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I just got a lovely little email...

Congratulations for hitting a quarter-million points on Ask Ubuntu! Few people will ever make as big a difference teaching others as you have.

Did you know that your posts have been seen by literally millions of people across the Internet? (Yes, I counted.) When we started this whole thing, it was based on a crazy idea that there was a community of users willing to share their knowledge simply for the satisfaction of helping others get better at what they do. But we never envisioned that individuals like yourself would give their time SO GENEROUSLY that they’d hit 100,000 points — but here you are, over a quarter-million reputation!

You should take a lot of pride in what you’ve accomplished here. There are a lot of smart people in this world, but it is a rare gift when someone comes along who can also teach what they know to others so effectively. I’ll be damned if you didn’t change our little corner of the Internet for the better — and that’s what it’s all about.

You are truly the best at what you do.

Robert Cartaino
Director of Community Development Stack Exchange Inc.

The thing I like about Stack Exchange sites is that despite its slightly robotic nature, there's usually a human somewhere influencing it by upvoting, editing, flagging, whatever.

These "Well done, chap!" emails aren't just obviously automated (sent at 00:00 UTC with next-to-no personalisation), they're also being sent by Robert, who is very much no longer the Director of Community Development. This post is not about the tone-deaf exploitation of a great former employee. "We need to clean house when we fire people!" is not the lesson here.

If one of your users hitting 250K means anything to a human at Stack Overflow, send a real email. If it doesn't, don't fake it for my benefit!

If you want that person to feel valued, you could...

  • Spawn a meta post so their community can acknowledge it.
  • Poke the site mods and give them a chance to collectively say something.
  • Feature them on the site or network somehow.
  • Literally anything that included a person who's actually interacted with me in some way.

Automated emails just cheapen the whole thing. I don't feel any sincerity. If anything, reading it made me feel less appreciated now I know it's a robot. And sending it addressed by somebody who I've had a few decent human interactions with just made me angry.

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    Also, send a T-shirt or something – Luis Mendo Jan 21 at 10:00
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    Also, Robert is no longer with SE. So that is a terrible error on their side as well. You might want to make it a bug because of that. – Luuklag Jan 21 at 10:13
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    "You're the best! Now take that blow!" – Shadow9 Jan 21 at 10:18
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    Any particular reason opting out from these e-mails isn't a solution? – Tinkeringbell Jan 21 at 10:21
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    @Tinkeringbell Because opting out of a problem doesn't fix a problem? This is systemic. Fake appreciation isn't appreciation. – Oli Jan 21 at 10:29
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    At least: the above auto-mail is signed by a person who I would trust to care, if that person would still be around and not have been fired. My 100K mail on StackOverflow was "signed" by the CEO though. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 21 at 10:36
  • @Oli Hmm. I think those e-mails used to promise swag, but that's no longer there... but I still wouldn't really expect someone to sit down and write all community milestones e-mails. Is this just about this specific e-mail then (100k/250k milestone), and not all community milestone e-mails? – Tinkeringbell Jan 21 at 10:40
  • @Tinkeringbell I can't speak to the others messages but if they're along the same lines, just ditch them. If people cross a significant community milestone, it should be the community that celebrating that event, not a simpering mail-merge sent by a robot. A notification would do for anything else. – Oli Jan 21 at 10:53
  • Exactly. If the number of milestones is a problem, then have less of them. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 21 at 11:28
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    No matter how SE handles this now and in the future, do know that we still love you, for your contributions and for who you are. Cheers! – rene Jan 21 at 12:54
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    I didn't even get the email, so thanks for showing me what I missed. – Monica Cellio Jan 21 at 15:55
  • @MonicaCellio So do you still want some swag? Never mind, you don't need to answer that ;) – DavidG Jan 21 at 16:24
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I think this is an excellent idea. To be precise: to replace auto-generated mails with one or more of the suggestions made in the request.

Similar to the recently suggested Replace the 100k and 250k swag ... it would really not cost much money to improve status quo.

It would only require some people at SE Inc. to sit down and be creative.

There are so many things that could be done that show real appreciation that only require just 5 or 10 minutes of some human being doing some research and writing down a less automated email.

So maybe SE Inc. could hire a team of people responsible for managing the interactions with the various communities, and writing distinct responses to such milestones could be one of their responsibilities.

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    Today I learned that there is no more swag, why am I not surprised? It's been something I've been silently looking forward to (currently on ~82k) so I guess I'll give up on that now. – DavidG Jan 21 at 11:47
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    @DavidG I was more lucky ... I only heard about "there was swag for 100K" long after I made 100K. So I didn't expect anything (besides: "maybe some stupid auto-generated mail") ... and that is what I got. But let me say this: I understand their reasoning to not send out swag any more. The point is not cost for swag, but unpredictable cost when doing global shipments from the US to God-knows-where. But as written here and on that question: there are alternatives to physical swag. Only creative is required, and the sky would be the limit. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Jan 21 at 12:05
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    Indeed, there's also the other side of things - for example, if I was given a SO t-shirt now, I don't think I'd be comfortable wearing it. – DavidG Jan 21 at 12:43
  • @DavidG did you just publicly admit you are a rep-hunter? Tjeeee .... – rene Jan 21 at 12:56
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    That last paragraph...interesting and novel idea! Maybe somebody could tweet it to SE Inc as a suggestion. – VLAZ Jan 21 at 12:58
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    @rene No, swag hunter, rep was just a means to an end! Seriously though, it was just a nice target to hit, 100k just sounded... nice I suppose. The fact it's just been cancelled without anything to replace it, not even a nice personal email, something that could even have been delegated to CMs or even mods) is what is galling. – DavidG Jan 21 at 13:00
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Another aspect related to this: Sometimes even high reputation users might be among problematic users of the site. (For example, I could imagine a typical FGITW user having a rather large reputation, while some part of their activity might be actually detrimental to the site.)

I have also seen a situation when some user used email of this type as an argument in some debates, that their approach to dealing with some issues is the correct one. (The argument being along the lines: Look, I have even received a congratulation from Director of Community Development Stack Exchange Inc. They would not praise me if I was doing something wrong.)

So perhaps when such email is sent to a user, it might be useful to consult also moderators of that specific site - at least in cases when the user in question has history of past suspensions.

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