The Loop: Our Community & Public Platform Roadmap for Q3 2021

Here's a brief recap of what we accomplished in Q2, along with details on our Q3 plans.

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Hello everyone - for those who don’t know me yet, I’m Philippe, and I’m the new VP of Community here. Long time listener, first time caller…

I’ve been working with online communities since the days of AOL chat rooms, and have held community roles at Wikipedia and Reddit. You can hear more about my experience and why I’m so excited for this opportunity in this recent podcast episode.

Ok, enough about me. I'm going to take you through what the Community Management and Public Platform teams accomplished in Q2 and what to expect during Q3.

Q2 2021 recap

Our Community Management team - directly supporting moderators, curators, and the general user base - is growing and changing! We’ve added two new community managers, have two more starting in August, and have moved one staff member (me) to a VP role. We’re also opening up two positions on Trust and Safety, the sub-team that investigates various threats to the site and behavioral issues. Check out the job posting and apply if you are qualified!

Q2 was a busy time for us.

On the community project side, we completed a number of initiatives: we reset the community ads program, wrote guidance for mods about how to use the mod tools, and began research into reasons for closed questions. We also rewrote some mod templates that were unclear or outdated. The changes will be rolled out to the public platform soon. Along with projects handled largely by our team, we also supported a number of other initiatives throughout the company, such as the deployment of Collectives and the 2021 Dev Survey. Last but not least, after a successful launch last year, we’re excited to be supporting the 2nd annual “Community-a-thon” for staff right now.

Meanwhile, Public Platform, the product development team that builds features for Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange communities, accomplished the following in Q2:

Q3 2021 Community Management team roadmap

Below are the major initiatives we'll be focusing on in Q3.

Community Operations

Moving some support tickets to Community Ops

For the operations team, led by Rosie, one major piece of work that’s happening is that we’re taking over a large support responsibility. For the last half-decade or so, the Stack Overflow support team has been triaging and handling community support emails that really should be handled by community managers. It’s a decent sized lift — about 2,000 a month — and it will require that we update our existing templates as well.

Three vote closure adaptation

We will also continue our experiments with the three-vote closure adaptation, which allows for three votes on a close/reopen task rather than the customary five. We ran a pilot program for this last quarter, and we’re into an analysis phase at this point, prior to making decisions about where and how to implement the adjustment.

Site life-cycle analysis

I know that many of you will be thrilled to know that we’re looking at site lifecycles - from the beginning of the nascent site in Area 51 through the beta process and into graduation as a “full” site. We’ll be trying to standardize some practices for sites to establish a clean and clear roadmap for new sites. We are also hoping to create a fair and repeatable process for evaluating sites that are in danger of being shut down. This will include determining what the process should be for having their members join a similar community (while importing their questions and reputation there). A component of this work is evaluating sites that are currently flagged as “beta” and determining whether they should have that label removed.

Trust and Safety

New employee onboarding refresh

We’re updating a ton of documentation for new team members. The “ramp” time to get a new hire to become fully functional as a community-facing Stack employee is a long one, but history tells us that the better organized and carefully crafted the onboarding process, the easier onboarding is for new teammates. Trust and Safety work has traditionally not been an area of focus for us, so Cesar’s team will be helping to update the onboarding process to reflect their work and to give solid advice to those who join the company.

Closed question reasons

The T&S team is also working on evaluating closed questions and the reasons why they are closed. They’re looking into whether it makes sense to standardize some options for this — for instance, should all sites have an option to close questions for a particular set of reasons? If so, what should those reasons be? What are the requirements to have a question reopened once closed under those reasons? Once this work is done, they will work to create a set of guidelines for closing that are standardized across the network.

Oh, and with a little bit of luck, we will onboard a couple of new community managers to this team as well.

Curator Support

At the same time, the curator support team, led by Juan, will continue its focus on our moderators and power users. This quarter, they’ll be onboarding two new community managers, in addition to their standard work (mod surveys, swag, mod/staff quarterly meeting), so they will take on only one additional project: mod tenure (the emeritus program), which is a project that looks at the overall arc of tenure for moderators. It also looks at ways to honor those who have done excellent work for the communities they serve for some time who may wish to step down.

This will likely form the corpus of a “moderator emeritus” program, one which will allow communities to recognize and honor those who have served as moderators, while also giving them a consistent and recognizable stable of mentors for new mods and new users. We will recognize these emeritus moderators with some icon similar to the diamond that mods wear today. They will also retain access to a more limited set of the moderator tools, to allow them to surge in and support existing moderators if needed, but also allow them a graceful transition out of the role.

Q3 2021 Public Platform roadmap

These are our top priorities for Q3.

Q3 2021 Public Platform roadmap

Review queues

We are wrapping up the final phase of this longstanding project by making changes to how posts flow through the various queues. This includes:

  • splitting up the First posts queue into First questions and First answers, so that experienced users can more easily evaluate the quality of new users' posts.
  • redesigning how closed posts become eligible for reopening.
  • Making it easier for reviewers to take concrete actions in the First questions, First answers, and Late answers queues.

Outdated answers

We are continuing our product-discovery work on Stack Overflow answer quality by conducting experiments related to how we sort answers. We will be testing the effect of sorting by highest score vs. pinning the answer that the question asker viewed as most helpful to the top. This is a long-standing community request that we hope to finally address. We will also be exploring the concept of a Trending sort that weights recent votes more heavily than older votes.

New user onboarding

We are continuing product discovery on how to best guide new users through the process of successfully asking their first questions. We will experiment with the copy shown to new users when asking questions to help them learn about site mechanics and successfully complete their tasks. In addition, we're conducting extensive research on different ways new users can engage with the Stack Overflow community and get the support and information they need to start off on the right foot.

Stacks editor alpha test

In Q1, we kicked off an alpha test to get feedback from the community on what is needed to bring a new editor experience to the network. Based on the feedback we received, we are making incremental progress on tackling bugs and feature requests.

….and straight on toward morning *

It’s going to be a very full quarter, and I’m particularly excited that in addition to the two new CMs recently hired, we’ll be adding four more to the team. We’re looking both inside and outside the Stack community for qualified candidates - as a reminder, we’ve got the job description and application posted, so please apply if you’re qualified!

On a personal note, as this blog post is being published, I am finishing the first thirty days of my new role as VP of Community, and I want to particularly thank my team, the whole staff, but especially all the community members who have so patiently answered my questions and given me great ideas and feedback. I look forward to meeting many more of you!

* -(with apologies to Chindraba).

Please note: we welcome your feedback on these roadmaps on meta.

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