Introducing “The Loop”: A Foundation in Listening
TLDR; We’re going to be sharing our product development process with you, from feedback loops to timelines. We’ll be doing so through our new series – The Loop. You can give us your thoughts on what you’d like to see us do by filling out this survey: Through the Loop[closed for responses 1/25/20]. We’ll also be releasing Moderator Training and some new feedback mechanisms to help us form decisions as we grow.
Since the early days of Stack Overflow, our community has seen a lot of growth and change. As we reflect on 2019 and start thinking about 2020, our company also continues to rapidly grow. We have new leadership, amazing partners using our Stack Overflow for Teams product, and north of 100k new users signing up to the public Q&A each month (coders are everywhere!). Growth on the business side of our company enables us to do more for our community, like relaunching the Stack Overflow podcast, creating a newsletter for developers by developers, and launching new features like authentication with GitHub, which is exciting for everyone. With so much change and growth, we have been reflecting on how we can improve our communication paths to and from our community.
We’ve observed that systems that used to work when we had 50,000 users don’t work as well now when we have 50 million coders asking questions and teaching others on our platform.
Software developers often talk about technical debt, the little bugs and shortcuts that you don’t have time to fix, and which over time, can slow, hamper, or completely cripple the system in which they reside. Just like a system can accrue technical debt, as a 10-year-old company, we have accrued community debt. For a community, debt can take many forms: Long-time users can be surprised by things changing out of the blue for reasons they don’t understand, moderators don’t feel supported by tooling that hasn’t been updated in years, and too many users, despite their best efforts, see their questions closed, or are met with derisive comments challenging their knowledge and skills. We have been making little changes to try to address these things (e.g. we published our current Code of Conduct in August 2018), but we have come to the realization that we need to do more in order to sustain, serve and support a much larger community and keep it growing and thriving.
We want to address all these things and be transparent about how we’re paying down some of this community debt. We’d like to share with you some of the reasons why we make decisions and what inputs we listen to, as well as give you a place to weigh in. We are striving to:
- create an experience that works for all users
- show everyone how we think about serving the larger developer and technical community
- be clear about the “why” behind our decisions
A month ago we formed cross-functional teams of Stackers (employees of Stack Overflow) to create strategies to start addressing some of these concerns. It’s been inspiring to see people from our Community Management team work hand in hand with folks from Engineering, Sales, and Marketing to come up with solutions for our community’s most pressing concerns. We’ve worked together to build new communication frameworks that take into account how we’ve scaled and to replace old frameworks that don’t work now that we’re larger.
The themes these groups took on are:
- Better mechanisms for community feedback
- Building a moderator advisory group
- How we communicate and interact with Meta sites moving forward
For each theme, we recruited cross-functional teams, agreed on the problems we needed to solve, discussed solutions, and came up with timelines. You can read about each below.
Better Mechanisms for Community Feedback
Over the 10 years that Stack Overflow has been around, the way that we collect user feedback has changed significantly. If you’ve been with us for a long time, you may remember when our research process involved regular, direct exchanges between users and staff on Meta. Today, this process has been largely replaced by 1:1 user interviews, as well as other methods like surveys and contextual research. This shift happened quietly, and many Meta users felt understandably concerned that we weren’t listening to users or making data-driven product decisions.
We’ll share regular updates about what we learn through our research, as well as create a new working group of users that we’ll lean on for regular feedback. This working group will be made up of a diverse group of folks excited to see Stack Overflow grow.
Existing Feedback Mechanisms
We already use comprehensive approaches to gather signals about how our users are doing, from quantitative analysis to user interviews to our annual Developer Survey. Another feedback mechanism for us (new this year), which we haven’t shared publicly yet, is our Site Satisfaction Survey. Our site satisfaction survey fields responses from a representative sample of users on Stack Overflow, both logged in and anonymous. We ask people how satisfied they are with the site and what we can be doing better. This has resulted in great data that, along with other feedback mechanisms, have been informing our product development process.
Overall, both anonymous and registered users are highly satisfied with Stack Overflow and tell us that their favorite things about our community include finding solutions to their problems, vast access to information, and the knowledgeable people who participate.
We’ve learned a lot from you, and we work to distill your feedback into themes. One theme we examine is what you find most frustrating about using Stack Overflow. Themes that you said frustrated you over the past few months were:
- an unwelcoming community
- site design (cluttered pages, confusing navigation across the Stack Exchange network, etc.)
- artifact quality (outdated answers, poorly framed questions, etc.)
- barriers to participation
These responses help to inform our product decisions and allow us to ensure we’re serving all types of users. Our commitment to you, moving forward, is to continue to share reports on what we’re learning here publicly on the blog. We want to give insight into the community we have, and the data behind this kind of feedback is fascinating.
For those that haven’t gotten to participate in a site satisfaction survey, we’ve put together a survey we’re calling Through the Loop [closed for responses 1/25/20], so we can hear what’s on your mind about Stack Overflow. Tell us about the things you’d like to see us doing better; we’ll share these results publicly with you.
New Feedback Mechanisms
With our new mixed method research approach, one thing we lost was regular, in-depth conversation with a group of folks highly invested in Stack Overflow’s growth. We also wanted to keep seeking out feedback from a broad range of perspectives.
That’s why we’re creating a working group of users made up of people from all corners of the developer community — from folks new to programming, those who don’t participate in Stack Overflow but are passionate about programming, experienced Stack Overflow users, frequent contributors, and more. We’ll hand-select folks of diverse backgrounds who are excited to chat with us regularly about everything from new ideas to features, to how we communicate with the broader Stack Overflow community.
By the end of this year, we will have completed discovery for the working group of users and will have identified the people we would like to recruit. We’re looking forward to hearing from representatives from different types of users and backgrounds starting in 2020 and regularly thereafter.
Creating a Moderator Advisory Group
When we started this site we didn’t need moderators, as we had Joel, Jeff, Jarrod, and Geoff. Now, we have over 550 moderators who volunteer to help by taking a leadership role to make Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange places where everyone can contribute. This has created a lot of community debt as the moderation challenges have grown over time. Some of the challenges we identified were:
- A growing, broadening moderator team
- Aging moderation guidance
- Difficulty scaling support for moderators from our Community Management team
To address the challenges we identified, we’re putting together a moderator advisory team drawn from our 550 existing moderators (folks who volunteer their time and donate their knowledge and leadership to the community): a small, self-replacing council of moderators who will be tasked with keeping our moderation guidance and methods up-to-date, along with ad-hoc working groups of moderators to work on specific initiatives as needed. This advisory team will be a two-way channel for contact with community managers (who are Stackers/company employees) and other teams within the company. This council’s focus will be on how we moderate and the challenges that arise as we do. Community managers will look to moderator advisors in matters that impact the moderator community, with an eye toward making sites as self-governing as possible. Our moderators are the experts here, and we want to work with them to foster a welcoming community (our community Code of Conduct provides the ground rules for that) and meet community challenges as a team.
But wait, there’s more! Moderating communities is a skill, and one that’s too often poorly documented, poorly understood, and pursued without robust best practices. Teaching moderator skills through folklore and informal mentorship results in uneven practices at best, and perpetuates problems at its worst. Robust training for moderators is as essential as ensuring that anyone else on our team is getting the proper, ongoing education and training towards world-class skills.
We’re going to create a new system to offer training for our moderators. The training will be a great way for new moderators to learn the ropes, and will be available to all moderators seeking help as they struggle to make important decisions, learn the tools available to them, and plan how to move forward on sensitive issues involving race, gender, and sexuality. We’ll work closely with the moderator advisory team to create the curriculum and resources.
In order to implement the moderator advisory council, we will be hard at work to finalize its scope and vision and in the coming weeks share it with our moderators. We want our moderators to play an early role in shaping it. By the end of Q1 2020, we will establish our first council and begin working together.
Strategy for How We Communicate with Meta
When conversations about Stack Overflow started to happen on Stack Overflow, our founders invented a site called Meta. Meta Stack Overflow was created as a way to talk about the website without distracting us from the important things: questions about programming. Since then, it’s become almost a catch-all for everything: bug reports, general complaints, feature requests, and ideas about the site. With thousands of accumulated bug reports and feature requests, it’s a lot of community debt.
We have identified these fundamental challenges with Meta as we’ve grown and accrued community debt:
1. It’s hard to capture structured feedback on Meta. There are now so many conversations that we aren’t often able to participate. As a result, users end up not feeling heard and a lot of confusion (including some misinformation) is generated.
2. On Meta, there are discussions, some that go on for a long time without a clear answer.
3. Meta tends to exclude people that aren’t super immersed in the Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange culture.
4. Meta requests don’t integrate with any existing ticketing system, so our Community Managers need to prioritize the best they can and answer the threads deemed most important at the time.
When this group started discussing solutions, we agree that we need to double down on figuring out what the next iteration of Meta looks like. We analyzed data on how Meta is being used, who is using it, and all the functions that Meta serves. We then refined the functions into five areas:
- Self-governance discussions
- Bug Reports
- User Feedback
We looked at the three data points—how Meta is being used, who is using Meta, and the functions—and determined if our users are best served by keeping the function on Meta or if our users are best served by moving the functions to other tools and processes.
Finding the right ways to serve each of these functions is not a small task. In early December, we are putting a strategy together for the tools and systems we’ll need. Bug reports, in particular, have been a significant pain point internally and externally! We plan to transition things like bug reports, user and customer support, user feedback, and company announcements off of Meta over the course of next year.
In mid-December, we’ll share high-level transition plans about how Stack Overflow will interact on Meta sites going forward.
In Q1 2020, we’re going to start the transition process. We are following a product development and release process for each function that we transition. It’s a robust process that involves discovery, feedback loops with stakeholders and community members, developing documentation and FAQs, and external communication plans. We are committed to getting these transitioned in 2020. We’re excited to transition some of these functions off Meta, giving them the attention and focus they deserve.
Closing the Loop
In machine learning, there is a concept called “Human in the Loop.” Some processes can’t just be done by machine alone; instead, a human adds value to the feedback loop. The solution to community debt, like the debt that we as Stack Overflow have accrued, is humans in the loop.
“This concept leverages both human and machine intelligence to create machine learning models. In this approach, humans are directly involved in training, tuning and testing data for a particular ML algorithm. The intention being, to use a trained crowd or general human population to correct inaccuracies in machine predictions thereby increasing accuracy, which results in higher quality of results.” – Hackernoon
In December, we’ll be kicking off a new series we’re calling “The Loop”. We’re asking you, the Stack Overflow community, to be our Humans in the Loop as we pay down our community debt. Through your help and feedback, we’ll have the best opportunity to build a better future together. Through our existing feedback mechanisms, along with our Through the Loop survey, we can plan to build the things that really matter to you and build healthy ecosystems. Posts in this series will share our research and our product planning based on what we learn from these different mechanisms.
- We’re committing to improve our relationship with all users by showing you what we’re doing consistently.
- We’re building a moderator council to work with when issues arise in the community. We plan to have a council in place by the end of Q1 2020.
- We’ve revisited the best use of our Meta Sites and will communicate the transition rollout to the community in Q1 2020.
- We’re compiling a small diverse group, including new users, power users, and moderators, to be a constant partner for feedback by Q1 2020.
- We’ll continue sharing user research with you here so you can see behind the curtain about WHY things are being built with our new series, The Loop, beginning in December.
- This is our initial step, your voice matters here, and we want to hear it. We’re asking you to grow with us and to be a part of the discussion. The right direction is the one we can feel good about together. Tell us what you think by responding to our survey, Through The Loop [closed for responses 1/25/20].
- We want to work with you to move past focusing on what’s wrong in order to strengthen the things that are right and build the future we want together.
Stack Overflow, since the beginning, has been a partnership with the software community. We want to make sure that the tools we have to interface with our users scale with us. We will need your continued partnership, as we learn new behaviors together and find the best way to provide feedback loops for the 50 million people that visit Stack Overflow. We know that during times of change, communication is important; you’ll be hearing from us the entire way.
So your solution to a lack of communication from SE towards the META communities is to depreciate META more or less. Thats one way of dealing with it….
I agree META isnt perfect, but current proposed steps wont sit well with the already inflamed crowds, theyll most likely percieve this as a form of silencing them.
Bravo. Excited to see what this looks like!
How about treating people like people and not mere objects???
You need to be more specific. Nobody can action on your request/statement and change a behavior or how they think about a scenario because they dont know what you are talking about.
This is actually an amazing piece. After a lot of improvement in SO I felt things were not still moving forward. Now I really do feel they have to potential to again. This piece makes me feel like people like me are understood and listened to, at least a little, without privilaging us above the moderators and super high rep users…
I was missing something about what it really is about for 99% of all users (they come to Stack Overflow through Google Search): the content.
*”With that being said, our greatest asset for most users is the set of questions and answers on Stack Overflow. We are committed to make it even more awesome in the coming months and years. Watch this space.”*
The last 2-3 years of improvement have been a very welcome thing, and the news of Moderator Training very encouraging. Thanks! : )
Using “north” as a positive term for growth doesn’t seem very welcoming. What about the users in the southern hemisphere? Are they negative? I suggest changing this term out for something more neutral.
I was also offended by this use of ‘north’. There’s a lot of talk about being inclusive and welcoming, but it seems like they still don’t understand what it really means.
“North of” here just means “More than”. I think this has absolutely nothing to do with positive or negative. Just that on most maps north is up and south is down.
Yeah. The slave owners ended up on top and the slaves ended up at the bottom of the map by coincidence. Right.
That doesnt make any sense. In the US, before the civil war, slavery really only existed in the south. The north had no slave owners, as there werent any slaves there. In the south, the slaves lived on the same plantation or household where the slave owners lived.
Not a coincidence at all. The people that designed the maps put themselves in the center.
So.. you think our real problem is not with StackOverflow using the expression ‘north of’, but with maps drawing north on top?
Wow. Just when you think this place can’t get any more Poe…
Thanks for you job friends!
You do evolution of software and human knowledge maintenance efficiency of software development.
You identified 5 major areas of focus on Meta. For 4 of 5, you “plan to transition things like bug reports, user and customer support, user feedback, and company announcements off of Meta”.
1. Where are they going once they leave Meta?
2. Meta will have 1 topic left, “Self-governance discussions”. What does that even mean? This post makes clear that there will not be any user governance but rather Stacker governance from now on.
You also say that you’ll “share high-level transition plans about how Stack Overflow will interact on Meta sites going forward”. If everything but self-governance is leaving Meta, what role would Stackers have on Meta? I do not see any purpose for retaining Meta sites at all. Is that part of the longer term plan too?
A dedicated bug tracker, obviously. I’m sure the reason it’s glossed over is because they’re still barely in the pondering phase, not sure exactly what’s needed or what features are important (say, total seamless integration? managed surveys?), and which product (or in-house developed) would work best. Meta’s always felt like a good product shoehorned into being a really crappy bug tracker, which is also true of mailing lists and most forum software.
I doubt Stack wants to take over setting policies directly; this post only talks about streamlining policy and training, not creating policy, let alone taking away discussion about it. It sounds like it might end up like Wikipedia’s ArbCom, where a set of community-elected mods make final decisions and set policies for each individual site, limited but not ordained from on high.
“These responses help to inform our product decisions and allow us to ensure we’re serving all types of users.”
The type of answers I see shoring highly in that graph are the type of remarks question -askers- would make: “unwelcoming”, “barrier to participation”, and “overmoderation”.
If you’re going to focus on the highest scoring answers there, you’re going to get a higher feedback count on “wecoming backlash”, “review queues”, and “question quality” the next time you collect that kind of data.
There are two very distinct groups of users: Question askers, and answerers. It’s almost impossible to please everyone, so I urge you to consider how lowering the barrier for participation, for example, affects established users.
“We’ll continue sharing user research with you here so you can see behind the curtain about WHY things are being built with our new series, The Loop, beginning in December.”
Best part of the announcement.
Your voice matters here but we are now only taking feedback from a small curated group of users from now on and we are moving things away from meta so we don’t get downvoted anymore.
There are some good changes here such as the new moderator process but overall it feels like you are overwhelmed by meta and community feedback and are cutting it out completely to focus on your small group of users and your internal research. That is not a good thing.
The benefit of meta is that it gets people talking and brings in lots of ideas for improvement from a wide variety of users that actually care about and contribute to the site rather than the sample of users which just need questions answered. I feel the new systems should provide transparency on the process as well as provide an opportunity for anyone from the community to have their say before implementing things.
If anything, these new systems should integrate with meta.
The new system for handling bug reports or feature requests needs to be easy for users to use and needs to de-duplicate reports for the same issue. Meta does that already as it is a familiar format and can be community moderated. You could easily pull in meta questions to your ticketing system automatically once status-confirmed.
Support needs to be handled quickly and efficiently. Meta already does this by allowing the community to provide support on issues which do not need escalating. There are thousands of users available to answer for free instead of a large team of paid support staff. Implement a system that allows users/moderators to escalate support questions on meta to the SO team if necessary.
Announcements need to continue to provide the opportunity for the community to provide feedback before implementing changes. A post on meta after your internal review process and research would allow anyone in the community to provide feedback before moving forward with something. The close vote test carried out recently is a great example of this and worked really well though with other recent changes it feels like the company is just pushing forward with changes without care for the community opinion.
I don’t understand why you are attempting to reinvent the wheel and are potentially throwing away systems which are already established and understood by many members. You could be working to improve the existing systems by hiring people to moderate and review meta, integrating meta with your internal ticketing systems, allowing moderators to flag posts that need attention by the SO team, and improving the process for unfamiliar users by implementing a meta question wizard which walks the user through posting a feature request, bug report, or support request.
I’ve just completed survey and it’s absolutely unclear why it’s called “Through the Loop”?
Dear StackOverflow and Community, thank you very much for your project and your existence.
Everything is as best as it can be, although, sometimes:
1. Some interesting questions pass away for unknown reason, but this might be related to a question list management. This might result in users who have questions, but become blocked from posting them.
2. A dark theme is necessary(at least for main website)
3. A chat application for mobile devices(optional: might be awesome to have there an option to retrieve notifications from website)
Some problems that need to be fixed:
* Welcome the most basic questions: I posted a question about “What is LoRa connectivity?” and asking some overall information, got many downvotes… and even got more downvotes after I complained about it on meta StackOverflow… then got question closed.
* Move, not downvote, the question to the appropriate site if necessary.
* Request a reason to downvote.
**1.** The answer to such questions exist in easily attainable off-site resources, such as Wikipedia. The are only a limited number of people answering questions. There are already more questions coming in every day, than what can be answered. Finding off-site resources is not the job of contributors. They have better things to do. I, for instance, have a hard time discovering new questions to answer, as most of my time goes into downvoting and flagging the new questions I come across. No; I don’t want to spend my time giving you links to Wikipedia or the documentation; that is such a basic thing you can do yourself.
**1.** SO should, by its original standards, consist of high-quality content, for the greater good. Direct copies of, or links to, other off-site documentation/wiki/alike, are considered low-quality content, for the reasons above.
**2.** The SO content is managed by collaborators. These collaborators have limited time. This is something the questioner should’ve done themselves. If the question is blatantly off-topic for the specific SE site, it should just simply be closed. Collaborators on a specific SE site should not be required to know whether any kind of question is on-topic on any other of the SE sites. If a well-written question pops in, that is off-topic, by my own experience, people tend to post links to other SE sites in the comments section, stating that the question is off-topic for this specific site. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which site the question (well-written) should belong to, a more thorough solution should be thought out. I agree that this is the correct thing to do, and I’ve seen it in action.
**3.** I agree that the reason for why a downvote was cast, should be added, but only as an optional appendix. The downvoter should be able to choose either zero, or several different reasons for downvoting. What could also be an optional addition, is that when the questioner believes that they’ve corrected all the mistakes, the downvoter should be notified to reconsider the question. This last feature cannot be forced, but must rather be optional.
This attitude right here is why YouTube is a better place for learning *anything* than SO. It’s a real shame, because SO could have been a great place for people to learn with great explanations in text for the people who prefer to learn that way.
I agree that most off-site documentation/wiki/alike are low quality content – that’s exactly why people are asking for BETTER explanations on SO.
Your post makes it appear that you have been given a mistaken understanding of what Stack Overflow is.
Stack Overflow is not intended to be a site with tutorials, nor is it a site where the users are expected to search (through Google etc.) for tutorials for other people.
While many Stack Overlow users know about many things, off-topic questions are known as off-topic because they do not belong on Stack Overflow. The question-asker will usually be guided to where their question would be well received. Would you expect to get an answer to a problem with a flapjack recipe on SO? If you did ask there, would you be annoyed that people directed you to the “Seasoned Advice” site, a site for “detailed answers to every question about food and cooking?”
There is an introduction to what Stack Overflow is at
How does 20 downvotes explain “what StackOverflow is intended to be” better than 4 downvotes?
I think you’ve misunderstood a few things. SO has a lot of good content that many learn from, with many good explanations. It is when there is little or no explanation that it leans towards low quality: the prime example of link-only answers.
I didn’t state that most off-site resources are of low quality; much documentation is in a very good state, hence why there’s no need for SO to duplicate it. When the documentation is in a bad state, is not thorough enough, or the question involves more than what the documentation should/does state, then those are reasons why the such a question are on-topic.
“The most basic questions” are too basic for SO.
– also, after giving it an extra thought: giving questioners the ability to see flags raised on their posts, would be more useful than asking for a downvote reason. “Lacks minimal understanding” was removed as a flagging reason, but people still downvote for it, so that should be the immediate reason to think for downvotes to come in for, unless flags are raised. Perhaps it should also be communicated better by the website, to new users, that SO contributors expect well-written and well-formatted content.
SE doesn’t want to engage with the community in open discussions on Meta anymore because it gets too much negative feedback and instead seeks other ways to communicate.
I like this site a lot! I do agree with @Tony Henrique, I actually don’t care those downvoters, I usually ignore them BUT that probably negatively affect many newcomers.
People downvote for a reason, so you should care about downvotes. I was negatively affected by downvotes when I came to join SO as well, only until I started thinking more about them . Please don’t blame the contributors for trying to conserve the quality of the site; rather blame SE for opposing their contributions to SE’s success, while shifting from quality to quantity for the sake of ad income, giving a false impression of the community helping and maintaining the site. The friction is caused by people not having their expectations met, that were advertised from SE to them, when they join the site.
PLEASE add a Dark theme. Most IDEs have dark themes and I’ll bet those themes are used more than white theme-backgrounds.
After read a few comments here, I want also support the idea of having a dark-theme for all Stack Exchange sites.
We all know that SO reputation system works like “early settlers” land grab. The earlier you are to the Q&A; the better your fortune will become. That’s fine. However, I have been seeing a lot lately how recruiters and hiring managers are insinuating potential job seekers to show their SO profile, This then forces a lot of frustrated younger users to become active on the SO (for wrong reasons), which leads to a lot of problems such as de-motivation, noise on the site etc. IMHO, SO reputation system needs a restructure.
Why doesn’t the Recruiting and Hiring system need a restructure? A recruiter who can’t read and understand your SO profile (member for how long? how many questions? what questions? how many answers? what answers? active in what tags? ) is not the problem of SO!
I agree that recruiters asking to see Stackoverflow profiles is unfortunate. Could you show them your Github instead? When comparing impressive Github projects to
gathering “reputation for the sake of reputation” on Stackoverflow, contributing to Github is going to be:
1. better for learning new things
2. more useful to the employer evaluating you
3. likely more beneficial for the programming community at large
I think downvotes should be REQUIRED to put a message ‘why’. It’s too easy to downvote and not say anything, so the problems will never get fixed. It’s very annoying to get downvoted when you don’t even know ‘why’ you were in the first place to address and fix it.
This may have been mentioned before and I missed it but one of the most frustrating issues for me is this: If I have built a particular level of reputation in one Stack Exchange group, I cannot comment/help people in other groups, until I attain a similar reputation level in the less-visited group.
This is really frustrating when you have something constructive to offer, you are experienced in Stack Exchange etiquette, but are denied being able to help the person asking the question simply because for that particular group you have not posted a question.
If you have built a reputation in one group, that covers all the newbie requirements for Stack Exchange, why cant that reputation apply to other groups?
Im ok if you want to track reputation numbers per group, but at some point should have enough reputation to add a comment to a question or discussion.
It does apply to other groups. When you have enough rep in a single site, you get a boost of +100 on all other stack sites – enough to comment and answer questions, etc.
Not sure about “attain a similar reputation”, maybe enough to at least ask the Q though. Need to avoid the possibility of the Halo Effect.
Remove downvote, like twitter.
I can’t find any good reason for using this feature. Write a blog post about logic behind this feature. I dare say, it’s a root of many negative feedbacks in this community.
if you remove downvotes, stack overflow will become useless in a few months, because all the questions will be “debug my code please” and “do my homework!”. discouraging poor questions is a good thing.
Without this mechanism (downvoting), some big communities like Twitter have not been useless yet. What could be worse than not responding to such low-quality questions? After several unsuccessful attempts, the user will be disappointed and tries to learn how to ask good questions. Don’t punish users with downvoting, instead punish them with “not paying attention”. Low-quality content doesn’t take precedence like search engines. I’m not convinced yet.
is Twitter useless?
– No, but it generates an awful lot of terrible content; https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Eappleosx%7Ctwcamp%5Esafari%7Ctwgr%5Eprofile
SO is not Twitter.
SO is already overflown by terrible questions; it’s impossible to maintain by the contributors. If you remove downvotes, SO will also become impossible to navigate through, and at that point, none of the good questions will receive answers either.
That’s a rhetorical question, right? Of course it is.
Downvotes are a mechanism to detect bad questions or answers. Some examples: With downvotes it is very easy to detect spam very fast. It is easy to detect bad answers fast instead of reading a lot of comments or trying the solution for yourself just to see that it will not work.
Yes, it’s simple; but the simplest solution is not always the best solution. Better solutions often require further efforts, and Stackoverflow team, requested me to suggest solutions to make this community better. Major change always costs.
Major change do not always lead to the best solution. You said you can’t find any good reasons for that feature, I showed you good reasons.
There are a lot of solutions inbetween like showing the votecount only to users with at least n reputation or adding a mandatory “why” to your downvote. All simple and all good.
To quote you: “After several unsuccessful attempts, the user will be disappointed and tries to learn how to ask good questions.” Are you sure? I think this also happens with downvotes. Some user will react on downvotes, some on missing attention. But I sometimes ask questions in a field where I don’t expect a lot of answers, meaning I expect not a lot of attention. So what does that mean according to your solution? Is my question bad?
Down voting still serves a valuable function on sites other than Stack Overflow since it allows a bit of community moderation. While down voting questions on Stack Overflow may be of limited value given how much churn there is, for answers it can be incredibly useful due to technical churn – older answers can be down voted if the answer is not longer valid (ex., API changes render something obsolete).
Downvotes are OK and useful, but downvotes without any reason being given aren’t.
Basically you want voting to no longer by anonymous! Now what could possibly go wrong?
There are already multiple blog entries explaining downvotes as part of SO.
The frustration is deeply rooted in fundamental a misunderstanding about what SO is. It is primarily a *library* of questions and answers rather than a help-platform. That’s what millions of programmers love SO for, the fact that you can easily find good answers to many questions. Sure, some users seeking help have a bad experience because they don’t understand that. But you simply can’t build a good curated library while helping each and every badly researched duplicate beginner question even if asked in good faith.
A library needs filters that goes in both ways. If there was only upvotes, there would be no way to balance attention. Also, SO is about technical content that can be correct or wrong – or questions that can be well-researched and useful or unclear without effort. That is different to opinions you can find on twitter that you may agree or disagree to.
If SO is a “repository” of questions and answers as you claim, then why do you need to be “welcoming” to new users? Why does it even matter if the user who posted the question or answer is on the site for less than a week or more than a decade?
And most importantly, why is doing this “welcoming” any of the *users’* problem? If the site is too difficult for new users to understand, that is for the company to fix. If you attend a party hosted by someone, do you stand by the door welcoming *other* guests or you leave it to the host to do that?
Stackover flow has been fine for me and I have 98% of my time on just that site. The other ones have been some of the most unpleasant places to visit, especially the mods of various other stack exchanges: serverfault and personal finance. Very heavy handed and rude intervening into questions as soon as they are posted, just classic power-tripping and over-moderating. Sad to see those small communities remain as personal-forums of the mods who got in there early and not community welcoming places.
The Community is dead, long live the community!
Why was my completely G rated comment deleted? I assume that’s the kind of transparency we can look forward too?
Stack overflow is the most trusted website for developers.
I trust Stack overflow, and feel safe.
Anddddddd this survey reflects the problems in general with the influx of staff with questionable ideas. The very reason the current tensions exist. What does it matter to you what my race is or my gender is? What does it matter to anyone? As a minority, please stop making me feel like I am guilty for the toxic environment that you have created under the guise of making it ‘friendlier’ for us. It was already friendly.
You’re upset over standard survey protocol. You need to have data on the people who respond to your surveys so you can look for patterns in the data. Finding out people feel unwelcome, but not knowing that this is more among minorities would lead to poorer outcomes.
You can’t turn standard survey questions into proof of toxicity. Doing so makes it look like confirmation bias on your part–you think they are toxic, so you are looking for proof.
Furthermore, while you may not have felt the site was unfriendly, others obviously did. You don’t count more than anyone else.
And, note, I say all this even though I’m not at all satisfied with these guys. I just know you aren’t helping.
He isn’t “helping” whom exactly? Is there any obligation to help the company here?
That “frustrating” diagram is highly misleading and lacks some explanations: Was it possible to select more than one option? Where is the bar for “Nothing”? Why do you make it look like nearly ninety percent find SO an “unwelcoming community” by cutting the diagram at 12%?
This post does not make anything clearer. Apparently Meta is being deprecated, but I have no idea whatsoever about what’s going to replace it, if anything.
You’ve built a QA platform. That is what the site is supposed to be. But you don’t want to actually use your own platform for your own things?
Apparently the original creators got bored of their toy and want to make some moolah with an IPO. They want to build a “friendly” image of the company so that people would want to buy their shares. The community doesn’t matter, meta doesn’t matter, all that matters is how to exit with maximum cash.
A company I worked for years ago had an official policy: “We want 85% customer satisfaction”. They had the sort of hard nosed business reason that is the antithesis of the participation trophy new wave group think fascists like those running SE.
Their rationale was that 5% of the customers will NEVER be happy no matter what. Another 5% will never give full marks on a survey regardless of facts. Thus you will never achieve more than 90% even if you hand out a baby unicorn with every purchase.
Also there is real pain in changing vendors — EXACTLY as there is pain in searching out solutions rather than just having SE as your GO-TO site.
Thus to misquote PT Barnum: You can make all of the people happy some of the time, and most of the people happy all of the time — and that is good enough!
This obsession with “inclusion” of people that psychologically do not fit in with civilized society is a dead end. It is not-so-slowly killing this corporation. I am VERY VERY happy I do not work for SE. It must be a truly horrible environment for any well adjusted adult.
But You Go Be You! The world existed before SE; it will exist afterwards too. And FAR better corporations have gone bankrupt misreading the market. This is a good learning opportunity for a bunch of self-important fools that could sorely do with some instruction that only a Market Based Economy can teach.
Enjoy your future jobs doing post censoring at Facebook. But don’t invest in the 401K. It is on borrowed time too.
I’d be interested to see a bar chart of what respondents “like best about using Stack Overflow” as well.
Thank you for this. I was asking for moderator training for a while. If you want course recommendations I can happily give them.
Thanks for you job friends!
You do evolution of software and human knowledge maintenance efficiency of software development.
This new system doesn’t seem to be working all that well, given how easily certain past issues could have been avoided. You could have instituted the rule change without all the acrimony if you’d not done something that would make mods want to quit.
Surveys are nice. I’m not entirely sure what a “1:1 user interview” is, but I’m sure it’s helpful. (Do you mean you randomly ask users if you can interview them?) But none of this replaces having someone in the community who is deeply embedded, and is listening to what is going on. You can’t just have someone who faces outside–you need a proper community liaison who is one of us and can be trusted.
You can’t restrict communication with the community and expect things not to go south again (to borrow your metaphor).
I feel that new question downvotes should require a comment. Being fearful of asking questions was what made me leave Stackoverflow intermittently.
I understand that hardworking question answers may not appreciate those who ask questions that are too simple. Perhaps we can award a multiplier for hard questions?
Truth: it’s the trivial questions that millions of developers will Google up but may be afraid to ask. The point is that every new question on S/O has the chance to help thousands of people in the future, even if it may seem too trivial right now, or that whomever answers it receives an undue amount of points for answering such a trivial question.
Currently: I asked a new question that is being misunderstood and also blindly downvoted. C’est Stackoverflow…
Trivial questions are OK to ask on SO, duplicates are not. If asker just makes a quick google search, they’d see that it has (most likely) already asked on SO and answered with multiple solutions.
I appreciate being more transparent and having a dialog with us all.
Sadly that is the last survey I do. This obsession of categorizing human beings is so unpleasant and offensive even when the questions are optional. Its bad enough that Governments and state influenced national broadcasters do it but please team Stackoverflow rethink your approach here. We are all human beings on the same journey and category bias needs to be buried.
It seems to me that the perception of SO being unfriendly to new users asking questions stems simply from more experienced users forgetting that once they new nothing and even base line assumptions of asking good questions are not intuitive if you are new to the field or SO. We sometimes forget how difficult it was learning to driving a manual car but once learnt it is hard to unpack that skill gained and explain it to someone else.
Even the jargon can lead to mild and sometimes amusing misunderstanding e.g. ‘dupe’ I thought originally this referred to some form of deception or ‘to dupe’ rather than duplicate!
Great Job friends !!
Please edit this article to have the survey links open in a new window so that we we close that we do not get a “wait, where did the article go” experience.
Stack network is not moving forward because there isn’t anything new to be created for it. Problems like bad questions/answers/community aren’t a real problems but a classical example of how a popular product creates subproducts during it’s lifetime …
My two ;semicolons; in the code
Reading the comments above I’m sure a lot of posters thought of the idea to remove 95% of all mod staff and replacing them with fully automated anwsering/moderating system, while other 5% will be there only for pushing some buttons and plugging some cables so the SE servers won’t go down. DO IT like Stalin did it 😉
“Meta tends to exclude people that aren’t super immersed in the Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange culture.” -> And your solution is to phase out Meta and replace it with a Moderator Advisory Group which excludes even more people?
Instead of revamping your policies you should start listening to the genuine complaints that a lot of moderators have, apologize for the mistakes made and start with a clean slate. It is not too late!
Seeing the renewed comments about a dark theme, I’m reminded of how you managed to swiftly implement an April Fool’s theme, yet claim to not have the resources to implement dark theme. Your own poll showed VS Code as the most popular IDE which uses dark theme by default, so very likely that the majority of your users are switching from IDE dark theme to SO light theme and experiencing the obnoxious eye strain.
Regarding the unwelcoming community, I’m not sure how forming a committee will solve this. Maintaining a high bar for questions is directly at odds with having a welcoming community. Meanwhile, when I ask more advanced questions that meet that bar, the questions are lost without any activity. I think you need to segregate low reputation user questions to a non-default feed so the default feed is no longer DDOSed with low-quality questions while beginners users are not discouraged from using the site. Right now, unless I’m asking a question about an extremely popular library, I just post on Reddit or GitHub.
Stack Exchange is going down a dangerous path. There is a community of dedicated volunteers who spend countless hours answering and curating content on the network. They are the heart of the community and they have deep insights about the needs of the community. But their opinions have long been ignored. Over time they have gotten increasingly frustrated and negative toward the company repeatedly ignoring them or treating them dismissively or condescendingly. BUT through all this, they have remained hopeful and receptive to improvements.
However, all the company sees is their negative reactions to the company’s poor decisions so now the company is ignoring the feedback. This “ostrich” strategy is leading Stack Exchange down a dangerous path. The core community is leaving and Stack Exchange will be flooded by low quality posts without people to curate or answer them.
For awhile Stack Exchange will be fine as it can skate on its reputation and it doesn’t have any credible competitors. But if there is a demand, competitors will appear and as the quality of the site declines, so will its reputation. In the end Stack Exchange will be a very welcoming successor to Yahoo Answers.
I think the danger is that the site will become like the old usenet newsgroups. The main problem that made the newsgroups useless was that everyone was allowed to post anything. Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky wanted to fix that. The new management will want to go back to the newsgroup way. I guess enough time has passed, and these people are too young to remember the consequences of lack of content policing.
They say: “create a new working group of users that we’ll lean on for regular feedback. ”
I assume that translates to: we will select a group of users that we know already align with our views unconditionally, then we will listen to them for “feedback”.
This reminds me of the history of my country of origin (Cuba). One particularly important piece of history was the “centralization” and “refining” of all existing worker unions into a single “voice”, so that their new unique employer (the government) could “process better their feedback”. Yeah… right.
Does the world outside the United States matter to you? Why is your entire Loop or whatever completely US focused? You claimed before that you are serving an international audience. Is that claim rescinded now? Can you state so unequivocally?
You sound angry Masked Man. Unreasonably so with more comments than any other person. Don’t you think it’s better to pick a big fight with your enemies than small ones with friends? The folks working at SO don’t want SO to fail, neither does the community. Positioning the company with an “us vs them” mentality benefits no one.
If your approach to discussion is diatribes, I wouldn’t wish to be part of any group that had you as a member. If these changes in communication result in aggressive cowards leaving the community and more civil and helpful folks joining, I’m all for it.
Can you elaborate why anyone from the community should sign up for this loop? Seeing as anyone who criticizes you or gives you negative feedback will be blocked (as you do on Twitter and is also your KPI), what do people stand to gain by telling you only what you want to hear?
much love and peace and respect <3
Amazing and very transparent post – I love your clear communication in this article.