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Today is the first day of the 2021 Stack Exchange Community-a-thon event (the event will continue for the next four weeks).

The Community-a-thon is an event for staff of Stack Overflow where employees are encouraged to participate on sites in the Stack Exchange network, in order to increase their familiarity with our core product and their empathy with our users. This is the second time that we are running this event (you can see intro and recap posts from last year’s event here).

The general goals of the event remain very similar to last year:

  1. Improve Empathy between all Stack Overflow employees and our sites and communities.
  2. Achieve a high degree of participation during the event, that can hopefully carry on afterwards as well.
  3. Increase our collective familiarity with our core product and elicit useful feedback on actionable ways to improve our functionality and user experience.

Like last year, the event will include a competition in which participants can receive points based on engagement and activities done on network sites during the contest. The point system will be very close to what we did last year, with the difference of giving greater incentives for feedback, encouraging more repeat engagement on individual sites, and removing points for participation in chat rooms. We also gave the option for participants to be paired up with a more/less experienced coworker to help give advice on using the network.

All active participants in the event will receive some nice swag (t-shirt featuring our event logo), with leaders in each bracket (all users, fresh users, seasoned users, and teams) getting an additional prize as well.

Logo of the 2021 Community-a-thon

We have had an excellent degree of commitment thus far, including good representation from every department in the company (as well as all members of the Senior Leadership Team). Over 55% of employees have signed up for the event this year (compared to 32% at the outset of the 2020 event), and nearly 50% of employees who signed up have joined the company since the end of last year’s event. The vast majority of accounts participating in this count will not have diamonds, and will be either regular staff accounts (you can see the staff tag in their profile) or will be personal accounts that will not be identifiable as staff in any way).

As the company has grown and evolved over time, we (on the Community and Community Leadership Teams) continue to look for ways to encourage all employees to increase their participation on the SE network. In addition to the goals mentioned above, this can also serve as a good opportunity to get feedback on the new user experience from both new users and more experienced users (who are encouraged to participate in the event using new accounts and to then submit feedback based on their observations and experiences).

We are sharing this here to keep the community informed of our ongoing efforts related to improving familiarity and empathy with the Stack Exchange network for all employees.

We are happy to answer any questions below related to the event, its execution, and its goals.

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  • 3
    Will there be a dedicated event chatroom (to show the team the much needed love chat deserves ;) )
    – Luuklag
    Jul 20 at 7:46
  • 1
    No dedicated chat room this year. Last year the chat room ended up just not being frequented much at all by staff, despite lots of internal publicity about it, so we are not emphasizing that as much in this year's event.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 20 at 8:02
  • 11
    Well, the Tavern's available as always if anyone does want to pop into chat.
    – Mithical
    Jul 20 at 8:04
  • 1
    Can we see which staff members signed for this event? Jul 20 at 8:15
  • 12
    @ShadowWizardWearingMaskV2 we are not releasing a list of staff members. Some are using brand new accounts, and for many it is their first time on the network and they do not want to have any attention or privileges given to them beyond what is accorded to any other user. For staff who are participating using their official accounts - I am sure that someone will come up with a query on sede to show their activity (though this will of course only refresh once a week).
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 20 at 8:51
  • 2
    So, for many it's their first time on the network and they do not want to have any attention or privileges beyond what is accorded to any other user... Does this mean many of them are also not using the option to be paired up with someone more experienced? As that also is a privilege regular new users don't have access to?
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 20 at 9:30
  • 15
    @Tinkeringbell Many are being paired up, many are not. I am referring to attention or privileges on the sites themselves. And I know that having someone personally guide you when starting out on the network is something that most regular new users do not have access to. We are trying to strike a middle ground here between having a fully organic experience on the network and finding ways to encourage as much staff as possible to participate (and even with a guide, it is still up to the participant to write their own posts and decide how they want to engage on different sites).
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 20 at 9:34
  • 2
    Perhaps make it clear in the question that most of them will not be diamond-carrying users during the event? (Only the "Staff" flag on their profile pages(?).) Jul 20 at 12:08
  • 5
    We definitely want to see some awesome userscripts or SE API extravaganza on Stack Apps, so be sure to point your colleagues in our direction ...
    – rene
    Jul 20 at 12:29
  • 2
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q or socks.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 20 at 13:33
  • 4
    Can we considerably improve the empathy between the two parties by having @Catija make a cake for us? And we'll give stroopwafels ;)
    – Ollie
    Jul 20 at 13:53
  • 2
    @Ollie one cake for all meta users? one for each commenter on this post?
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 20 at 14:27
  • 5
    @YaakovEllis One very big cake for all Meta users. And a stroopwafel for each of you.
    – Ollie
    Jul 20 at 14:33
  • 2
    Looking forward to it! :)
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jul 20 at 21:08
  • 2
    I don't that anywhere near all sites will get participation. Each staff member will participate where they feel comfortable and knowledgeable enough to ask or answer questions.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 18:13
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As a mod on a smaller site, may I request you emphasize to staff the importance of voting? If a few staff came to our little corner of SE, browsed around for some interesting questions and answers, and voted a bunch, we would appreciate it!

I don't have data to back this up, but it does seem to me that when we get new users on our site, they stick around longer when they receive feedback on their contributions. Good answers are the best feedback, but constructive comments and votes are much easier, and often just as useful!

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