55

Not too long ago a flag in user accounts was added to help denote SO staff

staff

The catch here is that it doesn't indicate who was previously staff. This problem was originally limited to tertiary employees like Pops or Oded (where they didn't have a huge impact on front-facing sites), or famous people, but Shog9 alone has thousands of posts which were made while he was a community manager. While it would be incorrect to say current community managers cannot supersede what he said, there were a lot of times where I'm willing to bet they would simply let the policies he set forth ride (case in point). The problem is, there's no way to convince people now of anything any former employee said because there's no way to indicate they were staff when they said them.

This helps in future discussions, as people can trust that people aren't simply quoting random people and pretending they had any say in how SO ran.

6
  • 3
    Can you earn that badge multiple times? ... wait ...no ....
    – rene
    May 13 '20 at 19:18
  • 6
    Overflowed - Become a member of staff twice
    – Machavity
    May 13 '20 at 19:20
  • 2
    I addressed this in a prior answer of mine. May 13 '20 at 19:26
  • 1
    Also, to those who think it's hard to save a mark with a post: this is already done with the new contributor mark; it's not hard to do with the staff mark. May 13 '20 at 19:28
  • 1
    I'm gonna dispute your assertion that Pops & Oded didn't have a huge impact here... Time has been a balm to those wounds, but they cut deep and their loss is felt even to this day.
    – Shog9
    May 14 '20 at 2:14
  • 7
    Better would be an indication of being or not being staff and/or diamond mod as of time they posted.
    – philipxy
    May 14 '20 at 4:31
37

I do absolutely see the value in what you're asking, particularly now that the highest-rep, highest-volume MSE user (by far) is no longer part of the company. I've also thought about this a lot from the other side... what is it like to be very active here before being hired and then get added to the roster and have to imagine everything you've previously written being seen through the lens of "if someone who works here says this, why isn't it already built?"

To that end, while this is an option, I think the better option we'll have moving into the future will be to stop focusing on the current or former status of a user (which may not match) but to start looking at their status when they posted the content. This means taking posts on the per-post basis rather than on the account basis.

Depending on how this were designed, we could even allow staff to prevent the indicator from showing up if they wanted a less formal post - for example, since I'm just tossing out my personal thoughts here, I'd probably not want this one marked as "staff".

5
  • 1
    I think I mentioned something similar here. I like this idea a lot.
    – Spevacus
    May 13 '20 at 20:58
  • What you’re talking about here sounds more like a red tag (like faq) for answers.
    – Laurel
    May 13 '20 at 23:29
  • @Laurel could be questions or answers. There’s a Teams concept of “SMEs” that show an indication on posts where tags relate to expertise.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 13 '20 at 23:42
  • 12
    Using my powers of foresight, I preemptively agree with and support this suggestion 😋 FWIW: I was one of the most prolific authors on this site before I worked here, so I've now gotten to taste both sides of the coin you describe...
    – Shog9
    May 14 '20 at 2:17
  • 2
    @Shog9 That was a great answer. :D I know this isn't really particularly original... thanks for the link, though!
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 14 '20 at 3:06
17

As with many such positions, an employee of Stack Overflow wields two forms of power:

  1. Violence: the ability to destroy the work or reputation of others.

  2. Persuasion: the ability to amplify their voice and thus allow their arguments to convince many more people than would otherwise take note.

Clearly, #1 goes away with the termination of employment. But... That was always the weaker power. When an employee (or moderator, or just about anyone else) must resort to threats - or actions - that harm others, they've reached the limits of their authority, and are on the brink of completely losing control of the situation.

Power #2, on the other hand... That one actually gets better the more you use it! And the best part is... A good argument is still a good argument even if the person who made it has departed.

If a post that I (or any other former employee) made in the past now seems weak and irrelevant... Chances are, it'd seem that way regardless. If not, then the only thing that ever gave it meaning was violence, and... We can probably be glad to dispense with that as well.

Plus... There are plenty of folks here who've never been employees who have nevertheless made good and effective arguments - we'd be much poorer if we avoided learning from them just because they lack a special profile badge!

So, cite the arguments, not the author's position.

3
  • 8
    Eh. Yes. But also, a lot of the official "We released this thing" posts look weird when the person isn't staff... Stuff like what Joe did. While this certainly applies to your work, it doesn't encompass everything that happens on meta, which is the kinda reason I mentioned the option for staff to post without the indicator at all.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 14 '20 at 2:54
  • 1
    Yes, there is certainly a utility for such an indicator - but, for the purpose of citations in discussion, it is unnecessary.
    – Shog9
    May 14 '20 at 3:02
  • 5
    It won't work that way and here's why. You often created operational policy with what you said. No, you cannot threaten violence anymore, but saying that we should cite you as a mere point of argument is to reopen hundreds, maybe thousands of issues you resolved back when you carried a much larger stick. That's not to say that the community or CMs can't change some of those policies going forward, but it makes anything you said back when you were a CM just another voice in the Meta ocean. We sometimes need laws, not suggestions.
    – Machavity
    May 14 '20 at 12:19
6

The way I see it is having a "timeline" icon like we have for posts:

timeline icon for Shog9

Clicking it will show pop up (or separate page) with the user "history", i.e. list of time ranges when that user was a moderator on the site, and/or employee of Stack Exchange.

5

There are several potential problems.

Criticism:

  1. The former employee might decide to delete their account (I am not aware of internal policies that prevent them from doing it). In that case, this "former-employee" flag is not visible.
  2. The former employee might have contributed before they became an SO employee and might decide to contribute after their position was terminated. With the proposed implementation, it would be hard to distinguish the posts that were made while being staff and while being just a regular user.
  3. The former employee has to explicitly agree to have that "former-employee" flag in their profile. I can easily imagine a situation when the former employee would still want to continue using their account while having this special flag in their profile would be undesirable.

Constructive:

It might be better to attach the "SO-staffness" to the post rather than the profile. When the post is made by a user that at the moment of posting is SO staff some mark is added to the post.

That on its own has its problems, and might simply clutter the UI.

3
  • 2
    Yep, saving the indicator with the post is what I proposed in my answer that I linked in the question's comments. It's already done with the new contributor mark, so it's easy to implement. May 13 '20 at 19:35
  • 5
    I could live with a post-level indicator
    – Machavity
    May 13 '20 at 19:51
  • 3
    A sufficiently disgruntled former employee could REALLY wreak havoc with judicious application of the GDPR system... This was on my list to investigate before... I very suddenly stopped caring a few months back. 😏
    – Shog9
    May 14 '20 at 2:21
3

I think this was addressed perfectly with the implementation of the "Policy Lock".

This lock can be used by staff on posts (questions and answers) that carry extraordinary weight. The lock banner looks like this:

enter image description here

The purpose of this lock is to:

... prevent any edits from being made to the post by anyone (including moderators) with the exception of our Community Team. Answering, commenting, and voting will not be affected by this lock ...

So policies that should be set in stone, like the parts of the : What are our policies regarding underage users? can be easily identified as such, no matter who posted it in the first place.

I think this is a proper solution as it allows it to be used sparsely, only when really needed, and it will indicate a post as being "official" no matter who posted it originally.

1
  • 4
    I think there is still an unfilled gap between "official policies/announcements/communication that deserves the Policy Lock" and "participation by staff in a non-official/not speaking for the company capacity". There are lots of authoritative answers given by staff that don't really need the "official post" lock; I think expanding the use of that lock to cover all those posts is overuse of the tool. Mar 30 at 13:35
2

If there were to be a former staff flag added, then I think the next flag to be requested would be a former moderator flag.

On a site where content quality is our primary focus, I think implementing any indicators on user types, other than current staff and moderators who have privileges beyond those on the privileges page, would be counter-productive.

I regularly quote from the posts of @Shog9 in support of positions I take in various Q&As, but I do that because they are ideas that strongly resonate and not because of who wrote them and any status their author had at that time. When a user of our sites ceases to be a staff member (or moderator) then I think such posts should continue to resonate, and have the same ongoing standing. If they start not to resonate, then I hope that voting on the posts will indicate that deterioration. At that point, the author of the post is free to edit their posts to improve them. If there are any posts that they would no longer want their name to be associated with then they can often delete them, or ask to be dissociated from them.

I think all users (including staff members and moderators) should feel free to keep their posts maintained to the quality that they would write them, if written today.

If any of those posts are considered official and needing to be endorsed or superseded by current staff then the tools of editing, asking and answering are all already available for them to do so. Alternatively, such posts could benefit from there being an Add an employee-only "official statement" option when posting as suggested in this answer to Hide employee reputation points on per-site Metas.

2
  • 2
    This seems be focusing on only one genre of posts - staff posts also include things like official announcements, responding to bugs or feature requests, or explaining some previously-undocumented thing about SE. For those types of posts, it's not about whether the contents resonate, it's about being able to tell whether RandomUser actually had the authority to say "this is how the website works".
    – Em C
    May 14 '20 at 1:52
  • @EmC I have edited my answer to try and address your concern.
    – PolyGeo
    May 14 '20 at 2:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .