30

Twice this week, I heard some permutation on the phrase "if only [they (mods, staff)] knew that we...."

In the first case, it was "if only the staff knew how much time we spend on sock puppet investigations". In the second, it was "If only the mods knew how many projects we have running at any given time, and that ALL of them are the most important thing in someone's life."

That made me think:

  • What's the one thing you wish someone (mods, staff, community) knew about what you do here?
  • Alternatively, what's the one thing that you know about a DIFFERENT role, and wish everyone else knew? (i.e., "Hey, did you know that when they become staff, they're all required to prostrate themselves at the altar of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?")
9
  • 9
    I wish to clarify that the bit about the Flying Spaghetti Monster is false news. only my team is still required to prostrate to its noodle appendages, and that's just cuz I'm old school like that.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 15:53
  • Multiple answers for multiple things or do I chunk them together? :D
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 16:22
  • I dunno, what's the standard?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 16:54
  • 3
    Oh, it depends on the site :D. In this case - I'd feel they're separate items, and should be voted in on their own merits , but that's one of those not everyone agrees on.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 16:56
  • 8
    @JourneymanGeek well, question clearly says "one thing" so posting several answers is likely the better way. Aug 21, 2021 at 18:25
  • 2
    Yanno, it might be nice to have staff in on this
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 19:55
  • 3
    @JourneymanGeek - I agree and have so invited my team and some others.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 3:27
  • 1
    Thanks for posting this question, it's great. I have a lot from Wikipedia Essays, e.g. Say 'thank you', Assume good faith, There is no common sense, On sarcasm. Many have been answered previously. Aug 23, 2021 at 9:40
  • 6
    It would be nice if anyone on the staff seemed to remember that Monica exists.
    – Andrew
    Aug 23, 2021 at 21:47

17 Answers 17

54

That network curators have lives too

Including close/reopen voters, reviewers, editors, userscript creators/maintainers, and everyone else involved in keeping the network afloat from the community's side.

That every time a change is made to the UI, or how review queues work, or how votes are counted, you name it - it inevitably breaks something, and someone has to fix it.

That every time an undiscussed change is dropped live without prior discussion, countless hours of lives are lost in petitioning for something to be reversed or changed.

That for every hour of developer time saved on not implementing (or stalling) an improvement, many more hours are lost on the part of volunteers of the network.

That every decision made has a direct impact on those who care about the network, for the better, or for the worse.

Please, please do remember all that, always.

3
  • 2
    If you addup all the hours, it's probably years or whole lifetimes. And it's not only curators but also readers (copy code button for example).
    – Trilarion
    Aug 23, 2021 at 10:21
  • 2
    It's not only time, but also energy. And this happens even if the changes are good. (in the sense that they don't immediately have to be changed again) Listen to (or read the transcript of) Shog's brief case against "moving cheese" (starting around 20:14). He neatly concludes: "We don't want to expend energy to accomplish a task we already know how to do." Aug 25, 2021 at 7:14
  • 1
    @Discretelizard so true. I like the time measurement a bit more, though, as energy is something you can replace (get yourself a nice dinner - and voila, you are replenished), but the time spent on trying to figure out how the changed UI works, or the time wasted on editing posts because you just can't unsee issues with them (that lackluster quality checks allowed in the first place), etc, etc - you just aren't getting it back, like, ever... That said, in the end, wasted energy is wasted time, so it's just as important. And I wish folks in the company remembered that. Aug 25, 2021 at 8:54
41

I may be repeating some of the other answers, but if there's one thing I think everybody here (myself first and foremost) should remember:

Assume good intentions.

It used to be in the old Be Nice policy and many think it should be brought back to the new Code of Conduct.

  • If a change announced by a staff member broke your workflow, please keep in mind they didn't do it on purpose. (And often they're just the messenger.)
  • If a community member complains about a system or policy change, please keep in mind they often feel emotionally attached to their community and may have invested more time in it than you in your job at Stack Exchange, let alone the project you're working on.
  • Users are human (exceptions noted) and make mistakes. They're not targeting you when downvoting/commenting, they're here to curate content. They even may have lost their keys.
  • We're slowly moving into an era where the regulars here have more Stack Exchange experience than most staff members. Please give them some time to learn the ropes, we can only expect them to be Shogs within 6-8 years, not 6-8 weeks ...
4
  • 22
    It took Shog 9 iterations to get that far ...
    – rene
    Aug 21, 2021 at 19:37
  • 5
    By my count, I am entering my 6th week of my new role here. This six to eight weeks deadline is going to be one that wakes me from my cold, sweat drenched nightmares, I can tell. :-P
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 3:21
  • I have to say thanks again. I have only learnt this from your post. - from someone you gave a hand in ELL Aug 23, 2021 at 9:51
  • Best: We're slowly moving into an era where the regulars here have more Stack Exchange experience than most staff members. Please give them some time to learn the ropes, we can only expect them to be Shogs within 6-8 years, not 6-8 weeks ... +1
    – John K. N.
    Aug 26, 2021 at 8:53
30

The affordances of the tooling have a bigger influence on how we behave than the rules or their enforcement.

The wording of a system message, the appearance of an icon (or, the use of an icon vs a text link), the steps needed to perform an action... All of these things influence and alter how we interact minute by minute, day by day.

When a behavior is common or esp pervasive, when a necessary action is routinely not taken or done carelessly... At best, limited influence can be had with new policies or moderation; far more effective results can be had via small tweaks to the tooling itself, if taken with care.

2
  • 6
    Excellent. This is valuable perspective, and in my opinion is something that far too many in community management have failed to consider (including myself) instead opting to go tilting at windmills.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 6:07
  • 4
    "far more effective results can be had via small tweaks to the tooling itself" - on the flip side (or perhaps this is part of your point), small tweaks to the tooling can have far-reaching and unintended consequences, if made without due care. As I explained here, changing "primarily opinion-based" to "opinion-based" in the wording of a close reason may seem like a small change, but that word "primarily" was used to justify and shape at least one site's policies. Or the recent changes to user profiles, for a more conspicuous example. Aug 27, 2021 at 4:28
25

What's the one thing you wish someone (mods, staff, community) knew about what you do here?

My impression is some staff sometimes forget, or perhaps don't even realize, there's a wide variety of members who use the site in a multitude of different ways (note a few of your recent questions have helped to illuminate some of these diverse aspects about us). Since many staff don't usually do much, if any, asking/answering, curation, moderation, or other such tasks, they might not know very much about how the many features of the site's software are used to help in these tasks (fortunately, events like The 2021 Community-a-thon has begun! help to rectify this).

I mostly get this impression when substantial changes are made, especially removal of features, without an appropriate explanation of why they are being made and without apparent proper consideration of how useful they are to at least some of the members of the community. If this were checked beforehand, then it might be determined that it's better to instead alter how these changes are going to be made, or even to not make some of these changes at all. At least, if why the changes are being made was properly explained, the community can respond more directly to describe how they consider these reasons are not quite correct, or how the changes could be handled differently while minimizing any negative consequences to us. At the minimum, the explanations help us to better understand the reasoning, with this, I believe, also then making it easier for us to accept these changes.

I realize it's faster and simpler to just make changes rather than having to write a post here beforehand explaining them, gathering feedback, and responding to some of the comments or answers. Nonetheless, unless there's an urgent deadline or something else like that, I hope the staff are usually permitted, and even generally encouraged, to make and deal with these posts since I believe it helps to reduce the chances of poor choices or mistakes being made, not to mention often minimizing negative feelings and interactions.

The company has generally been doing fairly well with this since about the start of 2020, such as with the various posts tagged with product-discovery, but two recent examples where, in my opinion, this wasn't done very well are Some changes to the profile while we make it responsive and We’ve removed the option to disable the fixed top bar (although Aaron did at least explain the reasons in the second post, and his in between post of Additional profile refinements was much better). I hope and trust these are fairly isolated examples that won't happen very often in the future.

24

Not everyone knows what you know

I'll admit this is something that has been kicking around in my head for... well... years, as something to write about but I've never really had a good place to put it. This is one of those things that I think applies to everyone who interacts with anyone else and is the cause of so much frustration in our lives.

You might think, "This is a question and answer site - this is an obvious thing that everyone knows. Why the heck are you mentioning it here?" - well... It's because I think that this is something that is obvious in some ways but not in others. While it might be obvious in the sense that if everyone knew everything, this network of sites wouldn't exist - it's less obvious in many, many ways.

Point of view failure

My kids have each done something that I think we don't always grow out of completely. Imagine a 2-year-old holding a photograph. He holds it up facing himself while you're across from him. You can only see the back of the photo. He queries, "What's this?". You can't answer the question because you can't see the image. He's assuming that you can see what he can see - that you have shared information.

We see this in question asking all of the time. Someone asks a question but doesn't give enough context for anyone to do more than guess at what the answer might be. The asker knows the situation they're in so well that they failed to set the stage so we can all share the experience and help them solve their problem. These questions often get closed for that very reason and, it can be somewhat understandable if the asker struggles to understand why their question isn't clear - it's clear to them - they don't understand what's missing.

At this point, I'll turn the example on its head because, well... if you've used any of these sites long enough, it becomes obvious to you what's needed to make a question clear so that others can answer it successfully. You know in a quick read-through what's missing and what needs to be added. Maybe you even think, "How can someone possibly think this is a good question?"

Two things need to happen here - the asker needs to think about the point of view of the people reading their question and realize that context is necessary, the readers need to help the asker understand what's needed to improve the question... and both parties need to do this without being cross with the other for not knowing what they know.

So while you - with a two-year-old - know that you can't see the image since it's facing away from you, the kid doesn't. You don't get angry at them for this - you find a way to see the image. You invite them to turn it around so that you can see it. You teach them that you can't see what they can. As we grow, we learn, "If I want someone to tell me about a photo, I need to show them the image", and so we do it reflexively. In this same way, people who successfully ask questions learn to ask them well - eventually.

Intuitive vs learned knowledge

One of my top sites is English Language Learners. It's a particularly interesting site because it's a place where I, as a native English speaker, have to be very thoughtful in answering questions. The thing is, while I can speak the language fluently, I don't necessarily understand English linguistically, so it can be easy to end up writing answers that boil down to, "I don't know, it just is.". But many English learners actually understand English better than I do. They can explain why we use seemingly synonymous words very differently, how sentence structure works, and how we order adjectives - things that I do naturally without any thought.

It's not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where you don't realize that you're relying on intuitive knowledge but it's important to realize that not everyone has your experiences and may not have that intuition. I use English grammatical structure as an example here because I think it's a relatively obvious one - if you've been saying "the big blue house" since childhood and have never thought about why we don't say "the blue big house" (assuming we're not talking about an azure prison) but people who are learning English as an adult may need the assistance of a list to tell them which order to put adjectives in so that they sound natural.

It's not uncommon to run into situations where someone keeps asking "OK, but why" - and those are likely times where we've assumed that someone had a similar intuitive knowledge pool - but they don't. We should take a moment to step back and think, "Is it possible that there's some knowledge I take for granted that someone else may not have?" and then endeavor to address that - often times, you'll eventually get to an, "Oh, I see what I was missing now!" - for both the asker and the answerer.

And, the thing is, these can be some of the most fascinating answers - ones that dig into those things that experts in something may have forgotten or never understood since they accepted facts without questioning them or digging for understanding.

Differences in expertise

As a (relatively) non-technical person who works daily on a network full of very technical people (both internally and externally), it's not uncommon that I have to ask people for more details. Someone may explain something to me and my response is often "I'm sure that made total sense but I only understood half the words you used." That doesn't mean I'm an idiot or that I'm incapable of understanding - it just means that I need a more basic explanation so that I can better understand it... and that's OK! It may take a bit more time but if you do it well, that person may learn something so that the next time, you don't have to simplify it quite so much.

Where this relates to the network and the platform is in answers, often. One thing that we're all aware of is that the content here is supposed to help people at a wide variety of skill levels. Another thing is the concept that an answer here isn't intended to only help the specific asker. As such, I encourage answerers to think about who is reading a post and consider that they may not have the same level of expertise. This doesn't mean you have to "dumb it down" but it does mean being aware of where you can either simplify what you write or link to resources to expand on concepts that may not be obvious to those who come later.

This is something I often have to remind myself about when I'm posting on Meta - particularly here on MSE. If a discussion is a reprisal of an older one or refers to situations from the past, I frequently will share links and I avoid phrases that may leave people feeling like they missed something important such as "as you likely remember". A great answer brings people along with them. If it's complex, having some help to get people up to speed who may not understand everything is important.


There are likely many more such cases that fall into this statement - I admit that it's broad - but I think the main thing that comes from this is a sense of grace ("courteous goodwill") for everyone involved.

  1. When you recognize that not everyone knows what you know, you can take questions for more detail as exactly that - honest requests for more help and sharing of information - rather than interpreting them as someone doubting your explanation, which can leave you feeling defensive.

  2. When you recognize that not everyone knows what you know, you can work to explain more in advance, which may save others the time of asking for more help and prevent the risk of point 1.

  3. When you recognize that not everyone knows what you know, you can learn more yourself by taking the time to do point 2 rather than relying on intuitive knowledge.

I don't think there's a single group that couldn't benefit from this when interacting with any other group.

  • As staff, we need to remember that the community members can't see discussions going on internally and don't know when something is in the works or on a backlog unless we make some sort of public statement. While we may have discussed why we're making a decision internally, this is opaque to those outside the company, so effort should be made to explain decisions with as much detail as can be given.
  • Staff should also support moderators and communities by making certain that things staff know are possible are also known to moderators and communities.
  • As community members, it's important to remember that staff aren't able to see everything going on everywhere and that, if something needs to be addressed, we rely on you to bring it to our attention.
  • The same is true when it comes to community members and moderators - mods on many sites can't read every question and every comment. The mods rely on the community to discuss concerns on meta, flag content and sometimes take the time to explain those flags.

And these are in addition to examples in the sections above. Good communication relies upon ensuring that everyone's speaking the same language, has the same context, and understands some of the history (particularly the "why") - when you go into a situation assuming everyone knows what you know, communication will fail and someone will get left behind.

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    Thanks for this, Catija. I found myself requesting an extra measure of grace the other day for someone, and wondered where I stole the phrase. It's not in my typical repertoire. I suspect I just figured out from whence it came.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 7:38
  • 1
    I think this also comes into play when people get frustrated that they have to make the same arguments over and over for people who have never heard them. (Why did you delete my comments? Why aren’t people forced to explain why they downvoted my post?) We keep looking for solutions like more documentation or new user quizzes, when the only viable one sometimes is to step back when things are feeling sisyphean.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 24, 2021 at 14:45
  • 5
    @ColleenV Exactly! Yes! It's easy to see people running into the same problem over and over and feel like you've already explained it dozens of times and you don't want to have to explain it again... but it's easy to forget that (in most cases) the person you're interacting with now, wasn't the person you were interacting with all of those other times - they still need a hand and we should remember that. :)
    – Catija StaffMod
    Aug 24, 2021 at 15:00
23

The one thing I wish more people remembered is “Accessibility is really important”. I think a lot of people agree with that, but often overlook it when they’re making design choices or publishing information. I wonder why accessibility checkers aren’t as ubiquitous as spelling or grammar checkers. Providing basic accessibility isn’t that complicated.

I am tired of seeing [enter image description here], and I wonder if the only reason the interface makes it so easy to not fill in a description is that few normally-sighted people have ever experienced what it’s like to try to access a web site with a screen reader. I doubt many people with full use of both their hands have tried to navigate the web page they’re programming with voice commands.

Also, I wish folks would think twice about adding things to a web page that need tooltips to explain what they are, which excludes everyone browsing on a phone or tablet from being able to easily access that information. Would it have been difficult to change the mysterious 🔵 on the review queues to a clickable ℹ️ instead of burying its meaning in a tooltip?

7
  • 6
    I'm Guilty. I forgot about accessibility, despite being reminded by Yaakov, on my first blog post. I'll try not to forget again, because as you say, it's important and I know better. The only defense I can offer is that I spent considerable time getting the darned thing to post-status, and there were a thousand details to consider along the way. And I missed that one. But that leads to the issue of interface design. We (and the good folks at Wordpress) should be designing that into tools, so that we can't forget. it needs to be a checklist item (and will be for me, now).
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 6:18
  • 3
    @Philippe to be fair, accessibility checks should be as easy as spell checking but they aren’t. That they aren’t is more of a collective failure of attention than any one individual’s failure.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:54
  • 1
    IMHO the post/edit interface should flatly reject "enter image description here" with "your post can't contain that content." And then also reject empty alt text, because that's the next thing people will try.
    – Kevin
    Aug 30, 2021 at 17:09
  • 1
    @Kevin I don’t know if I want to twist people’s arms that hard. I would like to see the prompt explain why it’s important to fill in the description and maybe some guidance on writing a good one. Maybe the default text should be “If whoever added this image cared about accessibility, there would be a description here.”
    – ColleenV
    Aug 30, 2021 at 17:34
  • Just for information, do you have some examples of image descriptions done right? Aug 31, 2021 at 19:01
  • @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q I use the tips at accessibility.huit.harvard.edu/describe-content-images (except for the “purely decorative” bit — posts shouldn’t have fluff!)
    – ColleenV
    Aug 31, 2021 at 19:04
  • One thing I need to investigate though is if screen readers treat emoji as their names or as images. I assumed names but, thinking about it, I may be wrong.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 31, 2021 at 19:12
17

I wish that mods would remember that staff are often balancing multiple constituencies. Community managers, for instance, must:

  • interpret the desire of the communities here (several of which may have different answers to the same question, and many of which also have minority opinions in addition to their main opinions that they provide us, and many of which have to be presented to decision makers),
  • add in the wisdom of their own experience (that is one of the things that we hire them for after all),
  • research and apply industry best practices (because we would be foolish to not track them and apply them where reasonable),
  • while also "managing up" to their managers and educating the VP on sometimes rudimentary (and sometimes highly complex) areas of site functionality or community dynamics.

Now, of course, a fair response to that is "that's what you pay them for", and you're right - but being an honest broker for all of those constituencies is HARD. Especially when they have a stubborn VP who insists that they should also bring a recommendation and not just report on what those people are suggesting.

CM'ing - indeed, every staff job here - is hard. The sheer fact that your particular opinion didn't get absorbed into the final draft of something doesn't mean it didn't get carried to the decision makers - it just means that for any one of a number of different reasons, decision makers didn't choose to go with it, and CMs aren't always able to return and tell you why, if they are even looped in. If you ask, they'll usually try to find out, but please remember that they have a finite number of hours in their day, and (especially right now) they are often working at more than 100% of capacity. So be gentle, please.

(Oh, and in the case of some of my external hires, they're trying to do all of this while also learning the norms here. The on-ramp for a community manager hired from outside is about 5 months, I think, to be reasonably functional, during which they would ideally be shielded from seriously complex things - but when the team is as low-staffed as we currently are, it's all-hands-on-deck, and Rosie, Cesar, Juan, and I are doing CM work as well. I'm not quite able to judge community-hires yet to figure out what that on-ramp looks like, but it's longer than you would think, as I believe all of them would attest to.)

6
  • 6
    I second this, but think that it applies not only to mods, but to everyone in each of the different communities as well. Also, some member of the userbase (ie: Meta users) are very vocal, and very knowledgeable (and very opinonated); Some members (non-registered) are almost never heard from here, but still constitute the overwhelming majority of users; Others (new users) have legimitate needs that are easy for more experienced community-members to forget. So "communities" above is not just different sites, but rather groups of users with tremendously different experiences and needs.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 6:54
  • 10
    The fact that they're working over 100% capacity - is well, cause the team got gutted, both in small and large numbers. While I'm glad its getting better now but It was pretty bad.I'm sure each time "it seems like the right thing for the good of the company" - but it kinda ended up making things worse for the folks who actually work on, and use the network. It also probably doesn't help that your team was at its last peak with a much smaller community that it grew with. I'd say hindsight is 2020, but the folks somewhere further back on time timeline kinda... messed up, a lot.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 9:37
  • 1
    From personal experience as just a Regular User™, I think this is an excellent point to make, especially when expanded to cover all users as Yaakov says. I'm one of those vocal users, particularly when it comes to my main site, and it can be very easy to forget that the staff aren't only here to listen to our crazy ideas, and that you all work as hard as you can to improve this network, and each individual site in it Aug 22, 2021 at 18:30
  • 3
    "...they are often working at more than 100% of capacity..." I agree with all the other stuff but this detail I think needs to be corrected soon one way or another. Working at >100% of capacity is really bad in the long term. It can only be an exception for a short period of time.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 23, 2021 at 10:13
  • 3
    @Trilarion - I totally agree. It is sub-optimal, and we've addressed it by hiring 4 (going on 6) new staff. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 15:28
  • I think a large number of mods (especially those that hang out in the TL) are very much aware of the fact that CM's have a difficult job that manages various stake-holders and at times have to be the messenger of decisions they personally disagree with. That said, not everyone knows what you know, as Catija noted, so I nevertheless appreciate the reminder. Aug 25, 2021 at 7:32
15

Mods have day jobs 😁.

I mean, I do tend to do modding in little chunks, so it seems like I'm always around, and I keep strange hours so no one knows when I sleep.

But if it's something that can be a flag, or isn't that important, it can wait till I get to it. I also generally don't have time for 1-1 conversations.

On the other hand, when there's a big thing I want to get done (and dear $deity there's a backlog in general), or something that takes a time commitment, sometimes I can't do as much as I'd like to.

On SU, at an old job, I cleared out a tag over lunch breaks over a 3 month period, sneaking in 2-3 edits on a free hour. It's not particularly a burden.

On my user's end... I'm happy to help when I have the time, but sometimes, I don't have the time, or the spoons to deal with stuff, as much as I'd like to.

On the company's end - we're coming out of a period where y'all were seriously understaffed. I think the mod community was fairly understanding, and tried their best to try to share the load.

That said, when we're slow, or grumpy or stuff gets stalled, we're probably trying to balance half a dozen things, and sometimes can't do all the stuff we want to. I know there's a few initiatives that are going a little slower than anyone would like but... augh... real life.

14

I realise that this idea might be unpopular with some people, but remember that if a large majority of votes indicates that some new-fangled SE policy appears to be stupid, then perhaps SE management should consider the contributions of the many very intelligent and considered opinions shown here.

3
  • 4
    "Listen to Your Community..." (to those wondering why I omitted next part of the title saying "...But Don't Let Them Tell You What to Do" - this is because that omitted part is already followed by the company with the utmost diligence)
    – gnat
    Aug 22, 2021 at 22:37
  • 9
    I suppose it would be wiser for me to ignore this one. That's what conventional wisdom would say to do. Instead, I will take a position that may (although I hope won't) surprise you... I agree. But I will caution with this: I don't believe in slavishly counting votes. There are times when I believe one must make a decision to proceed, even if a position is unpopular. But that should be the exception, not the rule, and should be a position that is arrived at with much study and deliberation - which includes listening (and considering the contributions) of the many smart people here.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 6:04
  • 11
    @Philippe "There are times when I believe one must make a decision to proceed, even if a position is unpopular." One way of checking if the decision is good is requiring a good reason for an unpopular decision. That means that if you cannot write down clear arguments why the unpopular solution is better than the popular one you might be in danger of making an error.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 23, 2021 at 10:18
13

I'm going to sneakily answer the title that asks "What's one thing you wish we remembered", because I don't have great inspiring things to say about 'what I do here' that need to be known.

But there is something I would like to see remembered, namely that sometimes, there's something to say for having fun things too. This site used to host swag contests (haven't seen one in a very long time) and all sites every year have winter bash... except that winter bash may have been become a bit boring lately too, see e.g. this comment (that I happen to fully agree with):

As an aside, I would love to hear suggestions from people that have nothing to do with hats. This was the 8th year we've done the same thing with different triggers and to be honest, I turned them off this year because I've gotten kind of bored with the idea. There's got to be something else fun and interesting we can do at the end of the year that isn't just repeating the same thing over and over. Be creative and don't be tied to the idea of "we must do hats again next year" - maybe if we have something really cool we don't have to... – animuson

I think both winter bash and the swag contests here often provided a well-needed outlet. Both moderators and community members are often busy making sure these sites are valuable hosts of knowledge. Fun offers a break from that. I would like you to know that it may be time for new fun again.

11
  • 4
    Noted. I have the same feeling. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 17:17
  • 6
    I thought that last year's winterbash was fun. Hidden game. Special hat. White hat hacking. Trivia. Awesome lead developer...
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 18:19
  • 4
    @YaakovEllis It certainly had fun elements! I also really loved the unicorn quest. My beef is mainly with hats always being... hats, and the rest just being stuff on the side.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 18:26
  • 1
    Last year's Winter Bash was new and exciting for me because it was my first :D
    – bobble
    Aug 21, 2021 at 18:35
  • 1
    While it wasn't the reason I stuck around, the first year/top user swag I got was kinda appreciated... My mom's threatening to burn that shirt tho :D
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 19:15
  • 4
    I'd like to second this - and also caution readers about fixating too much on the particular examples you gave. While there's nothing wrong with "mandatory fun time" events like swag giveaways or 'bashes, I believe there's a fundamental need for playfulness and levity in everyday activities: this is primarily a venue for textual communication after all, we don't get to see the smiles on the faces of those we converse with, the winkle in their eyes... A bit of extra effort is needed to share the joy in our work that brings us together!
    – Shog9
    Aug 22, 2021 at 16:41
  • 1
    @Shog9 "a fundamental need for playfulness and levity in everyday activities"... now that's true wishful thinking on a post asking for wishes, I guess. While 'be nice' still said to bring a sense of humor, the current CoC says to be 'careful with jokes'... and to be honest, that seems an accurate reflection of a change in zeitgeist that will probably make your wish... a wish and nothing more. Even 'mandatory fun time' comes with grouches these days.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 18:41
  • 1
    We could do easterbunny ears next year ;)
    – Luuklag
    Aug 23, 2021 at 11:35
  • 2
    Oh, here's an opportunity to plug "we want a store again". I had a triple-digit scoring answer (the top one) on a question here on MSE about what fun things people wanted to see but it seems that post was deleted at some point... peeps wanna buy Stack Overflow t-shirts and coffee mugs really badly, @Philippe :-)
    – TylerH
    Aug 24, 2021 at 19:36
  • 2
    @TylerH that answer is another castle: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/374619/6380541
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 24, 2021 at 19:42
  • 1
    @Tinkeringbell Well that certainly explains why I couldn't find any record of it on MSE...
    – TylerH
    Aug 24, 2021 at 19:46
10

Using meta effectively can be learned, but is different for everyone.

It is a set of competencies, much like any other that can be taught, and learnt, honed and mastered.

Meta is what you bring with you. Approach with apprehension and fear and it's a dark place, full of terrors. There's folks who'll help of course, and least for the moderation team here, we consider staff users much like any other.

On the other hand, respect the space, and understand we have shared goals and things get easier. I know some folks can be a little nervous about posting answers - but that gets people noticing you, and eases the learning process.

Tone matters. I've often seen people come in, guns blazing, believing they have the one simple trick to make things better and get shot down. Mastery of meta means understanding the community and how to talk to them.

Also, once you figure it out, it feels really easy, and you wonder why it was so scary :D

2
  • Hmm. I'd say Meta.SE is hard. Bugs and support are easy and concrete, but... Discussions/feature-requests, on the other hand... My earlier posts here were pretty much "guns blazing", so there I got what I deserved, I suppose. Yet even now, I get anxious whenever I believe it is necessary to expose my opinion to meta.SE. Meta.SE seems to have built a strong consensus among it's regulars, leading to the "pile on" effect whenever people post a diverging opinion. Perhaps I even have "figured out meta", in the sense that I have a good idea what sort of opinions will get me keelhauled. Aug 25, 2021 at 7:56
  • 1
    This doesn't make things easy for me, though. I'm not going to meta.SE to preach to choir. I'm speaking because I believe I have something to say that hasn't been said yet. Maybe this is just me. Maybe not. Meta.SE is hard, but also necessary. Not only as a library of knowledge about SE (which is ideal, because that doesn't require me posting here), but also as a channel to discuss SE with other users and the company. Aug 25, 2021 at 7:56
10

I wish that ${respectful_term}1 remember that privilege based actions like voting, flagging, closing, migrating, etc. are done in good faith

  • Downvoting / Closing and not adding comments about that is not rude / hostile
  • Suggesting to read the tour, help articles, meta discussion, follow the ask page guidelines, etc. doesn't mean that the other party was judged as a "bad person" or something alike.
  • A closed question might be reopened
  • Not reopening a question is not rude / hostile

NOTES:

  1. I'm wondering what could be the appropriate term to refer to people that get mad and/or feels been hurt, discriminated, attacked when theirs posts are not "well received" according to their expectatives. I have seen several posts on the SE and outside from few "online experts / bloggers", "association bonus earners", "serial askers", ">10k reps" among others that complain that someone, a site or even the SE model of being negative, toxic, unfair, etc.

Related

6
  • Who is it that you are suggesting should remember these things?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 3:15
  • 2
    @Philippe Anyone who is too proud / sensible / impatient / inmature ... If you need to choose one to start with, start with first time posters that post a comment including the words negative, rude, hostile, unfair, why, who, unfair, "a mod", then seasoned users that post on meta a post with the same words.
    – Rubén
    Aug 22, 2021 at 3:35
  • 3
    I'm pushing back a little bit here because one of the things that I can see as a potential outcome here is a gentle reminder to someone who might read this later; it's harder to identify with the statement when there is no assumed "target" for it pointed out.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 4:56
  • 1
    @Philippe Please ask JuanM that translate to you "a quien le caiga el saco que se lo ponga" :D (Thanks in advance Juan) P.S. I edited my answer to start it with "I wish that..." and added a note.
    – Rubén
    Aug 22, 2021 at 17:42
  • 2
    With regards to your note.... I think it can be just 'users whose posts are moderated'.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 8:12
  • 1
    @Rubén ¡Buen refrán! For anyone curious to what was mentioned, it's a saying that is very similar to "If the shoe fits, wear it."
    – Juan M
    Sep 17, 2021 at 13:05
10

We are all unique

I know when I'm on the other side of things (ie a member of an online community vs a staff member) it's easy to see the members of the CM team as interchangeable. Yes there are certain skills we all have and some general tasks we all know how to do. But, one of my favorite things about working on this team is that everyone is amazing in their own way and brings a set of unique talents to the table.

Some of us came here with a background in Community Management while others came with experience as members of the communities on the Stack Exchange Network. Some of us have more technical skills and familiarity with SQL, HTML, and data management platforms. Some of us have backgrounds in content creation, events, and people and project management.

I love the diversity of knowledge and experience on our team because it leads to true collaboration. I can pull in someone who is more skilled in a particular area than I am when it’s needed and I also feel like I can offer help and support when something touches an area where I have more expertise. I’ve seen teams of moderators here collaborate in similar fashion and it’s something I really encourage. Lean in to people on your team for support to hone your skills in areas that you have less experience in and offer to be a mentor to others in situations where you may have more knowledge.

8

Remember that there are tons of ignored feature requests hidden on all the Metas.

I guess that every meta StackExchange has a feature-request tag and even though many of the feature requests are probably redundant or contradicting each other or are not very useful, my impression is that there is a treasure that is largely ignored. I know that the development capacity is limited and that the priorities of the company and the community are unequal and that single humans can simply err, so I shouldn't be offended in any way if features requests that I like aren't implemented, but still it feels like the advice of the community regarding future improvements of the platform is largely ignored and the treasure is not lifted. This results in debt, the platform could be better, the community could be stronger, the company could be making more money, the amount of knowledge stored could be greater and more people could have received help. But it seems easy to forget feature requests, so I guess it would be better we remembered them more. I'm talking about feature requests that are 6-8 years old. In general, it's about the ability of the community to give advice on future developments.

Search for feature-request without any status on this meta sorted by votes.

There may be other very important things to remember in the other answers, but I think this deserves being mentioned too.

1
  • 3
    You may want to add closed:0 just to weed out the ones that are dupes on their respective sites. I do think it would be worthwhile to sort through them and see if there are any themes if nothing else.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 25, 2021 at 11:59
4

Staff are human beings too.

One of the 'unique' aspect of being a meta mod - especially through quite a few troubled times for the community and network - is you get to see a lot of people, and how they react to things. Change, decisions... you get the picture.

I get the 'human' reaction to something you disagree with is often outrage. On the 'bad' spectrum, I've seen people do things like accuse folks of being bad at their jobs, to personal attacks and I've heard a few stories of even worse.

Sometimes one's even sympathetic to the underlying reason - but not how it's expressed. That can be a pain. But we can talk about these things without personal attacks.

Talk about the feature, and why the change is hard and folk are more likely to listen. Insult someone and... attitudes harden.

It's a little tougher with more fundamental disagreements, but in my experience, some folks kinda go further than they should. On one hand, it's the internet. On the other there is a human being with feelings on the other side

And well - if you're like "but they get paid to do this?" - they get paid to design things, hopefully in partnership with us. They get paid to code. They don't really get paid to be insulted by random people.

I realise in a sense, it's not really 'our' fault that the super close ties with folks in the company aren't there. But we can either push folks away or build new ties.

4

Please remember that other sites are using the SE software in ways you cannot even imagine, and quite effectively at that1. (Note to staff: if you're not an active member on any SE site, this means all sites are using the SE software in ways you cannot even imagine.)

While there is a unified interface to the SE sites, the communities from various SE sites differ much more than many people think. It is fairly common that a user with experience in site A sees a rule/guideline in site B and, based on their experience with site A, reacts with astonishment and suggests that the rule is to be "fixed" ASAP, while the rule has been active on site B for years, without any major problems. The user is probably right that this rule would be a terrible idea on site A, yet has forgotten that site B uses the SE software in a way they could not even imagine. A few examples are differences in policies regarding "homework", list questions, (book) recommendations, "soft questions", etc. This differences exist even among sites which have a large overlap in their technical matter.

This knowledge is relevant in multiple places. Sometimes, users ask: "why does site B even exist, given that we have site A?". Other times, staff are so familiar with sites A and C, that they believe site B shouldn't exist2. Some sites have a particular history that makes them anxious about certain technical changes (this particular case was handled very skillfully, it is a good example for the company to remember).


1: and this is fine.
2: In this particular case, part of the problem was the common thought from both sites A and C that B should be a subset of the other site...

-8

What's the one thing you wish someone (mods, staff, community) knew about what you do here?

I wish folks knew the average poster is a person like them trying to give or get an answer to a question. If the poster does it wrong but in good faith there's no reason to disparage them.



EDIT: After Philippe's kind feedback.

or do you think they're potentially desensitized? or overwhelmed with bad posts?

Users feeling overwhelmed by volume of posts contributes to desensitizing. But, prejudices and disparaging are ubiquitous preexisting practices - in academia, the workplace, society in general.

The Meta sites form an autonomous field (over the broader Q&A fields) of production and consumption of representations about the community. (And hence it's a supra-community problem since users with little or no community integration are nevertheless set in the field.) However, a structural problem is demonstrated when the crudest forms of stereotyping (see pigeonholing and, a problem that was swept under the rug) become the prevalent forms of vision and division about the community (institutionally sanction if not promoted). This is verified by the correlation of highly upvoted meta posts (no less voluminous than the VLQ Q&A's on main you ask about) that do nothing but repeat those formulas -quantifiable by keyword- (to the point of dispensing any hard data). The dominant form of discourse.

The question is if conditions of successful meta posting can dispense the repetition of structural prejudices and stereotypes a subset of the community historically crystalized, internalized and now reproduces. (The paper trail being what every new joiner or even outsider finds and is expect to accept upon entering the field before he integrates in a community). This has a number of properties that can also be measured, notably the users most set on verbalizing the lingo but who never curated anything, and the ones who've always kept a depured discourse who curate a lot. The bottom line being how many of the later where driven away -by saturation or on matter of principle- by the the structural verbalization artifacts here shown?

I would suspect it's not that they don't KNOW

What is certain is the reproduction of those dominant forms of discourse, can't be flagged and although ceaselessly reproduced is never objectified. (In fact, censorship is also structural and diametrically opposed.) These are generating principles that govern the field of meta production and can be verified in almost in every thread.

Fields are usually invisible. The slightest disturbance in field routines leads to a reaction by the social agents that constitute the field. Carefully notice the enumeration of prejudices "racism, sexism, ageism, egg shells" over-determine the subtler and euphemized forms of prejudice, crystalized in discourse by vulgarity such as turd polishing, help vampires, repwhoring, etc...

The two main homologies that can be established are with the usual discourses about intelligence and meritocracy.

Having said that, what should be asked is not the problem about volume of VLQ posts on main (which has never been solved). But rather ask if years of daily meta posts on the subject hasn't become a self-sustained problem of itself. I think that's the question that should be kept in mind, It's going to take a long time to fix these pain points.

5
  • 11
    I'm going to gently push back a little bit - do you think they don't know that? or do you think they're potentially desensitized? or overwhelmed with bad posts? I would suspect it's not that they don't KNOW.....
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 16:16
  • 8
    I used to write comments along the lines of 'Welcome to Superuser - please help us help you by ...." each one from scratch. I just don't have the energy for it any more. We do understand its tough, but sometimes the effort of walking through a new user who is seemingly clueless feels like its too much
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Aug 21, 2021 at 19:55
  • 2
    It’s interesting that you should say that. At Wikipedia we were able to rather conclusively draw a line between the end of uniquely written warnings (and hence the beginning of a automated tools) and the contributor hemorrhage that started about 2005. The rise of the age of the anti-empathy, if you will. At the time, though, automation seemed the only way to handle the influx of new contributors.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2021 at 3:13
  • @Philippe what I wrote is text book community field theory going strong since the 70's. In fact it's the only post on MSE within that dominant concept of sociology. Now, I hold reservations about anti-empathy chances being it's the sort of psychologism we've seen time and again. A wrong happening that although hyped won't stand the test of time. You'll notice the old world still keeps its wits before believing neologisms and the latest opinion makers.
    – bad_coder
    Aug 22, 2021 at 9:12
  • 2
    Ah, but you're applying what I said about a previous job to this one, I think. I have no data or evidence to back up that theory here. And you're quietly introducing the idea that I am doing the same, which is untrue. And you're also dismissing the reality that by making pertinent changes at Wikipedia, we rounded the corner on that problem. Neologism or not, it worked.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 23, 2021 at 6:38

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