I've heard bits and pieces from various sources, but I would really like to know, what does the Stack Exchange staff do to launch a new site? What are the milestones? I'm talking about Area 51 milestones, reviews to leave private and public beta, other reviews that might happen along the path during a public beta, etc. I'd just like to get an idea of what Stack Exchange Employees do when when it comes to launching a new site.
If possible, I would like to know approximate days of the week, site milestones, etc, with the understanding that things change based off of holidays and other special occasions.
This is a rundown the major milestones each site goes through from proposal through graduation. The process may vary from time to time as we improve the process or take on “special projects” as opportunities present themselves, but for the most part, this is the gist of it.
Proposal Submission — When a new site is proposed, we do a quick sanity check to find egregious problems, like overlapping scope, subjects that are not well-suited to our Q&A format or are not accepted on Area 51, or an inadequate existing community. However, generally, we’re okay to let a proposal develop before passing judgement.
Discussion and Comment — We don’t generally get involved the day-to-day discussions around an evolving proposal, unless someone is asking about the Area 51 process itself or is seeking some policy input about the viability of a proposal. Communities are largely free to discuss and experiment at this stage without a lot of interference from us. However, all the discussions (and example questions) are always reviewed and considered when when we do our “Final Review.”
Late-Stage Final Review — When a proposal reaches about 40-50% commitment, we do a final review to make sure the proposal is healthy, well-presented, and everything is ready in preparation for the final launch. We’ll look over the example questions and the audience building the site to make sure it matches the proposal title and description. Often the title and description are consolidated to get rid of a lot of extraneous detail for use in the ‘help center’ once the site is created.
Site Launch — When a proposal hits 100% commitment, we do a final sanity check before we submit the site for launch into the private beta. Barring any technical or scheduling conflicts, intervening holiday periods, or signs of fraud in the proposal phases, private betas generally start 1-2 weeks after completion on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Anyone committed to the proposal will receive notification via email.
Early Moderation — The Stack Exchange Community Managers will take on the primary roles of site moderation for the first weeks, while the site doesn't have its first moderation team. During the opening weeks, we will generally take care of any flags and other urgent matters (such as spam posts or Code of Conduct violations) which cannot wait until the time the initial pro tem moderators are chosen. During the private beta, there is also an increased sense of rigorous moderation while we prepare the site for opening day. If there is anything we can do to help set the community on track towards a stronger launch, the Community Team will take a more active role in community education.
Private Beta Evaluation — After four weeks, we will evaluate how the private beta is doing. Since private beta sites are not publicized in the list of sites and will not show up in search engines, it is expected for users to publicize the site themselves to try and attract experts to answer questions before the site fully opens to the public. If the content looks strong and the community looks highly engaged, we will open the site to the public. If there are any problems (or the community simply needs more time to develop), we may extend a private beta out to a fifth week. However, once the stage is set and everything looks good, it’s time to open the doors to the public.
Proposal Reboot — On occasion, a community might not be able to get it together during the private beta. There may be nothing wrong with the subject itself. Perhaps we didn’t quite get the scope right, or the community just wasn’t well-equipped to pull it off. Whatever the case, sometimes we just have to close a private beta and (hopefully) send the idea back to the drawing board as a new proposal to try and get it right the second time around.
Initial Pro Tem Moderators — Once the site makes it into public beta, we set up an election to choose “pro tem moderators,” who will watch over the site prior to its first "full" election (when the site moves out of public beta and is ready for it - see below). We aim for three moderators initially, and if there are more candidates than slots a competitive election is run; if there are as many or fewer candidates than slots, the nominated candidates are simply appointed by the Community Team.
Moderator Review — Moderators are given special abilities to be the “exception handlers” to take care of situations that cannot easily be handled through the normal community process. Moderators are expected to agree to and abide by a Moderator Agreement which outlines their responsibilities and how they are expected to carry them out. Moderator actions are logged and user messaging is monitored to review how they are doing overall. It is very unusual to find any problems in this area, but when they do, the Community Team is here to advise.
Leaving Beta — The current criteria for sites to be eligible to leave Beta is listed in this question:
The site needs to be in public Beta for at least six months
The site needs to have at least 1000 open questions
At least 70% of the questions on the site needed to have at least one upvoted answer
There must not be any major community opposition to leaving beta (sites that meet the above requirements may still be working to define their scope)
Non-Beta Site (A.K.A. "full" site or "fully launched" site, F.K.A. "graduated" site)
At this point the site is pretty much self-sustaining. The community becomes eligible for a few new features like a design, their first "full" election, or setting up migration paths. After the first elections, we’ll generally check to see if new elections are needed about once per year, but elections can be held at any time (spread a minimum of six months apart) if additional help is needed. The Moderators are well equipped to watch over the site and let us know if there are any issues that need our attention. Also, there are a lot of checks and analytics in place to let us know that everything is pretty much running on track.
There is a review about half way through the commitment phase (45%), where they get the name of the site settled, and otherwise prepare the ground to go. The most visible sign of this is that the title of the proposal is edited to its final name.
There is a final review after it meets the commitment requirements, usually on a Monday. The site will then launch in the next day or two
There is a review on the Monday in to private beta. If the site is progressing, it is made public, otherwise, it is given more time to find itself. If it passes the review, it will be made public within the next day.
There is a review held at 90 days, which is a community self-evaluation.
Presumably there is a review held periodically on sites at Stack Exchange, the details of which I don't know, to determine which sites are ready to launch, and which need some help.