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Over on tex.SX, we were pondering the issue of what to do when a first time user posts something as an answer that would be better as a comment or a question. Today, I stumble upon a question here that reveals that I (as moderator there) now have the power to convert answers to comments. Yippee!

Except that I consider it quite a coincidence that I saw that particular question on meta.SO when the discussion on tex.SX was fresh in my mind so that the new power registered in my addled brain. That doesn't feel like a very reliable method of finding out information.

Is there a simple RSS feed somewhere that announces feature changes in the software? Ideally, there would be at least two, the ones I would find useful would be "regular users" and "moderators". Or if not RSS, something that I could check once a day or once a week to see if there's anything new that I, my fellow moderators, or the users of tex.SX should know about?

If not, can we have one?

Meta.SO does not qualify. The signal-to-noise ratio is all wrong, and it's very hard to catch up on things that one may have missed.

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    for beginners, let the title contain your entire question. That way more people who can help you with your problem will click on it and you will not see comments like this. – abel Jan 7 '11 at 8:40
  • @abel: which just proves my point about meta.SO being the wrong place to find this information. – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 8:48
  • I agree that they could have a moderators page, like others have the privileges page, accessible by clicking on the diamond icon(if there is one) next to a moderators username on the top bar. – abel Jan 7 '11 at 8:58
  • possible duplicate of Monthly Summary of What's New – Michael Mrozek Jan 7 '11 at 9:34
  • @Michael: covers similar ground, certainly, but note my moderator-specific slant. – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 10:03
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We generally make a habit of starring posts in the chat room when a dev announces a new feature, and I try to mention new things I've noticed specifically so other mods who might not have noticed are aware. In this case, this post of waffles' is starred:

I am adding convert to comment to the mod menu
maybe today

And later when I saw it show up I mentioned:

And convert to comment is live

There's already a to create a list of new features, and Jeff weighed in against it

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  • And the community weighed in against Jeff! – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 9:46
  • @Andrew Yes, but it's not a vote :). Jeff is the person who decides if it happens, so if he's against it it's probably not happening. In all honesty the community-maintained question is really good about keeping up with normal features, and mod stuff doesn't normally change this often -- the devs have been focusing on improving the 10k/mod tools lately – Michael Mrozek Jan 7 '11 at 9:55
  • Perhaps there should be a similar "question" for moderator powers. Even if it doesn't change that often, the effect of a change is potentially much bigger than of a change to the ordinary user features. – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 10:02
  • @Andrew If you feel strongly about it -- start one! Don't wait for somebody to give you the green light. – badp Jan 7 '11 at 10:35
  • @Andrew It's really not though -- a post like the one you're describing is only useful for ~100 people (maximum, assuming a feature gets released and no mods discover it). If you want to try maintaining something like that go for it, but it's not nearly as useful as the post about features that apply to everyone – Michael Mrozek Jan 7 '11 at 15:30
  • @Michael: but what a moderator does generally has a wider effect than what a single user does. A single user can go around retagging lots of questions, but a moderator can do it in one fell swoop with the tag merging. So although there aren't as many moderators, one moderator wielding one power can have a considerable effect on how smoothly a site runs. – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 18:54
  • @Andrew But it's a feature that only has to be explained to 100 people; the effort of maintaining a list for just those people is less well spent than one maintaining a list of features everyone can use – Michael Mrozek Jan 7 '11 at 18:57
  • @Michael: I disagree completely with that. The moderator features should be transparent: every user should be able to see what they are. I'm not in charge of tex.SX, I clear up the messes. I rely on the users to tell me where they are. But how can they know what to flag if they don't know what I can do? And how can I know how to use the moderator powers if I don't find out first how the community wants them used? You have 11k so you can presumably read the deleted answer and my comment on it (I don't know why it was deleted). I meant what I said. – Andrew Stacey Jan 7 '11 at 21:35
  • @Andrew Letting users know what they can flag for is a good argument, assuming you could actually get users to read documentation about mod abilities. "how can I know how to use the moderator powers if I don't find out first how the community wants them used" is an...unusual position for a mod; do what you think is right and if they have a problem talk about it on meta. Anyway, as I said, I imagine you could start such documentation if you want; I don't think the devs are going to do it, Jeff was fairly against it – Michael Mrozek Jan 7 '11 at 21:52
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This question (and its companion RSS feed) attempts to keep up with all feature changes, but since it is mainly maintained by normal users you'll hardly find there something relevant for you as a moderator. Still, it can help.

I'd suggest marking the and tags as interesting and checking them regularly, maybe through the StackExchangeā„¢ GlobalTag MegaBlenderā„¢: here, I made the tagset for you.

Hanging on the moderator only places is something I'd do. Learning from your peers is very much what Stack Exchange is for. If the place is run reasonably, important news are pinned, or at least starred; you can get an RSS feed for those stars (but it'll contain noise).

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One of the things that is clearly lacking on the stackexchange sites is any significant form of clear documentation, nevermind official documentation.

While the owners have largely opted to let the community document itself, it is failing in so many ways. We can't document changes we don't know about, and simply adding "status completed" doesn't always give us enough detail to understand how the feature was actually implemented. Sometimes new features are rolled out and announced in the blog. Surprisingly often people discover them by stumbling on them, comment on meta about strange behavior, then we get confirmation that it is a new feature.

Collecting information on changes is haphazard at best.

Yet SOIS has consistently shot down (or ignored) requests for an official, reliable, up-to-date stream of those changes that should be known and understood publicly.

I agree with the general idea that moderators especially, and users of any rep level in general, need at least a minimum set of documentation that says:

  • These are the actions you can perform
  • Here are the places you can perform actions
  • Here are the side effects and drawbacks of various actions
  • Here is a set of guidelines you should consider before taking action

I honestly have no hope of this sort of documentation being set up and maintained by SOIS.

The best suggestion I have is for you to write a FAQ style post, document as much as you can, and hope that others update it as new features are discovered.

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