Update (Feb 17)
We're going to scrap this idea as presented. This is something that had been kicked around a bit for the last few months as we considered ways to communicate "This is what we've been doing and thinking about" types of things here on meta.
We're going to develop the idea a bit more and then propose something more thought out.
Following up on this answer that I wrote to a question wondering if the policy on political discussions had changed (and several other places), I indicated that setting 'announcement-y' type stuff apart from features, bugs and discussions was something we could do to lessen the dissonance folks feel when they find something from us that just .. doesn't look like everything else.
It's just super weird and confusing for us to present stuff to you that isn't really, well, a question alongside tools for you to close things that aren't really questions, and expect you not to close stuff that doesn't really fit.
This post itself is a great example of communication from us that's more dissertative or expository than socratic or mutually-engaging. While we very much welcome and encourage any feedback to this you'd like to provide to this, it isn't really a question, and it was posted mostly to inform folks of something that we're doing. It's a little different from everything else and that's confusing; it tends to bother folks that really care about things being in their proper place.
There are two kinds of communication that we as a company produce: things that are meant for the general public who typically aren't very familiar with the ins-and-outs of what we do (our blog), and things that are meant for the most engaged users on our platform (meta). While these things do often intersect, the Community Growth team is most focused on communication that needs to start here, which might ultimately make its way to the blog in some form.
As our team ramps up our efforts to engage more on our meta sites, we need a way to make certain kinds of communication feel less out of place. In order for that to happen, our software needs to better support it. To do that, we're implementing a new 'root' tag called announcement.
How does it work?
Only those with moderator privileges (regardless of employee status) can apply or remove the tag.
Questions posted with the tag will show a special message underneath:
This is an announcement from the Stack Overflow team; thanks for reading! We'd love to hear from you if you wish to leave a comment or an answer; you're also welcome to contact us directly to share any thoughts.
In addition, questions with this tag can't be closed, deleted or flagged as spam or abuse. However, this restriction only removes the close and spam / abuse flag options, and only applies to the question itself. All other functionality remains the same.
Why can't the community vote to close these types of questions?
Because closing them means that we preclude any additional answers from folks that have something that they'd like to tell us, which is something that simply can't happen.
Why can't the community flag these types of questions as spam or abusive?
Because they will have always been written by an employee which means that we're very certain that the posts are neither spam or abusive. We do not wish to risk communication being deleted and the employee posting it dealt a -100 rep penalty.
If you feel that something we've written doesn't fully align with our be-nice policy, there are many less destructive means to let us know.
Where will this be implemented?
This will be available on all child meta sites and here on Meta Stack Exchange. We expect to see it used mainly on Meta Stack Overflow and Meta Stack Exchange, along with some use on announcements during private beta periods for very new sites.
Occasionally, we get involved with a contest or event that's very specific to a particular community such as Gaming or others; we'd use this feature to announce the particulars on meta, and the blog to let people know it's happening in a more general way.
How often will it be used? What kinds of things can we expect to see?
From one to several times each month, approximately. As Jobs and Documentation continue to evolve at a rapid pace, Meta Stack Overflow might see several more each month. We'll keep the noise down and avoid redundant communication by editing in updates rather than posting something entirely new whenever possible.
If you love updates and have been wanting a way to easily get updates from the team, you can subscribe to and or favorite the tag. If you don't care to see things unless they're major, you can hide the tag and just watch for featured posts.
Will employees always use this tag when posting?
No. In fact most of the time discussion is what we're going to be using. This tag is for instances where we'd love feedback if folks had any, but don't really have any particular questions to ask or specific kinds of input that we need to build stuff.
Would real-world calls to action such as the SOPA or immigration thing use this?
We talked about this on Meta Stack Overflow. From that discussion, two things emerged that I think can help us move past that.
We aren't saying that we'll never need to come engage with you here, or on MSO, if something really serious is going on and we need to not just post something but also have a conversation with you.
In all cases going forward that we can currently envision, we'd probably use the blog, and if things get too crazy on the blog or too difficult to moderate (e.g. a lot of noise from people that aren't even users), create an announcement to open a discussion on meta instead.
If you have any questions, concerns, ideas you'd like to share or just a general opinion either good or bad about this feature, please let us know in comments or answers.
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