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So I can't make sense of the blog. I just don't understand who the intended audience for it is. The blog has posts about:

  • Ads for Teams: 1, 2
  • Ads for other companies/organisations: 1, 2, 3, 4
    • including product recommendations: 1
    • Some of which are helpfully tagged as "partner-content": 1
  • The podcast: 1
    • Most of which are IMO partially ads for other companies/organisations: 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Site announcements: 1, 2, 3, 4
    • And some for features only available on Teams, which is half an ad: 1
  • Posts from SE's researchers about the SE sites and communities: 1
  • Two different series of post roundups:
    • StackOverflowKnows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    • The Overflow: 1, 2, 3
  • Ben Popper is the Worst Coder
    • Ben is a SE staff person (though you wouldn't know this from the posts) who for some reason wants us all to know how bad he is at programming. 1, 2
  • Posts targetting
    • people learning to program: 1
    • developers doing security audits: 1
    • front end developers: 1
    • senior developers: 1
    • interviewers: 1
    • sad developers??: 1
    • developers who want a misdiagnosis of impostor syndrome: 1
    • developers at any level: 1, 2
  • Technology introductions: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Weird fiction: 1

So who is the intended audience of all this? Why are there so many disparate categories of posts all in one place?

In writing this post I also realised there's no way to go back to see any more posts than what is on the front page of the blog, other than following tag links from those posts.

But, if you did want to read more, it's not like the tags are used sensibly either. For example, the Announcements tag includes posts about:

Sorry, but while there may be some individual articles of gold on the blog, there are way too many ads, and the rest of it is such a scattered and mismanaged mess that I could never subscribe to the blog's feed. The posts that get shown in a site's side bar seem to be taken from the announcements tag, so half the time its ads or something else that's not actually an announcement, and the announcements bar usually just shows the podcast instead of announcements. So I avoid visiting the blog and rely on seeing important posts discussed in chat on here on MSE.

It doesn't have to be this way! You could target the blog to a clearly defined audience. I'd encourage SE staff to consider this.

Also, sad feels only: the company pays people for these confusing poor quality posts even though half of them are ads.

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    Btw: I wish I could upvote multiple times to show my appreciation for you putting up all these links. Maybe SE Inc. should introduce a summary page of the blog, and they could start with your content here ;-) – GhostCat Jan 8 at 8:47
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    There is actually not just one SO blog, but at least two additional ones apart from the main blog: the Advertising blog and the Talent blog. Just to make this a bit more confusing than it already was. – Mad Scientist Jan 8 at 13:41
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    These were my views on an older incarnation of the blog. Different team of folks, possibly different issues but a lot of it still rings true. – Journeyman Geek Jan 9 at 2:15
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    I have made a list of all Stack Overflow blog posts all the way back to 2008, about 230 blog posts. (Few are annotated at this point in time, but it can be useful if the approximate date is known). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 9 at 12:40
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    I don't know, but it sure ain't me. Every time I look at a blog post I feel click-baited. Not that the content doesn't match the title, but that I always come away with the sense that I wasted my time. The most recent one they "tagged" with "humor" but it is definitely not that thing. – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Jan 10 at 22:23
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    I'm enjoying the banner ads for Teams inside blog articles #1990s – Asteroids With Wings Feb 15 at 13:28
39

The question is tagged discussion, so I think that blog readers (not only authors) are asked to chime in here, too.

You see, I honestly do not mind that SE Inc. tries to address a broad audience here. The essential thing for me isn't that there are plenty of different topics. I do not expect that all posts on that blog matter to me. Nor is it mandatory that there is even one reader out there who really cares about all posts.

Instead: it simply needs to be easy for readers to get to that content that each reader cares about! And there is a simple solution for that: consistent and meaningful tagging.

From that point of view:

  • Yes, having a clear understanding about the intended target audiences is a very reasonable starting point.
  • But beyond that, what is much more important: that a specific audience can easily get to specific content.

Therefore: the solution might rather be:

  1. To make the existing blog tags a central element of navigation
  2. Ensure that blog tags are meaningful, and applied consistently.

Example: the (in)famous the-loop post shows three tags: announcements, stackoverflow, and uncategorized.

The first one is helpful, the second has a bit of a "fishy smell" for me (as in: isn't it the Stack Exchange network of communities), and the last one is close to nonsensical.

So, as said: I think SE Inc. should focus on defining a clear, crisp list of tags, and then make sure these tags can be used with ease to get to specific content. Before I answered this question, I wasn't even aware that the blog uses tags. They just show up at the bottom of posts, and there is no overview anywhere that tells us about the existing tags and so on.

(You know, there is a reason why "we" have tags for our questions, and why "we" together worry so much about meaningful tags, don't "we"?)

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    Wow, that uncategorized tag is hilarious. I still think the company having a clear intended audience would help with them not posting nonsense (like the weird holiday story), but yes, proper navigation and appropriate tags would help. – curiousdannii Jan 8 at 8:15
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    Also The Loop is actually only for SO users, not SE users so the stackoverflow tag is probably appropriate in this case. But the announcements tag is definitely being misused as I showed above. – curiousdannii Jan 8 at 8:25
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    @curiousdannii I agree. But that is probably a point that shows the cracks between "the community" and the "the company". "We" mostly think of "all communities with all users" (at least here on MSE), whereas SE Inc. keeps telling us that "the whole network" matters, but effectively, they focus on their one cash cow stackoverflow. – GhostCat Jan 8 at 8:34
  • But how do you handle a set of tags (more than one)? A single tag may not cut it. Or all tags except a particular set of tags (or perhaps except a particular tag, like the podcast)? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 9 at 14:01
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    @PeterMortensen I am not sure what you are asking for. First: define the tags you want to have. In other words: define your target audience(s) and your communication goals. Then find the smallest number of tags that resemble your goals. And then be consistent. I am not saying that this is easy or guaranteed to work. I am just saying: the tags are already there. So use them appropriately. And I am sure that this community can give valuable advice how to base an information system on tagging ... – GhostCat Jan 9 at 14:15
  • @curiousdannii - I thought The Loop was about more than a survey. I thought it was a new paradigm for "community input," whereby Meta.SE would be deprecated, and input would all have to be delivered through a small set of hand-picked "representatives." But maybe I misread the plan. – aparente001 Jan 10 at 7:50
  • @aparente001 Who knows really. At the moment it seems SE's staff have said they're focusing just on SO. – curiousdannii Jan 10 at 8:36
  • @curiousdannii - I guess that could refer to allocation of resources. The level of responsiveness to questions and proposals here has been uneven. – aparente001 Jan 10 at 16:33
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So I can't make sense of the blog. In addition to not showing the posts in order, I just don't understand who the intended audience for it is.

I’m not so sure the blog is intended to ‘make sense’ as a whole. The posts are just a loosely gathered bunch of stuff that happened.

The blog exists partly as a outlet for people to write the odd creative idea, partly because someone in the hierarchy figures a site like SE ‘should’ have a blog, and partly because it’s a convenient place to make announcements in a write only format that avoids having to engage with the community (and if SE hadn’t spent the last few month putting out fires with gasoline, I could even argue that a place to make announcements without them being drowned in debate is necessary).

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The intended audience for our blog is anyone who visits StackOverflow.com or who is interested in coding, software engineering, or the industry around it.

We deliberately cover a wide range of topics that may be of interest to different types of readers who work in development or who are developer-adjacent. We hope that our recent redesign helps to reflect this.

Since we have started posting more regularly and with more diverse content, our overall traffic is up by about 4x.

(Just about all of the usability issues on the blog reported in the question have been addressed by our recent redesign, so I am deliberately not talking about them in this answer.)

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    Not to cast shade on you (hey, at least you are responding...), but why isn't someone from marketing or management (i.e. someone who's actually setting the strategy) saying this? – Oded Feb 13 at 18:14
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    How much of the "overall traffic is up by about 4x" is driven entirely by the banners on SO? – pkamb Feb 13 at 18:35
  • @Oded I mean, is not "to cast shade", as you said, but it's still kinda disingenuous to answer op's question about "intended audience" after they fixed every point in their question – Lamak Feb 13 at 18:49
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    Why is half the blog ads? And why is there such poor quality control? The article on impostor syndrome is woefully embarrassing for you (especially the author's comments). – curiousdannii Feb 13 at 21:28
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    Also the posts do seem to be more in order now, so thank you for that. However the "announcements" tag has not been fixed in the slightest. I don't understand why anyone would want to read about Ben Popper or why you need two post roundup series. Don't think that you have "completed" this discussion yet. – curiousdannii Feb 13 at 23:55
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    Also if the blog's audience is only targetted to SO/programming SE sites, can you promise that the announcements bar and the side bar will never show the blog on any of the humanities SE sites? – curiousdannii Feb 13 at 23:58
  • @pkamb sorry, I don't have access to the data on blog traffic sources. – Yaakov Ellis Feb 16 at 12:27
  • @Lamak I did not intentionally wait to answer the question until after the new UI was released (which addressed just about all of the usability points being raised). That is just a fortunate coincidence (or unfortunate, if you want to look at it that way). – Yaakov Ellis Feb 16 at 12:28
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    @curiousdannii Thanks for your feedback. I think that you are grossly over-exaggerating when you say that half the blog is ads. I am loading up posts and seeing one ad. If you have complaints about specific tags, please report them in a new post. If you don't like specific articles, you are invited to simply skip those articles. Not every article will appeal to every reader. And no, I cannot make any promises about advertising for the blog on the greater SE network. – Yaakov Ellis Feb 16 at 13:07

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