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Maybe you have been aware of the Monica problem on the Stack Exchange, or maybe you have been blissfully unaware of the bubbling brouhaha.

My version of the events goes like this: the Stack Exchange felt it was important to become more “inclusive” toward some marginalized groups, and, as a result of a chat discussion about “preferred pronouns,” a long-time, well-respected moderator was stripped of her moderation abilities. In essence, someone with more authority than a site moderator decided she should be made an example of, and she became a sacrificial lamb of sorts.

The uproar was swift and strong. Several site moderators resigned or cease moderating in protest. As the days turned into weeks, many active users across the Stack Exchange began to show support of Monica by using Reinstate Monica badges as their avatars or changing by their username to express their dissatisfaction with the way events had transpired and the way the matter had been left unresolved.

Reinstate Monica
Figure 1. The community tries in vain to let their voices be heard.

As some moderators resigned and several more went on a hiatus, I initially didn’t even consider stepping down. I trusted the leadership at the Stack Exchange; it was the one community on the internet where I believed that reasonableness always prevailed. But as the weeks turned into months, I realized a culture shift had taken place. I could understand how a decision might be made to overturn multiple Stack Exchange elections in one rash act and unceremoniously strip a moderator of her moderation privileges – sometimes people do impulsive things in the heat of the moment. But I could not comprehend the cold, hardline stance of sticking by that decision with no apparent regret or remorse. (To be fair, an apology was issued, but it seemed more about the timing of the act than about the unfairness of the it. In fact, that apology quickly became the most downvoted question of all time on SE’s Meta site, plummeting the reputation of an SE employee all the way down to 1 and eventually garnering over 2000 downvotes!)

As I gradually realized our protests were falling on deaf ears, and slowly grasped how the Stack Exchange fully intended to simply move forward, a fire died inside me. It’s not really a matter of whether or not I feel “safe”, and it’s not really even about broken trust. As I’ve said before, a community will rarely agree on everything, and even landslide elections are hardly ever unanimous.

However, here's the rub: I no longer wish to invest more time in a site that merrily blogs about being “really excited to improve our experience” and prates on about how they “appreciate” our contributions, yet thumbs their noses in the face of such strong public outcry about an act that could easily be undone. There has been plenty of time to rethink the Monica decision, and a new CEO has even stepped in since this crisis began, yet the sounds of silence remain as deafening as they’ve been from the outset of the tumult.

Yet another lame podcast announcement Figure 2. A community hurt, betrayed, and divided – yet merrily they chat away.

It looks like the Stack Exchange is wholly prepared to “move forward” into a complete new kind of Winter Bash. Rather than spending the holidays dreading my inevitable retraining, I’ve decided that it's time to close this chapter of my life instead and put SE largely behind me. The work I put in here simply isn’t nearly as rewarding or fulfilling as it once was, not in the current climate.

I won’t be asking for my account to be deleted – this is a still a useful place and I may need to ask a question from time to time. However, I don’t plan to visit the site daily anymore, perhaps not even weekly. Y’all may want to elect a new moderator soon. (I’ve always thought Nathan Tuggy would make an excellent moderator; I can't step aside without giving an endorsement in case he decides to run.)

While I’ve camped here, I tried to make the Stack Exchange in general and ELL in particular a better place. Like every good camper should do, I hope I am leaving the campground in better shape than I found it when I arrived.

Thank you for your support and patience through all these years. It’s been an honor to serve you during a long and pleasant stay. Regretfully, though, it’s time to move on.


Additional notes (links to some of my recent SE meta posts):
1. My recap of the fiasco
2. My thoughts on the so-called apology
3. On the snuffing out of the fire inside


P.S. In years of Christmas past, Winter Bash was fun, but my favorite part of Winter Bash was always making up my own hats:

A few of my favorite self-made hats

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  • 16
    Thank you for all you've done for the community and your site. It's sad that SE has driven so many good people away. :-( – Monica Cellio Nov 26 '19 at 15:40
  • 3
    You and ColleenV both resigning is absolutely bad for us. :( – AIQ Nov 27 '19 at 5:18
  • 1
    Nooooo! My heart goes out to you, I know how hard the disillusionment must be to support. Things are getting sour on MSE, the site will shrink in importance and influence and the same will happen to the much smaller sites when the company decides to close them for being a wasteful resource of energy (they'll use some other kind of buzz word) and then expect the other SE sites to show progress and.... profit?? So sad. Such a shame. Be well. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 '19 at 7:59
  • 2
    Mmmm, pity to see you leaving, but there are still some obscure aspects to this story that I find hard to grasp fully. If Monica is a scapegoat, they probably used such an outstanding figure to send a message across the whole SE sites. It looks like a scheme which was set up just to get rid of a number of people (like you probably) but why? What’s really going on? Maybe SE sites as they are designed and managed now don’t fit the policy the new CEO has in mind, from which the need to destroy what has been done so far...probably to rebuild it along new guidelines. – user070221 Nov 27 '19 at 15:26
  • 5
    @user070221 - I don't know what's really going on, but I'll say this: If they truly intended to drive well-established users away, they succeeded tremendously; if instead they thought we would all stick around, then they screwed up royally. I think this (from their newest blog) is telling: "Teaching moderator skills through folklore and informal mentorship results in uneven practices at best, and perpetuates problems at its worst. Robust training for moderators is as essential as ensuring that anyone else on our team is getting the proper, ongoing education and training." They want clones. – J.R. Nov 29 '19 at 8:04
  • 4
    Thank you for everything, JR. I'll miss you, and ColleenV ... and FumbleFingers and Mari-Lou and Araucaria and CowperKettle and Colin Fine and Damkerng T and Ben Kovitz and all the folks who made this a second home. But the corner bar seems to have been bought out by a national chain ... – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 1 '19 at 2:04
  • 2
    Congratulations for sticking to your moral values and it's very, very sad that things come up to this. May I take this opportunity to make a suggestion? If you feel like investing your time on something that can end up being a proper replacement for this community (and platform in general), please join us at the Codidact project. You can check my profile for more info. – Marc.2377 Dec 2 '19 at 23:03
  • Pity that you've left! So many years of hard work! That's what happens when ignorance comes to power. Lemme just thank you and say goodbye. I'm gonna miss you so much, JR! – Lucian Sava Dec 6 '19 at 18:37
  • I shall miss you. You were always kind and thoughtful. Yours was the first words of encouragement that I read when I first joined EL&U. I just want to bawl my eyes out, the entire situation has been so unfair and so stupid. 😢😭 – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '19 at 23:40
  • 1
    If your leadership on ELL is considered hillbilly as the ‘training’ quote suggests, would that all moderators were as well. They could do much worse. You have my respect for your contributions to both ELL and ELU. – Lawrence Dec 13 '19 at 15:21

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