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As of today (Wednesday August 2nd 2023) many of the Moderators and curators of Ask Ubuntu have been taking part in the SE wide strike for just over 8 weeks. Many regulars on AU are feeling a little lost as Ask Ubuntu is deluged with spam, voting is low, question and answer quality is dropping, chat rooms are silent and there is an upsurge in AI generated non-answers.

So this Meta post is to take stock at this particular point in time, to see the progress that is being made in negotiations with Stack Exchange, Inc. and to look at our way forward.

Negotiations...

A small team of negotiators has been working with Stack Exchange, Inc. representatives and there has been resolution achieved in some areas. The full details can be found on Discord, but below I give both a summary and some commentary:

  1. AI Issues: The issue that Stack Exchange, Inc. released two different policies regarding AI, a private, Moderator-only AI policy and a public AI policy, has been resolved with the public release of the previously private policy. A new interim AI policy will be issued soon that will be subsequently be informed by a working group that will examine 'strong' and 'weak' heuristics, with guidelines on removing the material based on which heuristics are present. IMHO this is a strong result given the Company's massive commitment to generative AI on the platform.

  2. Data Dumps: Stack Exchange, Inc. has changed its stance and is now "committed to the long-term (foreseeable future) survival of the data dumps, the API, and SEDE". There is some debate as to what this time interval actually means but this is considered a positive step from Stack Exchange, Inc.

  3. Improved Communication: There has been a commitment to better communication between Community Managers and Moderators regarding binding policy changes as well in the open discussion of Moderator decisions where Community Managers question these decisions. There is also work underway concerning major software updates to the platform without adequate community input.

  4. Press Statements: There has been some success on the issue of injudicious and inappropriate comments made to the press. My own personal opinion is a little jaded on this one, this is an area that the company has failed in before and doubtless will again despite assurances given.

The Way Forward...

But despite this (glacial!) movement in negotiations our carefully cared for Ask Ubuntu is a mess, and in my own gloomier moments I have wondered if repair was even possible. I have recovered from this gloomy spell and I can now see the path forward more clearly:

  1. We care about AU...: We are a great bunch of people who have achieved something remarkable in Ask Ubuntu. Spammers don't care about AU, Rep-gamers (with a ChatGPT window open to the side) don't care about AU, I suspect that many 'important' people in Stack Exchange, Inc. also don't care about AU. But we do and I am convinced that this will be enough to reboot AU post strike.

  2. Some hard work ahead...: Once the new AI policy has been released the litter of AI generated non-answers will be categorised and dealt with strictly and rigorously by the letter of this policy. The review queues will not only need attention but many, many of the newer posts will require some substantial editing and improvement. The chat rooms of Ask Ubuntu, with careful attention, will come back to life and with this careful attention hopefully return to even older levels of activity. New questions... new answers.... with hard work we can get the AU system running better than before.

A personal commitment...: I know the active Moderators on Ask Ubuntu are very, very keen to get back to work and I am personally prepared to put in some extra work post strike to bring things back up to speed and to make Ask Ubuntu a great community again.

What about you?

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  • Supreme post - 100% agree! 🌞 Aug 2, 2023 at 8:38
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    Strike results have now been published to Meta.SE. I believe we're now waiting for the new AI-generated content policy, that we will then need to adjust to enforce. Aug 2, 2023 at 20:48
  • @ArturMeinild earlier I held it against Philippe that he talked about the strike issues in terms that I identified as "dudebro talk". Now I had been reading this post about the strike results, and have noted the much more respectful and tactful wording; I thought: "wow, that's some improvement!" Then I noticed that the post was actually written by Mithical, one of the representatives of the community. So, indeed, I may wait just a tiny bit more to let myself be convinced by the representatives of SE themselves.
    – Levente
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:56
  • I mean, my expectation is that that whole post should have came from a representative of SE!
    – Levente
    Aug 3, 2023 at 1:01
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    Thanks for the update. I appreciate your commitment to seeing this unfortunate situation through with some positivity. Aug 3, 2023 at 8:26
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    I'm back to work
    – Zanna Mod
    Aug 3, 2023 at 12:05
  • In 6 to 8 weeks. ;-) Aug 9, 2023 at 9:47

1 Answer 1

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I totally agree with Andrew’s points here, and just wanted to chime in with my own thoughts.

It really isn’t time to pop the champagne bottles yet (EDIT: But it was pretty damn close!), but it’s evident from the Strike Organization chat on Discord that some significant progress has been made during the negotiations. But still, SE is a large company, and it takes time for important decisions to be made.

However, I would encourage everyone to hold on for the strike until a final resolution is reached, but on the other hand to be prepared to get back to moderating duties as soon as this happens.

Here is my list of important activities that I would hope as many as possible would resume doing when the time comes:

  • Handle review queues
  • Work with Natty and Smokey when (and if) they come back online
  • Go through your own notes of spam and low-quality (including AI) posts and posters, and flag accordingly
  • Generally have an increased focus on editing (for posts that can be salvaged) and flagging (for posts that can't be salvaged) - this will be especially true for old posts as well, since this has been let down for several months
  • Increase focus on helping new users with constructive and helpful comments on their first questions or answers
  • Resume use of Downboat chat to help keeping the site clean
  • Resume use of General chat to increase the feeling of community

There is probably more – but the most important thing in my mind is that we start working together again as a community.

The strike has been tough on all of us, and I believe some of us have had the feeling that the community has been falling apart during this time. But I also believe this is an opportunity to rebuild a great community and make it even stronger, if we chose that path. I’m willing to do so, and I hope others will as well!

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    Natty is online! 🧡 Aug 4, 2023 at 12:00
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    SD/Charcoal is back
    – cocomac
    Aug 8, 2023 at 7:11

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