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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
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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
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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
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Followup question: meta.stackexchange.com/q/223674 –  msh210 Mar 2 '14 at 4:17
    
We do use "who should the moderators be?" - a moderator who already has community backing (in addition to the other characteristics we're looking for) is the perfect choice. –  Anna Lear Jun 5 at 3:07
    
@AnnaLear I realize you do; I just think it's a question better asked by a CM at the appropriate time, which I think is early in public beta. Before that, the pool of both candidates and input is quite small. –  Monica Cellio Jun 5 at 3:12
    
@MonicaCellio I don't think it matters that much in practice. There aren't enough questions on meta on a typical private beta that the question gets lost, and it's nice to have the community step up and initiate the discussion instead of relying on us to kick it off (and then wait for answers for a few days). –  Anna Lear Jun 5 at 3:13

3 Answers 3

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

I looked over the original 7 questions and I think those are still good questions to be asked in the earliest days of a beta with the exception of:

6. What should our logo and site design look like?

Given our current site lifecycle, many sites will not see a new design for months, years, or even at all. So talking about site design is premature. My suggestion would be to replace that question with:

6. What should we call our chat room?

Every site has a third place for social gatherings: chat. Initially, chat rooms receive the name of the site, but users have gotten creative with naming their rooms. Avid users of the site will spend a lot of time in this room so now is a good time to make yourself comfortable. Pick a name that reflects the sensibilities and interests of your community.

To address the other question you mentioned, we do use the moderator nomination thread to help us find good moderators. We don't necessarily pick the top three vote getters because we are looking for the right combination of domain knowledge, network experience, and level-headedness in a moderator team. It's true that we don't pick moderators until sometime after the start of public beta, so it might not be ideal to start the meta question on day #1. But it does help us appoint moderators quickly if people have already volunteered before we start looking.

Yes, some of the sub-points under the 7 questions are outdated. Those should be fixed. But with well over a hundred betas under our belt, I think we've settled on a reasonable set of items to discuss on a beta's meta.

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That's a good point about swapping in the chat-room question. As for moderators, so long as beta moderators are appointed for life we should let more than ~100 private-beta users be part of the discussion, which means waiting a couple weeks. If we let the community have ongoing input into that, then this is less of an issue. –  Monica Cellio Jun 5 at 1:36
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You're funding good moderators now? (I suspect thats a typo...) –  MichaelT Jun 5 at 2:09
    
@MichaelT: Must be some sort of Freudian slip. Thanks for noticing. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Jun 5 at 2:13
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<ahem> I'd like to be first in line for the new program revealed in the first revision of this answer.... :-) –  GlenH7 Jun 5 at 2:37
    
Please replace it by The Real Essential Questions of Every Beta which is a lot better: it's up to date and explain when and how to ask the questions a lot better. –  Gilles Jun 26 at 0:55

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