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Reposted from the Stack Overflow Blog

Hello everyone – for those who don’t know me yet, I’m Philippe, and I’m the new VP of Community here. Long time listener, first time caller…

I’ve been working with online communities since the days of AOL chat rooms, and have held community roles at Wikipedia and Reddit. You can hear more about my experience and why I’m so excited for this opportunity in this recent podcast episode.

OK, enough about me. I’m going to take you through what the Community Management and Public Platform teams accomplished in Q2 and what to expect during Q3.

Q2 2021 recap

Our Community Management team – directly supporting moderators, curators, and the general user base – is growing and changing! We’ve added two new community managers, have two more starting in August, and have moved one staff member (me) to a VP role. We’re also opening up two positions on Trust and Safety, the sub-team that investigates various threats to the site and behavioral issues. Check out the job postings and apply if you are qualified!

Q2 was a busy time for us. 

On the community project side, we completed a number of initiatives: we reset the community ads program, wrote guidance for mods about how to use the mod tools, and began research into reasons for closed questions. We also rewrote some mod templates that were unclear or outdated. The changes will be rolled out to the public platform soon. Along with projects handled largely by our team, we also supported a number of other initiatives throughout the company, such as the deployment of Collectives and the 2021 Developer Survey. Last but not least, after a successful launch last year, we’re excited to be supporting the 2nd annual “Community-a-thon” for staff right now.

Meanwhile, Public Platform, the product development team that builds features for Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange communities, accomplished the following in Q2:

Q3 2021 Community Management team roadmap

Below are the major initiatives we’ll be focusing on in Q3. 

Q3 2021 Community Management Team roadmap

Community Operations

Moving some support tickets to Community Ops

For the operations team, led by Rosie, one major piece of work that’s happening is that we’re taking over a large support responsibility. For the last half-decade or so, the Stack Overflow support team has been triaging and handling community support emails that really should be handled by community managers. It’s a decent sized lift — about 2,000 a month — and it will require that we update our existing templates as well. 

Three vote closure adaptation

We will also continue our experiments with the three-vote closure adaptation, which allows for three votes on a close/reopen task rather than the customary five. We ran a pilot program for this last quarter, and we’re into an analysis phase at this point, prior to making decisions about where and how to implement the adjustment.

Site life-cycle analysis

I know that many of you will be thrilled to know that we’re looking at site lifecycles – from the beginning of the nascent site in Area 51 through the beta process and into graduation as a “full” site. We’ll be trying to standardize some practices for sites to establish a clean and clear roadmap for new sites. We are also hoping to create a fair and repeatable process for evaluating sites that are in danger of being shut down.  This will include determining what the process should be for having their members join a similar community (while importing their questions and reputation there). A component of this work is evaluating sites that are currently flagged as “beta” and determining whether they should have that label removed.

Trust and Safety

New employee onboarding refresh

We’re updating a ton of documentation for new team members. The “ramp” time to get a new hire to become fully functional as a community-facing Stack employee is a long one, but history tells us that the better organized and carefully crafted the onboarding process, the easier onboarding is for new teammates. Trust and Safety work has traditionally not been an area of focus for us, so Cesar’s team will be helping to update the onboarding process to reflect their work and to give solid advice to those who join the company.

Closed question reasons 

The T&S team is also working on evaluating closed questions and the reasons why they are closed. They’re looking into whether it makes sense to standardize some options for this — for instance, should all sites have an option to close questions for a particular set of reasons? If so, what should those reasons be? What are the requirements to have a question reopened once closed under those reasons? Once this work is done, they will work to create a set of guidelines for closing that are standardized across the network.

Oh, and with a little bit of luck, we will onboard a couple of new community managers to this team as well. 

Curator Support

At the same time, the curator support team, led by Juan, will continue its focus on our moderators and power users. This quarter, they’ll be onboarding two new community managers, in addition to their standard work (mod surveys, swag, mod/staff quarterly meeting), so they will take on only one additional project: mod tenure (the emeritus program), which is a project that looks at the overall arc of tenure for moderators. It also looks at ways to honor those who have done excellent work for the communities they serve for some time who may wish to step down. 

This will likely form the corpus of a “moderator emeritus” program, one which will allow communities to recognize and honor those who have served as moderators, while also giving them a consistent and recognizable stable of mentors for new mods and new users. We will recognize these emeritus moderators with some icon similar to the diamond that mods wear today. They will also retain access to a more limited set of the moderator tools, to allow them to surge in and support existing moderators if needed, but also allow them a graceful transition out of the role.

Q3 2021 Public Platform roadmap

These are our top priorities for Q3.

Q3 2021 Public Platform roadmap

Review queues

We are wrapping up the final phase of this longstanding project by making changes to how posts flow through the various queues. This includes:

  • splitting up the First posts queue into First questions and First answers, so that experienced users can more easily evaluate the quality of new users’ posts.

  • redesigning how closed posts become eligible for reopening.

  • Making it easier for reviewers to take concrete actions in the First questions, First answers, and Late answers queues.

Outdated answers

We are continuing our product-discovery work on Stack Overflow answer quality by conducting experiments related to how we sort answers. We will be testing the effect of sorting by highest score vs. pinning the answer that the question asker viewed as most helpful to the top. This is a long-standing community request that we hope to finally address. We will also be exploring the concept of a Trending sort that weights recent votes more heavily than older votes.

New user onboarding

We are continuing product discovery on how to best guide new users through the process of successfully asking their first questions. We will experiment with the copy shown to new users when asking questions to help them learn about site mechanics and successfully complete their tasks. In addition, we’re conducting extensive research on different ways new users can engage with the Stack Overflow community and get the support and information they need to start off on the right foot.

Stacks editor alpha test

In Q1, we kicked off an alpha test to get feedback from the community on what is needed to bring a new editor experience to the network. Based on the feedback we received, we are making incremental progress on tackling bugs and feature requests.

….and straight on toward morning*

It’s going to be a very full quarter, and I’m particularly excited that in addition to the two new CMs recently hired, we’ll be adding four more to the team. We’re looking both inside and outside the Stack community for qualified candidates – as a reminder, we’ve got the job description and application posted, so please apply if you’re qualified!  

On a personal note, as this blog post is being published, I am finishing the first thirty days of my new role as VP of Community, and I want to particularly thank my team, the whole staff, but especially all the community members who have so patiently answered my questions and given me great ideas and feedback. I look forward to meeting many more of you!

* –(with apologies to Chindraba).

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    "... two more starting in August ...". I am excited! Jul 30 at 15:32
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    @RandomPerson- so are we!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 15:59
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    Glad to see the action items for Moderator Lifecycle and Site Lifecycle. Will the Mod lifecycle discovery take into account mods who resigned or did not stand for re-election in the past for 'good' reasons? Or is it future-focussed? Also raises the issue of mods who their community were glad to see the back of, and/or mods that were removed from office for reasons (don't envy you squaring that circle.). However IMO it should include mods that resigned 'in good standing' in the past (or were removed for age reasons that no longer apply). I'm not touching the more controversial issues. Jul 30 at 16:11
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    @ColeValleyGirl - good question. The answer is: I dont know. It's in a discovery phase at this point, so I dont know what the final recommendation will be.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 16:21
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    "We will recognize these emeritus moderators with some icon similar to the diamond that mods wear today." Cool! Jul 30 at 18:23
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    "Stacks Editor improvements" comes under which one of the product pillars? Jul 30 at 18:31
  • OK, one thing in particular stood out to me: "SWAG". It all seems on-track, just waiting for a blog to go with. Jul 30 at 19:46
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    @randomperson grow and scale, I think. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:18
  • @rogueant- come on, and blow the surprise?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:19
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    @Philippe The blog has a heading that says "Q3 2021 Pubic Platform roadmap" Jul 31 at 11:02
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    @DavidPostill Of course it would. Of COURSE none of the eleven proofreaders caught it. Sigh. Thank you! Fixing. Might just add “attention to detale” to a resume now. Just to complete the fun.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 12:12
  • @Philippe Make you spell "detale" correctly on your CV ;) Jul 31 at 12:25
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    @DavidPostill that was the point. True story, it happens at least once every time I post a job. Someone calls themselves detail oriented and misses something huge on their own résumé. The only thing worse than That is when they don’t bother with a cover letter. We Function in writing, people!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 19:38
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    Random question: Why are the images not uploaded in i.stack.imgur.com? Aug 1 at 12:07
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    Yeah I actually didn’t create that one. It came out of the pubplat team, but I will ask why that line item is different.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 1 at 17:42
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As those in the Tavern may have seen realtime, I was browsing the blog with images disabled, which... led me to this sight:

Q3 2021 Community Management team roadmap | Below are the major initiatives we'll be focusing on in Q3. (blank space)

This was slightly confusing - being presented with a large block of blank space - but I eventually realized that I had disabled images on the blog, and I re-enabled them to see the images in the post.

Continuing on my tradition of asking for alt text on Loop posts, can you please provide descriptions for the images used in the blog posts - or, better, turn them into tables - for better accessibility?


(Addendum - I see Catija has added them into the post here, which is great. Can those be added to the blog post itself as well, please - or, ideally, be replaced with alt text that can serve as a replacement for the image itself if necessary?)

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    As a developer, I think there should be tests that are run before putting any content into "production", and that viewing a post with images turned off should be one of the "tests" run before publishing blog content. Surely it was spell-checked before it was published. Why shouldn't it also be "accessibility checked"? I know, I may be insensitive to your love of repeating yourself over and over, but think of the greater good :)
    – ColleenV
    Jul 30 at 15:46
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    I plead mea culpa! My first time publishing to our blog, and first time using Wordpress in YEARS :-). I'll do better next time, and yes, I'll get the alt text moved over.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 15:50
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I noticed that the trust and safety role requirements are back on "3-5 years in a similar online safety role within an organization with millions of users" - could we have a alternative requirement for someone in the community (aka 3-5 years Stack Overflow or Exchange network experience as a moderator or high rep user (>2,500)). Also vaguely remember the "millions of users" requirement was relaxed as a little... unrealistic (some current company excluded). Could this have a relook?

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    I have instructed everyone involved to not be slavish to those criteria. They should form a sense of the type of person we are after, not be a checklist to be satisfied. If a candidate has a similar set of experiences or other distinguishing criteria, we would take a look.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:27
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Moving some support tickets to Community Ops

This sounds like a great improvement to the internal workflow. Will it change anything from the user (or moderator) point of view, or will we still use the same process to submit staff contact tickets?

Three vote closure adaptation

I know you've heard this concern a lot, but once again: some sites want three-vote closure and some sites want to stick with five-vote closure. You won't change any sites to three-vote closure without the mods/community explicitly asking for it ... right?

Site life-cycle analysis

This is excellent news! There's so many pain points in the site life cycle, probably because so many of the processes haven't been updated much since the network grew from 20 sites to 200 sites. There used to be clear criteria for when a site would get shut down, when it would graduate, etc., but not much has been clear on this front for ... years. (Like when some sites graduated with essentially zero activity, apparently as part of an effort to graduate a bunch of sites that did deserve it, but without defining sensible criteria.)

The last few sites that have been shut down, it's been basically because of failed elections, nobody willing to step up to moderate the community. Other sites haven't been shut down but their elections have almost failed, ending without a voting process because of too few candidates, or with low rep/activity users stepping up to moderate just because they had mod experience from elsewhere on the network and nobody else was running for mod. Maybe ways to increase election participation could be something for this team to consider - perhaps by clarifying what it means to be a mod (there's a bunch of help pages and blog posts, but many of them are way out of date, too focused on SO, or don't really explain what the job involves). Some sites have done meta posts about what it's like to be a mod on that specific community; maybe you could create a help centre page (working together with actual moderators) for that? It could come in a few different versions: one for SO, one for beta sites, one for middle-ranking sites, ... I don't know how you'd define the different "levels" of sites, but that's probably something you'll be looking at anyway in this life-cycle work. Or it could be directly editable by the mods of the given site, starting from some template(s).

New employee onboarding refresh

Again, sounds good for the internal workflow. I guess the CM team is still suffering from the loss of institutional knowledge a year and a half ago, so it'll help to get more of that stuff documented.

Closed question reasons

I'm less happy about this one. It's true that the standard close reasons don't always fit well to an individual site's needs, but individual sites have already learned to fit their needs around the existing close reasons, and changing them is going to mess up a lot of workflow and require new discussions, decisions, and headaches, including on meta sites that don't necessarily have enough activity to get clear decisions made. Please be careful and think about the effects, on sites at all levels, of changing close reasons.

This has already happened when close reason texts changed across the network. I've spent a lot of words on meta arguing the importance of the "primarily" in the POB close reason - the fact that some level of subjectivity and opinion is OK, different levels on different sites, and each site can define its own bar for what counts as "primarily" opinion-based, the bar being different on say Philosophy SE from Stack Overflow - and now it seems that all those words, which were used to shape some policies, were wasted or need changing.

mod tenure (the emeritus program)

A way of honouring former moderators needs to be handled extremely carefully, possibly even on a case-by-case basis. Some former moderators are in good standing with the community, and some are not, but it gets even more complicated: some stepped down in good standing and later became less good-standing; some applied for reinstatement and were blocked; some might be in good standing on their own site but ineligible to run in elections due to behaviour on other sites; ... so many special cases that they probably outnumber the "normal" cases. Also, much of this information about specific mods might be currently private but would become more public if everyone can see who gets emeritus status and who doesn't, so it has the potential to cause more drama and gossip, "why didn't this person get emeritus status", "that person shouldn't get emeritus status", and so on - much worse than gossip around mods stepping down in the first place, which could be for any number of reasons including tiredness of duties, whereas not honouring a former mod suggests something worse is involved.

Review queues

A nitpick: earlier in the post, you said "Review Queues, our system for handling problematic posts". This isn't all that review queues are! Two or three of the queues are arguably for handling problematic posts, but two of them are for handling new posts, problematic or not, and one of them is for handling edits. I'd suggest something like "Review Queues, our system for enabling community moderation of posts" instead.

About the actual changes, I don't have much to say. Streamlining how closed questions can get reopened is good, I've already seen that. Splitting First Posts into questions and answers is interesting; would the answers part be merged with the existing Late Answers queue?

Outdated answers
New user onboarding
Stacks editor alpha test

I don't have anything useful to say about these. The outdated answers thing could be either very good or very bad IMO, so I'm waiting to see what will actually happen.

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    Number of votes to close is a site setting. I have no interest in making this a network-wide change and pushing it to sites that feel five is appropriate.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 18:52
  • @Catija Thanks for confirming :-) Jul 30 at 18:56
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    I am but @catija’s humble servant. And since she owns that piece of work, it would take a ton to get me to overrule her. So there’s your answer. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:22
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    Moving support tickets: No, no change on your end. Just different folks responding. Site lifecycle: some of our most experienced CMs are guiding us through this. I'll share your concerns though. Closed questions and emeritus: your concerns are noted, and i'll make sure they are remembered as risks.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 7:58
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With regards to the job postings:

I see you are looking for people either in the US or the UK. What is the thought behind that? To me personally it would make a lot of sense to also hire people in other timezones. For example there are many users from the Asian continent, having CMs from that region might make sense as to reduce response times all over the board.

But perhaps I'm missing any (major) issues that would come up with that?

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    It probably has something to do with SO already having a business presence in both the US and UK (but not elsewhere), and legal/tax concerns with regard to that.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 20:24
  • @V2Blast could be, but Ayo was from a whole different continent, so the trouble in doing such a thing can't be that bad.
    – Luuklag
    Jul 30 at 22:38
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    Look for that to update in for next couple of days. We just got things set up to expand the list of countries we can recruit and hire from. The ticket to update the posts is already in.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:26
  • @Philippe, do you have any timeline on when to expect those updates? I just checked the job postings you linked in your question and they still are listed as UK / US remote
    – Luuklag
    Aug 5 at 13:12
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    @Luuklag Updated now. :-)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 8 at 14:09
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Unlike the previous quarterly roadmaps, this one was posted by Philippe Beaudette instead of Teresa Dietrich (both here on MSE and on The Overflow blog). Will this be the norm going forward?


Correction (see the tag) Q1 and Q2 2020 were posted by Teresa Dietrich. Since then, Q3 2020 through Q2 2021 were posted by Sarah Chipps. My confusion regarding the timeline was caused by the State of the Stack Q1 2021 and Q2 2021 posts, which also address some aspects in the roadmaps.

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    I'm sorry to be asking this but routine is important to me. I take interest in the quarter roadmaps and since Philippe and Teresa have different personalities and styles I like to know what to expect.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 30 at 18:24
  • And before that Sara. And before that we did it ourselves 😁. Change happens
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 31 at 3:21
  • @JourneymanGeek were there roadmaps before 2020 Q1?
    – bad_coder
    Jul 31 at 3:25
  • Well was more referring to blog posts and the loop in general
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 31 at 3:26
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    To be honest, we haven’t yet discussed distribution of labor around this. I would suspect for that a while it’s gonna be a little bit ad hoc, but if I were a gambling man (love ya Vegas!) I would lay money on more and more of this work coming to me. State of the stack I think will remain solidly Teresa’s. Again, this is just speculation but it’s pretty well informed.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 5:24
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    @Philippe I also say this because it's nice having posts from upper management (they've been spoiling us). If you can try to persuade Prashanth to post after he gets a break from frying big fish.
    – bad_coder
    Jul 31 at 7:13
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    @bad_coder - stay tuned. Very soon. :-)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 31 at 7:58
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    @bad_coder I lay claim to publishing the first roadmaps back in the day (starting in 2017!), but only to meta (where the action is) not the blog. ;)
    – Joe Friend
    Aug 12 at 15:57
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[We will be ]splitting up the First posts queue into First questions and First answers, so that experienced users can more easily evaluate the quality of new users' posts.

How will the review badges be affected? Will all progress towards the Custodian, Reviewer and Steward badges be lost or will they be transferred to one of those queues?

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