Today, I shared on the blog all of the things we are looking to learn at Stack Overflow over the next couple months. I want to remind you all that this type of research typically operates months in advance and can sometimes result in us making the decision that there is not a problem we are well positioned to solve here.

The TL;DR is that we crafted hypotheses in the form of Jobs-to-be-Done. Those have laid the groundwork for this quarter’s research focus.

  • Discovering and applying a solution around a user’s unique context
  • Scaling Staging Ground
  • Improving the answering experience

We have also purchased a new research tool that will help us learn faster and you may see some requests to participate in research using that tool. But that’s only if you are signed up for research! So I implore you to sign up for research invitations in your account settings. We need community members like you, who are highly engaged in giving feedback on Meta, to participate in our research to engage in deep conversations around key areas of interest. Please, if you want to help us learn—sign up!

  • This is highlight of a blog post, added the relevant tag. Anyhow, is this the alternative for the long gone "State of the Stack" blog posts? Or just a one-time post? Commented May 1 at 14:18
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    Mentioning what the tool is might be useful - people tend to get a little jumpy getting emails from domains or emails they're unfamiliar with Commented May 1 at 14:19
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    @JourneymanGeek to be fair, those who choose to tick the "Research" in the email setting should be prepared for that. :) Commented May 1 at 14:19
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    @JourneymanGeek Research emails will always come from "@stackoverflow". However, the tool, Ballpark, is mentioned in the blog post.
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 1 at 14:23
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    @ShadowWizardLoveZelda I would love to make this recurring on a quarterly basis. A question for you—if we are still working on the same themes, is that a worthy update?
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 1 at 14:25
  • Is this tied to the general mail options, such that if I have previously unsubscribed through the unsubscribe link on a teams newsletter I'd not receive these either? I haven't received anything from SO in a long time, outside of weekly chat event notices that I assume aren't going through the normal mailer processes.
    – Kevin B
    Commented May 1 at 16:58
  • @Piper yes, it's good to update with the progress made even when still working on the same projects. Commented May 1 at 17:41
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    @KevinB Just spoke with engineering—if you are using the same email address for both accounts, then yes, you would have opted out across the board
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 1 at 18:12
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    Whilst I'm happy to participate (out of curiosity as much as anything), it seems important that we know - are you looking for people who's primary interest is in the programming side of things? Personally I'm far from being a coder, but engage in sites relating to other interests.
    – W.O.
    Commented May 1 at 19:10
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    I really miss an item named "On-Boarding Users Adequately" on the list. You do a miserable job there, and we've been telling you that for years in vain.
    – Dan Mašek
    Commented May 1 at 20:51
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    As for the others "Discovering and applying a solution around a user’s unique context" -- finally fix your abysmal search. | "Improving the answering experience" -- The painful "experience" in writing a good answer is that it's difficult by design. You have to be able to write coherently, you have to understand the subject matter and the problem, you have to solve the problem, etc. It's work, and it takes time, more than a few minutes for instant gratification. At best you can educate people and set the right expectations before they even attempt it.
    – Dan Mašek
    Commented May 1 at 20:58
  • @W.O. We are able to identify you by your activity and recruit accordingly. So where you may not be selected for Staging Ground research, you could get an email asking for help with accessibility.
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 2 at 13:00
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    @DanMašek Activation/Onboarding will hopefully be the top of the list for next quarter!
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 2 at 13:01
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    Thanks for the reply, I'd be happy to help out if asked. @Piper
    – W.O.
    Commented May 2 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


(the issue of not giving enough attention to feature-request and bug posts on meta aside,) I'm signed up for research but I don't want to record my voice (or video if that ever becomes a thing). Is there a way for me to provide feedback in these research studies via text?

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    It is worse than just recordings. I received an invite and it asked me to sign an NDA and another form, both seemed like complicated legal documents. I am not a laywer and was concerned about the implications upon me, hence I declined the invite.
    – AdrianHHH
    Commented May 6 at 10:30
  • Hmmm. Seems like there is an opportunity to allow for further preferences within the research bucket to be selected.
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 6 at 14:11
  • @Piper what settings? what do they do? who are they surfaced to for changing?
    – starball
    Commented May 7 at 2:14
  • @AdrianHHH The "other" form is just a consent form. It's needed for ethical research and is simply there to help you protect your rights. It's pretty easy to read. The NDA on the other hand is complex. The team agrees that it could use some simplification. However, not all research includes an NDA. Typically if one of these are included you're being asked to participate in a session with new, shiny mockups—how exciting!
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 9 at 14:31

Staging Ground (our experiment with a shielded experience for new users)

I'm not particularly a fan of the term "shielded". It seems to lean into the false story that downvotes and close votes are mean or personal. There are curt comments and sometimes unfriendly or rude comments, but Staging Ground cannot and should not be used as a solution to that specific problem.

Jobs-to-be-Done being researched: “Find a solution when I am at work/school so that I can get unstuck without spending a large amount of time on my problem.”

This is too broad. It would imply inclusion of questions which fail to meet site guidelines like SO's guidelines on creation of minimal reproducible examples. And what about site topicality?

And the notion that speed is a core goal of the Stack Exchange model is new to me. Quoting the SE tour page: "We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers". In fact, if you look for official guidance about speed, you will find the opposite: help/no-one-answers, Under what circumstances may I add "urgent" or other similar phrases to my question, in order to obtain faster answers?.

Jobs-to-be-Done being researched: “Promote healthy community behavior proactively so that I can encourage others to engage more frequently and safely without bias”

It is not clear to me what this means or how it is related to Staging Ground or why this choice of words was used.

Re: "proactive" the whole problem with scale is that the basics of onboarding with respect to how to use the site doesn't need the involvement of well-integrated community members. The only person who needs to be involved to learn the basic site rules, norms, guidelines, and etiquette is the person who needs to learn those things. Using more people for such basic information is a waste of what you already acknowledge to be a scarce, valuable resource. I am a fan of proactive onboarding if it's done by the system. But here in the context of peoples' (here, specifically- SG reviewers') "jobs to be done", no. That's exactly the kind of thing that made me feel bored and annoyed when beta-testing SG as a reviewer.

Re: "frequently". "more Q&A" is not a core goal. "more useful Q&A" is a core goal.

Re: "without bias". I don't understand why this needs to be stated or what problem this is even referring to. All I'm getting is flashbacks to accusations like this.

We believe that speeding up the answering process will create value across the community


Accessibility feature prioritization to help us identify what would be more impactful for the community

is:q [feature-request] [accessibility] -[status-completed] -[status-declined].

This is part of a larger pattern which I find problematic of ignoring highly-upvoted feature-request and bug posts raised on meta.

  • Re "speed is a core goal of the Stack Exchange model": It was the original killer feature of Stack Overflow (also encouraged by FGITW): Comprehensive answers to all answerable non-duplicate questions within a few minutes (but things changed. Only about 20% of the questions on Stack Overflow get an answer within the first 24 hours). Commented May 6 at 14:11
  • The first jobs to be done is capturing why some users choose Stack Overflow and what one of their pain points is. Although this is a wider problem users are facing then what Stack Overflow is positioned to solve, it is in fact a reason why a majority of our (think anon) users visit the site(s).
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 6 at 14:17
  • Our accessibility research is not a part of that pattern. It is about taking a team who is well positioned to solve certain accessibility issues and is not well positioned to work on core product features.
    – Piper Staff
    Commented May 6 at 14:21

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