This caught my eye in the blog, here are some changes that they plan on making:
Getting to the <3 of the problem. (Here’s where we plan to start.)
As of last week, we’re prioritizing this and staffing it with talented employees from our Executive, Community, Data, Design, Research, and Engineering teams. We’re listening to our community and those sharing their experiences. I want to thank those of you who’ve been vocal about the need for improvement. It hurt to hear, but we needed to hear it.
We’ve started with user research, and we’re keeping an open mind to all ideas. There are opportunities to work on things like reviewing site copy for inclusive language. Maybe it’s time we re-visited things like our “no pleases or thank yous’” rule. (It serves a valuable purpose by keeping signal high, but also suggests that we just might be Zuckerbots who aren’t even trying very hard to pass as actual humans). In any case, here are some areas we’re planning to focus on first:
Let’s shift from “don’t be an asshole” to “be welcoming.” Many people don’t realize that we already have a code of conduct (cuz we gave it a funny name). Or that it already includes concepts like “belittling language is not okay” and “Be welcoming, be patient, … and don’t expect new users to know all the rules — they don’t.” But we need to show it to all users, and empower them to help us enforce it. In the longer term, I’d like us to aim for something closer to what Jon Skeet told me about his experience attending a pride parade (as a cis straight dude): “I wasn’t just tolerated; I was made to feel like the community was actually better because I was there.”
Let’s do something about comments. Condescension and sarcasm have been reluctantly tolerated in comments for too long. We’ll research possible feature changes, but let’s start by working with the community and our community managers to start flagging and deleting unkind comments now.
Let’s make it easier for new users to succeed. No, I’m not shifting the blame. We set them up for failure, and our power users have been asking us to help them for ages. We’re planning to test a new “beginner” ask page that breaks the question box into multiple fields – one for each of the key things answerers need to help:
“What did you want to happen?” “What actually happened? (Include any error details)” “Paste the shortest block of code that reproduces the problem. (We’ll format it!)” “Describe what you’ve tried so far (including searches, etc.)”
Let’s stop judging users for not knowing things. (We’re a Q&A site!) It makes me sad when someone get downvoted for posting a duplicate. We should better surface them in the posting flow, but it’s not reasonable to expect askers to find dupes consistently. Users aren’t “too lazy” to search; searching takes less work than posting.
And little makes me sadder than comments on answers saying, “Don’t answer questions like this – it encourages them.” Now, some questions are off-topic. (I’m genuinely sorry, but we simply can’t explain how a glass pitcher can smash through a brick wall with no apparent injuries; we are a programming site.) But it’s totally cool to answer questions without giving a grilled poop sandwich about exactly what’s allowed. It’s fine to volunteer in one way without being expected to read and enforce every rule and meta discussion since forever.
Let’s reject the false dichotomy between quality and kindness. Quality matters because it means posts can help more people. But a larger, more diverse community produces better artifacts, not worse ones. We need to stop justifying condescension with the pursuit of quality, and we need better tools and queues to help power users trying to keep quality high.
It will be interesting to see where this ends up and what new guidelines will be issued and changes made to the site.