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One thing we’ve discussed a lot in the past here on Meta and at Stack Overflow is how we receive, prioritize and implement feedback. A project that we announced in Q1 this year was identifying and sharing how we internalize feedback and use it to make product decisions. This blog post highlights what we learned from that exercise, and does a deep dive into how we use each of these feedback mechanisms. Next month, we’ll post about how we use these methods to inform how we build new features, like Dark Mode. We’d love to hear what you think in the comment and answer sections below.

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    Thanks Sara. Helpful insight into the process. Personally, I’ll be more excited to read the next blog about the outcome of this process, ie the actual feedback, what you learned the different userbase segments want (even if that data hasn’t crystallized into clear plans or roadmap items yet).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 15:20
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    That makes sense. We were considering adding it to this post, but it would have been a truncated version of something we could talk about in depth as it has so many dimensions. We ultimately decided that in order to do it justice it needed its own post. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 15:38
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    Totally fair. I’d rather wait a month and get a full meal than a few snacks now which will only make me hungrier.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 15:39
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    Can't see the full table on a mobile device, as the page doesn't scroll horizontally. Can there please be a temporary workaround so mobile users can properly read this post? Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 18:34
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    Thanks for the post. I got to the last paragraph, where I was waiting for the "and here are some interesting things we learnt!" - but there wasn't one. Could we have more of that bit please? (OIC, Dan already made this comment.) Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 23:47

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Thanks for the blog post; this is a nice window into what goes into company decisions.

One segment in particular caught my eye:

Historical Archive Research

We have ten years of data and 172 sites on the network. While we are thinking in the future tense, something that is important for us to keep in mind is that we’ve performed many experiments in the past we can continue to learn from. We’ve also built and launched features that have been successful as well as those that have fizzled on release and we should keep that historical knowledge accessible for future decisions. There are also historical threads on Meta that we learn from. A priority is learning from our successes and not remaking the same mistakes.

Obviously, I'm happy that the company is making an effort to not repeat certain past mistakes, both recent and distant. At the same time . . . I'm a little bit worried as to how this research, as you put it, is being done. The adjective "historical" bothers me a bit; I'm no historian, but I do know that many historians deal with events and people and places that no longer exist. Sometimes all they have to go on are documents, ruins of buildings, artifacts, etc.

But the network is only about a decade old. Yeah, that's a long time. But . . . it's not centuries or millennia. The things you're looking at when you do this research - Meta threads, internal documents, etc. - are almost certainly still shaping the network today. And many of the people behind them are still hanging around (though . . . with a couple very notable exceptions). Those people are crucial to any understanding of how the past became the present, and how the present will become to future. This kinda "history" is still very much alive.

I hope SO will use treat archival dives as something that's extremely important. What with the departures I alluded to above, the company has lost a lot of institutional memory. I don't know if higher-ups understand just how serious that is. Some of that information is frankly going to be impossible to gain back, short of the people with it returning, which seems unlikely. But looking at old stuff - and engaging, where possible, with the people involved - seems like a great way to try and rebuild that lost institutional memory.

It might not be possible. I don't know. But it's hugely important to try, and to reach out to those who were here before you or I were. This kinda history is still very much alive. If it dies . . . then we're gonna keep going back to square one.

Institutional memory is important. I think that trying to rebuild it should be one of the company's top priorities.

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    Amen, it's definitely front of mind for us as we visit what we build and how we prioritize. We still have people at the company that have seen everything that has happened over the past 10 years, and they are a great source of this knowledge. Even folks that have been here 5+ years have seen a significant amount of changes. The importance of this, as you said, is pivotal. Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 5:15
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    @SaraChipps Oh, yeah, definitely - any bit of time spent here leads to valuable insight. I'm super happy that the company is consciously doing this.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 13:52
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Having read through this - I have some.... difficult questions I'd like to ask.

  • In the light of the previous loop blog post, is this a roadmap for future decision making, aspirational or what has been the recent way things have worked? Considering how the relationship between the community, and some past misunderstandings of the reaction the community would have had, how has the process changed and evolved to fit the promised, more community centric company direction?

  • There's two specific bullet points that I'd like to further bring a spotlight on from the blog posts proper.

User Discussions

We are lucky to have products that facilitate discussions about our products. These types of discussions happen across Meta sites, in our Stack Overflow for Teams instance utilized by moderators, and in chat. We use all of those as valuable inputs when determining how best to approach updating and improving existing features.

Meta and some folks in the company have had a bit of a fraught relationship as of late. While the company's views on meta have thankfully changed, a lot of the expertise in two way communication over meta has been lost.

Using meta's an acquired skill, and one that individuals have, but the company as a whole has had atrophy over time. While impossible to answer - I do wonder how the company plans to try to rebuild that expertise and maximise the value both of meta, and of the community both of meta and the wider network.

In addition, how does the company intend to build competencies on using meta to communicate for employees less used to it?

Community Manager Feedback

Community Managers are on the front lines of our product, engaging directly with the community, and have a unique perspective and expertise. They are embedded with our product team and not only provide feedback at every stage during product development from strategy through delivery, they surface new insights to the product team on a regular basis.

This has been a bit of a sore point for me personally. I've worked with and alongside many CMs as a moderator, and have interacted with them way back from when I was a newbie. However, whenever there's cutbacks - they're invariably the team that proportionally takes the biggest cut back of staff, in spite of being under staffed for years, due to the company apparently needing resources elsewhere. With the CM team almost being as small as the original batch (of 3 people - and Jeff being hands on, compared to about 4 with some management backup), I'm not really sure appreciation is properly shown to the value of these folks.

Considering how much collective experience in the field has been lost with the last round of layoffs/realignments/restructuring - how does the company intend to build on, retain and maximize this resource?

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    Most of these feedback mechanisms are things we have done for a long time internally, some of them, for example, the Site Satisfaction Survey, are new. This post was less of a redefinition of what we do and more inventory of practices into a framework for how we gather and leverage feedback. The other two questions you shared are things that are top of mind for us. We’ve been making it a priority to post things here on Meta and ensure to keep these lines of communication open. We have more team members interacting with Meta to develop those competencies. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 15:39
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    (cont) Our CM team is extremely valuable and their feedback is important, internally we’ve been working to make sure our organizational structure and planning processes account for that. We’re not always going to get it right, but we agree that these are pivotal parts of the Stack Overflow community. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 15:39
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In contrast to other posts by the OP, released late in the week, this one rather sparks joy. Thank you very much for all the details and accompanying explanations.

One point caught my attention, nothing new, but worth repeating.

Our Site Satisfaction Survey is run on Stack Overflow.

What I am still missing are clear statements whether your primary focus is mostly Stackoverflow.com... Or more like: the overall network with all its communities (where stackoverflow.com maybe has a bit of distinct status).

Meaning: I guess the site satisfaction survey is targeting stackoverflow.com more of historical reasons. If you wanted, you could run it on all communities for example. Is that something you are thinking of, or decided to not do?

In other words, if possible (and yes, I don't see that topic on your road map)... Do you have a vision how/if the other communities beside the core stackoverflow.com align in the future? You might want to unify user experience across the network to save cost, or you might do the opposite to enable different communities to come to different solutions, that work better because "more individually".

Are there such thought processes? If so, can you give insights, or at least discuss if/how/when to include that in your road map?

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  • Re "sparks joy": A Douglas Crockford reference? Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 18:03
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    More the Japanese lady who is famous for minimalism and cleaning up your stuff, Mari Kondo. Pick up all your belongings, and when they don't spark joy, consider to let them go. Meaning: only keep things that add something positive to your life.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 18:34

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