When we first launched meta, something pretty amazing happened—we came together and defined what we feel is one of the most transparent and inclusive ways that a company can communicate with the people who use what it builds. We pretty squarely give credit to all of you for some of the best features that we've ever shipped, which were based on ideas that were ironed out here.

We are quite proud of how open, accessible and communicative we're able to be with the people that work hard with us to make our software as fantastic as it is. We're pretty confident that we communicate quite a bit better than most companies—but that luster dulls a bit when you consider just how low the average bar really sits. Being quite a bit better than awful isn't really being great. We need to do more; we need something else to fill in some gaps where we could do better at keeping folks in the loop and more involved in the longer haul to shipping.

We'd like to try something new, a monthly town hall style event in chat where we're able to get more immediate two-way communication with folks. We'll have the opportunity to give you more frequent updates about the stuff we're doing, discuss things that happened during the month, answer questions and just talk. Think of it like making a point to make sure that we sit down and have a long lunch together once each month.

The idea is taking form even as we announce it, and we're likely to try some variations in the format and time to get the right mix. Here's the sort of thing you can expect regardless of where the format settles:

  • Updates from us on stuff we've been doing. This is an upgrade from responding to a feature or discussion that was posted followed by three months of quiet and then all of a sudden something ships.
  • The opportunity for people to interact more with the community and engineering teams on a more personal level. You can get to know more of our community managers, developers, and even some of our product & engineering managers.
  • The opportunity for other people in our company that do amazing and interesting things but don't often interact on Meta to get to know you better.
  • A chance for us to talk about things that have been weighing since the last time we talked. Things can get kind of disjointed or lost in asynchronous comment ping conversations, this is a chance to catch up.
  • Fun, shenanigans, and possibly even some loot.

Now, let's chew on some nitty-gritty.

How will the event be moderated?

This is one of the things we expect to have to tweak before we find what works the best. What we can't have is everyone talking over each other carrying on 15 independent conversations. Talking-stick style moderation (someone tells you when it's your turn to talk, and everyone else should respect the flow of conversation while you do) is probably the best way to go—but let's see as we go.

When and where will the event take place?

We'll be meeting in the Tavern on Thursday, May 5th, at 3pm EDT, for an hour. Here's a handy tool for figuring out what time that is in your part of the globe.

What are we going to talk about?

We could use your help compiling a list of topics you want us to make time for. Like event moderation, the process for determining agendas will involve playing around until we get the right mix. Getting a list of preferred items beforehand, which will inform the first few events, will be a big help. Maybe you want to pick our brains about the launch of Documentation, or our future goals, or comment moderation, or something else entirely. We'll be weighing a few different priorities and voting from folks here on suggested topics will be a huge determining factor.

See you on Thursday, May 5th!

Update: Our first event was held yesterday, and the topic was comment culture, as suggested by Monica. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and helped us give this a spin. The team is now considering what to tweak and improve about the format for a second town hall next month. Stay tuned!

  • Has this to be about network wide issues or can we zoom-in on a specific site?
    – rene
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:17
  • If nice moderation is done to help prevent chat-threading by multiple users, then I see that this is a wonderful idea :)
    – Dawny33
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:17
  • 1
    @rene We want to be helpful to as many people as possible, so we'll mostly stay away from site-specific matters...however, if there's a site-specific situation which can be tied back to other communities in the network, that might fit very nicely. Basically, try and make it generalizable.
    – Ana
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:21
  • 1
    @Dawny33 I think chat threading is more a symptom than an actual ill here, but I do hear what you're saying and yes, we're all going to need to work together to handle the flow of conversation smoothly and ensure there's a lot more signal than noise. I think we can pull it off though.
    – Ana
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:34
  • 1
    I'm not sure if that's enough time for me to gather together enough funny imaeg to spam the chat with. Can you push it a couple days?
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    @Ana I figure this'll happen anyway, but can we get a link to the correct spot in the transcript posted somewhere nice and visible, for those of us who won't be able to make it that day? Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:43
  • 8
    @Won't You don't look that hard these days, do you?
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 17:47
  • 1
    Shouldn't this be made featured to attract more attention and appear in all sites? Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 20:47
  • 8
    @ShadowWizard: Probably not. Chat events really don't scale well. For the purposes of this pilot test, I personally am more interested in attracting the right people than in attracting many people. Maybe next time. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 22:13
  • 3
    Someone going to block those damn bots during the session? Or are you going to talk around them spamming?
    – random
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 2:50
  • 4
    @random the Charcoal team is looking into how we can disable Smokey without having to disable it in its other rooms.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 6:00
  • 5
    As Documentation is an SO-only thing right now, I would not consider it a good topic for this.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 7:11
  • 3
    Shouldn't the entry under "upcoming events" in the sidebar link here for now instead of to the Tavern ? I think it would be more helpful to link to this post instead of to the chatroom (at least for now), so that folks know what it is and when. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 18:10
  • 1
    Going off of what Jonas mentioned, I've been seeing the "Town Hall" announcement in the sidebar all week, but that was just a link to chat which had no information on what this was about. Only with some kind of bump did this topic surface today. Can you find some way to better link this description for next time?
    – Troyen
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:34
  • 1
    it will be great to increase the usage/ status of chat from its somewhat peripheral role/ status within SE, have long thought it has a lot of potential yet is underutilized, there are really only a few chat rooms that stay busy SE wide and many sites have nearly dead rooms. for example as another idea for increasing usage, on Physics there is some recent idea of inviting high profile guests, and eg this is a very big deal on reddit "ask me anything" etc. here is another example of ideas/ efforts to build on it SE CS/ math chat usage/ highlights
    – vzn
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 18:02

7 Answers 7


I propose that we discuss:

How to maintain quality in the face of increasing popularity.

As more and more people discover Stack Exchange, it becomes harder and harder to guide them and help them create quality content.
The problems that Stack Overflow is currently facing, will eventually manifest on other SE sites as they grow bigger.

Stack Exchange introduced the review queues, apparently to keep the increasing amount of activity under control. Shortly after it needed review audits, to keep the reviewers under control.

Quality control doesn't seem to scale very well to Stack Overflows popularity. I'm hoping for some innovative ideas that may help us solve this.

  • 6
    This fits with a topic I was going to propose. Perhaps we can discuss how the SE Quality Project (meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/se-quality-project) and (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/se-quality-project) are proceeding. Are there new changes coming either in terms of policy or technology to assist with some of the quality related "problems"
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:12
  • what is evidence that SE is not scaling well, or are you referring mainly to SO? for SE there is a lot of evidence quite to the contrary. there are over a hundred sites, and each site mostly manages quality control separately/ independently. all sites are growing in hits etc. there are some large sites that have bigger quality control issues, but arguably some quality issues are not a crosscutting concern. obvious/ glaring problems eg spam is virtually nonexistent. apparently the software scales exceptionally well esp based on compartmentalization into separate sites, mod efforts, etc
    – vzn
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 18:12
  • 1
    @vzn Note that my words about scaling are indeed about Stack Overflow. I believe that the problems that SO is facing now, will affect the other sites in the network as they grow. Commented May 5, 2016 at 18:43
  • 1
    I know that Ask Ubuntu is facing a lot of similar problems to SO as we grow.. It's not just isolated to SO (although they have the most and biggest problems)
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:30

Let's talk about comments and the culture around them.

We say we're not a forum, but on many sites discussions -- sometimes long, sometimes hostile, sometimes wildly tangential -- happen in comments. When moderators clean those up, some people complain -- on meta or in additional comments. When comments are moved to chat, people are reluctant to continue there.

We can talk about technical changes to handle comments, and I've proposed some, but our fundamental challenge might be cultural, not technical. A constructive conversation among users who want to let a thousand comments bloom and those who want to clean up anything irrelevant immediately, and all the positions in between, might help us all understand each other a little better. Assuming the heavy commenters are willing to come to chat.

  • Would this also include discussing the 50 point threshold for commenting? IIRC it was hinted on MSO once that SO (the company) had been looking at alternatives for this threshold. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 20:50
  • @S.L.Barth sure, why not? My proposal is pretty general and can be shaped by the CMs and the people participating in the chat. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 20:55
  • 1
    Haven't we talked about comments enough in the past years? Comments aren't supposed to live forever. Those who don't get it are usually new to the site. Afar from that, commenting is usually part of the site culture. It's different on every part of SE and there's no right way to do it (just a lot of wrong ways, as long as you stay clear of those you're fine). Changing culture in the first town hall talk seems ambitious.
    – Mast
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 21:12
  • 3
    @Mast maybe that's true on the sites you frequent, but on some of mine we have people with more than 20k rep who consistently misuse comments. SE can say what comments are and aren't for until the cows come home, but there are users -- experienced ones, not just newbies -- who disagree and refuse to follow that guidance. Maybe they're bristling at the authority or maybe they have real reasons; having a conversation rather than a policy discussion seems like it could help people understand each other. If it's not a problem on your sites, congratulations! Commented May 1, 2016 at 2:24
  • @MonicaCellio It looks like we'll be digging into this topic during the MSE Town Hall tomorrow. Are there any posts about comments you've found particularly relevant over the years?
    – Ana
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:14
  • 1
    A large part of the reluctance to use chat may be it feels totally disconnected from the actual site. Instead of solely comment moderation, perhaps also invest in tech so having a thread continue in chat be just as seamless as continuing under a post, if not a better experience altogether.
    – Troyen
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:39
  • 1
    @Ana on Workplace: what comments are not, get a room, our comments problem. On MSE: etiquette, moderation. Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:57
  • @MonicaCellio Thanks!
    – Ana
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 16:03
  • simple advice to users who like to comment on stuff/ discuss: go to chat rooms
    – vzn
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 18:17
  • Would've replied in chat, but missed the TH and the conversation has moved on. Why do people not use chat? 1. Separate from the main site, totally different UI, etc. 2. Much harder to follow a multi-person chat room than a few comment threads - see the disaster in trying to read the TH transcript. 3. Navigation is weird. Some links send you to a transcript, some to a live room and it's unpredictable which. If I just want to view, why kick me into a room and have a visual announcement I'm reading your comments?
    – Troyen
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 0:47
  • 4. Retention is inconsistent. Lots of text say chat transcripts are permanent, but rooms can expire/be deleted. Comments are there until someone flags/self-deletes. 5. Don't have full context from the Q and A and related Q's. 6. Harder to follow/check back "later" - I can favorite a question, haven't figured out how to favorite a room. All of these are much more trouble to deal with than simply typing in a box and clicking "add comment". (Maybe your question should be posted as a question for others to chime in? Don't think people who don't use chat would respond in chat.)
    – Troyen
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 0:50

I propose for the agenda to discuss:

A guide to moderating chat

The main topic could be:

  • (How) can chat be used effectively for a specific goal/purpose on the main site without causing friction from users, meta-crowd, moderators or the CM-team?
  • How do Room Owners make sure the rooms stays within the community limits?

I think specially about rooms geared to moderating like SOCVR but other rooms accept cv-pls or take Smoke Detector reports as well.


Agenda proposal:

What are the current and to-be-expected developments on the site and the various apps?

I often see users frustrated that changes are made without prior notice or nothing seems to happen, like on the Android app development.

Can we discuss / hear the current forecast on features and priorities of the development team? Maybe some community input on what is really important (to the community) and what not.

  • Is your proposal inspired by this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/263662/… ?
    – rene
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:38
  • Not on purpose, but that is a nice question. SE is looking for input, and I think the informal setting is useful to get this kind of information without making a meta post from it which is a little to rigid I think. @rene Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:41
  • 2
    This isn't a bad idea for guests from folks working on Mobile. I don't think we can do this on the first or second event, possibly the third if things go as well as we anticipate.
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 15:51

Let's talk about:

The Site Graduation Process:
Almost a year ago, the Community Team posted about "Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites"

In the following 4 months, Design Independent Graduation underwent community feedback and was established in September

Some people in the team have been hinting at wanting to remove graduation entirely, like:

"Yes, I am proposing to remove the whole graduation thing." -> I agree. I think that's probably in the works down the road. Like Ana said: this is the first step. We haven't made any changes to this process in 5 years, and we're finally re-examining it now. It used to be one step. Now it's two steps (phases). We'll keep working on it, and it will be more steps soon. - abby hairboat, here

The whole concept of waiting for "graduation" to get the features you need is too restrictive… no matter what you call it.

Instead, we should be looking at unbundling all the features that communities can really use when they have sufficient support to use them effectively. - Robert Cartaino, here and in very similar words here

What's the status on that? What's the take on it in communities that are still in beta?


My proposal:

Should we remove VLQ as a flag option?

This has bothered me for a long time, but I didn't realize just how big an issue it is until becoming an SO mod.

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to removing VLQ?
  • What purpose does it currently serve?
  • If we do remove them, what should we replace them with?

This is not an agenda proposal, but a suggestion for the process.

In terms of moderating the event, would it make sense to have designated event moderators? These would be people - who don't even necessarily have to be existing moderators or staff - whose role is purely to moderate the flow.

That would make sure we have an environment where conversation flow is controlled enough that we don't just have people talking over each other.

I would suggest that these people aren't CM's/devs/etc (or at least not those who are participating), because then the staff are left free of moderation to be able to engage with users, and can rely on the event moderators to keep the conversation on track.

I would also recommend that these people are made room owners for the duration of the event, so that they have kick-mute powers if necessary.

  • 4
    Good call, we're already thinking pretty much the same thing. Current plan is to have a designated moderator from the SE staff whose entire purpose will be to moderate, while a few other folks on the team are setting aside this time and putting their whole attention into taking part in the discussion.
    – Ana
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 20:37
  • @Ana makes sense, and then I guess they also have mod powers if they're necessary.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 20:45
  • Tavern does have Room Owners who are not mods/CMs/Devs. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:51
  • @Sunshine I'm aware of that, but it wouldn't necessarily be them who moderate.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:53

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