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SE recently changed their policy about featuring posts, specifically about moderator resignation notices. This change was posted on MSE as essentially an announcement, without any discussion.

Just now a change to this policy was announced as far as I interpret it, it isn't entirely clear as the new announcement is a bit generic and fuzzy.

The one thing that is very obvious here is that SE is dictating these changes from above, and isn't even trying to defend them or argue their merits with the community. They're just dropped on meta and we're expected to follow them.

That is not what we mean when we ask for SE to engage with the community on meta. Meta is about discussion, about substantiated arguments. There is nothing like that visible in these recent announcements, there is no indication SE is even interested in any kind of discourse. Clarifications don't count, I'd expect SE to be able to defend the substance of their changes. In this particuar case the major question is why SE doesn't consider regular moderation sufficient to handle these kind of post, even if they attract more trouble than usual, it should still be possible to moderate them. SE seems willing to respond to some of the details of the policy, but not to the fundamental issue.

I don't expect to always agree with SE, and that's okay. But right now they're not even trying to defend policy changes, we're just supposed to accept them without question. Is this how it is going to be from now on?

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    I mean, aren't we kind a jumping to the conclusion that they haven't discussed this with the mod team? or is that not considered discussing it with the community – user400654 Feb 10 at 23:19
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    @user400654 they didn't when this change was originally announced. And there is a broader pattern recently with SE not engaging with the community. I admit that I might be jumping the gun a bit here, but to me the tone of the recent answer doesn't invite any discussion and neither does it try to justify the decision, it just states the new policy. – Mad Scientist Feb 10 at 23:23
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    Right. but... at the end of the day, they're a business that has justifiable a self interest in protecting how they are viewed, even if that means trampling on the... err.. "rights" of those who may want negative publicity to flourish for whatever reasons they deem necessary. – user400654 Feb 10 at 23:25
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones My more nuanced position on SE didn't fit into the character limit for names. I'll try again to find something between "Disappointed in SE" and "SE is evil" once the 30 day limit on name changes expires. – Mad Scientist Feb 11 at 8:15
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones We are constantly told that we should judge posts by their content, not by user - that includes username. Also, I would seriously evaluate any post made by 152K user (not because rep itself, but because that shows this user really contributed) regardless of their display name. This is not some drive by troll. – Resistance Is Futile Feb 11 at 8:34
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No, we are not handing down things and just expecting people to follow them - as Cody pointed out, this went through two rounds of feedback before making them final. It was actually a long, laborious process where we engaged with mods, compiled points, discussed them and reached a final version only after doing that twice.

Not all the feedback was acted on, but a lot of it was. The Policy went from being "Moderator resignations cannot be featured for more than 24 hours", network-wide, to what it is now. It was a big change and one that took work & discussion internally.

As to why we included the mods and not the broader MSE community, this is a tag that mods control, it's up to them to feature things and decide what should be featured (except for MSE). And that stands - with the two additional caveats (usernames & consent and when CMs might step in). Even for when CMs will step in, the idea is that we work with the mods first to eliminate the issue, so the post can stay featured.

Furthermore, our resources to engage and parse feedback are limited, so we won't always be able to look to the broader meta community for everything. I also don't want things to be decided in a vacuum internally, so we need to find the middle there that works, in this case, it was talking to mods on the Mod Team.

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    Thank you for explaining the process in some detail. I appreciate the relative transparency with communicating this to us. Also, I'm happy this wasn't just rushed through, that instead there was a lot work involved in the process, including acting on a lot of the feedback you received. – John Omielan Feb 11 at 2:34
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    It’s telling that the difference between the first draft created and the one published hasn’t been shown. How much feedback was incorporated? Did any mods ask why the heck the business is inserting itself in the featured tag anyway? Was there a response to that question? What was it? Did anyone point out that SE made Jon’s resignation point say “change in roles for Jon Ericson” as opposed to “Jon Ericson is resigning”? Did anyone point out that if those are the sorts if titles SE wants, the trust issue is gonna get worse? – George Stocker Feb 11 at 2:35
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    There was no response to that question, @George, aside from repeated insistence that "toxic" and "abusive" content should not be featured (a straw man against which no one was ever arguing, and multiple moderators argued stringently that dealing with such content is our job, and we do our jobs well). As far as I know, no one brought up edits to Jon Ericson's post. – Cody Gray Feb 11 at 2:46
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    While the walkback of the 24-hour limit is nice, it turned out rather backhanded, didn't it? Implying that mods were, or would, feature posts that attack users; that they're unable to manage disruptive posts. – jscs Feb 11 at 3:43
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    @GeorgeStocker no one at SE forced Jon to chose any title... I'm not sure where you heard that. Just confirmed that Jon picked it himself. The first draft was literally the 24 hour rule Juan posted. – Cesar M Feb 11 at 4:05
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    Good to hear but I don't understand why the company's first instinct is to not share when they do things (hopefully) right like this. If the answer announcing the new policy had said this, even simply "We have discussed this in detail with moderators and incorporated two rounds of feedback", it would have been so much more positively received. Instead it was written like a cold edict from on high. – user56reinstatemonica8 Feb 11 at 6:22
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    This meta post was based on my immediate impression of the announcement, which really felt like SE just giving out orders. It's probably the tone of the post to a large part, combined with the FAQ format which prohibits feedback. I don't expect SE to have a full-blown discussion on meta, but at least an announcement should proved the motivation for the change. Having the feedback cycle with mods makes sense for this case, but the public messaging was weird and confusing, especially as it didn't even connect this to the original rule and didn't initially state it was replacing it. – Mad Scientist Feb 11 at 7:03
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    @SEisevil It's probably the tone of the post Yes I too perceive "tone" as having changed -- which might be regrettable and maybe not seem so skillful. I don't know the cause -- different authors (aka communication styles), different content, etc. I think SE (and/or their employees) should really try or train to improve that if they can, in their public writing/messaging -- but see also "tone policing". The robustness principle for interop says, "be liberal in what you accept", so I don't think we should reject a message for its "tone". – ChrisW Feb 11 at 12:35
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    @CesarM I'm referring to the intermediate draft and the moderator's feedback. You indicate there were two iterations after the original; what changed in the intermediate time? What is the feedback you received? What caused you to not take all of the moderator feedback? What are your motivations behind this? If you want to engender trust, you've got to be more transparent than "We met, mods gave us feedback, we used somewhere between none of it and most of it, and we posted it here (without understanding how the moderators felt about the final draft"). – George Stocker Feb 11 at 14:38
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    @GeorgeStocker The first draft was completely canned based on feedback. Not even the "24 hour rule" Cesar refers to, the draft after that. I don't know if it's productive to dissect it in that much depth - I want to encourage the company to get feedback rather than discourage it. I'd rather the CMs have time to engage in internal and external discussions to move things forward rather than rehashing everything that's already been said. – Bryan Krause Feb 11 at 16:29
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    @BryanKrause Typically I would agree with you, no one really wants to see the sausage being made; however in the extremely low trust environment we're in, you have to build trust if you want things to get better -- the best way to build trust is through transparency and giving ownership -- which from our perspective, neither happened here at first blush (though when being called on it there was an effort made to expand the transparency). That's the hard part: Either SO Inc doesn't realize they need to do that; or they don't want to do that. Both are bad for the community. – George Stocker Feb 11 at 16:41
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    @GeorgeStocker Yeah, that's fair. Although, I think the low-trust environment does not have a simple solution, even transparency. In the current environment, people are willing to see malice in everything, even when it doesn't exist, and exposing all the steps exposes more surfaces to attack. The message is really really hard to control: to me (and maybe to you?), completely rewriting the policy is evidence of the very hard work the CMs are doing to advocate for the community. Someone else can attach their criticisms to the earlier drafts as further confirmation the company is lost. – Bryan Krause Feb 11 at 16:46
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    @BryanKrause Definitely. Showing the drafts to me is a way to expose the humanity and to let us know the company's and the moderators default positions and what they agreed to and what they had issues with. it's a way to be able to say, "wow, they really compromised here and here, but this other issue seems to be a sticking point -- I wonder why?" which allows for less gap-filling and more "this is what actually happened". – George Stocker Feb 11 at 16:54
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    @GeorgeStocker Yeah. I think if Meta would respond as a whole like you just said you would, it would help encourage more transparency. I just don't think we're quite there right now. On this specific issue, I guess I'd say that I'm sufficiently reassured by the response to feedback, and I would ask that people wait until the policy is misused before taking their knives out, recognize that the CMs won this one internally, and "will work with Moderators first" is reiterating the principle behind how things are supposed to work around here. – Bryan Krause Feb 11 at 19:39
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    The moderator team is not the community. Some of them, on some sites, were elected by the community. But for the purpose of moderating the site, not to act as politically elected representatives. So just because you have let some mods give feedback in closed channels, it does not mean that you have "engaged with the community". – Lundin Feb 12 at 12:44
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To be fair, these proposed changes were discussed with Stack Exchange network moderators in private. A substantial amount of feedback was provided, including by yours truly, and both sides (moderators and staff) engaged in discussion.

An initial draft of the policy was presented by staff, feedback was collected, a second draft was presented by staff, and more feedback was collected. All of this occurred before the policy was announced on Meta.

As for the extent to which that feedback influenced the final announced policy…eh, opinions/interpretations vary. But the discussion did happen and there was engagement with the site moderators. In my opinion, it was actually a very good start, procedurally speaking.

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    Why in private? With which moderators? – jcsahnwaldt says GoFundMonica Feb 11 at 0:50
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    All moderators of all Stack Exchange sites, @jcs. There is a private moderator-only team (using the Stack Overflow Teams functionality) that is set up just like any other Q&A site, but access is restricted only to staff and elected diamond moderators. I'm not entirely sure why the discussion was held in private. Presumably there was a concern that sensitive information might come up. – Cody Gray Feb 11 at 0:52
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    Thanks for the quick and clear response, @Cody Gray! – jcsahnwaldt says GoFundMonica Feb 11 at 1:01
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    @CodyGray I guessed it might be because it's particularly moderators who are the affected user group --- i.e. moderators who use the 'featured' tag, and who should clearly understand what SE's policy is on that subject, and with whom CMs may discuss it etc. – ChrisW Feb 11 at 2:10
  • Thanks for that answer Cody, but there is still one question (that you of course can't answer): Why didn't the SE staff made that clear in their question and answer? That would be a really good comunication style, everybody would have understood, much less downvotes, but they still ignore this. So sad. – Ocaso Protal Feb 11 at 7:47
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    @OcasoProtal Maybe they learn that lesson ... this time. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/343543/… ... but I am not holding my breath on that. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Feb 11 at 10:09
  • @OcasoProtal: To save you a click, Cesar did reply to GhostCat's linked meta to acknowledge that they considered mentioning that: "But then decided against it to keep the policy as is without noise. I have no reason to believe that, if suggested, this wouldn't have been done. So, it was within our (CMs) power, but we didn't. Hindsight and all that, maybe next time :)" – V2Blast Feb 11 at 20:32
  • Not all moderators of all Stack Exchange sites – only those with a Stack Overflow Teams account. – user703652 Feb 12 at 16:40
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    Yes, you have to create an account in order to participate. I don't think that's a crazy concept, or indicative of any type of conspiracy. – Cody Gray Feb 12 at 18:30

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