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Jeff and SO family...

Is it possible for you to create a clone of SO for testing out design changes on membership?

I am thinking that if we have a site that you can test user reaction to the proposed changes to the design before you implement - as we did with all the sites, including Fog Creek hosted sites, you may get a more favourable response?

To come to the site that you use a lot, and have invested time and effort (lots of us have been here since the beta) and the site content is our effort really, you will always get a highly emotive reaction to design changes that are done without consultation.

A clone that you can test on us might help adoption and reduce the fear that we feel.

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Meta was supposed to serve that role, unfortunately, there's a bit of a biased group of users here.

All the users of meta are power-users who have invested huge amounts of time in to the SO trilogy. As such, they do not fit the profile of a 'normal' user. Also, they will be attached to the normal way of doing things and therefore very opposed to change. (The answer ordering incident) As a result of this, the test group that you are using as your guinea pigs are not only not a fair sample of your typical user, they are in fact almost certainly atypical. That is not to say that they are wrong, but simply that the sampling method will not necessarily generate an accurate representation.

But in general, meta fulfills the role you described. People come here to suggest features (as you have done) and the meta community comments and hypothetically tests them out. Then Jeff and his crew make the final decisions.

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Not all Meta users are power users of the SOFU. – random Oct 2 '09 at 15:38
That's true, there's this one guy, named ran... Oh, hi. – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 15:43
Waaaaaaay too much time on Meta this guy => – random Oct 2 '09 at 15:54
The meta regulars (the people who would be evaluating changes) are all people who come here WAY too often. – devinb Oct 2 '09 at 16:01
@devinb: The only thing worse than being addicted to SO, is being addicted to the site that talks about SO. – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 16:05
I WIN THIS GAME – TheTXI Oct 2 '09 at 16:07
"I'm TheTXI, b_tch!" – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 16:10
@random: power user != invested user. – Joel Coehoorn Oct 2 '09 at 16:38
@Adam: its spelled b!tch :) – perbert Oct 2 '09 at 16:57

While I'm not a fan of a number of the more recent changes, I don't support this. There is nothing to be gained by such a site. You'll only have a small portion of the userbase bothering to try the test site. In fact, I'd wager the userbase would very closely match that of the meta regulars. And what's going to happen with each new change? They are going to be argued about here on meta, just as they are now. What have we gained, then? Sure, you avoid thrusting the occasional flop on the entire population, but that's hardly worth it.

What we ought to have is a discussion from the SO Team of upcoming changes before they go live. I'm not advocating that team must seek the approval of the users before a change can go live or anything of the sort. Just a feeling-out of what the users think of the idea. This would be an huge improvement of the current system where changes are sprung upon us, and we only figure out what happened when Jeff explains the reasoning in an answer to one of the many questions about the change.

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Perhaps one of the stackexchange sites could serve this purpose. Say, something like

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To come to the site that you use a lot, and have invested time and effort (lots of us have been here since the beta) and the site content is our effort really, you will always get a highly emotive reaction to design changes that are done without consultation.

I think you need to be a lot more specific about what you're referring to.

The SO community already has input into what we are working on.

Vote up your favorite [feature-request]s

Vote up your favorite [bug]s

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Well th adobe tag adverts - follow your blog and so blog - nothing on there about the changes, nor any discussion on changing the site look and feel. You asked us to vote for the inital site design which didn't have adverts. Granted you have to earn revenue but the user base helped you start with what worked for us. Most of the negative feedback about the tags is due to not working with on what it would look like. Due to not working with us means the worst we can imagine which isn't where you are thinking of. – littlegeek Oct 3 '09 at 14:34
Similar in feeling to the inline adverts which you tried early on and got extreme feedback on. When you introduce change to things that personal time invested, like posting questions and answers, we are the content of the site, it's personal feelings that you are ignoring. Leadership requires integrity to do things that are right. SO is the leader here, the game has been changed for you. It's now time to act like leaders. – littlegeek Oct 3 '09 at 14:39

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