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I came across this comment by Tim Post today in a separate question:

The only thing holding [Code Review] back from graduating is the lack of high rep users - there just aren't enough 1k+, 3k+ users on the site, and it can't quite yet sustain an election. Every single thing about CR is ready but that - it's really just a matter of time at this point (and, well, voting).

Almost all the posts about what the criteria for graduation are vague and don't mention specific examples:

The first question specifically asks about 2 beta (now graduated) sites, but the answer is more general, "Look at this blog" with general guidance.

How often are site stats reviewed by the team in charge of betas? And is it appropriate to create meta questions asking where a site stands to get feedback to the community on how to improve?

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Question on META.SO must not mention specific examples, otherwise they should be asked on the site-specific meta. –  Lukasz Oct 23 '13 at 7:03
    
@Łukasz, do you have a reference for that? And we even did ask on our site-specific meta which hasn't gotten a response from the SE staff in any capacity. So I'm wondering if, as implied by Tim's post, the SE staff are allowed to discuss specific examples on how to get a site to graduation. –  jmac Oct 23 '13 at 7:09
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@ŁukaszL. Say what? This question seems perfectly fine. Yes, it mentions practical examples, but overall it's general enough to be discussed here. –  Bart Oct 23 '13 at 7:35
    
Argh, it's been a year since I tried to encourage CR regulars to vote more... Still, only 9 of us have earned Electorate. –  Yannis Oct 23 '13 at 10:35
    
@Yannis, I think there just have to be voting parties in chat or somesuch. TWP doesn't have much issues with high-rep users (2 over 20k, 6 more over 10k, another 35 or so over 3k). But we also only have 9 electorate (and embarrassingly, I am not among them). –  jmac Oct 23 '13 at 13:05

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It is certainly appropriate to ask about this on your per-site meta. Though you can usually guess what the reason is.

The main criteria from what I've seen are

  • sustained growth in traffic (you can see that for your site on Quantcast even if you're not a moderator)
  • reasonable question volume (what "reasonable" means depends a lot on the subject and site)
  • No large quality problems
  • Large enough group of engaged high reputation users that can moderate the site even with the higher privilege levels after graduation

The general idea is that SE wants to see an continuous upwards trend in the important metrics. The site should look like it is growing well, if participation, traffic or question volume are on a downwards spiral this is a bad sign for the site.

If you need a specific evaluation of your site a meta post is fine, but I would try not to ask this question every month or so.

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Thanks for the response, is this actually stated anywhere? As mentioned above, we did ask on our per-site meta, and our quantcast and site stats compared to non-beta sites are pretty good, but no official response from the SE staff there. –  jmac Oct 23 '13 at 7:19
    
@jmac I'd ask one of your mods to inquire about the status of the site. Apart from the reasons I mentioned, there is also the current design bottleneck which can delay the graduation of a site. –  Mad Scientist Oct 23 '13 at 7:22
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what "reasonable" [question volume] means -- this is not very obscure, really. List of SE sites ordered by questions clearly shows that under 3K questions in backlog, there are no graduated sites (except for AskPatents, but it's special case). Given this, I'd say beta site would better hop over 3K questions to graduate –  gnat Oct 23 '13 at 8:33

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