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I just wanted to express that I don't like the style of moderation on meta.stackoverflow.com, to the point where it frequently actually gets me quite worked up, which shouldn't happen on an online forum.

Don't get be wrong, stackoverflow.com itself is excellent, and I truly enjoy contributing there. It's only because I love stackoverlow so much that I want to come to meta.stackoverflow and contribute here.

I have served as community administrator for a large online tech community of over 3 million members, and I would say that the other tech-related community where my contributions have felt least welcome has been meta.stackoverflow.com (and before that, stackoverflow's uservoice site).

It wouldn't be fair for me to say this without offering details and perhaps some suggestions:

  • When refusing someone's suggestion or bug report because it would be too hard to fix or you don't want to take SO in that direction, at least write a personal response outlining why, even if you feel like you're repeating yourself. Don't just close a topic or add the declined or bydesign tag with no further comment on why. When you have spent 20 minutes writing a thoughtful suggestion and you refresh the page 3 minutes later to find it has a declined tag and no explanation, and all this happens before anyone's been able to even have a conversation about it, it feels like the effort you put into contributing hasn't been appreciated.
  • Don't close a topic for being an exact duplicate of another if it's not quite the same. It seems commonplace for similar but not really the same topics to be closed for this reason, maybe this is just Jeff's "style" of grouping topics or something, but I find it extremely head-bangingly frustrating to refresh the page 3 minutes later and see my topic has been closed because it's too similar to another one even when I've referenced the other one in my topic and taken the time to explain the differences between them and why it needs a different approach.
  • Trust the nomination system a bit more - it's a good model, and works well on other SO sites. It just feels pretty crummy when Jeff insta-closes a topic without needing the otherwise required 5 people to nominate. I think for people to feel appreciated you at least need to give the impression that you value their contribution enough to get a few more people's opinions before you flat-out refuse it. I think if your topic gets nominated by 5 of your peers in order to get closed you are more likely to take the rejection well. I can understand if Jeff doesn't want to go in every direction the community goes, but leaving a topic unresolved while the community discusses it, and only rejecting once that's happened, would go a long way toward letting people feel their contribution is valued.

Lastly, I don't really think using the SO software for meta.stackoverflow.com really works (and I have a funny feeling that simply saying this is going to get this post closed as a duplicate of another). You may have noticed I've used the terms topic, issue and bug interchangeably through this, but not really question and answer. Meta doesn't really fit that question-answer format because it's so much more eg 'discussions', 'bug reports'.

Any I hereby nominate that this question should be closed because it belongs on meta.meta.stackoverflow.com

share|improve this question
I'll nit. Meta Stack Overflow is for questions about the Stack Overflow family of websites, which in fact includes Meta Stack Overflow itself. –  Grace Note Jul 6 '10 at 16:19
+1 for using [meta-meta] correctly on the first attempt –  Jon Seigel Jul 6 '10 at 16:21
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/27268/… –  Gnoupi Jul 6 '10 at 16:26
While I can pick at your history, it generally helps to provide links to instances of moderation leading to negative experiences. –  Grace Note Jul 6 '10 at 16:26
+1. My highest-voted answer on meta is for "What is a bad feature of Stack Overflow?" suggesting that many others also agree. –  Ether Jul 6 '10 at 16:32
"frequently actually gets me quite worked up, which shouldn't happen on an online forum." Seriously? Have you seen many of the other forums on the internet? Meta is actually pretty easygoing. We all get downvoted and status-declined sometimes, but that's life. –  C. Ross Jul 6 '10 at 16:36
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6959/… –  Kip Jul 6 '10 at 18:05
+1 finally someone said it, no one has ever opposed Jeff this openly... it was time fro oasdfjas fadsf asdf .... .... .... tu tu tu tu tu –  jmfsg Jul 6 '10 at 18:09
It'd be hilarious if THIS question gets tagged [status-bydesign]. Actually no, that'd be sad =( –  polygenelubricants Jul 7 '10 at 20:14

2 Answers 2

In your case, it seems that you got hit twice with moderator-close which is, quite frankly, very unlucky.

As Gnoupi mentioned there are many issues which have been 'talked to death' on meta. So for the Meta regulars, the 'answer' or accepted conclusion seems obvious. It is something we often forget, that many users aren't familiar with meta and wouldn't necessarily know about the previous discussions. The feeling that meta is an unwelcoming black box is something that we endeavour to change, certainly.

However, it doesn't necessarily mean that the users have time to go through every duplicate post and re-write the answers. Nor should they, there are search features for a reason, and closing as duplicate for a reason as well. Assuming good-faith means that I can assume that you already attempted to search and didn't find your suggestion.

As a possible resolution, I would suggest an item in the FAQ that looks like this

Why was my feature request/bug declined or closed without explanation?

MetaStackOverflow has been around for a while, and as a result, many issues have been considered in the past.
If your feature request has been marked as [status-bydesign] or [status-declined] without a comment, it is likely because there is another question that approaches the same topic and a conclusion has been reached.
Perhaps you could try searching for your idea with different search terms, hopefully that will find the original discussion.

Obviously, the language of that is all sloppy and whatnot, but the idea is there.

As for your claim that the SO engine is not suited for discussion, the factual evidence to the contrary is all around you. I will not claim that it is designed for bug-reporting, or that it is in any way better than the commercial products, however, we have proved that it works by using it successfully for a year.

As you mention, you've used "bug","topic" and "issue" interchangeably. This is what makes MSO work. Because whether it be a bug, topic, or issue, there is still a 'root' of discussion, and then a series of responses or replies. This much MSO can do very easily, in fact it was designed for it. Obviously, back and forth is very difficult, but possible through the use of comments.

Is MetaStackOverflow perfect? No.
Could we be more welcoming? Absolutely.
Has the experiment failed? Absolutely not.

share|improve this answer
Wow, so that's what my answer would have looked like with proper thinking and formatting. +1 –  Gnoupi Jul 6 '10 at 18:59
ok, I'll add this to the meta /faq -- great suggestion! –  Jeff Atwood Jul 6 '10 at 20:42
This has now been added to the meta FAQ. –  Grace Note Jul 7 '10 at 11:55
Assuming good faith does not mean assuming knowledge. Not everyone knows to search first, although that is common forum practice. Not every search will be thorough enough to find all related or duplicate results. More importantly, people have a curiosity/excitement tilt when they come up with a question, thinking it is 'new' and 'worth asking'. Those are important instincts, because they dive the entire Q and A dynamic. Best to respond to users who fail to search first with a response that doesn't ignore or dismiss their genuine interest in contributing and getting a good answer. –  Ocaasi Aug 6 '10 at 4:20

Ultimately, you have to remember that Jeff, and the team in general, has the last word on feature requests, for a good reason: they're the ones who have to implement them. If they don't want or can't implement it, I don't see why they should "go easy on the moderation". I prefer to know quickly that my feature request is refused, instead of losing my time fighting for it.

The only frustrating effect is the "status-by-design" for broken things.

The use of Stack Exchange for the Meta site is not ideal, but it works. It also allows to limit a bit the endless discussions, thanks to the fact that it's painful to follow a discussion in comments. I see this as a plus: less pointless and endless arguments. I usually stop answering comments after the 6th on in a row.

About the duplicates, think also that some topics have been discussed many times on Meta, like for example the "mod privilege for other sites if I have them on one site". These are topics which have been talked about for a long time, and reached a limit of debate. This is why they get closed fast.

I agree that Meta is hardly the most welcoming place from all the sites, but it doesn't really matter, it's only a back room. It doesn't have to answer to the same criteria of "niceness" as the other sites.

share|improve this answer
This answer has been written at the end of my work day. My thinking capacity shrunk. It is obviously inconsistent and messy, and language is probably awful as well. Anyone with 2000 of reputation feel free to edit that if it's really disturbing (since it's a personal opinion, it doesn't make sense to make it CW). –  Gnoupi Jul 6 '10 at 16:45
The mod privilege one is actually a somewhat ironic example for this question. Complaint about closing without proper question analysis, yet the argument against the closing doesn't show proper analysis of the parent question. –  Grace Note Jul 6 '10 at 17:29

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