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

Q4 2020 Community Roadmap. For October: "Community at our Center": Lavender Letter. "Inclusion": Downvotes Survey. "Connecting Users to Opportunity": Area 51, the way forward - Discovery. For November: "Community at our Center": CM Workload Audit. "Community Builders": 10 Year Celebration for Sites. "Inclusion": Moderator CoC Reporting. "Grow & Scale": Stacks Editor Alpha Test. "Connecting Users to Opportunity": Interaction Modeling/Engaged User Satisfaction. "Content Management": Teacher's Lounge Moderation; Review Queue, Release 2: Mod UI for Reviewer Suspensions. For December: "Community at our Center": Moderator Council: Governance. "Community Builders": Stack Gives Back; Winter Bash; SME Content Release. "Inclusion": Moderator D&I Training. "Connecting Users to Opportunity": Automating Site Elections. "Content Management": Automating Site Elections; Review Queue, Release 3: UI/UX Revamp.

Please see the post for details on the projects that our Community and Public Platform teams aim to deliver this quarter. We are interested in your thoughts and questions regarding our upcoming projects and priorities on the roadmap.

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    One thing that has been said multiple times on discord and I'll repeat it on here because the alt text for the screenshot is comprehensive and useful - thank you for making sure stuff is accessible to all! Oct 21 '20 at 17:48
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    Happy to see the voting on the planned board. Lot of communities are waiting for this.
    – yagmoth555
    Oct 21 '20 at 18:00
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    @user400654 Making it easier to review and close questions is a big part of quality. Understanding why people downvote so that we can more effectively convey that information to posters who get downvoted means that we're better able to help them improve their posts or do better the next time they post. I don't see a lack of focus on quality - though we may not be focusing on what you think is the most directly impactful to it.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 21 '20 at 18:50
  • Regarding the new post editor: there was also a feedback thread posted in the Charcoal team. Was feedback from that thread also considered? (cc @Catija) Oct 21 '20 at 21:08
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    I found this statement interesting: "One thing I really appreciate about working on this team and at Stack is how open and honest we can be with each other about these things. I’ve seen people jump in to support their teammates, and join in on projects to help when someone needs a break." Once I'd stopped laughing over the "open and honest" part (SCNR), I was pleased to see you have staff who can be flexible and jump around when needed. So, why then, did you recently lay off a bunch of folks only to now claim to "start to hire new people for the team"? Why not move people around, instead? Oct 21 '20 at 23:15
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    What's the SME content release? The blog isn't clear on that.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Oct 22 '20 at 0:23
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    @JourneymanGeek This is a project around a content series for the community team. We've actually reduced the scope of this in order to ship the close vote changes. Will share more this quarter as we figure out what that means for the project. Oct 22 '20 at 4:12
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    why is this not featured? (it seems like it would be of network wide interest)
    – LinkBerest
    Oct 24 '20 at 0:44
  • I can't find a post related to Area 51 (?) Oct 27 '20 at 6:33
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...can I give feedback this time? Because over on Stack Overflow, y'all didn't want feedback on the survey.

This downvotes survey is asking the wrong question in the wrong way.

Many users report feeling confused and discouraged when their posts are downvoted. What’s more, they often don’t understand why they are getting downvoted, and they often don’t get guidance on what they can do to improve their posts.

This listens to the wrong side of the concern in that users are feeling confused and discouraged. That is to say, the users who are coming over here, asking the kinds of questions which would get downvoted, are feeling discouraged from posting more questions. (That would almost sound like the system is working as intended.)

The users who come over here are asking questions. Those questions are meeting the wall of curation. The users who are upset with this wall of curation are asking why it exists at all, rather than realizing that we've left a dozen or so signposts on how to go through the front door. It's not even a gate, and there's no moat; it's literally just a door.

Users do have guidance, but not only is it not entirely obvious, it's buried in parts of the site that Stack Overflow doesn't make apparent. I made a remark in another community that putting information about a site's expectations anywhere other than right in their face when they're about to ask a question is just setting them up for failure.

But, uh...I'll get back to why this is the wrong question.

This quarter we are running a short survey to gain insight into why users downvote questions and answers on Stack Overflow.

You're asking curators why they downvote.
You're breaking the long-standing convention that votes aren't explained.
This perspective of question makes it seem like the curators have to justify why they did what they did.
Worse, you don't explain what kinds of questions you're trying to gather feedback on.

You know how you guys said that you had some kind of question quality score back in the day? Do you factor this into the survey as well at all, or did you not know about it? I would imagine you would get far better signal-to-noise if you paid attention to questions which the system didn't believe were crap but were attracting downvotes anyway.

I get the very strong feeling that you're going to try and break downvotes, or at least make us explain why we downvoted the content in an effort to "provide guidance to the user", which - and I cannot stress this enough -

is not our role

to commit to.

If you want to provide guidance, then link them to the guidance we've already got. Lots and lots of it exists. Don't then turn your attention to us for cleaning up the mess that's left behind because you're not doing enough to explain what you expect of these users.

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    I assume the purpose of the survey is to figure out "what information are downvoters intending to provide?" and "is there a better way we could provide that information?" They already know the people on the other side are confused and discouraged. How do we turn that confusion and discouragement into better content? The people who are confused don't know what they need to do to improve, why would SO ask them? Oct 21 '20 at 22:02
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    I suppose then, @BryanKrause, we'll just ignore the tooltip over the downvote arrow to help establish that. It's fine; I'm used to that convention by now. Lots of things are getting ignored.
    – Makoto
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:04
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    Maybe that tooltip doesn't provide enough information to people not familiar with the site. It certainly doesn't capture the breadth of reasons people might use it. "Not useful" isn't a very good teaching phrase, for example. A good educator wouldn't write on the top of a student's paper "not useful" and expect to get a better paper next time. Oct 21 '20 at 22:07
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    I don't know if SO intends to provide alternatives to downvoting, or changing the reasons for downvoting, or changing the feedback users get when a post of theirs is downvoted. I don't know if they should do those things, and I really really hope they talk to us all about it first. But before they considered it I would think it's important to capture why people use that button before invalidating or shifting those intentions elsewhere. Oct 21 '20 at 22:09
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    This may be the prime disconnect. The people who actually want to learn how to ask better questions do come to Meta and learn about what they did wrong. These are the rare kinds of askers who thought it'd be OK to dump some requirements on us, but got their question closed and felt like it was reasonable to not only ask why their question was closed, but what they could do in the future to improve it. The vast, vast majority of people...don't, or by the law of averages, shouldn't. Those are the requirement dumps, or the homework questions, or the people who want us to do their job.
    – Makoto
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:12
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    The only tools we were given to stave this flood of users were the downvote and flag buttons. So, if we want to give users guidance on why their question wasn't met positively, we're only left with the options that the system provides us. To then think that the system is running a survey on what we really mean when we use the one or two buttons we have...I just feel like they should've done their own homework on this @BryanKrause before bundling it up as a survey at all. I feel like they would've preempted this exercise instead.
    – Makoto
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:15
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    I don't know that I follow. If you're saying these are the only tools you were given, why would you not want to provide more information on why exactly you use them? If you had only a hammer and a screwdriver, wouldn't it help if someone asked how you were using them so you can explain that you are holding the screwdriver against a tree and hitting hit with the hammer to chop it down? That might prompt them to craft you an axe, or a saw. Oct 21 '20 at 22:19
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    We were given a hammer and a screwdriver in the service of keeping crappy content off of the site. "Why exactly we use them" is a redundant question. "How exactly we use them" is not quite as redundant but can be teased out through focus groups of power users and moderators as opposed to surveys.
    – Makoto
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:20
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. Oct 21 '20 at 22:21
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    I put out some points re: downvote issues regarding the dissonance on sign-up. There's bound to be more. Oct 22 '20 at 0:34
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    are feeling discouraged from posting more questions (That would almost sound like the system is working as intended.) Huh, how is that. The purpose of downvotes is plain simple: to help other readers identify quality content and to convince the author of the downvoted piece to enhance the quality of their content. That simple. The purpose of downvoting is NOT to push new users away. If that happens, it is (almost always) not for the good of the community.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 22 '20 at 9:08
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    Not to mention that if the goal is to be more inclusive and welcoming, that's all about managing expectations on the side of the person asking the question, and exploring why people downvote doesn't contribute much to that. Instead, understanding why people skip the tour and ask off-topic or very poor questions that get downvoted should be explored, because these are futile, and if these users would've known that up front it would've saved them some effort and the negative experience that's associated with asking a poor question.
    – Erik A
    Oct 22 '20 at 9:10
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    @GhostCat add two words: Are feeling discouraged from posting more low quality questions and the system is suddenly working again by focusing on quality content. I must admit I added that assumption mentally, that this was about discouraging the same crap over and over from the same person.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 22 '20 at 9:12
  • No disagreement about that.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 22 '20 at 9:21
  • I agree with you that the focus is on the wrong side of the equation. I think maybe there should be a small adjustment or delay on down votes, e.g. if a question only gets one or two votes, the user might not get notified of it or it might be delayed to give more of the community a chance to provide feedback. Votes are inherently noisy feedback, so I wonder if it would make sense to filter them so they aren't shown until there are more samples. That would also prevent folks from up voting to offset what they feel is a single undeserved down vote when they might have not voted at all. Oct 22 '20 at 15:05
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I hope this is appropriate timing to make a actual difference, but in auditing the CM workload, it's worth considering the standard of care we had in the past, and the sacrifices made in the name of "efficiency" and "needing resources elsewhere".

I've worked in the trenches of IT my entire career, and much like ground level IT folks, community moderation is seen by much of the social software industry as a cost center. Big sites with millions or billions of users... kinda gave up, outsourcing it to poorly paid sweatshops and focusing on content not culture. SE's Community Management and Moderation system has always been about our communities and people, and you can't really scale that by throwing more process at it.

On the other hand, the team's kinda strange structurally. I'm under the impression that it's been shunted around different orgs (at one point being under the engineering team) and at least for now, it's a little top heavy. We've also lost CMs so that other orgs (that are revenue centers - and ought to sustain themselves) could get headcount. Our CMs can't really work in the room under the staircase, with the risk of getting evicted. I hope part of this process is getting them a home and some degree of safety from their team being downsized, or attritions not replaced.

In auditing the workload of the Community Management team, it's worth considering that the reality of them being insanely busy - due to both attrition and 'realignment' - means some of the workload never reaches them. I've had a few situations where a fellow mod brings up something that ought to be escalated but wasn't because "The CMs have enough on their plate" or worse, they did and the item got backlogged.

Essentially, I'm hoping y'all realise that many things that ought to be done are missed and need to be taken into account in figuring out the workload and numbers of CMs.

In engineering, one of the ways cost is removed is to remove components from the reference schematic till something breaks, then add back the last thing that was removed. Only that the other components are there for a reason.
Many of the functions and roles of the community management team, as well as some of the people, have been removed, and even if things 'work' they're not working to the 'reference' standard they ought to be.

In deciding on the workload, in addition to the 'mechanics' and 'governance' of the network, things like "how things work" and formalising various policies, it would be nice to consider having the bandwidth to directly engage with the communities, and sometimes find problems before they happen.

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Celebrating 10th Anniversaries

This is an exciting year as we have a bunch of sites hitting their 10th birthday! We’ll be working with those sites to give them some special flair to celebrate such a big milestone.

Of the five sites that are slated to turn ten years old during the current calendar year (Physics, Information Security, Homebrewing, Writing, and Video Production), the latter three still don't have a design. Also, two additional sites are already ten years old and haven't received a design yet (Board & Card Games, and Sound Design - counting the time it was a Stack Exchange 1.0 site).

All of these sites are no longer in beta, which means they should have been placed on the backlog to receive a design.

Are there any plans to additionally deploy designs to them in the near future?

(I'm aware that in the current configuration, deploying a design is also correlated with raising the site's privilege levels to those of large sites, but looking through the Area 51 stats for each of these sites that have one, all are "Excellent" in terms of avid users.)

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    The artwork you can see on AU doesn't require a site design.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:23
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    @Catija It seems I was unclear about which sites I was referring to. Ask Ubuntu wasn't one of them. I've edited the post to clarify which sites I'm referring to. Oct 21 '20 at 22:28
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    What you see on AU is the flair
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 21 '20 at 22:33
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    @Catija This answer is not about AU, it never mentioned AU. I think the point is that to give those sites a proper anniversary, they'd like to be treated as a proper site first. Adding extra flair while the design isn't (publicly) scheduled for the near future is an odd move.
    – Mast
    Oct 22 '20 at 4:15
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    @Mast I'm not really sure why you think that. The question here was originally asking about flair for the 10-year celebrations and the only site currently showing said flair is AU because they're the first site to get it. This question has overreached in interpreting flair as site design but it is simple to add the 10-year celebration artwork to any site. It has nothing to do with site design.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 22 '20 at 5:05
  • @Catija Yeah, I picked up on what the blog post actually meant about flair (currently deployed on AU), so I edited my answer in response. Oct 22 '20 at 5:06
  • @Mast I had previously misunderstood what they meant by flair; her comment was in response to that old revision. I've since edited this answer. Oct 22 '20 at 5:07
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    As far as I'm aware, we have no bandwidth for new site design work at this time and no staffing to fulfill it. And as frustrating as that is... I don't think there's any reason to expect that to change unless we specifically say it is.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 22 '20 at 5:09
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    Seeing that the entire network is very community centered, would it be possible to set forth guidelines to which a design would need to adhere. So that any willing and capable community member can come up with (a) design(s), and the communities themselves can pick something @Catija?
    – Luuklag
    Oct 22 '20 at 11:06
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    @Luuklag we have no way to do that. Building and testing that would still take time we don't have.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 22 '20 at 11:48
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I really appreciate the focus about downvotes. And I somehow disagree with the other answer that stating that asking the curators for their reasons to downvote is a bad thing.

Of course, that survey itself should be fully optional. The system should NOT force you to answer the questions in order to get your downvote out. Meaning: after one votes, then there is a "your vote has been registered, are you willing to answer a few short questions about it now" moment.

Nonetheless, that other answer has a good point: the amount of information that you can gather that way is very limited. Making a bold statement, I would claim that 90+% of all votes on stackoverflow are just legitimate curation. People notice low quality content, and they want to tell other users about that, and give an incentive to the author of that content to do better.

Thus: as long as A) users come in and are able to drop low quality content and B) that downvote system is in place, there will be that conflict. Coming from there, the only true value I see in this survey: it could help you to better understand to categorize downvotes, which could help you to implement a system that can better categorize itself. In an ideal world, the "new question" wizard has a final mandatory step were some AI tells you for real "your question doesn't meet our quality standards" ... and where you have to click like 5 times to still post it as is. (and if you do that, and then the post gets downvoted, closevoted, ... that means you get question banned the 2nd time you do it or so). Of course, getting such a system right is still hard, but probably more "doable" than 10 years ago, given the progress that AI brings to the field.

Coming back to the other answer: I started to do more curation on stackoverflow on the java tag for the last weeks, and seriously: downvotes aren't the problem there. The biggest problem: tons of low quality questions, and maybe: not enough upvotes on the few good questions. So, yes: it is great that you look into downvoting, but the downvotes aren't the problem. I very much prefer to click on a question, find it "valid", and "worth answering", and putting down an answer. Compared to downvoting, close voting, delete voting it. And commenting it, to almost never hear back anything from the OP dropping their (home)work onto other people.


The other part here: I am quite grateful that you will continue to improve the "review" queues. Where: UI changes are the smaller thing for me, it would be much more important to revisit the definition of these queues, and understand if there is actually any sense in doing things that way (please remember that many many people have complained about the utter failure that triage+help and improve have lead to). But of course, that would be a real piece of work to tackle.

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    Gonna second "not enough upvotes" - in fact, I'd go further: not enough votes period. Folks get upset at downvote because it is something concrete to focus on, but... So, so many questions get nothing at all, and what can be said, by or about, the folks who just walk away dejectedly because no one cared... Not even enough to downvote.
    – Shog9
    Oct 24 '20 at 3:45

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