The Simplest Possible Step
The idea was simple; get the engineers actively engaged in our community.
If we could connect engineers directly with members, the engineers could get useful feedback on their plans, learn what members needed, and build better products.
But the engineers (like most engineers, frankly) were far too busy to spend time in the community.
In situations like these, we’ve typically found an escalating series of asks makes this successful. Usually, this looks like:
1) Open hours/AMAs. Have a product engineer spend an hour each month answering as many questions as they can from members. Members usually like this format and engineers find it convenient (and fun).
2) Unsolicited feedback. If the product feedback goes well for a few months, ask engineers what kind of feedback would be useful and collect/send it on at the right times (at the beginning of an engineering sprint works well).
3) Solicited feedback. If unsolicited feedback goes well, have engineers suggest questions they would love to know the answer to and post these to the community. This is pretty simple.
4) Proactively monitoring and engagement. Finally invite and guide product engineers to proactively monitor the community, respond to questions, ask questions, and gather feedback – especially after a big change.
Your mileage with each step will vary. But start small and expand the asks over time.