July 2011 Newsletter

2011-07-08 by . 0 comments

Welcome to the Stack Exchange Moderator Newsletter. This monthly newsletter highlights the top community-related issues and events of the previous month.

Helping Users When Deleting Answers

It used to be that, when you deleted a post, any comments you left to the author were also removed from their inbox. We changed that behavior so you can now reach the author of a deleted post to explain your actions.

When deleting a post, simply leave a comment immediately before deleting it. Your comment will appear in their inbox, even though the post has been deleted. Note that this only works for moderators and only for comments to the author of the post (@replies to other users will not work)… and the post has to be deleted within one hour after leaving the comment. The details are outlined in this meta post.

Subjective Close Reason Replaced with “Not Constructive”

Asking users to avoid questions that are subjective has long been a source of confusion on Stack Exchange. Outside our computing and mathematics sites, most questions are somewhat subjective. The problem starts when questions become unreasonably subjective, and expecting users to understand the difference was also, in itself… subjective.

For that reason, we changed the criteria for closing those questions to “not constructive — This question is not a good for to our Q&A format …”

I like this change because it removes the pointed accusation that users are being too argumentative. It explains, instead, that we simply choose to forgo these types of questions because the answers will not likely be useful to this site. “We expect answer to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; This questions will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.”

This is a clearer, less user-hostile explanation about “what kind of questions can I ask here.” It diffuses somewhat the rhetoric of closing as a personal attack to one of educating and espousing “What’s special about Stack Exchange.”

Community@ Email Address

The Community Team is up to five members: Rebecca (rebecca@), Dori (dori@), Josh/”Shog9″ (shog@), Susan/”HedgeMage” (susan@), and Robert (rcartaino@). In addition to our direct email addresses, we now have a “team” email address: community@stackexchange.com. If you wish to address the entire team in one shot, feel free to use this Community email address.

Increasing User Retention

We started taking a closer look at how many of your highly engage users keep coming back to your site month after month. Most websites are a “leaky bucket,” but if your site consistently fails to keep users coming back, that will effectively put the brakes on your site’s growth. Consider the effort you put into getting new users — A site with a high churn requires enormous growth just to avoid a decline in involvement.

Review your /review path

The first step to reducing churn is to actively engage your newest users. Have you seen the /review path under the tools menu? At 200 rep, a review entry appears in the top menu; at +10K reputation, it appears under the ‘tools’ menu.

These are the first posts a new user has ever submitted to your site. One of those users just may be your next big user! But if that new user doesn’t understand how your site works, it’s all for naught.

Did you know…

It’s human nature: If a user receives any indication that someone noticed them on your site, the probability that they will return goes through the roof! It’s not just a bit of glowing praise or a hearty “good job” that keeps users interested in the site (although that is nice), but any acknowledgement that someone noticed their presence. Please make a special effort to regularly review a user’s first posts and vote, comment, or flag them appropriately. Encourage your community to do the same. Don’t be a “leaky bucket.”

One User’s First-Time Experience

Maybe you’ve heard this before — a hands-on style to community and user engagement is critical, especially when it comes to educating new users who are new to this style of “knowledge creation.” But it’s nice to hear it from a first-time user; How she went from being the “poster child for bad posting etiquette to becoming their poster child for fast learner! A poignant tale …” and a good read.

Life in the Stack Exchange Lane

That’s all I have for now. See you next month!

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