64

Continuing in my series of questions to you: Last week, I heard some great origin stories. This week, I’d like to refocus a bit on what could be better (in your view). I’m very curious about whether we’ll find near universal agreement or if we’ll discover that different communities have very different needs or ideas of how things “should” work. So my question for you this week is:

  • If you had a magic wand that you could wave that would let you fix ONE thing that would help your community (not the network, not the company, but the specific site community with which you most closely identify) overnight, what would you change (and why?), and what would the result look like - how would we know it was different?

This can be something technical (a site “pet peeve” - props to Mithical for suggesting as a topic), or could be something in policy, or could be the size of your mod team, or permissions of your users, or something about the environment in which you operate, or none of the above!

I hope it goes without saying that I don’t have the ability to magically “produce” technical change. While I might be able to advocate for technical solutions, I’m not committing here and now that we will build anything suggested here. I’m just looking for ideas - and I would ask that you lean toward social or community based ideas rather than technical fixes, if possible.

  • For bonus magic internet points, feel free to hazard a guess about whether your beliefs would be widely shared or whether you might be a bit of an island on this one.

Community "ONE thing"
Code Golf and Coding Challenges Stack Exchange Making all users use the Sandbox before posting a challenge on Code Golf and Coding Challenges
All communities Changing age requirement needed to be a moderator
All communities Stop people from enforcing the rules without questioning and understanding their purpose.
Stack Overflow
All communities Making vote counts visible regardless of reputation
Code Golf and Coding Challenges Stack Exchange Built-in leaderboards on Code Golf
All communities Fix a 10 year old security vulnerability
All communities Time Travel! (Or at least a cautionary tale of community dynamics)
Stack Overflow Discourage overly situational debugging questions, encourage more generally useful questions.
All communities Convert Answer to Comment
Puzzling Better spoilers
Allow more syntax highlighting
Interpersonal Skills
Software Engineering Encourage more community members on Software Engineering in curating minor issues in questions in favor of closing them
All communities Could we have Chat (and meta) on the sidebar?
Tag Hierarchies/Dependencies
Decrease the limit of simultaneous hot questions from the same site
Science Fiction & Fantasy Custom question-flow for asking story ID requests
English Language Learners Easy way to find credible definitions for words and idioms without leaving the site
Bring chat into this century
All communities A community advocate.
TeX - LaTeX Restore previous "community promotion" conventions
Improve or officially support sandboxing
Meta Stack Exchange Fewer off-topic questions from new users.
All communities More capability to customise the Help Center
Project Management It looks like you're asking a question about Scrum. Have you considered asking it on Project Management instead?
Provide more details about spoiler content without revealing
All communities Site-specific new user onboarding
Shared Drive for valuable Google spreadsheets
Fix a major past mistake which has lasting effect to this day
Force new users to take a quiz
Stack Overflow Duplicate closure should be a more rewarding experience
Role-playing Games Make it possible for RPG system tags to always appear first, and display them in a special color
Multimedia Help Center
Ask Ubuntu Archive feature
Graphic Design Modify the copyright release clause a bit for this site so that a stronger community could be built, a mechanism for sharing SVG files
English Language Learners Change the way questions are tagged
Tag Reform!
Better accessibility.
Allow non-bumping minor edits, but review them on /review
Invite low rep user to a chat
Retain existing users
Biology Ability to search Species ID posts using pictures
Ask Ubuntu Better integration with other forms of Ubuntu documentation
Code Golf and Coding Challenges Stack Exchange Automatic accepting
Ask Ubuntu Obsolete Answer Flag
15
  • 6
    Since this is seeking input from users from all sites, it should probably be [featured].
    – 41686d6564
    Jul 28 at 19:28
  • 9
    Would be really nice if people could (and would) read (and follow) the rules of the sites they posted on. Some sites have closure rates of 20% and more And I know that for Code Review one close reason takes up 60% of these closures.... Jul 28 at 19:29
  • 1
    @Vogel612'sShadow- I should have said this, but it would be great if you could put that in an answer so that people can comment on it.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 28 at 19:29
  • 13
    I may post an answer, I'm still looking over my wishlist :). But, I just wanted to say thank you for asking this specific question. There's been a lot of "estrangement" from the communities on the network over the past few years, and this is a great first step towards fixing that Jul 28 at 19:30
  • 7
    @cairdcoinheringaahing- thanks, that's really valuable feedback to have. :-)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 28 at 19:31
  • 1
    @Philippe it's not really intended as an answer, it's more of a venting thing. While the point is one that could be made in a constructive manner, I don't have the self-control necessary for that and wouldn't want to get the discussion (or more accurately this instance of the discussion) off to a terrible start. Jul 28 at 19:42
  • 4
    @cairdcoinheringaahing if all else fails, post it all 😁
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 29 at 5:20
  • 4
    For me to reconsider participating on these sites ever again, this would have to be fixed - because it is an unaddressed injustice and a stain on the company's conscience, for one, but also because it getting fixed would indicate that some dysfunctional patterns within the company (which could become detrimental to volunteers again) might actually have changed
    – Pekka
    Jul 31 at 15:03
  • 3
    @Pekka you may be interested in this answer here
    – gnat
    Aug 1 at 9:10
  • 2
    Could we get a list of the answer headers in the question so one does not need to scroll so much?
    – joojaa
    Aug 3 at 16:27
  • @joojaa was it done before? Won't do it without OP telling it is OK. Aug 4 at 9:10
  • 4
    @ShadowWizardWearingMaskV2 no objection.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 4 at 11:58
  • Does this answer your question? Let's Plan the Second Iteration of the Stack Exchange Quality Project! Aug 9 at 7:13
  • Post seeking input from the Ask Ubuntu community: meta.askubuntu.com/q/19683 Aug 22 at 18:53
  • @joojaa Done! Please do any necessary edits :) Sep 12 at 12:02

46 Answers 46

1
2
10

Graphic Design

Site Graphic Design is a bit special in that, at least in theory, everybody on the site should be able to generate their own images. And nearly every question and answer should have an image. The community would want for more people who work as graphic designers to participate and share.

But graphic designers on the whole live by the copyright of their images. So in many instances one can not post the image one needs since that would mean release the copyright for CC-BY-SA. It would be nice if there would be a possibility to modify the copyright release clause a bit for this site so that a stronger community could be built.

But this might be totally out of the question. So at least remind new users of the copyright release when posting images. Similar problems may be on more media focused sites.

Secondly: Graphic Design would need a mechanism for sharing SVG files.

PS: I would like to note that you can not uphold same rules as you use in programming related forums. Since graphic design is about whole visual field at once, highly context sensitive, subjective and has no one right answer. This makes it impractical at times to break into a question without showing what you are doing. Primary teaching mechanism in graphic design is critique which is entirely reliant on showing your work. In the end we can not quantify or feelings into rules, at least not today.

27
  • IANAL, but if you decide to only share a link to your image, SE doesn't own the rights to that image right? It is less then ideal, but should work.
    – Luuklag
    Aug 2 at 12:27
  • 2
    @Luuklag yes but then you will find people will not see your picture as they are not likely to jump to a offsite link. But more it makes the site poorer becase now pictures are hosted elsewhere. Pictures now A) Can link rot. B) The site looks less inviting to a graphic designer who wants to see pictures not just chase links. C) reduces the information content of the answers and questions. D) Some overeager user may edit the link picture into the post. Which is arguably worse since now they and thus stackexhange violated copyright.
    – joojaa
    Aug 2 at 13:09
  • 5
    The way this answer is written has an inherent misconception about copyright. In no case does posting on Stack Exchange assign the copyright of any user supplied content. What posting on Stack Exchange does is release the content under a CC BY-SA license (currently CC BY-SA 4.0 for newly contributed content). While that may be what you were intending to communicate, and the difference may not matter for the concern which people have, but it is substantially different from a legal perspective vs. assigning the copyright.
    – Makyen
    Aug 2 at 15:42
  • @Makyen ok corrected. In anycase the image now can be shared to any other site which reduces the images potential resale value. And in some cases makes selling the vork near impossible (for example logos). In anycase I dont mind but a lot of users do.
    – joojaa
    Aug 2 at 15:47
  • 1
    This is an awesome proposal, thanks a lot. I notice my own participation in GD.SE has plummeted ever since I started paying attention to how SE simply tosses everything into copyleft willy-nilly.
    – Vincent
    Aug 3 at 10:43
  • The difficulty with this is the data dump. Any license that would fix the issue you have with CC-BY-SA would mean that those images wouldn't be able to be in the dump. That would substantially reduce the value of the dump, which might be contriversial with the current trust issues. Aug 3 at 11:09
  • 1
    Thats not a problem @user1937198 people who post images on the stack mean them to be posted. The licesnse could be written in a form that means that the picture can only be used as part of the article. So that it cant be separeted for other uses.
    – joojaa
    Aug 3 at 11:16
  • How do you do that whilst allowing people to use the data dump, in a form with similar levels of editing that the SE platform provides? The edit capability allows significantly rewriting an article, and we want to be able to keep that in the knowledge base even if the company goes under. Aug 3 at 13:38
  • SO has been working with this problem for nearly a decade now, and the answer has always been, use an MCVE (stackoverflow.com/help/minimal-reproducible-example) so that it is representative of a general problem, not a specific one. Aug 3 at 13:41
  • @user1937198 I would advice you to not try to bring in engineering logic into this. Part of the reason that we can not build a better community is exactly this. Graphic design is not, or atleast graphic designers are not, a purely technical field. Graphic designers are artits first, humanists second. Many in the community on purpose do not want to be overly technical. So how would you take a picture, say Mona Lisa, and talk about feelings. How would you make a minimal reproducible example. Or how would you critique someones picture if you need to make s minimally reproducive version.
    – joojaa
    Aug 3 at 14:31
  • You have to work with the logic of the community you want to build. Not the logic of a different community. In anycase graphic designers to some extent sell unique style combined with solutions to problems. Its perfectly reasonable for them to protect their form language and control their own artistic output.
    – joojaa
    Aug 3 at 14:34
  • 1
    @user1937198 I can assure you this is a real problem on GD.SE. Design deals with systems. If the asker only shows a little piece of a work because they don't want to put the whole work in copy-left, we can't really answer properly. So we mostly end up with questions about software tutorials and font/style identification which make it difficult to retain actual graphic designers.
    – curious
    Aug 3 at 14:41
  • Also I am not a lawyer i dont know how copyright works in the US. Because copyright works slightly differently in my locale anyway.
    – joojaa
    Aug 3 at 14:45
  • 1
    SO's solution was to make design and systems questions off-topic, but thats not a great answer. I suppose this comes back to the knowledge repository principle. If questions need that much context, how are they generalisable? Or does having non-generalisable questions work for now because of the size of the community? Aug 3 at 15:49
  • 1
    @user1937198 See this question and comments as an example. Even something as "simple" as a logo is a bit of a system or interrelated parts.
    – curious
    Aug 3 at 17:02
9

Provide more details about spoiler content without revealing

Similar to how code fences can provide a language, I would like spoilers to be specifiable by certain words or correspond to tags on a question.

I mainly want this on Science Fiction & Fantasy (SFF) to encourage people to use them more, knowing they can have TV shows, movies and books they've read 'white listed' so the spoiler is show by default. This could be applicable on Movies & TV, Literature and even maybe Puzzling (perhaps more sites?)

But whilst discussing this, it seemed like it would also be worth using this to let people hide distressing images/text content necessary for the question or answer and perhaps having content warning/trigger warning (CW/TW) lists in network profiles that blocked you from seeing it unless you 'consent'. That could be applicable on so many more sites, like Interpersonal Skills (IPS), Parenting, Politics, and the list goes on.

I imagine it could look like this:

>!{star wars, shooting} Han shot first

and render like this:

Standard spoiler image, with the phrase "Warning content contains star wars and shooting content.

3
  • 2
    I agree with the overall idea, though I think that mockup leaves something to be desired in terms of aesthetics... :P
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 6:04
  • @v2blast it leaves a lot to be desired. :-p
    – Pureferret
    Jul 31 at 7:49
  • 1
    @V2Blast Sometimes, a crappy mockup actually gets used in the final product :-) Jul 31 at 13:25
8

Eleven years later: "Invite low rep user to a chat"

I would like to switch comments to chat, even if the OP has not enough rep to join a chat room (meaning less than 20).

That was studied in 2011, for instance to allow temporary guest accounts in chat.

This should not be abused, as it could transform a Q&A site into a giant chat space.
I propose to limit that privilege to user with a certain reputation level.
Say... 1 Million rep.
(Or, as proposed in 2015, 30K: on level up the current highest privilege with 25K)

8

Retain existing users

This is important for small sites on which each user who decides to leave, is a noticeable loss for the whole community.

In the past years, SO put a lot of effort into attracting new users. That's nice! However on specialized sites, where there might not be a never ending supply of new users, it might be worthwhile to also search for ways to retain the existing users.

Just one example of something your team could look into: on tex.se I've witnessed several users leave due to conflicts with other users. Maybe SO could try to provide tooling to avoid or stop conflicts before they escalate? At the moment it seems the only option is waiting until a conflicts is heated so much that mods step in with suspensions, but maybe things like Add the ability to ignore users could avoid some of these conflicts in the first place?

(This is just one example I could think of, don't focus too much on this particular example. I'm sure you have people with much better qualified to identify possibilities to improve user retention)

5
  • Mods have plenty of non-suspension options, including public and private talks with the users in question.
    – bobble
    Aug 4 at 22:25
  • 2
    What kind of conflict? Aug 4 at 22:38
  • 2
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q All kinds. One of the most active users left after a conflict with another users about missing attribution for code. There were cases in which a user mass downvoted a user giving reasons like "did not like the code indention" (no, this is not python, code indention does not influence functionality), or - from my personal experience - a user who would not stop to invalidate other users work of flagging low quality posts and doing reviews by kicking out posts from the queue by doing unnecessary edits. Aug 4 at 23:01
  • 2
    @samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz - thanks for this. I agree that ideally we could build some things into the interface for this. As a first step, I've been thinking about expanding the mod trainings that we offer to include things like conflict deescalation in an online context.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 8 at 12:26
  • 1
    Part of the issue here is that the comment system is broken and there is no way for users to get rid of discussions they don’t want under their posts and stop every comment from pinging them without moderator intervention. It takes two to tango, so separating discussion from posts doesn’t entirely solve the problem, but allowing users to turn off notifications for a post would be a step that might help.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 8 at 15:48
7

Time Travel! (Or at least a cautionary tale of community dynamics)

There's a handful of early communities that kinda fell apart, and quite a lot of missteps with good intentions and poor execution that hurt communities as a whole.

But we can't roll back the past so I think I'd bring up my former second community, before this one, as a cautionary tale. I think its vitally important not to assign blame, I'm in a fairly unique situation where I've kinda heard at least two sides of the story (and have something approaching the truth). I'm sure there's other versions of this story, and I do hope folks correct me where there's a mistake.

I used to be very active on Server Fault back in the day. My job -3 let me work on servers (and $deity, I miss that), and they had an active, if a little rowdy community.

There's not 'one' factor that led the core of the community to leave - but one of them was a disagreement over scope (If memory serves - over hosting panels), and one of the mods automating closing them (He was a bit overenthusiastic). I'm of the opinion Shog did what was best in the situation (Relevant meta post here - and the broader thread might be useful reading of history for y'all, and Hopeless did what he felt was best, but the end result was massive drama. There's a few additional parts of the story - that aren't public (I am under the impression talking to other folks that the mod in question was kinda tied up in work - which lead to an extra break down in communication). In short, it was a bit of 'cascading things going wrong all at once'.

This probably was compounded by ongoing issues (cause $deity - I seem to recall a fairly painful cultural shift at the time, not all bad) and a bit of a tug of war over scope.

So much of the drama and tension between the community and company are a result not of malice but of communication break downs. I suspect its vitally important, especially as the community team ramps up to not just consider the problem at hand but the people involved, the knock on effects that a particular action has, and the awareness that sometimes solving a problem causes other problems. There's other examples of this of course, but this feels like a good place to consider.

This isn't impossible, just... probably incredibly hard. It needs both mods to know who to talk to (and who they are talking to), and a fairly deep knowledge of the community that needs help and guidance.

4
  • 29
    What do we want? "TIME TRAVEL!" When do we want it? "DOESN'T MATTER!"
    – Criggie
    Jul 29 at 1:16
  • 2
    Quite a lot of what I do is in the awareness that I am travelling forward in time, to my inevitable demise :D.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 29 at 1:20
  • 12
    @Criggie "NOW!" What do we want? "TIME TRAVEL!" When do we want it?
    – VLAZ
    Jul 29 at 9:20
  • 6
    @Criggie, you now owe me a new keyboard.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 29 at 12:49
7

Automatic accepting

Code Golf has made noise before about removing/modifying the way accepting works on the site, as it counteracts our idea that code golf challenges are competitions within languages (so Python competes with other Python answers, not with Perl), and leaves the awarding of the winning answer (for non-code golf challenges) up to the challenge asker. Due to site culture, this mostly results in the winner being awarded the checkmark, but this sometimes fails, often due to newer users. Additionally, we also have a principle that, at the bare minimum, every challenge must have an objective scoring criteria.

This means that automatic accepting of the winning answer would, in theory, be entirely possible. Practically speaking, this isn't doable unless you had a magic wand, as the complexities of a system actually determining the winner from some of the weirder criteria we've had, such as the sum of the scores (as defined by a formula) of all your answers. However, by making accepting an answer a fully automated process, CGCC would be able to more effectively use accepting as a way of marking and rewarding the winning answer.

4
  • 1
    If you could write some sort of query that parses the winning answer from a series of headers, that would save a lot of work.
    – A username
    Sep 12 at 20:00
  • 1
    Have you (that is, the community) developed some offsite tools for this? Sep 12 at 22:07
  • 1
    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q We've had a couple of "spin-off" sites founded on the idea that SE isn't the most suitable platform for us, and I believe one of them (no longer in development) toyed with the idea, but I'm not aware of any tools or similar that works on this. We've developed a site culture about accepting the winning answer, but that doesn't always work, especially with newer users Sep 12 at 22:09
  • They have apparently done it at Codidact (near "integrated into the community"), including making it official/integrated already. Sep 21 at 12:52
6

"It looks like you're asking a question about Scrum. Have you considered asking it on Project Management instead?"

(Maybe a bit less Clippy-esque though. Maybe.)

I remember back when we were in beta, the only thing stopping us from graduating was #questions/day.

We continue to suffer from relatively few new questions.

Further, I remember coming upon several questions (one of them even a HNQ) on Software Engineering and thinking 'This is a textbook pmse question'.

So, the same way that the site looks at your tags/content and shows possible duplicates, could we set it up to show 'Hey it looks like this question is better-suited to this smaller, more niche site over here'?

The idea could presumably be extended to other smaller sites, as well. Even Software Engineering itself could benefit from having certain questions/questioners nudged to it from Stack Overflow.

25
  • Like the question asking wizard? :D.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 30 at 13:41
  • @JourneymanGeek Yeah. Just including a cross-site suggestion to it.
    – Sarov
    Jul 30 at 13:42
  • 3
    Or should we get rid of niche sites, in favour of bigger sites all together? For example the gazillion bitcoin like sites, they could just as well do with one site for all of them.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 30 at 13:42
  • 4
    That would need very careful consideration and such. While I don't really like having that many cryptocurrency sites, there's a lot of sites with overlapping scope and distinctive cultures
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 30 at 13:44
  • 3
    Agreed @JourneymanGeek, but at the same time, a lot of people are familiar with a certain site, and hence ask their question, which is (borderline) on-topic, there rather then on a obscure small network site they haven't interacted with before. Nudging, or guiding them there, then might have an adverse effect. Especially when on a smaller site it might take longer to get an answer. Then who has really benefited from OP asking their question on a small site.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 30 at 13:47
  • 5
    @Luuklag "Especially when on a smaller site it might take longer to get an answer." I was thinking the exact opposite. Yeah there are way more users on SE than on pmse, but there are more pm-experts on pmse than on SE.
    – Sarov
    Jul 30 at 13:51
  • @Sarov true, you are more likely to get an excellent answer on pm.SE then on any other site. But you might get a decent answer on a different site quicker, which would allow you to continue on with the problem at hand. Its almost compared to learning for a test. Do you learn to remember things for the rest of your life, or do you learn to pass your test. If the latter is the case, you might be better off at a bigger site.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 30 at 13:53
  • 2
    @Luuklag Maybe. I'm not so sure I agree, but uncertain enough to concede the point. Still, I strongly suspect most pm-related questions were asked on SE because the OPs didn't know pmse existed. Plus, it would (presumably) be set up as a guidance, not a requirement. Plus, ultimately, if smaller sites are to remain (which I assume they will), then the knowledge repository goal of Stack Exchange as a whole will benefit from stronger separation of concerns.
    – Sarov
    Jul 30 at 13:58
  • 1
    @Luuklag given popular view on urgency matters your reasoning sounds more in favor of better quality (even if slower) answers. :) As one who gets most answers to my questions by searching (as opposed to asking) I myself am also strongly inclined to prefer thorough answers over quick-n-dirty ones
    – gnat
    Jul 30 at 14:02
  • @gnat I thought that was my reasoning! But yeah, I agree - quality of the shared knowledge database should be our primary goal.
    – Sarov
    Jul 30 at 14:08
  • 5
    @Luuklag It's better to have a little bit of overlap among distinct specialized sites. Giant sites like Stack Overflow are newbie grinders. I would rather shop at a bazaar of small specialized shops with some overlap than a giant super store that carries a little bit of everything that is of adequate quality and functionality, but might not have a great quality item of the type you're looking for, or if it does, it's hard to find in the sea of mass produced junk.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 30 at 14:21
  • 1
    @Trilarion I really have to stop trying to use analogies to explain things. They never seem to do a great job, but for some reason I can’t resist using them. I would like to see the cross-site search get more visibility. I don’t think most users know it’s there. It should be a lot quicker to get an answer if your question has already been asked, but if you’re searching the wrong site, you might not find it. I want a way to expand a site search to more sites if I didn’t find any results that were helpful in my first search.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 24 at 13:12
  • 1
    @Sarov The search box at the top of the page goes across all sites.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 24 at 13:15
  • 1
    @ColleenV Ahh. Wow yeah that's pretty hidden, innit? From what I remember from studying UI in university, that means the designers don't really want us to use the feature. Like how you make the hard-delete button hard to find, if for some reason you need one. :P
    – Sarov
    Aug 24 at 13:17
  • 1
    @ColleenV You can tell just from the name of the tab ("Hot Questions - Stack Exchange"), that the UI wants to draw attention towards the HNQ, not to the 'this is the general site page' aspect, though.
    – Sarov
    Aug 24 at 13:37
5

If my magic wand had enough power left after my first suggestion, I would change the way questions are tagged on ELL. I'd rather just wave a wand and make more people care about tagging questions well, but mind manipulation is an evil sort of magic we should probably avoid.

First, I would create a system that analyzes the text of the question, looks at similar questions with high scores or that have been edited to update their tags then suggests tags that might be appropriate. Under no circumstances would it suggest a tag because it was "popular". (I have no idea how to actually implement this, I'm relying on magic here.)

I would give a community a way to exclude tags from being suggested. English Language Learners has this terrible "grammar" tag that gets applied to questions regardless of whether or not they are actually about grammar (as opposed to "grammaticality"). A while back, we had reduced the number of questions tagged only with "grammar" to about 300 or so today, there are over 3400 open questions with just the grammar tag.

If someone asking a question really can't pick appropriate tags, there should be a "can't-decide" or "don't-know" tag that puts it into a review queue to be tagged properly and we should give people badges and such for participating in the queue. If someone doesn't know the answer to their question, often they don't know the best way to categorize it so that it is grouped with similar questions (at least on sites like ELL where something can look like a question about one thing but actually be about something Linguists are still arguing about ). Maybe there are other things that would trigger a review, like someone creating a new tag, the question being closed as a duplicate that has different tags, or the question getting put on the HNQ.

5

Ability to search Species ID posts using pictures

(copied from Redesigning Biology Stack Exchange (extended) on Biology Meta)

Problem:

Most people coming to Biology SE to have their unknown specimen identified have two options: either browse through dozens (or hundreds) of old posts to see if they can find a match for their specimen, or (much more commonly) just ask a new question.

  • This first option requires opening each post individually, and therefore is incredibly time consuming. As a result, most users opt for option 2.

  • This is ok if it's in fact a new species (i.e., one not previously ID'd on Bio.SE before) or if one of our users can recognize it as a duplicate of a previous post.

    • However, with 600+ species ID posts, there is a good chance that there are un-marked duplicate posts.

Proposal:

Wouldn't it be so much better if you could sort through old posts by picture?

I have no idea how this could be done (and I'm fairly sure it actually cannot be done), but it would make our species ID posts MUCH more accessible to visiting users.

  • This would likely result in heavier traffic through the site.

Here's an example of how I think this could be done:

enter image description here

How this could work:

  • I envision one of 2 ways:

    1. Auto selects 1st image in a post

    2. Provide some ability for a user to select which image to include in search.

4
  • 1
    Not very likely, but I always thought it'd be a cool/useful tool. You could add a toggle to allow people to turn pictures on or off. Anyway, I could envision it being helpful on many sites other than Biology, too. Aug 18 at 3:21
  • It sounds like a good project for an intern at Stack Overflow (machine learning). It could also lead to other interesting features, like a search bot, conversation bot (e.g., to pry out question details), or auto answer bot. Aug 18 at 18:20
  • Just license and use Google lens to be used before asking on this Exchange? Basically Biology should have a requirement that users use other available resources first, before asking for human evaluation. It looks very similar to posting duplicate coding questions on SO.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 24 at 11:32
  • @Trilarion Google lens is unfortunately not an adequate, appropriate, or accurate choice of tools. The biggest issue is that it gives an answer and the user has no way to know if it's accurate (hint: it often isn't). On SE, you've got multiple biologists putting eyes on ID. I'm not concerned about them asking. The issue of this post is not that they are asking, but rather that they could learn from already well-written posts if they had a way to search using the info they have: visual. Aug 25 at 2:20
5

Ask Ubuntu


Posted by C.S.Cameron here.

Obsolete Answer Flag

In many cases the answer with the most upvotes is simply the one that has been here longest. Often these high vote answers are totally obsolete and no longer work.

It was much easier to get votes in the old days, when Ask Ubuntu was new and unique. Answers did not need to be very good to get lots of upvotes.

There should be an obsolete flag so that users can flag these old and obsolete answers to drop them from the top of the list. A flagged answer does not need to be totally removed, just dropped to the bottom of the page where it won't hurt anyone. It should probably take a vote of five flags to demote an answer.

Closing a duplicate question and then linking an old question with 20 obsolete answers wastes the users time and does not give users much confidence in Ask Ubuntu.

Some people talk about historical value of these answers but people come here to get help making their Ubuntu work, not history lessons.

Lets keep Ask Ubuntu relevant and up to date.

4

I would want the magic wand to decrease the limit of simultaneous hot questions from the same site from 5 to 3 or 4, in order to give more sites the chance to be advertised to a network-wide audience. The last time I asked for statistics about this, it looked somewhat depressing, even with outliers ignored:

86 least represented sites of 156 total contributed less than 10% hot questions, 106 contributed less than 20% questions and 135 - less than 50% questions. 21 top sites of 156 contributed over 50% hot questions...

The result I would expect to obtain is a more diverse representation of various sites in the hot list. As for knowing the difference, in this case it seems to be fairly easy, because there is a way to estimate the presence of the site and compare results to prior statistics referred to above.

The longer term impact I would be hoping to achieve is a noticeable growth of the active user base at smaller sites, indicated by the amount of users with a reasonably solid on-site reputation (not counting the association bonus).


Preferably the above would be augmented by disabling a tweak that pushes Stack Overflow questions from the hot list a bit too strong. This would serve the same purpose as above: a more prominent presence of SO questions in hot list would help the major audience of this list realise that smaller sites aren't something alien and that they are welcome to participate in these sites just like they do at Stack Overflow.

The results I would want to get by this change are the same as above: a noticeable growth of the active user base at smaller sites.

As for knowing the difference, it would be a bit complicated. There is a natural and straightforward measure by simply counting the active users who joined some site when they already had an SO account. However, it would cover only part of the picture because some anonymous SO visitors may join sites they have seen in the hot list without creating an SO account - and I haven't yet figured how this can be estimated.


I won't hazard a guess whether my beliefs would be widely shared or not, because the hot questions are a blessing and a curse.

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  • 1
    FWIW, these features likely already exist (both the capping [IPS], and the "hotness" adjustments [SO, Soft.Eng., TWP]). Fingers crossed they're easily configurable and fingers double crossed they can make the limits and thresholds dynamic rather than static.
    – Nick
    Jul 30 at 0:05
  • @Nick looks like they are indeed: "This number is also configurable on a per-site basis, so if a site wants to reduce their HNQ footprint, we can lower it even more, even to zero if a site wishes to be excluded entirely..." (from this announcement)
    – gnat
    Jul 30 at 4:33
  • 1
    Coming from a site where 90% of all questions manage to game the HNQ algorithm, I agree with this.
    – A username
    Jul 30 at 11:05
  • 1
    As a mod from a smaller site, I'm in two minds about this -- sometimes it seems we appear in HNQ because it's buggin's turn and I can't remember when we were last happy with the publicity -- good questions around our neck of the woods (needing expertise to answer) are not HNQ material; HNQ (hot) questions are trivial and easily answered. I wouldn't want buggin's turn to come around more often. I'd much prefer a mechanism where the community nominated candidates for HNQ and then the algorithm ran to share the capacity around. Jul 30 at 14:50
  • 1
    @ColeValleyGirl agree, you have good reasons to be concerned. And you're not alone - ask for example Math.SE mods how many questions they have to manually remove from HNQ. Sad to see this happening to feature that is in theory supposed to be desired and beneficial to all involved. Guess that't the price to pay for negligence - most of HNQ settings which make it troublesome haven't been touched since ancient times when whole SE network was, like, 4-5 techical sites and very hot list was buried in small dropdown under an obscure button in the top bar
    – gnat
    Jul 30 at 16:39
4

Multimedia Help Center

If I had to choose a different site from my previous post, let's say that this is about Meta Stack Exchange, but I think that this might apply to all the sites, including per-site metas.

Nowadays the content of the Help Center only contains text articles. Some of these articles include links to meta posts, the company blog posts and external content that might look not very attractive because of their format and length, specially for "new users". I would like the magic wand to add multimedia elements to all the articles so they become more attractive and easy to understand by a broader audience (not all users learn the same way).

These multimedia elements could be material developed by the community, short clips took from the company podcast, YouTube videos, etc.

P.S. I would love to see a Stack Exchange board game.

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    Personally I like text much much better than fancy multimedia stuff; it's quicker and easier to get to the information I want, or describe to others how to get there. I actively avoid videos when searching for "how to"s, rules, etc. But I know other people like videos more - just saying that I would be disappointed if there was important stuff hidden behind videos or audio.
    – bobble
    Aug 1 at 20:36
  • 1
    This "magic wand wish" is to add, not to replace. Anyway, if for any reason there are some original content in video/audio, I would like that they include a transcript.
    – Rubén
    Aug 1 at 20:40
  • 2
    I like this idea, a lot of new users are probably under professional/academic pressure when they join the site. Reading a "wall of text" in the help center is likely to hit them like a brick. Multimedia doesn't solve everything, but it can make things easier for some users. Not everyone learns the same way.
    – bad_coder
    Aug 1 at 23:52
  • 3
    So, let's take one of those help center pages that mods can edit, the help/on-topic page. How would this look like in multimedia? I know youtube clips lend themselves well to 'click here, then there' types of instructions, but how would a youtube clip teach people about what's on/off-topic on a site?
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 2 at 8:11
  • 3
    @Tinkeringbell I hope that the magic wand is wise enough to decide what kind of multimedia resource be good to help to understand each help article. Some sites might include a quiz about the core concepts required to understand the on-topic/off-topic, i.e. if a user don't know intuitively the difference between a web app and a native app or between using and developing one, very hardly they will understand what is on-topic / off-topic on Web Applications. The quiz might point point them to a material that explains that.
    – Rubén
    Aug 2 at 14:33
  • @Tinkeringbell it would be exactly like this Davie504 vid. Slap now! Epic!!
    – bad_coder
    Aug 3 at 3:42
  • What about a small clip like symbol that explains the rules and sits in a top corner of every page? Occasionally it could also give useful tips and hints. Something like: "If you are asking a question, don't forget to google it before asking and don't forget to include a summary of the search results in your question.". If it only works in 10% of the cases, it would be a great improvement.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 24 at 11:16
  • 1
    @Trilarion Are you suggesting Clippy? (related suggestion from 2009 -> meta.stackexchange.com/a/27829/289691? :) What if instead of a clip, the symbol is a flying waffle, a toasted unicorn or a colorful hat ?
    – Rubén
    Aug 24 at 20:59
  • @Rubén Whatever works best, but clippy has a certain nostalgic appeal.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 24 at 22:07
3

Making all users use the Sandbox before posting a challenge on Code Golf and Coding Challenges

We often get questions from new users that are duplicates, are not specified clearly enough, have problems that take the fun out of them, or are simply off-topic, and posting drafts in the Sandbox for Proposed Challenges first helps reduce that a bit. Users are asked to use the Sandbox, but it's not enforced at all.

For this reason, it'd be amazing if, before posting a question not tagged with , a user would be required to submit a link to an answer in the Sandbox that's at least a day old as proof that they've sandboxed their question and gotten reviews on it before posting it. Of course, it's possible to get around this by adding the link to someone else's answer if you want to abuse the system, but if the user in question is acting in good faith, this feature ensures that their question gets at least a little bit of reviewing. That way, we can reduce the number of questions that get closed.

It'd be even better to have a tool to migrate questions from the Sandbox to the main site directly, but of course, that's probably asking for too much.

3
  • 5
    I think there's better ways to handle this. I'm not really sure what exactly those would be, but requiring using the sandbox (especially with a system as hacky as this) sounds like a bad idea. (Discussion) Jul 28 at 19:59
  • @RedwolfPrograms Worldbuilding also has a sandbox and I'd love if more people used it. I do agree it's hacky. Perhaps there is a case to be made for a better type of sandbox.
    – VLAZ
    Jul 29 at 7:25
  • 1
    @VLAZ I 100% would support an official solution for sandboxing, something like a sandbox.[xyz].stackexchange.com or even just a way to mark a meta question as a sandbox and give it some extra features. Considering writing an answer here about sandboxing in general. Jul 29 at 16:19
2

Shared Drive for valuable Google spreadsheets

The top tag in Web Applications is google-sheets, many posts having this tag have links to Google spreadsheets that are shared with anyone with the link to view or to edit. Sometimes that is the best way to show what the OP tried or to help others to reproduce the problem and propose a solution, but over the time the spreadsheets are moved to the trash or deleted. Now that Google have changed the policy for Google Drive storage the risk to loss valuable spreadsheets is bigger.

It would be nice if there is a Shared Drive "owned" by Web Applications were the users with certain privilege level could add Google spreadsheets there. Some sort of Wayback Machine - Internet Archive but for questions' and answers' valuable Google spreadsheets.

I think that it's feasible in the short term that a Community Manager having a Google Workspace account create a Shared Drive and add the Web Applications moderators as Contributors. Then the community could flag the posts having a valuable spreadsheet to be added to the Shared Drive.

Later this could be extended to other tags, starting with other Google Workspace Editors (documents, drawings, forms, presentations) and supported files from third party web applications.

P.S. Stack Overflow also has a google-sheets tag with an large number of posts having links to Google spreadsheets.

2
  • 2
    Hasn't SE's introduction of support for tables solved this to some extent? (Google has been known for discontinuing services, the last example that affected SE was Goodbye, Prettify. Hello highlight.js). So relying on external services might cause the entire tag to be discontinued without warning at some point.
    – bad_coder
    Aug 1 at 23:58
  • 2
    @bad_coder Unfortunately not for most of posts about Google Sheets. In this case the tag is about the external service, if it disappears the tag becomes irrelevant, anyway, let ask the magic wand to make the external service to be perpetual.
    – Rubén
    Aug 2 at 0:54
1

Ask Ubuntu


Posted by user535733 here.

Better integration with other forms of Ubuntu documentation.

Many of the questions that we answer are already addressed in documentation.

But those answers are hard to find, hard to understand for some audiences, of varying quality, and spread among a dozen places I can think of.

So we wind up duplicating a bunch of it here. And then both the original location and the answer here slowly rot, both minimally-maintained and both hard to find.

I would use the magic wand to make the 10 minutes I spend writing an answer ALSO incrementally improve the existing documentation and make that improved documentation easier to find.

As a consequence, we would have better documentation that's updated (instead of languishing), more understandable by a wider audience, and every AskUbuntu answer becomes a more effective contribution to the Ubuntu community.

I realize that's a tall order, and I don't claim to fully see the path to get there from here. Good thing it's a magic wand.

1
  • 4
    As Philippe mentioned he will also read the other post, cross-posting is hardly necessary I think.
    – Luuklag
    Aug 23 at 13:32
-3

I'd like to have the inverse of the existing Convert Answer to Comment function.

Users post answers in comments for several reasons - they can't be voted down, or the answer is not fleshed out enough. Or simple error.

I'd prefer to see that proto-answer moved from comments to Answers, where it can be edited and improved by a wider range of site-users.

The only option now is to delete the comment, which leaves the whole post diminished, especially if that was a valid point, or worse if it was the only answer.

Yes I know there's nothing stopping me swiping the point and posting an answer, but that doesn't build community and rep for the original commenter.

tl-dr: Please can we have "Convert comment to answer" functionality.

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  • 13
    "that doesn't build community and rep for the original commenter." counter-point - the original commented maybe doesn't want rep. I'd often post a comment when I don't think the question is useful to remain as a public Q&A. E.g., it was a typo on OP's part and I close voted it as such but also comment to tell them how to fix it. What I don't want is answers being posted and a useless question remaining around. What I especially don't want is me answering it. And receiving rep for an answer to a question I do not want, doesn't feel really good.
    – VLAZ
    Jul 29 at 6:13
  • 2
    Counterpoint: since one of the differences between comments and answers is that wrong comments can't be downvoted, converting some comments to answers would cause their creators to lose reputation. Better to suggest that the comment author convert to an answer on their own, or paste the comment as a blockquote into a community-wiki answer.
    – rob
    Jul 29 at 14:45
  • 3
    @VLAZ I don't get it - if you're posting an answer, its an answer and goes in the answers. By posting an answer in the comments, you're setting a bad example. Some SE sites would simply delete the comment, but this requested function would instead save it.
    – Criggie
    Jul 29 at 19:18
  • 3
    @Criggie we have a close reason for typos on SO. We have it because we do not want to answer these questions and keep them around. I beg of you, please do not answer them. They are not useful for future visitors. I write a comment to still aid the question asker in fixing it while still leaving the question free to be removed when it is no longer needed.
    – VLAZ
    Jul 29 at 19:22
  • @VLAZ we must be talking at cross-purposes then. These comments aren't improving the answer, so we should stop.
    – Criggie
    Jul 29 at 19:39
  • 2
    I would definitely love for mods to be able to have this! There's so many situations where our users and mods had to spend so much effort trying to get people to convert comments to answers! Jul 29 at 23:05
  • 1
    Yes please, sometimes everyone answers questions in comments! Aug 18 at 4:44
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