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With the ever-growing network of Stack Exchange sites as well as the increased traffic and therefore larger number of moderators, the way policy updates and feature changes are currently announced makes it almost impossible for moderators to catch up.

Currently, if you as a moderator want to be up to date on what's happening, you have to:

  • Hang around on Teacher's Lounge all day and be sure to check the starred or pinned messages
  • Visit Meta Stack Overflow and look at the recent feature changes as well as the top questions for the last week or months
  • Wait a few weeks until you receive a newsletter, which only covers the major issues

What you could be missing…

This is a process that needs moderators to actively check for any new info. For example, two things I completely missed as a moderator unless some others had informed me:

  • Why are the moderators being so strict with quality related flags recently? – I've always been strict about quality flags but it took me a while to see this topic. I just had a talk with @ChrisF yesterday who apparently hadn't seen the topic until now. No offense, but if you want moderators to act consistently, you have to get this information out more reliably.
  • There are new ways for moderators to check review statistics. Those are buried somewhere in a list of links. Unless you check out that page (which I don't do that often), you just won't find these links. The rationale can't be that "you'll find this out when you see it, and then play around with it" – why make these tools in the first place if they shouldn't be used right away?

Now, I can imagine that – even on the larger sites – there are moderators who simply cannot afford to spend the entire day in chat, or even on Meta. Moderating is something most of us to "just for fun", and often while working.

… and why that's bad?

But yet, we moderators are the first port of call for support on our sites. You wouldn't want the site mods to respond "Umm, no idea, they must've changed that recently." And you want them to act consistently (e.g., with regard to the low quality flags). I dare say that if an otherwise very active moderator isn't there for two weeks, they'd miss out on important (policy/feature) changes.

A new information feed

What I propose is that Stack Exchange actively pushes out small bits of information to all moderators of all sites. Unlike the newsletter, which is only sent every few months, these messages could be kept really short and to the point.

In the mod page, you could make a counter for updates:

And there, list all the new stuff, for moderators to read:

You could then just write a small message:

Be more strict on very low quality flags

If a very low quality flag doesn't exactly apply, consider declining it with an appropriate message. This is to ensure that validated flags are accurate. See more: Why are the moderators being so strict with quality related flags recently?

And done. Now you get the information out to every moderator, in a feed that now pushes out the important bits instead of waiting for moderators to find them.

This would ensure that moderators who can't check in every day still get news of the critical feature and policy changes, which results in a more consistent moderation experience for the users, and in the end it might also save the team from repeated questions about new features or policies.

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This is a must-have feature. I am amazed that it isn't implemented yet and a feature request needs to be posted for this. If Mods of the site are unaware of what's happening, how will he/she be able to guide the community appropriately. –  Aditya Mar 26 '13 at 9:43
    
It's a combination of SE and the moderator's responsibility. To some degree, we're expected to keep up with things on our meta. That isn't expressed anywhere explicitly but since meta has to do with governance, and moderators are part of that, we have to keep up with that. There's also then SE side of it, the moderator newsletter, which they have not been good at keeping up with. Also note the meta post you described is SO only (because of the volume we get and the particular issues we've had with the review queue). –  casperOne Mar 26 '13 at 12:52
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@casperOne The issue with mods keeping up with meta is that a lot of network policy is still on meta.SO and that is probably the noisiest place in the whole damn network. I try to read it every day and I get a headache sometimes just thinking about it. –  JNK Mar 26 '13 at 12:54
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That goes back to the moderator newsletter, if there's something on meta SO that is going to affect all the sites, it should be up to the community team to disseminate that to all the other mods. I agree, having all of you trawl through meta.SO's particular brand of BS is ridiculous. As long as you keep up with your meta and the moderator newsletter, I think the rest is on SE to make sure you're aware of what's going on. –  casperOne Mar 26 '13 at 12:59
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Let's face it: MSO is a too busy place. As a SO moderator, it's more or less your second home, but I dare say that for the remaining SE mods, many don't visit MSO more than once a week. –  slhck Mar 26 '13 at 13:00
    
More comprehensive & frequent newsletters would be nice. Currently they just announce blindingly obvious things once every 3 months or so. –  Ben Brocka Mar 26 '13 at 14:42
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@BenBrocka Blindingly obvious to you because you are one of the folks hanging out in TL and generally being more involved in the network. –  Anna Lear Mar 26 '13 at 14:49
    
To be fair, the "why are the mods more strict with low quality flags" wasn't a directive from us. It was an initiative on the part of the Stack Overflow moderators. This is one of those times where having MSO and MSE be one site is rather unfortunate. That said, I do agree that we are having problems reaching all moderators reliably. Not sure I'm sold on your proposed solution (gotta think about it more), but I'm on board with needing to do something. –  Anna Lear Mar 26 '13 at 14:51
    
@AnnaLear the point was more that it doesn't cover the tons of little stuff I only would have ever noticed from TL. Instead it covers stuff like the new About page and the now missing ability to merge. While those are discoverable from the actual interface (granted, with some looking) it's completely impossible to know that validating flags now generates review audits unless someone told you –  Ben Brocka Mar 26 '13 at 14:54
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FWIW, the "strict on flags" thing started as a one-off comment in the private SO-mod chatroom and ended up as a meta post after further discussion. It's just not terribly important outside of SO right now, otherwise I'd have made a bigger deal about it. –  Shog9 Mar 26 '13 at 14:54
    
@AnnaLear Okay, maybe the VLQ flags weren't the best example, but I hope you know what kind of info I was referring to, and I'm sure we could come up with quite a few other memos :) –  slhck Mar 26 '13 at 14:55
    
@BenBrocka Ah, fair point. There's a fine line between not enough information about important stuff and too much information about the minutiae of things that most people (even mods) just don't need to really care about. We can do better there. –  Anna Lear Mar 26 '13 at 15:10
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With how infrequently meta.stackexchange.com/questions/59445/… is updated, it's pretty optimistic to hope they're going to push more frequent updates to just mods –  Michael Mrozek Mar 26 '13 at 15:12

4 Answers 4

I like this suggestion a lot.

Some issues with the other suggestions:

  • There are many policy and/or moderation tools/procedures that we don't want to publicize and wouldn't be appropriate to have in a meta post.

  • Not everyone uses TL, and even if they did it's hard to parse through the noise if you don't get the message for a few hours or days.

Having quick documents in a dashboard like this would make for much more consistent moderation across the network, and short of having a special moderators-only meta I don't think there's another way to effectively tackle it.

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A single mod ping from TL will go to the inbox immediately. Almost all mods check every single inbox message they get :/ They should, at least. –  Manishearth Mar 26 '13 at 13:00
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@Manishearth It'll go to their inbox but then a week later when they want to see the exact text of the message that Shog9 or whoever posted ("Was that never merge users even spammers, or only merge spammers?"), good luck finding it in the noise-generator that is the TL. –  JNK Mar 26 '13 at 13:10
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@phwd I don't think it's as noisy as it used to be or could be, but that still doesn't mean that a chat transcript is an optimal way to convey information like this. –  JNK Mar 26 '13 at 14:34

I'd rather try to reuse existing features for that than implement a completely new system.

Moderators already get inbox notifications for per-site meta posts, so this is only an issue for SO mods and for network-wide policies. If it is used carefully and not too often, I think inbox notifications for important moderator policy changes would be appropriate. This could be e.g. achieved by creating special mod- or empoyee-only tags that would lead to the appropriate inbox notifications. Network-wide policy changes should be announced to all moderators, SO mods would need their own tag and all other sites are handled by the existing notifications for new meta posts.

Additionally, a tag filter could be linked in the mod dashboard to allow users to easily find all of these announcements.

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I think an inbox notification would also be possible, but as you said, those always link to certain posts. Not every policy or feature change should be public (such as changes to the moderator tools), so you can't always create an appropriate Meta post for those. Sometimes a small message would be enough – and there already is a message system for contacting users. –  slhck Mar 26 '13 at 9:54
    
Almost no moderator tools are secret, the only exception is the sock puppet and vote fraud parts. I think forcing the announcements to be public is a positive side-effect of my proposal. –  Mad Scientist Mar 26 '13 at 9:56
    
True, I hadn't considered that yet, but of course that's up to the team to decide. I could imagine some messages for things that aren't meant to be public yet, e.g. think about the ideas for new close reasons before the team went to Meta to discuss them. –  slhck Mar 26 '13 at 10:01
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@MadScientist the tools aren't necessarily secret, but there are certainly going to be policy changes in the future that we will not want to publicize. –  JNK Mar 26 '13 at 12:53

We already have a bot in TL that can summon mods. How about we give it a comm-team only option that summons all the mods? That way, whenever there is any sort of announcement, a community team member can just use the mod ping and all the mods will get an inbox notification.

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The mod ping is the most abused and incorrectly used feature ever in TL. This is unnecessary overkill. –  phwd Mar 26 '13 at 14:43
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Adding to what @phwd said, inbox notifications are not really the best way to handle this, because they are dismissed in bulk. On a good day, I'll have 10-15 inbox notifications when I first log in, I'll quickly scan them in the multicollider and only open in new tabs those that seem important enough. And then, of course, the red indicator that there's something new in the inbox will be gone, and I'll forget all about it... Which is cool, because 9/10 of inbox notifications I get I don't really care about, but I wouldn't want to miss something important because it didn't look important enough. –  Yannis Mar 26 '13 at 15:02
    
This is what those deleted chat messages were about ;) –  Caleb Mar 26 '13 at 15:18
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@phwd Umm, this will be comm team only. There are 6 of them. They know not to abuse something like this. I don't see how this will be prone to abuse. –  Manishearth Mar 26 '13 at 15:27
    
@Yannis: hm. I personally don't think you should be doing that -- there are many other similarly "important" inbox notifications. –  Manishearth Mar 26 '13 at 15:41
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If the inbox was supposed to be for important stuff, it wouldn't dismiss everything just because I happened to take a quick look at it. And if it changes to work like a real inbox, I'll probably stop checking it all together, I have enough important inboxes to check every day, don't need another one. Stuff that are important for moderators need to be somewhere where I can check them in my own time (I'm a volunteer after all), and must be easily searchable. I supported the private Q&A for mods exactly for situations like this, but most didn't really like the idea. –  Yannis Mar 26 '13 at 18:41
    
@yannis hmm, you're right. I do think that the inbox should be better and that a private q&a would help a lot, however. –  Manishearth Mar 26 '13 at 18:45
    
@Manishearth I'm not suggesting changing the inbox. It's perfectly fine as it is, I love its ephemeral nature. –  Yannis Mar 26 '13 at 18:47
    
@yannis meh. I don't really mind the current one, just that a "mark as read on click" would stop me from scroll-clicking every link in my inbox as I log in. (I put stuff I can't get to in Google Tasks) –  Manishearth Mar 26 '13 at 18:57
    
Interesting idea, but... I don't really see myself ever using this for anything short of a massive, coordinated attack on all sites - and there are probably better venues for that too. If it's important enough to ping all the moderators about, it's probably important enough to go in the newsletter or even a mass-email. –  Shog9 Mar 27 '13 at 21:26
    
@Shog9: Mass email makes sense (more invasive than the inbox, though). Newsletter doesn't -- not all the things can be made public immediately :/ –  Manishearth Mar 28 '13 at 5:12

The question asserted:

But yet, we moderators are the first port of call for support on our sites. You wouldn't want the site mods to respond "Umm, no idea, they must've changed that recently."

I don't see the problem with this response. In fact, it's pretty common for me to hear from a user that some bit of the site doesn't work the way they expect. Sometimes it's a new feature, but more often it's a feature I don't use or is specific to low-reputation users. Honestly, it might even be a feature I use all the time, but don't really understand.

In any case, I'll just go searching for the post on Meta.StackExchange. Which reminds me...

As for policy changes, I would hope that none are so time critical that simply putting them in the moderator newsletter wouldn't be a problem. So I'm not sure that we really need a new source of information (that many moderators will ignore as much as every previous source).

That said, it would be nice if we could get some insight into what changes are coming and a timeline of when changes hit the sites. It's kinda annoying to not know how close a beta site is to graduation or when a particular bug was fixed, for instance. Which reminds me...

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What particular source have you been ignoring? There aren't any (active) sources of information other than the newsletter. And FWIW, I do see a problem if moderators, who are supposed to lead the community and be the first level of support, have to go look for important changes themselves. Simply put, this is just a huge waste of time. MSO is too noisy to be useful as a general resource for everything, and especially for changes that affect users with a different reputation level than yours it's sometimes even less apparent. –  slhck Mar 27 '13 at 21:08
    
@slhck: What makes you think I'm ignoring any source? ;) My point is you are likely to need to go searching for answers anyway. Giving me another place to search might not help. –  Jon Ericson Mar 27 '13 at 21:12
    
Ah. I see what you mean. I don't think the real issue is having multiple sources of information. It's not like you're forced to visit MSO or Teacher's Lounge at all. Even the newsletters are opt-out (!). All I hope for is a feed-like channel for the SE team to get the most important changes out—and that could be a more regular newsletter, even—but this is completely orthogonal to them posting on MSO for a broader audience, or discussing about it on TL. –  slhck Mar 27 '13 at 21:15

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