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On my fourth reading of the blog post introducing The Loop, I noticed something that seems to indicate that the company wants to introduce changes in how the child metas function - something I didn't fully grok when I first read the post:

We’ve revisited the best use of our Meta Sites and will communicate the transition rollout to the community in Q1 2020.

There's definitely potential when it comes to reworking metas . . . but if the replacement is going to be anything like The Loop, we are in deep trouble. Here's why:

  • The Loop is, well, terrible, regardless of whether it's applied to Stack Overflow or smaller sites. There's no discussion, no room for nuance, no transparency - and the majority of its questions are about demographics, not actual site problems.
  • SO seems to want to adopt a top-down approach to solving problems, i.e. giving solutions from on high rather than encouraging the community to offer solutions - and a model where this very-much-not-public feedback goes to the company . . . which, I believe, is extremely out-of-touch with the individual meta sites.
  • Meta helps me as a moderator connect with the community. It's an opportunity for me to put a person behind my gravatar. And I know that engaging with users matters. Which is more relatable - an actual person, or a survey form?
  • The really small sites don't have 50 million users. We don't have the size problems Stack Overflow does. There's really no need to pretend that we do. Child metas aren't suffering from the sort of issues that Meta Stack Exchange (and Meta Stack Overflow) are said to be facing.

All of this is exacerbated, in my belief, by the possibility that the company as a whole is incredibly out of touch with the majority of sites on the Stack Exchange network. The homegrown employees - including many CMs - may not be, but folks hired from outside may only be familiar with Stack Overflow at best. Their jobs provide them with no incentive to get to know the network sites in depth. I honestly don't recall the last time I saw an employee participate on Worldbuilding - though some have in the past.

Look, we the network are not profitable - not even with the new ad policies. And we likely never will be. Clearly, the company cares about growing the size of its userbase, but Worldbuilding and my other sites will never be a part of that. And so that means that Stack Overflow, Inc., likely won't throw any substantial resources at us, despite little projects here and there. That's okay. We've gotten that through our heads by now.

But if employees aren't going to use the individual communities, if you're collectively not going to try to work side-by-side with the community, and if you're really intent on even partially replacing metas with things like the Loop - well, please don't. Don't try to apply your model of governing Stack Overflow to the smaller sites. Because those of us in the trenches know that it won't work. It certainly won't work if your replacement involves us the users sending surveys to a company incredibly out of touch with its smaller communities.

I have no idea what direction the company will take with the child metas, and I quite frankly could be yelling about the sky falling, but it looks like that rollout next year will not be preceded by any solicitation of feedback from the userbase. I would love to work with SO to make metas more friendly, more effective, and more representative of all users, but I'm not optimistic that they want to work with the community on this. Therefore, I am certainly not waiting to voice my opinion about one possible route the company may take which I feel is extremely dangerous.

Please think carefully before making changes to the per-site metas. Please think about whether you truly understand the communities. Please strongly consider that the small sites don't suffer from the scale problems Stack Overflow does. And please, please, please, don't give us the Loop.

  • 1
    or simply: Please don't bring TheLoop – faintsignal Nov 28 at 3:15
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    @faintsignal Well, yeah, that too. . . I made this more focused on the smaller per-site metas because 1) SE seems slightly less dead-set on implementing it there, and 2) I can make even more arguments as to why The Loop would be a failure on child metas. I wanted to bring up some points I think folks hadn't mentioned yet. But yeah, I would be quite thrilled if the Loop wasn't applied anywhere - at least, not in its current form and current apparent importance. – HDE 226868 Nov 29 at 17:25
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It's probably not happening cause... I think we're going back to the bad old days when only SO mattered.

Until there's a good replacement for our sites - or SO corp can find a good reason to start killing off smaller communities, we're actually pretty well placed to handle local issues on meta. And that's 'good' since, well, that means less resources need to be spent on community.

And well - I'd point out, Survey Monkey is totally free, and to a certain extent, depending on the questions, it's pretty easy to control the narrative.

I don't think MSE is going anywhere. At worst they'll just build a wall around it, let it fester and burn, and ignore it as far as practicable.

For the rest of us, in the actual hobbyist side of running a community, it's business as usual. We'll get a little support in the form of our lovely CMs but clearly we're back to what it was with Careers - only SO seems to matter, and even that's kinda on the side of "We need to cater for the masses, not just the core community". Only without the promise of 'things will get better'.

I'm tired of folks who should be working with us company or otherwise undermining every effort to help. I suspect maintaining the status quo, and devolving as much as possible to the moderators is the plan. Our metas are 'safe'. Just not a way for our users to communicate with the company.

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    You're a moderator, and they seem to favor the diamonds a little more than us peons. Do you have any pull there at all? – user102937 Nov 27 at 2:24
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    There's people who want to work with us - but honestly, It feels like a certain part of the company wants MSE to turn into a toxic cesspool. And they are winning in every way possible. And honestly - looking at the response or lack thereof of moderator resignations, I wonder if its considered an acceptable loss. – Journeyman Geek Nov 27 at 2:28
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    I submitted myself to the Moderator Reinstatement Process™ a couple of weeks ago, to see what would happen. It would appear that I've been banned for a year from being a moderator again. – user102937 Nov 27 at 2:34
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    Ow, did they actually say that? The process took a while for me due to backlogs, though I think the other two remaining MSE mods would have been simpler to contact than the larger SO mod team. – Journeyman Geek Nov 27 at 2:41
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    They said, in so many words, "Users who have had a suspension are disqualified from running in an election for a year, and we're applying this rule to you." – user102937 Nov 27 at 2:44
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    I completely agree with your answer. The loop announcement solely mentions stack overflow, nothing else. Maybe: when se Inc envisions an education for moderators, probably all their staff should undergo a similar program to understand that there a plenty other communities on the network, besides stack overflow. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 at 2:57
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    @RobertHarvey that sucks. I'd hazard a guess that they might not let you back then either, considering the way they've been going about things lately. – Magisch Nov 27 at 7:33
  • "we're actually pretty well placed to handle local issues on meta". Isn't true. At least for ruSO. All important decision should go through eng CMs. Those decisions could be dragged on for months. – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 at 9:40
  • Tbh. The company hasn't cared for much of the rest of the network for quite a while. We don't really rely on CMs that much cause well... They're overworked. RU.so has some historic quirks. Didn't the site essentially get imported with it's own CM? – Journeyman Geek Nov 27 at 9:45
  • Also every official request drags on. Not enough people I guess. – Journeyman Geek Nov 27 at 10:00
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    @RobertHarvey When you got suspended, I had the feeling that was intentional, so you would had troubles getting back in. Maybe I am wrong, but it is quite plausible scenario. – Resistance Is Futile Nov 27 at 10:04

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