For context on how this process came to be, please see our initial commitment to responding to Meta and Mods, our guidelines for the testing period, and the results of the initial test and next steps.
This post contains guidance to ensure moderators understand when to escalate issues that they feel need to be addressed by staff, and when not to. It also has some guidance for the overall community of what posts should be brought to the moderators’ attention as candidates for escalation.
The question contains guidance that is applicable for as long as this process is in effect. Answers containing the response targets and guidance specific to a given period will be posted every quarter. The answer that relates to the period currently in effect will be accepted so it's pinned to the top. Once that period has elapsed, that answer will be updated to include stats for how we did with regards to our response targets as well as some noteworthy posts.
What makes a good candidate for escalation?
For any new question, consider the following questions:
- Is the question a feature request that looks like it has community support?
- Is it a bug report that others have been able to reproduce?
- Is the question only fully answerable by an employee?
If you replied “yes” to at least one of the above, then that question is a good candidate for escalation.
We realize that there are a lot of outstanding posts all over the various Meta sites on the network that have not been addressed by staff — some of them posted a long time ago too. To ensure that the most relevant of those get surfaced and responded to, we ask that you focus mostly on resurfacing old questions that relate to either something only a Community Manager would be able to respond to, or to things currently being worked on by the various product teams as part of their quarterly roadmaps (which allows us to easily find these older discussions so that we can use them as part of our research).
So, if a post meets the guidance for new questions above, but it is not new it is more likely to be responded to if it also follows the guidance in the accepted answer, which should be the one relevant to the current quarter.
Some of these are going to be SO-specific, but most will eventually apply to all of the network sites, even if with some simplifications. In addition to those larger buckets, for each non-SO (or MSE) site in the network, the CM Team also wants to see that special feature your community has been asking to be enabled for a while now (MathJax, syntax highlighting, etc.), or that particular warning that would help your new askers — so give us a top 5 of outstanding site-specific customizations from your site, and just make sure their score is positive. Note that features that need dev time and that are only applicable to your site are unlikely to be given a high priority, unless they're in alignment with the guidance in the accepted answer (i.e., in alignment with stuff on our roadmaps).
And other old posts that fall outside of the scope of projects being worked on?
Community-specific concerns are evergreen good candidates for escalation: anything, from policies to community guidance, that only a Community Manager could reasonably respond to. This includes tweaks to help center pages, and other minor changes to site settings such as blocking tags, adjusting the question asking form, and updating site specific close reasons to fit the new format.
Old requests that have previously been declined can be reposted as new requests if you have something you can point to as a switch in the platform or culture that would render the previous reasons for declining obsolete. If you do repost one of these — no matter how old, as long as the issue is still current — be sure to link to the old declined post for historical reference, as well as to any following posts that make discussing the issue again relevant. Staff will be able to either further expand on the previous stance and reiterate why it's still relevant and valid, or make sure the request is put in front of the right team given the new circumstances.
Oh, and hopefully it is redundant to say this, but just for the sake of clarity: don’t repost old posts that fall outside of the above guidance just so they can get attention as a way to game this system, please. It'll just create more work and frustration for you, the mods, and us ^_^
How do regular users nominate a post for staff attention?
If the question meets the criteria above (and in the answer relevant to the current quarter), flag the post for moderator attention using the “in need of moderator intervention” option, making sure to provide a link to this post for context. Be as clear as you can about why you think the post is a good candidate.
To prevent overloading moderators with flags, please avoid going on flagging sprees. We want to remind you that your moderators will be the first line of people dealing with these. The CMs will work with the mods to make sure this doesn’t generate a huge increase in their workload, and try to alleviate it as much as possible — but we are also relying on you not bombarding them with tagging requests.
How do moderators escalate a post for staff attention?
How do moderators handle flags nominating a post for escalation?
Refer to the guidance above (and in the answer relevant to the current quarter) on how to tell if a post is a good candidate for escalation. Other than that, just use your judgement as you would for handling any other flag. There may be cases where you want to mark the flag as helpful but don’t feel like adding the tag is necessary - that’s fine: again, use your best judgement. If you’re not adding the tag, try to use the flag response field to explain why, so the flagger also gets some information about the decision.
If you’re unsure, talk to your fellow mods about what they think, or feel free to ping a CM in The Teachers’ Lounge for guidance. It’s OK if moderators err on the side of over-escalating issues, rather than under-escalating them: if the CM Team determines something could have been answered without having to elevate to staff, it presents a good opportunity to point moderators to where that information could have been found, as well as to tweak this guidance.
If you escalated an issue by adding the status-review tag, but something caused it to be “solved” — maybe someone from the community could actually answer it and did so; maybe a bug was really an issue on the user’s side; etc. — please ping a CM in The Teachers’ Lounge explaining the situation. We will then figure out with you what to do about that particular issue (which will likely mean removing the tag, at least).
Ok, how do moderators actually escalate a post, then?
Escalating a post is as easy as adding the status-review tag. Doing so ensures that post is picked up by a feed that puts the question on our internal tracking system.
If you are a moderator, refer to the section above (and to the answer relevant to the current quarter) describing what makes for good candidates for escalation — if a post fits, add the tag (there’s no need to go through the flagging process for regular users).
If the post already has the status-review tag, ping a CM in The Teachers’ Lounge, and we’ll add it to our system manually.
What happens once a post is escalated?
The CM Team will categorize and prioritize the post, and will then respond when they have the necessary context to do so. If they don't, they'll pass it along to the relevant team, which can be the CMs or any relevant product team. It will then be worked into that team’s existing weekly workflow, with the intent of being replied to as soon as the team can manage to.
Note that the commitment being made is to respond to as many posts as possible — that could mean answering or leaving a comment, or adding a different status tag. This doesn’t necessarily mean implementing feature requests or fixing bugs — hopefully that will sometimes happen, though.
Is there a list of the posts getting escalated using this process?
To keep track of what kind of questions are being marked for review, and what happens to them, Glorfindel has built a SEDE query listing all questions across the network which have been marked status-review during a certain period (pre-filled dates are for this process's testing period).
The fifth column is the current status of the question; you see that some of them are already resolved. If you want another time period/quarter, just enter other dates in the parameters section (YYYY-MM-DD) and hit the 'Run Query' button — note that
fromDate is inclusive, and
tillDate is exclusive.
Note that SEDE is updated once a week, on Sunday morning, so the results of this query are less accurate as the week progresses.