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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
  • 6
    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

101
+50

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

I'd like you to safeguard one of the ideas these communities are built upon: that these sites are meant to be libraries/repositories of knowledge and expertise, in Q&A form. You know, that bit that's at the top of the tour page, being drowned out by the big bold 'Ask questions, get answers' underneath it.

Past initiatives (e.g. the Welcome Wagon) haven't always ended up doing that idea justice, and it's not too hard to find people on the internet that weren't aware of this idea when asking their questions, and that as a result end up being disappointed/upset/angry/defeated when they run into it after asking their questions and seeing them moderated: They asked a question and wanted an answer, like the tour promised.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

At least two answers have already mentioned changing (the communities' perceptions on) the current relationship between communities and staff. That's definitely a good start.

Once you're done with that though (or perhaps while you're busy doing it), some work on reinforcing that idea I mentioned above would mean a lot to me personally. Anything that can help new users constructively enter into existing communities, anything that also clearly states these sites aren't just 'drop question, become entitled to an answer', would probably help a lot to decrease frustrations and friction between existing communities and new users.

4
  • 3
    Restating my comment since it disappeared: IMO Tinkeringbell correctly identified the most important issue (safeguard the "knowledge repository" idea), but hasn't fully grasped the depth of the problem with regard to SO. Over there, many past initiatives actively disregarded that goal or prioritized it far below user acquisition and other goals. Thus, for SO, instead of safeguarding the knowledge repository idea, it seems more accurate to say that the company would need to reinstate it as a high(est) priority goal.
    – l4mpi
    Jul 19 at 14:40
  • It's rather ironic because in my view, this core idea is directly opposed to fostering a large and welcoming community. The Q&A are more important than the people. It's a ruthless tool — and a really good tool — but it's just a tool. Some may enjoy participating in refining and sharpening the tool and find a community in doing so, but that's not for me. There is no community for me here. I'll just use it as a tool.
    – mbauman
    Jul 19 at 19:47
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    @mbauman That's no big deal: the internet is a big place. Keep travelling and hopefully one day you'll find a site with a purpose that's more to your liking!
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 19 at 20:30
  • 1
    That's precisely the point, though: I'll continue using Stack Overflow (and the other exchanges) as a tool, but not consider myself a community member. And yes, that's just fine, but this dichotomy between the user base and the few that consider it a "community" is something that a VP of Community should probably be aware of. Indeed, it's this very community that's alienating to many — and is so by design — for better or worse.
    – mbauman
    Jul 20 at 18:24
92
+750

Today is Tisha b'Av, the date the ancient Jewish temple was destroyed. (I promise this is relevant.) According to our tradition, the second temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, sinat chinam. Among all the problems of the time, one incident stood out as the precipitating event:

A wealthy man held a party and sent his servant to invite his friend Kamtza. The servant misunderstood and made the invitation to Bar Kamtza, whom the host hated. Bar Kamtza, thinking the man was offering an olive branch, attended. The host was furious and ordered him to leave. Bar Kamtza, trying to save face, repeatedly tried to make peace, offered to pay for his food, and even offered to pay for half the party. But the host expeled him in front of all his other guests, none of whom objected, setting in motion a chain of events that led to the destruction.

The host hated Bar Kamtza so much that he no longer saw him as a fellow human being deserving of basic decency and dignity. Presented with the results of a misunderstanding, the man in power escalated instead of de-escalating, harming everybody present (and, according to the account in the Talmud, the whole nation).

Philippe, your predecessors didn't destroy a whole people or a national treasure, but there has been a lot of baseless hatred and harm and pain to lots of people over the last few years. Some of that can never be repaired, but some still can be, even at this late date. What has been missing is not the ability to correct errors but the will.

What should you change as quickly as possible? This ongoing failure to make what amends and repairs can be made. It's the ethical thing to do, and -- to speak to the company's business-driven interests -- it would show the people who build Stack Overflow and the SE network that you're willing and able to correct mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes; we learn a lot about people and institutions by seeing how they handle their effects. Yes you have the power of the wealthy party host, but is that the kind of person you want to be?

What should you never touch? The community's goodwill. You have the potential for awesome partners in growth, people who still want to see Stack Overflow succeed despite it all, people who know a lot about how to do that on the community side. You've got lots of professional experience but you're new to SE and SE jettisoned decades of its CM expertise in January 2020. The previous people at upper levels not only didn't engage with the communities but shunned them. By coming to Meta and starting this conversation you've taken an important step. Keep that up and follow through: engage with the community, participate on some of the 170 communities, ask for feedback regularly, carefully listen to feedback (which is not the same as "do what we say"), don't spring disruptive changes on people -- treat the community as partners not enemies.

(I realize much of the previous paragraph belongs in the "what should I change" paragraph, because what needs to change is the corporate attitude, but the reason it needs to change is that somehow you still have a community here that cares, and you should work hard to maintain a good relationship with it.)


2021-09-27 update: I was asked in a comment if anybody from the company has contacted me since this post. No, I've received no contact. Unless I edit to remove this note, you can assume there have been no changes.

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    I was made aware of the new VP and this post, so I decided to accept the invitation to provide input and I look forward to seeing whether anything comes of it. (All the input, not just mine.) Jul 18 at 17:42
  • 7
    "make what amends and repairs can be made" – so are you saying that the current legal situation does allow for recovery actions like admission of guilt, even when drawing attention to the case again?
    – Adám
    Jul 19 at 7:03
  • 32
    @Adám the legal agreement does not forbid all recovery actions -- never did. (I am wary of being more specific here, but could discuss with Philippe.) A legal agreement is a list of things each party demands of the other. It would not be in my interest to preclude all repairs, and obviously that's not something they could demand of me since they, not I, have the power to act there. // The company has done a lot of damage to a lot of people, including Shog and Robert and several communities, and a legal agreement with me is completely irrelevant to those other cases. Jul 19 at 12:43
  • 16
    Sadly, one thing that is definitely not going to change - no SE staff is going to comment on this particular post.
    – Boaz
    Jul 19 at 17:23
  • 14
    @Boaz-CorporateShillExchange Give Philippe a chance.
    – Ollie
    Jul 19 at 17:27
  • 14
    @Ollie I understand what you mean, but the sad part is that it's likely out of Phillipe's hands.
    – Boaz
    Jul 19 at 17:28
  • 13
    I would very much like to see some repairing of the damage SE has done toward various people. I recall we had to step up and do some of that on our own since the company was entirely unwilling to do it. We still haven't forgotten, or forgiven.
    – magisch
    Jul 22 at 8:08
  • 2
  • 6
    Now that the dust has settled, somewhat, did anyone from Stack Exchange, specifically a member of staff, reach out to you since you posted?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 26 at 17:30
  • 7
    @Mari-LouA nobody from Stack Exchange has contacted me since this post. I'll edit that in, in case comments get deleted. Sep 27 at 17:16
  • 5
    I'm sorry, it must be hurtful after everything. The company would regain so much goodwill if they could just amend the harm that you bore.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 27 at 17:43
73

One thing that you should never touch? That's a difficult question, and I don't have an answer for that at the moment, but here's a stab at the other question.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

This is going to be not so easy, but... if you have any influence, the company culture in its interactions with the community.

Especially after everything that happened in '19/'20 (which I'm sure you've heard about), the company has pulled away from the community. Nobody in the company except for the community team (including Teresa here) really gets why the community is actually valuable to the company (see the infamous %0.0015 thing). If the CMs have to worry about convincing the company that the community actually has value... then that detracts a lot from what time they can spend on actually working on it. I'm getting the impression that this is starting to change, but other things feel like a step backwards (Collectives dropping without a warning, for instance). NDAs in particular are a huge step away from how everything was conducted in the past.

The impression given over the past few years is that the company is like "Oh, god, what do we do with these people? They're loud, annoying, provide a very small percentage of our pageviews, suck up lots and lots of staff time for a very small amount of users... and they act so entitled, like they deserve to know what we're doing!"
If you have any power... that needs to change. Yes, the community - especially the Meta community - are an entitled bunch of smartasses, myself included. But it comes from a place of having had a very, very good community experience in the past, with awesome CMs, and then suddenly pulled in the opposite direction as the company changed direction, several times.

You need to build trust with the community, both personally and for the company; and build trust with the company, that the community is actually important and not just a drain on resources.


Staff such as Yaakov have attempted to convince me that this has started already. Which... is great, but I'm still not seeing much of a concrete change. There have been new CM hires, yes, and a lot of talk about fixing that broken trust. I consider myself a pretty active community member - I'm active here on Meta, I'm a moderator on the unofficial Meta Discord, I'm a Room Owner on the Tavern. And yet... I haven't seen much of a difference. (Except for Rosie. I've seen her around here on Meta. Credit where credit's due.) I'm a bit surprised that, as active as I am in all these community spaces, I haven't seen much change. That's what I'm looking for, as soon as possible.


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.

...can I suggest maybe discussing these with the best spam-catching team on the internet? Considering that they're actively monitoring every post that arrives on the network, keep records of every piece of spam that's been detected on SE for the past several years, and have a track record of nuking spam within seconds of its being posted, it's probably a good idea just for the data alone. They're probably the best people to work with to report any changes in how spam comes in and monitor the effectiveness.


Oh, yeah, and on the "do as soon as possible list", if you could reach out and maybe apologize on behalf of the company to Shog and Robert that'd be great.


Good luck in your new role, and hope to see you around much more than previously!

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    There is a discord? Jul 15 at 19:13
  • 6
    There is, yes.
    – Mithical
    Jul 15 at 19:14
  • 6
    Absolutely, trust is the most critical thing. Everything else follows from it (or withers from the lack of it).
    – TylerH
    Jul 15 at 19:47
  • 10
    Well, there's a lot to unpack there (but I did ask after all), so I'll start by saying that while I certainly understand the feeling that nobody but the CMs get the value of the community to the sites, I respectfully disagree. Since I've been here, I've been impressed with the number of people, from engineers to CEO, who do get that. Now, have all the company's decisions reflected that? Most likely not. As we get to the point of getting those T and S tools designed, I will strongly suggest involving the folks from Charcoal, whose work I do admire greatly.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:34
  • 13
    @Philippe - "...Most likely not." And that's the crux of the issue there; there's been a lot of talk but not a lot of action in that direction. I hope you're able to turn that around - you certainly have a lot on your plate here. :) And whee on that Charcoal point!
    – Mithical
    Jul 15 at 21:38
  • 7
    Also, I wanted to respond to your comment about Rosie... she's off on a well earned couple days of holiday but I'll be sure to mention it to her on her return. We all love her, she's pretty great, isn't she?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:43
  • 5
    Yes, lack of trust (effectively) killed Freenode (IRC) in less than a week in May 2021, after having been up since the 1990s (replaced by Libera Chat). It was also a case of abuse of power. Even the conservative (not in a political sense) Sigrok project moved. Jul 16 at 19:43
  • 4
    @Philippe Community members should not sign NDAs to provide feedback. Community feedback by definition must be open, transparent and communal. For the sake of the community, it's better to introduce commercial features unilaterally by the company than to have faux-feedback provided with legal terms.
    – Boaz
    Jul 19 at 16:58
66

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Know your limitations: some things are not within your power to change. You can advocate for them, but cannot (usefully) demand them much less promise them.

Be honest about these things. To yourself, to the people here, to your overseers.

Much pain has been wrought by those who have failed in this one area.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

You're already doing it, but "you" - your team - can do a lot better: communicate. A CM who is silent is a CM who should probably have a different title. And no, for the love of all that is good, do not take this as a suggestion that y'all should put things on hold and do yet another re-org.

Y'all have knowledge. You've seen things, you've seen how they play out. You worked at Reddit ffs; nobody needs to school you in how things can go horribly, tragically wrong. Use that. SHARE that.

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    I would love it if every current employee could speak as candidly as every former one, though preferably on their own accord. Your first paragraph in the answer to #1, though, sounds like very good internal advice or some practical lessons learned, yet I'm having a hard time believing it's advice you would give to or take for yourself, at least the implied advice that these might be reasons to not demand things. Jul 17 at 1:51
  • 14
    I tend to find my own limitations by repeatedly banging my head against whatever walls are handy, @Bryan; currently gearing up for a weekend with a sawmill, chainsaw, and very little experience with either. Pretty sure my role in life is to serve as a warning to others... That said, stubborn though I am, I DO eventually learn my own limitations and apply those lessons dutifully with all of my remaining appendages!
    – Shog9
    Jul 17 at 2:32
  • 14
    Do be careful, saw accidents can cost an arm and a leg D:
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 17 at 4:42
  • 12
    @Shog9 - It's a pleasure to meet you. I've heard a great deal about you, of course. Thank you for the advice, it's much appreciated. I share your feeling about knowing limitations; that's one that i had to learn the hard way myself. As for communications, yeah. I am in full agreement. (And don't worry, if we do any reorg'ing, it's not gonna be for a while. I may slightly re-orient things, but keep the same org chart and just tweak focus areas.)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:16
  • 15
    You undersell yourself as a mentor. Many people who learn through trial and error feel like others should have to "take their own lumps" rather than wanting to help others avoid pitfalls. While you may have learned things the hard way, you don't hesitate to help others avoid your struggles - you're often there to guide them and share your experiences... even if that's through somewhat esoteric stories about gophers or gardening.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 21:47
  • 8
    Catija speaks wisely here. And do be careful with the chainsaw, please.@JourneymanGeek is not alone in his dismay at the concept of a saw accident here. I hope that the universe allows us time to meet at some point. I'd love to buy you a drink (or coffee or your favorite other vice) sometime and trade stories.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 3:44
53

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Stack Exchange sites & communities are invaluable resources. Use them!

Stack Exchange has brought together and helped foster experts in MANY fields. Yet when the company wants to change something, they never seem to think to review the idea with the experts they are so proud to show off to the world otherwise... and the community pretty much always has tons of in-depth feedback and criticism to provide as soon as changes are rolled out.

Have a new feature? Request feedback on it on an appropriate site (or meta site) so that when it goes live, we aren't blindsided and the product has fewer bugs or shortcomings.

Want to redesign some page or workflow? Request feedback on it at the UI/UX Stack Exchange site (or reach out to interested high-rep users there for private feedback, rather than random users who may or may not have any background in visual design).

Have a change in site/network policy you want/need to push out? Please run it by the moderators or the mod council first... they can provide really good feedback if you let them. Many "we told you so"s can be avoided this way.

I get that it might be a gut reaction to think "pfft, I'm not going to ask random internet users for permission to do something at my own company", but this isn't a plea to run everything by us for our approval. It's just a plea to use your resources to make your product better, and your users happier. People here are really good at what they do and are happy to give their advice for free... use that!

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    Thanks, TylerH, that's good advice. I'll try very hard to remember to consult experts on our own sites in areas where it makes sense. I am an advocate for mod councils generally, and have worked with them in several places, and you will see that we are experimenting with different ways to get feedback from them already, including using working groups. I appreciate the post and advice.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:21
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    @Philippe Mod councils can be helpful, they ought not be the sum total of the community input. One thing I've found offensive to my sensibilities in the Grand Gesture when Collectives was launched was that the user research included the use of NDA's. At a time when the community is lacking trust, and admittedly respect, for the corporate will, proving that the corporation does not trust its users by using NDA's seems very counterproductive.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 15 at 23:51
  • 4
    I would like to upvote this more than once. Please @Philippe, consult the many experts across the many SO sites when thinking of new features or of changes to features.
    – AdrianHHH
    Jul 16 at 12:50
  • 4
    @Philippe Hi Philippe, looks like this might have slipped that very radar? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/368285/… I understand it's only been about a month since you've taken on the job... but this is a pretty "in-your-face" change that would have benefited from some discussions with the community or at least some UX.SE experts.
    – TylerH
    Aug 6 at 14:47
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    Thanks @TylerH - I saw what happened there. Honestly, this isn’t something that I haven’t had time to dig into yet, but yes - we need to fix some things about how we manage and deploy change.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 7 at 8:52
52

Strangely my sentiment echoes that of Mithical's in that I both find it very tough to find something that you shouldn't touch.

Also too, Mithical brings up an excellent point about community, but we need to dive a lot deeper here.

You have to change the culture which perceives the more dedicated of the community members as either antagonists, aggressors or otherwise an opposition to the goals of the company.

It runs a little deeper than what happened in '19/'20, since to be perfectly transparent, a lot of that stuff had been happening for years before that. There is a consistent pattern of engagement with the community, in that somehow we have to "start being nicer" and more accommodating, when realistically speaking, all we've ever really cared about is making sure that someone puts all the details into their gotdang question so we can answer it!

While what happened in late '19 was a fairly sizable blowup - and some of the scars are still fresh in parts of the community - just looking at that instance alone ignores a whole lot of other problems that surfaced. In effect, the volunteer curators which make sites like this viable at all are being marginalized, or often have their conventions violated by the company for experimentation purposes.

All of this speaks to a disconnect into how the company perceives how the community operates, thinks, and what it values. That is dangerous because it is the community that ultimately makes or keeps things viable for use.

Whatever conversations your team is having about how to move community forward only ever happen in secret, and aren't out in the open. What does make its way out into the open are changes that no one in the community is asking for, and that creates this indescribable angst when we see that the company has gone away for months at a time to do A Thing™ to only come back down the mountain, showcasing a service that we just didn't ask for. Then, when you actually do come down and we try to politely ask about the things that need attention, we could consider it fortunate if you only ignored us.

Then you get this vicious cycle of how we're so mean when we openly and loudly reject features that you have poured a lot of love and energy into, and I could at least get that hurt, but the problem isn't that there wasn't a lot of care put into it, it's just that we didn't exactly care about it. Worse, when you actually do deliver something we really like, it gets no fanfare - the fact that you're experimenting with reducing the close votes down from 5 to 3 is a revolutionary thing in content moderation, and we only mentioned it...maybe a month and a half ago when it finally came around to being launched on more sites than Stack Overflow. Instead, our timeline and our energy is a bit absorbed with this "Collectives" thing that you're really hoping the community just goes along with, and I've already left pointed feedback on this feature. I'm not holding out faith, but there's a non-zero chance that this time you'll actually look at it.

At this point I understand that you're probably going to want more references or resources to get you started on your way, but I maintain quite adamantly that there are people on the team who have claimed to already have done extensive research on Meta to figure a lot of this out. The only insulting part about that is that it feels like the research being done or the answers sought from the community are never the discussions we have. But hey, it's a start at least.

I could also understand that you're going to want patience, but I have to say at least for myself that patience is a luxury that Stack Overflow no longer has. You're going to need to earn back our trust, and you're going to need to work hard to do that. The long standing members in the community who have stuck through this for ineffable reasons or rationale do not have to provide yet more talking points for you to start rebuilding the relationship. We have left everything we wanted to say on the Metas. Some of us have painstakingly gone out of our way to leave sign posts on how to find everything. Please actually look for it.

You can't afford to half-ass this. Any delay in improving the relationship with your community is only going to make working with us a lot more difficult.

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    I'll refer back to my post from right before everything blew up.
    – Mithical
    Jul 15 at 19:48
  • 4
    @Mithical: They SAID they had their own people who did research on Meta. I wanted them to find this one on their own, which is why I didn't leave any links in my answer. No more free lunches.
    – Makoto
    Jul 15 at 19:51
  • 7
    @Makoto - 1 of 2 Thank you for the very frank answer. I'm okay with asking me to do the leg work. I get that. I wanted to start the next sentence by saying "Trust me, ..." but I didn't because I realized that you don't have much reason to. And I get that too. I hope that you are open to the idea that the fact that I'm here at all - and engaging and promising more engagement might be a sign that things could be more positive. I'm also a long time Wikipedian - another large, user generated website, and I have been on both sides of similar debates.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:16
  • 3
    @Makoto - 2 of 2: While you're right - I am going to say "you need to give me a little time" (because frankly, it's not rational to say anything else on week 2), I will also say that you'll find my influence all over things like the mod tools working group (which is working fairly transparently, largely because I helped to create it and provided the model) and in the fact that I support the 3 vote to close experiment (theoretically, pending the outcome data).
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:16
  • 11
    @Philippe: You're still new so you get some time. What I'm hoping is that you at least understand where my impatience comes from. I don't expect things to happen overnight; that's impractical. But don't ask me to wait indefinitely. That too is impractical, and quite frankly I've been waiting for a long, long time.
    – Makoto
    Jul 15 at 21:29
  • 2
    @Makoto, That's fair. I think we understand one another on this then. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:49
  • 2
    Nothing is overly sacred. Just needs a certain amount of sensitivity
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 16 at 1:02
42
+50

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Stack Exchange…

 …without asking the community first.

The core community is tired of radical changes being announced as they happen.


One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Stop lying to your users.

Of course, you didn't lie, but you can still make an important change with minimal effort and no cost: Come clean on behalf of Stack Exchange.

Make sure not to make it wordy or legalese. Here's an idea for a formulation:

On behalf of Stack Exchange, I'm very sorry for how we mistreated Monica, and how lies and cover-ups were used in the aftermath. I will keep this terrible incident in mind, to make sure such a thing doesn't happen on my watch.


Edit: Yet another radical change announced as it happened.

Edit: And another one.

27
  • 21
    Come on. You know that there is nothing further to be said hy either side on the matter. Contractually they can't, and what more drama do we need to go through before we're allowed to get on with the future?
    – Nij
    Jul 16 at 5:01
  • 10
    @Nij I doubt that contract could prohibit recovery actions. It is only there to prevent further damage
    – gnat
    Jul 16 at 7:16
  • 10
    IANAL, but there might be something in the legal contract that would make it impossible to write such an apology. Admission of guilt, agreements to stop drawing attention to the case, I dunno... Honestly though, 2 friggin years later, can we finally accept that that stuff has come to a legal conclusion, and that's that?!
    – Cerbrus
    Jul 16 at 10:33
  • 8
    @Cerbrus But that's exactly the point: A legal conclusion, but not an ethical one.
    – Adám
    Jul 16 at 11:19
  • 3
    @Cerbrus Yes, because it is speculation.
    – Adám
    Jul 16 at 11:21
  • 31
    It seems to me that one of the worst mistakes that I could make would be to go rushing into such an emotionally charged situation in an effort to try to fix things. I don't have the ego to think that I could - on my second week in the job - craft the perfect answer that will satisfy all sides. I think it's best for everyone involved if I simply say "thank you, I'm aware of the issues and their significance, and I will do my very best."
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 14:14
  • 12
    @Philippe I think your your reluctance to rush is a good thing at this point, but I really appreciate your answering this sharply worded input of mine. Thank you! I hope you'll will be successful.
    – Adám
    Jul 16 at 14:21
  • 3
    @Nij "...we're allowed to get on with the future?" But you are allowed to. Where is the problem?
    – Trilarion
    Jul 16 at 21:36
  • 7
    When the people who are meant to be leading the future development have to waste time reading through posts like this, trying to relitigate issues that are resolved as far as anybody can reasonably expect, we are not being allowed to get on with future growth.
    – Nij
    Jul 16 at 21:39
  • 6
    @Philippe feels like in all the kerfluffle about Monica (some of it very justified) SE did not ever do much to acknowledge how much LGBTQ+ users were straight up harassed during those few weeks, and how much argument was being made that pronouns 'weren't important, actually'. I saw attack helicopter jokes on Mother Meta. Highly offensive posts took hours to delete because the Meta mods were overwhelmed. At no point did CMs/staff step in and reaffirm the fact that trans/LGBTQ+ users should be respected. All that happened was a conversation offsite and a weak apology months later. Jul 17 at 17:45
  • 7
    @Cerbrus Apparently the legal contract does allow for an apology and admission of guilt.
    – Adám
    Jul 19 at 12:52
  • 6
    @Nij It would seem that they can, contractually.
    – Adám
    Jul 19 at 12:53
  • 6
    @Philippe Never hesitate to apologise for past wrongs. You can do it today, if you want to. It doesn't need to be long, it doesn't need to be perfectly worded, it just needs to be genuine. Jul 23 at 6:00
  • 3
    Well this one got really real really fast. Aug 6 at 17:37
  • 4
    @Adám Thanks. It’s OK to believe that things are not where they should be even though you don’t bring up every little thing that’s wrong. Sometimes focusing on what you want to happen, and how it benefits everyone involved is more impactful then pointing out a million little flaws.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 31 at 18:20
39

Changes

Mod tooling. I'm a UX guy, and I cringe when I have to deal with legacy code that I wrote. The mod tools make some of that look downright elegant. They sometimes work. They are sometimes spit and baling wire. In some cases... nobody apparently thought they were important (seriously, that should be embarrassing that not even CMs had tools for that).

The mod working group for tooling (see the Mod Team or Teacher's Lounge) is probably going to drop a giant list in your lap. It might even be wrapped in a knitted blanket that Tinkeringbell wraps it up in. But there are some tools that really really need updating, fixing or building from the ground up. There should be some low-hanging fruit you can knock out for easy wins, as well as some that are just needed.

Don't change

The current bug list system. What has helped a lot is the visibility that is actively being worked across SE. It might not be ideal or exactly what we'd pick for priorities, but it's actually nice to see that list go down and that Devs and CMs are retagging as needed and reporting overall efforts. It probably could be better, but it's not broken right now. Don't fix it.

3
  • 30
    I DO NOT KNIT. I crochet. Big difference :P
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 15 at 19:57
  • 2
    I was just about to post to ask for mod tooling to be improved. Thanks for saving me the keystrokes ;) Jul 15 at 20:00
  • 14
    I hope that Tinkeringbell brings me a massive list. I want a huge list, so that I can pass them on to the platform team and they always know what's next. :-). I advocated for the creation of that working group for EXACTLY that reason. Also, no intention of changing the stats-review system. It's a number I reported on to senior leadership earlier today, and they were pleased with the fact that we are paying attention there.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 20:53
36

One thing that you should treat like the third rail is any thought the company might have of trying to shift the "voice of the customer" for the network away from Meta and over to Stack Overflow or Teams Enterprise. Yes it is difficult sometimes to measure the value of the community on Meta, especially when you look at the millions of junior software developers that visit Stack Overflow every day, or see paying customers over at Teams. Those customers do not have the experience or the insight or the commitment of the core users here on Meta. Those other users might be able to tell you what they want as individuals; the Meta community will tell you what they think is good for Stack Exchange from their perspective based on their usually extensive experience with the network and a good understanding of how things work.

What you should fix immediately? The comment system. It might not seem like a "community" issue, but it is. Comments are what turn our Q&A sites into communities and we've outgrown the original design. I realize this is probably not the scope that you were hoping for when you asked, but this is what's on my mind.

We've got another round of "Why are you deleting these valuable comments?/Comments are ephemeral." getting played on English Language & Usage's meta right now. It's an unending conflict with no acceptable solution, because the documentation says "comments are post-it notes" and the community says "comments are discussions that contain vital information". The design doesn't allow the community to indicate which comments are valuable and which should be transient, so the responsibility for curating comments in such a way that the "good" ones are kept lands on the mods. The mods don't have the tooling to curate comments effectively. The community can flag comments as "no longer needed", but not "this comment should be kept". If someone writes incorrect information in a comment, the only way to address it is more comments or moderator intervention. There's no downvoting to push it down the discussion.

We deserve something better. I don't know exactly what it should look like, but comments are not working well. If anyone doubts that, search the site metas for mentions of "deleted" and "comments" then think about all of the time and emotion wasted on the "comments are ephemeral/comments are valuable" arguments. There are also extended arguments about answers in comments on a lot of sites. Poor design is sucking away energy that would be better spent answering or asking questions, community building or something constructive.

It's time that the design matched reality better.

14
  • 9
    There was this experiment to rename comments that was widely loved and dropped for some reason :D
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 16 at 1:02
  • 1
    Colleen, wouldn't comment upvotes be a vaguely related metric of comment usefulness, or fun (but those are usually easily distinguished between by a human being).
    – Luuklag
    Jul 16 at 7:03
  • 7
    @Luuklag Not when the folks that think those comments are noise can’t downvote them. If upvotes were measures of value, the most valuable comments on the network are links to xkcd comics, and jokes under HNQs. For example, I finally left this comment after deleting too many of the same bright idea. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/155572/meaning-of-underpressure/… Besides, there’s no guidance for when a comment should be up-voted, or for how to write a high quality comment, so there’s little correlation in how the community votes on them.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 16 at 11:05
  • 6
    And before I look like too much of a grump, I think a lot of those jokes and banter are essential to a friendly welcoming community, they just don’t belong stacked up under a Q&A post. They deserve their own space where it’s officially OK to chit-chat. (And not in a general purpose chat room).
    – ColleenV
    Jul 16 at 11:14
  • Perhaps delete comments automatically after three months (unless someone care enough about particular comments to keep them alive (very vaguely similar to the Fanatic badge))? And/or the option to community wikify particular comments (editable important meta information for a post). The time to live for a comment should be very visible so no one is in doubt what is happening (perhaps even a follow-comments feature). Jul 16 at 22:11
  • 3
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q There are a lot of ways to tackle it. I think just moving comments into their own space will prevent comment answers, and mitigate some of the problems keeping a lot of discussion around currently causes. It really annoys me that comment answers get this privileged place under question, above even an accepted answer.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 16 at 22:57
  • It seems to me that you have a biased point of view regarding the actual comment system. Some points like "answer in comment" are not homogenously perceived/treated on all the stacks.
    – Zilog80
    Jul 20 at 9:26
  • For example, on translations/languages stacks most questions fit the library of knowledge SE goal so "answer in comment" is more a trouble there. On the other side, on very technical stacks like SO, "answer in comment" is a necessity as a way to point questions that don't totally fit with the goal, questions for which answers would generally be useful to OP only like this one.
    – Zilog80
    Jul 20 at 9:27
  • Anyway, "answer in comment" is not a very efficient way for technical stacks, as it implies "answered questions without an answer". It makes looking for unanswered questions harder. It seems to me that the real point behind that is how to address "valid" questions that don't fit the library of knowledge model.
    – Zilog80
    Jul 20 at 10:02
  • @Zilog80 If a question can’t be properly answered, it should be closed. If you want to be nice and put some helpful information in a comment, more power to you.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 20 at 12:41
  • "Perhaps delete comments automatically after three months" is a horrible idea. On small sites with less participation, who do you think will be rescuing the good content out of comments? It's just more work for the mods.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 29 at 17:22
  • 1
    @JanMurphy I’m not on-board with auto deletion of comments, but I think that’s another indicator that we’ve outgrown the original design of comments as temporary post-it notes. I think half the reason that info isn’t in answers instead of comments is because we let comments hang around indefinitely. The other half is because some of that info is important/useful but doesn’t really belong in an answer and we have no sanctioned place for footnotes. One user’s footnote is another’s chit-chat.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 29 at 17:40
  • 2
    @ColleenV I'd love to have a quick way to append someone's comment into an answer (I'm thinking of your 'footnote' idea) that would also save the comment author's name. If someone has a good point which is not enough for a full answer, we could include their suggestion into our answer while not losing the citation of whose comment it was.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jul 29 at 21:25
  • 2
    @JanMurphy I think it would be cool if discussion on answers was on another tab, and the author of the answer, mods, or an appropriate quorum of sufficiently privileged community members, could ‘pin’ helpful points they’d like to keep so that they appeared under the post where comments are now. I don’t think the “footnote” thing would work for the question though. I think it would be better to have a community curated list of “related” questions under the question (if we put anything at all there).
    – ColleenV
    Aug 12 at 20:15
35

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

The fact that the accepted answer is almost always at the top. I've lost count of the number of times I've looked up a question (typically on Stack Overflow, when I'm pressed for time and need a solution asap), tried the top answer, realized "Wait that didn't work" (or worse "Wow that made everything so much worse") and then looked back to realize the second-highest answer has 10x as many votes as the highest, accepted answer.

We shouldn't care about whether the OP is happy nearly as much as we care about creating a future-proofed useful library of knowledge for the public. (That's not to say we shouldn't care at all - but why not treat it the same as voting/acceptance rep? The green checkmark could be worth exactly 1.5 upvotes in terms of how high up the answer shows in the list).

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

If I'm allowed to just copy someone else's, see this answer. If not...

This might not be a popular opinion, but keep the existence of Hot Network Questions. HNQs have (a lot of) issues, and while I think they need changes, I'd never want to see them go away entirely. If not for HNQ I'd never have even known any stacks aside from Stack Overflow even existed, let alone were worth visiting/joining.

8
  • 3
    I'm also happy with the current HNQ solution, in how they can be easily hidden.
    – Kevin B
    Jul 15 at 20:53
  • 5
    Hi Sarov - Accepted answer sorting is something that is being actively worked on right now. When I release my post with the Q3 roadmap (which, in fairness, I should start writing) you will see that appears on the list. We're going to do some testing and see if we an move the dial on that at all.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 20:56
  • 6
    Also, I think that content discovery is one of our great challenges. For now, HNQ is the best tool we have for that. I'd probably advocate that we should play around with other ideas as well, but when you need a horse, you don't get rid of the one you have because it's the wrong color... even if it limps a lot and only gets the job done some portion of the time. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 20:58
  • 1
    I'd definitely want improvements to the HNQ algorithm though. Currently it is sort of harmful to some (many?) communities since it promotes the wrong sort of content
    – nobody
    Jul 15 at 21:03
  • 3
  • 1
    Can you make it more clear (by editing your answer) if HNQ is never to touch or change as quickly as possible? Jul 16 at 21:56
  • @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q Is that better? While I think HNQ may need changes, I want its existence (that is, the fact that it exists) to never change.
    – Sarov
    Jul 19 at 13:53
  • I must say that HNQ is indeed something we really need. It's great as more educational time filler and a way to discover new SE sites. Jul 19 at 17:15
31

What not to touch

Being honest, I don't really have much of an answer to this. Mainly because the changes I dislike here are the ones that are mainly just "dropped" on us users, rather than the changes we ask for. Plus, I'm not the most negative person, nor the most active here on Meta, so I'm sure others can think of many better things than I could.

What to change

I mainly use Code Golf, which is a bit of a weird fit into the standard Q&A model here. One thing we often make "jokes" about (sometimes jokes, sometimes as frustrations) is that it seems as though the company is moving away from their network of sites. Stack Overflow is a large part of this corner of the internet, but it's not everything. I for one would love to see more engagement with the rest of the network, both by the Community Team and by the Public Platform team.

And it doesn't even have to be a lot! Catija often hangs out in our chat room, so we definitely get a lot more CM engagement than most sites, and whenever we get a or marked (or even ), it's something we make note of. It shows that someone is paying attention to us, and regardless of what that attention is, it's better than no attention whatsoever.

Perhaps on your "listening tour", you could work with the smaller communities here to discuss some of the more site-specific changes that they'd like, or how sites can better escalate their overlooked issues to the company.

1
  • 17
    That's exactly the point of the listening tour. I truly want to hear from sites all across the network, not just SO. And if you think for a minute that I could get away with doing a listening tour and staying on just the big sites, then you don't know Catija very well. :). She's a fierce advocate for the network, as are all of the CMs. Thanks for showing up and answering. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:23
29

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Downvotes. Please don't remove or weaken them.

I know people keep ranting how unfair downvotes are, how they are being hurt by it, and how many people leave the sites never to come back only because they got a single downvote.

It's very tempting, as the one who call the shots, to just remove this annoying feature and making great many people, millions of people, happy.

But please, don't. It's the one thing that makes Stack Exchange stick out and stay on top of the other sites, by keeping somewhat decent quality of the content. (I think there isn't any need to explain it further here. If I should, please let me know.)


One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Very related to the thing that shouldn't be touched. Great many people find it really hard to ask questions on Stack Overflow (possibly on other SE sites due to the voting system) and refrain from asking. This should be changed. What I suggest is to revive the Mentorship Project and make it alive. In a nutshell:

  • Users with enough reputation and enough time being member (e.g. 30k rep, at least 2 years on the site) would be able to be mentors.
  • When a new user (less than X rep or member for less than Y days) asks a question, they will be taken to special a platform where they will interact with a mentor.
  • The mentor will see what the user writes in real time, and be able to comment in real time.

In early alpha test where I took part, the chat platform was used. It was fine, but I gather that developing something from scratch just for the Mentorship would be better. It doesn't really matter as long as the goals are achieved: knowing they have someone to guide them, people will be more willing to ask questions, and the questions would be of decent quality to begin with. Fewer downvotes, less pressure, and more happy people all around. :)

Worth to mention, the original project was quite a success:

RESULTS!

So, now you have a clearer picture of how this worked and what issues we faced… what about its effectiveness? As I mentioned above, question score means increased by 50%. Practically, this means that questions from mentored users had fewer net downvotes than those that were not mentored.

Another way of measuring it is by looking at individual question quality. We used a rating system where “good” questions have positive ratings (or neutral with an accepted answer), “neutral” questions have no interactions, and “bad” questions have negative ratings. Within that system, mentored questions had a much higher share of “good” questions, and way fewer “bad” ones. Good questions increased from 18% of all questions asked by that population to 25%. Bad questions decreased from 30% of questions to 25%.

All of these results are statistically significant, with p < .05.

11
  • 5
    That seems like it would be a lot of work for the 30k users. It would work fine for smaller sites, but on larger sites (SO) I’m not so sure. Also, completely agree about not removing downvotes :) Jul 16 at 12:53
  • 18
    I'm a huge fan of the system keeping downvotes. As you probably know, I came from reddit, which has had its own battles about downvotes, and I remain firmly on the side of "downvotes in UI serve a purpose". I know the arguments against them, so far they have not convinced me. Mentorship is one of the ideas that I mentioned when interviewing for this role. @EkadhSingh rightly points out the scale issues, but there are some pilots we could try; unlikely to happen this quarter though.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 13:47
  • 1
    I meant to write this in light of all the posts I'd seen after the blueberry picking, but thanks for saving me the keystrokes. Well said! I might go so far as to say that we should strengthen them: -2 for the downvote and downvoter.
    – Ollie
    Jul 16 at 14:33
  • 2
    A lot of downvotes could be avoided if questions were vetted somewhat before being blasted onto the public Internet (e.g., by the mentoring program). An AI system could throw up dialog boxes like "Based on similar questions, there is a 87% likelihood that your question will be downvoted within the first 3 minutes. If you do X, Y, and Z, the likelihood falls to 18%. Do you want to post now? You may also enjoy playing the Onboard Game™ to learn more." (X, Y, and Z would be very specific to the particular post (not canned in any way)). Jul 16 at 23:02
  • 1
    There is a mentorship research survey underway. But the only difference between mentorship & the normal comments-based feedback (besides mentorship not scaling) is that post downvotes don't get allowed/applied/accrued right away. Handling initial downvote visibility/permanence is the true issue.
    – philipxy
    Jul 16 at 23:09
  • 2
    @EkadhSingh done wisely, I believe this can still work even on Stack Overflow. Out of the sleeve, one idea is to take only part of the new questions being asked into to Mentorship process, e.g. based on key words - when submitted, instead of being posted it will take the user to the Mentorship page. UX there is critical though, to make it crystal clear what exactly is going on, otherwise people will just get confused and close the browser. But that's something to discuss if (hopefully when :)) this will actually happen. Jul 17 at 8:00
  • 1
    @Philippe thanks for taking my side about downvotes, really good to hear. Also really happy that you mentioned mentorship yourself, had no idea. See my comment to Ekadh with one rough idea, surely there are better ideas so I truly believe this can happen. Jul 17 at 8:02
  • 2
    @Ollie my pleasure, saving you precious key strokes! ;) As for strengthening downvotes, -2 rep cost isn't the way, on the contrary: this will make lots of people refrain from downvoting and only weaken the downvote mechanism. Jul 17 at 8:04
  • 2
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q the key issue with your suggestion is that people don't read system generated messages. Seeing the "based on..." message people won't bother to read. Only if it's clear they're getting help from actual person there's actually a chance they'll read what the Mentor say and listen, and even learn eventually. Jul 17 at 8:06
  • @philipxy research? Where? Jul 17 at 8:07
  • 2
    A recent emailed SO survey "to learn about your thoughts when it comes to reviewing questions on Stack Overflow" asked some questions re mentoring. That's all I know. Ask SO.
    – philipxy
    Jul 17 at 9:30
28

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

In its 'golden' age - I felt that one of the things that worked really well was we had a significant amount of interaction with staff as community, and that our relationship with the company was symbiotic.

At some point, this changed though, and the needs of SE as a business (and well, even post independent startup - I don't begrudge this!) overtook the needs of SE as communities. We kinda got the feeling that we were seen as parasitic - Stack Overflow mattered first because "the brand's more important" and well, we spent years significantly fending for ourselves.

I believe Shog called SO "Our Shining City on the Hill". Meta's probably its "agora" - the squabbling, noisy place where decisions are loudly made and discussed. SE's forgotten its little people, its smaller communities which have been its heart. Help and attention to them can be useful. The communities that make up the network are important. Not just Stack Overflow, or even the trilogy - even the non core ones.

I think this is a long-winded way of saying - while work's been done, and things are better, getting to know the communities, and not just the ones that seem attractive to marketing, and making them feel and be valued would be nice.

.... Actually two things...

This is awkward, and is going to involve bending a few rules.

Traditionally - the broader SE community has been a fertile hiring ground both for your team and elsewhere. CM openings were a matter of excitement. In between losing a significant part of the CM team, SE's generally mildly antagonistic tone (I'm not naming names - but god, some of the folks in your place tended to shoot themselves in the foot a lot) and the apparent disdain for the broader community meant... there's not all that much interest in being a CM. I'm hoping y'all got a little more interest than I saw on the TL (which was non existent) for the last round - and I get the feeling the one person who talked to me off-network about thinking of applying didn't ☹

I feel like a worthy goal would be - fixing that. While we appreciate the wealth of experience in CMing as a whole - the loss of a feeling of 'ownership' in the future of SE, and hope is a tragedy. You won't find a more passionate group of people, and it's telling that even the communities that left stuck together (I still hang out with old Server Fault regulars, and there are a few other communities that left or sauntered vaguely away). We'd like to feel we're part of the broader picture, and valued, no matter the size.

Rebuilding that fire, that excitement about what's happening, and the desire to be part of it... is important.

We also need to look at how we can bring our 'lost' communities back. I know a good chunk of the old active Server Fault lurk off network and there are probably a few others. It would be nice to have places welcoming not just to new users, but old ones.

2
  • 1
    Journeyman Geek, I want to acknowledge that I've seen this. I'm writing a more intense response to it, but you and I spoke some earlier today so I hope you know that I share the desire to return to a shining city on the hill. I'll write a more comprehensive response asap.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:18
  • 2
    Don't forget the boonies :D. SO has always mattered in the bigger scheme of things. Smaller sites haven't and quite a few have suffered for it
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 17 at 10:29
25

Never change: Keep the small sites

I'm biased here -- I discovered Sustainability.SE while browsing the network one day, and found it to be a place where I could get involved. I'm now a moderator there. It's my experience that the small sites give users a place to get engaged and learn the network before becoming more involved elsewhere. Even though they may not drive a lot of traffic, I believe they serve a valuable role for the broader community by provide a space to attract and develop engaged users like myself.

Change immediately: Next time, add value before extracting

As a for-profit company, Stack Exchange uses the community to make money -- otherwise, it wouldn't be free. There is a mutual benefit for users and the company to the services you provide for free: We use those services to generate value, which you can capitalize on. This is a business model which has worked (in the sense that we're still here) for over 10 years. However, recently this relationship has felt extractive. In order to keep that well from drying up, you need to invest resources into keeping it healthy.

I imagine that you keep a running list of community attributes that you hope to translate into profit centers. Lately, it seems like you're taking this list and rushing to extract value. I'd suggest taking a long view -- if you first invested resources into enhancing those attributes, you would build trust with the community and replenish the well, with the added benefit that in the future when you launch the Next Big ThingTM, it will provide even more profit, without all of most of the negative feedback.

The changes that are made directly to the public side lately seem to be in the category of fixing broken things, or preventative maintenance. Meanwhile, the private side gets big effort, new code base, and focused development.

The next time you hit on a good idea for a new profit center, turn your development around -- look at the list of community attributes that would make that idea work, and think about which of those things could benefit from some big efforts. A lot of the 's on this site focus on small changes to existing systems. Review those for trends, then analyze those trends in light of the community attributes that you want to profit off. We as the community are a hive-mind. We don't have the focus to do that exercise -- but you do, and have done so in developing Teams, Careers, Articles, etc.

I suggest combining that company focus, with the community hive-mind, to put some dedicated effort into replenishing the well.

8
  • Isn't the name of the company "Stack Overflow"? Jul 16 at 23:11
  • 1
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q No, it's not, as can be seen in the page footer of every site and in the trademark guidance
    – Nick
    Jul 17 at 0:23
  • 1
    @Nick Actually, it is. The official name was changed back to Stack Overflow after being Stack Exchange for only a few years, several years ago no. See stackoverflow.blog/2015/09/15/…
    – TylerH
    Jul 19 at 18:32
  • 1
    @TylerH IIRC, that's just the brand name, not the actual company name
    – Nick
    Jul 19 at 19:36
  • 1
    @Nick Did you read the link? In the description of the post below the title it says "tl;dr – We’re changing our company name." (emphasis mine).
    – TylerH
    Jul 19 at 19:58
  • 1
    @TylerH Did you even read the terms of service: "owned and operated by Stack Exchange, Inc. (“Stack Overflow”, “we” or “us”), a Delaware corporation" (emphasis mine) /shrug
    – Nick
    Jul 19 at 19:59
  • 2
    @TylerH The legal name is Stack Exchange, Inc. Look up the company registration: apps.dos.ny.gov/publicInquiry or sec.gov/edgar/browse/?CIK=1491819. Name history on that first one shows the original registration as "Stack Overflow Internet Services, Inc.", changed to "Stack Exchange, Inc." on 2011-05-04, not changed since.
    – ArtOfCode
    Jul 19 at 20:02
  • 2
    Color me shocked they can't even change their name correctly...
    – TylerH
    Jul 19 at 20:05
22

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Can we get rid of the mandatory arbitration clause from the terms of service? Arbitration clauses are inherently abusive, and there was a pretty big uproar when it was introduced. Frankly, its very existence is offensive to the community. Can SE remove it completely, as a sign of good-will to the community?

5
  • 11
    I can carry the message but that's not something that is within my purview. That's legal. I will carry the message though.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 20:51
  • 4
    @Philippe Yeah, I completely understand that. But as a VP, your word will carry more weight than the community's. So thanks for promising to carry the message!
    – nobody
    Jul 15 at 21:00
  • 19
    @Philippe As an aside, we repeatedly promised users an on-site profile setting or similar option to opt out without having to send us an email message which never materialized. Perhaps you could help track that down and see what happened?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:23
  • 9
    @animuson, I'll add that to the list of stuff to look into. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 15 at 21:46
  • @Philippe The legal department works for the company. It's always within the company's purview. Of course getting the company management to act for its own good isn't always easy ;) Jul 23 at 6:02
19

What should be changed

Can something be done to create a process for graduating beta sites or change the process (if it isn’t in progress already). There are a lot of very healthy beta sites that:

  • cannot crash and burn. The sheer age of some beta sites should speak to this
  • Have veritable experts. Some beta sites have user(s) over 100k rep, user(s) with legendary, and user(s) with gold tag badges. These people are experts
  • have plenty of questions. For example, politics is approaching 13k questions and space exploration is approaching 16k
  • have very active moderation. Politics SE has very high moderation (from my experience)
  • Are quite interesting. As demonstrated by the link, politics hits HNQ quite often, meaning that these sites are interesting.

So, can something be changed about the graduation of beta sites?

3
  • 6
    You ask a direct question, so I'll give you a direct answer: I don't know, but I hope so. One of the tasks that my team has identified for Q3 is to look into exactly this issue. We may or may not emerge from the quarter with a well constructed plan, but we are spending significant time on the process this quarter.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 14:14
  • 2
    "So, can something be changed about the graduation of beta sites?" Graduation surely would be token of appreciation and would change the design, but otherwise not much would change though. Maybe there is more than simple graduation that smaller exchanges need.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 16 at 21:33
  • @Trilarion something more may be needed, but graduation would be nice monica explains it better than me Aug 23 at 17:43
18

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Actually two things: the creation of a high quality knowledge base mission and downvotes. Messing with these will result in instant doom.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Keep on doing what you started, i.e. listen to the community, present ideas early, give feedback, in general engage. Judging by this question you may be exactly what was missing. Time will tell.

4
  • 1
    Especially the presenting of ideas early, so we can disagree. Like having to give feedback on SO-Article downvotes.
    – Ollie
    Jul 16 at 21:25
  • 4
    @Ollie, I had a conversation with the product manager about that on Thursday. Mistakes were made. They're aware, and because it's a limited test, they're going to run the rest of the test. While I agree it's sub-optimal, you can just skip past that modal without leaving any reasoning, but yeah, I know. Not my ideal choice either.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:07
  • 4
    @Trilarion, I have no interest in interfering with either of the two things that you mention. As I've said before, I'm personally a fan of downvotes. I've heard the arguments against them and so far have not yet been convinced. And yet, i see places WITH downvotes that generate high quality content. I'm willing to be convinced but it's going to be an uphill fight for anyone who tries.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:09
  • 2
    @Philippe I just mentioned them because you asked and I think they are most what makes the StackExchanges unique and useful. There are probably many more points that are important too. It's interesting to see that actually someone from the company is convinced of downvotes on content in public. That didn't happen for a long time as far as I can remember.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 17 at 12:53
16

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Maybe not to never touch, because touching it is critical, but if I interpret that as "never remove/interfere with" it would be history. As the company moves forward in a new operating context post-acquisition, we've already lost a lot of institutional memory and I expect more employees will be moving on shortly around the company as a whole.

There are a lot of past lessons learned, arguments had, shifts in thinking within the community for good or bad. I think it would be a mistake to think only in a forward fashion if it means neglecting everything that's already happened to shape this place, both positive and negative. I think getting acquainted with all of that is going to be the biggest onboarding challenge for anyone new to the company, especially if they don't have their own history here as a user.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

My suggestion is not for a thing that you can unilaterally change, but for something I hope you can advocate for within the company given your position, and serve as a model for.

The style of communication from the company appears to have changed from years ago. Aside from CMs in private spaces (and an honorable mention to all the efforts Yaakov in particular has made), it seems that most staff are either muzzled or afraid to interact with the (meta) community, or perhaps see it as just a chore to complete to try to placate people rather than something useful.

I get it - meta is loud and cantankerous at times, but it's also a unique resource. I don't know what the roadblocks are, because they are not transparent to us: maybe there are edicts from legal, maybe just a bit of fear/culture inside the company (this was expressed publicly multiple times by at least one former employee) that assumes meta is a scary place, maybe it's because people are so busy they aren't freed to take the time. In any event, it seems like most communication from staff is in the form of announcements that feel more "team-written" rather than from an individual, more crafted than candid, more feeding us than dining with us.

We want to hear what y'all are working on, and to give feedback at early stages so there isn't as much surprise. I appreciate the impossibility of having hundreds of bosses telling you what to do rather than just one, but I think if staff are willing to engage candidly the community will give them a lot of slack for not doing everything requested of them.

I don't know what the fixes are, but I do hope that you have or will gain some insider insight to what might be done on the company's end, and propagate that through the organization.

I do want to acknowledge that I've already seen movement on this. I'd echo Machavity that the new use of status tags on meta is a great step towards what I'm asking for. The quarterly roadmaps are really nice to see, too, though they lack a bit of the back-and-forth. I thought Lisa Park's latest here: Changing the question reopening experience is a step in the right direction, where there's a mix of "here's what we plan" while leaving a door open for feedback. This post itself also feels more human and conversational than others. I also thought Teresa made some great initial forays here, but the follow up was a bit more erratic; I believe that the intentions were sincere but maybe the time commitment just wasn't available. My impression from both the creation of your position and your first public steps here is that at least part of your position will fit into that void, and if so I welcome that.

1
  • 4
    I have a tremendous amount of respect for @TeresaDietrich, and not just because she hired me (twice!). I think that it's a sign of her talents that the company has placed such a huge amount of the core activities under her, and if my role is to step into fill "the void" as you put it, I am pleased to offer that support. And you speak wisely about the value of communication here. (Side note; meta status tags are awesome, and I'm proud of the work that my team has done to respond to them.) Lisa Park and her post are great; the tone was spot on, I agree. This is a major area of work for us.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 3:59
14

Something to improve: communication of touchpoints with the mod community.

We have the Teams page, orange diamond messages, pinned messages in TL, maybe email. I find myself frequently missing discussions / town halls / Q&As because I don't see these messages in time (or at all), or I forget them and can't find the message again. I would really like it if these were maintained on a calendar of events with reasonable advance notice. One place. It sounds like you plan to conduct meetings like this more regularly, so maybe this would be a good time to implement a calendar.

Peripherally, we have had a few zoom calls, and it would be great if they were recorded for those who couldn't be there.

1
  • 2
    Thanks, these are great suggestions - tactical and practical both. I agree that there are too many disparate touchpoint for communications, and that there needs to be some work done to streamline that internal comms function. It's on my list, though likely not this quarter. It definitely needs more study to do it right, and I don't want to make things worse in my zeal to fix them. Re the zoom calls, look for more details of my "listening tour" / "roadshow" / "traveling circus" relatively soon. :-)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 13:58
12

"One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible."

Communication

, and then especially the timing of it.

I have voiced my concerns about this time and time again. Most recently in this answer regarding the removal of an API endpoint. And also noticeably with regards to the posting of the quarterly roadmap posts, when the quarter is already about a third underway. And today about 1/6th of the current quarter has already passed, and there is no roadmap yet. You see the recurring theme here?

2
  • 2
  • @EkadhSingh I understand why this monthbia different. I wouldn't eant to write such a post for my predecessor to carry out. I rather let them write it themselves. So for this quarter he is excused ;)
    – Luuklag
    Jul 16 at 16:51
12

I'm coming at this question from the viewpoint of a moderator on a teeny-tiny beta site, so we have different concerns perhaps from other respondents.

The 'famous kerfuffle' was, for this site, a non-event. Nobody who participates on our site has lost trust as a result and/or gone away. And if I drew their attention to it, the reaction would probably be: Meh. Our users participate to get useful answers that help them progress their goals; anything else is noise. (As a corollary, the site Meta participation is low -- policy is mostly decided by moderators, unfortunately - and meta.stackexchange participation is limited to moderators.).

Which is not to say that the CoC is irrevelant -- our subject necessarily brings us into contact with some contentious issues, and it's good to have the CoC to fall back on -- not that we've ever needed to.

Never to touch?

This is an (hopefully authoritative) Q&A site, not a discursive forum. If I want to know what Jane's Aunty Mabel said, or how hard it was for 10 people (who all have different experiences) to knit a cardigan from pattern X, I can go elsewhere. There aren't many (any?) sites where I can ask for a definitive sourced answer on the subject at hand.

Change as quickly as possible?

On a small site, moderation tools are not so much of an issue. You'll hear a lot about deficiencies in the current moderation tools from large sites, and I understand their pain, but it's not 'our issue' (although the squeaky wheel will inevitably get the oil). Similarly, more engagement from CMs wouldn't achieve a lot -- it was helpful when we just went into public beta, to help us find our feet, but we're coping Ok now. Reducing the number of votes for close/reopen will help us, but that's underway.

Some of my fellow moderators on the site would like us to move out of beta status -- and honestly, I would like to see a roadmap so that we can understand what we need to do to achieve that as well as some concrete benefits if we do (although I'm nervous that the reputation threshold requirements will cause problems if we graduate).

So I'm going to settle for some evidence that the impact on the small viable sites have been considered before new features/changes are rolled out. Collectives will almost certainly never affect us, but UI changes will, and most of our users couldn't find their way to Meta using both hands and feet, so will be in the silent minority? majority?. Plus some serious consideration on how to remove the beta label from sites that have demonstrated their longevity without making them immediately non-viable.

1
  • 4
    Thanks, ColeValleyGirl. Those seem like reasonable asks to me. I am glad to be able to say that we're working on a site lifecycle project this quarter that will be studying the issues around taking sites out of beta, and will hopefully lead to a clear roadmap that you're requesting. I'm not sure when we'll have a report on that and next steps, but it's being actively worked this quarter. Thanks!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 13:44
10

Welcome to the War Room.

I am not a "power user" of this site, or any other site, or beta site, in the network. I have no significant curation abilities and, therefore, cannot address the efficacy or deficiencies of the tooling for that, though I understand from many other posts here that there are some deficiencies. My views here probably ought to be considered the "common user" view rather than the power user view probably represented by many of the other answers. I do, however, give a nod to Tinkeringbell's excellent answer and, as a nice representation of the negativity felt by many, the thoughtful answer by Makoto.

Directly to your two questions then:

One thing that you would advise me (in my role as VP of Community here) never to touch.

Anything

Ok, that's a bit broad. Some answers to your question, and many posts on Meta Stack Exchange (MSE), as well as posts on the meta sites of other sites, will put forward one or another "sacred cow" as the thing not to change. Admittedly, eventually, change affects everything. I don't think there is any one thing, or even multiple things, which should never change. The catch is that change for the sake of change is going to have random results.

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Everything

Ok, again, that's a bit broad. That said, as already said, change affects everything.

Now, here's the real answers, which is in reality one answer, which, depending on the reader's emphasis, is the answer to both questions.

What needs to change is how things change.

Whether it is a simple change, such as fonts, or a major rollout, such as collectives, there are points which should be satisfied before the change is launched.

  1. You, as the VP responsible, should know, and understand:
    • How the current version, if any, developed over time
    • Why the current version must change
    • How the users currently use, or interact, with the thing(s) affected
    • What problems users have complained about with regard to the possible change
    • What tools, workarounds, or user scripts have been created to overcome the perceived deficiencies
    • Which other features or tools will, or might be, affected by a change in the current target of change
    • How the contemplated change advances the site toward its vision
    • How the contemplated change matches the mission of the site
  2. You, as the VP responsible, should ensure that the the team tasked with evaluation and implementation for the change knows and understands at least as much as you do from the list above
  3. Having an idea of where the change will end, involve the users affected, with a significant sampling, in an attempt to prove the change is wrong
    • That is wrong, find the friction points, now rather than later
    • The users affected might be the mods on one site, or > 20K rep users network-wide.
    • Users active, and vocal, on MSE are a statistically insignificant segment of the total user base. However, they are also the ones who make the network "work". Use them
  4. Sell the new version to the users - the affected users, not the whole user base
    • Rarely will a change affect me, for example, very much compared to the power users and moderators
    • Selling it means getting the users to buy it, not claiming it's good and expecting to be believed
  5. Make small changes, and test them
    • Make a plan for "milestones" between the current and future versions
    • Be prepared to correct, or change, course when the tests fail, either in objective or subjective standards
  6. Be open, from the beginning, about the entire process
    • Use Meta to get feedback to understand the bullets in point 1
    • Use Meta to explain why the change is needed, and how it is supposed to "help" users, or enable the vision and mission of SE - the site(s) or the company
    • Use Meta to flesh out point 3
    • Use Meta to update the users with the progress, good and bad, as the changes are made, and the tests are performed
    • Use Meta to admit when tests fail and what corrections are made
    • Use Meta to sell idea, and gather the buy-in from the community
    • Even use Meta to admit when an idea ends without ever leaving point 3, or when it is dropped because the community voted it down
    • NDAs are not being open about anything

Admittedly, there will be things which are the "sacred cow" of some, sometimes non-trivial, number of users. When such needs changing the third point will expose that view rapidly.

Having learned that, the need for open, clear, direct, and honest, communication increases greatly. There will, from time to time, be changes needed which are necessary from a business standpoint which will, or could, have a negative impact on the sites and their communities.

Do not treat the users as the enemy - without the users, including the power users and moderators, the business will become valueless. One, or several, lost users may not be significant if lost, yet losing the vast majority of the power users will reduce the worth of the Q&A. The power users got there by providing lots of answers and earning lots of votes, not by just lurking in Meta. A million new questions per day has no value if there are 50 answers per day.

As a recent case: Collectives. I have no interest in Collectives. I have blocked all the elements of them from my browser view. I'm also, conceptually, not against Collectives. I was disappointed to have a totally new thing dropped on the site with no hints or warnings. I remain disturbed that the moderators and users involved in the "feedback" for development had to sign NDAs. Frankly, without the NDAs SE could have gathered much more feedback, had more input and debate, and probably developed a better product. In the current implementation I have doubts as to its viability.

Lastly, in part to answer the question(s) and to clear a point I believe to be wrong-headed, I have to say that MSE is not a battlefield; it is a War Room. Generals, captains, and sergeants all have important input in planning, and executing, a campaign. The final decision might belong to the generals and yet the success depends on the sergeants. Will there be yelling? Yes. Will there be agreement? Maybe. Do the generals hate the captains or do the sergeants despise the generals? Probably not. After all have had their input, and their input has been seriously evaluated, the final campaign plans can be drafted. Always being aware of the axiom that "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning

6
  • 4
    Thank you for the thoughtful and cogent outline. Much of what you articulate there is dead on with my understanding of strategic change management. Of course, the outline you've given is work for 3 people, full time, but I understand that you're using the word "you" there to include "or people reporting to you" at certain points. I see some crossover between the traditional role of a product manager and the community manager, but those are nits we can pick later. I think it's safe to say that I'm in broad agreement with the framework you've given, and that it represents how I see my role.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 16 at 13:55
  • 1
    Point 1 is 'you' singular and point 2 is the downhill effect. It might require help to achieve the first point, collecting data or explaining technical decisions of the past, The understanding however must be complete in your mind before you can explain it to others.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 16 at 15:40
  • I meant to comment on your closing line.... in your case is this a Peter Pan reference, or a Star Trek one? :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:10
  • 1
    @Philippe I suppose, technically the latter is a form of the former, though the ST version should be ellipsed, Second star to the right... and straight on 'til morning. The usage here is more to express hope for the future, even if the guide is unknown. (Which star, after all, is the second star to the right.)
    – Chindraba
    Jul 17 at 15:50
  • By "Anything", did you mean "Nothing"? "Never change anything" means "Change nothing", whereas "Never change nothing" (despite being awkward grammar) means "You can change anything."
    – Sarov
    Jul 23 at 13:10
  • Nope, I did mean "Anything." As in "Don't change anything." As the following text explains, don't change anything without going through a significant process first.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 23 at 13:27
6

One thing to never touch:

The site moderation done by the community members based on privileges (upvote/down vote, flag, vote to close / delete, etc.)

One thing to change as quickly as possible:

New users experience regarding how the site works

I think that many questions are abandoned because some new users posted a question without understanding how the site works. If they got a downvote or their question is closed they perceive the community to be rude instead of see the downvotes / closing as a positive feedback regarding the quality of their question.

I think that it's possible to find a "nice" and scalable way to tell these users that their post might need to be improved to be a good fit / well received in the case of the small sites / small tags suggest them ways to get more attention to their first post as a single downvote might not be conclusive.

4
  • 3
    I agree... sort of. I've seen a lot of questions that've been downvoted/deleted because the newbies haven't bothered to read just the "on-topic" article in the help center like we keep telling them to. Then they go complain on that site's Meta and get told the same thing all over again. They've gotta help us help them, or that part of the help center may as well not exist. Other than that, what "nice" and scalable way did you have in mind?
    – Ollie
    Jul 24 at 22:09
  • 1
    @Ollie Something like Welcome to TVA, I Am Miss Minutes" would be nice :P
    – Rubén
    Jul 24 at 23:01
  • 1
    "you are probably saying, this is a mistake, I shouldn't even being downvoted ..." then a nice bot introduces itself and guides the OP to figured out what are the next steps i.e. wait for more feedback, improve or delete the post...
    – Rubén
    Jul 24 at 23:07
  • I agree with this...with the caveat that the current reputation-based system for assigning privileges is perhaps not the most optimal way to assign moderation privileges.
    – Ryan M
    Aug 26 at 16:04
6

I am a "casual" member of the community. I look in on Meta every now and then to see what is going on. But mostly Stack Overflow is a place to come search, ask questions and, when I am smart and fast enough, answer one that I know.

What to Change

Over the last year or two I have noticed that fewer and fewer of my questions get answers. Not sure what has caused this. But I would request that more be done to attract the experts that make Stack Overflow a great place to ask well thought out questions.

There are a few other things that I could list, but they are very minor compared this this one. So I will leave it there in hopes of giving further emphasis to my main point.

5
  • 1
    Does that mean you never use Stack Overflow to search for the answer in existing questions (currently 21,499,322 questions)? Why not? Is it too inefficient and it is easier to ask a new question? Or if you do, perhaps make it clear in your answer? Jul 27 at 11:34
  • @P.Mort. - I absolutely do. I guess I thought that was assumed as part of good question asking procedure. Before I ask a question I try to see if it has already been asked before. Both to save Stack Overflow the effort of dealing with a duplicate, and save me the effort of constructing a well crafted question that fits Stack Overflow's good question guidelines.
    – Vaccano
    Jul 27 at 18:58
  • 5
    Experts are attracted to good thoughtful questions, which they rarely post, so when their site is swamped by LQQs (low Quality Questions) it becomes increasingly difficult to feel inspired or motivated. The questions are generally lazy, the "experts" don't need the rep, most have outgrown the mania of collecting badges, so what's left?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 28 at 8:54
  • Can you make it clear in your answer? (But without "Edit:", "Update:", or similar - the answer should appear as if it was written today)) I may not be the only one that read it that way. Jul 28 at 13:20
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - Hence my request. I write out good questions. But I find that I get fewer responses now-a-days. My guess is something similar to what you indicated. The draw for the "internet coins" of rep and badges is not worth the cruft they have to wade through to find the good questions. I am requesting that something change to get some of these experts drawn to the site again.
    – Vaccano
    Jul 28 at 23:10
6

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

Some kind of move towards shared Privileges across accounts on the Stack Exchange Network.

The decade-long company and community thought is that each site is so unique that users who have been trusted to edit, say, Stack Overflow couldn't possibly be trusted to edit Super User without putting in years of work to hit 2,000 reputation and beyond.

I really don't think this hypothesis has ever been tested. We have no problem allowing accounts on SO to edit questions and answers on tags with which they have zero experience. Let those same users make edits and tag suggestions and work the review queue on completely separate sites.

The 100-reputation "association bonus" was an essential quality-of-life improvement to get experienced users started on secondary SE sites. Expand that same system to give higher-rep privileges to trusted users, network wide.

This would potentially inject a ton of new life and new Curators into the lower-traffic SE sites.


P.S. Some individual sites could of course opt-out, similar to the per-site HNQ controls.

5
  • 1
    A counterpoint is that many sites have their own local culture and policy; I'm not sure giving "outsiders" more power there is a good thing. That said, currently cross site interactions are quite complicated and result in some weird behavior already, like HNQ bringing questions to many people who can only upvote and not downvote, which might make it appear like certain answers have broad support when really they have mediocre support from a vocal minority and local downvoters can't keep up. Aug 6 at 22:25
  • 2
    @Bryan-Krause That "local culture" is always touted as why this won't work, but it's not very convincing IMO. It would probably work fine in practice... especially amongst the big tech sites. Nonsensical that Super User experts at Excel can't edit and curate Google Sheets questions on Web Apps, for example.
    – pkamb
    Aug 7 at 3:54
  • Perhaps, but I don't want SO experts thinking they know what's appropriate on Biology.SE. I'm guessing some of the niche tech sites feel similarly. Aug 7 at 4:10
  • 3
    I'd trust a 40k SO curator far more than a Biology.SE account that got lucky and asked a 200-point question 8 years ago and hasn't visited since. SE culture/skills transfer between sites and putting onerous duplicated reputation requirements on trusted users just keeps them from contributing. @bryan-krause
    – pkamb
    Aug 7 at 4:22
  • 1
    There could be some extra requirements and some restrictions in the beginning, like certain badges on the original site, minimum account age on the new site, the first 20 edits to go through review with a reject rate below a certain level, a rate limit the first two months (fixed or scaled to the question rate), etc. Aug 31 at 18:55
5

I am quite new to the community, so I can't comment about:

  • One thing that you would advise me never to touch.

But there's one thing that I think you should change as quickly as possible.

Please change the words "should" and "shortly" in the response that we get when we contact SE Team using the Contact page to more appropriate ones.

Thank you for contacting the Stack Exchange Team. You should receive an email response shortly.

The reasons why I want these words to be changed are:

  • It's been a over a month since I contacted SE Team using Contact page and I still did not receive any email response from SE Team. So I don't think the word "shortly" is appropriate.

  • Mithical mentioned in chat that some things won't get a response at all. So I don't think the word "should" is appropriate. (https://chat.meta.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/8932810#8932810)

Please consider changing the response to "Thank you for contacting the Stack Exchange Team. You might receive an email response if we can respond." or please make sure that the SE Team will respond on-time :)

I am not sure if this will come under the Community department which you take care of, but please inform the relevant department regarding this.

7
  • 5
    I don't think changing the message to account for the tiny minority of tickets would be a great idea. The vast majority of submissions receive a response within a couple of business hours and the current wording appropriately sets the expectations that most people would encounter. If it's problematic, it would make more sense to just remove that sentence completely and not set expectations at all, rather than set bad expectations for so many people.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 19:16
  • 5
    Hi there. Indeed, that part of the community team is under my purview. I'm sorry for the delay in getting back to you; I found your ticket and have asked that someone on my team evaluate it and respond ASAP. Tomorrow is a particularly busy day so I hope you're willing to be patient a couple more for us. Again, my most sincere apologies.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 19:19
  • 12
    To the best of my recollection I've only ever filed two "contact us" tickets, and I did not get a response to either. One was about a matter of personal safety (asking for an account deletion to be expedited before PII could be misused). I just assumed that the policy was to never respond, and the canned text was incorrect. Jul 19 at 12:48
  • 1
    @animuson I am fine with removing that sentence completely and not setting any expectations. Jul 20 at 14:38
  • @Philippe I actually contacted SE 3 times. Once in Ask Ubuntu and once in Database Administrators (both are regarding "Stack Exchange content is being reproduced without attribution"). I contacted in Stack Overflow using "Other" category. I will wait for few more days. Hopefully I will get responses for all three. Jul 20 at 14:42
  • 3
    @MonicaCellio I am sorry about what happened to you. It's very bad that they didn't respond to the ticket which was about personal safety. I hope SE will mend its ways. Jul 20 at 14:49
  • 5
    @Philippe, I presume that applies to everyone, as Monica's upvotes comment describes what is common practice; the only reason to use the link is so you can claim you've used that route and put up or shut up; as has happened.
    – Rob
    Jul 20 at 16:20
5

What I would advise to never touch

The licensing, as that one most definitely did not get a positive response last time.

I’d also advise staying away from pluralization bugs, as those things have an... interesting history.

What I think should be changed as quickly as possible

Advertise chat a bit more (Journeyman Geek has a good idea on this). Chat is amazing (at least the ones I normally use, and some of them do have problems), because you can do anything nearly anything in chat. For instance:

  1. Socialize. The least important of these IMO, but it’s there.
  2. Ask off-topic (but nearly on topic), opinion based, or other not-so-great-for-Stack Exchange-but-still-a-valid-questions there.
  3. Get feedback quicker and easier than a meta post. If you want to know whether a question is on topic, if you ask on meta you have to have the question on hand, and be prepared for asks about details or clarification, or possibly just have to wait a while. Chat is far simpler, and in chat you simply ask “hey, are questions about making unicorns eat google on topic for sure user?” and you’ll likely receive a quick and easy and simple answer.

I know chat currently has a link in the footer, but there is way to much information there to expect casual users to read. I have no ideas on how or where to advertise chat though.

10
  • 11
    While advertising chat could be great, please, please do it for the right reasons then; purely socializing or asking off-topic questions and advertising chat as the way to avoid pesky site guidelines and topic restrictions definitely isn't that.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 15 at 19:08
  • 4
    @Tinkeringbell don’t advertise it as that sure, since that would be misinterpreted, but I often see chat used for discussions or questions that are nearly on topic but are off topic. Jul 15 at 19:09
  • 2
    While we're on the topic of chat, better RO tools would be nice. (Not sure if any other answers mention this specifically) Jul 15 at 20:00
  • 3
    @RedwolfPrograms Yeah, and replacing the "flag for 10k" feature with a "flag for ROs" feature would be amazing.
    – TylerH
    Jul 15 at 20:16
  • Advertising chat should probably be done with a big post containing a whole slew of chat improvements. (Fix chat > Advertise chat)
    – Cerbrus
    Jul 16 at 10:35
  • 1
    "RO" = "[chat] room owner" Jul 16 at 19:26
  • 2
    Thanks everyone, I appreciate the lively discussion around this. Chat is an area where I honestly haven't spent much time (professionally) since I was at AOL, many many years ago. I've started making a tour around various chat rooms to familiarize myself and say hi - if you see me, please give me a poke. In the meantime, I'll keep an eye here as the conversation develops. I'll also make sure that we have some upcoming questions about chat as I continue to solicit opinions and get to know folks here.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 8:30
  • 1
    @Philippe side note that chat is delightful but has insane moderation issues - I'm sure there are meta threads about this, and I'd be happy to talk about it. It's also very, very old - compare the UI to the UI of e.g. discord, which is the chat platform I use most now, and you'll see what I mean. I know this is because of prioritization and 'it ain't broke and it ain't as important as Q&A so don't fix it' but chat could certainly use a little boost. In terms of priorities though, chat moderation tool fixes definitely come first. Jul 17 at 17:48
  • 1
    @karatechop, thanks. That's an important call-out. I agree that the UI for bonfire chat definitely needs some work, but so far the core underlying functionality is not dissimilar to what I would expect. I'm a fairly avid chat user in my "off" time (back when I had "off" time), and a groaned a bit at the UI when I first saw it. But under the hood - save for moderation tools, as you point out - it seems fairly solid.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 4:04
  • @Philippe FYI in case you haven't run into it yet, "bonfire" is only an internally used name for SE's chat. A few of the rest of us know this because we've seen answers to puzzled people asking "what the heck is bonfire?" Jul 19 at 19:48
1

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

  1. Stop removing questions just because they have a score of 0 and haven't been viewed by an unusually high amount of people: Decrease the required view count to prevent Roomba deletion when score = 0 on smaller sites . I've personnally had hundreds of questions removed because of that, and this obliterated most of my respect for Stack Exchange. Keep in mind that the frequent users on Meta.SE tend be users who write answers rather than questions, and therefore most of them aren't personnally impacted by the automated question removals.
  2. Always notify users when some of their content is removed: When a user has one of their questions or answers deleted, why don't you notify them about the deletion, and send the removed content by email?
  3. Have your lawyers send a letter to Quora: Quora users (bots?) are copying a significant amount of Stack Exchange questions to Quora, without proper attribution
  4. Be more proactive when a user continuously downvotes another user. While downvotes are vital to identify bad content, a tiny minority of users sometimes use downvotes for non-content-related reasons, which can turn SE into a rather hostile place in some cases.
  5. Consider allowing “crossover questions” between sites, given that many topics tend to be fragmented across several Stack Exchange websites (e.g., most machine learning questions are on-topic on both https://stats.stackexchange.com/ and https://datascience.stackexchange.com).
34
  • 1
    Not entirely sure about the first one - I agree, mostly - but I do agree with the last 2, especially the second one, so have my upvote for that.
    – Ollie
    Jul 17 at 19:09
  • 12
    The point is to pick one - by picking so many, you're making it extremely difficult for people to vote.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 19:58
  • 5
    @Catija I don't care about votes, I just want the new SE employee to be aware of what I consider key issues. But if there's only one to pick, then that's #1: Stop removing questions just because they have a score of 0 and haven't been viewed by an unusually high amount of people. Jul 17 at 20:00
  • 14
    But you're not explaining why or why you think it's a problem. That's kinda why the point is to pick one. Talk about why you think it needs to change, how it's impacting things. Show that you understand why it exists the way it does (do you?) - To be frank, about two years ago we were discussing actually deleting more of these zero-score questions. Why should a question that no one thinks is good stick around perpetually? If someone in the future has a better way of asking the question, they might get an answer but if the question already exists and has no answer, they may not ask.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 17 at 20:03
  • 3
    @Catija the links provide details. "Why should a question that no one thinks is good stick around perpetually?" 1) because someone might answer it later 2) score=0 doesn't mean noone thinks it is good. Plenty of good questions have a score of 0, especially on less frequented sites. Jul 17 at 20:06
  • 6
    Thanks, Franck, for the list. Obviously, you've spent time considering all of these things, and I appreciate that you brought them here. Catija's right that I was hoping to force people to choose, so I appreciate your clarity there. That said, several of these are issues of which I was not aware, so I appreciate you bringing them up (though some are clearly beyond my jurisdiction... lawyers and quora... but I can advocate for them and carry messages.)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 3:38
  • 2
    "I've personnally had hundreds of questions removed because of that" - and many others write questions on those same small sites that quickly get positive votes and are not removed. The removal is meant to be a signal that something in your question could be improved and to keep our sites free of a lot of unanswered questions that communities didn't find interesting or well-posed. Jul 19 at 19:16
  • 4
    @BryanKrause An unanswered question doesn't mean that the question is not interesting or well-posed. On the contrary, quite often, the more expert-level a question is, the less likely it is to get an answer. For context, you've asked ~10 questions on Stack Exchange whereas I've asked ~5000 questions, so I'm speaking from first-hand experience asking both beginner-level and expert-level questions. Jul 19 at 19:21
  • 2
    @FranckDernoncourt Please read the whole end of that sentence before making your arguments: "unanswered questions that communities didn't find interesting or well-posed". Some good questions might not get an answer because the right person hasn't found them to answer, but if the community finds them interesting and well-posed they will still have a positive score. Jul 19 at 19:25
  • 1
    @BryanKrause Please read my previous comment "score=0 doesn't mean noone thinks it is good." Jul 19 at 19:27
  • 4
    @BryanKrause No. Many viewers don't vote, either because they can't (not registered, not enough rep, reach the daily max vote, etc.) or because they simply don't bother voting. This is especially true on small websites where there are much fewer registered users. Jul 19 at 19:32
  • 2
    @FranckDernoncourt "many others write questions on those same small sites that quickly get positive votes and are not removed". This includes some of your questions, but not others. You seem certain this is a flaw in the design of the site rather than some of your questions. Jul 19 at 19:35
  • 2
    Re Quora posts: IANAL. If you see a Quora post using your material, which is your copyright, not SE's, issue a DCMA takedown request against that post on their site. Nobody else has that authority. It is your rights, and granted license which is being violate. If it's someone else's post you see, leave a comment to them on the stolen SE post so they can do the DCMA takedown instead. I don't believe SE has "standing" to protect your copyright, though they do have standing to protect their licensing interest in your posts.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 20 at 3:17
  • 2
    Re Roomba protection: If a question has a sub-zero score it's still going to hang around for a month. If it's at zero it will still hang around for a year. The SE sites are supposed to be a repository of information (answers), not questions for some bored genius in the future to answer. And, yes, a question without votes means nobody found them interesting enough, in 365 days, to cast a single vote in favor of the question. The more "expert-level" a question is, the more likely it is to be found interesting, even if unanswered.
    – Chindraba
    Jul 20 at 3:39
  • 4
    -1 for the "crossover questions". It is good to have fences between the communities. For the older and experienced: Crossposting to different newsgroups was a patent way in incite flame wars on USENET. Jul 21 at 11:06
-4

An excerpt from Philippe♦'s most recent update (19/7/2021)

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).

Reading between the lines it seems that the author have their hands tied. In five months the new Community VP has posted just twice but they feel that was already one too many.

What does a community manager do anyway? Isn't one of their duties to engage with the community?

The 2nd update comes less than 24 hours after Monica Cellio's calibrated request that the company makes amends.

The company's lack of engagement with Monica is telling. The author has yet to post a comment beneath Cellio's answer. Frankly, this is not the way I imagine a new CM builds trust.

13
  • 9
    Philippe wrote that he isn't going to be able to respond to new answers on this post in the coming day (he has responded to most of the answers below). So the frequency of posts (ie: comments) from Philippe here (on this post) is going to slow down in the next few days (since he has other responsibilities as well. This response has nothing to do with Monica's post. And he is committing to posting once a week for the near future as well. I think that you are reading a lot into this that isn't there.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 19 at 18:31
  • 4
    @YaakovEllis Comments are posts? I wish there was a standardized agreed definition of what constitutes a post. If there's time to write an update, there was time to comment on MC's answer. It's called common decency.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19 at 18:35
  • 7
    I think Phillippe’s previous position in “trust and safety” might be the reason they didn’t post much—that sort of community interaction isn’t very public. I empathize with your frustration around this issue, but I think we should give Philippe more than a few days before we start gathering feathers and heating up the tar.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 19 at 18:35
  • 3
    Well - its "This is my number 1 priority" vs "This is important to me, but I'll be dealing with this alongside many many many things". And I kinda suspect we all know some of this is complicated, and political. I'd at least give the chap a chance to warm up his seat a little
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 19 at 23:46
  • 2
    @JourneymanGeek ignoring MCellio's answer was uncalled for. The new CM didn't need time to acknowledge her post.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19 at 23:57
  • 10
    "Didn't need time" - and we all know how well rushing into things with not enough thought goes.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 20 at 0:02
  • Leaving a comment thanking her for responding and promising to address the issue with the company would have been the right thing to do. Instead, they write a 2nd update saying they will make sure to read everything but will slow down the number of posts/comments because they're too busy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 20 at 6:21
  • 4
    Assuming its even possible - I think you're as much aware as I am over the associated drama, and SE internal politics of the time. I would rather not have promises that are not keepable made. On the other hand - there's a lot more posts here than are related to Monica, and many many issues that also deserve attention. SE has dropped a lot of balls over time. This is just one of many.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 20 at 6:31
  • 4
    This is the single most important issue and I didn't say doing the right thing is easy, in all likelihood it's too late. But if you can leave comments below a former CM who was fired, why not a comment toward the former moderator who one year and 10 months ago was unceremoniously and publically demodded of their six communities? Is that rushing where angels fear to tread? To sum up, I am sick of SE politics. @JourneymanGeek thank you in any case for trying to defuse and appease the community but I am done.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 20 at 7:01
  • 3
    It's not only the frequency of how often one posts, but also what one says. One can post often and say very little, but also the other way around or other combinations. It's too early to judge the new VP.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 21 at 10:28
  • 2
    @Trilarion w/o that fumbling 2nd update, which (as I see it) was a hamfisted justification for their silence on M.Cellio's answer, I might have been persuaded. But yeah, sure, let's give the company a fourth (...fifth?) chance to make things right. Seriously, how difficult is it to give Cellio's mod privileges back on Mi Yodeya? The site closest to her heart, the one that makes her feel at home. What principle is the company adhering to?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 21 at 12:07
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA They don't care or think admitting a mistake is worse than doing something good or think that other things are more important. Whatever, by now it's just unlikely and the new VP probably won't make a difference anyway. This is simply the wrong thread here. We all know about what happened in 2019 and Philippe, the new VP knows too by now. If he wants to say something about it, he will.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 21 at 12:33
  • 7
    @Trilarion It’s possible for a VP to want to say something and be forbidden to, which is especially likely when the topic involved lawyers, they are new to the role and the company has just been acquired. This is why any for-profit company trying to present itself as a moral actor is utter BS. Organizations interested in perpetuating their own existence are by nature amoral at best. Companies can’t be expected to risk their well-being to do what is moral; Only people can make that choice, and that’s incredibly difficult as a company exec because your choice affects a lot of other people.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 21 at 16:05
-5

One thing that you think I should change as quickly as possible.

I'm going to give a little context for this, so please bear with me.

About a year ago, I had a Stack Overflow account. I was not a Stack Overflow power user, at all. I would rarely ask very complex questions which either got a closed for being "off-topic" because someone didn't understand the nuance (proven since I was able to get the same exact question answered when I copy-pasted) or for being "too broad" even though the question's granularity prevented this from being even a remote possibility. Of course, my favorite was the "duplicate of" answers which weren't even close to being duplicates.

With this in mind, I posted a wiki-style question about indexing strings in a batch script. While it was not a smashing success (who uses batch anymore?) I did get a positive response. Later, I tried the same again, emulating the same exact writing style and format, this time for a C-style array in batch script. A key feature was it worked around some of batch's memory limitations.

Despite being almost visibly identical to my earlier wiki it was quickly closed as "too broad." Then, some other person had the gall to vigorously berate me for "not offering anything new" and it being "too slow."

I repeated many of the reasons that were outlined in my post why this implementation was different and why it was useful. The individual was unmoved. So, I asked them: (not verbatim)

"When Steve Jobs released the iPhone, do you think he invented smartphones? No. There were already several smartphones. He merely improved what already worked and put it into a package anyone could use. I implemented a whole API for C-style arrays in batch! Yes, some of these things existed, but I made them work together and easy to use. Why do you even care if it's slow?"

Do you know what they said? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. After a few minutes they resumed ignorantly berating me, at which point I completely lost my cool and deleted my Stack Overflow account.

This is precisely what's going on in your company, and by extension, in your community. People here are saying their values differ dramatically from whatever your team believes is its priority. That's understandable to an extent because the values of a for-profit corporation must differ from those of its consumers.

In this relationship the corporate side is the party with the prerogative to implement permanent policy. If they are unwilling or unable to bridge that gap in values by at least communicating their intentions, regardless of whether they actually take any feedback, then they are setting up an environment where only the most hardheaded will stick around to find out about the next change that will be forced upon them.

Which, maybe that is desirable, I don't know. I'm not a C-level manager.

What I do know, because I've seen it time and time again, is that this non-responsive model eventually leads to an insular corporate environment. Regardless of whether you or the CEO personally sit here and tell us we're being heard, if we don't see anything change, or those changes don't stick? Then the company's words - not yours - the company's - stop mattering. That's the power of a brand name; it cuts both ways. The fact so many in this Q/A are discussing communication issues, whether it be terms of service or the site's features, strongly infers that the situation is sliding past "non-responsive" into "self-destructive" territory.

People here are grasping at whatever they can, trying to help, but your coworkers may not think these are viable ideas. Even if changes are made, the community may view it as "not enough," and the team could feel alienated when they finally do respond. The two sides might already be at an impasse.

So, one thing that needs to change as quickly as possible is your company's view of what consumers are. They're people. They have differing ideas. They want different things. They seek varying needs. And above all, consumers aren't required to specifically consume your company's product. Show them why they should.

16
  • 12
    Have you considered reading the help center, tour, faq, and trying to ask better questions? Jul 17 at 23:52
  • 3
    I suspect this might not be easy, but it would be so nice to have a some context of what these questions actually were
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 18 at 2:44
  • 3
    @Mekronid - Thank you for the response. I'm very sorry that you had a negative experience early - truly, I am. No matter what the situation, as long as humans are involved, we're not going to be able to make every situation go exactly right for everyone involved. However, getting to the actual substance of your comment: there is grave danger, I agree, in allowing the situation to slide into "self-destructive", as you phrase it. I'm determined to not allow that, and I hope you'll let me know if you see us taking actions that endanger that.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 18 at 3:27
  • 10
    Let me make a bold statement: Question askers are not the consumers SE is build for. It is for the many visitors that find content each day. To some degree the experts that provide answers are consumers as they need to provide the true added value. That might conflict now and then with an individual question/topic. If you have (wildly) off-the-beaten path ideas/topics, use alternatives venues.
    – rene
    Jul 18 at 6:25
  • 11
    I'm happy to report that my vote removed this post from the Low Quality Posts review queue for deletion. To flaggers/delete-voters: this might not be feedback that SO power users like, but Philippe asked for feedback from the community, and this is that. Downvote it if you want, but deleting it would be stifling a piece of genuine (even if misguided) feedback. Jul 18 at 7:54
  • 3
    @EkadhSingh Have you tried considering I spent more time attempting to comply with what I viewed as inconsistent and arcane dictate than I did actually achieving any measurable result?
    – Mekronid
    Jul 18 at 9:34
  • 2
    @rene I originally considered adding this to my OP, but I felt it was too negative, so I'll put it here now. "Shortly before the collapse of many services, I typically saw some form of the phrase 'If you don't like it, then leave.' That's not a very profitable business prospect, is it?" Well, since I've been treated like this yet AGAIN I now know the future of this service. Thank you for instructing me to discontinue my use of SE. I will heed your advice.
    – Mekronid
    Jul 18 at 9:36
  • 1
    @Phillippe It's just a perspective on what someone who didn't see merit in what was available was able or not able to accomplish. I'm aware my situation is probably not representative of those who comprise the majority of the SE community, but the majority itself is a faction whose properties are determined by the overall policy and attitude. As you can see from the several exceptionally dismissive responses I've received, especially rene, it's not about "endangering" so much passivity toward what makes a service worth using, and then that passivity turning into a self-destructive tendency.
    – Mekronid
    Jul 18 at 9:45
  • 2
    @JourneymanGeek That's not the point. Listing them so you can critique whether they fit whatever standards you currently uphold is just a distraction from the goal I set to achieve with this answer. The point was to show an experience that fell outside of SE's purview and that even now I'm still being told to "do better" or "get lost." What do you think I'm going to do?
    – Mekronid
    Jul 18 at 9:50
  • Well the community messed up, it would be nice to know how
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 18 at 9:53
  • 11
    @Mekronid I'm sure we won't agree on this ever but I like to compare SO with a bakery: we sell all kind of bread. Sometimes people walk in amazed and ask for vegetables. Being a bakery, we don't do veggies. We guide them to a better place. That is not bad for the bakery and doesn't end with hate tweets from the "customer". I don't understand why it is different for SO or any SE site for that matter. We don't serve every question, by default. Turning a question down isn't bad overall but it often is a surprise for "new" customers. The other bakery does sell veggies. Weird shop.
    – rene
    Jul 18 at 10:42
  • 3
    @Mekronid I’ve read a lot of the rules (not all of them) and while they may seem arcane compared to other sites, that’s because we are a lot different from other sites. However, if there are any inconsistent rules, pst about it on meta and people will happily clarify them. Jul 18 at 12:15
  • 3
    @EkadhSingh A lot of the rules is distributed over meta. There isn't a single comprehensive document containing most of it. For a new user there are certainly hurdles to initial participation. If only it would be so easy as baking and selling bread. On the other hand Mekronid might just have asked for too much, had too high expectations on consistency and error rate. It's a free service, run by volunteers, one cannot expect very high quality all the time.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 21 at 10:35
  • 2
    Unfair closing of questions is a real problem (not just questions from new users or from old lazy/sloppy ones). A redesign of the mechanics and features of the largely unchanged Stack Overflow software is long overdue (this goes beyond, for example, better user onboarding). But it may take another company or group of people to make that innovation happen. Jul 21 at 14:13
  • This hasn’t been mentioned before, but… “Of course, my favorite was the ‘duplicate of’ answers which weren’t even close to being duplicates.” — If you disagree with closure as duplicate, the proper response is to edit your post and explain exactly what is different and why. Asserting that it just is different is not enough. See Someone flagged my question as already answered, but it's not. Aug 20 at 1:13

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