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Podcast #66 – Thank You For Saying Words To Us

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Welcome to Stack Exchange podcast episode #66, recorded live at Stack Exchange HQ in New York, NY on July 7, 2015. Today’s podcast is brought to you by The Association of Ex-Fog Creek Summer Interns (AEFCSI). Today’s show is hosted by the usual suspects Jay Hanlon, David Fullerton, and Joel Spolsky, plus ex post facto Producer Alex.

First up: it’s important to note that David is a charter member of the Association of Ex-Fog Creek Summer Interns, from way back before Fog Creek knew how to do internships (his words). He made graphs in Flash and that was his whole internship.

Much graph. Very Flash. Wow.

So! Let’s talk about features. The coolest one we have for you today: now, when you log in on one site, we log you in everywhere. You can read about it on meta. It seems like a no-brainer, but it was harder than it seemed, and that’s why it took about 94 years. Turns out login is hard. Who knew? (Anna Lear, who has to work on this monster project, did. So did Dalgas.)

In other news, we updated our blog, which you can see if you’re reading this blog post. We moved off of WordPress and onto Jekyll, which is the only CMS in the world that doesn’t have its own Stack Exchange site. The new blog is open source, btw, so you can kick the tires. [Editor’s note: some issues with the blog migration and our iTunes feed are why this podcast was published so belatedly, and why you can’t listen to it in your podcast app just yet. Use the SoundCloud link below while we work that out.]

We’ve also re-vamped what it means to graduate, and since this recording we’ve announced plans to tweak graduation even further. Essentially, what’s going to happen is that we’re going to consider any site for graduation if it hits 10 questions per day over a certain period, and then it’s going to get a site design by Joel done totally in emoji. Some of this is true and some of it is false. You decide! (Also in this section: tangents.)

Next topic: reddit. What the heck happened? Joel doesn’t know because he was busy flying a drone into a swimming pool that weekend (true story). Oh, and here’s the drawing the hosts start talking about in the middle of the drone story. Then we finally get to the reddit story, which is that Alexis Ohanian aka /u/kn0thing once tried to eat a spoonful of cinnamon on our show, way back in episode 43. And apparently something else happened at reddit, too. Jay and Joel walk us through the basics of the story (and David reminds us continually that we have no idea what actually happened).

Related: What should we do to reduce the risk of a Reddit-like crisis?

Basically, our assessment is that reddit moderators felt unsupported by reddit inc., and at Stack Exchange we have always strived to make sure our mods don’t feel that way. (We don’t always succeed, but we do our best–and have since way before reddit exploded. Just saying.) We are entirely dependent on our community, and our mods are the members of the community who give the most. A community isn’t something a VC or company can own. Companies can serve communities, and once they stop doing that (hi Digg!), the community will leave–as well it should.

The biggest lesson we can take away is that we have to listen to the things our community is asking us to fix. For reddit, it was moderator tools. For us, it’s been things like the quality problem and people talking about how mean Stack Overflow is, which people like to write about on the internet. (Read this post by Bill the Lizard instead of the original post, btw.)

We abruptly thank you for listening to Stack Exchange Podcast #66 brought to you by the AEFCSI!


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  1. The existing podcast feed ( http://blog.stackoverflow.com/index.php?feed=podcast ) has been broken by the blog update. Is there a new one available? My podcast client and I are sad. 🙁

    1. The fix is in the works – sorry for the inconvenience! We figured it was best to publish this post as-is so it wouldn’t have to wait in the wings any longer even while we’re still fixing the feed issue.

      1. David Grinberg says:

        Any updates on this? My podcast client is still sad.

        1. The feed URL should be working now but we had to resubmit it to iTunes. Existing subscriptions should work but new subscribers may need to wait until it is reviewed and approved by Apple.

          1. David Grinberg says:

            I got my notification this morning, my podcast client is now double happy :). Thanks for the followup

  2. Andrew Leach says:

    We have always striven — but then an ELU mod would say that! (It’s true, BTW; you have)

  3. Michael Braedley says:

    Is it possible to provide a download link for the podcast? Soundcloud doesn’t play nice with the company firewall.

      1. Michael Braedley says:

        Unfortunately, file storage services are explicitly blocked by the firewall. Don’t worry about it, I’ll download and/or listen at home.

        1. waynewerner says:

          Unless your firewall destroys https, usually as long as you’re logged into your Google account, you can get around those, because https everywhere.

  4. Michael Pryor says:

    Great recap!

  5. thx for great links, even wrt “full self disclosure”, & coverage re the reddit “mutiny”. it is a fascinating study of different cyber cultures. the extreme difficulty of building cyber systems that do not give major sway to “trolls” is very challenging. sometimes theres a fine line between “moderation”/ “engagement”, and “trolling”. & you didnt even mention that it led to the resignation of the CEO. quite an epic saga, that probably continues. it sounds to me like part of the problem is that they have difficulty implementing new features/ systems at this point (and that is a lesson everyone can take very seriously).

    the technical problems of scaling cyber community/ social systems are far less than the social problems. how do we address the social problems? there is an interplay of software features and social systems. it will still take a lot of experimenting to get the optimal balance. what the media hasnt noticed yet is that stackexchange has one of the best balances of any online system, considering the mass # of users and large interactions. stackexchange gets a fraction of the buzz eg facebook (or even google+) get, but it deserves much more.

    more on the reddit meltdown here.


  6. SoulIsTheAnswer says:

    Victoria wasn’t the only person who was in contact with mods. There’s a whole community management team at reddit (They are responsible for users and mods. Well were, we now have dedicated mod CMs). However you guys were spot on about consistency. Sometimes the admins (CMs) reply after a few minutes, sometimes after several hours or never. They’re really understaffed.

  7. Pekka Gaiser says:

    Re the final part of the podcast – I can confirm a certain sense that proposing any change on Meta that is more radical than a tweak to some FAQ entry is an exercise in futility. The Meta crowd is always good for some spirited discussion and razor-sharp criticism, but as a rule there will be no official response at all (and be it just “this idea sucks”! I’m sure many of our ideas, are well-intentioned but would not work out in the real world. A “we like it, but it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon” would often work, too.)
    I eventually reached the assumption that SE doesn’t really care for this kind of input, and that the team are largely following their own blueprint when shaping the future of the sites. I wouldn’t begrudge them that at all – I’m sure input from a community who are not seeing what you’re seeing can sometimes be the very last thing you need. But if SE really cares about feature ideas on Meta I think it needs to do a much better job showing that.

  8. Another great episode. I followed the Reddit meltdown closely out of morbid interest and the intermingling of the legitimate, longstanding complaints from mods and the whining from various trolls/hate groups is indeed the key dynamic to understanding what went down.

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