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My name is Tim and I work here; I'm the community evangelist for Stack Exchange and Stack Overflow.

I've been working my way around some of the oldest sites in the network just to see how things are going and ... can you believe it has been over 8 years since Graphic Design entered public beta? And, if you take a look, you'll see that the list of people that really nailed this site early-on are still familiar faces. It's rather remarkable for a paid group of people to more or less stick together that long, much less folks that are motivated mostly by just sharing what they know. There's a lot to be very proud of here.

Investing in anything so emotionally and so heavily doesn't come without cost and that's why I'm dropping in. This isn't edict from the ivory tower, or anything like that; I'd write this even if I didn't work here because like you, I enjoy sharing bits of what I've learned at opportune times. What I want to say most of all is, it's okay to feel tired, and doing so isn't a right one needs to earn. That may seem simple, but I sure wish someone had shared that with me back when I first started here six-and-a-half years ago. I felt like I didn't have the right to feel drained as I worked on some of the most complicated problems our communities were having because I felt like I hadn't yet accomplished enough. I've subsequently learned: that's hogwash, and pretty unhealthy.

This leads me to also remind folks, it's okay to take breaks. Taking a break isn't abandoning anything, it's taking care of yourself so you can take more deliberate and successful care of the things and people you care most about. I mention it because when you see folks struggling to feel okay about how tired they are, well, they're certainly not thinking about taking less-than-permanent breaks.

This leads me to my last point which is try to be appreciative and welcoming of feedback even if your immediate instinct is to disagree with, or even resent it. This is likely to come in the form of "take a break", but it could simply be you not realizing how tired you really are, and how much that's coming through in the way you relate to folks.

Above all, Graphic Design is very much a superior resource in its space because people care so deeply about the quality of answers that questions receive, and everyone is doing a fantastic job. That's it, there's no "but" to that.

I just checked in, looked at flags, chat, moderator activity, comments and saw a very healthy site, along with an opportunity to share what I hope is, a helpful tidbit of experience that I've acquired while working here.

You can feel free to leave an answer if you've got any follow-up, or reach out to me privately (I'm tpost@stackoverflew just in the present tense) if you have anything you want to share.

Keep doing what you're doing, and thank you for doing it!

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I can only speak for myself here, so that's what I'll do. Disclaimer: I'll try my utmost to avoid it, but I may come across as cynic and hostile. I used to be a mod and very active and passionate user of this Stack. Multiple events, not in the least the redesign communication debacle, completely soured me on participating.

I downvoted your post because multiple aspects of it strike me as really weird, random, or ill-timed.

First and foremost, I applaud your general message that taking a break is good. As a self-employed designer, I can only stimulate people to take it easy between all the busywork. Keeps you sharp.

My main concern is that you bring this message at a, in my opinion, very inopportune moment. As is, as you are no doubt aware, a few weeks ago, one of our mods made their temporary leave permanent. The fact that this was not announced or communicated in any way gave a weird impression, to say the least.

Just a few days ago, one of our very active users was banned for a week. I have no insight in how, why, or the buildup, and I shouldn't. But the fact that you write and post this when some of the few very people still putting considerable amounts of time in writing professional answers here is taking a forced break, strikes me as a little tone deaf.

It seems odd to me how much emphasis you put on indicating that this site is 'healthy', forcibly citing the involvement of lots of Area51 committers. When I check the first few pages of those committers, I see a few mods, our top user, and then a slew of people I haven't seen doing anything in, well, long. As you already told me in chat, I'm sure you have access and insight in more review queues and activity logs than I have and can thus say these people are active. It's just not in a way that I have noticed and hence their inclusion in your pep talk feels forced to me.

Lastly, I am disappointed that this post pops up, written by you. Nothing against you personally. Not that it's bad that the Community Team gets involved, but I am really kind of scared by the fact that this pops up rather than a message from our mods. The recent goings-on make it more than clear that there is something going on in the mod team. What concerns me is that you don't spend more than literally two words on them or that situation. Or even the fact that we are now a mod short and that either the next candidate should be promoted, we should have elections, or the mod team should explicitly decide four is enough for now; neither of which has happened yet. The only involvement of our mods in this post is Wrzlprmft editing it, and nothing more.

Please don't understand me wrong. I don't mistrust our mods. I have been one, I know how it works. I am just very concerned. For the site, but also for them personally. I completely understand that things like work, life, and other responsibilities hit, mod and non-mod alike. Once again, something is not right in that team, but they aren't telling. Which is their right, but this steely silence is anything but reassuring.

Can you understand that your very general message of 'it's okay to take a break' can be interpreted in so many ways? That, taking all this into account, it can give the wrong ideas?

--A concerned lurker

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    I tried to address some of your concerns in my answer. – Wrzlprmft Jul 5 at 0:12
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    I think many of the problems stem from a clash beween the american cultural discussion vs the lack of such discussion in europe. So whenever you see a person from US post anything remotely politically correct, from their standpoint, it feels like being stabbed. This is why every time community mods get involved it turns bad really quick. – joojaa Jul 6 at 12:04
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    @joojaa: I fail to understand your comment. Are you sure you want to say politically correct and not formal, bureaucratic, similar? Also posting politically correct things feels like being stabbed to the poster? – Wrzlprmft Jul 6 at 19:27
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    @Wrzlprmft yes i want to say politically correct, feeling stabbed to the audience that is not in US influence. – joojaa Jul 6 at 20:23
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This is half a general statement and half a reply to Vincent’s answer. Note particularly, that this is just me describing how I perceive things and sharing my stance. I am not writing on behalf of anybody except myself here.

What happened (or did not happen)

Let me start by an excerpt of the recent history:

  1. Cai has stopped to be active on the site half a year ago and his moderator status was removed due to this (which is normal SE procedure for inactive mods). So far this could be deduced from publicly available information. The only thing that was not public until recently is that the moderators don’t know much more either. I was reluctant to share this last bit since I consider it borderline private information (whether it actually is is a complicated debate that I prefer not to have here).

  2. Recently, the mood of some top users was notably negative, which was more or less bundled with complaints about the moderators (in general as well as targetted towards individual moderators, including me). Publicly, this mostly manifested in the Ink Spot, but part of it happened in private communication which I cannot share here. We moderators reacted to much of this on the platform it was raised. Therefore I did not think there was much point in a public announcement from the moderators. I will address the nature of the complaints in more detail below.

  3. Due to the previous point, one moderator contacted Tim Post for external help, and we discussed the situation. This resulted in this very meta question.

    At this point it is important to recall the following: If one moderator under attack, another moderator can moderate the issue; if all moderators are, this isn’t possible. Therefore I considered a post by a community manager better than an announcement from the moderators themselves. I still stand by this choice, but:

  4. This question did not turn out to have the focus I expected and came out all wrong in the sense that parts of it were unintentionally misleading. A main problem is probably that this post does not state its motivation, which thus leaves a lot of guesswork for everybody except the moderators. (I won’t go into further detail here, as Vincent already did that.)

… and that is it, as far as I know. In particular, I am not aware of something bad going on with or within the moderator team except for the criticism that we received. The latter is either on record in the Ink Spot or private.

On the negative feelings (and what this question has to do with it)

As said above, there are a lot of complaints in the community:

  • User A complains about the new design.
  • User B is concerned about the site dying.
  • User C thinks too many questions are closed.
  • User D wants more bad questions to be closed.
  • User E does not want to be contacted via mod message for slight problems, but wants to have a personal chat on these occasions.
  • User F prefers a brief moderator message that is to the point.
  • User Wrzlprmft complains about everybody complaining.

I know, that’s still not very specific, but I hope I could illustrate one pattern: All of this complaining is not very constructive for various reasons. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for people complaining when something is wrong, and maybe we still have too little of it, but:

  • Be constructive. A broad complaint in chat is only the first step. The next step is to narrow down your concern or formulate (actionable) alternatives on meta. This is something that rarely happens in this community. Please do debate the closure of individual questions, suggest policies for reviews, etc.

  • Do not overdo it. For instance, there is a strong expectation that we moderators have to be the shining example of how to communicate things. And yes, this is an ideal rightly held by SE and we aspire this and we are open for critique, but we are still humans. If our tone is off or our method of communication is overkill, this is not a glimpse into our dark soul filled with hatred for all users, but probably just a bad choice of words or means (and occasionally the limitation of the system). If this happens, please still feel free to complain, but then please assume good intentions and return on the issue at hand.

    Sidenote: Given my experience, I am honestly worried that this answer might cause debacle by being understood completely different than intended. I am aware that my communication style is not completely in tune with most members of this community (to my defence, being overly direct is a professional hazard as well as a national pastime of mine). I try to improve this, but I also think that if worrying about these things may keep me from posting here, it’s definitely going too far.

  • Accept a lost battle. I know the design change sucks (or maybe I don’t; I have been told it’s much worse on other operating systems) and since we are a design community, we are more bound to notice or even be affected. But bringing it up over and over in all contexts doesn’t really help.

    Same goes for community consensus on what content we accept. Casting close votes or flags that go against this consensus only cause confusion, dispute, and clog the queues. PS: Ryan disagrees with this and I disagree that we disagree. Read the full story here)

And with that we can finally tie in Tim’s post:

  • We're All In This Together and try to be appreciative and welcoming of feedback even if your immediate instinct is to disagree with, or even resent it – Try to work towards a solution and assume good intentions of everybody involved. Nobody wants to destroy this community.

  • it's okay to feel tired, and doing so isn't a right one needs to earn and it's okay to take breaks. – If you feel tired and pessimistic about the site or community right now, that’s okay, but do not unnecessarily drag others into this or even let it out on others, but take a break.

  • I strongly disagree with this, "Same goes for community consensus on what content we accept. Casting close votes or flags that go against this consensus only cause confusion, dispute, and clog the queues." and am writing a counterpoint to it. – Ryan Jul 5 at 0:29
  • It's interesting that you mention that Cai had his moderator status removed due to inactivity, I remember seeing a site where a moderator hadn't signed on in over 1.5 years, I don't recall which particular site it was though - it may have ended up getting completely shut down. – WELZ Jul 5 at 1:02
  • Somehow... I find myself falling under User A,B,C,D 😂 – WELZ Jul 5 at 1:04
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    @WELZ: I remember seeing a site where a moderator hadn't signed on in over 1.5 years – yeah, they don’t do that anymore. – Wrzlprmft Jul 5 at 8:42
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    @WELZ: I find myself falling under User A,B,C,D 😂 – Well, you know what to do then (“narrow down your concern or formulate (actionable) alternatives on meta”). – Wrzlprmft Jul 5 at 8:44
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The patient: "Doctor, what is wrong with me?"
The Doctor: "You must have systemic lupus erythematosus."

"Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), also known simply as lupus, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in many parts of the body. Symptoms vary between people and may be mild to severe.

Common symptoms include painful and swollen joints, fever, chest pain, hair loss, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, feeling tired, and a red rash which is most commonly on the face. Often there are periods of illness, called flares, and periods of remission during which there are few symptoms.

The cause of SLE is not clear. It is thought to involve genetics together with environmental factors. Among identical twins, if one is affected there is a 24% chance the other one will be as well. Female sex hormones, sunlight, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and certain infections, are also believed to increase the risk. The mechanism involves an immune response by autoantibodies against a person's own tissues.

...

There is no cure for SLE. Treatments may include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, hydroxychloroquine, and methotrexate. Alternative medicine has not been shown to affect the disease. Life expectancy is lower among people with SLE. SLE significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease with this being the most common cause of death. With modern treatment about 80% of those affected survive more than 15 years.

...

Clairification of the point being made: There is no single cause or symptom, and not everyone is affected the same way. Pointing to a single cause and cure when there are non-specific symptoms doesn't aid a systemic problem.

Be appreciative and welcoming of this advice: you must be tired, take a break. Now that we are healed we can go back to the way it was. Four or five years ago we didn't seem to have the symptoms of the past year or two; were we well or has diagnosis advanced by leaps and bounds.

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:) I am hesitant to reply/answer.... really hesitant given my history here.......

.... all I can think after looking at meta for the first time in weeks (if not months) is... "oh the drama which seems to be taking place under the hood!"

I've had all the drama I can handle from this site and really am never angling for any more. Did I type "really"? Because I really mean really! :)

Seems to me that by intentionally posting "attaboy" meta questions, well.. it's seen as somewhat of reverse psychology. There would be no reason to post such content unless the exact opposite is being felt by some. That's too bad.

I can't help but feel if everyone merely focused on themselves rather than worrying what others may or may not be doing, we'd all be little more relaxed and stress-free.

I've had my run-ins with moderators... I've been banned.. suspended, etc. all surrounding .. well I won't go into it here. I don't really blame the mods for any of it even though I feel they were entirely incorrect at the time.

I've merely accepted that people in an unpaid position will practically always have no desire or incentive to fully understand unpleasant events they must deal with. They will want it over as quickly as possible. It's human nature. Heck, I'll mow your lawn for free... but as soon as I have to also pick up the dog feces, well.. I don't want to do it any longer. :)

My history on this stack has taught me.... calm waters only take a small stone to create ripples. If "under the hood" the waters have 30 ft swells.... well... that's unfortunate. I'll just wait to go swimming if I see the waves.

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    Poorly worded but pretty sure I agree. I at least agree with my own interpretation of what you said :\ oh and FYI, the apparent issues in Ink Spot and Meta right now seem really overblown to me so I wouldn't be worried about some under the hood issues. – Ryan Jul 5 at 21:13

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