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Writing.SE has raised the issue of our desire to graduate a year ago

Here it is: we're tired of being a beta site. We believe we have been a consistently successful site, we've been around for more than eight years, we have over 1,000 avid users, we have 100% answered questions, and we get over 12,000 visits a day. We might not be as big as Stack Overflow, but we're certainly not "beta" anymore. Here are our stats, take a look for yourself.

The "beta" status causes our site actual harm in multiple ways:

  • We are in need of migration paths to other SEs: Worldbuilding, Academia, Legal. As a beta site, we can't get those, and all those migrations fall on the shoulders of our three moderators alone — we are reduced to notifying them via flag that a post needs to be migrated. The whole process takes several days, when it could be done in a few hours if we had those migration paths.
  • Reputation thresholds for privileges are very very low. As a result, users are reviewing posts, casting close and reopen votes on questions long before they are familiar with the workings of the Stack. As an example, over the past three days, I have received 540 reputation on the back of one post alone. 500 reputation is the threshold for casting close/reopen votes on beta sites. Would anyone here claim that a person who posted one good answer, and has been a member for 3 days, has enough knowledge to cast this kind of votes? Low reputation thresholds make sense for fledgling SEs with few users and few upvotes, where reputation gain is slow — not for us.
  • The "beta" status is demoralising. Look here to what extent even our mods are demoralised. That's just not right. We're feeling rejected by Stack Exchange. We're a large community that feels stifled and hopeless. We keep saying all the above, and nobody listens. Every day that we look at the huge ugly "beta" label staring off the top of our page is an offence. You're going to tell us we're wrong to feel this way, you're going to say that this is illogical — but that is how we feel. The overwhelming vote for graduating has been standing for a year now, with no progress. How else would we feel?

We have been told we cannot graduate until we have 10 questions per day

In and of itself, this is demoralising. Writing is different in its nature from programming. It does not raise as many questions that can be answered within the SE format. We are never going to sustain 10 questions per day, no matter how strong of a site we are. We sustained it for a few weeks with a community push; it didn't help. Our community is focused on quality, not numbers. Are we then to remain in beta forever? Are we to suffer forever all the damages mentioned above, and never enjoy the advantages that a graduated site gets?

Furthermore, having done some research, we came to realise that the "rule" is being applied to us selectively, and has not been applied to a significant number of other SEs. Here is the total of what we've found. Some examples:

This unequal treatment surprises us, to say the least.

This problem is systemic. SE's rules brand smaller sites with an inappropriate "beta" label long past when it applies.

This proposal to remove "beta" from sites like ours was made in 2017 and gained a lot of community support, but nothing has happened since, even though its author now works for SE. Read the answers there and see how frustrating and demoralising being branded "beta" for years and years is.

Robert Cartaino, one of SE's most senior community managers, deleted his answer to this question with the following explanation:

@MonicaCellio Deleting this because the proposal to remove beta labels and unravel graduation as we discussed is going nowhere. I'll post something if anything ever becomes with it. – Robert Cartaino♦ Jun 27 at 18:39

For all the talk of fixing beta and graduation, even he hit a brick wall. How can we remain hopeful in light of that?

In light of all the above, we, Writing.SE, ask for graduation, now.

Design elements take time, we understand. But, as a first step, we ask for the immediate removal of the 'beta' label, and for an official announcement that we are moving towards graduation. Surely that's not much to ask for?

We have been told that "soon" graduation will no longer be a thing. But we were told this a year ago, and have heard nothing since then. SE has been talking about it for at least four years. How long must we wait?

For a year since we've made the request, we have waited and suffered, and the damages of the site remaining in beta accumulated. "One day" the whole system would be redesigned. "One day" graduation would cease to exist. But when would that day arrive? They say there's nothing more permanent than the temporary. Well, how much longer must our "temporary" beta status last?

If there are objective reasons why we should not graduate right now, why we should continue to be called "beta", we would hear them. If there are any recommendations as to how we could help our SE grow further, we would appreciate them. But we cannot stand to be mislabeled any longer.


Other "beta" SEs — if you feel as we do — join us, speak your mind on this issue! Does the "beta" status stifle you as it stifles us? What changes do you need, that only graduation can bring?

SEs who have graduated without the "excellent" stats required of us — what can you tell us about graduation? How has it affected your SE? Was it a positive change, or did graduating without perfect stats cause problems?

How can we advance our request to graduate? What blocks us?

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    Just to be clear, Quantum Computing is one of a couple sponsored sites, and as such went through a different process than a normal Stack Exchange site. It never went through a public beta period at all, and site stats didn't play a role in its evolution. – HDE 226868 Jan 23 at 0:58
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    @HDE226868 Quantum Computing has a design due to the sponsorship, but it is still technically in public beta behind the scenes. – Adam Lear Jan 23 at 1:58
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    @AdamLear but it doesn't proclaim its beta-ness, so I trust you can see how it looks to those who should be years past that particular label. – Monica Cellio Jan 23 at 2:03
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    Also worth noting that Ask Patents and Stack Apps weren't created through Area 51. Ask Patents was created as a special partnership with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office, and Stack Apps was created by SE for the purpose of publishing programs that use the Stack Exchange API. In fact, you'll notice that most Stack Apps questions aren't "questions" in the strict sense. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Jan 23 at 2:13
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    "Every day that we look at the huge ugly "beta" label staring off the top of our page is an offence." Really? The mere fact of the word "beta" beside your site's name is demoralizing? – Nicol Bolas Jan 23 at 4:27
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    @NicolBolas It's demoralizing because Writing is a site that consistently produces quality content. Just not enough of it according to a relatively arbitrary, and certainly seemingly arbitrarily applied (see the examples in the question), metric. Writing has been around for longer than a large fraction of the sites on the network. With the new design, the "beta" label also went from smaller-sized to having essentially the same prominence as the name of the site. When people see "beta" they generally assume it means "unfinished", which itself can easily reduce newcomer participation. – a CVn Jan 23 at 8:44
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    I don't get why Writing's request for graduation should be met with scepticism. Galastel already showed how other SE's have graduated without having 10 questions per day, so it doesn't hold as a good reason anymore (regardless of special conditions around Quantum computing or Stack Apps). – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 at 13:24
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    There are multiple reasons why we need to be graduated already. Even if someone doesn't think a particular reason is worthwhile, it is worthwhile to us. And there are many more. It's time. – Cyn says make Monica whole Jan 24 at 16:00
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    So, can we get an update on the status of this request? – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Feb 12 at 8:20
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    I will wait a few more days before updating the stats on my answer. Just b/c the site received eight questions in one week, it doesn't mean the next will be the same. And besides the criteria for 10 Q per week was to verify whether a site could survive longer than 6 months, WritingSE is almost 8 and a half years old! I don't think users should fret over this one statistic, it's only used as an excuse by the company. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 at 5:34
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    I agree with this - the site should be allowed to graduate. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 24 at 4:51
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    Not a Writers user but I think it's ridiculous that the site still has the Beta label. – Stijn Apr 26 at 7:42
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    What does it buy SE to keep a site in Beta? How does it benefit the business? If it's purpose isn't to entice people to use the site, then what is it for? And why keep it once the enticement value has worn off? The software industry generally considers perma-beta a strong negative (players hate it), but at least it means "still a bit buggy." Does the word "beta" have that meaning here? – JBH May 6 at 9:48
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    The newest podcast about "healthy communities" naturally fails to mention graduation as a recognition of being a healthy community. – Thunderforge Jun 18 at 19:42
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    so we're back to "no graduations unless it's a sponsored site" as before. Probably indefinitely until after they figure out how to monetize the network more via ads. – Magisch Jul 5 at 7:40
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While Writing isn't "Graduated" in the classic sense of the concept, they're no longer burdened with the "Beta" text in their top bar as of 1 August 2019. For more information, see:

I'd like to say thanks to the users on Writing for their patience. This has (and will continue) to be a long process that we're still working through. I hope that this initial change will help you feel better about your place in the network and allow you to focus on continuing to build an excellent site without the burden of the "Beta" label.

I also appreciate your persistence. While we made this change to many sites at once and we had the intention of moving in this direction for the last year at least, your nibbling at our ankles kept us moving forward. We may have gotten there eventually without it but probably not so soon.

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    This has been the best news in a long time. Thank you also for your intervention, I'm sure this result wouldn't have occurred without your enthusiasm and determination. – Mari-Lou A Aug 2 at 3:09
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+200

I thought the new design–the responsive one–which began rolling out in April 2018 and was completed in December 2018, was supposed to speed up the design of new sites as well as fix bugs and add new features.

This is going to result in two key improvements for all of our users:

  • Greater experience consistency across the products
  • An increase in the velocity of bug fixes, improvements and new features

In my view, the entire issue of graduation boils down to a question of custom design, there is no other explanation that justifies this long a delay. SE cannot seriously be arguing that Writing.SE, with those stats, should still be stuck in public beta. In 2010 and 2011 nobody suggested that a novice site might have to wait eight or more years before they could graduate.

When Will My Site Graduate? Posted on October 21, 2010 [emphasis not mine]

In the earliest days of Stack Exchange, we started a lot of beta sites in quick succession. Those sites are now racing past the end of their official 90 day beta periods. And that’s OK. There’s no harm in staying in public beta far beyond the initial 90 days, so long as the quality of the Q&A; is high and it’s not a ghost town. It takes the time it takes. But if you want your site to graduate from beta sooner rather than later, encourage your fellow community members to vote early and often!

However by 2012 that level of optimism had been reined in and the criterion whereby a site was eligible for graduation was issued [emphasis in bold mine]:

The New Stack Exchange Beta Theme
There was a time when we thought the average beta period would last, oh… about 90 days. The site would begin and build up enough content and users to reach critical mass. Reaching that tipping point of unstoppable growth defines “graduation.” But getting to that point is hard work, and it usually take longer [sic] than 90 days… much longer. So we’re left with this big gap between the time when a site is truly “under construction” to when it finally reaches graduation and gets its own custom design.)

Fast Forward three years, in 2015, new goal posts had been erected. Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites [emphasis in bold not mine]

and here's the result: from now on, when a site starts to consistently receive ten new questions every day, we'll consider it for graduation. […] Thanks to many devoted users, it’s grown clear that smaller SE sites can do a great job of maintaining themselves and producing high quality Q&A. Not every site is going to be a blockbuster success, but our small sites are serving their own communities well. We’re proud of you, and we want you here.

Despite the positive feedback, the praise and the acknowledgements of a fine job done, Ana (community manager) admitted that a site could remain in beta indefinitely

@hichris123 "Are you saying that it's possible for a site to stay in beta forever?" Yes. – Ana Jun 1 '15 at 18:55

Has the criteria since changed? Is success and value ultimately measured by the number of questions posted daily? Are over 1,000 core users, and eight years of useful contributions secondary?

Let the new system, the site life cycle workflow, which is said to be currently in the pipeline, come into force when it is fully completed.

[UPDATE July 6, 2019
It seems the aforementioned SLCW, formerly known as "An Objective Site Life Cycle" (Aug 12 '15), has been either abandoned or placed on hold. Robert Cartaino's answer, which promised this future development, was self-deleted in June, 2019.]

But why should Writing.SE still have to wait before they can enjoy the fruits of their hard-earned labor? How much longer?

Closely related and often cited in the Stack Overflow Blog is the question What are the criteria for getting Money.SE out of “perpetual beta?” Posted on April 4 2011

Money.SE is now called Personal Finance & Money SE and was promoted four years ago. Let's compare their stats with Writing SE as of today, 24 February 2019, and also for the benefit of users who have screen readers.

In March 15, 2019, the number of questions posted on Writing had increased to almost twelve questions per day. Today, July 6, 2019, that number has dropped to 4.2. However, the requirement for 10 questions per day was to verify whether a site could survive longer than 6 months, Writing.SE is almost 8 and a half years old! At this point, it is abundantly clear that the criterion was only used as an excuse by the company.

 PF&M                    Writing 02/24           Writing 03/15        Writing 07/06
 8.8 questions/day       6.1. questions/day      11.9 questions       4.2 questions
 98% answered            100% answered           100% answered        100% answered
 607 avid users          1,055 avid users        1,084 avid users     1,166 avid users
 2.3 answer ratio        3.2 answer ratio        3.2 answer ratio     3.3 answer ratio
 7,801 visits/day        11,285 visits/day       13,313 visits/day    8,304 visits/day

enter image description here


UPDATE: 6 July, 2019

Here's an interesting query that I came across, the graph belows shows the average score for questions posted on Writing.SE since its inception in 2010

enter image description here

N.B. The site was original called Writers

In 2019, the average score for questions on Writing is 7.25. That's a pretty amazing result if you compare that data with 2011, where the score was an impressive 7.83 and we're only in July. Writing.SE may not have the same numbers of viewers or contributions as Stack Overflow or any of the larger sites on the network but it appears Writing.SE doesn't suffer the plight of low quality questions and the growing apathy among its community members unlike the giants: Stack Overflow (0.28), Mathematics (0.97), and Super User (0.33).

How complicated is it to remove a misleading and, ultimately, harmful label? Is there need for any further evidence that Writing.SE can stand proud on its own two feet?

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    Another good post, well thought out and presented. But you know what the answer is going to be. “Wait”. I’m hopeful when the new bug and feature tracking system, Jira or whatever, is rolled out, we’ll at least have visibility into priorities and other things ahead in the queue. I’m getting to the point where I’m more worried about the mutual frustration between Meta and TPTB than I am in any specific features rolling out. I feel the trust has eroded on both ends. Maybe it’ll get better if the Question Wizard works and at least partially stems the tide of LQQ. – Dan Bron Feb 24 at 15:47
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    @DanBron Trust has definitely eroded on our end. As in, on our whole SE, from the mods down. We have raised the whole graduation thing over a year ago, and it's like nobody even listens: we don't get told "no" - we don't get told anything. I wish I had any ideas on how to change that. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Feb 28 at 23:57
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    @Galastel have you tried tweeting about it? – andrewtweber Mar 23 at 14:26
  • Do you have any idea what happened? Why such a drastic change in the number of questions? – Adamant Apr 10 at 20:13
  • @Adamant what do you mean? Today or a month ago. When I last look (a couple of days or so) the number of questions per day had shrunk to around 6. Today it's around 6.6 area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/1623/writers – Mari-Lou A Apr 10 at 20:34
  • I mean, why was it at 12 for a while? – Adamant Apr 10 at 21:12
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    @Adamant the answer probably lies in this writing contest, I think aiming for that elusive 10 questions per week was a spur for its devotees: writing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1810/… – Mari-Lou A Apr 10 at 23:59
  • Update: Only 5 questions per day! – Pandya May 19 at 17:22
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    @Pandya that number can change tomorrow or on Thursday or next week. I don't think the number of questions asked per day is a justification to keep Writing.SE on Beta. It's been over 8 years! – Mari-Lou A May 19 at 17:33
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    @Mari-LouA Exactly. I observe that number getting fallen down for some graduated sites also. So, the decided rule of thumb of 10 QPD is not a good idea. Btw, the beta site I moderate had also reached and sustained to 10 QPD consistently more than 3 months. So, that number should not be rule. – Pandya May 20 at 1:12
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    "Robert Cartaino's answer, which promised this future development, was self-deleted in June, 2019." The Internet Archive has a copy which was taken on June 4, 2019, 01:09 UTC; at which point that answer was most recently edited on Jan 23, 2019, 21:09 UTC. – a CVn Jul 19 at 20:30

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