12

It would be nice to hear about the position of HSE as a community regarding the ongoing systemwide moderator strike. Caveat: I understand that the site (HSE) is small and so is number of moderators and users regularly visiting HSE Meta.

For myself: I am currently refraining from voting, flagging, asking and answering questions on main stackexchange sites I normally participate in (such as History Stack Exchange).

Edit: As of August 2, 2023, the strike appears to be over, see here.

8
  • I suspect indeed "main" (tech) sites are where a lot of this issue is. We don't have the same kind of rep-farming issues they do, and AI posts here are inherently bad posts for other reasons (which may not be true on a technical site), so they are easier to detect, and probably less likely to falsely detect posters with ESL issues. A recent Moderators post tells me they did their research leading up to this decision entirely on StackOverflow.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 6, 2023 at 16:25
  • 1
    I would however, push back a bit on calling us a "small" site. We in fact near as I can tell are one of the larger non-tech sites on the network in terms of activity. Still dwarfed by StackOverflow of course.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 6, 2023 at 16:27
  • The sad thing is the spammers have already responded to the perceived vulnerability. Just last night an AI generated answer with an embedded spam link appeared as an answer.
    – justCal
    Jun 7, 2023 at 12:31
  • 2
    @justCal - ...and still got their ish rocked and account destroyed before I even knew it existed. Go try StackOverflow, spammers.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 7, 2023 at 13:11
  • 1
    @T.E.D. no, thank you. Send them to Quora.
    – M--
    Jun 7, 2023 at 17:43
  • All of us at all stacks are working for nothing - pushed along by our interests and pulled along by gamification - giving away knowledge for the financial benefit of a very small number of people. This is immoral, but at least ordinary users are doing it because they enjoy it. Moderators, out of a sense of duty, are clearing up sewage for free. They at least ought to be paid, and well. They aren't going to be, and it's that business model, not AI, which has led to this conflict. Like others here I think this bodes very poorly for the health of all stacks.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:38
  • @NeMo - Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd do if they were to pay us. That would kind of transform our relationship, in a way that might impact my existing employment agreement with the nice people who currently do send me checks. It would be nice to at least start getting swag again though. It would also inject financial gain into moderator elections, which ... ick)
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 13, 2023 at 22:05
  • Yeah, I get all that. Just saying that in the long run, no good relationship between a tiny number of high paid techbros and thousands of volunteers is possible. The volunteers are angry because they're being exploited - the exploitation being utterly fundamental to this kind of business, as much as creating eating disorders is integral to the diet industry. AI is just the latest flashpoint - not the first and definitely not the last.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 13, 2023 at 23:32

2 Answers 2

11

This is honestly the first I've heard about it, so at the moment I think its fair to say it isn't impacting this site. Of course that could change, and I can't claim to 100% know the minds of the other 3 site mods.

I have been aware of some of the issues behind this, but personally I'm in the "I'm not angry, just disappointed." mode.

I'm not supposed to talk about what goes on in the moderator-only site, but the post on this specific issue was astonishingly tone-deaf. I don't think they meant it to sound like that, just to be decisive and unambiguous. However, this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened, and the fact that great care isn't being taken to avoid it happening again is ... disappointing.

The flashpoint was a direction from corporate to not be suspending anyone on the basis of a "Chatbot-detector" showing a post highly likely to be an AI. They don't want those used at all, due to them supposedly showing a lot of false-positives, particularly for ESL (English Second Language) posters. When asked for references to that phenomenon, they wouldn't provide them (until today, but likely nobody's listening now).

From my perspective, I feel like I volunteer and work for you all not for SE. So I'm not going to abandon you to the Nazis just because I'm miffed at SE corporate's inept social skills.

On the other hand, because I work for you, I'm also not changing a damn thing about how I moderate unless and until I'm convinced it would help you and the site to do so, or you all make it clear you want that change.

3
  • 1
    Thanks for this: "I volunteer and work for you all ". I have really gotten a lot of joy from participating and contributing to this site. Jun 10, 2023 at 20:31
  • 2
    Yep, I think the Nazi threat places us in a totally different position to SO.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:41
  • 1
    FWIW, it appears that the moderators on Physics.SE are taking a stance similar to this one (although their emphasis is very different).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 13, 2023 at 22:02
8

For me, much the same conclusion. I've been somewhat aware of the strike, but the strikers haven't articulated a clear enough platform/agenda to compel my participation.

To the extent that this strike is about AI, I'm not sure that it is relevant to H:SE. I predict that for the vast majority of the cases, I can moderate content based on the quality of the content, the presence of preliminary research, the presence/absence of citations, etc. Whether or not the content is written by AI isn't likely to be the determining factor. Although SE didn't present evidence (Had their post been in this community, it would have fallen short of the "preliminary research test"), I am sufficiently skeptical of AI and concerned about the implications for diversity that arise from suppressing AI.

To the extent that this strike is about SE corporate culture, I'm not convinced that a strike is the right approach. I agree that SE is failing to build the kind of trust that supports the community they claim to want. Their language can be absolutist/autocratic/insensitive. On the other hand, I strongly suspect that they're working under legal/regulatory/governance constraints that I don't fully understand, and I'm reluctant to hold them accountable without understanding those constraints.

I'm not optimistic about the future of SE. At a minimum, SE is going to transform as it matures - all institutions grow from gardens of hope to edifices of routine. The effort to generate value and sustain investment requires culling opportunities. Creating an institution requires transforming tribal joy into routine procedure, but also inevitable captures and preserves all the errors made. Tomorrow's SE will be different from today's, less in some ways, more in others.

But like T.E.D. the joy I derive is from supporting this site, these people, this topic. I'm not responsible for the bigger picture. SE is aware that they've failed to capture my trust and loyalty.

So I'm not striking, but I'm not opposing a strike. I'm moderating H:SE.

3
  • "On the other hand, I strongly suspect that they're working under legal/regulatory/governance constraints that I don't fully understand, and I'm reluctant to hold them accountable without understanding those constraints." I am not sure if misrepresenting a policy and mis-characterizing people would be due to legal matters. More of a corporate slander. But I respect your decision for not striking considering that sites with lower traffic are much less affected by AI-gen answers, and other factors besides AI are available to filter them out.
    – M--
    Jun 7, 2023 at 5:50
  • 2
    @M-- There may be something to that. The impression I got from what I saw in the mod thread was that they were getting suspension appeals, and had no way to prove that the accounts in question actually violated the site rules they were suspended over. I got that exact same sense from the mod-private discussions around the recent drastic increase in the Code of Conduct: It seemed like they were looking to drastically increase the CoC specifically to protect themselves from complaints about suspensions by us site mods.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 7, 2023 at 13:17
  • @T.E.D.oh, I see what you mean. Thank you.
    – M--
    Jun 7, 2023 at 13:28

You must log in to answer this question.

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