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I asked the following in the town hall chat for the moderator election, but there were no responses. I guess it is possible that the candidates, like this one, merely felt that the question was not "deserving of time and energy." But, maybe my question (which did get starred, like other questions) was merely overlooked among all the others, so I'll ask again here.

Some people find it important to ensure that all people who participate in a community process feel they are heard and considered, even when the final decision in a matter does not go their way. Rules of Parliamentary Procedure, for instance, are instituted in part for this reason (though not necessarily here). How will you attempt to ensure that people feel they are being heard and considered when attempting to shape the community through, for example, meta?

closed as too localized by user8 Feb 9 '12 at 1:53

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  • I'll mark this as featured so hopefully the candidates will see it. You might also want to mention it in chat – ChrisF Feb 1 '12 at 16:16
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For the record, the town hall was at an inconvenient time for me. I didn't purposely skip your question, just didn't have time to get to them all. I find it ironic your unanswered question was about making sure people feel heard :-)

I wrote an answer last week regarding listening and leadership, and the same principles apply here. Don't just tell people their ideas are wrong. Give in sometimes. Incorporate the good parts of what they say if possible. If not, explain your reasoning behind it. Address all their concerns.

The other way to make people feel heard is to lead by example, and ask for input on decisions even if you feel you already know the right way to go.

That question is a good illustration of listening to the community. In the last 10 days, only 2 questions were voted higher, yet it was closed as off topic. To me, getting that many votes and good answers essentially makes it on topic by community fiat, especially on a question that has nowhere else to go until professional matters launches, and is certainly something programmers deal with at work.

That's why I made an exception to the rule and answered instead of voting to close, even though I would have closed if I got there before it gathered any attention. As long as it doesn't get out of hand, I have no problem with deferring to the community and letting a few popular borderline questions slip through every once in a while.

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Andrew, sorry I missed that, questions were appearing very fast and yours is the only one that the whole message is not bold.

As I wrote in my nomination stub:

If anything, my participation as a user has been highly visible. As a moderator I will take a step back, encourage users to take ownership of the community and intervene only when necessary.

It's not up to the moderators to ensure that your voice is heard, or even shape the community. That's completely up to you and every other user, and the moderators should intervene only when absolutely necessary.

Just yesterday we appointed our Blog Overlord, Jarrod Nettles. Why him? Well, if you take a look at blog related Meta discussions, you'll notice that he has been pushing for the blog since early on. To be fair, Thomas Owens started the discussion back in June, and would be perfectly capable of taking point, as would quite a few other members. But that doesn't really matter, we needed a point man, Jarrod was around yesterday when we had the discussion, case closed.

The moderators, in this case Mark Trapp, only stepped in after there was clear community consensus for the blog, plus a comprehensive list of topics and a sufficient list of volunteers. He contacted the team, reported back, and in a couple of hours we went from having no idea of whether the blog will kick off to discussing logistics.

That's pretty close to how things should work. You may consider this a lame example, because there wasn't really anyone opposing the blog, but I think my point still gets across: Participation is key and it's not the moderators' job to hand hold anyone. As a user I have been extremely active on Meta, and I've explored ways to get even more people to participate. As a moderator, if elected, I will try to encourage people to do exactly what I've been doing so far, but that can only happen if people actually care to participate.

I wouldn't really handle dissenting opinions any differently than any other user, the voting system is perfectly suited for that. The only reason I would wear the moderator's hat on Meta would be when discussions are getting out of hand, rude or otherwise offensive. Other than that, I'd be yet another user, and it would be completely up to the community to decide if my opinions have merit or not.

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I think the system already does this. If you take a look at how voting is used, customarily, on Meta. If the question is simply asking about something, an up vote means that it's something that should be considered and is important to the community while a down vote means that it's not important or irrelevant. On answers, up votes are signs of approval or support while down votes are signs of dissent.

As long as people use Meta to raise concerns that they have, vote on questions/answers, and leave comments asking for clarification or to enumerate concerns, people are already being heard. If you have a look through some of the past decisions, the implemented ideas often come from the top voted ideas. If the top voted idea isn't feasible in its entirety, then I would suspect that it would be implemented in the most feasible possible manner, with work to see what else needs to be done.

So, I wouldn't change anything. What we have appears to be working - I'm more than satisfied with it. It has led to changes to the FAQ with regards to topicality, it's gotten questions reopened, it's gotten new ideas for how to approach problems (see the tag clean up efforts). Meta works - it's just a matter of people participating. Those who care about the community will participate, and others won't. There's no way to force people to participate - using the featured tag would help, and perhaps organized events (chat events, question of the week, and so on) to build a stronger sense of community would help, but you can't force people to participate if they don't want to.

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I think a dose of Talmudic style commentary records would be a good idea. For example we have a question and then some answers to that question and we accept that answer but we make sure to keep in mind and acknowledge the other answers. No reason to not be even-handed, it may well be that the answer we pick it wrong down the line and that we should have picked one of the others. Good to have them available for the record and to acknowledge that there is now a need for that answer rather than the other. I think detailed lines of reasoning and personal acknowledgement of ideas are the key to avoiding feelings of being "left out". I do think that meta should serve as a place we grievances can and should be heard and acknowledged.

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