8

Everyone knows by now what is going on on the SE network. Topics and discussions are all over the place. Opinions vary. Pros and cons. Let me be clear from the beginning: This is not intended at pointing fingers or choosing one side of the coin. It's about more than that....

One of our strengths: as IPS users, with our very different backgrounds, POV and skills, we're used to deal with [ weird / awkward / controversial / sensible ] topics.

While the coin is still flipping in the air (if it's still...), we could maybe avoid the head or tail issue.

What about trying to get the coin fall on the edge?

I mean... Can we work together and come up with a solution that will straddle the fence1? Can we stop the pouring of gasoline on the fire that can be seen all around the network, on meta(s), on different stacks...? Some are "cheating" the system (i.e. here). We should not step in. Not for this kind of things. Not for/with this kind of arguments.

To be honest, I'm not a firefighter, and some of you may know me for being a WHOM2 that has learned (often the hard way) how to pick his battle. But there's worse than watching the fire! That's just watching the fire thinking it's too bad and sad, and doing nothing...

  1. I don't want to tell who's right or wrong, who started the fight.
  2. I'd rather collect all arguments and POVs. From both sides.
  3. I'd hear them and respect them, not judge them3.
  4. I'd love cooling things down.
  5. I'd love finding / offering a solution.

Can we team up once again, be the voice of reason, and help negotiate a solution?

... or is it an already lost battle?...


1. or is it more correct or accurate to say: play both ends against the middle? -> I'm not a native English speaking person, and even though I consider myself not too bad at writing it, I miss some words / common expressions sometimes :)

2. White Heterosexual Old Man :D

3. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - Evelyn Beatrice Hall (The Friends of Voltaire - 1906 - under the pseudonym of S. G. Tallentyre)


Related links about what's going on (for those who don't know yet):

  1. SE Meta - "collect all"
  2. Monica
  3. Caleb
  4. Aza
  5. Sara / SO Inc

Clarification (thanks to @JAD for pointing out): the storm started because of 3 (un)related topics:

  • gender identity and pronouns / "new" CoC (?)
  • treatment of Monica Cellio
  • general trust/opinion on SE Inc.'s recent policies

These 3 problems are easily conflated and confused, since they were triggered at the same time and caused each other. I think the distinction is very relevant.


UPDATE (2019/10/05): what I was thinking of has been offered. I then don't see any more need for this post (the one you're reading right now). Especially because I think your ideas and arguments, shared below, are more than enough for me to make my mind up.


UPDATE (2019/10/07): SE has written a post HERE. So have the mods and their support HERE (about the recents events) and HERE (about the impact of the recent events on the LGBTQ+ community).

Thanks to y'all :)

| |
  • On the other hand, thank you for taking initiative and trying to find a way to calm moods down a bit! – JAD Oct 4 '19 at 11:29
  • 1
    I'm unsure I understood your post correctly ... You'd like to find a way for IPS to try to cool down the events, is this it? – avazula Oct 4 '19 at 12:38
  • @avazula : yes! If we can help, in any way, without picking a side (something that can be done individually). We are many, very different, we have skills. I'm sure some of us can come up with good ideas. – OldPadawan Oct 4 '19 at 12:45
  • 9
    @OldPadawan I appreciate your intent but would like to strongly urge you to reconsider this post, and refer you to the policy set out here, specifically also Roberts answer. This is something networkwide, and anything related to these events should go on Main Meta because of it. Individually, I've seen a few IPS members write some pretty great stuff there already over the past few days. But we should not, as a site, meddle in this and do things that affect the entire network. – Tinkeringbell Oct 4 '19 at 13:05
  • @Tinkeringbell : that's fine with me :) It was my intention to ask our community if we were willing to do something. And we would do it on main meta. Negociate and help opposing voices moderate was a wish. If this stack was willing to make a move, ok with me. OK too if not. – OldPadawan Oct 4 '19 at 13:14
13

I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not confident that IPS has much of an active role to play here.

There's plenty of discussion around these events already, so I'll try not to spend extra lines re-hashing them. The bottom line of the current situation seems to me to be:

Inadequate Information

We don't really have a good grasp of what happened, and how. This leaves us (all SE users across all stacks) fundamentally unequipped to make meaningful assessments of what's going on, what's appropriate, etc. That situation doesn't seem to stop people from assuming that the information they do have, plus some assumptions, is inherently correct and obvious. Worst of all, we have two basic descriptions of events which cannot be reconciled to one another, and lack the information needed to judge between them. We can't really discuss on the merits, because we don't know what the merits are, nor do most of the people who have already staked out strong positions.

Emotional Charge

Many people care about one or more of the issues involved in this mess, sometimes passionately. It's hard to cut through, move around, or soften an emotionally-based position in the first place, and it's made much harder here by our lack of reliable knowledge about events as well as the lack of a good venue for back-and-forth discussion.

Binary Situations and Outcomes

This isn't true of every issue in the current dispute, but for many of them there simply isn't a middle ground to occupy. Either Monica did something worthy of SE's response, or SE's response was inappropriate. This is a simplification, but not one which obscures the problem: I don't see much space for compromises, since at least one party would have to admit to behavior which they have so far absolutely denied. Some of these problems have solutions which are similarly compromise-resistant (SE isn't going to change the new pronoun policy to one they view as less desirable in order to have Monica come back as a mod for half as many stacks as before, for instance).

Hot Issues and Piling On

Much like a question hitting HNQ, this dispute has spread to virtually all users across all stacks, and has invited responses from tons of people across multiple forums. There are already a lot of people discussing things across multiple venues, many of them talking past or not interacting with one another much. Adding more commentary could be helpful, but is more likely to just add to the noise.

Who Are We?

I see IPS as very relevant to some of the issues being discussed, but definitely not all of them. Even if the parties involved could have used better interpersonal skills throughout this process, the core disputes are not IPS problems. I don't have the impression that other users will look to or defer to IPS (as a stack or as a collection of people) much here, and we've no leverage to impose ourselves (or anyone else) as arbiters.

SE Isn't a Person

StackExchange isn't a person, and as it's undeniably one of the parties involved that makes application of interpersonal skills very abstract. We can interact with individual people, but will have trouble interacting with an organization in the same way as we would with those people.

It's Too Late

Better interpersonal skills may well have prevented this whole issue, or made it less intense, or any number of things. But people are now entrenched, sides have been chosen, lots of strong actions have been taken, and many seem to view resolving the problems as their current position (broadly assumed to be indisputably correct) prevailing.

In the same way that fastening a seatbelt after a car crash won't do much, even if it might have helped prior to the crash, I'm not sure we have much to add post-blowup. Even if we could help with making the discussion better, the underlying complaints and disputes aren't interpersonal skills-based.

| |
  • Thanks for your input. I guess y'all folks are right. I was looking for pros and cons and arguments, you gave some very valuable ones ;) – OldPadawan Oct 4 '19 at 16:25
  • @OldPadawan I do think that our stack has some things to offer this situation, it's just that at this point it feels more like trying to stop a running chainsaw by grabbing the chain. A time might come when we can do more. – Upper_Case Oct 4 '19 at 16:33
8

As I mentioned in comments, I think this storm is about roughly three topics in total. Each of these have their own sides, arguments and possible solutions. I'll try and (neutrally) discuss each of the three. Hopefully that might shine some light on what can be done to help calm the storm.


The different parts

I'll list these in chronological order as they came to play in the recent storm. While it started with Aza's resignation, this - I think - was mostly a separate issue that went mostly under the radar until Monica was fired. So let's start with that:

  1. Monica was removed from her Moderator positions. The fact that this happened and the way in which it happened is the first part of the storm.

  2. Following Caleb's resignation, the first hints came to light on what actually triggered Monica's firing: An upcoming change in the Code of Conduct (CoC) concerning preferred pronouns.

  3. This in turn tied last week's events to the earlier efforts by StackExchange Inc. to become more welcoming. These efforts have not beel received well in the past by the site's powerusers. This constitutes another part in the storm: The next chapter in a series of unpopular changed by SE Inc.

It's very easy to conflate and confuse standpoints here. Monica was allegedly fired for disagreeing with the upcoming changes in the CoC, but that by no means implies that if you support Monica, you implicitly disagree with the CoC, and so forth.

So let's look at the issues in isolation and see if there is anything that can be done.


1. Monica's firing

This is mostly a matter between Monica and SE. Everything that went down before the event happened behind closed doors: in the moderator-only chatroom the Teacher's Lounge (TL) and in private e-mail traffic. We don't know what was said, in what context. All there is are allegations and excerpts, leaked here and there. There are unsubstantiated accusations in SE's official statement of the matter, but not close enough to draw conclusions.

Until transcripts are released, or SE comes forward with clarification of the reasons of the firing, there is little we can do but speculation.

2. Upcoming CoC changes and pronouns

This is the problematic issue. Battlelines are drawn throughout the community. Where points 1 and 3 are mostly between users and SE, this problem puts users right opposite eachother.

There is speculation left and right about what was said in TL. Did Monica refuse to use "they", did she refuse to use anything but "they"? I have seen variations of these standpoints. The context of the issue is entirely unclear. This is not in the least helped by the fact that the proposed CoC changes are still very much unknown!

Discussion about the CoC itself is therefore tricky. It relies heavily on hypotheticals as to what will and will not be required of people.

[personal meta opinion]
Another factor is the ambiguity of the "be nice" policy. People in general have different opinions on what is and what is not respectful discourse. Many have learnt that assuming someone is a "he" is not acceptable. They were shown that a neutral "they" is an acceptable default to use, even though for many this was a new language concept. Now they suddenly hear that using the default "they" is rude in certain situations, although people are seemingly inconsistent about this. This is another source of confusion in my view. The definition of "be nice" depends on who you ask, which makes debate inherently confusing.
[/personal meta opinion]

3. SE Inc.'s recent policy as a whole

This isn't just limited to the Welcome Wagon policy of the last two years, but also the new Advertisements and the new License were recent controversial changes made by the company. The community has been vocal about these changes on MSE and other site metas and I think the ball is entirely in SE's court to address these concerns. Or to ignore them. All in all I think there is little IPS can do in this regard.


What can IPS do?

I personally think all three of these issues are muddled by a lack of information, and with it a lack of concrete handholds for debate. Everyone is working off their own assumptions, which leads to misunderstanding and more frustration. I think that trying to have meaningful debate on any of these three parts before all the information is on the table will only do more harm than good. What we can do is try to urge people to wait with making assumptions until SE decide to step forward with more information.

If anything, I only really see point 2 as something that is IPS's forté, and it too would benefit greatly of having the proposed changes of the CoC in public.

| |
  • Thanks for making things clear and giving your POV. Very helpful :) – OldPadawan Oct 4 '19 at 13:23
  • Monica's post judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5193/… has a footnote that gives a fair amount of detail about the disagreement between Monica and SE. That post cuts thru a lot of the fog and speculation. – DaveG Oct 7 '19 at 13:18
  • 1
    @DaveG I am aware of that section. SE's official response (so far) uses disagreeing text, so objectively, things are still vague until more objective information comes to light. – JAD Oct 7 '19 at 16:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .