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I've literally just noticed that an SE site I love and have been contributing to diligently for years, is still in the dreaded Beta. (side note - that "Beta" designation should be way more prominent, given that anything you contribute can be pretty much completely lost)

As most of us know, these sites can be suddenly and completely wiped out, with all the knowledge lost for most intents and purposes, and with zero regard for those who contributed it. Last time this happened, I had no idea it did, and asking about the process of allegedly notifying interested parties yielded no results.

So, how can I sign up to keep a Beta site alive when the axe comes?

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    If the axe comes, there is nothing you can do, because it is already dead. You should have been there doing the work to keep it alive beforehand. – Nij Jan 28 at 6:53
  • @Nij: what if I didn't know there was work to be done? What if, if asked, I'd be happy to help? – Dan Dascalescu Jan 28 at 7:34
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    Hey Dan! This question isn't doing badly the way it was, but your edit invalidated the two existing answers. That's not a good thing ;) I rolled it back. I think animuson's answer does a good job explaining what you can do and how you'll currently be notified when a site is on the verge of being shut down, so if you want to request another way to be notified, perhaps it's better you write a new question, a feature-request. Do keep in mind what animuson's answer says about notifications though, and try to make a point that such a notification would not result in artificial participation. – Tinkeringbell Jan 28 at 8:22
  • If you don't know there's work to be done, you obviously aren't involved in the site, so, why does it suddenly become so important that everyone should rush to the rescue? It's like keeping someone on life support when they obviously won't be returning to consciousness after a fatal long-term illness. Wasting effort instead of letting go. – Nij Jan 28 at 12:21
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    @Nij I think that's pretty presumptuous and unkind of you to say. I can very much believe that if a site was breaking down at a moderation level, which is largely the condition for site shut-down based on answers below, that it may not be super apparent to "normal" users, even actively engaged ones. To claim the contrary and also accuse OP of not caring about the communities their involved in is pretty low and uncalled for. – zcoop98 Jan 28 at 17:29
  • Flags go totally unresolved. Spam or rude content remains on the site for days of weeks. And a regular user would not notice this? Nonsense. – Nij Jan 28 at 22:19
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    @Nij: You think in terms of "regular user"s of that site. I'm a regular SE user, but may be on an off a particular site for months. However, very much still around and willing to help if needed. I don't have infinite time to patrol sites. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 1 at 2:51
  • Yes, of that site. Not a random passerby who wants to help keep alive a site they're not even using, for no discernible purpose at all. – Nij Feb 1 at 5:00
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    @Nij: I'm not a random passerby. I have used the site heavily in the past, maybe for years, just not within the weeks during which it's being considered for deletion. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 2 at 7:56
  • Deletion isn't considered merely for weeks and done. It's an ongoing, months- or even years-long degradation, that is finally noted, questioned and when nothing done to address it, actioned upon. – Nij Feb 2 at 8:30
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Visit the site. Participate in moderation. That's really it.

The only criteria we have for closing sites these days is not being able to fill the moderator slots on the site. If nobody wants to moderate the site to keep it clean, then we close it. It couldn't be simpler.

So you volunteer by actually doing things to moderate. If you're participating in flagging, closing, and reviewing then you are signed up to keep the site alive. Feel proud of yourself for helping. That site is safe because of your actions.

If we notice a site is struggling on that moderation front, we issue calls to action on Meta for the users who are still browsing the site, linked in a big, obnoxious banner right at the top of every page on the site. We do not go out of our way to try and draw people back to the site. We're not going to mass email everyone to say "the site is in danger of closing." All that does is create temporary, artificial participation that will inevitably die again shortly after.

If someone hasn't been visiting the site regularly to notice it needed help, then why should we believe that they'd dedicate the minimal amount of time needed to visit the site once a day to handle flags?

Moderation is not a one-man game. It requires a community. The bar is now extremely low here and that means we have little sympathy for a site that cannot muster even a few users willing to maintain it. But that's the plus side - you only need a few dedicated users willing to maintain it.

The biggest part of the equation is visiting regularly. You cannot help with moderation if you ignore the site for weeks, months, or years at a time.

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    "If someone hasn't been visiting the site regularly to notice it needed help" - is it possible that this assumption is flawed? I was visiting Personal Productivity, but not its meta. I didn't now it needed help. If I knew it needed help, I might have offered to. Same for "You cannot help with moderation if you ignore the site for weeks, months, or years at a time." - one can be summoned to help, in a similar manner to a military reserve. – Dan Dascalescu Jan 28 at 4:43
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    As I said, we plaster a big banner at the top of the site when we post a call to action preceding a closure. There were banners at the top of every page on the site for at least 4 weeks prior to the site closing. You don't need to visit Meta for that situation. – animuson Jan 28 at 4:44
  • It's perfectly possible for me to be away from a site for 5 weeks, yet keep enough interest in it to help moderate if pinged. Is there no mechanism for such a ping? I see all sorts of "Vote in this or that election", but nothing about sites I've contributed tons of content to, being considered for deletion? – Dan Dascalescu Jan 28 at 7:41
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    @Dan let's assume you will get email saying the site needs your help. You visit the site, make some actions, maybe even visit the next day, but.... that's it. You then don't visit for another 5 weeks, 6 weeks, or more. As animuson said, this is not the way to save the site. It's just artificial activity, which won't save the site. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Jan 28 at 7:52
  • @Shadow: why would you assume that I'd quit after one day? I've founded and have been managing the Quantified Self Forum for example, since 2011. Was gone for months at a time, then active for months at a time. Other moderators came and went too. Overall, it's doing very well. – Dan Dascalescu Jan 28 at 7:55
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    @Dan why? Experience. That's what most people will do, and while you might be a special case which is good, I agree with animuson that alerting all the people isn't a good idea, in the long run. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Jan 28 at 7:58
  • @Shadow: sites alert every single user every so often to vote in moderator elections. I'm proposing something far more occasional - only alert users who've contributed above a certain threshold, and hopefully only once in a blue moon. – Dan Dascalescu Jan 28 at 8:02
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    @DanDascalescu create a custom filter to monitor (some) meta posts on certain sites, that can be subscribed by anyone, or emailed to you personally. – Meta Andrew T. Jan 28 at 8:49
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Beta sites are no longer as much "at risk" of being shut down as they were when for example Theoretical Physics SE was shut down well into Public Beta.

This answer by Ana reflects SE's stance on the issue back in 2015, and much of it still stands:

"The precedent was set early on that sites had two options; graduate, or get shut down. This created a lot of unnecessary angst for our smaller and mid-sized communities. Lots of folks on excellent sites assumed that since they hadn’t cleared the graduation hurdle yet, we might come in and turn off the lights at anytime. Not exactly great for morale.

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.

What does this mean? If there's enough moderation for a public beta site to consistently remain free of spam, for flags to be cleared, and for our Code of Conduct to be upheld, your site will remain open. However, if community leaders drop off, flags sit without being addressed, and we can’t find any suitable volunteers to step forward, the site gets closed.

As of this post, not a single site currently active in our network is at risk of being closed. Closing public beta sites is a rare occurrence; we expect it to stay that way."

So to answer your question, about how you can volunteer to help your site survive: help keep the site free of spam, flags to be cleared, and CoC violations. You can help keep the site free of spam by flagging spam. If you're not a moderator you have no "direct" control of flags being cleared, but indirectly you can try to keep them engaged in the site by helping maintain a positive community atmosphere that doesn't drive them away from wanting to check in daily. When you see CoC violations, flag them, and encourage positive behavior in the site's chat and Meta. You may even consider running to be a moderator if an election comes up!

Other than those things, Public Beta sites need a lot of support with community building, meaning that it helps to advertise the site as much as you can (for example on Reddit, LinkedIn, other websites, blogs, etc., or even in your own social circles). More users asking good questions will help to keep the site relevant.

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