27

I've lost count of the number of times I have had to reassure people that the site I help to moderate isn't going to just go away.

The association between a site being labelled as "Beta" and an expectation that it could just go away at any time is a strong one. Over and over again we have to explain that this is not the case on Stack Exchange, encouraging people to dive into asking questions and writing answers, secure in the knowledge that their contributions aren't going to be discarded, but it is hard work. It is work that we shouldn't need to do.

With the welcome acceptance of perpetual Beta as the new normal, an expected path for a niche Stack Exchange site, can we please consider again emblazoning the top of our sites with a confusing term which distracts us from our mission and often appears to discourage growth.

It is now over three years since Should we rename or remove the "beta" label? was asked, both of the two highest voted answers suggest the automatic removal of the Beta label after a year or 90 days respectively. The next shows several examples of a positive impact on site growth of moving out of Beta.

It has also been 7 months since Let's break up with "Graduation" and remove a bunch of "Beta" labels was asked, with answers there detailing more experiences of moderators struggling with growing their sites under the shadow of the beta label.

Finally, the new themes make the "Beta" status of a site even more prominent. Previously, the label was lower case and appeared smaller than the site title, now it is capitalised and the only thing which makes it less prominent than the site title is the colour.

I can understand the desire not to rush into a solution. But I think this first and simplest step is too obvious to delay further.


This process is now in progress:

Congratulations to our 29 oldest beta sites - They're now no longer beta!

  • But is is still a beta site, isn't it? Removing the label per se is misleading. Wouldn't it be better to give such "permanent beta" sites a different designation instead? – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 18 '18 at 22:20
  • 3
    @JasonBassford Seems to me that this feature request is itself a step on the road to giving these sites a new designation. These long-running smaller sites are already "beta" in name only, as of a shift in thinking a few years ago. – SOLO Jul 19 '18 at 14:20
  • 1
    @SOLO My point is that simply asking to have the name removed is not the same thing as replacing it with something else. Just removing the name doesn't distinguish it from a site that has actually "graduated" and no longer has anything to do with having beta status at all. The post you referenced clearly indicates a difference between "successful" and "graduated." If there is a distinction, then the distinction should be maintained; if there isn't one, then the idea that there is should be dropped. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 19 '18 at 14:34
  • 1
    Yeah. I'm not fighting with you, just trying to bring in additional relevant info. – SOLO Jul 19 '18 at 14:58
  • 1
    There are many elements to graduation @JasonBassford if you are familiar with the way stack exchange works you can see from the plain design and reputation requirements whether a site is technically in beta or not. What we are talking about here is how the site is perceived by people who aren't familiar with what we mean by beta. – Mark Booth Jul 20 '18 at 9:33
28

I agree; being saddled with the "beta" label after close to a decade, for some sites, gives a negative and wrong impression. It's demoralizing. To most people "beta" means "we're still changing major things and this might not even survive"; that's not true of our healthy, long-running not-really-beta-any-more sites. (I wrote one of those answers you referred to.)

I do (still) think that 90 days is too quick; the most recent beta I've participated on definitely wasn't ready to make the leap after just 90 days. Here's my proposal: after one year in beta, the Community team checks in with the site's moderators and, assuming they don't raise any concerns, the "beta" label is removed.

Why the check with the moderators? Because there is some judgement involved (sites proceed in different ways), and because having active moderation is a requirement for continued existence. It'd be embarrassing to auto-advance a beta and only then observe problems with site caretaking, so check first. This check gives the moderators the chance to say "give us a couple weeks to finish up this big scope thing we're in the middle of" if they need to.

On the flip side, if a site hits the ground running and really has its act together sooner, it should be ok for the moderators to petition the Community team for a review and possible early "de-beta-ing". My one-year proposal is the baseline, which can be either extended or accelerated based on discussion. But let's not dangle 90 days in front of people when that's not going to be long enough for most of them; we do that now and it never ends well.

I'm talking here about discussions between moderators and the Community team because that's a workable process already in use for other things. That doesn't mean the moderators decide on their own. Leading up to that discussion with SE, the whole community, moderators included, should be discussing the site. A healthy meta site is an important sign of site maturity.

Somebody will probably suggest that we come up with metrics so all of this can be automated and thus completely objective. I think coming up with a workable set of metrics would be hard, and more importantly it misses the human element that is a big part of why our communities work well in the first place. With the renewed focus on communities, let's not be afraid of the subjectivity that can come from talking with people. Our moderators and community managers are smart people who care about our sites; let's trust them to use a little judgement (that they will of course have to explain on meta if asked).

  • 1
    Honestly, even one year might not be enough for a community to find its steady state. Something like 4 or 5 years would easily weed out those communities are unmaintainable, while still not allowing a site to forever be in perpetual beta for a decade. – The forest of Reinstate Monica Jul 21 '18 at 7:58
4

At the other end of the spectrum we have Quantum Computing which utilized tunneling to escape while currently on day 129 of beta.

See Emilio's answer (complaint).

It only makes sense to presume that we will have quantum computing and a greater interest in it in the future, that could have been a factor for its early graduation, that and its tirelessly dedicated members; or it was simply spontaneous tunnelling.

  • 5
    I may be being cynical, but I assume this is something to do with the "Sponsored by StrangeWorks" up in the top right. Maybe we could get iRobot to sponsor Robotics, their support page did used to direct people there after all. *8') – Mark Booth Jul 20 '18 at 9:29
  • 1
    @MarkBooth - Maybe, but they were beta for over a month after obtaining a sponsor. That they tunnelled out we know, but the how and when is subject to some uncertainty. – Rob Jul 21 '18 at 1:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .