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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.

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    I think that review #1 is at the start of commitment. Review #2 is 5-6 days into private beta, review #3 is there if private beta gets extended, and after public beta reviews are only there if the site is in trouble. In addition, staff members visit regularly for quick checks. Oct 4, 2013 at 13:41
  • @Manishearth: I've posted what I've been able to piece together. I think there's a few more reviews along the way, but I know there's more to it then that. Oct 4, 2013 at 13:51
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    Manish and Pearson both got it pretty much right, a bit more to it though. Grace Note is going to write up a nice somethin-or-other since it'd be nifty to have it somewhere we could point.
    – user50049
    Oct 4, 2013 at 14:11
  • I'd really like to see a blog post about this.
    – aug
    Oct 9, 2013 at 0:12

2 Answers 2

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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.

Area 51

  • Proposal SubmissionWhen 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 ReviewWhen 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 LaunchWhen 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.

Private Beta

  • 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 EvaluationAfter 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.

Public Beta

  • Initial Pro Tem ModeratorsOnce 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.

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    wow! thats indepth about the process +1
    – Sid
    Oct 11, 2013 at 11:37
  • I've never seen such a "Community Self-Evaluations" in Code Golf. Has that changed? Did I look at the wrong corner? Oct 15, 2013 at 15:14
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    @Johannes We actually have Self-Evaluations disabled on both Code Golf and on Code Review. This is because the process consists of "Look for these questions elsewhere on the internet, and see how our answers compare against what is found out there", which is fine for the majority of sites. However, the nature of these two sites doesn't exactly make "Compare against other sites" a functional strategy to analyze the quality of the content there. For this reason, we disabled them. Our internal reviews look at several other metrics as mentioned, though, so those would still help.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Oct 16, 2013 at 15:05
  • Thanks for that info. It's good to hear that both Code Golf and Code Review are considered "special". The traffic, well, we have to advertise a bit. Questions? Wouldn't improve much, because writing good challenges is hard. Oct 16, 2013 at 15:40
  • Is this Private or Public Beta, I can only see "Beta": codereview.stackexchange.com Dec 12, 2013 at 4:28
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    @Dimitri It's public. A private Beta is only for the first week or two that a site exists, and it has select invite access (hence anyone who gets in during the private session will know it is private).
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:56
  • Then I am puzzled why closure is only mentioned briefly and only for Private Beta, when it actually happens for active Public Beta sites. Are there any clear closure guidelines? I'd find it fair to give some peace of mind to people who invest their time in creating quality content and linking to it. Here is also my subjective opinion on the subject of closing. Dec 17, 2013 at 11:35
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    @Dmitri There aren't any clear closing guidelines for public beta. Private Beta closures come as a result of insufficient performance during a small time period of less than a month. We don't have such an easy metric for public, as it more happens that we spend months looking into a site and trying everything we can to make sure it doesn't close. Think of three routes - a growing beta eventually graduates, a stagnant beta sits in beta, and a dying beta may close. What qualifies as dying rather depends on the site though, but largely starts from "not enough community backing."
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 17, 2013 at 14:00
  • Then is there any clear warning to contributors that their contribution and reputation can be gone any time the decision makers come to the conclusion the site does perform enough? Dec 17, 2013 at 15:13
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    @Dmitri We usually inform people when we think anything might be even remotely a concern, and from there it'll take months before things even come close to the chopping board, and from there if we do make a final decision we state as such in advance. Things can't just disappear at any time.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 17, 2013 at 15:17
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    What I mean is to state clear that there is always a risk the site gets closed, all links disappear and the whole content becomes only available as data dump. It is not fair only to inform people much later after they have contributed and relied on the site, when the actual concern occurs. I understand that it can easily occur should the site stop performing any time in the future. Dec 17, 2013 at 16:07
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Here's what I've been able to piece together:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. There is a review held at 90 days, which is a community self-evaluation.
  5. 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.

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