MageStackDay #5 and the moderation discussion

17.-18.6. was the 5th (+/-1) MageStackDay, an online hackathon dedicated to the Magento StackExchange site. It was originally initiated by the community to get the answer rate up and finally get out of beta status (which had hard requirements originally, like an 80% answer rate).

To achieve that goal, we focused on “unanswered” questions with one of these actions, whatever is applicable:

  • answer
  • close
  • upvoted existing answers with 0-votes, because questions count as answered if they have either an accepted or an upvoted answer.

But since we “gradudated” out of beta recently, just working towards some numbers doesn’t seem right anymore. After all, the primary goal should be to increase quality.

A shift of priority

Phillip Jackson started a discussion on Twitter about that and asked the provocative question if MageStackDay now does more harm than helping, because the “clean up” attitude suggests that something is “dirty” in the first place. And that’s not confined to MageStackDay alone, there has been a tendency for a while to quickly close many questions as reaction on the sheer mass on new questions of new users. I’m guilty of that attitude too, no doubt.

After this topic had been brought out, an online panel discussion was scheduled during MageStackDay to talk about the future of moderation and where we want to go with the site. As an active member I took part in this and I think we sent a clear message, even though we did not have enough time to have a real thourough discussion.

You can watch the recorded hangout at – if you want to skip grandpa talking about the war (i.e. a history lesson of Magento StackExchange from Ben) while we were waiting for Phillip, jump to minute 29:20 – but if you have the time, listen to it. And read his blog post:

Now after it’s over I’m going to sum up some points that are important to me, flavoured with my own opinion:

  • In doubt, better leave new questions open. In the worst case they will stay unanswered and fall into oblivion.
  • When closing (or downvoting) questions, it’s good to leave an additional comment to explain how the question could be improved or direct the user to the forums if it’s more suitable there
  • Use this community wiki on meta to collect and reuse standard comments: List of standard comments for review.
  • While you are there, participate in meta discussions! This is the place to shape our guidelines. Continuously. Not only on MageStackDay.
  • Let’s be welcoming to new users. That does not mean that we have to tolerate bad questions (off topic, not enough information, not showing any effort etc.) but try to educate new users. If they do not react or are not willing to follow the rules, it’s not necessary to put more energy into it. But as I said, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt at first.
  • Upvotes are free. If you come across a good question, give it an upvote. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary, just clear and answerable. This will help to let them stand out amongst all the “meh” questions and highlight good content on the front page.

First I feared that we would get into a quality downwards spiral if we were more lax with moderating (bad questions pile up, people are discouraged to answer, questions stay unanswered, content gives a bad first impression to visitors), but now I think that if we follow the guidelines above, it’s possible to prevent this scenario. More votes and comments can already help to make a good impression.

We can do it!

The Magento StackExchange is a great place. Everybody who participates can contribute to keep it like that, and make it even better!