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.