30

I've read a couple comments where people have said they won't submit feedback to The Loop because they oppose the initiative. But boycotting The Loop won't help - it will just silence your voice. If you oppose the recent changes to the site, I suggest you submit honest feedback saying so. If you don't want to specify your demographics, select "Other".

They can take away our community but they can't take away our voices. Use yours.

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    'They can take away our community but they can't take away our voices. Use yours.' - What? Sure they can. They can just ignore it thus effectively making it useless, especially when MSE disappears. – Script47 Nov 26 at 14:41
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    You could phrase this as a question "Is boycotting the loop an effective solution to .." then give a self-answer. Or ask how to effectively raise concerns about 'the loop'. As it stands this is not really a question – dustytrash Nov 26 at 14:42
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    Not boycotting it ... will that help? – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 14:44
  • @Script47 They can ignore negative feedback either way. But it's less likely for them to ignore something that is there than something that is not. – Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 14:45
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    @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica nothing will help. If you fill it out honestly, chances are you'll fall under the category that they'll ignore. If you make it up, you might get selected or they might use your feedback but sooner or later they'll realize you're one of the ones they don't want feedback from. – Script47 Nov 26 at 14:46
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    @ReinstateMonica have you seen the backlog of feature requests that have been ignored as though they don't exist? Don't get me wrong, I see and understand your sentiments (hence I up-voted and I'll vote to reopen if the question is closed as I think it's valid) but I just don't think they'll be effective. – Script47 Nov 26 at 14:47
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    @Script47 I'm not saying submitting feedback is sure to make a difference. But avoiding The Loop is sure to not make a difference. – Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 14:48
  • @ColleenV not sure that would stop them from publishing some highly scientific projection with no figures to back it up. Sorry, I mean I'm sure that would not stop them from.... – Mena Nov 26 at 15:11
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    Upvoting the question but I disagree. The imposition of this opaque feedback methodology with the pretense of more transparency guarantees my disengagement. Nearly 15 years in the corporate world and I've seen that bs before. – Mena Nov 26 at 15:14
  • At this point nothing will help. It is "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of situation combined with "anything you say can and will be used against you". – Resistance Is Futile Nov 26 at 15:28
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    They can't ignore your opinion if you are middle eastern and non binary ☝🏻 – Josef Nov 26 at 16:55
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    "What do you like best about SO? 1. The answers. 2. The questions. 3. The comments. What frustrates you the most about SO? 1. That you haven't re-instanted Monica 2. SE Inc's attitude and overall recent management style. 3. This survey." – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 20:32
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    Instead of saying "Other", choose a random gender/race every time you answer the question :) – JonathanReez Supports Monica Nov 26 at 21:05
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    Is anyone building a replacement network yet? – faintsignal Dec 4 at 1:21
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    This is certainly assuming the answers answering "other" won't be culled from the results. Which is what I would do if I already had an answer and wanted the results to corroborate it... – Reinstate Monica Dec 4 at 11:43
56

How is it that they don't already know?

I would like to respond specifically to a (now deleted) comment below the question. It read:

I will wait and see. If it turns out that the loop is not just another weapon to attack the grossly oppressed minority of white, male curators, then I might participate.

Firstly, I am clearly aware that this comment will be widely seen as racist. I've gotten used to the idea that I now live in a world where everything about my culture is criticized as oppressive. I'm uncomfortable enough with that idea that I've stopped listening to and watching the news.

Stack Exchange was the one place I could go on the Internet where I could participate without having to be bombarded with my white privilege. Now that is gone.

Given this backdrop, how should I respond to a survey that says "Tell us what you like and dislike about Stack Overflow, but first, tell us your race and gender?"


I firmly believe that the (mostly) white guys who curate content on Stack Overflow (if that is, in fact, what the demographic is) have a duty and responsibility to see to it that it's a nice place to be, for everyone. And for years, we failed at that, as evidenced by the numerous posts on the Internet that call Stack Overflow an elitist club. That is the real problem with Stack Overflow's image, not pronouns.

It's partly the community's fault for being so snarky, and partly the corporation's fault for not finding better ways to on-board new people.

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    Snark is practically revered on this network. I've seen almost unimaginably unkind comments upvoted into the high double digits. And, almost as unimaginable, I experienced sexual harassment on my first site. This place has never been safe for me. – anongoodnurse Nov 26 at 17:06
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    @MartinJames - As a mod, I delete these comments. And some who know me know that I'm a self-confessed tech-illiterate user. So, no. But is it hard to believe? If it means so much to you, I can probably find some. – anongoodnurse Nov 26 at 17:11
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    @MartinJames While it would be nice to see examples, anongoodnurse is one of the most genuine and upstanding people on this site. I would trust her over almost anyone else here. – Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 17:15
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    @AskAboutMonica do you honestly believe that "white males" are "oppressed"? I mean, it's obviously absurd to call SE curators oppressed when they're the users with the highest rep and privilege level on the site, but talking about oppressed white males is just silly. As for curators, we aren't being oppressed, we're being ignored, insulted, dismissed, defamed, driven away, taken advantage of, you name it. Just not oppressed. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 26 at 17:44
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    @Rubiksmoose how is that 'snark'? It's a justifiable observation. Curators are treated as fair game when it comes to rudeness and insults. The crescendo of posts that suggest that they open themselves up to Twitterable exchanges is becoming deafening:( – Martin James Nov 26 at 17:47
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    @terdon-stopharmingMonica and yet you conveniently left behind the first part of that comment where it's clear it was responding to another comment about unkind and harrassment. Anyway, I don't even know why I intervened here – Lamak Nov 26 at 17:56
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    I'm surprised by your penultimate paragraph, and it seems to contradict the link in the last one. Isn't ~"educating people" a way to maintain what is (somewhat ironically: derogatively) referred to as "being elitist"? I mean, "elitist" here does in fact not mean much more than "We don't accept every crap". Some people will consider SO to be a "nice place" if and only if they get quick solutions for their crappy homework questions. So I, personally, don't want to be "nice to everyone", but only to those who want to contribute to a good Q/A site... – Marco13 Nov 26 at 18:37
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    @Marco13: It's not just the rejection of off-topic material; it's the snark that sometimes accompanies the rejection. Calling it "crap" is part of the snark. Remember, these folks generally come from forum environments, where everything goes. It's up to us and the corporation to demonstrate why doing Q&A Stack Overflow-style is better for everyone than those forums. – user102937 Nov 26 at 19:07
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    "An elitist club" is fine by me. What's wrong with meritocracy? Should we close Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and MIT because they're elitist? – Eric Duminil Nov 26 at 19:28
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    @EricDuminil Yeah, I don't understand that either. I'd rather seek business advice from Bill Gates than the proprietor of the local newsstand. I'd rather get programming advice from a snarky hacker than a noob more concerned about my feelings than getting the answer right. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 19:31
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    @Robert I see what you mean, and of course I would would usually not (and IIRC, never did) call some specific question "crap". But sometimes... well... questions are just crap (do you concur?). If someone repeatedly posts such questions and cannot be "educated" via downvotes, VTCs, edits and non-snarky comments then, at some point, a "non-welcoming" comment might be a last wakeup-call (or in doubt, an attempt to drive away those who don't breathe the spirit of the site). It should be rare, but the main point was: "Non-elitist" and "high-quality" do not play together very well... – Marco13 Nov 26 at 19:34
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    @RobertHarvey Well, I go all the way back to BBS and USENET where the motto was PDFTT, and if someone got out of hand, we'd P.I.S.S. on them. I'm an adult. I'll deal with a bit of snark if it gets me what I want. I figure, they're helping me, and my payment is my entertainment value – Richard says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 19:39
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    "live in a world where everything about my culture is criticized as oppressive" You are experiencing cognitive disociation which happens to get promoted by news channels. Remain critical and understand the agenda and bias of others, including the media. If you get criticised for your culture, gender or color of your skin, fight back with kindness, serenity and dialogue. – dfhwze Nov 26 at 21:26
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    @KonradRudolph I won't try to speak for Robert here. But I'm pretty sure that this referred to the fact that basically everybody who is a white male is considered (or should I say "accused"?) to be "privileged" (by some group of people). This is, in fact, a textbook example of racism and sexism, and when you say: "Suck it up", I say: No. And that's that. – Marco13 Nov 27 at 13:38
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    @RobertHarvey And nor am I. That’s neither here nor there. We both still benefit massively, though maybe to different extents, from structural societal differences. I cannot believe an intelligent person such as yourself is actually denying this, and I’m honestly disappointed. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 27 at 15:05
50

The Loop is a joke. Or, at least, it is obviously not a request for feedback. There's one broad, vague, multiple-choice thing about "how satisfied are you" with answers ranging from "extremely satisfied" to "extremely dissatisfied". This isn't real feedback, it's a Buzzfeed quiz. But fine, say that might give them an idea of how the people who bother to answer that feel. Of course, those who bother to answer are probably going to be the more active users anyway (cause why would you bother, otherwise?) and if SE doesn't know a large part of the active user base is Extremely Dissatisfied by now, I give up.

Then, there are two places for "feedback" in that mini-survey: two tiny text-boxes, one asking "what do you like about SO" and one asking "what do you not like". That's no place for any real level of feedback. They're obviously not asking for considered, well-structured feedback, they want some blurb.

Now, to be fair, Meta is a great place for considered, well-structured feedback, but of late it has instead been filled with vitriol and attacks. So this isn't good either and that's on us, not SE. But replacing this with two tiny text boxes with no support for formatting, no links, no real space to express yourself, that is a clear indication that the company doesn't actually want any feedback at all. I mean, seriously, look at this thing (sorry it's so faint, that's how it appears when you don't have a question focused):

screenshot of the survey

That's the level of feedback you want? One vague answer and two boxes that seem to have been designed to make sure nobody actually writes anything long enough to be useful?

And, of course, the whole thing is focused entirely on SO, completely ignoring the rest of the network. The blog post even goes as far as equating "users" with "developers". When they talk about how they will ask for "feedback" from "the community", they say (emphasis mine):

That’s why we’re creating a working group of users made up of people from all corners of the developer community — from folks new to programming, those who don’t participate in Stack Overflow but are passionate about programming, experienced Stack Overflow users, frequent contributors, and more.

So what I got from the blog post + survey link is:

  1. SE really don't want feedback but want to look as though they do.
  2. SE really don't care about anything apart from SO, to the point that even the marketing blurb on the blog that tries to focus on the community only sees SO.

Now, I get that SO is what puts money on the table and is the largest site by a few orders of magnitude, so of course it will always be getting more attention. But really, you claim you're trying to fix the disconnect with the community and yet, you focus on developers only and give us that joke of a survey as a way of showing how our voice matters?

While I didn't boycott the survey, I did give feedback that was as useful as the survey allowed me to make it (so, useless), I do feel it was a waste of my time and there's no point in doing it at all. So yeah, don't boycott it, but don't think it is anything useful either.

  • 2
    "Now, to be fair, Meta is a great place for considered, well structured feedback, but of late it has instead been filled with vitriol and attacks." I don't think that's fair. Yes, there has been vitriol, but there has also been considered, well structured feedback. – Peter Taylor Nov 26 at 19:39
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    @PeterTaylor sure, but it does tend to get lost in the noise. Some feedback here is great. A lot of it is really not. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 26 at 19:45
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    Re "focused entirely on SO": This is probably because the bad public image due to the tension with beginners on Stack Overflow (incl. homework questions) is considered to be the worst problem Stack Exchange has, hampering the 10x revenue growth before the IPO - in part caused by mismanaging user expectations. – Peter Mortensen Nov 27 at 7:30
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    Re two tiny text-boxes: But there is your chance of getting something significant in front of the right people/decision makers. The advantage is that most will be discouraged by this (little competition), and there is space for at least 600 characters in each box. (Though it will appear as a wall of text - thus, the inverted pyramid is more important than ever.) Write it externally in a text editor and paste it in. – Peter Mortensen Nov 27 at 7:33
  • @PeterMortensen, it's a very slim chance. On another meta thread a CM said that those boxes are being categorised by a neural net. You have to get lucky and be one of the small percentage of people whose messages are reviewed as a quality control on the neural net. – Peter Taylor Nov 27 at 9:15
  • My guess is that tiny amount of feedback gathered is not the the important part. Isn't it just the recruitment stage for the working group? Once recruited, members will participate in more detailed and extensive questionnaires? – Raedwald Nov 27 at 9:38
  • @Raedwald it is being presented as the way to make our "voices heard" and as the primary way to provide feedback. I don't think it is linked to the working group at all. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 27 at 10:00
  • Counter-point: meta was always a cesspool, pretty much from the beginning. It also provided useful feedback, but it was always a place that I tried to avoid as much as possible (as one of the highest rep, and longest serving members of the community). – Konrad Rudolph Nov 27 at 11:54
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    @KonradRudolph counter point to what? If you're addressing my answer, I agree completely. I've always avoided MSE also. But it's also true that it's gotten worse as we've grown, and even worse more recently. (completely off topic parenthetical: I just saw where you work and I've been talking with a colleague of yours about using your software, which is absolutely brilliant! Small world!) – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 27 at 12:09
  • @terdon I was specifically addressing your point that “Meta is a great place for considered, well-structured feedback, but of late it has instead been filled with vitriol and attacks.” — to note that this is emphatically not a recent development. I agree with your answer otherwise. And now reading your comment I think we fully agree. — Glad you like our software! :) – Konrad Rudolph Nov 27 at 12:11
  • @KonradRudolph Oh, absolutely. It's just gotten even worse, but it was never a fun place for me either. – terdon - stop harming Monica Nov 27 at 12:12
38

You don’t “fix” a rigged game by playing it and hoping that your earnest participation will somehow positively affect the people who rigged it. All participation does is reward bad behavior.

How someone chooses to spend their time is none of my business. However, the idea that feeding a bad system is better than refusing to waste your time on it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s rarely a good idea to settle for something sub-standard, unless you aren’t interested in seeing it replaced by something better.

I empathize with those of us who are desperate for things to somehow not be the way they are right now. However, “better than nothing” is not healthy thinking when it comes to relationships. We deserve better than a half-assed, politicized survey that dumps our feedback into a black hole.

  • 1
    You know, this reminds me of the constant dilemma within the Palestinian community in Israel, whether to participate in the Israeli parliament or to boycott it and the elections. There are significant arguments on both sides. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 20:27
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    ColleenV: You're right, but I was thinking about the emotional/psychological predicament. (I'm from Palestine, you see.) Never mind. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 20:47
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    If your game gets rigged, stop playing, no matter how much fun or validation you get out of the game. Address the issues with the game creators, maintainers and other players, or play another game. This statement is spot on: "All participation does is reward bad behavior." – dfhwze Nov 26 at 20:57
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    @einpoklum-reinstateMonica Because of high turnout in the Hong Kong election, China is put in a hard spot. It would've been much easier for Xe had young people stayed at home. – Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 22:18
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    @ReinstateMonica: A fair point, but those elections are not like the survey we're seeing now. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 22:20
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    @ColleenV The scale of importance is not being compared here. I like the comparison, because it points out the same dilemma: "Do you boycot a rigged game or keep playing it and try to change it within the game rules?" – dfhwze Nov 27 at 6:08
22

They absolutely can take away voices.

Numerous comments and answers have been deleted, and when they were deleted, they did a sneaky maneuver with it. Basically, some users broke the rules. Those users had criticism. Other users did not break the rules, but also had criticism. However, the second group was swept in with the first group when they tried to explain why they deleted all of it.

To the observant eye, this tactic was plainly evident. However, we couldn't even say that they employed that tactic in a response, because that, too, was deleted. They were allowed to lie to our faces about why our content was deleted, while we were to sit there and take it and leave with our tail between our legs, being told that we were part of the first group which was a minority, and only their portrayal was left behind, leaving an illusion.

Our legitimate criticisms of the latest developments were erased and we saw what it was like.

They have the code, SQL queries, and role based access. They can do what they want, however way they want it, and there's nothing you can do about it except boycott.

It's a black box. It's not only a black box, it can't even be analyzed programmatically very easily. The entire first half of the article about The Loop was about how we as a community are in the wrong, don't understand why we dislike abrupt changes, and how we need training and resources. Without a firm hand and just going along with their approach, we're tacitly endorsing their approach.

I view participation as a symbolic endorsement of the condescending article and I'd rather keep my dignity than submit to the black box so they can disregard it because I chose "Other".

17

If you oppose the recent changes to the site, I suggest you submit honest feedback saying so.

People have been doing that for years, so what's the point? SO is not participating in the metas anymore and creating this new feedback system explicitly because they don't want to hear the honest feedback that has been available here all the time.

If they would want to listen to feedback of the users that created the valuable content on their sites which attracts millions of visitors each month, they would have already done so.

17

As others have already said: Whether or not something will "help" is hard to say. In fact, it's not even clear what "helping" should mean here.

But broadly speaking, for the potential participants, there are several aspects that will affect the outcome of the survey:

  • Do you participate in the survey at all?
  • Do you have "the right" race, sex or gender?
  • Do you answer the questions specifically (i.e. not select "Other")?
  • Do you answer the questions truthfully? (!)

Considering how the survey may be distorted along these lines, it is clear that whatever the outcome of the survey will be, it would be presumptuous to draw any conclusions from that. A proper statistical analysis is not possible with free-text fields, and any "opinion" that is gathered from that survey is completely worthless unless the participants are a true random sample of the overall population and there is a reason to assume that they answer truthfully.

(Whatever the "population" should be here: Regulars? Contributors? Registered users? Visitors? All programmers? As far as I can tell, this survey does not even remotely make any sense...)


Independent of whether the survey does make any sense or not, the next question is how SE will deal with the results. I honestly tried to come up with different ways of how they could handle the results. But even if it sounds cynical, I see only one, overarching relevant point here:

Whether the results support their narrative or not.

Depending on that, there are different options for the next steps.

  • If the result supports their narrative: Write a blog post about it, and picture how things will be better in the future
  • If it does not support their narrative:
    • Distort it in a way so that it does support their narrative, and write a blog post about it
    • Ignore it, and write an unrelated blog post

Again, I'd really like to be able to have a different viewpoint here. But from what I have observed here in the past two years, one thing is clear: If the outcome of the survey result was that the minorities are highly satisfied and the majority was highly dissatisfied, then SE would have "achieved their goals", but they'd never admit it...

7

But boycotting The Loop won't help

That's not true. If a car drives in the absolutely wrong direction then not accelerating it is surely a good thing, isn't it. If they didn't listen to me here, they won't listen to me there either, even less so if there is no public scrutiny. Forget the thing as quickly as possible. It's better for everyone.

This looks a bit short for an answer but is all I can come up with regards to the situation. Sorry.

  • Your analogy is off. Not voting is ignoring the controls. But you can vote to use the brakes. The car may or may not listen to your input. But trying is better than not. – Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 19:01
  • @ReinstateMonica Unless the car misinterprets your attempts at stopping it as attempts to make it go faster, like if it reverses the brakes and the gas, in which case doing nothing is the better choice. However, this analogy is getting convoluted – House- 'Reinstate Monica' -man Nov 26 at 19:04
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    The analogy about swapped gas and brakes may not be too far off, though. The only practical way to analyze that much free-form text is going to be something like word clouds, in which case concerns about "insufficient barriers to entry" and "hostility towards curators" will just get lumped in with "barriers to entry" and "hostile community", just giving it more gas when we push on the brake pedal. – manveti Nov 26 at 19:40
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    @ReinstateMonica I have given them so many chances again and again. I'm tired and feed up. Enough is enough. The chances that they will listen to me are so close to 0%, it's simply not worth my time. They will not listen to me. I will not try. They have won, in a way. I escaped, in another way. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 22:08
5

They can take away our community but they can't take away our voices. Use yours.

I have nothing to prove to you.

Or "them SE Inc.", in this case.

When some bully tells you: "those are the rules you follow from now on, yours do not matter any more", then not following that suggestion might be the only sane option. (but yes, I took the loop, and was rather disappointed)

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