Along the same lines as the recent moderator votes, I'd like to see the SO team put up signficant new features or changes for votes before implementing them. The votes and comments would serve as feedback to the planned features. This feedback would be used in conjunction with the team's internal planning to decide on what to develop and when.

Perhaps, the planned feature list could be put up as a series of answers to questions to get feedback on importance and desirability. This would allow the community to help direct rather than react to changes in the system. For example, post "Planned Features for October" (probably too late for September) and lock it to the front page of meta. Put your planned features in the queue as they come up and use votes/comments as a guide to schedule/improve/drop planned features.

The way it seems to work now is that if someone posts an idea that the SO team agrees with it gets done, but there isn't any way to gauge the community's input in the same way that we had with UserVoice.

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I've always thought this is the ideology behind development process of SO. Apparently, I was wrong. In the meantime, the FAQ should be changed from "Stack Overflow is You" to "We don't give a damn what you think." –  LeakyCode Aug 26 '09 at 20:17
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The FAQ is not particularly clear. I think the intent is the the operation of SO is largely a community effort, but that wasn't intended to apply to feature development. I'm asking that we be given a more direct role in determining which features are implemented and when -- which would be more consistent with the FAQ language. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:20
    
I understand. I'm just too angry about the SCITE problem I want to blame it on someone. Maybe we should blame it on Joel going to France and leaving Jeff alone in making decisions ;) –  LeakyCode Aug 26 '09 at 20:22
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By the way, I don't believe they should always do whatever the community says but discussing things with the community wouldn't hurt. –  LeakyCode Aug 26 '09 at 20:23
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+1 great suggestion –  belgariontheking Aug 26 '09 at 20:30
    
Why should they? It's a business venture at the end of the day (albeit a useful one), I sure as hell don't want my customers/users dictating every aspect of my service and product offerings. –  Kev Aug 26 '09 at 20:32
    
@Kev -- gathering input and soliciting customer feedback is not dictating. No one is asking that voting control features, only guide as in how the recent moderator voting was one (important) input in choosing the last mod for Superuser.com. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:33
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@Kev: Perhaps because the FAQ states: "Remember, Stack Overflow is run by you!"? That has always been the mantra, and now this is being proven false. –  GEOCHET Aug 26 '09 at 20:35
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@Kev: I would imagine that getting customer feedback is a very important part of making business decisions. If you make a change and your users hate it, you didn't exactly do your business any favors. –  TheTXI Aug 26 '09 at 20:39
    
Feedback yes, dictating use no. There's a difference. –  Kev Aug 26 '09 at 21:15
    
@Kev -- I've updated my suggestion to make explicit the type of feedback I was referencing with respect to the recent moderator vote. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 21:23
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When in trouble in an argument, switch sides for maximum confusion. –  GEOCHET Aug 26 '09 at 21:23
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@tvanfosson - gotcha, but design by SO committee would be the kiss of death for SO, if you've ever worked on a government project then you know what I mean :) –  Kev Aug 26 '09 at 21:49
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8 Answers

I'm not a huge fan of "design by committee" - if the SO Team wants to make a change, they should of course do so without having to put it to community vote.

But, they do put it to community vote. Or at least appear to. Blog posts, UV, and now MSO have all been positioned as a way to make your voice heard, and guide the evolution of SO. That's why i'm here; that's the only reason i'm here - if SO is going to decide these things based on the Voice of the Community, then i want my voice heard.

If, as TheTXI theorizes, this is merely a way to shut us up, then there's no real point to participating. But if they do truly intend us to have some small say in what is done, then I agree with your proposal.

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What I'm proposing is gathering feedback a la the recent moderator vote. Everyone was clear that the vote was one of several inputs. Clear the SO team has the final say, but feedback ahead of time is better than complaints afterwards. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:40
    
BTW -- I've edited the question to make this more clear. I was referencing the recent moderator vote as a pattern, but I could see where someone might think I was suggesting design by committee. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:45
    
@tvanfosson: sorry, i got off on a separate train of thought and forgot to finish. Short answer: i agree, ++ for your suggestion –  Shog9 Aug 26 '09 at 20:46
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Often times I feel as if Meta is just a padded room that they built for us to bounce around in, but all the walls are soundproof so that all of our commentary doesn't necessarily reach any actual ears on the outside world.

I would be extremely happy if there was some sort of development road map. Not even for the use case of being able to vote and discuss, but just to know what the heck is going on. It seems all too often that you can wake up one morning and boom there is a change in place and you don't really find out anything about it until a blog post some time later that day (if at all, sometimes all you get is a small comment on two month old post).

The ability to discuss what the future holds is supposed to be the purpose of MSO (aside from offering support and bug reporting), but it's impossible to know what is really going on behind closed doors until the changes are already made.

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What? "status-declined" doesn't indicate enough direction for ya? ;) –  hyperslug Aug 26 '09 at 20:16
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I am a much bigger fan of the "status-by-design" tag. –  TheTXI Aug 26 '09 at 20:20
    
What about [status-planned] or questions tagged [status-completed] without any change whatsoever. –  Brad Gilbert Aug 26 '09 at 20:55
    
@Brad -- then you're making your customers work to give you feedback. Usually, you want to make it easier rather than harder for customers to talk to you. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:58
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We already do -- I regularly browse the list of feature requests by votes, like so:

http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged?tagnames=feature-request+-status-declined+-status-deferred&sort=votes

So if you want a [feature-request] implemented, vote for it -- or convince others to vote for it!

Here's a list of feature requests that have been implemented to date.

http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged?tagnames=feature-request%20status-completed&sort=newest

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The point is that there is no place where we can see what features you intend to implement or when. The first time we hear about it, it's already done. I'm suggesting that you collect, in a single place, the things that you are planning to do ahead of time so people can see what's coming and give feedback on it knowing that it is planned to be implemented. Getting ideas is one thing, getting feedback on planned development is another. –  tvanfosson Aug 27 '09 at 3:58
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Sort by votes -- that's a pretty good indication of where our priorities are. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 27 '09 at 7:22
    
I'd like to assume that the former search also removes status-completed and status-planned: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/…. Or do you like to see all the nice things you've completed? –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 16 '11 at 21:21
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This seems to be motivated at least in part by the rather surprising (to most of us) change to answer sort order. The fact that it's a surprising is the problem. We don't need design by committee. SO doesn't need to be driven solely by community sentiment. But a community such as this needs to be consulted (like it was with the proposed and still pending change to downvote costs) or what is the point in it existing?

It seems that writing something externally is a far better way of getting the attention of SO, which I wrote about in Is StackOverflow Losing It’s Way?. This answer order change is one example of that. shog9 pointed out another in I Move to Close This Question. That one at least was with an SO user but seems to have happened over an email exchange rather than, say, through Uservoice, which was the place for such things at the time.

Meta isn't just a way of keeping this stuff off Stackoverflow. If it's ignored or just bypassed it'll have a detrimental affect on the SO community, in my opinion.

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I agree, and the recent change to random answer sorting is an excellent example of this.

In every FGITW thread before it, the community and the dev response was that we should encourage FGITW behavior and that two duplicate answers should be voted on by who got there first.

Now it looks like this has been reversed because of a few whiny newcomers overnight.

I would like to see these kinds of changes talked about in depth with more of an official tone once they are vetted with the community as a first pass.

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Probably someone has downvoted this in order to xerox it :) –  LeakyCode Aug 26 '09 at 20:09
    
@Mehrdad: I would not be surprised. –  GEOCHET Aug 26 '09 at 20:09
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I don't know if this is a horrible idea or not, but I'll put it out there just the same.

Perhaps we should attempt polling outside of meta? I'm thinking something along the lines of the informational banner at the top of the page which appears when browsing another SOFU site, saying something like "Your input is requested on an important topic at meta.stackoverflow.com..." with a link to the issue in question.

Perhaps make it appear at random for 1% of the visitors to SO? Only appear to people with a certain minimal rep? Only appear to people who have an active meta account?

Just trying to think of ways to "reach out" to the non-meta-using population at large and get their input.

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No problem with making it known/available outside of meta to increase participation. The actual discussion/post should be on meta, though. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:18
    
It would be nice if we had that functionality built right into meta. This might be a sellable option of stackexchange as well. –  GEOCHET Aug 26 '09 at 20:32
    
I guess at least one person thought this was a horrible idea. :) –  ベレアー アダム Aug 26 '09 at 22:00
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As discussed on a recent episode of hanselminutes registered users account for 10% of the traffic, Google accounts for most of the rest. I'd like to see a development outline as well but just because most people on meta think something should be done doesn't mean the vast majority of people who use the site would want that feature/change.

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That's totally correct, and others have pointed it out as well. However, it's really quite irrelevant. We don't know whether or not they would want any particular feature/change because they have not told us. In the absence of their explicit opinion, we can either do nothing (assuming that's what they want, again we don't know), or we can act based on the opinions of those who have chosen to participate. –  ベレアー アダム Aug 26 '09 at 20:35
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But what percent of the contributed answers? The real value of the site is in the contributed (and upvoted, to be precise) answers. People who invest in the site by contributing should be able to give input in a non-arbitrary fashion so that development reflects the features that contributors want rather than the developers. Early on for a site like this developers need to be driving development to generate features that draw people in. As the product matures, you need to let the customers drive the feature set so that you only implement those things are truly desired. –  tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 20:38
    
Oh not this lame argument again. If people don't vote, they don't get a voice. This in no way negates the vote of the people in the community who do want a voice. –  GEOCHET Aug 26 '09 at 20:40
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Elections are not thrown off when a vast majority of the population refuses to vote. Decisions are made by those who wish to engage themselves in the process. If you don't become engaged, your right to bitch and moan about things is rendered null and void. –  TheTXI Aug 26 '09 at 20:41
    
This is why, when there is a post being discussed here, I always post a link to the discussion on the post. –  Brad Gilbert Aug 26 '09 at 20:57
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This reminds me of my high school. When you reached Year 12 you were meant to be able to have some sort of voice in future developments to the school grounds.

Do you want a new oval? What do you think about turning this patch of grass into a music centre? etc etc.

And then, the school council would dutifully listen to everything we had to say, and then completely ignore it and do what they wanted anyway.

Why?

Because their ultimate goal was to pad their pockets with money (private school). SOFU is no different - just replace 'money' with whatever their highest held value is. Do we hold their best interests at heart? Probably not. We're far more interested in our interests.

Look familiar:

(First and last panels most relevant)

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I think that's a particularly negative and narrow viewpoint. From what Jeff and Joel have said in the past this is clearly not what they intend. –  Alex Angas Aug 27 '09 at 6:18
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