Without getting into specifics, I've noticed an extreme difference in the overall experience of a number of different Stack Exchange communities of which I am a member. Likewise I have personally experienced what I felt was a decline in quality and/or culture of some SE sites that I have been a member of for years. In some cases, I've attributed these feelings to specific policy changes and/or a change of enforcement of certain rules. In others, it seemed as if small cliques of members take over the site and shift the culture experience one way or the other. Still in other sites I feel as though the community as a whole is strong and the site seems to be in a state of growth.
Now these are all just my humble opinions and likely every other user has their own set of beliefs around the current experience of SE communities but it got me wondering:
What mechanism(s) currently exist outside of specific complaints around a particular answer/question/comment/user/moderator that allows the community to evaluate the overall health of the SE site?
And when I say health here I mean:
- Do the members feel that the site provides regular and valid answers to their questions?
- Do the members feel that differing views are welcomed?
- Do the members feel welcomed by the community and the environment?
- Do the members feel the moderators are performing their jobs well?
- Are members actively using the site or is there a decline in activity?
- Do the members feel that the mechanisms of StackExchange are completing the goals set forth by that particular community?
- Are the members happy with the scope and definition of the SE community?
- Do the members have any specific things they would like to see improved?
I personally love the data driven results sheet of the annual Stack Overflow Developer Survey and I can't help but wonder if something like that couldn't be similarly implemented in other sites on a quarterly, biannual or annual basis to gauge how members feel about the communities of which they are members? This information could be used to drive discussions on the site about possible improvements and act as a reinforcement to the moderators and superusers that the site is headed in the right direction.
Obviously something like this would need to be anonymous, need to be very well thought out (so as to be impartial) and be supported by the community as a whole. I'm curious, has anything like this ever been considered?
I wanted to respond the possible duplicate question. I agree there is cross-over and pragmatically (assuming this meta-survey is implemented) I would hope that this survey would evolve into the mechanism that I am envisioning. But I did want to highlight some specific perceived differences that popped out to me while I read the other question:
- Site Scope - I might have misread it but this question seemed to focus only on this Meta site. I'm hoping for a built-in routine mechanism for all Stack Exchange sites not just one in particular. In other words, functionality that would become as standardized and normal place as Q&A, comments and profile setup.
- Routine, In-built & Official - I think we are in sync with having a routine/repeating survey but I am hoping for something in-built to the system. I love the standard put in place for Moderator voting. Something like: "hey, the survey is open for a limited time" would be great. But whatever it is, it needs to be part of SE and blessed by the site.
- Target Scope - I feel strongly that any survey should be open to everyone so as not to limit people's voices... new users, superusers and moderators alike should be allowed to take it (and limited to one entry per account). Meta characteristics such as frequency of use and ranking would need to be included in figures to make real sense of the data. And obviously, convincing members (especially Developers & Security Experts) that their anonymity would still be maintained would be a challenge but I have seen this done in large corporations so I do believe it is possible. Without metadata, however, groups of individuals are either left out and/or the survey could be easily abused.
- Topic Scope - At the end of the day we have a lot of cross-over in topic but I don't want to downplay the culture angle. The satisfaction survey mentioned by Journeyman Geek below is much closer to my "Health Assessment" idea. At the end of the day new user experience and ideas for site improvements are absolutely necessary and I think in scope for both surveys. But I really want to make sure we are also capturing "culture" as well. Right now it feels like (at least to me) that you either love the site (at which point you invest the time to be a superuser or moderator) or you have to attack a specific problem example through the complain mechanism (which often doesn't address root cause or a general trend). By trying to look specifically at the overall experience of different groups of users and also comparing the results to historical experiences, I'm hoping to attack possible groupthink and give voice to members who might feel a little disenchanted or who would like to move the site in a different direction.
So in summary, I do think this might be a bit of a duplicate (honestly, I didn't see the other question before) but I feel like my idea might be separate enough to warrant additional discussion. I'll defer to the moderator/community, though, if we need to close this.