I am stepping down as a moderator, and you deserve to know why. I cannot condone actions that the company has recently taken (behind close doors, although I expect more will become public soon).

Social life means being confronted to different points of view. This is especially true on in an international setting such as Stack Exchange where you get to encounter people from different cultures. When interacting with others, you need to draw lines — for example, racism is not acceptable, full stop — and within those bounds, you need to open up to diversity. Sometimes that means listening to multiple points of view, and sometimes agree to disagree, and sometimes compromise.

I have witnessed a disagreement between moderators where both sides made some good points. Both sides deserved and requested respect. One side was aware that their behavior could hurt even though no malice was intended and tried to go out of their way in order not to be hurtful. The other side demanded to have things their way, and did not care who they were hurting on the process. In this particular dispute, there was clearly a victim and aggressors. The victim has now written up her side of the story.

Stack Exchange intervened, did not try to calm spirits, came firmly on the uncompromising side, and fired the victim in a very hurtful manner. This is not an environment I feel safe in, and certainly not an environment I can or will help foster.

I have been a participant on Stack Exchange for 9 years and a volunteer moderator across different sites for more than 8. Stepping down is a big thing for me. I am very disappointed to go that way. But I simply cannot continue.

I still value building a shared library of knowledge. I see a question and answer site as a useful complement to an encyclopedia, whose role Wikipedia fulfills. However, the way it is run now makes me doubt that Stack Exchange is a good place to build this library, so I will be reevaluating my participation.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time to write this! $\endgroup$
    – user34110
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ Would you be able to update with a link when/if that information becomes public? I, and probably many others, would be interested in getting more of the story. $\endgroup$
    – ryan
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ I am sorry to read this. Gilles, you will be missed. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know what you're referring to, but this consequence is a sad one. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael Friday evening in the Teacher's Lounge. Not recommended if you want to stay in a good mood, but on the other hand I think everyone should know what happened. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't manage to find the exact discussion and would probably have had little fun reading it, so I asked in TL for an executive summary. For everyone with access, for reference: incident summaries. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @ryan and Raphael: comments from Monica $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ Well done, you'\re one of the best. I hope enough mods will follow and the evil management that make those awful decisions for Stack Exchange will see themselves out and be replaced with better people who see people first, no money. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the club :D $\endgroup$
    – wvxvw
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ I am reminded of a passage from one of Richard Bach's books: "Chess is a game in which each party has its own singular objective even as it engages the other; a mid-game in which a struggle develops and intensifies and bits and pieces of each side are lost, both sides diminished; an end-game in which one traps and paralyses the other. I think you see life as a chess game; I see it as a sonata. And because of these differences, both the king and the queen are lost, and the song is silenced." $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Your knowledge as demonstrated throughout Stack is truly flabbergasting. Having taken on moderation duties was a cherry on top. If a user like you stepping back doesn't wake SO up, then nothing will. Here's hoping. Meanwhile, thanks. You have taught us much. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ Sad to see you go. Minor nitpick, there are also several generations on the site, and I abstain commenting on what I think of this whole situation on this thread. However, the major point here is that SE/SE staff seems not to reflect the demographics of our population at all. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @WGroleau I think Raphael's link is only visible to people who are a moderator on a Stack Exchange site. The incident happened in a chat room that is only accessible to moderators. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ Well, then they should give a permissions error instead of a 404. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Evil I'm still around for now, but with the company's increasing hostility to the communities that make the site, I fear that it won't be for long, unless we manage to migrate the community to a more welcoming platform. Sure, I've taken some hits over the years, but dealing the worst cases is part of a moderator's job, I signed up for that and I could keep doing it. What's driving me away is the ageist, xenophobic and generally unwelcoming attitude of our corporate overlords. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 7:26

4 Answers 4


Apologies for the slight hijacking of the thread.

I endorse your decision to resign. I am no longer going to contribute to any Stack Exchange site. Moderators and major contributors (of which I do not include myself) have been underappreciated by Stack Exchange for a long time, but in the past couple of years it has transitioned to outright mistreatment. I think I'm a significant enough contributor where my disengagement is only almost entirely meaningless instead of completely meaningless.

My decision is largely due to past events summarized here. I considered leaving then but decided to give Stack Exchange a chance to improve things, though I didn't have much hope. Current events including this one make clear that things aren't going to improve and that the relationship between company and community is irreparable.

I had two concerns. For the first, as the summaries state, much of the issue isn't with the decisions made themselves – some I agree with and many I do not – but the manner in which Stack Exchange went about making and communicating them and what they implied. In particular, the amount of respect from Stack Exchange seems inversely proportional to the amount you've contributed. Tweet as someone who has never used the site and Stack Exchange will make changes within 24 hours. Ask for those same changes as a major contributor and moderator and be ignored for years. To be clear, I have never been a moderator. My contributions have been moderate, and so I'm intermediate in the amount of (dis)respect. However, even as a bystander, it's hard to watch Stack Exchange spit in the face of people who've volunteered large amounts of their time, expertise, and emotional well-being. This definitely doesn't encourage me to contribute more to Stack Exchange.

My second concern is well illustrated by the current situation. In a surprisingly quick escalation to its logical conclusion (and beyond), apparently asking questions about the Code of Conduct is itself a punishable violation of the Code of Conduct (even before it's in force). Again, I'm not a moderator and don't have access to the forums where the current situation unfolded. Perhaps Monica's behavior was completely unacceptable. I find this extremely hard to believe given people's reactions and the many past interactions I've seen of Monica's which always came off as respectful and genuine even when I disagreed with the content. And then there's the usual double standard where vague insinuations of bad behavior or motives by those behind the policies are not viewed as harmful to an environment of "inclusion and respect" where they (rightfully) would be if done by anyone else.

I don't really want to support Stack Exchange by continuing to contribute to it nor do I want to tacitly endorse Stack Exchange's current behavior.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your contributions and I'm sorry to see you go. I'm not convinced yet that stopping contributing altogether is the best strategy, since it doesn't just hurt Stack Exchange, but I definitely respect your decision. I hope that if/when we can find a better platform, you'll join us there. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 6:40
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    $\begingroup$ I can certainly understand your frustration and disappointment about all of this. I'm sad that we will be losing your expertise. Thank you for all of your contributions here and elsewhere on Stack Exchange! $\endgroup$
    – D.W. Mod
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Gilles Stack Exchange has no reason to care what I think if it doesn't affect my behavior. As for other people hurt, I've been actively contributing to online forums for over 20 years and Stack Exchange has been that forum for me only for the last three and a half. There are people elsewhere that I'm not helping because I'm spending my time on Stack Exchange. There are alternate platforms I'm not helping to grow. It is simply not the case that Stack Exchange needs to be the vehicle I use to help people. If the community relocated elsewhere, I'd definitely be interested in joining it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 20:38

Thank you for all of your enormous contributions to the site over the years, Gilles! I admire your acts of service and your spirit of giving to the world anonymously, and I will miss having you on the moderation team.

Best wishes in all your future endeavours.


Gilles was specifically involved in creating Computer Science and shaping its community and policies from the early days on. His prior experience as SE moderator was unique among the pro-tem mods and very helpful.

Thank you, always.


I think the site might need you exactly because of your attitude and your views. But still, I respect your decision and, moreover, share your views. I find the actions of SE against Monica intentional, perhaps personal, and highly inappropriate. If there is any alternative, non-StackExchange computer science forum you participate in, please feel free to tell us so; some of us might wish to follow you.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know of any serious competitor to Stack Exchange. There are countless forums about countless topics, but I have no taste for places where a thread's useful lifetime is either a few days (and if the same question comes up again, someone has to answer it again) or a few years (with endlessly shifting topics and zero chance of finding that one useful reply). Feel free to ping me if you find or start soemthing! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ agreed with Gilles that there is no place like SE on the entire internet, think its generally very well designed software and attracts high caliber of volunteers + contributions but sometimes goes awry (sometimes in large ways) due mainly to human dynamics. think there could definitely be major ways to make it better but alas, it also seems to be very rigid/ inflexible at times. think its important to keep the spirit alive of experiment in progress and alas that can get lost as the company matures after nearly a decade in business. theres a balance between rigidity + flexibility... $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn (and MdAyq7), I am with a team who is trying to build a solid alternative to SE. Won't happen overnight, but all seems to indicate it will eventually come to light. Visit my profile for more info. We got Gilles, as well as other respected members of the community, talking to us in that project. $\endgroup$
    – Marc.2377
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 5:32

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