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Seven Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta lists some key questions that each site needs to decide -- scope, tagging, etc. New sites in private beta (and early in public beta) get a link to this post at the top of their meta and it's emailed to beta users, which gives users the impression that these issues should be brought up and decided early. For some that's true; issues of scope are pretty essential, for instance.

But that list also includes "who should the moderators be?" and "what should our site design be?". The first can lead to early drama (SE chooses the pro-tems, and not until a few weeks in), and the second is very premature (a site doesn't get its design until graduation, which can be a year or two after beta).

I'm currently watching a private beta where some users seem to be obsessing over the former and some are expending energy on the latter. That doesn't seem very productive to me.

In addition, as pointed out in comments, some users see this list and think it calls for seven meta posts, one per essential question. However, some of the essential questions, like FAQ contents and tagging, are really categories of questions, and over-arching questions don't address the need.

Could we instead link to something better for early beta, like the real essential questions of every beta (which is now a FAQ entry)? It seems like the current post + linkage can be a little misleading and distracting at just the wrong time. The other issues are important, but maybe not on Day 1.

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Or hire a production company so that we can take these interactions and form them into a 44 minute episodic series for television. –  animuson Oct 15 '13 at 16:12
I confirm, I've seen that happen on other betas. We end up with one thread per “7 essential” (including one completely unproductive “what should our FAQ be” which ends up as a collection of pet peeves because no one really knows what's important two days in, and one completely unproductive “what should our tags be” instead of discussions of specific tags or groups of tags), or even one question containing them all! –  Gilles Oct 15 '13 at 17:19
Yeah, I think inexperienced users see a link for "7 essential meta questions" right there at the top of meta and think "ok, I can fire off 7 questions", totally missing that these are categories of questions. –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 17:44
While I agree (especially I think there is way too much indirect campaigning for pro-tempore mod positions), Robert's blog post about the subject seems to suggest that the community team likes to see the "Who Should be Out Moderators" meta post to help with the appointments –  psubsee2003 Oct 15 '13 at 21:18
@psubsee2003 I agree the community should express its preferences on that, but not on day 1 or 2 of private beta. Such a post shouldn't even go up until a couple weeks in, when people have seen enough to cast meaningful votes. –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 21:21
@MonicaCellio absolutely, I agree. Just pointing out that Robert explicitly asked for it. –  psubsee2003 Oct 15 '13 at 21:22
Yes, that's a good point, and that post isn't linked from the 7-questions one so I'm glad you pointed it out. –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 21:23
Followup question: meta.stackexchange.com/q/223674 –  msh210 Mar 2 '14 at 4:17

2 Answers 2

The Real Essential Questions of Every Beta is an attempt at a community curated resource to document what's important, what needs discussion and also, what helps rally people together on a newly launched site. If the post gets to FAQ status, then it could be used.

I think this community maintained resource may prove to be more helpful for early beta communities both at present and in the future, than the blog post (or another newer post). The benefit of maintaining this here would be that the resource would be dynamic. We, and other community members from across Stack Exchange can add ideas based on our experience as and when we learn, while the same isn't and won't be possible to do on the official blog.

There will be problems with a dynamic resource as well, but given that the current blog post misdirects communities; the benefits outweigh any problems that may occur long-term.

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The "real essential questions" post is much more suitable for new sites now. I wish SE would change the link in beta headers from "7 questions" to that. –  Monica Cellio Sep 18 '14 at 15:49
From what I understand, for that to even be considered, the MSE post needs to first become an faq; which means that the post needs a lot of attention, before it can get a lot more attention :D –  AsheeshR Sep 19 '14 at 1:43
@AsheeshR - I think it's not so much that it needs more attention to become a FAQ, as that it wasn't following the faq-proposed instructions. I just submitted an edit to bring it in line with those. –  Bobson Oct 2 '14 at 12:00
Ok, it's now a FAQ -- so if SE starts linking to that instead of to the out-of-date blog post, that will address the problem. –  Monica Cellio Oct 2 '14 at 18:19

I like your idea about a new blog about the early (private) beta essentials vs the later phases of the public beta.

However, another alternative is to remove the notation of creating specific meta posts. Since many inexperienced users tend to jump the gun any time there is a suggestion of what to do, maybe the solution here is the community team should be responsible for posting some of the important posts (like the "Who should be our moderators" or "what should our site design look like") at the appropriate time. This way they can apply the tag and encourage all users to chime in.

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Most communities can and have handled these discussions quite well on their own. Why involve the CMs? They already have enough to do. –  AsheeshR Mar 13 '14 at 16:00

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