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It seems, as a Q&A topic moves from Propoal to Commitment to Closed Beta and beyond that, at each step, the SO system tries to further close off topics into niche community interest. Future users of the hypothetical site find increasing road blocks to involvement. I'll explain:

Proposal Phase Anyone can follow a proposal. Following gives the user easy links back to the topic, so they can keep connected, and involved to whatever degree they'd like. Unfortunately, there's very little they can do in this phase.

Commitment Phase Followers from Proposal are given the option to commit. New people can wander by and commit. There is no longer an option to sign up as a "future community member" we are now only interested in "future community experts". People who wander by and would have followed the proposal may not reach the bar for commit. Future users are rejected.

Closed Beta Phase No one can join. You missed the bus, sorry. There is no longer an option to connect with this community at all. No "notify me when this goes live" button, no "I support this idea" button, nothing. You will never be part of this community, because you were late.

As near as I can tell, there is no index of topics past this point. So, unless you were involved previously, it's effectively gone.

Public Beta Phase The site is finally, once again, accepting members of the public; but has hidden itself where no one can find it.

Is there a Public Non-Beta Phase? How is it different?

Recommendations There needs to be a way to connect as an interested party at each step, not just a raised bar for membership. The Commitment Phase needs a "I'd love to use this site, but I'm not an expert" option. The Closed Beta Phase needs at LEAST a "send me the link once this site disappears!" sign-up list.

I don't see why "Follow" and "Commit" aren't options all the way through to the end of Closed Beta. Following shows interest and support, and connects users to the future community. Committing indicates a level of support which I don't see why should be rejected just because someone noticed a site 24 hours after the Closed Beta started. However, I would support people only following not be allowed access during the Closed Beta, and late Committers having to be allowed access by current participants in order to maintain the feel of a topic.

Finally there needs to be a directory of live sites. If there's a distinction between Public Beta and Live, then probably both directories. But these need to exist. Otherwise, the meta-community that is StackExchange won't flourish.

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Directory of live sites: area51.stackexchange.com/?tab=progress –  jmfsg Jul 14 '10 at 16:31
    
Everything on the progress tab is in Beta or younger. Will sites -always- be listed there? –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 16:35
    
I'm guessing yes –  jmfsg Jul 14 '10 at 16:42
    
On what grounds did you have to assume that they wouldn't be listed there? I understand your concerns but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the team is planning to obscure the information and location of the sites. –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 16:49
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Because the tab is named "Progress", something that seems to indicate "things not yet completed". There are no sites on that list which ARE completed. Every site on that list has a progress bar (fitting with the tab name) and that progress bar does not go to "Live". The greater context of Area51 is "sites which are not yet live". Sites which are KNOWN to be live (stackoverflow.com, for example) are not listed. So, to reverse your question, why would anyone ever assume that to be a permanent list of live sites? –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 17:09
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Stack Overflow didn't go through Area 51. Why would it have to be listed? It was never a site proposal to begin with. Consequently, there's no reason to destroy information on the proposal that has successfully made it to live existence (which no one has yet, anyway). I always figured that once the progress bar was filled, it would sit there with its completed bar as a symbol of success. Considering the original Stack Exchange 1.0 maintained a list of Stack Exchange 1.0 sites, it makes little sense to not keep information on live new Stack Exchange 2.0 sites. –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 17:11
    
Being new here, I'm not directly familiar with SE 1.0. Googling for a site list, I found stackexchangesites.com, which was supposedly a third-party list of sites which voluntarily registered with them. I also found a Q&A list which was a community maintained list of sites. I did not find an automatically maintained, full list of SE 1.0 sites. Also, whether it went through Area51 or not, Stack Overflow should be in any full list of sites. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 17:21
    
@Grace Note: I agree with Scivitri, to me, a completed site list should at least be under a tab titled "Completed" or "Live." I don't see a reason to keep a live, successful site on a tab labeled "Progress." Moreover, since there are not yet any live sites (that passed through the area51 stages), it's difficult to know where they will be listed once past the proposal stage. –  JYelton Jul 14 '10 at 17:22
    
@JYelton I have no qualms with a separate tab. But I think that there's nothing to go off for thinking that the Area 51 sites will not be displayed once they exit the Public Beta and become live. The context of Area 51 as "sites which are not yet live" is because there aren't any live sites to list, not because they aren't going to list the live sites. Area 51 is about the proposals for new sites, not the trilogy. –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 17:27
    
@Grace Note: I assumed (obviously incorrectly) that I stumbled upon Area51 after some unknown number of sites had went live. Apparently, once a site goes live and has a home, future visitors won't have that potential assumption. But I think many people have had the "Oh, here's a list of ideas, I wonder where the finished ones are?" thought. –  JYelton Jul 14 '10 at 17:35
    
As for having a full list of all live Stack Exchange 2.0 sites, Scivitri, there's a complete list of all live Stack Exchange 2.0 sites on the Meta About page. There's no other sites going live anytime soon, so there hasn't been a need to maintain a full list anywhere else. –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 17:36
    
@JYelton I was around when Area 51 first went public, so I admit to some early knowledge of the matter. But past that, I think that if you can't find any live sites listed, rather than running on the assumption that they aren't going to be listed, asking if they aren't going to be listed would've been a wiser idea. We are, after all, a Q&A site, and would be more than happy to field any question like "Is there a list of all current Stack Exchange 2.0 sites?". –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 17:40
    
@Grace Note - Asked and answered: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4/list-of-stackexchange-sites Yes, I worked on an assumption. Several, actually. First, I was mostly unaware of the 1.0 vs 2.0 system. So, I assumed the community maintained (and thus difficult and incomplete) answer above was correct. Second, that the labels and meters on the Area51 site meant what they indicated. And third, that the Area51 system was more developed than it is. It's great to know the answers to questions already; not so easy when you don't know what to ask. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 17:53
    
The labels and meters on the Area 51 site seem very accurate to me, but I'm able to be mistaken. What are they showing which isn't being indicated, or what isn't being shown that is indicated should be shown? –  Grace Note Jul 14 '10 at 17:58
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It's possible. But why would you go to a "New site staging zone" looking for "completed live sites" in the first place? Further, there are no current "Mission complete" stickers, so why would I assume they exist. I can hypothesize a great many things, but what is currently on the site includes nothing to indicate a live site index. It currently looks like a very robust, well-designed concept development area. A staging area. What it claims to be. And it looks like sites are removed once they complete beta. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 19:34

3 Answers 3

I see where you're coming from, but your suggestion

The Commitment Phase needs a "I'd love to use this site, but I'm not an expert" option.

is antithetical to the Area 51 model. From the FAQ:

Remember, the pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!

It's not a bad idea, but it doesn't fit with the model that SO, Inc. is using here. I'm not clear on what you mean by

The Closed Beta Phase needs at LEAST a "send me the link once this site disappears!" sign-up list.

Before the closed beta, committing to the proposal gets you on the list to participate. After the closed beta, the site doesn't disappear; it reappears.

As for

I don't see why "Follow" and "Commit" aren't options all the way through to the end of Closed Beta.

it's because following and committing is no longer necessary. The site has already passed the bar, so to speak, and you'll be able to start using it within a week; what could show interest and support better than that?

Finally, as Juan pointed out in a comment, there is a directory of live sites.

EDIT to respond to OP's comment (I had too much to say to put it in my own comment):
I disagree with your bottom line. Regarding expertise, the private beta users claim to be experts in the site's topic. But more importantly, they are experts in how SE sites work. If — admittedly making these numbers up — we turn away 100 people in private beta and end up with a good site, the site's quality will attract far more than 100 users in in the future, possibly including some of the ones who were originally turned away. If we admit those 100 people but end up with a mediocre or bad site, there won't be any community, period, and everyone loses, again including those original 100.

Now, will admitting the 100 people actually cause a bad site? That's up for debate. I think a small possibility is there, but there's no way to know unless you try it both ways. And if you're going to try it both ways, you might as well start with the "turning people away" option. Note also that Area 51 is so new that no site has completed the creation process yet. After a site or two does graduate, we can do this: If success, it ain't broke, don't fix it. If failure, well, Area 51 is itself a beta; SO, Inc. can and surely will tweak their process to try to fix it.

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I understand the idea is to create a pool of experts. But in the process you are pushing away people who would be interested in talking to those experts. I'm not advocating for changes to the way you refine that pool. I'm asking that you add ways to keep users connected. A flat "Go away, we want nothing from you for a week" is rather harsh, and completely unnecessary. You may have all the NEEDED committers, but how is that a justification for rejecting further experts? Bottom line, turning anyone away, at ANY time, for ANY reason, will forever diminish your future community. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 17:04
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Again, I am NOT asking you to make unconsidered changes to your development process. But I AM asking you not to "turn people away." There IS a middle ground. If users could click "follow" on any site, at any time, they'd feel they had a connection to that site. It would be in their list of "followed" sites, and they could track it. Kind of like bookmarking. It makes them feel involved, even if they can't be for a week. It's good customer service. -- As for adding SME's during closed beta, that's not where I started, and probably best moved to another topic if we want to pursue it. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 18:01
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@Popular Demand: I can see both sides of this equation. The topic became of interest to me when I tried to have a friend visit one of the sites that is in closed beta, just for the sake of seeing it. But they can't join, follow, commit, or anything. And that friend knows more than I do about the subject. –  JYelton Jul 14 '10 at 18:03
    
SME = Subject Matter Expert. I was short on characters, and don't have the advantage of editing posts. >_< –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 18:05
    
@Scivitri, just to be absolutely clear (because you said "I am NOT asking you to make unconsidered changes to your development process"), I am a regular user like you, not a moderator or employee or any other sort of authority figure. And I would be fine with them adding a late follower feature, but not the late commit feature or the elimination of private beta. –  Pops Jul 14 '10 at 18:17
    
@Popular Demand, Sorry, I have no idea who is/isn't a dev. Didn't really cross my mind. Although, in retrospect the phrasing gives my comment a "railing against authority" tone that I'm not sure I meant. I can get too invested in making a point. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 18:23
    
@Scivitri, no worries, we've all been there. (At least, all of us who hang around on Meta. Welcome, by the way!) –  Pops Jul 14 '10 at 18:36

I believe that there are at least two big problems that should be separated here:

  1. Following as a part of the proposal lifecycle: in that optic, there is no perceived interest in getting more followers after the definition phase has been closed.
  2. Following as a way for the potential future user to mark this proposal for his later use: on the Area51 site, there is a tab "followed" that seems to have been thought as a rough equivalent of the "favourite questions" tab. However, as soon as the proposal is out of the first phase, there is no way I can add that proposal to that tab (without committing, which comes with its own set of constraints) - which drastically limits the use of that tab.

My suggestion to remedy that problem would be the following:

  • Add a "late follower" user status.
  • One would become a late follower by clicking the "follow" button after the end of the definition phase.
  • A late follower would be able to follow the progress of a proposal, through email updates or other notifications, and the proposal would be added to the late follower's "followed" tab.
  • Late followers would have no effect whatsoever on the proposal's status.
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This sounds like it would accomplish a lot of what I suggested. Trying to maintain a connection to people who find a proposal late, or would like a lower level of involvement. –  Scivitri Sep 20 '10 at 16:08

I really don't agree. The site, once defined, requires more commitment to progress to open beta. This is to ensure that the site will have a fair chance of getting on it's feet once open. You could add a way for people to follow the site through all the steps, but I'm not sure what benefit you gain from allowing that.

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It's not so much a direct benefit, as correcting a poor situation. Currently there is no way for potential users to connect with a site in the later stages of development. Why would these users ever come back? They met an implicitly (although mildly) hostile environment. Their interest wasn't even rejected, it was completely ignored. Anything which prevents that, decreases bad-will, is a good thing. –  Scivitri Jul 14 '10 at 17:15

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