39

When I began work on the now defunct Community Leadership Team in early 2020, one of our early initiatives was to share details on the work being done for the community from both Community and Engineering teams. This was done in the form of Community Roadmap blog posts, each of which had an accompanying MSE post to give a familiar place for community members to ask questions and dialog (comments on the blog post weren't suitable, as they are only posted when approved by Stack staff members, and thus tough questions could remain hidden).

These posts began at an absolute low-point in Company/Community relations, and I think that they helped a good deal as part of a gradual healing process that began in 2020. Starting these was a big deal internally: earlier internal attempts at this from before Teresa's tenure were met with very vocal rejection, partly out of fear that [unknown catastrophe] would happen if we stated an intention to deliver something that we ended up not delivering. We addressed this in the roadmap run of 2020-2021 by not being afraid of missing deliverables, and holding ourselves accountable for following up on all items in the roadmap, being clear about what we hit, what we missed, and in the case of misses, what follow-up would happen. I think that this was a clear win for both the company and community.

Unfortunately, starting with Q1 2022, delivery of quarterly roadmaps ceased. An MSE Post inquiring about the missing roadmaps was marked with but ultimately was never answered. (Note: I do not think that this post is a duplicate, as that was inquiring about a cessation and this is requesting a restart; and the added context and intervening events add a lot to this that wasn't present in the earlier post.)

Since then a lot has transpired. A Chief Product Officer has left (bye Teresa), and over seven months later, a new Chief Product Officer has started (hi Ryan!). The company spent most of those seven months focusing on AI work. On the negative side of things, the company has gone through two layoffs (the second of which included the dismissal of two beloved CMs) and a moderator strike ("action"). It is a time for potentially new beginnings, a new direction (see my thoughts on this here), and hopefully some healing.

My request: the original roadmap posts began after a moderator strike was narrowly averted in 2020, with the start of a new CPO. We are now almost four years later. It has been almost two years since the last roadmap post. A two month moderator strike ended not too long ago, and a new CPO just started. Feels to me like it is the perfect time to consider bringing back the Community Roadmap posts. Same deal as last time please:

  1. Details posted on MSE or the blog, but if on the blog it should definitely link to an accompanying MSE post).
  2. The more open you can be, the better, about both Community and Public Platform roadmaps.
  3. The community doesn't expect you to hit everything that you commit to. You're humans, things happen, and we understand. But we do expect you to be accountable with things missed (or that you decided not to pursue).

A joint Community/Product roadmap would be a great way to start off Q1 2024 (or if you prefer, Q4 FY24), a year that will hopefully be one of growth and healing.

5

2 Answers 2

13

Since it's too long for a comment, I'd say that bringing back quarterly Community Roadmap posts would satisfy several of the agreements in the results of the Moderation Strike negotiations:

  • The company agreed to work with the community when making decisions about product development and policy. A quarterly update on what is upcoming for research, development, and release can give us insight into upcoming changes. It wouldn't replace specific opportunities to give feedback, but it can make the community aware of what they may be asked to give feedback on in the coming weeks and months. Depending on what is known, it could also highlight mismatches between what the company believes warrants deeper discussion prior to being rolled out.
  • A requirement is to communicate releases in a timely manner. Some changes were made to be able to deploy faster. Although the context is repair and recovery in the case of issues, this could be used to deliver features faster. Quarterly updates for smaller features that were delivered that don't reach the bar for early feedback can be communicated. It may not replace announcements of upcoming changes or early announcements closer to the time of deployment for some changes. And it could also highlight mismatches if the community can identify types of changes that may be more significant to help with future communication.
  • We can make the existing open commitments more visible. Tooling for mod communication, tooling for voting on violations of the Moderator Agreements, insights into the whys behind product and policy changes can all be shared.
  • Metrics are important to the company. It would be a good opportunity to share select metrics with the community and centralize information about trends across the network.
8

The company spent most of those seven months focusing on AI work.

This precisely shows why are roadmaps and community feedback extremely important both for the company and the communities (sites) well being.

However, I have hard time imagining that any feedback given on AI if it had been put on the roadmap would be listened to. The way company and its leadership has been riding on the AI hype, I don't think having the roadmap would not help much in that case. If nothing else it could only make our frustrations worse.

Communication should not be a one way street. If there is no desire to listen to the feedback, and change course accordingly, then roadmaps have very little meaning, except giving us more time to brace for impact.

Maybe, they could be useful for smaller corrections and directing the work in the areas that need it the most, but is there really anything there that people working for the company already don't know, but just cannot do anything about it, because other "more important" things are given more priority anyway?

It is not like they don't know that Staging Ground needs to be put in action, that work on AI heuristics needs to progress faster, that delivering features like Discussions without having flagging and anti-spam system in place will end up badly.

Seriously, what kind of impact can community really have, except being able to say "I told you so" when our feedback goes straight to the dust bin, because higher powers are not willing to listen to anyone but themselves.

3
  • 5
    I take it as a given that there will be some decisions (like broad investment in AI initiatives) that are going to happen, regardless of community feedback and advice. That is just how it goes (and folks have to understand that). However, if there is a secret pivot to AI, and the next day a new roadmap is posted with "sorry, we need to change plans for reasons we cant say now, here is how current initiatives will be affected" that would give me much more confidence that there is respect for the community than [absolute silence on repeated queries about future of Staging Ground for 9 months]. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 13:04
  • 4
    @YaakovEllis Well, yes, transparency is always better than secrecy. What worries me is that we are travelling on the sinking ship and management is being busy with rearranging the chairs on the deck and deciding which music should play. In that light knowing the sitting arrangements does not help much... Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 13:44
  • 7
    Reprieve of pressure for a bit after second layoff + new CPO to me if a chance for something good that wasn't possible over the last year or two. Not ready to throw in the towel yet. And starting off with confidence-building measures that promote communication and accountability like this are to me the best way forward. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 13:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .