53

It's nice to be here!

Hello, fellow humans! My name is Juan M and I’ve served as the Community Manager of Stack Overflow en español as well as the Manager for the International Stack Overflow communities. I realize that many of you have never heard of me or my roles at Stack Overflow and that’s likely due to the fact that I’ve spent the majority of my time contained within the International Stack Overflow communities and overseeing their needs. However, those days of multilingual confinement have come to an end and my box has been opened so that I can peruse the rest of the SE network.

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That being said, it is my privilege to announce that the company has decided to dedicate me to work on the entire Stack Exchange network including the International Stack Overflow sites. It’s time to bring both branches of our communities together! The International Stack Overflow sites have always been a cherished part of our network and we are going to formalize their position in the network. This union requires that we open up more space for Community Managers to enter the arena and provide support to our members. This also means that in the coming months, I’ll have an opportunity to get to know more of you! So, you may ask, what does this mean for the community members? That’s a great question...

How Will This Work?

I’ll be running a small team of two or three Community Managers who will help me to identify areas of need where we can improve organically. My team and I will scour the network and look for areas where engagement and energy can be increased. To engage our community members, we need to find ways to involve and reinvigorate people who have joined us and continue to participate in any one of our sites. This of course, looks very different from site to site, but the goal will remain to bring meaningful content to every person who logs in while maintaining the quality standards we’ve set. Energizing communities will involve bringing more eyes to our sites, primarily on the Metas of each of the communities. We won’t be able to solve every problem presented to us but we will have a dedicated team looking at these problems, not as isolated instances, but as network-wide issues. We need to find ways to create perpetual motion using our members’ knowledge base and friendly dispositions to encourage maturity and expansion.

But, as you know, we have a lot of sites! This is going to take some time as we sort, categorize, and begin to work with the communities to improve and uncover the untapped awesomeness there. More updates to come!

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I believe that our network is second to none and that the quality of members we have here is unmatched. We’ve known of the need to give our Stack Exchange network some love and this is a positive step in that direction. Let’s continue to connect each other to great information and great people!

In the Meantime...

I’d like to know which sites you think we should look at first - what sites make you feel like they could hit a much higher potential with a little more help from us? Do you have some hunches, or evidence of larger communities we might be able to attract? As mentioned, we’re going to start categorizing and breaking down the network into manageable chunks. So, where would you recommend we begin to carve the turkey?

Related

  • 9
    Best wishes and good luck with your efforts:) – Martin James Jul 16 '18 at 21:51
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    Could you set a reminder to provide an update on what you have done in X months? That way we can see progress even if we never see your name pop up in our individual sites? – hazzey Jul 17 '18 at 14:07
  • 1
    @hazzey You mean something like the DAG team's monthly updates? (reference) – Catija Jul 17 '18 at 14:33
  • @hazzey I like the idea but it won't be monthly, there's too much to do and we'll need more time to see results. But, yes, this is a great suggestion! – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 19:37
  • 1
    TIL the sun is actually very tiny, loves wine, and will scratch you if you try to rub the tummy. – Won't Jul 17 '18 at 19:51
  • 1
    Why is this question not featured? – Pandya Jul 25 '18 at 3:00
  • Are you going to be hiring more CM's thus increasing headcount, or are you goin to be pulling them from elsewhere for this new team? (You mention having 2-3, maybe they're already decided?) – djsmiley2k Jul 25 '18 at 14:40
  • Gardening site might be a good idea. Contributed there in the past...cricket..cricket. Might be a small idea to get with companies that relate to the site and see if there would be any incentives to the users. For instance, get with Scotts lawncare and feature them on the gardening site. Members get some sort of coupon... – JonH Jul 25 '18 at 16:28
  • 2
    Congratulations and good luck, Juan! – Pops Jul 26 '18 at 0:09
  • @Pops Thank you!! – Juan M Jul 30 '18 at 15:59
  • This topic is now 6 month old. Is there any update? Is it time for a Part 3? Have you made any progress, improvements, or breakthroughs? – hazzey Feb 6 at 20:21
39

How about older beta sites?

I'll just use Astronomy as an example, since it's one of my home bases, but my points should apply to a whole cohort of sites that all have a few things in common:

  • They've been around for some years (we're coming on five, I think).
  • They're not struggling when it comes to questions per day - maybe getting 3 to 5, 3 to 7, something like that - but they're not up near 10 or 12, either.
  • They have a non-negligible community, where people are constantly reviewing, asking an answering - it's not just a dozen or so people using the site.
  • They get okay amounts of outside traffic, with some jumps (for Astronomy, we get flares when something like the 2017 eclipse happens, or LIGO detects something new).
  • They seem to be staying kinda the same in terms of size and activity.

What frustrates me here is that these sites have, as far as I can tell, the community and the potential to grow and develop. And we've tried to give them some little nudges towards raising question rates and community initiatives, but they haven't taken root. I think these sites need a bit of a firmer push - a little more oomph than we the mods or the community can give them.

Honestly, maybe all that they need is a CM or two saying "Hey, we want to help y'all grow a bit. We've got some resources behind us and we want to tackle some problems." I think that alone could make a world of difference - community-specific help. After a few years, we get less support or engagement from the Community Team (although mods can ask for help when needed with really specific stuff). And it kind of feels like we're all on our own after we go into public beta, until - maybe, if we're lucky - something like graduation comes along. But in the intervening years, we're alone.

So, I think even just having a CM stick their head in and start something on meta would do a world of good to let people know SE wants to continue to grow and develop the site. And a CM sticking their head in and saying that they want to apply some resources - no matter what that means - could be huge.

Also, thanks! I think that this new initiative could be really beneficial to a lot of people, whatever it turns into.


Other examples of older beta sites for which their moderators/communities feel benefit could come from this initiative are:

  • 14
    Hear hear! I'm a moderator on Writing, another long-time beta site that has lots of good content, lots of daily visitors, a good community -- and <10qpd, which means no advancement for us. We're not sure how to grow further on our own. When we asked for help recently, it took 2.5 months (and several pings) to get a disappointing response. I can't speak for the rest of the users/mods, but I feel kind of neglected and abandoned. – Monica Cellio Jul 16 '18 at 20:15
  • Astronomy Domine :) – Martin James Jul 16 '18 at 21:49
  • Hope you don't mind me including links to Writing, BoardGames and Genealogy at the bottom of your answer. I moderate the latter. – PolyGeo Jul 16 '18 at 22:06
  • @PolyGeo I saw - sounds good to me! It's probably good to build up a list of potential candidates, within reason. – HDE 226868 Jul 16 '18 at 22:09
  • 1
    There is Hinduism too which is older than 4 years whose stats in QPD are ok but needs work in % of answers. We also seek guidance from the team in site self moderation and related concepts. – Nog Shine Jul 17 '18 at 3:16
  • This applies to Pets too. Public beta was 4 years ago, we get very healthy visitor numbers but don't hit the target for questions per day. We've tried to grow on our own, taking suggestions from the mod team and community but a steer in the right direction is what we need now. Beta or no beta, I also think a proper layout would also help improve our image. – Henders Jul 17 '18 at 8:31
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    @HDE226868 I appreciate how you've structured the answer and I am in agreement with you. This is essentially what we aim to do network-wide. It's not just about looking at the sites that are withering but also at the ones that are doing well but could be much better. You can count on us to look into this further! – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 12:16
  • @PolyGeo I mentioned board games in the first post in this thread! ;) – gbianchi Jul 17 '18 at 16:43
  • Any update? @JuanM – Pandya Nov 15 '18 at 13:37
  • @Pandya No updates on Astronomy yet. I've been compiling bugs and requests from the network and have been prioritizing them for our devs to review. This has taken a lot of time to coordinate. I've not forgotten about this thread! – Juan M Nov 15 '18 at 17:13
  • @JuanM it'd be great if the ancient and venerable beta sits could have an expedient path to removing the years-out-of-date "beta" labels. That's been dragging on for years, and it doesn't need to depend on the design rollout. I mean, I'd love to get a design too, but can we remove four characters from the banner of every page on the site please? – Monica Cellio Nov 15 '18 at 21:31
  • 1
    @JuanM ok. Thanks for the consideration. Your efforts are appreciable :) – Pandya Nov 16 '18 at 1:24
23

Help smaller communities get some exposure in the Hot Network Questions list.

You can learn about the issue by analyzing statistics on clicks that go to particular site from HNQ. System tracks this information and you can get it from SE dev team. An example snippet of these stats has been posted a while ago in Tavern chat room and per my reading it suggests that there is a substantial problem.

As far as I could tell from that stats snippet, top 5 sites (Workplace, SO, SFF, Worldbuilding, Code Golf) get 50x to 200x(!) more clicks than bottom 10 (Hinduism, Android Enthusiasts, Latin, Chess, French, Law, Board Games, Russian, Mi Yodeya, Christianity, Motor Vehicles).

It gets even worse if you take into account that mentioned snippet lists only 70 sites of total 130+, meaning that about 60 sites get even less views. That's quite disproportionate and I believe that these "starving" communities could possibly benefit from getting a bit more of network wide attention.


There are probably many ways to address this issue but I think that "low hanging fruit" would be to update / tune a particular parameter in formula that picks questions for HNQ. Specifically I am talking about parameter that penalises succeeding questions from the same site as described eg here.

Currently the value of this parameter is set in such a way that its effect becomes noticeable only after hot list gets 5-6 questions from the same site ("the first question... gets multiplied by 1.0, the second by 0.98, the third by 0.96, etc"). This probably worked well back then when network had only 30-40 sites but now there are many more and 50-200x difference in clicks suggests that it's maybe time to tweak it.

Changing this parameter to kick in earlier (like after list gets 3-4 questions from the same site) could make hot list more diverse and give better chances for other communities to get in and have their share of views.

  • somewhat related feature request: Prevent specific sites from being overrepresented in the hot questions list – gnat Jul 17 '18 at 6:10
  • 3
    This is a very insightful answer. I will follow up with this as I agree that network-wide exposure to each community is vital in growing user participation and awareness of other sites. – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 12:21
  • @JuanM with regards to making HNQ benefit involved sites, you might be additionally interested in this discussion at CB.SE: How can I get people to join a site and not simply glance and pass it by? "Hot questions attract multiple random visitors, hundreds or even thousands of them... and if you want to leverage this "firehose of publicity", you better set your goals firm and straight..." – gnat Jul 17 '18 at 13:36
  • On the other hand...there is a long standing dislike of HNQs because they tend to be some of the worse highly upvoted questions. E.g., on Quantum Computing "Is quantum computing pie in the sky?" became an HNQ. – heather Jul 17 '18 at 15:06
  • @heather that's correct. Consider giving a read to link referred in my prior comment, it discusses exactly this kind of issues, "don't expect it to work in your favor..." etc – gnat Jul 17 '18 at 15:15
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    How about 10 handselected „promotion“ posts from unknown sites? Implementation might be difficult... – Narusan Jul 18 '18 at 21:15
  • @Narusan I am rather strongly opposed to hand picking because it would have to be done permanently and looks difficult to scale when more sites will join the network. However the great thing about your idea is, it can be easily automated. Specifically, system can change to account for amount of clicks mentioned in my answer and dynamically boost "hotness score" for questions from sites that get too few, thus increasing their chances to get into the list – gnat Jul 19 '18 at 4:58
  • Part of the problem isn't simply exposure on the list, but how interesting the questions are to the majority of network users. Especially the language ones for much the same reason the language-specific SOs were removed from HNQ: most English-speaking users can't even read the question. I suspect the religion-related ones appear near the bottom of your list for a similar reason. No matter how often you get them to appear, they likely won't attract many clicks. – Bob Jul 19 '18 at 7:41
  • @Bob as far as I can tell it's a matter of balance. HNQ design seems to have two different and somewhat conflicting goals, first is one you mentioned, ie to promote interesting stuff and second is to maintain variance in topics / sites. You can see it yourself: the very purpose of parameter mentioned in my answer is to maintain the second goal even though it goes at some expence of the first one (they decrease "hotness score" for succeeding questions from the same site)... – gnat Jul 19 '18 at 8:30
  • ...In that sense I merely point that their old implementation currently has trouble maintaining the intended balance (it probably worked well enough in the past, when there were only 30-40 sites in the network) – gnat Jul 19 '18 at 8:30
  • ...on further thought, one can argue that maintaining variance of topics indirectly serves a goal of keeping hot questions reliably interesting: system tries to attract more eyeballs by promoting topics that may be missed without some "boost". Somewhat simplified scenario of what would happen if it didn't do this would be that hot list would be occupied by questions from, say, only SO and Code Golf and people would get used to that and it would get ignored by those who aren't much interested in these sites which would in turn mean narrowing the audience and less clicks. @Bob – gnat Jul 19 '18 at 10:00
19

Can you help high-closure sites do better in guiding users, without compromising quality?

Some sites, especially the more-subjective ones, get a lot of questions that don't work out of the gate. On The Workplace, for example, we get questions asking for personal advice ("what should I do?" "should I take that job?" etc). On Worldbuilding we get questions that are way too broad ("what would be the effects of (insert one change here)?"). I've just picked two that I'm pretty familiar with, but I know there are other sites that struggle with this.

Where possible, our communities try to help the askers to improve their questions -- clarify, narrow, adjust for scope, etc. This can be a frustrating experience for all involved, though, especially if there are a lot of comments that stray from their primary purpose. Too many people see "on hold" (and comments saying "I am voting to close because") and think that's the end, despite the messaging in the hold notices and encouraging comments.

In an ideal world we would both intercept the problem earlier and do better at responding to the ones that get through. Maybe question templates or sandboxes help with the former; I'm not really sure what to do with the latter. We don't want to compromise quality, though, so "don't put problematic stuff on hold" isn't the answer.

I know that non-SO sites can't get new features, but maybe there are knobs you can turn on a site-by-site basis that would help us. (Not sure what; that's a vague idea. I'm hoping question templates/wizards aren't just for SO, eventually.) Maybe there are specific changes we should make to our tour, help center, and close reasons to communicate better. Maybe we can use chat better somehow. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from other sites on the network.

Can you help us help users better avoid, or recover from, questions being put on hold, without compromising quality?

  • 3
    They're working on a question wizard for SO: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/369682/… If it seems to do the job and can be configured, it might be an option for this, at least as a test. – Catija Jul 17 '18 at 2:24
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    @Catija I'm really hoping that question wizard is being done in a way that can be configured for other sites. I haven't actually seen anything that actually says that it is; do you know of anything? It would be a shame to do all that work and do it in a way that can't be reused for other sites. – Monica Cellio Jul 17 '18 at 2:25
  • 1
    I haven't, specifically, no... but I share that hope. Joe's smart. I definitely would encourage it being made available to sites that want it. – Catija Jul 17 '18 at 2:34
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    Other sites which struggle with a lot of questions stemming from misinterpretation of the scope: philosophy and physics (and probably others) see a decent number of people pitching their own theories. Physics has a separate non-mainstream flag, and philosophy has a meta post Friends, We are not philosophers. But the people violating these policies are probably both well-versed and interested in the subject, and harshly throwing them out can sometimes be a big loss. – Chair Jul 17 '18 at 3:18
  • Maybe Code Review counts to that category as well ... we're closing around 40% of questions pretty stable. It used to be more, but of these 40% the vast majority is closed with one single reason... – Vogel612's Shadow Jul 17 '18 at 10:25
  • 3
    @MonicaCellio You make an excellent point here. We will certainly be asking for everyone's help in addressing this topic. Members of communities must be taught and encouraged to continue to post high-quality questions. This is an area we will address! – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 12:18
  • 7
    On Worldbuilding, we even have a separate Meta post with guidelines for how to write questions, which is referenced occasionally. If that could somehow be better integrated into the process of actually posting a question, it would be great. Even a prominent, mod-selectable link near the question title field would probably go a long way. @JuanM – a CVn Jul 17 '18 at 14:52
  • 2
    English Language & Usage and Christianity are two more examples of sites with very high closure rates (even higher than the two you mention, I think). – Rand al'Thor Jul 23 '18 at 20:23
11

We at Health.SE have envisioned some changes for a long time to ensure the survival of our small beta site (a small amount of which has been completed already). However, as there was a lot going on on the SE network, the time couldn’t really be found to help us with this process.

We have very specific and thought-through plans, but we have yet to get feedback from those and get an update how the process of transformation goes, and at what stage we are on.

It would be great if you can find the time to

  • give us the feeling like we haven’t been abandoned
  • give feedback on the proposed changes.
  • provide a status update where we are and how long it will take.
  • implement the changes or talk to someone to implement them

The advantage is that we have identified problems (in co-operation with other community mods) and have a strong vision as to what needs to be changed, so it will not take a long time to get up-to-date with our problems. We just need a helping hand on the other side of the servers.

  • 2
    I've definitely dropped the ball on Health lately. Unfortunately, I've been distracted by other sites and slowed down by burnout as a Community Manager. (A long vacation has, I think, helped.) I'd like to appoint another moderator before changing the name of the site. I also think the scope needs work to be more usable for users new to the site. And, of course, none of this will fix the problems you see on their own. I feel like a good deal of the problems on the site stem from basic disagreements that are difficult to mediate in the best of situation. – Jon Ericson Jul 19 '18 at 4:16
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    @JonEricson If you could spell out those "good deal of problems" that are still there (or new?) on our meta that'll be great. Lack of progress frustrates us, especially when we're basically told "to wait". And an "outside" perspective is always helpful. Especially on those "basic disagreements". – LangLangC Jul 19 '18 at 12:18
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    @JonEricson Just to make that clear: I‘m in no way blaming you. You got a well-deserved holiday. I think communication by the SE team that this might take some time for obvious reasons would have been better, but I wasn’t putting the blame on you. // Good to see you back, and I hope you have improved. Take the time to consider and take care of your health, before you do something about Health.SE. – Narusan Jul 19 '18 at 12:19
  • @LangLangC: I'm going to be in Cuba next week, so it might be awhile before I do anything else related to the site. The short answer is that I'm suspicious of silver bullets. A lot of the hard work of solving community problems depends on the community itself. – Jon Ericson Jul 20 '18 at 5:18
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    @JonEricson I've spent an immense amount of time moderating Health while waiting for you to act on your promises so being told to heal thyself doesn't sit well with me. The community agreed on what the problems are and what changes will help fix those problems months ago. Nobody's asking for a silver bullet. We're only asking for the actions that were promised. – Carey Gregory Aug 11 '18 at 15:10
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    @Narusan It's time! Let's discuss this once more! – Juan M Sep 7 '18 at 17:06
10

Could you help smaller sites with resources to learn how to grow and connect with experts?

For example, I moderate Quantum Computing, and we're pretty new - only a couple months old. We have around 3.5 qpd and a couple of expert users, with a community developing. How can we grow and attract more experts? Talking to other science mods, they said they mostly grew organically. What can we do to advertise our presence? To attract experts? To become a truly high-quality site?

Help approaching this rather large and daunting issue - in effect, defining the path for our site - would be quite useful. Having more guidance in that stage.

  • 2
    This applies to a very large fraction of the technology sites presently in beta, from the little I've explored. – Chair Jul 17 '18 at 4:51
  • 1
    Off: I think QC is very HQ already -> you should tune for growth (without losing quality). The count of the google visitors increases roughly linearly with the total content, thus the sites with roughly constant user activity have a tendency to switch to an exponential phase, with time. I think your task should be to make a balance between 1) the community tendency to over-moderate things, making the site growth to again constant 2) the decrease of the quality with the increasing count of the new users. – peterh Jul 17 '18 at 11:36
  • 1
    Most sites are killing themselves by going into overmoderation, now you have yet the chance to go into a more balanced direction. – peterh Jul 17 '18 at 11:38
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    @heather This is a fundamental question that CMs everywhere wish they they could answer! I do have some ideas and will discuss them with my team and the communities. What you mention here is top priority for me. – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 12:23
10

As promised, my two cents. I kinda have a wish list for the broader network, rather than specific sites.

This seems positive (and reminds me a little of the much beloved, and somewhat missed Team CHAOS). I guess a lot of the lessons (about scaling particularly) might be handy, though it's nice to have Q&A back on the forefront again - a few past projects felt like great ideas, but ended up being time and energy sinks :( .

It might be nice to have (some) CMs back on the forefront again - the CMs we had in the early days (admittedly with a much smaller network) were a fair bit more visible. I do realize that as the network gets bigger, there's a bigger set of issues that need dealing with, and a few skunkworks projects (like Documentation and others). There's been a few initiatives that have gone that way, but occasionally seeing a CM pop by chat or meta and hang out might go a long way in the 'community' side. For example, things like Town Hall meetings for sites might work great.

Nonetheless, nostalgia aside, I'm keen to see how this shakes out, and hope it works well. It would be nice to see the smaller communities get all the love they need.

7

You should try with

https://boardgames.stackexchange.com/

The main community is on https://boardgamegeek.com/.. there are tons of answer and question over there, in a forum...

There is a great online gaming site call https://es.boardgamearena.com/

That even has a nice tool for building the games (they give you the tool, you can build up the games using that tool).

  • I will certainly look into our board game site. We have a wonderful resource there that needs to be share and presented to the world! Thank you as well for sharing the other site, I'll need to look at their tool as I'm not familiar with it. – Juan M Jul 17 '18 at 12:25

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