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One Mod was fired and many others are leaving their position as a sign of protest. The issue appears to be the alleged misusage of personal pronouns (non-gendered vs gendered). Mods on this site don’t appear to be involved in the matter, but I wonder if the gender issue is a concern for our site and how we should deal with it.

See:

The ship is sinking, but communication is down (need orders from the captain (CEO))

Relevant updates:

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  • Is there a TL;DR somewhere? – DaG Oct 5 '19 at 13:20
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    @DaG: There has been an attempt here. – Charo Oct 5 '19 at 14:56
  • Thanks, @Charo. I couldn't manage to read it lot. Doesn't do a whole lot to increase one's affection towards SE. – DaG Oct 5 '19 at 16:17
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    Hai ragione, @DaG! È un affare veramente triste. – Charo Oct 5 '19 at 18:10
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    Vedo cupe nubi all’orizzonte... – abarisone Oct 6 '19 at 17:57
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    I've taken the liberty of adding a link with information about a letter to SE in case someone would like to read it and maybe sign it. – Charo Oct 7 '19 at 13:52
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I have followed the situation rather closely since its inception, and I was dreading the moment it arrived on our site ;).

For the moment, as far as I can tell, there's nothing that particularly concerns Italian.SE, except for the general feeling that SE is not supporting the moderators the moment it becomes inconvenient to do so.

We were especially told that the clarification they intend to issue to the Code of Conduct (yet unpublished) will apply for the moment only to text in the English language. Whether that will prove true or not I cannot say. (UPDATE: as you can see, this is indeed the case)

Moreover, I would like to emphasize that the issue of pronouns is only a little part of this mess, the inciting incident if you want, and it has little to do with the outrage of most moderators (although there are almost as many positions on this as there are moderators). I am personally much more upset by the way that SE went on to enforce those rules than by the rules themselves (that are, as best as I can tell, fairly reasonable -- although I have to say that all I've seen is a very incomplete draft).


As a general rule, and ignoring this whole mess, it is not a bad idea to use gender-neutral language whenever possible. I found La neutralità di genere nel linguaggio usato al Parlamento europeo helpful on this, but it has to be said that this goal is harder to achieve in Italian than in other languages.

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  • I learned about this matter on ELU, and I think it is fair that also our community should be aware of what’s going on at SE management level. Having said that I wonder what’s really at stake in this story. – user519 Oct 5 '19 at 6:12
  • @Gio The problem is that even for people with access to transcripts of almost all communications (although crucially not all of them) there are strong disagreements about what's happened. I am trying to be as even-handed as possible, but it's not easy. For what is worth I happened to be present throughout most of the important private incidents, and I have my opinions, but they are not universal. – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 6:14
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    Let me also say that you should be skeptical of every simple description or leak you may find. The amount of transcript you need to wade through to get an idea of the situation is almost of book-length, and every editing carries necessarily personal bias. – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 6:22
  • I guess it is a”political” issue whose roots are deeper and older than recent posts may suggest. The problem is the possible negative implications with the normal functioning of SE sites. Let’s see how it will evolve. – user519 Oct 5 '19 at 6:25
  • Oh definitely. This situation goes back at least a couple of years, and it is very multifaceted. Let's see what happens, although I suspect it won't be much. – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 6:27
  • Fact remains that SE hasn't given a shred of proof (which is kind of the basis of SE itself) of any accusation. The lack of transparency is just appalling. Have any of the mods on ItalianSE considered resigning as a form of solidarity? – Easymode44 Oct 5 '19 at 9:22
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    @Easymode44 I've considered it (as well as I considered suspending moderation activities), but I'm unsure it would make any good. Frankly, I prefer working with other mods inside the system, especially because the situation is not nearly as clear cut as the most outraged voices might make it seem. In my opinion this is essentially a case of SE overreacting after having done nothing for years despite many voices asking them to do so. What's clearly unacceptable is SE not treating moderators with even a shred of respect. That said, I am bound to confidentiality for some events. – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 9:45
  • If the users of Italian.SE believe it useful I'd be happy to hold a town hall in chat (in Italian or English) but there are many things I am not at freedom to say to respect the privacy of others. – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 9:47
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    @DenisNardin Personally I would gladly participate. How do "town halls" work? Do people just jump in or would it be better to feature the question first and then set a time and date? – Easymode44 Oct 5 '19 at 9:50
  • @Easymode44 Dunno, I never organized one. It would be needed to be on a precise time and date though, since my new apartment does not have internet yet and I'd need to conduct it from a cafe :). – Denis Nardin Oct 5 '19 at 9:51
  • @DenisNardin agreed! See what works best for you (and maybe for other moderators, after a small poll). – Easymode44 Oct 5 '19 at 9:54
  • @Easymode44: Unlike Denis, I hadn't followed this matter, so there's a little I can say at this moment. – Charo Oct 5 '19 at 11:23
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    Can I ask people that if they're interested in a Q&A session with me to please ping me in the Bar Sport to signal their interest? Thanks – Denis Nardin Oct 7 '19 at 8:33
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From the FAQ (which, by the way, is currently at -1505 reputation):

Q13: How does this apply to languages other than English?

For now, while the intent of being inclusive and respectful of all gender identities applies to all our communities, the specific requirements around pronoun usage apply only to English language sites. As we determine best practices in other languages, we’ll work with those communities and update guidance for those languages.

Quindi c'è la possibilità che in futuro saremo anche noi tutt* obbligat* a usare un linguaggio gender-neutral.

In Italian, the traditional standard practice is using masculine forms as 'generic' in the plural (saremo tutti obbligati), and double forms with a slash (obbligato/a, which, formally, implies a sort of binariness) in the singular, but their more direct analogues in English are explicitly disallowed by the FAQs (Q9, Q16).

So it is very well possible that we will be forced to use more 'inclusive' versions such as obbligat*, even if one thinks that they are ungrammatical (Q10). And, as you know, this site is partly targeted to people that are fussy with Italian grammar. :)

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    If you want my personal opinion, I think that they will never "update guidance for those languages", especially for those for which there is no real "official" guidance on the matter (even by activist organizations). They want to be seen doing that, but actually doing that is so ridiculously hard (and I should know, I spent a fair amount of time these days reading stuff about this) that I doubt they will ever be finished. – Denis Nardin Oct 17 '19 at 12:29
  • When posting comments in English, that is what the CoC asks for. In Italian, they cannot tell you use the singular they as Italian doesn't have a singular they. – kiamlaluno Nov 14 '19 at 10:14

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