Maybe the best solution is to close MSE forever?
[Emphasis in bold mine]
Starting from the OP's introductory paragraph
It seems clear at this point that MSE is not a useful mechanism for pointing out problems on SE sites and getting resolution for them.
It is useful in some ways. If SE staff ask questions about future actions being undertaken, there is a non-zero chance that they will pay attention to some of those responses and take them into account.
It also seems that the OP does not exclude the remotest chance, however rare that may be, that someone from the SE Team takes notice. They continue
While the new site layout still did happen despite lots of people not liking it very much, the powers that be were responsive to specific issues about certain aspects of it.
This bit is actually true. Some bugs and defects were fixed and some design features were improved. The OP opines...
So clearly, if SE staff ask for feedback, there is a non-zero chance that the feedback may matter.
Oh, wait – they meant that there is a chance of that happening now (see comments below)
Also, posting bug reports on MSE does sometimes lead to those bugs getting solved, in many cases.
Ah, good! I think…
But when it comes to non-bug issues with Stack Exchange as a network, it has become abundantly clear that asking a question on MSE will accomplish nothing. There are many lines of evidence for this.
But there had been requests and suggestions to improve certain features and aesthetic qualities of the new theme, the new theme which I, personally, dislike intensely. Developers, community managers, and product managers, responded and handled those requests when they could.
Don't believe me?
Examples of when SE staff listened and when ‘stuff’ changed via MSE
By Jon Ericson♦, community manager, posted on August 13
- In between we see criticism with varying degrees of utility for us. For instance, we already know people don't like the new left bar. It's a central motivation for imposing the framework on sites and won't really prove it's worth until we are able to add features such as custom question list notifications to it.
By Joe Friend♦, product manager, posted on August 22
- An occasional problem with comments and answers on meta is that they seem more interested in scoring points (actual and metaphorical). Instead of responding to the post, they speak to others who are equally upset about whatever product/UX change is being made. The result is that the commenter uses over the top language, denigrates the changes and or the people who made them, calls into question their abilities and shows general contempt for my team.
This appears to be an objective assessment by someone who was acutely aware of users' complaints. The SE employee is unhappy about the current hostile climate, but they seem willing and eager to work with the user base.
My team is committed to improving Q&A for you and all our users. If we
can let some of the stuff from the past go and work together to
develop mutual trust, then we can collaborate and make significant
enhancements to the sites that you love.
By @Journeyman Geek, SE user and moderator on SuperUser, posted on August 13 [emphasis mine]
- I personally love the current theme we have, and it's only because we engaged and spoke up and let folks know what bothered us.
There's a few things that we did that worked great: •
Start complaining early: go through the mockups with a fine toothed comb. SU lost a lot of the design elements we disliked because we noticed and spoke up against them […] We didn't like the 'filler' background on ours and explained why..
Overall, the user appeared to be happy. Were not his complaints heard and acted upon?
Back in March 2018, @Adám asked
- Can we at least select our fonts?
I think the fonts give much of the feeling to a site, and may even affect usability. For instance, English.SE benefits from using a serif font to clearly distinguish letters and make IPA more readable. Likewise, Judaism.SE's serif font makes Hebrew phrases (which are very common there) look much better. And on Math.SE the serif font makes MathJax formulas blend in nicely. […]
This was not a bug report. On Jun 7, Joe Friend ♦ posted status-completed.
@Monica Cellio, user and moderator on the following sites: Mi Yodeya, The Workplace, and Worldbuilding, on Sep 27–a month before the twitter debacle–posted
But we can change some of the design consequences, like fonts and accessibility and our logo. I appreciate that SE is trying to work with communities on the things we can affect, and upvoting the announcements and being constructive and just plain civil in our responses are both keys to that.
After we responded to the preview of our design, Joe had this to say:
You all get the nicest community award. Your feedback was on point and very constructive. You're all awesome. I've added tags to the feedback below and we will try to include changes where ever we can to address it. Thanks! - Joe
And you know what? They fixed all the things we complained about on that post.
The Save the Robot! campaign was initiated on Worldbuilding meta on July 10th.
As per this post of the site's design being introduced, a lot of thought has gone into the site we know and love. It would be a great loss to lose these designs that have a place in our worldbuilding hearts.
Please upvote this to show your support in the current site-design, the true site-design.
- On that same day, a similar request was posted by @Mithrandir on MSE
Second, what's happening with those figures? You've incorporated the header image, but... what about our friends in the theme there? Can't we fit them in somewhere?
The post on Workldbuilding attracted 83 upvotes with no downvotes while the post on MSE gained a respectable 74 upvotes. And the two heroic figures were restored on the new theme. I'd call it a success story.
I think there is enough evidence to suggest that meta is not without its merits but it seems that I misinterpreted the OP's protest because in the comments the OP spells out [emphasis mine],
The point of this post is for issues where the Powers That Be have not asked us for ideas or to tell them issues. Essentially, it's about their response to unsolicited advice.
But let's remind ourselves of the title. It asks
What are the effective communication channels for effecting change to SE?
Did the examples mentioned show that change can be affected through MSE or not? Moreover, SE staff did not ask if users liked the new theme, but to “provide constructive feedback” while SE's new community manager, Catija ♦, (a member of SE Meta for over 44 months), posted on every child meta site the following directive: “Please help us look for issues/bugs related to the theme design and how we have mapped the old theme to the new.” and “If you have concerns or issues regarding the left nav or the overall approach we are taking to theming, then this Meta Stack Exchange post is the right place for feedback.”
So, how accurate is the accusation that MSE staff barely (or never) respond to observations, complaints, or ideas on how to improve the Stack Exchange experience for its 170+ Q&A websites? If–as the OP argues–it's true that staff ignore users' suggestions and complaints and are only prompted into action when a problem is exposed in a tweet, then maybe, maybe, it's time for this white elephant to go into retirement. Tim Post's answer certainly seems to hint at this direction:
I think, in 2019, we're going to have to bite the bullet and replace at least bug tracking and feature requests with something else, or have something else behind the pipeline consuming meta and making sure it gets put somewhere else in ordered form so we can work from it.
We know this is broken, and it's something we need to fix. And part of that fix really is adjusting expectations - we just can't ship the stuff folks ask for nearly as fast as we could previously -- we're just too big and there are too many dependencies and stakeholders.
EDIT 31 October
I got a fair number of downvotes for this post but if you believe that the people who run Stack Exchange do not listen to advice, do not respond to ideas, and do not care about users' grievances, the elimination of MSM is the natural and only logical conclusion.
Do the downvoters agree that MSE is not a useful mechanism for pointing out problems? Do they sustain that users have no other venue but Twitter if they want to be heard or taken seriously? Or do the downvoters disagree that Meta should retire, that it's served its purpose? Frankly I don't know because (until a few minutes ago) the only comments I got were by the OP and by user1271772.
The essential question posed by the OP is a very simple one, is posting on MSM a waste of time? It seems that 147 users agree with his analysis. While another 64 users agree with Rand al'Thor's answer, which is scathing in its criticism and conclusion.
[emphasis not mine]
From a cynical point of view, a Twitter rant might put SE in a position where they have to do something about a problem. A meta post never will, because they control the platform.
ORIGINAL (and edited)
What could replace MSE?
Child Metas Fly the Coop
Each of the 170+ sister sites has its own meta site. Users are encouraged to post “a question about a specific site's function and policy, or a specific question on a specific site, … on the per-site meta.”
By eliminating MSE you place greater power and responsibility in the hands of child metas, and in the hands of the elected mods. Users who know and usually deeply care about the site. That can't be a bad thing.
With the advent of the new theme, and its adoption network-wide, every site will have the same identical platform, every site will have compatible themes, so every bug reported on any child meta should be reproduced easily on any of the other 170 sites. Any suggestions on improving a site's appearance or functionality will also have to take into account the other 170 Q&A sites. There can be no more requests to tweak the voting arrows on a specific site or modify the logo's position for instance. If a proposal on a specific child meta earns significant consensus the mods on that child meta can pass that proposal/petition to the other sites, when a minimum consensus is reached (maybe +200 upvotes) then the "powers that be" must post their response, that response can be posted simultaneously network-wide.
MSM can then be used for official announcements, games, competitions, and when the SE developers need feedback on new features and fixed bugs etc. Users can then posts answers, but ONLY answers. One of the knock-on effects would be the elimination of off-topic questions that continue to plague the site on a daily basis.
To sum up, it's all about numbers; community managers, product managers, software developers and the Director Of Community Strategy would listen to users if proposals were upvoted on several different child metas rather than posted on Facebook or in a tweet by a solitary user… unless their name happens to be Jon Skeet.
Create a link between Meta from all the per site child meta sites
How to get attention to a post on a child meta site
Make network-wide FAQ posts available on per-site metas
Can you do a better job of informing new meta users of the MSE M-child difference?
How can we get people to participate on Meta sites?
Which meta am I supposed to post on?