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I visit the private beta login page:

So I follow the link, and click "Visit the site now":

And now I can login:

Is there any reason for this roundabout route to login? Surely knowing the URL of the site should be enough?

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    Yeah, this step is bizarre IMHO, since you can join the site without committing after all. Either make private beta only accessible for committed users (not sure if it's the best suggestion), or allow joining the site directly. – Meta Andrew T. Jul 12 '15 at 17:36
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    Not pointless. The answer here explains it nicely, essentially saying that it's as if that user committed when it was still possible. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Jul 12 '15 at 17:58
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    The downvotes on this question seem possibly slightly harsh. I know it's marked feature-request, but it also asks a question that sounds more like a discussion question: it asks whether there is a reason for the current system. That seems like a fair question to ask -- it is indeed on first glance puzzling why the system works this way, and on first glance might appear like something unintentional. As the answers explain, there's more going on than might first meet the eye, but it's not a stupid question. – D.W. Jul 13 '15 at 5:37
  • @D.W. dw :P I got more reps (30) that I lost (18) so it's all okay :) – Tim Jul 13 '15 at 9:41
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It's not pointless. While it does appear to be bolted-on (and it is), it's not pointless.

The main purpose: people often arrive late to things, and when it comes to proposals, we really need those people. Having it is mostly for usability, and it serves two important scenarios:

  • I know I committed to this darn thing but dangit I can't remember what email I used, I'll come back to this later (and they never come back)

  • I wish I saw this in time to commit! I'm an expert in transmugated tribble fat rendering to biolithium and the crystallization process! Well, I guess I'll see how the site does in a few weeks (and they never come back, or come back way after crucial decisions were made without them)

It lets folks in that want to get in and do stuff, while giving folks that have taken a keen interest in how new sites come together (or just want to watch prior to contributing) to join more or less as a spectator.

The answer by Energy Numbers is spot on, as is Jay's where he asserts that the effort and knowledge needed to use it is still a pretty effective gate into a private beta. If you didn't commit to it, we need to make sure you at least see the proposal before being allowed to join.

I'm declining this because the use cases are far too valuable to ditch it.

  • Could it be made that there is no need to go to Area 51? Or is that a requirement? – Tim Jul 12 '15 at 20:09
  • @Tim From the technical standpoint, it's easy enough to do. I am not sure about the philosophical angle, though - people will click through literally anything without reading, so we'd likely still lose some of the benefits Tim described here. It probably wouldn't hurt to link to the proposal from the private beta gate page... Would have to think that one through to be sure, however. – Adam Lear Jul 13 '15 at 3:51
  • @Tim That provides just enough friction for folks that aren't really interested, but more simply curious, to wait for the public beta to open in the following week or two. I know it seems somewhat remarkable that one kind of silly step in the process could do that, but it is a pretty good way for self-selection to stay realistic. At the early point of the site, we don't mind spectators, but we really need to not distract the core community builders until they've got something semi-solid. As such, if you didn't commit, we want to make sure you at least saw the proposal before joining. – Tim Post Jul 13 '15 at 8:24
  • Okay, that all makes sense. Thanks :) – Tim Jul 13 '15 at 9:40
  • I think you misunderstood Tim's request. He isn't asking to remove the ability for non-committers to join the site, he's asking for it to be possible to join the site no matter how the person visits it. Your comment should be the answer. – Gilles Jul 13 '15 at 9:51
  • @Gilles No, I did mention that it's an effective gate. Elaborated though. – Tim Post Jul 13 '15 at 13:10
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Surely there is a very useful benefit to this roundabout system, isn't there?

The private beta is a fragile but crucial time in a site's development, setting the culture, the mood, the level and the scope of the site.

This roundabout way ensures that not just anyone can walk in and start doing whatever they want. It allows people who know and understand how Stack Exchange works, to find their way in, if they really want to. And keeps anyone else out, unless they were part of the commitment phase.

It's a bit of a weird way to do it, but it does it well.

So I'd argue against this feature request. As the VP of Community Growth Jaydles has explained, the current functionality has a purpose, and it works.

  • Note that I wasn't logged in to anywhere for those screenshots... But fair points. – Tim Jul 12 '15 at 20:09

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