I just posted to our blog about our Second Quarter Community Roadmap for 2020.

Q2 Community Roadmap

Please see the post for details on the projects that our Community team will be delivering this quarter.

We are interested in your thoughts and questions regarding our upcoming projects and priorities on the roadmap.

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    What's happened to the updated Moderator Agreement? March Community on the last Roadmap. Apr 8, 2020 at 15:52
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    @DavidPostill "While we had hoped to have our new version of the Moderator Agreement ready to go in March, between the impact of the current Covid-19 crisis and our desire to get it right, this release has been delayed. We have had multiple rounds of feedback from internal stakeholders and a group of moderators, and we will be sharing it with the larger moderator community this month." Apr 8, 2020 at 16:04
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    I appreciate the matter-of-fact tone of the blog post as well as the abundance of active voice and simple sentences. In other blog posts I've read, how something was written often distracted me from the content.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:24
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    What is site satisfaction survey?
    – Pandya
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:50
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    @Pandya This blog might help answer your question. stackoverflow.blog/2020/01/22/… Apr 8, 2020 at 18:09
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    "CC license Round 2" is an item on the roadmap but is not mentioned in the blog post. I really hope it will answer the still open questions from the last official Q&A about the license, for example by clarifying the license state of material contributed before August 2010, and I hope it will be on solid legal ground; the company's statements regarding the content license from last year were as far as I can tell wrong. Apr 9, 2020 at 21:35
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    @Trilarion CC License Round 2 will attempt to be address all open questions from the original post, including the status of material contributed before August 2010. Apr 13, 2020 at 13:11
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    I don't know about other old-timers, but I've been very much not-following anything on StackExchange lately. But judging from the 4k views on this post, I'm guessing I'm not atypical. I think given (a) the length of time everything has dragged on, (b) the vagueness of the future, (c) the loss of interest, and (d) the colossal distraction that is COVID-19, you're going to come up short on the community data/feedback/engagement you need to put the site adequately back on track. It's good that I'm not in charge because I don't have a great solution either (sorry), but just something to consider..
    – user541686
    Apr 17, 2020 at 5:07

6 Answers 6



First, I'm very happy to see two things:

  1. This discussion, linked from the blog post. These have been done before of course, but they've been few and far between; seeing two in two weeks is a sign of trust and willingness to interact with the folks who build these sites on the part of your organization.

  2. The delays and additional feedback rounds for the revised moderator agreement. The original schedule for this was... Optimistic at best; it is, after all, a legal agreement between your organization and a much larger group of volunteers who have little to gain and much to lose by accepting it: if their concerns are being heard, then that again signals a renewed level of trust and good-faith effort on your part.


Second, I'm cautiously optimistic to see this:

We will plan to update the Moderator Reinstatement policy in May to include the Moderator Council’s proposed involvement in the process.

JNat did the best that anyone could have with that policy, but... Ultimately, it was based on a set of hurried notes that I jotted down on a Monday after having worked for 14 days straight and slept very little - that's never going to be a good foundation on which to build. It needs a thorough reworking from the ground up in order to adequately serve its intended purpose. If it helps, I did finally get some sleep and wrote up some notes on how to approach such tasks.


In closing, I want to offer some general encouragement. These are tough times; many of our friends and family members are out of work, sick, even dying. We are collectively more stressed and more isolated than ever before. And so now, more than ever, we need to pull together, to reinforce the supportive bonds of community and to care for each other in moments of weakness. For this reason, even though the tasks on your roadmap may seem to pale in comparison to the grim challenges that we all face, they are nevertheless important to us all. You have a tough road ahead... Godspeed!

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    Not sure why you care so much seeing what they did to you.
    – JonH
    Apr 8, 2020 at 19:51
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    Because for better or worse, these are the people taking care of the site we've put so much work into building, @jon. I would very much like it if they didn't screw that up, as it'd be a real hassle to have to start all over.
    – Shog9
    Apr 8, 2020 at 19:54
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    Nice of you but still I think you are going way out of your way including adding additional notes - you're basically working for free. I know you have good intentions - but I don't believe they are worthy of your help let them figure it out - that is what they are paid for. You've done enough. It left a bad taste in our (user bases) mouths sorry.
    – JonH
    Apr 8, 2020 at 19:55
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    I'm definitely not working for free - a significant part of my job now involves keeping an eye on places like SO, looking for ways to better help folks using PostgreSQL. A task for which I am well-compensated! As for the notes... "do good to those who hate you", the Teacher said; perhaps it is time I took my education seriously.
    – Shog9
    Apr 8, 2020 at 20:06
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    you're a good guy - just sayin
    – JonH
    Apr 8, 2020 at 22:29
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    Everyone contributing to the StackExchange communities is to some extent "working for free". Hell, anyone participating in any community is doing that. It's not inherently problematic. Apr 20, 2020 at 7:08
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    Always worth re-reading, @Steve: blog.codinghorror.com/are-you-a-digital-sharecropper
    – Shog9
    Apr 20, 2020 at 16:39
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    "The tone of the relationship between virtual land owner and so-called digital sharecroppers is critical. When crowdsourcing goes sour, there can be mass revolts." - so prescient :) Apr 20, 2020 at 22:06

In June, we are planning a Community@athon event within our company to encourage employees to interact with our network and communities more. Our goal is to ensure that we have balanced, consistent feedback from across the different segments of our community and that we continue to improve community interactions and understanding throughout the company.

I've said it in other, private spaces, but I want to publicly call out your "understand the community" point as hitting what I think is the most important improvement that can be made at SE right now: use* your own product.

There's a lot your employees are going to learn if they honestly and earnestly engage with any site in the Network. In no particular order:

  • how strongly many of the sites' mechanisms work to create the behavior we see
  • how hard it is to change undesirable behavior that emerges from sites' mechanisms
  • how hard it is to communicate effectively with strangers using these tools
  • how hard the sites can be to figure out
  • how dedicated and selfless the regular users of a site are
  • how much work it takes from regular users to reconcile those first four points
  • how well some inside the organization already understand those first six points

I don't care what comes out of your Q2 debrief, you have to stick with this. And if you need better support for it than my say-so, maybe a ten year-old blog post can help: https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/01/06/eating-our-own-careers-dogfood/

* - "use", just to be overly clear, of course includes not only posting questions and answers, but editing, voting, tagging, reviewing, chatting, wandering over to metas....

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    (I wrote first about the issue of supporting mods who encounter suicidal users because it tripped some of my wires, but for the company in the long run I think this ^^ is the most important step.)
    – nitsua60
    Apr 13, 2020 at 22:20
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    1000x this. The level of ignorance regarding how to use these sites within the company, within groups of people making crucial decisions as to how the site works... Is utterly staggering. It's one thing to forget what it's like - I created dozens of new accounts over the years to remind myself of the new / low-rep / unprivileged user experience - but to never even bother to learn... To indignantly assert that this knowledge isn't useful... That perplexed me for years. Kudos!
    – Shog9
    Apr 15, 2020 at 22:01
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    A few years ago I participated in a similar event. I was a beta user on Stack Overflow and, even so, I learned so much. Interacting with my current community also makes a huge difference in terms of knowing what we ought to build. (Thank goodness my son is nearing college admission season.) With so many topics, there's really no excuse for Stack Exchange employees not to try one out. But like @Shog9, I'm perplexed. Apr 15, 2020 at 23:43
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    I am going to be running the internal Community@athon. As we get closer to the event, I will post on MSE soliciting more ideas the Community for advice on more ways to make this event be as productive as possible for all involved. Thanks for your interest! Apr 16, 2020 at 10:16
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    You may want to add that with respect to understanding the community, "your own product" does not mean a Teams channel that consists of only a limited number of specifically chosen people, but the public Q&A that's visited by millions daily.
    – jpmc26
    Apr 16, 2020 at 19:23
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    @Shog9 Oh, man, thanks for the reminder. I've been here like 10 years, and I can still remember just how much it sucked being a low rep user. It was awful. Constant frustrating barriers between me and the baby steps I was trying to take (like commenting, rather than answering, as a way to gain confidence). AFAIK that still hasn't been fixed. Apr 20, 2020 at 22:44
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    Yes, the software needs to be changed (and/or extended), but not by ignoring the initial design (and all the research that went into it). The non-forumness is not intuitive and needs to be learned. Don't forget Clay Shirky! Apr 27, 2020 at 19:27
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    I just posted about our plans for the upcoming community-a-thon. Happy to hear your feedback there! May 21, 2020 at 14:39

[trigger warning: self-harm]

Sometimes our moderators will come across content by a user where something is shared that indicates that the user may be considering taking their own life. As you can imagine, these are some of the hardest moments for anyone to encounter. Our moderator team desires to show compassion and care, and this quarter, we’re going to set aside some time to work with organizations that specialize in these interactions. Our goal is to provide a mix of tools, support, and education to ensure that the moderators have the proper guidance and options to hand these situations off to lessen the burden on their shoulders.

You are absolutely right, that these are the hardest moments in moderation. I'm glad to see that you're going to incorporate some external expertise, and I also want to stress that, in my experience, having staff generally-available in the TL should be a top priority when thinking about how to support moderators in these times.

When I've encountered these situations--and I want to make clear to non-mod readers that this is not a frequent thing!--I've been blindsided by them. I've found myself with shaky hands and short of breath, my thoughts have been dashing in a hundred directions at once, I've been worried about whether I've taken the right actions and about what actions I can take. I've had a hard time going back to work and have had to go back to work. (Heck, I'm getting 25% of the way wound up just writing this and reflecting back.)

Each time, staff have been there to walk through it alongside me, and it's been invaluable.

I'd strongly suggest a checklist among the mod-pages: we're all here because we like doing things to help our communities and our members, but in these situations it's hard to even imagine what to do. But in the cold light of retrospection it's easy to say that we should (at least)

  • reach out to a CM (TL? Contact Us? your call) to say "I'm initiating the self-harm protocol for userXXXXX."
  • ping all fellow site-mods to say "I've seen this, I think it needs to be handled as self-harm, I may not be very responsive to the usual daily grind today."

    (At either of those first two points ^^ it should be abundantly clear that it's absolutely fine for the mod to say "I've seen this, I'm initiating the self-harm protocol, and I can't/won't handle it myself." It just needs to be okay--and said so, many times--for someone to throw up the flag and walk away for whatever their reasons are.)

  • select the "self-harm" template to mod-message the user (to be build by you-all). This contains whatever canned advice and links to help you and your experts think is appropriate.

  • comb through the last day or two's activity from the user, looking for other statements or concerning behavior. (Delete? Redact? You'll have to think about what you want the broader community seeing out there.)

I'd also strongly recommend that you ask your current moderators who are willing to comb back through mod-messages and mod-room transcripts to look back and write up examples of how these have been handled in the past, what seems to have worked well, what feels in retrospect like it's been dropped. I'm sure those ideas up there are not the best ones you'll find.

And please remember that, since we don't handle many of these, a large fraction of moderators' self-harm alerts are going to be their first ones. We're always going to need staff (or maybe it's mod-council?) with both experience and the ability to look over our shoulder to be there with us. To make sure we're doing helpful things, to check on how we're doing, and to remind us to step away when that's best.

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    Definitely staff. There's a potential for liability issues. Apr 8, 2020 at 16:23
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    @JourneymanGeek you talking about the last para.?
    – nitsua60
    Apr 8, 2020 at 16:49
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    "I've found myself with shaky hands and short of breath, my thoughts have been dashing in a hundred directions at once, I've been worried about whether I've taken the right actions and about what actions I can take." - Exactly this. I've had to deal with something like this exactly twice (neither on SE). Both times it was an extremely traumatic experience. (Thankfully, neither of them wound up going through with it, although how much I had to do with that is anybody's guess.) Training on how to handle situations like these is useful for anyone in a position of responsibility online.
    – Mithical
    Apr 9, 2020 at 18:29
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    @Mithical my biggest takeaway (after writing this monsterlith) is for SE to remember that we mods rarely deal with these, so our responsibility really needs to be "do this one thing. Because that'll trigger a whole sequence, and you'll be involved, and we'll walk you through doing more, and here's what-all will be involved if you're curious, but you don't need to remember any of that because your responsibility is just do this one thing. Start the protocol."
    – nitsua60
    Apr 9, 2020 at 19:28
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    That's great feedback @nitsua60, we are just getting started on this. But I like the idea start here and we will help you with the rest. Apr 9, 2020 at 20:01
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    @TeresaDietrich related: Let's have a formal way for mods to contact the Community Team about suicidal users in chat, esp animuson's answer
    – nitsua60
    Apr 10, 2020 at 3:40
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    Another related post, from the mod team, which makes some good points and collects some more links. (Visible to elected moderators and staff only.)
    – nitsua60
    Apr 13, 2020 at 1:25
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    My first exposure to this was at age 20: someone was sitting on a roof's edge about 5 floors up and their room mate came and got me. No, I had no training in this. Yes tp where you say It Blind Sides you - that is so, so true. (Particularly the first time) Apr 13, 2020 at 20:34
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    @nitsua60 "Visible to elected moderators and staff only." And appointed moderators! :-P Apr 16, 2020 at 14:41
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    @Randal'Thor whoops! Should have just said visible "through diamond lenses."
    – nitsua60
    Apr 17, 2020 at 4:53

I chime in into the "thank you" sentiment. These are somehow dark times, even for those who are lucky enough to not face existential threats personally. Thus, such positive events are really helpful!

By now, I am really (positively) waiting for the "Loop" results, and the idea of having a Community@athon is just great.

Not being a moderator, it still appears as if the company (finally, again) starts to treat the moderators with the earnesty they deserve for their volunteer efforts. Sure, whether that is enough to convince the majority of "you shouldn't have sacked Monica" users has to be seen. I am still undecided on that aspect, and I hope that simply the company talking and working with larger numbers of moderators more frequently will improve the overall situation "enough".

In June, we plan to begin work on a series of backend and UX updates to review queues to improve the user experience for our curators in addition to backend improvements that will help us make updates more easily in the future

Hear, hear. The queues. Finally.

Even that outlook of "stuff we are used to is going to change" can create some anxiety. It is extremely helpful to have such transparency about future events. Because that helps us to be ready for change. This means that a lot of users can now look at how the situation is right now, in 2020. To assess what we consider problematic, and what we think should be changed, or should be left as is.

Finally, less important:

  • A very neat idea to include even the Ultra dark mode in your post. That was another shiny moment during these dark times.
  • As dark and ultra dark mode "already" happened: consider to add a visual indication (like a check mark) next to items that are already delivered.
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    Thanks for the feedback, I think the work on the queques will be a welcome change. Hope you finding more positivity through this challenging time. Apr 9, 2020 at 13:16
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    "stuff we are used is going to change" - I assume this should be "used to"? Also, some method of indicating what's already rolled out seems like a good idea :)
    – V2Blast
    Apr 9, 2020 at 19:30
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    Looking forward to changes to review process. Hopefully, the changes will be positive, and makes our life’s easier rather than more frustrating like some other changes being suggested (automatically opening closed questions)
    – Ramhound
    Apr 10, 2020 at 1:27

Should your employees want a recommendation during the Community@thon for a community which is almost certainly relevant (and non-technical): https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions

Everybody has a family history, and we're very gentle with newcomers.


For the email drip campaign I'd love to see educational emails, especially on how to design for nondesigners or how to create a website for noncoders.

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    That sort of email would be a totally different type of topic — pretty much 100% unrelated to the general "how to use the sites most effectively" emails that are being proposed. Apr 9, 2020 at 4:12
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    Also, rather irrelevant to the majority of people. I'm sure that designers will not be interested in education aimed at non-designers and the majority of non-designers are also not going to be interested, it's why they are non-designers in the first place. Sure, some might find it useful but most others wouldn't.
    – VLAZ
    Apr 9, 2020 at 5:33

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