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Staff communication with community is broken

Post by iainhouse
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Iain. In July 2012, I had my first smartphone and was looking for a free satnav application. I downloaded Waze and found many mistakes, so I started editing the map. From those beginnings, in 4½ years, I have progressed to being the all-time top editor in the UK; the 20th all-time editor in the ROTW; a member of the UK self-administration team and a Waze Global champ. I've made 1.2M edits and earned 4.2M points. I've made nearly 7000 posts on the forums and been thanked by other forum members nearly 4000 times. I think it's fair to say that the Waze community is a major part of my life and something I'm heavily invested in.

Recently, however, I have been become very disillusioned with Waze - to the extent that, at the beginning of October, I quit. I stopped editing the maps. I stopped visiting the forums. I stopped visiting the Global Champs, UK Champs and UK Admins Hangouts/Slack channels. I disabled PMs and all notifications. For over a month, I had nothing to do with Waze. However, I have discovered that I cannot easily do without something that's so important to me and I cannot turn my back on a community of editors I have worked so hard to help. So I'm back, but with something to say about it. I'm also VERY long-winded so I'm sorry: this is a long post.

So why have I become so disillusioned? It's simple enough. The standard of Waze HQ's communications with the community is crap. As a community of editors, we provide a massive amount of value to Waze; and HQ's response is to ignore us at every turn whilst doing their very best to make our lives more difficult.

As a Global Champ, part of my role is supposedly to be a communication channel to HQ - and that is a joke. If you feel frustrated because HQ never listens, how much worse do you think I feel when they won't listen to someone they appointed to talk to them?

HQ are always saying "we need examples". Here are a few:
  • The last official feedback topic for a production editor release created by HQ was on 15th August. There have since been several new WME versions released, so the comments on the original topic now cover at least 4 editor versions. Total number of responses from HQ: one, posted the same day the topic was opened. A more appropriate title would be "Feedback to be ignored"
  • I wanted to tell you when the last staff-posted Official Feedback topics were for iOS and Android app versions. But do you know what? I can't find one at all!
  • I have been told face-to-face by Waze staff that "we do not monitor the forums"
  • The Parking Project was prematurely released with essential features missing and it took weeks of screaming at HQ until they finally agreed not to proceed any further; they still haven't answered all of our questions
  • Parking places import was promised to be tested. Instead a full import was done and screwed up the maps.
  • Parking place MPs are STILL re-appearing interminably. I think everyone has given up complaining about it.
  • Despite many promises in the past to try & work with the script writers, we get no help whatsoever. Every update still breaks half the scripts and we have to scramble to work out how the devs have screwed us this time - whilst your unpaid editing work is impacted by the failure of the tools we provide to help you.
  • The ROTW weekly scoreboard stopped rolling back to zero each week at the start of September. I reported this on Sep 20th, when the scoreboard also stopped updating completely. One day later, Waze staff responded to say it was fixed and marked the topic solved. It wasn't - the weekly scores kept increasing. All further posts in that topic have been ignored. A PM to the staff member who replied remains unread. The problem only finally resolved last week.
  • The Global Champs have a Direct Access forum to alert HQ to problems. I just reviewed 23 topics on the first page:
    • 7 topics have been answered and resolved by HQ. (Note that I may not like the answers, but they're there).
    • 6 topics have had an answer from HQ, but remain unresolved and are waiting for a further answer.
    • 10 topics have had no acknowledgement from HQ at all.
  • I hope you all know where the status page is? If you check it when there's a problem, you'll know status updates of problems are extremely rare
  • October is "holiday season" in Israel. So for most of October, it is especially hard to get a response from HQ. But Waze is a global service! July/August is "holiday season" in the UK, but my company maintains a full service and doesn't let everyone go away at the same time!
So what could HQ do about this? The Global Champs and the editing community are willing to help, but this will never get better until Waze stop lying to us by saying "we will improve". They actually need to get off their butts and make some changes.

I have some suggestions. Some of them may never happen, but this indicates the sort of thing that is desperately needed to maintain our willing involvement.
  • Every topic in Direct Access to have a guaranteed staff response within 24 hours. The same for any further questions on the same topic.
  • No topic in Direct Access to be marked as solved by staff - only by a Global Champ.
  • Official Feedback topics to be posted by staff for every WME or App update
  • Official Feedback topics to be constantly monitored and to receive a minimum of one staff update per week
  • Second post in Official Feedback topics to be reserved for a list of current issues and kept updated by staff
  • Some degree of general forum monitoring by staff to be introduced
  • No new features to be introduced without a consultation period with the Global Champs. We are committed to maintaining confidentiality. HQ frequently don't seem to understand how WME or the App are used. Our involvement could help avoid the sort of pitfalls that have made the Parking Project such a disaster.
  • Proper monitoring of the scoreboard and drives update processes, with Status updates when any problem lasts beyond 3 days
  • Status updates for other problems - so we don't have to deal with so many posts about the same problem
  • A select group of Global Champs to have access to post Status updates. Maybe only half a dozen champs, but with an emphasis on having good geographical/language coverage.
So what can we do about this?

There has been some discussion amongst a few Global Champs about going on strike. The first problem with this is simple enough: HQ are already expert at ignoring us. If we went on strike, there would be fewer posts for them to ignore. The bigger problem is that we don't "work" for HQ - we work for you. The Global Champs dedicate a lot of effort to supporting and nurturing the Waze community around the world. If we down tools, you suffer far more than HQ does.

There's not much we can do, but here are some suggestions:
  • A long way away, at the top of this post, is a little thumbs-up icon. Thank this post. When HQ eventually come to read it, let them know that 10 or 100, or 1000 community members agree with my sentiments.
  • Tell other people to check out this topic. Some editors don't often look outside their own country forum
  • This is the time of year when Waze are asking us to start organising next year's Meetups. Make sure that every meetup has an "HQ-Communication Issues" item on the agenda. Ask your Community Manager which member of staff will be addressing that issue.
    [EDIT] I am withdrawing the suggestions below and asking you not to email Waze staff any more, or automatically refuse cooperation. See here for an explanation. :)
  • If you approve of what I say, email your staff Community Manager and ask them to read this topic.
  • If you don't have the email address, but your country is self-managed, please email your Country Coordinator and ask them to forward the email on. (A big apology to all CCs for what I've just committed you to).
  • Whenever Waze introduce a new feature needing support from the community, immediately post that you will not participate without guaranteed communication levels.
Lastly, I want to say thank you to you for reading this far, especially to those of you who do not have English as your native language. I also want to thank you for being part of a community that has been so important for me. I'm still not sure how long I will be able to put up with the frustrations generated by HQ, but you guys help me do that.
iainhouse
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Post by iainhouse
I want to thank you all for your massive support. Whilst this topic was born out of frustration and anger, it makes me very proud to know that I'm not just ranting by myself, but articulating the feelings of many other community members and helping to move things forward for so many people.

I'm sure you saw the post from shirlig earlier. That has not been the only response from Waze HQ. I have rarely seen as many forum visits from Waze staff as I have today and several neglected topics have suddenly received updates from HQ. I've also had an email from Shira, the Community Manager covering the UK, asking to discuss things further. There is no denying that my post and your response have seriously woken up HQ. :)
shirlig wrote:I only ask that we keep this discussion respectful and solution-oriented.
I completely agree. My intention was not to be anything other than calm and respectful: I could have started this a week ago, but instead I chose to wait and be sure I could be calm and rational. Since Waze are responding to us, I think it is our responsibility to engage in a responsible manner.

I am therefore going to withdraw my suggestion that you email your Community Manager. They have got the message and continuing to clog up their mailboxes is not going to make them more aware.

I am also withdrawing my suggestion that you immediately refuse cooperation with any new feature. One thing that I hope will come from all this is a more robust and cooperative way to improve Waze and we can only influence that process if we take part.

I will edit the original post to reflect these changes. However, there is a suggestion that I will ask you to keep following: please thank my original post. It's not about how many thanks I get. But that post is now #2 in the Thanks Toplist. I want it at #1 with such a number of thanks that HQ will never be able to forget how important it is to us that they communicate.
iainhouse
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Post by iainhouse
PesachZ wrote:I do also want to give credit where it is due. You mention that there are no feedback threads for iOS and Android versions. That is because the changelogs, beta, and production release notes and feedback threads, including dedicated threads for certain specific features are all maintained in centercode. Granted not every community member or use has access, but any champ can be a beta tester. I must say that staff do participate heavily in those threads and do respond to issues, even postponing releases for show-stopping issues when reported by the users. The other teams in Waze could take an example from them.
It doesn't surprise me to hear that there are official feedback threads somewhere else. For that matter, I am happy to acknowledge that the feedback and response for the WME Beta is very good from what I've heard.

The problem is, simply, that most editors aren't WME Beta testers and App users come to the forums to look for help. As experienced community members, it is very easy to forget how little of this is known to the majority of users. Today, the thought of editing without scripts is horrifying, yet when I started it was months before I even knew such a thing existed.

With the WME Beta, the existence of such good response is pretty insulting to the majority of editors. Why should they have to join a Beta program to get a response from HQ? If the Beta program actually worked properly and production releases weren't all different from Beta versions (don't even get me started on that subject :lol: ), then production releases would have far fewer bugs and would require less official response.

The fact that they can get it right sometimes begs the question "why can't they get it right all the time?"
iainhouse
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Post by GeekDriverPeaceful
I really appreciate this post! I am very thankful that this voice is heard by Waze HQ! I am very hopeful for this community and I am prepared to coorperate with all of the leaders in our community and Waze staff. Yes, communication had broken with them recently but we are moving forward and foresee a better, stronger community of amazing map editors! I still edit and will always edit because there is no other experience like Waze Map Editing!
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Post by iainhouse
Having stirred up so much interest/trouble, I think it's fair that I update everyone on where things stand from my viewpoint.

Obviously I'm pleased about the interest in this topic and the good things it has prompted so far. Other community members have been prompted to address HQ with their concerns - both publicly and through other channels.

HQ have been taking things very seriously. Several communities have been contacted directly about their concerns. I have, myself, had a call with Shira. HQ have also had at least one meeting about this issue and I expect we will be hearing more from them in the near future.

Notice I avoided using the word "soon" above. :lol: What we are asking for is not simple and HQ cannot wave a magic wand and make thing instantly better. For things to improve in the long term, proper processes need to be put in place and that can't be hurried.

I'm not asking anyone to refrain from speaking their mind. Only that you do it in a respectful, helpful manner and without unrealistic expectations.

I am being careful not to pre-judge where we will go from here. I could let my past experience and frustration make me pessimistic. I could let the results of the last week make me too optimistic. So I'm not making any solid predictions - but I am hopeful. :mrgreen:
iainhouse
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Post by hmarian
Thank you Shirli.
I would like to ask you to add another step for SOS and that would be to acknowledge that the Email received and again when the issue rectified.
We often left in limbo not knowing if someone is working on identifying and fixing the issue and when it is resolved.
As GCs we discuss among ourselves and agree altogether about the need for SOS, and we can agree not to make it a discussion Email chain, but the confirmation of receipt and rectifying the issue must be integrated into the process in my view.
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Post by GeekDriverPeaceful
Thank you for the post Shirli! It is great to see things moving smoothly again! Can't wait for 2017!
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Post by GeekDriverPeaceful
And a Happy New Year gift :) Thank you for all of your efforts to bridge the gap between the community and Waze HQ and Staff.
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Post by hebermc
I think the real issue is Waze no longer values the free labour they get.

As a software developer I can feel the pain of script developers every time something gets changed and their scripts are broken, if the payd waze staff cant find time to develop an API or communicate changes why should developers waste their free time to fix stuff they did not break? That time could be spent developing new features.

Due to this lack of communication and proper management of community issues one of our community managers has retired today. He will be greatly missed by the brazilian community and I doubt we can replace him.
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