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Updated note (with the original post still below the line)- Thank you, very much, for the time you've spent answering these questions. I learned a ton. In fact, as I've hinted below, I'd like to do a set of questions and answers like this fairly regularly (roughly weekly, in the beginning, and with less frequency later). For now, my brain is full :). I will keep reading, but I have to shift my focus to writing the quarterly blog / meta post, for instance. So feel free to keep answering, and I'm still reading, but know that the frequency of posts from me here will slow down some (just to set expectations). Check out (and please answer) my next question!


As part of my onboarding as the new VP of Community, I want to better understand what Stack Exchange means to you (yes, you, everyone reading this question). I’ve got many questions and I know you have many answers but let’s start with one or two at a time and see where it goes.

Would you please take a moment to think about and tell me the following:

  • One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.
  • One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

What would these things be?

I understand that many of these answers may already exist here on MSE or over on MSO or other meta sites around the network but if you’d humor me by helping me find them more easily, I’d really appreciate it.

For the next 24 hours (at least) I’ll be checking here frequently to respond to any notes or questions that you may have. I don’t promise to have all the answers yet, but I will promise to read and take seriously everything said, and to do my best to answer questions where I can.

Initial thinking around some early goals

Yesterday, I promised some discussion around community strategy and to share my thinking about some early goals for my tenure here. One of my goals is to post a question like this for the community roughly every week as we get to know each other and discuss it so that you get a chance to know me, and I get a chance to learn more about you. I will probably muck with the format of this, (and possibly the medium.. Maybe chat, maybe text, etc). I’m also, hopefully very soon, going to begin a “listening tour” through the various stack exchange sites, once we get the logistics figured out.

When I was at Reddit, I had a “standing offer” to meet with any mod team that wanted an hour of my time and listen and talk about whatever they would like, provided they understood that I was not able to change the past, but only to talk about the future. Those conversations were the most meaningful that I had in my time there, and with a very diverse group of users (from those who ran big subreddits like r/news to those in more… esoteric parts of the site). I learned a ton, and I know that I will again, once we figure out how to execute conversations like those here. What I learned in those definitely influenced my decision-making every day.

Today, I’ll be in a monthly business review meeting presenting what the team will be doing in Q3 (this was a plan that I largely inherited, so it isn’t exactly “mine” as much as it’s the combined work product of the team and its interim leadership). Once we’ve kicked off the work of Q3, I intend to begin planning Q4. I have high hopes that we can make parts of that process far more open and collaborative (if not immediately, very soon). Catija is working with a group of moderators to identify mod tooling and policy improvements that would be beneficial for us to work on in future quarters. Some parts of our quarterly tactics are ripe for community involvement. Others, (for instance, Trust and Safety tools designed to prevent spammers and trolls from abusing the sites) absolutely are not likely to be discussed in public. We will continue to hold those tools closely, and won’t tend to discuss them much in public, other than in the most general of terms.

I have other, more internal goals as well, of course (for example, improving the way that the community team interacts with the product teams and how to improve the quality and frequency of the advice that we give them; improving the quality of onboarding that we give new Community Team members, etc). But one thing that I hope you will notice quickly is that we are going to be looking for opportunities to engage with community members in the spirit of partnership.

Which returns me to where I started: if there was a) one thing that you would advise me, in my role as VP of Community, never to touch, and b) one thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible, what would they be?

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    I'm pleased to see the newest VP tackling some issues head-on. With any luck I'll be able to formulate an answer to both of your questions, which might even be worth reading. Still, I'd like to present some mandatory reading for you until then. This is essentially a post-mortem, from a community POV, from 2 years ago. As the author of this is too modest to present this, I will. The situation has not improved since then. Welcome to the front lines and I hope to see you in the trenches often.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 15 at 22:32
  • 2
    I have no time to write a proper answer now, but I'd like to see something similar to this implemented - improving the site's UI in order to better guide users regarding how the site works
    – hkotsubo
    Jul 16 at 19:04
  • 2
    Please, oh please, would you add a bifurcation to a fun version of answers to this? Sometimes, apparently wild variations on ideas give good results. Jul 16 at 22:38
  • Just to clarify, is (re)posting feature requests here okay, because I’ve seen other users do that, and also done it myself. Jul 18 at 2:44
  • 5
    @EkadhSingh, I'm about to make my team cringe in horror, and regret allowing the VP access to the internet on weekends, as I do the unthinkable and answer a process question without checking first. I don't know what the usual standard here is, but I am okay with it provided that it has some expansion with it - tell me why it's important and how it matters to our shared end goals. If you find yourself simply adding a link and a token sentence describing it, I'd rather it be deleted or omitted.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 4:16
  • 7
    I would second what Philippe said. I have been around quite a while, and am quite well-read on Meta. And I still see links all the time to feature requests and discussions from years ago that might deserve another look. That doesn't mean that it is ok to keep spamming the same links, but if there is an old post related to a current discussion, best to assume that not everyone has read it, and then go ahead and drop a reference.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 10:28
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    Well - as a moderator (So, I get to see all the fun, and deal with it) - quite a lot of the issues at hand are old. Personally (and this dosen't entirely colour how we moderate this post's replies) - rather than "these need to be fixed" - the older posts might be a good way to talk about "these are examples of systemic issues we face" . We can get down to details as these systemic issues are addressed hopefully.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 18 at 12:19
  • 6
    Can we get this featured, please? Because that's the way to gather input from people all across the network. I've discovered this question by pure accident. Jul 19 at 17:04
  • 3
    @valisstillwithMonica: Note that only 2 featured posts will be displayed in the community bulletin box: "[...] up to two featured posts from Meta Stack Exchange will appear in the community bulletins of all network sites (including Meta Stack Exchange, but not per-site metas). These are also filed under "Featured on Meta"." Right now, the announcements of the deprecation of the separate mobile view and Philippe's promotion to VP of Community are featured, so a third couldn't be featured as well.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jul 19 at 22:23

31 Answers 31

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Never touch chat

It has its problems, but given the changes to the site in the past 3-6 years, I'd rather keep the problems it has.

Replace the audit system

Using the review queues shouldn't feel like a cat-and-mouse game of trying to figure out which reviews are audits and which ones aren't. Far too often audits are just posts that were upvoted for all the wrong reasons or incorrectly closed.

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    Eeehh... chat could use a couple changes (such as accessibility changes, and allowing ROs of major rooms more power). It needs to be approached carefully, though, and with the input of the users who actually use it.
    – Mithical
    Jul 15 at 19:22
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    I wouldn't say don't touch chat at all. Fix the bugs, but don't change anything else without user input
    – nobody
    Jul 15 at 19:22
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    Uhm... chat needs some help
    – Machavity
    Jul 15 at 19:24
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    I absolutely agree! though, i have zero faith updates to fix any of those issues wouldn't come with other baggage.
    – Kevin B
    Jul 15 at 19:25
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    It's very rare that I'm willing to actually provide an answer these days, I only do so when I firmly stand behind it. I do have an open mind and hope for my opinion to be changed, but only actions can achieve that at this point. We've been promised community involvement repeatedly since the threat of meta going away, but I've yet to see more than promises.
    – Kevin B
    Jul 15 at 19:43
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    @KevinB re: “I absolutely agree! though, i have zero faith updates to fix any of those issues wouldn't come with other baggage.” Well then maybe say something along the lines of “don’t introduce new features to chat without community input”” Jul 15 at 20:18
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    @EkadhSingh i would... if what I viewed as community input was aligned with what they're currently considering community input
    – Kevin B
    Jul 15 at 20:18
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    I couldn't resist: 🚽
    – rene
    Jul 15 at 20:50
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    Thanks, Kevin B. I hear you. When there are features that you become dependent on, there's a tendency to wall them off and say "NO, NEVER". All I can do is promise you that when we touch chat (we're almost definitely going to need to at some point, because nothing scales infinitely) we'll be deliberate and careful, and if it changes the model for how things work, we'll engage around it first. That's a fair request, for a feature as heavily used as chat.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:26
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    Chat needs updates and maintenance imo... And I practically live there 😁
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 16 at 0:06
  • "RO" = "[chat] room owner" Jul 16 at 19:51
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