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One of the more frequent accusations that get leveled against long-time users of various sites is that we treat new user questions differently. That we downvote and close vote them maliciously, to "protect our rep". That we shut down questions asked by new people so that there will be more space for questions asked by higher-rep users. And so forth.

When these charges are leveled at us, our #1 response is that we don't do that. That we don't try to treat new users differently. That we care about the quality of the question and not about any aspect of the person who posted it.

However, Stack Exchange the company seems to be doing everything in their power to change this.

The "Welcoming" initiative, by its very nature, is focused on making the site welcoming to those who do not use it (aka: new users). So the concept, at its core, requires thinking about who is doing the posting, not what is being posted.

It took concerted community effort to make sure that the new Code of Conduct did not solely contain examples often leveled against new users. That is, the default state that Stack Exchange seemed to have when coming up with the CoC was as a tool to protect new users, not as a tool to protect all users.

And now, we're making "new users" not merely an ephemeral construct, but an actual part of the user interface.

Stack Exchange is at its best when it is impersonal. When we don't care who says what, and we judge posts on their own merits.

Now, perhaps these efforts are doing some good. I think the (final) CoC is a big step forward over the "Be Nice" page. And I think it is important to clamp down on some of the stuff that has been allowed to go on on our sites.

But it cannot be denied that these kinds of things foster a fundamental division. It encourages people to think about things in terms of "new users vs. established users". And it is precisely this sort of mentality, this kind of division, that we are often accused of having. In essence, SE the company has begun to make a fact of the false charge that has often been leveled against us.

This is a problem. And it is one that should not be ignored by the powers that be.

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    Read "making the site" as "marketing the site"... not sure if that's a mistake... – ivan_pozdeev Aug 17 '18 at 20:23
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    "not merely an ephemeral construct" the UI construct is ephemeral too. I think a different word that "ephemeral" is needed here. "Theoretical", or "meta", or something to indicate "outside the system itself" rather than "temporary". – Servy Aug 17 '18 at 20:30
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    I think the division's always been there. But SE's hammering a wedge into it now in their attempts to attract more users and stay relevant. So, quality gets to take a nosedive, because new users are more important now. Can you tell I'm a little cynical about the whole mess? – fbueckert Aug 17 '18 at 22:31
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    @fbueckert I would never have guessed... :) – Martin James Aug 18 '18 at 6:43
  • It's worth pointing out that this feature is basically exactly what happens in Facebook groups, the icon even appears to be the same. – enderland Aug 23 '18 at 12:19
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    90%+ of new-user problems are because the "Ask a question" page looks like a forum, and does almost nothing to help new users understand SE's standards are different. Old users feel like doormen endlessly saying "You need to pull" next to a door that looks like you're supposed to push it. Yes, we sometimes need reminding that the 100th person who gets it wrong shouldn't be snarled at, because it's only their first time getting it wrong, but why not also finally redesign the first-question page so people get it right first time? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 22 '18 at 12:23
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    Related, this blog post is worth a read. Its from one of the guys who started SO, but no longer works at the company. – Draco18s Oct 22 '18 at 18:04
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The problem here isn't that the site doesn't treat all people equally... It's that all people aren't equal.

I can - and do - spin up a new user whenever I need one, posting answers and gaining reputation without significant hardship. But, I've been here for a decade; I've seen the creation of just about every feature, every rule, every social convention... The fact that I don't struggle as a "new user" means very little; that the system gives me little assistance in learning how to write, how to communicate, how to interact is immaterial since I have no need of it.

There's an old joke about how the law prohibits sleeping on park benches for both the rich and poor alike, but perhaps a more apt comparison would be adaptive user interfaces that provide more assistance to new users while getting out of the way once they've learned the ropes. The big challenge here is that - unlike, say Microsoft Word - new users aren't struggling in isolation; their mistakes hurt those around them.

Toward an adaptive social UI

We need, I think, some kind of a roadmap for this project; these little pieces keep dropping into public piecemeal without a clear connection to either the bits that've already dropped or the bits that are still being planned.

But failing that, here's what I know about:

  • The code of conduct shipped. That... Doesn't do much by itself, but the hope is that it'll serve as a sort of "rules of engagement" for everything else. Which is a useful thing to have.

  • This "new user post" indicator should ship next week - this adapts directly based on experience: if a given author has already had a chance to get feedback on their work, it disappears; presumably they'll have figured out the basics of how to communicate here if they were going to.

  • The new "ask" wizard is being adjusted based on feedback; that'll go into testing once changes are completed. This is one of the more overtly "adaptive" plans in the offing - it goes from walking a new asker through the process to dropping out once we can be at least reasonably sure that they know what a half-decent question looks like.

  • We've just begun research on how to better introduce new users to some of the other rules of the system and the community as they start to use the site. No idea what this is gonna look like yet, but hopefully something a bit more organic than a FAQ or Tour that most people won't read.

The common factor here isn't to create exceptions for poor behavior from new users, but rather to provide them with a bit more guidance in learning our culture, in helping them integrate successfully. Because, as we're all painfully aware at this point... An awful lot of folks currently do not integrate at all.

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    I think a roadmap is a very good idea; what we're getting seems to be coming out of left field, and all this focus on new user treatment has left me feeling awful leery about the direction of the company. – fbueckert Aug 17 '18 at 20:29
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    I don't imagine that the people saying, "SE treats new users unfairly" as an accusation are offended by guidance shown to new users, or a slightly different "ask a question" interface, etc. But a label on all of their questions, that exists for the sole purpose of telling everyone else that they're new, that's...pretty different. It looks like a way of shaming new users for being new. Regardless of the intent, lots of people are going to interpret it that way (both experienced users, new users, and people who don't have an account at all). – Servy Aug 17 '18 at 20:36
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    Guessing if that happens we'll turn it off, @servy. – Shog9 Aug 17 '18 at 21:55
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    @Servy I would rather think the opposite -- that it would give them a feel of entitlement to special treatment. – ivan_pozdeev Aug 17 '18 at 22:09
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    @ivan_pozdeev I imagine there will be some of both. There's already some of both of those things from the existing user card (showing a low rep number). This would just exacerbate both of those feelings. – Servy Aug 17 '18 at 22:14
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    @Shog Since there are millions of users, some of them will definitely interpret it that way and find it unwelcoming. – sth Aug 18 '18 at 10:08
  • An "ask" wizard is a two-edged sword. Question quality is a constant toil for moderators and more experienced users, which the wizard would help with. However, I'm concerned that adding steps needed to post a question (my past experience with Wizards leads me to believe it will be more than a few clicks) violates some critical design best practices (at least as I've seen published by the likes of Steve Krug)... if we make it more difficult to post, will it drive away new users frustrated by the effort level? – J E Carter II Aug 23 '18 at 18:13
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    That's an open question at this point, @JECarterII - "wizards" are traditionally horrible UIs for folks who already know what they want to do and how to do it; therefore, an adaptive UI will fall back on an interface with less dialog once a given user has become proficient. The danger here is that asking questions is deceptively difficult - lots of folks think they know how to ask an effective question and may therefore be irritated by a "wizard", but at the same time stand to benefit from the extra guidance. We'll just have to see if we can manage to convey the expected benefits. – Shog9 Aug 23 '18 at 18:18
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I'll jump in here.

But it cannot be denied that these kinds of things foster a fundamental division. It encourages people to think about things in terms of "new users vs. established users". And it is precisely this sort of mentality, this kind of division, that we are often accused of having.

Can we talk about that for a second? I'd like to point out how awkward it is. When we come here (and most child meta sites) we're talking to people who typically aren't causing the problems that we're trying to solve. The fact that we found a need for an indicator is a big clue there, why didn't we just write a post that said "Please be extra careful when dealing with new users?" Because the people that would most benefit from that guidance, for the most part, don't come here.

Yet, we still need to announce it, and we still have to write communication for broad audiences that occasionally glance at things here when they show up in the community bulletin. I therefore can't write things like "this mostly doesn't apply to anyone with the ability to downvote here" without really weakening our stance, and we need that stance to be strong.

Our attrition rate is concerning.

New users just don't stick around anywhere close to how they did a few years ago. I'm not going to post the exact rates, and I'm not going to post the exact metrics that we use to consider someone 'lost' as far as likely to re-engage, but I will explain it in very simple terms.

Let's say you have a bank account. Every month, $1000 goes into that account, and $960 goes out of it. You will never lose your income, and your expenses will always stay the same. Sure, you don't manage to save much, but year over year, it adds up, right?

Well, what happens if the income isn't infinite? Let's not talk about money, let's talk about users, the size of the market that we serve, and the rate at which it grows and replenishes. If we lose even 25% of the users we manage to convince to interact with our sites, and the number that try every day keeps going up exponentially, then it's only a matter of time before we burn through an entire market faster than that market significantly replenishes itself.

This is because people had really bad first experiences, and depending on how influential they are, we've lost them and possibly dozens more. It's difficult to calculate who won't try something because of this. But if we don't control this rate, we could (much sooner than later) say that the whole market uses, has tried and stopped using, or won't try our sites.

That is to say, there's a hard stop where you run out of people that are (1) interested in [topic] and (2) successful using your software, and the faster you hemorrhage new users, the faster you approach that point. This is where new users don't replace long-term engaged users that tend to just naturally move on after they've done all they came here to do. This "shrink" in communities is perennial and usually healthy, as long as you eventually move to more coming in than leaving.

This isn't because we should have shipped an indicator long ago.

This is because our new user experience is awful. It's bolted together with pretzel sticks, there are tons of rules that the UI doesn't help people discover, key information isn't in places where people tend to look for it and for the better part of three years, we didn't do a thing to fix that. That's squarely on us, not you. We mostly left it up to you to figure out how to solve problems without being able to rely on us to make changes to the software, or watch for patterns in suggested changes that indicated we had deeper, systemic issues we had to fix.

There's a lot that we should have done a while back. We're doing it now, and it's going to take a ton of time to complete. But this indicator? It's something that we think can make a difference and get out the door relatively quickly. And when we announce that sort of thing, we need to speak to everyone, we can't wink and say "not you folks sitting in the back" because as much as you need to hear that we're putting significant resources into this, folks that we hope this will help also need to see us taking it very seriously. I don't think there's a balance here; I think it's just not possible to do enough for both cases concurrently while still working on it responsibly.

It's not creating a division, we're just addressing it.

New users are often treated poorly. There's already a division and us refusing to admit that is like sticking our heads in the sand.

If someone has at least one good experience early-on, they tend to be much more willing to prioritize the whole over their own immediate needs, and much more likely to become longer-term contributors. We're not asking more from folks (and we'll take care to be more explicit), we're asking less. Don't leave that borderline-trollish comment, don't pile on down votes cathartically, don't blame the poor person for the downfall of society at-large (even though it's tempting!) If anything, it's a reminder to not engage much unless you're feeling charitable.

But it's not creating a division, it's just one immediate step we could take in embracing that new and seasoned contributors live in two different places, and we need a much better bridge between them.

And it's just the right thing to do.

I talked about business goals and scenarios and markets and all that crazy manager-y stuff I never dreamed I'd be looking at here. We didn't really notice these trends until we really dug into the welcoming project, because all of our graphs kept going up and to the right. We didn't know what we weren't measuring.

As a business I think we could do quite well if we worked to become even more exclusive than we're currently perceived:

  • We'd spend a lot less time talking about this
  • Quality would go way up without any additional investment
  • Our jobs stuff would be legendary
  • Ad spaces would always reach people that made lots of money, and probably made or at least influenced decisions at their company

... and when we all got older and retired, the ~5000 of us left could hang out with Joel on a private island (I have no idea if Joel has an island, or even likes islands, he could hate sand for gross reasons so I won't go into that) but you get the point.

We're into generation(s), now.

Since we started in 2008 there's roughly two more graduating CS classes and countless self-learners trying to just become one of us, and somehow we got into a tailspin cycle of them trying harder, us making it harder, and them trying even harder. I firmly blame us because we did lose focus on Q&A since all the graphs went up and to the right, so we thought we could.

So while I can give 20+ great business reasons to care about this all of a sudden, the biggest one is just realizing we done goofed, and working to fix that. And yes, the most highly visible changes we make in that stride will seem aimed at new users.

That's while we do a total product overhaul that (even now) looks like 2+ years of UX research alone before we're close to done, and that's assuming we don't make any major product changes in the interim.

I've publicly said we made a big mistake by losing our focus, and that it would be really crappy of us to come back and nitpick at the way the place was run by people that cared while we were off building mousetraps. If I need to put that in a more public place, I'm happy to do it.

But this is all about making sure we sustain and continue to thrive, while we fortunately still have plenty of time to make changes. It's about acknowledging that we have vastly different experiences, and that we need to work on it, and building bridges immediately to help it.

But thanks for calling it out, I didn't realize I had so much I hadn't said about it until I read your post. I hope you'll forgive my lack of brevity, frankness and scatterbrain - I have my hands in lots of things and they all sort of intersected here.

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    While I like SE taking responsibility for the problems inherent in the new user experience, I feel strongly that much of this entire welcoming debacle pushes the expected resolutions onto the established community. You say we're supposed to do less, but...the automated systems to actually handle this aren't here yet, so these indicators put forward additional expectations beyond just doing curation. So we need to talk about that disconnect. You say we're supposed to do less. I feel you expect us to do more. – fbueckert Aug 22 '18 at 13:44
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    @fbueckert: Is it really "more", or just "different"? The CoC and the voting flags don't really expect anything more out of us than we had been providing before. Even the giant "New Contributer" UX wart doesn't really expect more of us; just for us to potentially behave differently. – Nicol Bolas Aug 22 '18 at 13:56
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    @NicolBolas By telling us it's a new user and to be friendly, I feel it's asking us to hand hold them to teach them the Way of SE. That certainly seems like more to me. By plastering it everywhere, they're making that expectation very clear, along with implying perhaps maybe not downvoting or closing their bad question, all because a new user wrote it. So there's a couple things tangled up in there; both being welcoming, and maintaining quality standards. Some of it is more, I feel. Some of it is different. – fbueckert Aug 22 '18 at 14:01
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    One thing that is impossible to measure (I think) are the folks that look at the site, see how hard it is to participate and make up their minds that they'll never post. I was surprised to learn that my husband was one of those people that will never be converted into a contributor. His reason was "It's not worth it." The reward for tackling a pretty steep learning curve is what? He could answer questions on the sites he reads, but doesn't want to risk having to put up with all the criticism if he accidentally pushes someone's "SE guidelines" button. This isn't just a new user/vet user thing. – ColleenV parted ways Aug 22 '18 at 14:48
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    "To compile that, you shove it up your *ss, f*ggot!" - comment just now on a new user's question (without censoring). Maybe folks don't realize just how bad it can get, which makes them wonder what we're solving for. – Tim Post Aug 22 '18 at 15:24
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    Here's some feedback from an "older established account", I'm not by far a major contributor, but not insignificant either. I still come to Stack Exchange because I have to, SO helps me to be better at my job so it would be unprofessional of me to not use it. I also participate on Meta a bit because it's the one thing that I still like contributing to. If there was a better option than SO, I'd go there instead. – Stijn Aug 22 '18 at 16:16
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    this looks like a very smart theory because as far as I can tell it allows indefinitely ignoring needs of site core community. "Whatever you ask about folks, we can't do it yet sorry, because our attrition rate still looks dangerous. Please wait while we're working on more important stuff." Quite smart – gnat Aug 22 '18 at 16:40
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    "I've publicly said we made a big mistake by losing our focus, and that it would be really crappy of us to come back and nitpick at the way the place was run by people that cared while we were off building mousetraps. If I need to put that in a more public place, I'm happy to do it." ----- I think that is completely the point. This post shouldn't be left to hide as an answer to a topic that may not get looked at; it should be a highlighted post for all to see. (Maybe even cross posted on that blog thing that seems to draw hate...) – hazzey Aug 22 '18 at 21:00
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    +1000 for @hazzey's comment. Yes, please do more publicly state that in the blog. I believe that would make a huge difference. – Wildcard Aug 23 '18 at 1:30
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    Have you considered that attrition is because SE has been progressively moving towards optimizing for sand and not for pearls? It seems the fundamental misassumption is "we need to optimize to make all the sand into pearls!" rather than, "let's find and keep the pearls around." An overwhelming percentage of my Stack Overflow questions over the past years have been either 1) self answered or 2) attracted 100% blatantly wrong answers. You know what? I stop asking questions here because I'm tired of having to deal with that situation. Meanwhile the flood of low quality questions continues.... – enderland Aug 23 '18 at 12:32
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    @TimPost That depends; does your judgement of the post indicate it is worthy of a downvote? We're supposed to be voting on content, not the current score. Either way, though, is the recipient of a -20 post going to stay, while a -21 post user leaves? Is it catharsis? Or is it voting as it's meant to be? – fbueckert Aug 23 '18 at 15:20
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    "Our attrition rate is concerning." SO (and SE in general) has been casting a wider net, trying to attract more people to the site—and this effort seems to have been at least somewhat successful. Whenever you do that, you decrease retention. This is not just a fact known to everyone who's ever talked to marketing or analytics folks, it's obvious when you think about it. The people who wouldn't have come to SO a couple years ago but now do—some of them are potentially valuable members, but it's inherently going to be a lower proportion of them. – abarnert Aug 26 '18 at 18:19
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    when the word quality was banished from the charter of the site, that was the beginning of the end, and with the staunch refusal to acknowledge that it has the nose pointed directly at the ground. Do are worried about attracting new users and every action you have taken and every word you have written has done nothing but drive off the people that have made the site what it is content wise. I like others have pulled back my participation over the years. I am about 1% of what I used to participate, and the latest round of UI changes just solidifies the unwelcome feeling that I have. I am done – user148287 Aug 26 '18 at 23:53
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    The assertions in this post are laughable without hard data to back them up. I'm far more inclined to agree with @ElysianFields ' point of view (which I share): the reason new users aren't sticking around is because SO is optimising the user experience for help vampires, and surprise surprise!, help vampires don't stick around. – Ian Kemp Aug 27 '18 at 9:24
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    @TimPost " 'To compile that, you shove it up your ***, ******!' - comment just now on a new user's question (without censoring)." Anecdotes don't prove widespread problems. I have never seen a comment like this in my entire few years on SE, so SE is obviously doing a fantastic job dealing with this garbage. Furthermore, the newness of the user is irrelevant to whether that comment is appropriate. It could've been said to a 20k user for all I know. Maybe if we weren't drowning in low effort questions it would naturally be less of a problem anyway. – jpmc26 Aug 27 '18 at 16:29
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+50

There are 4 answers here currently, and each seems to address the fact that new users and established users must be considered separate groups because of their experience and knowledge of the site - and that this is a good thing or at least okay. So I am going to focus on your last statement:

In essence, SE the company has begun to make a fact of the false charge that has often been leveled against us. This is a problem. And it is one that should not be ignored by the powers that be.

Now there are many changes being made to SE right now in quick succession and "change is hard". So I, and I think most, would agree and realize that this will be a transition and some things are going to work while others do not - and we will just have to deal as everything is dialed in. The problem which I think none of the answers point out is that many established users are beginning to feel like it is "us against them" not simply due to the changes but due to the way SE has been making these changes to the network.

That the way they have gone about it has been accusatory, offensive, and/or many times simply ignored the established user base of SE in favor of users of other networks. You mention the COC and new user banner so I will just add a few other examples:

  • I'm not going to link to it or the meta posts as they have been referenced enough but the blog post that started the "welcome wagon" was seen as accusatory and offensive by a number of established users. This caused users to start on the defensive. When your ready to fight and people try and show a new change it can cause resistance where people might be more willing to agree otherwise. Now any new change can be seen as "just another only be nice to new users" and ignoring the times established users are the actual ones feeling "unwelcome". We know the deal, we've been around, they haven't - so just deal with it. Its only one more thing established users have to deal.

  • Changes have been made to central FAQs and to the site's design by employees with no announcement or feedback. I personally don't mind changes like this but I do not like when I'm confused by the changes because they were made without any notice.

  • Remember, these new changes were started after two features which ship wrecked and walked into the sunset. Both of which were not well supported by the community and were already beginning the "your not listening to what we, the current users, want but to what programmers who don't use Stack Overflow wanted. Features which were so disliked by certain members that an Anti-documentation team was made and SE employees suspended people from chat due to their criticism of the new feature.

  • I'm not going to speak towards Teams (never used and my work tends to use Slack/Google/Github for what teams is and is not likely to change) but with documentation I have two things. One, for me at least, the struggle to get documentation working burned me out on SO for a while and lead to a few breaks. I know others who completely left SO due to SE's responses (I was on Docs chatroom, no longer available to link to, and engaged in many discussions of it). Again, the users felt the responses they got back were defensive on the whole which made their responses much more critical and defensive as well. I really was engaged in the "lets at least give it a chance" for DOCs despite actually being against it. As I still had some trust in SE and saw the potential for a good feature. It might have been too much work on top of a new job and required me to take a break but I still felt like SE could hear me. With this? Several questions and comments have gone unanswered (SE employee admits it is just ignored and second SE employee admits he's not responding to criticism and only listening to non-meta users) and when looking at answers given to others they seem defensive (partially because I have been put on defense).

There is a huge loss of trust and communication between SE and its users that has been building for a while, the welcome wagon is just making it more obvious and focused. The low note of the blog and other ways the new changes have been announced seem to be creating an echo with the comments and community posts that occurred during the last features - many of which focused on the fact that SO was doing this to attract more new users at the expense of the current users.

TLDR;

So there is a problem and until SE stops blaming its current user base and putting them on the defensive. Stops responding to questions about "new users vs. established users" with responses which ignore the issue or just put more and more responsibility on the established user. Its going to keep up or fail. I personally do not want to know what un-shipped looks like with all the recent changes.


Note, I am actually in the opposite position with the "welcome wagon" than I was for Docs. I want to make SO more welcoming and even commented on it and the most welcoming place I found here back in 2015 when I was new myself. I am just not for the way SE is treating its current users during the implementation of these changes.

update: after 2 months SE still shows it listens to Twitter more and even now has employees actively attacking our moderators

This has gone for 4 weeks now without any official recognition/apology/statement by SE beyond posts outside Meta by Jon (proving Meta is dead to SE) and some statements within Meta by Tim.

I would make a new question on this ignoring of SE users by SE but it would be like shouting at a brick wall at this point.

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    Regarding the label that's just been put on me -> I've been here for three years - I am not a new contributor -_- – LinkBerest Aug 21 '18 at 21:37
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    You're a new contributor and you don't know bout it ... We have to be nice with you. hugs :-) – Bhargav Rao Aug 21 '18 at 21:50
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    You are far from not being new apparently. Evidently, 18k rep and 8 years on the site still is too green to be let out of the kiddy pool. Is there a feed of all watched tags somewhere? – Baum mit Augen Aug 21 '18 at 21:56
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    I think the new user system only checks the user activity on the current site, not the others in the network (not even checking meta from the main site, or vice versa). This would mean your first post or answer on every site (including the metas) would give you this tag... Perhaps this should be reconsidered and made to check the network-wide account status. – AfroThundr Aug 21 '18 at 22:43
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    Thankfully I usually browse the site from the mobile browser and since mobile browser is SE's stepchild, I am saved from seeing the Black Hand of Welcoming Bandwagon gimmick most of the time. Oh, I appreciate the irony of that! – Masked Man Aug 25 '18 at 17:36
  • I like to think I'm pretty open to criticism, but it sure is discouraging to see people using my comment as evidence we don't care about users. Maybe people didn't read the question itself or didn't understand it? If you'd like to read more about how meta fits in, I encourage you to read my post on MSE. I'll keep working at it. :-/ – Jon Ericson Aug 30 '18 at 23:27
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    @JonEricson I took a 2 month break, I came back - you (SE the business) still listen to Twitter over users - are now attacking mods - and will likely just ignore any response to it on meta because "you don't listen to meta"....what is my choice here? Go on twitter and start my own rants? – LinkBerest Oct 22 '18 at 12:32
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    @JGreenwell: I, for one, am ignoring Twitter. We screwed up last week and I expect there'll be a postmortem soon. – Jon Ericson Oct 22 '18 at 18:14
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    @JonEricson Thank you for replying quickly, honestly I wasn't angry at you - just angry. I was a big brother before I was 1, a Marine and an MP at that - which is just to say I have a protective streak. And seeing allegations like that against moderators who have tried hard to be that bridge between SE and the community - it kinda set that off and I just needed to yell (at least in a cyber sense). Sorry, you were the closest target and thank you again for not ignoring it - but I'm not going to lie - this last screw up hurt – LinkBerest Oct 22 '18 at 23:58
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    @JGreenwell: For what it's worth, no moderator was ever in danger of removal or censure. There was quite a bit of misunderstanding. Also, we made several unforced errors. My main hope at this point is that we learn something as a company. I'm just sorry we hurt so many people along the way. (And to be clear, that was never the goal, but a side effect of our decisions. Unfortunately, good intentions don't prevent negative feelings.) – Jon Ericson Oct 23 '18 at 0:14
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    I hope we aren't going to label as "misunderstanding" the reading by a great many people of the plain English words that were used. If you mean that the people who made those tweets misunderstood and/or misspoke, I agree. I hope we can heal the damage and learn from this. – Monica Cellio Oct 23 '18 at 18:43
  • @JGreenwell regarding your edit about "This has gone for 2 weeks now...", Jay Hanlon also made "officialish statement" on twitter – House- 'Reinstate Monica' -man Nov 2 '18 at 14:39
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    @Houseman ..."beyond posts outside of Meta" so yeah kinda pointing more and more to we might as well shut meta down (or at least stop pretending that SE even pays attention to it). With a few notifiable exceptions to the rule (one of whom basically confirmed the attitude of SE towards Meta) – LinkBerest Nov 5 '18 at 12:33
  • Related to your recent edits: github.com/jericson/jericson.github.io/issues/… – jscs Nov 7 '18 at 17:54
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    @JoshCaswell lol, thanks I would have never found that...yeah, definitely getting the "why are you still using Meta or looking for a blog post" bit of ignored here – LinkBerest Nov 8 '18 at 2:00
17

We've always treated users differently depending on how much experience or reputation they have. And that's not a bad thing.

With a brand new user, we don't know anything. Could be a regular new user trying to participate in the site, could be a raging choleric just waiting for a trigger to explode, or could be a sock puppet of a troll everyone is already tired of.

An established user has a history of behaviour, we know a lot more about them already. That can be positive or negative, but in any case it can certainly influence the behaviour of any users performing moderator actions related to the user.

If a completely new user posts something that doesn't conform to our rules, odds are they simply don't know about them. Explaining our rules to them has a decent chance of succeeding, or to just fall on deaf ears if that user is someone just throwing their problem into the first text field they found on the internet.

When an established user breaks the rules, odds are they know them and still decided to break them. But on the other hand, if a user has been well-behaved for hundreds of posts previously, we know that they are capable of participating constructively. So if they step over the line once, there is a very high chance that simply telling them to stop would work.

When performing any moderator action, it does make a difference if you think the user can be convinced to change, or if it seems like the user is acting in bad faith and unlikely to be convinced by words alone. It doesn't change the consequences in the end, but it certainly influences the way towards the consequences, or hopefully the way that manages to avoid them.

If a new users starts throwing around insults, they get no benefit of the doubt at all from me. But if they ask a question that doesn't fit to some of our more obscure rules, the wiser course of action would be to first try to explain our rules and convince them. This could still fail, but it's often worth the effort.

10

It's not about kid gloves. You should still vote, edit, comment, and answer just like if the question had come from an experienced user.

What's different is that a new user doesn't know how SE works, and it's pretty different from the forums they're used to. The stuff they learned on Reddit or, heaven forbid, Quora won't help them here. This is a reminder to the seasoned user who's used to talking about close votes or the on-topic list or "be nice" as if people know what those mean... isn't as clear to somebody asking a first question.

You're an experienced user. You learned the ropes over time. Maybe you tripped over some of the rules or a site's culture along the way, or maybe you got lucky, but a significant number of new users do trip over those problems and need help from the community. Sure, it'd be better if the software were more adaptive, if more of this were automatic, and I hope someday we get question-asking wizards for all sites, but we don't have that stuff yet. We rely on experienced users to do the heavy lifting.

Some of those experienced users are pressed for time, or a little disgruntled (as we've seen from welcome-wagon feedback), or just don't notice that a question is from a new user who might need some extra hints. A reminder that the terse comments they'd leave for an experienced user might be more mysterious than helpful to the newcomer doesn't seem like a bad thing.

  • 1
    Personal experience of signing onto a new SE site, being given +100 for 'trustworthiness', and a 'New Contributor' sign when posting an answer. I, for one, now appreciate the tag because I've come to discover that just because I know how to answer on X-site, doesn't mean I understand the expectations of the new one. And I didn't - it's so different that I don't know what to think. But, I'm catching on and would like to have like the NC banner to go away at 150 (now at 179). Maybe 200? Is there a set number for the 'kid gloves' to come off? – tblue Oct 8 at 3:25
9

I disagree with this part of your question:

The default state that Stack Exchange seemed to have when coming up with the CoC was as a tool to protect new users, not as a tool to protect all users.

Actually I think that CoC is used against all users and it is used to fear each others. I see a lot of fighthing against all kind of irregularities armed with Coc instead of trying to educated users. Stack Exchange sites are plagued with this problem. Users, of all the levels, are being punished instead of educated.

This is why too much people comment instead of write an answer. We have fear of consequences. The new code of conduct is sometimes used as a bully weapon.

This is only my honest opinion. I have no intention to offend.

I know my hopinion is 'hard', is 'heavy'. I just would like that the company beside these marvellious services would take a moment to think about this feelings, because I'm pretty sure to be not the only to feel in this way.

Here I am a new contributor. Well, it's right. But I am here since some years, so I can say that some years ago the situation was different.

Member for 6 years, 9 months

  • 3
    "I see a lot of fighthing against all kind of irregularities armed with Coc instead of trying to educated users." Not sure there. It's always easy to say that users shall be educated instead, but who is going to do that work? You have to work with what you have. Sometimes downvoting is just the least costly alternative. – Trilarion Aug 26 '18 at 20:02
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    Your are not paid to do this work. Do not do in this way, please ! (Note the please) – realtebo Aug 27 '18 at 18:04
-1

As an experienced user - I've had a few benefits - the fact that I grew with the site changes a lot. I can shape what the site is in small and big ways.

An experienced user knows how to get help. They're often engaged enough that a single bad experience isn't going to get them to leave. We've got thicker skins and have a certain degree of knowledge of how the system works.

There's always going to be a handful of people who aren't going to get it. But meh, at least they can't say they never had a chance.

Many of the tools that were used to onboard new users in the past - contests being one example - are not going to scale very well so... well, things need to be different.

I've had...well...about 8 years to get to know the network. I'm a top 10 user on meta in the past... 2 years? And the last time I went into a new site was an embarrassing failure by my standards, even though folks were super nice and recognized me and helped whip my question into shape.

We're all new sometimes and these tools help folks get used to both the Q&A model (as SE does it, as opposed to say how some other sites do it).

  • There are a whole lot of people who mess up their first question, get trounced with downvotes (hopefully not many snide remarks these days, but maybe even some of those), and become averse to posting - instead of being nudged into improving their first question(s) or deleting their first close-worthy question, of their own accord. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 16:40
  • +1 - I don't have the same super rep, but had the same experience. Thought I'd waltz into a new sight and ended up needing dancing lessons. – tblue Oct 8 at 3:39

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