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We moderators regularly need to contact a CM, for example because we have a question about a particular issue or we need someone with more abilities and tools at their disposal.

The most common way to contact a CM is to ping one of them in the moderator chat room. There is a bot that helps finding a CM, a typical response from this bot looks like the following:

I'm aware of 14 community managers. Currently in this room: Shog9, Pops, bluefeet, JNat. Not currently in this room: Jon Ericson, Gabe, Robert Cartaino, animuson, Grace Note, Jaydles, abby hairboat, samthebrand, jmac, Ana.

The problem with this is that the response isn't all that helpful without additional knowledge, it is even a bit misleading. If this is morning in the EU timezones, pinging Shog9 in this case wouldn't be the best option, he's very likely to be sleeping. I know this because I have a rough idea in which timezone many of the CMs are, but that shouldn't be necessary.

Another issue is that not all CMs are equal. There are a handful that tend to handle most of the communication with the moderators, and other that tend to do other stuff that isn't talking directly with the moderators. Pinging a CM that very likely won't handle the issue themselves just introduces another delay and another step before the right CM is notified.

There are two ways to solve this, either making the bot a bit smarter in recommending who to ping, or converting the whole thing into a queue where CMs can pick which ping to respond to.

The first and simpler option would be to take timezones and recent activity into account and let the bot make a better suggestion on who to ping. The activity graph for users in chat already exists and can show the typical activity of a user, using that information for the bot could help avoiding pinging CMs outside their timezone. The bot should probably also use any available way to check if a CM is actually active on the computer, the "present in chat room" check is pretty much useless. And as a third point, the bot should maybe also prioritize the CMs that are specifically tasked with moderator support over the CMs that have other responsibilities.

The other option would be to switch the bot to a "ping any CM" action. So we mods wouldn't ping a specific CM, but request any of the CMs to respond. This ping would either be in their regular inbox, or some other queue visible to all the CMs. A CM can then pick a specific ping and respond to it, which removes it from the queue for all other CMs.

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    Closely related - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/122770/…. This queues up a message from a user's profile. Do this from a post would cover everything, – ChrisF Sep 14 '15 at 13:58
  • Is the bot out of date? Sam Brand changed the title to Product Manager and was moved to Engineering Team on the company page. On the other hand, Nicolas Chabanovsky and JuanM are not listed. Possibly because they focus on lang-SO sites, but so do Gabe and jmac... – user259867 Sep 14 '15 at 17:40
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    @NormalHuman The whois bot in TL is notoriously broken. We've had devs in the CM list, CMs in the SO list, devs in the SU list, everything. It's weird, but we've mostly learned to live with it. – Undo Sep 14 '15 at 22:55
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+100

I don't have a satisfying answer to this, and not even enough stuff cooking to stick on this yet, but I'm sticking a placeholder answer on here to let y'all know that we're working on it.

CM communications are a bit of a clusterfork right now. For example: why do certain things go to team@, certain things go right to community@, and still further things go to TL chat pings? Because that's how we did it when we had 50 sites and 5 CMs, and it worked fine then. Fast forward, though, and now we've got 150 sites and a Community Growth team of 16. We've long since blown past the scale for which most of our processes were intended, and a lot of them are bursting at the seams.

So we've got a few people on the team trying to unravel the sweater and use the thread to knit us something better and more functional. In particular, we want to focus on:

  • Making sure moderators know exactly whom to contact, for what, and how to do so
  • Making sure moderators get quick responses - even if the response is just "I have to look at this tomorrow, my dog is on fire, sorry"
  • Empowering moderators to handle issues on their sites themselves as much as possible, but making sure they have a straightforward way to escalate when necessary

There are also pieces to this like "unfork team@" and "why do we have so many dang google groups", but the bits above are relevant here - and at the top of the priority list.


Update, December 2015:

I've got no concrete news here, but I do have some vague progress I can share. We're currently getting a bunch of ducks in a row this month so that things are lined up for us to test a new team process in January. The process is one that will allow us to do at least one (and hopefully both) of two things:

  1. Respond or react to each drop in the flood of information CMs get daily more promptly (like, within days or a week, instead of weeks or a month); and/or
  2. Identify and isolate the specific issues or channels that gum up the works, so we know more concretely what's working and what's not.

Again, I have no tangible progress to report here, but I hope we will in... well, 6-8 weeks.

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    In the words of the ancients, "If you want to destroy my sweater... ping my name at 4am..." – Shog9 Sep 14 '15 at 16:56
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    "why do we have so many dang google groups" We have Google groups? – Undo Sep 14 '15 at 22:47
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    @Undo Sure do. Most @stackoverflow.com or @stackexchange.com email addresses that aren't one person's name are just Google groups we use as distribution lists (basically). The CM team has an absurd number of them for different alerting purposes. – hairboat Sep 14 '15 at 22:59
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    @Undo, you just didn't notice those groups because you are on fire. You'll have to look at it tomorrow. – Andy Sep 15 '15 at 3:08
  • Historically, how many CMs' dogs have caught fire? – Rand al'Thor Mar 9 '17 at 2:29
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A first step would be if CMs who are not available left the room or just closed their browser (which causes them to automatically leave the room somewhat later).

This is certainly not perfect, but can be easily implemented.

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