28

Note: I am aware that this is the epitome of an opinion-based question. I am explicitly asking for people's personal opinions. Bearing in mind that this is meta and it works differently from a regular site, I feel that it is an acceptable question for Meta.SE and can provide useful information and feedback for the future.


With recent events across the Stack Exchange network, there are a lot of new faces around here on Meta Stack Exchange. Welcome! However, one thing I've noticed that may be causing a couple sticking points is that the people who are starting (or renewing in some cases) their participation due to recent events may have a different idea of what the site is as opposed to the people who have been sticking around Meta.SE as regulars since before this happened.

In light of this, I'd like to ask for your personal opinion (*gasp*). What purpose does Meta.SE serve in your eyes?

For instance, it could be a place to report bugs that affect the network; it could be a place to have important discussions that relate to the network; it could be a place to interact with staff; it could be a place to air your grievances; it could be your community. Or anything else.

Knowing how different people view the site may help to shed light on decisions that have been made, such as relating to moderation, and might help people understand others' point of a view a bit more.

What is Meta.SE to you?


Note 2: This is not the place to air specific grievances or get into arguments. Please keep your posts as neutral as possible; this isn't the place to solve any issues, it's just to gather information on how different people use the site. Using examples is fine, but please use your judgement and not allow this to devolve into a mess. I'd like this to remain a constructive post for everyone involved.

  • I'm not sure that I am explicitly asking for people's personal opinions and Please keep your posts as neutral as possible should be in the same post. :) – Pikoh Dec 10 '19 at 9:05
  • 10
    Perhaps you could differentiate how what is being asked here doesn't duplicate the "Why do you stay?" question and it's 37 answers. – Rob Dec 10 '19 at 10:04
  • Would it be allowed to post a slightly frame-challenging answer to say "no purpose"? Not complaining or trolling, just to express the opinion that Meta SE has outlived its value, which could be one potential answer to your question. – Rand al'Thor Dec 10 '19 at 10:10
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor - "i don't use it" and an explanation of why would certainly be a useful data point – Mithical Dec 10 '19 at 10:11
  • 5
    I'm confused as to why you'd think it would be a duplicate, @Rob. One is asking what you use Meta.SE for; the other is asking why people stay on the network. Quite distinct. – Mithical Dec 10 '19 at 10:26
  • 2
    " to air your grievances" - Could you explain what you mean by this? – Fermi paradox Dec 10 '19 at 12:48
  • 1
    Is this question some kind of survey? Not sure that works well in Q&A. – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 13:11
  • 3
    Never mind. I reread your post more carefully. I don't think many have the maturity to realize they sometimes use Meta to express their anger on random people. Let alone the courage to admit it publicly. It's usually normal users, but I've seen mods trying to bait users into an argument and then ... uh.. punish them because "they crossed the line". I've seen this by mods only 3 times in 6 years so it's very rare. But it happens. If the topic intrigues you, you should read Eric Berne's "Games people play". In the extreme cases (when hardcore players are involved it can become physical). – Fermi paradox Dec 10 '19 at 14:08
  • @Pikoh, you can have neutrally formed opinions. – tgm1024--Monica was mistreated Dec 10 '19 at 14:17
  • @tgm1024--Monicawasmistreated my comment intention was half humorous, but I'm really not sure that any opinion can be neutral. Anyway, that's my opinion – Pikoh Dec 10 '19 at 14:29
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? Why do you stay? – Renan Dec 10 '19 at 15:05
  • 2
    Is this question addressed only to the "new arrivals", or can the "old guard" answer too? (FWIW I don't think I fit neatly into either category). – Peter Taylor Dec 10 '19 at 15:28
  • @PeterTaylor - For anybody and everybody to answer. – Mithical Dec 10 '19 at 16:38

17 Answers 17

39

Meta.StackExchange.com was principally a place to raise concerns about network wide issues, network wide feature requests, and to form and nurture the community surrounding Stack Exchange. It was a place to create policy, revise policy, and remove policies that were no longer working.

It would seem that the current leadership at Stack Exchange no longer wishes to use it for community building, consensus building for policy, and to nurture the community.

Therefore, its usefulness (as a tool to build community through consensus on policy) is at an end.

It is still useful to answer troubleshooting questions about particular sites -- though those sites metas can handle that function well enough.

You could use it as a place to raise concerns about policies, but it is well understood through action that this is no longer the place to do so, and that no one in a position of power wants to interact on the policy level here.

30

I'm using it (or at least I'm trying to use it) mainly to help:

  • I'm answering (mostly ) questions by users who need help with certain Stack Exchange functionality.

  • I'm asking and questions which help improve the underlying system.

  • I'm especially enjoying writing SEDE queries to help with analysis for some of the questions.

  • I'm helping to improve the quality of Meta Stack Exchange itself with some of the mundane moderation tasks (flagging, editing, reviewing).

17

1. To know what's happening on Stack Exchange.

Meta.SE has been the center site of Stack Exchange network for years. Eventually, it became a SE personal news site. I receive news from any SE network site brought by its community.

2. Discuss things with different people.

It's better to talk to people with different taste, than talking to people who all have a common hobby. On Meta.SE we can get a solution of the problem that will satisfy more participants of SE network.

3. Just for fun.

For things like Winter Bash, or just discussing innovations on SE network.


However, after the unfair actions of SE management, I only stay because of the SE community that I like.

  • 2
    +1 for no. (1.) and (2.); it's not fun for me though. – einpoklum Dec 10 '19 at 15:19
15

I've always felt that MSE was supposed to be a support site for the rest of the network. To a significant extent, it's still the place to look up mechanics and public best practices.

In the past year, before the troubles and recent pivots, making it a useful venue for communications between the company and the community was a goal. On the short term, that seems implausible, but in the longer term, and I'm thinking years at this point, maybe we can get there again.

And here's the funny thing. Guess where bugs go?

The survey has issues? Meta post.

The blog has issues? Meta post.

Site has issues? Meta post

Meta is down... Twitter?

It still serves it purpose pretty well.

Historically, I've had a few constructive, though epic rants here - one of which still has a bit of an effect that I see every day.

Sometimes you need a specific tool. A right angle bit driver, or an extended bendy thing. And sometimes you just use the Swiss army knife in your pocket.

Unlike a new ticketing system (whenever it's built), or surveys - it's something there and usable when you need it. As a poweruser - I'm familiar with it and in many cases it kind of works.

  • 18
    "It still serves its purpose pretty well" None of those issues have received any response from SE. A year from now MSE is likely dead; open discussions with users are a waste of resources. – Servaes Dec 10 '19 at 12:50
  • 1
    Actually, I picked these specific examples cause they did. And that's how its properly used. Yes, even the survey – Journeyman Geek Dec 10 '19 at 12:51
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek Could you link to (some of) these posts? I'm honestly interested, I wish I had seen them. – Servaes Dec 10 '19 at 12:52
  • 1
    There was a post where folks pointed out the loop missed out a fairly major ethnic group. My search foo fails me. This one admittedly was mine - but there's literally no other pathway to point this out. Site bugs are aplenty here - I'm sure you couldn't have missed them. Practically - the company has no working alternative for many things, least for now – Journeyman Geek Dec 10 '19 at 12:59
  • 1
    Ah yes, site bugs are getting fixed here and there for sure. But to survey or blog issues I have not seen responses, other than the silent and weak fix to the list of ethnicities in the survey that does not address any of the underlying issues. – Servaes Dec 10 '19 at 13:03
  • On the other hand what other tools do they have that work better? – Journeyman Geek Dec 10 '19 at 13:05
  • 6
    They are now introducing the loop, possibly to replace discussions here. SE already does not engage in discussion anymore; the only responses we have seen are bug fixes. I expect a bug reporting tool soon, and then meta will be done. But that is just speculation, of course. – Servaes Dec 10 '19 at 13:06
  • 1
    SE has had a really bad track record with non Q&A products. You clearly have more faith in them than I do – Journeyman Geek Dec 10 '19 at 13:09
  • 16
    I have no faith in SE having a clear goal, good intentions, or the ability to properly execute any ideas they might have. That is precisely what gives me faith that the above will happen. – Servaes Dec 10 '19 at 13:11
  • It gives me faith that that's what they want to happen. But as Journeyman (and you!) pointed out that doesn't mean they'll actually be able to execute it. – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Dec 14 '19 at 12:37
  • I was a little unsure that's what Inactive was meaning ._. – Journeyman Geek Dec 14 '19 at 14:43
9

What purpose does Meta.SE serve in your eyes?

Several others have already provided answers about how Meta is used to support users, discuss feature requests and file bug reports. I use Meta for those, but it is not my primary purpose.

In previous years it was a place to talk and engage with the company and entire Stack Exchange network. As the divide between company and community grew wider, it became a place to talk with the community about larger network events. It was a place to rally support for the important issues so that when the company did come through, we could point them to the "most important" issues, as we saw it.

This year, Meta has become the place to speak truth to power. While the first reasons still exist - bug reports, platform support, feature requests - I don't see that as Meta's primary focus any longer.

The company built Meta with the goal of engaging the community. Actions that have occurred have brought many new users to Meta and now the community wants to engage. It's just not on the friendly terms that everyone originally hoped. Unfortunately, that's how things usually work. You'll see complaints must more frequently than the user that is satisfied with a product.

This is the chance to engage the community. Yes there are frustrations. Yes there is anger and resentment. Yes there is fear, doubt and uncertainty. But, there is also a large chunk of people still here that want this to be the place to talk to Stack Exchange and build something better. Unfortunately, somewhere between the resentment and boundless optimism is where I sit right now.

I am sitting here and I go back and forth between being mad at the company (and other members of the community, if we're honest) and being optimistic we can get through this. Some days there is hope that the company will be willing to sit down and have a hard, difficult, discussion with the community on Meta. Sit down, take the hits that the community is going to dish out and provide real answers to tough questions about what the future looks like and how the network as a whole is going to operate. Put someone forward in these discussions that can make and execute on real decisions. Other days, there is pessimism that this will never happen. Legal actions have been taken. By their nature, that is going to shut down methods of communication, lest someone say something that could be used against them.

So, where does that put Meta?

Speaking truth to power. My optimism is helping me believe that even if the company is pulling back from Meta, someone is still reading the difficult discussions and taking away something from it. Something that needs to change. Something that can be done better. Something that could improve the community building aspect Stack Exchange should be striving for here. Even in the angry posts, there is passion from the community about what needs to be better. What we expect Stack Exchange to do better. Stack Exchange built up a lot (a lot) of good will over the past decade. That has eroded very quickly. However, there is still a very dedicated community here that is using their past experience with the company to see how things were. How communication flourished and how transparent the company was with many of their decisions. We know they can do it and want to see it again.

Meta serves as a Stack Exchange provided and blessed platform to give my opinion on how the site and the network operates. Disclaimers like the one at the top of the question should not be needed.

  • 2
    Very nice answer. "...there is still a very dedicated community here that is using their past experience with the company..." If I have time I would actually like to visualize how the dedicated community in the metas has changed over years. Is there still a sizeable, dedicated community here, or has it fled by now? – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 16:27
9

Right now? Honestly?

Entertainment.

And that's not sarcasm. I genuinely, literally, come to MSE for entertainment nowadays.

Hey, you asked!

8

Meta Stack Exchange is my virtual home.

I don't have a personal website, I don't have a blog. So I spend my spare online time here.

At first I used it mainly to learn what's going on, then when catching the gist, started to share what I know, help where I can, report bugs I find, and suggest new features I find useful.

And like with every home, I love to keep it clean and organized, aka edit posts, remove bad posts, close when needed, etc.


That said, I don't own the house, just live here, so also affected when the owners are making changes. So far those changes don't stop me from doing the above, but worth to keep in mind it can.

  • My only concern with this attitude is that (IMO) it requires someone with outside exposure to properly gauge whether or not M.SE has relatively gone off course. That is part of the problem here, particularly with mods. If your home is /truly/ here, there might be more opportunity to gauge the course of M.SE by gaining more experience elsewhere. I'm still thinking about your post... – tgm1024--Monica was mistreated Dec 10 '19 at 14:23
  • 4
    This is depressing. This isn't even a site -- it's a site about a site. And they're installing hostile architecture to try to keep you from sleeping on their bench. – user311362 Dec 10 '19 at 14:24
  • @CarpeCM, probably, but which part do you view as hostile? Do you mean the attitude toward Trans, attitude toward Monica, or the attitude toward long term denizens of M.SE, or something else? – tgm1024--Monica was mistreated Dec 10 '19 at 14:26
  • 3
    @tgm1024 All of the above. And now they're delegitimizing MSE after presenting it as THE place to go to vote on policy and report bugs. Now, that place appears to be Twitter. – user311362 Dec 10 '19 at 14:31
  • You should get your own house. Paying rent is throwing your money into a black hole... and dealing with a-hole landlords all the time is bad for your mental health! – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Dec 16 '19 at 18:34
  • 1
    @Lightness own house costs more than I can afford, so if I want a place to live in, I don't have a choice. – Shadow9 Dec 16 '19 at 22:11
8

I didn't really use MSE until I became a moderator, so my reasons are biased towards that. (I still don't participate a lot, but I do lurk regularly.)

The purposes it serves for me, in order of importance:

  1. Understanding policies and how to apply them. There's a lot of SE knowledge and common practices beyond what's in the standard help center. My site is a beta, so we'll run into situations that are new for our community but not necessarily for others - MSE is a great resource for checking "how should this feature be used? what's the rationale for doing it that way, to inform the discussion on my local meta?". Think community FAQs, as well as more philosophical things like "when is an answer not an answer".

    This is definitely the most important for me. Both staff and community responses are valuable - to understand how features were intended by the people who developed them, and to read about how they have been put into practice across other sites and lessons learned.

  2. Keep up with Stack Exchange news and updates, and ask questions / submit constructive feedback on those. This could effectively be replaced by blog (for news and updates) and public bug tracker (for bugs and feature requests), IMO.

  3. Keep up with community sentiment. Regardless of my own opinions, enough users on my site also participate here that I feel like I ought to be aware, so I'm not blindsided by any drama that makes its way into my corner of the network.

    (I say "keep up with" because personally, I don't really feel like it's useful to treat MSE as a community unto itself - rather, I see it as a collection of many separate communities that happen to use the same format. Sure this is a simplification and there's certainly some meta-meta things to discuss... but I'm not that involved. So I prefer to stick to local metas and discussing issues within those specific communities.)

  4. I like swag and hats ;)

8

I moderate a small site here that attracts a lot of new users who are completely unfamiliar with the Stack Exchange model of Q&A.

I most often use MSE to link to community consensus that hasn't been codified in the help pages, and the various FAQs here that go further into explaining how the site works.

I do this to assist in explaining why/how certain policies or features work the way they do, without pretending that it's my voice making those decisions, and to avoid duplicating the same meta discussions that have already taken place here regarding various site policies.

  • That's strange. Isn't the question asking about your utility for this very site, MSE, not just any meta you use? It isn't clear to me which metas you mean. – LаngLаngС Dec 11 '19 at 15:06
  • @LangLangC I answered for this specific meta. – Bryan Krause Dec 11 '19 at 15:12
5

Meta with all the discussions that happen here has helped me grow as an individual.

I use Meta to better understand how the Stack Exchange network sites work and how the community around the Stack Exchange network sites evolve in general.

As I was very late to the party (I become regular on SE network sites only around less than a couple years ago), the entire repository of Q&A posts are often very helpful in understanding the inner working of sites from all possible angles.

I wish to evolve to a state where I can grow from a consumer to a contributor on Meta Stack Exchange.

Also, it's a nice bonus to have a chance to interact with, and learn from the passionate and awesome community members.

5

To me, it's a place to understand that SE (or SO-Inc) is a unified whole, and not a collection of QA sites with similar structure about Writing, about Workplace and Academia (as I was transitioning between those realsm), about using commercial applications (Super User), about UX Design choices (and especially how they affect accessibility), remembering trivia about my entertainment (TV & Movies, SFF, RPG) or extrapolating out from it (Worldbuilding)...

Monica was one of the ones that greeted me warmly when I started this past spring posting a lot in Writing.SE. I knew I ran into her name a few other times when I popped to other parts of the network, but I didn't realize it was like having Sergei Brin show me how to construct better queries.

So when Monica was demodded unceremoniously right before the Shabbat before the High Holy Days, and then I learned about how many sites she modded and how many other mods supported her -- this wasn't just mid-1990s Sergei Brin, this was early-1980s Steve Wozniak! Fundamental, paradigm changing, and completely undervalued by the $$ side of things.

Meta.SE, not Writing.SE and Writing's Meta became my new home base. I wanted to understand a bit about how a coding-only Q&A site became a network of 170 sites, and what connected all of them besides a code base.

Maybe being here is like being Neo (original Matrix only -- I barely remember #2 and didn't see #3) -- instead of the illusion of 170 sites, of which I care about maybe 8, I am closer see the underlying patterns of the real site core. It's not pretty - but changing individual sites doesn't matter if the underlying structure is flawed.

5

Thank you. Personally, despite the lack of high reputation, I actually have been a member of Meta Stack Exchange for some years. After joining my first Stack Exchange site in 2013, I started to really like and respect the way the site worked, and the people who made it work the way it did (does).

As an inquisitive person, something (maybe Hot Meta Posts) on the network caught my eye, and I followed it to MSE, where I found people asking and answering many questions that I was also interested in. I was a big fan of SE, so I cared about how it worked and why. Anything. What is and isn't appropriate use, fixing bugs, how to maintain the site in general...all things others have mentioned. I wanted to know how I could contribute, as an enthusiastic user of the site. I still would be, if it hadn't taken, in my humble opinion, a turn for the worse recently, due to management decisions. It was one of these decisions, actually, which I perceived as my first opportunity to actually submit question or answer on Meta. Before that (as also on most SE sites I've been on), all the questions I'd wanted to ask had already been asked and answered. And my answering the few times I did try, had never been fast enough. So, my reputation largely stayed 1, despite being an avid...consumer, I guess, of the site.

4

What purpose does Meta.SE serve in your eyes?

In my eyes: discussing, analyzing, formulating, voting and deciding together with the company on the engine and the rules that constitute the core of the network.

That includes but is not limited to bug reports, feature requests, thresholds, site design, licenses, the rep system, badges, privileges, reviews, moderation, flags, recommendations, votes, the user interface, etiquettes, elections, advertising, the api, data dumps, spam or socket puppets and the code of conduct.

To a certain extent also the Winter bash (not for me really though).

All in all lots of discussions and votes and giving feedback to the company and deciding together with the company here on meta where everyone can participate.

But I have to say that looks more and more like a wish than like reality. I want to use meta for this purpose and only for this purpose and I still have hope that it serves this purpose at least partly currently still and maybe could serve this purpose fully again and I will try all this for a little while longer, but if that all turns out in vain, then my answer to this question will be:

None, whatsoever.

And I'm still here, lingering around, and there are still a couple of meta questions I want to ask and get to know answers.

  • 4
    Is that the purpose it actually serves for you, or the purpose you would like it to serve? – terdon Dec 10 '19 at 14:14
  • @terdon It's the purpose. Do you ask me, how often the purpose has become actually true? – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 14:29
  • 1
    Not I, the question. The question isn't asking what MSE should be for, it is asking for people to explain what purpose MSE serves for them. Not what it should be doing, but what it is doing now. Your answer seems to be answering the question "What was MSE originally for" and not "why do I, Trillarion find this useful today". – terdon Dec 10 '19 at 14:38
  • 1
    @terdon You're right that these are the purposes I would like meta to be and because of that I also only use meta for them. I don't want to use meta for other stuff and and I don't do. The purposes can still be achieved at least to some degree. Detailing which of these can actually be achieved with which efficiency, may be a bit too much work. If meta will not serve these purposes anymore at all, I will not use meta anymore. I really want to use meta only for these purposes, at least I try and while the last months have put me off, I will try for some more time before making a final decision. – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 14:49
  • 1
    OK, but this question is asking why you use it today. If you are listing purposes that can no longer be achieved, you're not really answering. – terdon Dec 10 '19 at 15:25
  • 1
    @terdon-stopharmingMonica What if they can someday be achieved again? – Stop Harming the Community Dec 10 '19 at 15:49
  • @terdon You're right. I'm sorry. Then the answer is more: none purpose. Have edited the answer. – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 16:08
  • @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica then one day they may be achieved again. But that isn't what this question is asking. – terdon Dec 10 '19 at 16:36
4

Aside from posting bug reports, I like to learn how different technical or social problems have been raised, discussed and solved or not solved before. What mistakes were made and what lessons were thought to be learned. What went right and what went wrong.

MSE is a treasure trove for historians and researchers of community building, management and moderation. If you're reading this, you're probably a valuable part of this international effort, and for that I thank you. Let's continue building the best repository of knowledge we can together!

  • "Let's continue building the best repository of knowledge we can together!" Of course. That goes without saying. It's just not exactly clear where and under which circumstances. – Trilarion Dec 11 '19 at 23:07
  • Wherever we may find ourselves on this world wide web! This site is just one such place out of many. If it goes bad, we are not bound by any rules and we can go anywhere we want! That's the beauty of it. – user1306322 Dec 12 '19 at 14:22
  • And even more beautiful is that in this particular case I can take the knowledge with me when I go wherever I want. Because I'm not the guy wanting to start again at zero every time. – Trilarion Dec 12 '19 at 16:42
4

As an experienced user I'm meant to have soaked up some preconception of how SE works and what makes it good, how to behave as a user, what makes an SE site successful and why people like to use an SE site.

That isn't all in the Help (though a lot of it is).

I was picked pro-tem moderator of a site, partly because of my prior experience with SE -- I could explain "the SE way" to a new community of users, maybe guide the community to become "an SE site" -- and, personally, I'd be expected on that site to have inherited like an ethos which you'd expect of an SE moderator.

So in that context, Meta is helpful only as a reference. If I want to explain to someone on the site that "comments are temporary post-it nodes", that explanation (to be referenced) is in a FAQ here on Meta rather than in the Help.

It's also a place for me to ask questions about software behaviour, if there's something I don't know. If a user has a problem with a mobile device, or a question about the API, I might ask that here on their behalf -- instead of asking on my site Meta, I'm the one who answers questions there.

And if someone want to suggest new SE software features then I suggest they ask here rather on the site Meta (though I warn them there are a lot of unfilled feature-suggestions here already).

Also I don't use chat rooms, if they're too quiet or too busy (too noisy) -- so (recently at least) this acts something like a third place -- to discuss SE as a topic of mutual interest and experience with whoever is interested (and not only with the users of one site, nor only with moderators).

4

I'm here to observe how the Stack Exchange sites evolve.

I've been one of the highest ranking members of two non-computer-related SE sites for many years until I left in exasperation. Every now and then I come back to see how the two sites fare. My last visit happened to coincide with the Monica situation. I was hoping for a fundamental change, and became a Meta member to observe it from close up.

4

To speak about Stack Exchange, Inc. and the direction they are taking the Stack Exchange Network.

I don't come here for the hats, or the knitting, or to say that on my 10 year old browser some box is three pixels too wide. I don't care about any of that.

But what I care about is the community, and where SE, Inc. is taking that community. That's what I am here to speak about, even if some may dislike the tone in which it happens.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .