We've all seen the excessive number of questions on MSO about the recent reputation recalc. It seems to me that the change was communicated in every reasonable way, but many seem to be able to miss the information bars on the sites, and on MSO when they go to ask about it. Is there anything else that could have been done to improve the process or is this just an example of what Joel meant when he said:

In fact, users can't read anything, and if they could, they wouldn't want to.

Also, is there anything we can generalize from this experience about communicating change in our own projects?

Note: This is not meant as a criticism of the team, but rather a discussion of how we can all improve our user communication.

  • related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/43383/… – fretje Mar 24 '10 at 12:39
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    It was all a ploy to get more readers to the blog and Meta. – random Mar 24 '10 at 12:41
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    If yo paint a big sign and position it in your backyard, don't expect that the people on the market square read it. (This is meant as a criticism of the team, especially Jeff.) – Ladybug Killer Mar 24 '10 at 13:02
  • No one made the obvious joke yet? TL;DR. – John Rudy Mar 24 '10 at 13:30
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    many seem to be able to miss the information bars on the sites <br/> I logged into SU after a span of few weeks, I thought my rep had gone down wasn't sure. SU sure as hell didn't put up the "yer rep has changed plz read kthxbai" note for me. Come to know of this while lurking around MSO. yeah I lurk around MSO – Sathyajith Bhat Mar 24 '10 at 17:05

I don't think the change was communicated clearly enough: The bar was/is only shown on Meta. Had it been shown on S(OFU), I'm sure the number of questions would have significantly decreased.

I don't think those users who are not around on Meta much, came here to complain about their reputation change, and overlooked the bar, are necessarily idiots. People don't read everything on a new site, and they don't have to. Putting the bar on SO proper would have worked better.

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    Plus, giving the bar an attractive color like SO-Orange or MSO-Red would have helped more. That gray bar here on MSO just look like part of design and is in 9 of 10 times ignored. Bad UI :) – BalusC Mar 24 '10 at 12:28
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    Completely agree. The bar being only on Meta was a bad idea as regularly checking Meta shouldn't have to be a normal thing for an active user of one of the other sites to do. – Steve Haley Mar 24 '10 at 12:39
  • Jeff responded to this suggestion in the original proposal (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/42769/…) – heavyd Mar 24 '10 at 13:06
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    Even better would have been to post the blog article about 2 weeks before making the change and announce the coming change (with link to blog) via a banner message or notification. The fact that communication is hard, shouldn't stop you from communicating as well as you can -- this means advanced notice of change, announcements in a prominent position on the site, and details available (though linked elsewhere). Even though I was aware of the change via meta and the blog, I was unaware of a lot of the discussion that had gone on before and I do participate in meta. – tvanfosson Mar 24 '10 at 14:05

For the last vote on moderators, a message was displayed in the top info bar (like badge notifications etc.), doing that in this case would have been the most intelligent option, in my opinion.

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As Aaronaught commented in this thread:

What we need is a big black-on-pink modal dialog in 72-point text that forces users to type out the phrase, in full, "I understand that my reputation has changed as a result of a recent recalculation and do solemnly swear not to ask any new question about said recalculation" before they're allowed to continue using the site.

You will never, ever get everyone to pay attention, no matter what you do - even a black on pink dialog box with a typed-out answer.

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I'm not sure that something like this from time to time is entirely bad. We had a number of user who obviously care about Stack Overflow and how it works who were completely ignoring meta and the blog. Perhaps they won't make that mistake in the future.

To be clear: I'm not saying every Stack Overflow user must read the blog and post to meta. But the more who do, the better, and after you have a certain investment in Stack Overflow you ignore them at your own peril.

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  • Do you think that was intentional, or just a good side effect. – C. Ross Mar 24 '10 at 14:13
  • Probably a side effect. Also: I agree that most changes should be communicated more directly. But from time to time I think it's useful to do things this way. – Joel Coehoorn Mar 24 '10 at 15:57
  • Part of the problem is that a lot of stuff here on Meta is either irrelevant or just plain silly, so that's personally why I didn't start following Meta despite deciding to actively participate in Stack Overflow about a month ago. Examples of silly, just on the front page: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37328/…, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/43218/…. – Steve Haley Mar 24 '10 at 17:02

Putting a bar on top of the others sites wouldn't have made the change any more visible or less annoying to people anyway - people don't read.

It would, however, have brought the change to the attention of many more people who just wouldn't notice without being told.

Picking and using the right channel for communicating important information is probably the most difficult aspect of this process, and I believe it was done correctly.

Keep in mind that we're only 3 days into the change. After a week or three it won't matter.

Be patient.

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    Yes, but a significant fraction of the "what happened to my rep" questions started on meta, where the user should have seen the banner, as well as several related questions, before actually submitting his duplicate. I've tried to find an explanation for this and I cannot, short of stupidity/blindness. – Ether Mar 24 '10 at 15:07

I can reproduce this:

  1. Buy take apart furniture
  2. Put it together
  3. Consult the parts list only when you find out that you are missing something. Consult the actual instructions when your end result does not quite resemble the picture on the box. Your version is likely better, at least as far as your own criteria is concerned. Criteria does not equal apathy.

Basically, down votes indicate missing parts. I can't fault people for not reading the directions, I seldom do so myself. I like it when people don't read my documentation, they tend to reveal bugs that testers (who read the documentation) have missed.

Try not to get so annoyed, its just human nature. Repetitive inane behavior demands a case in which it can become useful. Find one.


It is also conceivable that some may be conducting breaching experiments, though meta would be a less than ideal place to conduct them.

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  • @Tim Who is the last paragraph directed at, the OP, the people discussing here, the people who came here to ask about their rep, or the people mocking those? – Pekka Mar 24 '10 at 12:46
  • @Tim I'm not particularly annoyed, just trying to learn something from the confusion. – C. Ross Mar 24 '10 at 12:56
  • Yes, but when something is really important, they often put a sticker on the actual part indicating that you need to do A before you do B with this do-hicky. I suggested that important changes be posted to the blog and announced beforehand with a banner (see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/43512/…). Assuming that people know about the blog and read it to find out about SO operations seems foolish when the only link to it from SO is a tiny text link at the bottom of the page. There's no clue its important. – tvanfosson Mar 24 '10 at 13:59
  • @tvanfosson: Really important is subjective. Given that .. I don't quite get your point? – Tim Post Mar 24 '10 at 14:26
  • This is just degenerating into silly. If you write my rep, my life and get it published AND more than 100 people buy and actually read it.. please send me a link. Its not like rep indicates breast or penis size, yet the comments indicate that it might. Adulthood, its a wonderful thing. – Tim Post Mar 24 '10 at 14:42

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