The most recent trend on Meta Stackoverflow has been to complain about the new features.
Jeff has stated repeatedly that he will not ever implement any sort of global notification system. (I can't find the direct link right now, help?)
I agree that a global notification would be overkill for the vast majority of users who are simply not interested in minute changes that don't affect them. However, when changes do affect them, the average users do not know what changed or why.
Here are some ideas which have been rejected in the past. (Legend: Suggestion summary of problem with suggestion)
Point Them To The Blog: has been suggested. However, the blog is a largely unfocused collection of StackOverflow/Exchange related topics, which will not necessarily help users when they are only interested in what has just changed and why.
Monthly Summary has been suggested. However, Jeff has stated that he will not do anything that would notify/interfere/irrelevantly-distract normal everyday users of the site, and a newletter falls squarely in that category.
Publicize release notes, SVN Check-Ins This option has two problems, first that it does amount to a notification (which Jeff objects to) and also it runs aground the problem of "too much information". The check-in comments are not truly relevant, we are only concerned about new features, not the rest of the release notes.
Meta Search for [Status-Completed] This is Jeff's own suggestion. He says that the most recent items marked as "Status Completed" will capture very well what has recently changed. This is fairly close to accurate, however it fails largely in its consistency. Because we are marking feature requests as complete, and each feature request is written by a different user with a different style, and quite possible extensive discussion, it is often unclear which parts of the "feature request" have been implemented.
Community Answer on meta with a list of changes. This is a strong option, so I'll consider it separately.
Community Change Tracking
There are a few problems with this solution.
The Community (without inside help) does not know all the changes. They have to discover them, and then figure out whether or not it is a bug. If a lot of people see it, or we get confirmation from a developer, then we call it a "new feature".
The Community answer is very difficult to find, because it is currently an answer that is sitting on a Feature Request, and the feature request is related in spirit, but a search of the site would probably not find it. The search terms for "recent changes" would not find "Monthly Summary of Changes", which is where the answer is currently located.
The Community is not very organized. While the answer linked is fairly well organized and linked, it is not very readable in terms of a clear presentable format of the style Date, Change, Change Description. This is because it is subject to the formatting of whichever user gets there first. It is community wiki, and therefore also subject to the whims of anyone who wants to put the time into reformatting it, which of course makes it inherently unstable.
This brings me to my solution.
Jeff's Change List
I would suggest that at the footer of the site, there be "Recent Changes" link.
When you click there it would go to a Meta Question which consists entirely of
[Date] [Change Title]
- One or two line change summary
- Related Links: (community)
I imagine that this would likely not be done by Jeff at all, but rather by Robert Cartaino who is the appointed "Community Liaison Officer".
And, the community (or Robert) could add links to relevant Meta Feature Requests or StackOverflow Blog posts.
This has a few benefits.
It is easily discoverable, because it has a link at the bottom of every page.
It does not rely on the StackOverflow team to track down all of the relevant links. They're busy people.
It does not rely on hearsay or accidentally discovering things that have been changed. Robert will announce things when they are changed, along with a summary of the details, likely pointing to the SO blog which has the full information. Rather than just a link to the FR which (as mentioned earlier) might not be 100% accurate.
All the information is concisely presented in one location. You do not need to search the entire blog for only the StackOverflow changes, you can just go to this place.
It is consistent. Because it will be the same person describing/transcribing the changes, you know that his terminology, descriptions and information won't vary from change to change.
It does not interrupt or interfere with the normal usage of the site, because the users only need to click there when they are curious. It could have an RSS feed, but that would be opt in rather than opt out.