed. If holding and carefully articulating a point of view can be considered offensive just because the other party says it is then this site is doomed to never host more than dim echos of what its constituents actually believe.

It will be easy for outside readers from the rest of the network to write this off as a lame excuse for allowing bigotry. Yet if you read what I've written and advocated for here I think my 8 year tenure as moderator here is evidence to the contrary. Look around meta and see all the flack I took for not allowing this to be an 'anything goes' venue. I deleted 2.6k posts and 8.3k comments as a moderator. I deleted lots of things about viewpoints other than my own that I believe were true, they were just inappropriately said or placed. I adamantly defended other groups' right to use this space to criticize the beliefs I hold.

Until Stack Exchange either decides to avoid using their corporate agency to back specific causes entirely or realizes their error and openly advocates for a different definition of diversity than the one they are using (i.e. "the assortment of people who all agree with premise X" is not diversity and "all meaning is exclusively in the eye of the beholder" is not inclusivity.), I still think they have neutered the platform's ability to operate in this space.


¹ It wasn't unique though. Nathaniel, Gilles, Robert (reasons), and others' resignations, those that reference them, and a host of comments echo similar concerns. Does this represent a majority view? Not even close. All I'm saying is that I have not been entirely alone in these observations.

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    Thanks, I agree with the concerns you've raised here. This site has functioned amazingly in the past precisely because we've been able to find space and ways for very personal yet incompatible beliefs (and identities) to coexist. I'd hope that this site would be a model for the rest of the network. – curiousdannii Oct 7 at 6:03
  • The platform's been neutered? I thought that's what this was all about ;) – 3961 Oct 7 at 15:01
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    I can't agree more on how disgusting it is that 1) people keep saying that rejecting the trans idea of gender is akin to rejecting their personhood, 2) that while using this lie they redefine tolerance of ideas and diversity of thought to "allies in cause", and that 3) charges of hate (naming as "transphobia" or "homophobia") fly unquestioned and are used as sweeping excuse to delete dissent and stifle opposition. I am working on an MSE post to gauge how bad it really is, and whether sanity can be restored to SE. I'll share more thoughts in chat before I post. – 3961 Oct 7 at 15:11
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    I signed it, mainly out of respect for the cooperation that went in to writing the letter. As a father who knows how hard it is to get his kids to agree on dinner, it is much harder to get all those personalities to come to a consensus - which is definitely why nothing I'm passionate about was in there. There's so much wrong with the overall picture of society and that letter is just the first layer on the onion, but it may be as far as we can get. – Peter Turner Oct 7 at 21:20
  • @fredsbend Cross my heart I had no intention or awareness of the pun when I wrote, but … burn. – Caleb Oct 8 at 10:55
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    I agree. I signed for the same reason as Caleb -- to support Monica. I still have the same desire for religious freedom that Nathaniel's answer lists. – mbomb007 Oct 9 at 19:22
  • @Caleb I completely agree with your assessment about the underlying cause, and quoted you in my edited answer to add this related joint statement by 12 philosophy scholars. – GratefulDisciple Oct 15 at 12:09
  • If holding and carefully articulating a point of view can be considered offensive just because the other party says it is then this site is doomed to never host more than dim echos of what its constituents actually believe The politics of "I'm Offended" is an attempt to shout down the other party, not to engage in thoughtful discourse in good faith. Your core objection is well made. I admire your sticking to your principles. – KorvinStarmast Oct 21 at 13:09
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I've decided not to sign the letter. Caleb's thinking in many ways matches my own, and I have a lot of respect for Peter Turner's rationale for signing it. There's certainly a lot of good in the letter, and it's natural that it would focus on the things that virtually all moderators agree on – mistreatment of Monica, botched communication, etc. Signing it makes perfect sense.

Personally, though, I feel I must prioritize disunity in this case, to make it explicitly clear that my willingness to serve as moderator does not rest on SE rebuilding trust and showing more respect for moderators and the community. Even if they do these things, I will not moderate their sites, as much as it pains me to disengage from this community.

Put simply, as I have recently expressed on MSE, I will not enforce a Code of Conduct that includes provisions to require specific types of speech: in this case, the use of "preferred" pronouns for those who identify as transgender or queer. I want this issue – mandatory speech in opposition to religious freedom – to be at the center of the debate.

Thus, tactically, I prefer to distance myself from a letter that does not deal with this issue. I would rather see SE respond to Caleb's resignation post. I don't want a nice apology, I want a change in direction. Sadly, I don't expect to get it.

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    I'm with you, but don't think religious motivation is needed to make your argument. That people must perform some action is, inherently, a restriction of freedom. The action in question being I must use the generic singular "they" in my words. Compare this to an order that a specific action mustn't be done, which are usually protections of freedom. That being so called "misgendering". – 3961 Oct 8 at 20:38
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    Both need to be weighed against the costs involved, which in both cases is "offense", but one to a generic hypothetical person and the other to an intended individual. To "misgender" would be intentional, likely malicious, offensive language to a specific individual. To use generic "he" over "they" risks offending a hypothetical passive listener. It's clear to see that the second is an extreme of both positions, the taking instead of protecting of freedom, and safeguarding offense for hypothetical passive listeners instead of active intended subjects. – 3961 Oct 8 at 20:38
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    For me, the risk of offending a hypothetical passive listener with my words is not worth restriction of my freedom. I'm on the fence whether misgendering is egregiously offensive, but I'll concede it's at least rude. – 3961 Oct 8 at 20:38
  • @fredsbend You're right; it's not specifically a religious issue, as I think Monica has attempted to indicate. I tried to be more general on MSE. – Nathaniel is protesting Oct 8 at 21:30
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    I've read your MSE response to Mr. Fullerton's "apology" and truly appreciate how you've been able to "boil it down" and succinctly phrase the heart of such a powerful issue. Yes, there are other concerns for SO employees, mods, and users to look at, but the most pressing concern to me is this idea that the new CoC might be used to promote and enforce a political agenda with which I disagree. If such enforcement involves compelling me to unquestioningly go against my own beliefs? Well, this is apparently not the place I once thought it was... – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 8 at 21:51
  • @fredsbend second your entire line of reasoning – KorvinStarmast Oct 21 at 13:19

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