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This is an exciting day for all of us who work on community here, and for the communities that have given thousands of hours of their time to build sites on the Stack Exchange network. Today, we are excited to announce that 59 sites are bidding adieu to their Beta statuses. The last time we did something like this was in 2019, when we announced that 29 of the sites that had been in Beta for seven or more years at that time would be ditching their Beta labels. Since then, many of the other communities that were still in Public Beta have made it clear that they were anxious to shed their label too.

So which sites are leaving Beta?

Today is a celebration! The communities that are shedding their Beta label today have worked hard over the past years to build high-quality content around their subject area, and I hope that you’ll join me (and I speak for the whole Community Team, and the company) in congratulating the communities and moderator teams that built the following sites:

FAQ

What are the criteria for a site to leave Beta?

We have over 170 communities in the Stack Exchange network, and each community is unique (and not just in terms of subject matter focus).

When Area 51 and the site lifecycle were originally conceived, there was a set of rigid requirements around losing the Beta label – including things like “has at least 10 questions asked per day”. We’ve acknowledged in the past that some of the original parameters would be hard for smaller communities to hit, and we’ve always believed in iteration as a technique to polish both practice and policy. The 29 sites that left Beta in 2019 didn’t need to meet that “questions-asked-per-day” threshold, and we chose to maintain that interpretation this year, meaning that once again this wasn’t a criterion for leaving Beta.

Another former requirement for leaving Beta was that at least 90% of open questions have at least one upvoted answer. Again, this felt like it would be harder for some communities to meet than others. When we looked to our existing sites for benchmarking, we discovered that Stack Overflow currently has 70% of open questions with at least one upvoted answer, and that felt like a more appropriate baseline to judge against.

For the sites that are leaving Beta today, the following criteria were determined:

  • The site needed to be in public Beta for at least six months
  • The site needed 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 is one exception we did make for a community, and that was on the Artificial Intelligence site (AI). AI did not meet the “70% of questions with at least one upvoted answer” threshold, but their community has received three different sponsorships while in Public Beta. That is more than any other site on the Stack Exchange platform. In addition to that, their site already has a design as part of their first sponsorship, and has been consistently close to meeting the old 10 question-per-day criteria for leaving Beta.

Coincidentally, as we were reviewing sites that would be eligible for leaving Beta, their community had reached out to ask when they would be losing that label. We felt that the contributions AI has made over the years are an equally valuable proxy for a measurement of a healthy and valuable community. So we approached their moderator team to see if they felt ready to turn in their Beta label, since we strongly felt that they were. They agreed, and we’re excited that AI is joining the other sites that are leaving Beta today.

Another process change was introduced today: For this group of eligible communities, we allowed the communities to stay in Beta if they didn’t feel ready to leave that state yet. A couple of sites indicated that they felt they wanted to focus on increasing engagement in their communities a bit, and didn’t feel like now was the right time to leave Beta.

If your community is one of the remaining sites with the Beta label, have no fear. We actually have some exciting news to share with you.

When’s the next time this will happen?

This is hopefully the last time the Community Management Team will have to do a bulk Beta label removal event. In the past, moving a site out of Beta required a developer’s assistance to remove the Beta label and to either keep reputation levels lowered or bring them up to the regular levels – I speak more to this in the next section. This meant that for the last few years, we’ve only been able to orchestrate sites leaving Public Beta when we and our Public Platform engineering team both had time to dedicate to the task.

Now, thanks to one of the amazing engineers on our Public Platform team (Adam Lear, take your bow), the CMs have a tool to allow us to do this without a developer. So in the future, if a site is eligible and ready to leave Beta, we can process those requests ad-hoc and in a more timely manner.

I tested the tool out today – and if you are reading this post, it should signal that I didn’t break anything.

What does it mean to lose the Beta label?

Similar to when we did this two years ago, sites that were eligible and opted to leave Beta will:

  • have the word “Beta” removed from the banner at the top of the site
  • be moved to the “Launched” sites list on Area 51 - which will also remove the Area 51 information box from the right sidebar of the site
  • retain the artificially-lowered reputation thresholds for site privileges, so that those thresholds stay the same as in Beta
  • have their full-site moderator elections scheduled in the future (more on that in the next section)
  • be eligible for community ads in 2022 (we'll be talking about that more in the new year)

In the past, we were able to offer a custom site design to graduated sites. Although site redesigns aren’t happening right now, we have a shared interest internally in experimenting with ways to get this or similar benefits back. We know the sites that lost their “Beta” label in 2019 are still waiting for a redesign, too. We hope that some sort of design love (or perhaps theme customization) will come in the future, but we don't have concrete details of what this will look like or a timeline of when this will happen.

When can sites losing the Beta label expect to have their elections?

You may remember that the Public Platform engineering team spent the first half of this year building tools for the Community Managers to help enable us to hold elections more frequently. This resulted in significant increases in CM productivity, with an outcome that we were able to hold nearly 1.5 times as many successful elections in 2021 as we did in 2020 – that’s a total of 69 elections in 2021, compared to 43 in 2020. In addition to running elections for sites that found themselves in need of additional moderators due to an increase in site activity or moderator resignation, we also had time to start going through the backlog of sites that lost the Beta label in 2019 and still needed an election to transition from pro-tem moderators to “full” moderators.

While the majority of those elections went smoothly and fit the model well, we did run into a handful that didn’t have enough candidates to make the election competitive. In those cases, we treated the elections like pro-tempore elections. (There are a number of differences between a pro-tempore election and a standard election, but the major one is that a pro-tem election doesn’t need to be competitive: a site can have the same number of candidates as “seats” to fill, or less.) Some smaller sites asked to hold off on scheduling their post-Beta elections because they considered that they might not have enough candidates interested to make it competitive.

With that in mind, some members of the Community Management team are going to spend some time in early 2022 working with community members (including moderator teams) to understand what can be improved about the election experience in general (and in this case, rather than just building tools, we also want to look at areas where policy or process can be tweaked).

One area we are exploring is whether the “one size fits all” approach of looking for four candidates to have a competitive “full” site election, with a resulting winning group of three moderators, makes sense for smaller sites.

The focus of this elections project is much broader than our earlier tooling project and will focus on a variety of areas. We’ll have more to share in early 2022 when the project kicks off, but this feels like a good opportunity to provide some insight into what we think the next steps in formalizing site lifecycle may be.

We have currently paused all elections, as we usually do around this time of the year, due to the difficulty of scheduling end-of-year elections over travel, religious, and work holidays (both ours and those of the various communities involved). When elections kick off again in February 2022, we’ll be starting with sites that had indicated in Q4 of 2021 that they needed an election. Some of these sites include ones that left Beta today, and our team will be working with them to schedule their elections. We won’t be scheduling the majority of elections for sites leaving Beta until at least April of 2022.

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  • 3
    Graduation Gear #2
    – Pandya
    Dec 16 '21 at 14:57
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    playing Celebration by Kool & The Gang 🥳🎉🍾
    – Vanny StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 15:14
  • 10
    “The Pets community is not at all Koi to oh-fish-ially leave the Betta label behind.” is my favourite.
    – Wolgwang
    Dec 16 '21 at 15:18
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    Just a correction: when Area 51 was originally introduced, 15 questions per day were required to be considered "Excellent". This was later reduced to 10 in 2015. Dec 16 '21 at 18:01
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    Corresponding blog post: Congratulations are in order! These sites are leaving beta
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 18:33
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    Graphics designers must have had very long hours lately with all that site specific look and feel. Congratulation especially to Politics who waited for a long time. On the other hand except for the name not much changes. Maybe we should have got rid of "beta" altogether and just allow each site to give itself the ability to estimate for themselves where they are.
    – Trilarion
    Dec 16 '21 at 21:31
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    Am I missing something, or are there only 11 sites still in beta now?? Dec 16 '21 at 23:14
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    No site-specific look-and-feel is being announced or deployed here, @Trilarion.
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 17 '21 at 3:44
  • @CodyGray No? I thought that happens when sites graduate. But I checked and can confirm that. It would have been good, if this question would have been given an estimation of when these sites can expect their site-specific look-and-feel or if at all. Maybe that is not part of graduation anymore.
    – Trilarion
    Dec 17 '21 at 6:03
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    Unless I'm mistaken, do the sites Interpersonal Skills, Music Fans and Craft CMS also fulfil the graduation criteria? On the IPS Meta, the community seems to have decided to keep their Beta label for now; but, I couldn't find similar discussions on the metas of Music Fans or Craft CMS. So, I presume the moderators of these sites also discussed retaining the Beta label with the CMs, and it's not an oversight? Pardon me if I understood the graduation criteria incorrectly... Dec 17 '21 at 8:14
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    @Trilarion that's (design/look-and-feel changes) covered under the heading What does it mean to lose the Beta label? as the last paragraph of that section
    – Rob
    Dec 17 '21 at 14:30
  • @Rob Thanks. I clearly should have read the whole question and not just parts of it. Custom site designs aren't done currently.
    – Trilarion
    Dec 17 '21 at 15:03
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    @TheAmplitwist Thank you. We did reach out to communities to ask if they wanted to keep the label or not. However, Craft CMS was left off the list in error. I have reached out to their mods and the Beta label has been removed. I’ve updated the post here and have reached out to Marketing to ask if the blog post can also be updated to reflect that too. Congratulations to Craft CMS too!
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Dec 17 '21 at 18:35
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    @Rosie the blog post wasn't completely updated: see the third paragraph, currently reading "To mark the milestone, we asked community moderators how it feels to leave beta, and we’re giving a celebratory shoutout to all 58 sites leaving beta today."
    – bobble
    Dec 17 '21 at 22:58
  • 1
    Gonna miss that familiar Beta marking on a few of these!
    – Wyck
    Dec 20 '21 at 1:16

11 Answers 11

46

I also wanted to shout out that some of these sites recently celebrated anniversaries or have upcoming ones in the next few weeks.

Congrats to:

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    It's really fun to misgroup the ,-separated titles: {Beer, Wine} & {Spirits, Ebooks, and Italian Language}; {Stack Overflow} in {Japanese, Coffee, Economics, Engineering, and Lifehacks}; Internet of {Things, Literature}
    – Michael
    Dec 16 '21 at 15:19
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    @Michael I just always assumed all the Stack Overflows were "in Coffee", by default.
    – Undo
    Dec 16 '21 at 16:39
  • 1
    Is it really a good idea to celebrate anniversaries here? Where will you celebrate the anniversaries for sites that went live in July, for example? Dec 16 '21 at 17:25
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    Stack Overflow in Hindi will be brought to you "in Tea", of course, @Undo :-)
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 17 '21 at 3:45
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Disclaimer: I'm not active on Area51 and do not have experience starting a Q&A site of my own.

I partially-oppose this move due to the excessive relaxation of graduation criteria.

While some of the sites are certainly deserving AFAICT of being permanent non-betas (e.g. Politics, Japanese, and that's just a couple I've browsed a few times recently), some seem too niche, small and low-activity. To give a concrete example:

Iota.SE regards the iota cryptocurrency a "open-source cryptocurrency for IoT that does not use a blockchain" (quoting the FAQ). It has 1,022 questions overall. Since the beginning of this month (December 2021), either 2 or 3 new questions have been asked; 3 earlier questions have been modified or answered; and another one modified by a bot. According to the reputation leagues, this months only two users gained reputation - 10 points each.

To the iota.SE users and admins - I'm sorry for having "picked" on you. I'm sure you've invested time and effort in that site. But - it really does not look to me like a viable active Q&A community.


PS - On further reflection, I also wonder why this wasn't posted beforehand rather than after-the-fact.

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    This kind of thing has previously been remarked upon, and they graduated Windows Phone SE (9 questions asked in 2021, 2 meta questions posted by non-CMs since 2017) in the last mass graduation event. Dec 17 '21 at 18:40
  • I had a short look at Iota.SE. I think that such a bucket of questions has the right not to be beta simply because the highly specialized developers are the only ones who can help each other in this niche. Jan 1 at 19:04
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    @questionto42: I don't believe your conclusion follows from your premise.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 1 at 19:12
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I'm a moderator on three of the sites that are graduating and have been a part of several others, and this feels pretty surreal. I started in 2014, and 7 years is . . . well, it's a long time. I personally eventually adopted the assumption that we'd never graduate - which wouldn't be a bad thing, given that our activity levels were reasonably healthy. It just left me with a vaguely unsatisfying feeling. From time to time, I admittedly wondered whether we could get the axe if company priorities changed. This mass graduation puts a good deal of that low-level anxiety to rest. It's a great feeling.

This really does feels like another huge step in the arc that began with the reassessment of graduation in 2015 (I still remember that discussion!), eventually leading to new determinations of what a "healthy" site is like. Nixing the questions-per-day threshold really addresses my last remaining gripes about the old metrics. It also gives me hope for future Stack Exchange sites (as does the pending Proof Assistants launch, and the rest of the ongoing lifecycle analysis).

Thank you to all the folks at Stack Exchange who made this possible. You've made a lot of people very happy.

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Thank you (written in stylized script)

To the Stack Exchange Community Management Team for putting efforts in evaluating communities and fabricating the criteria!

By the way, it's mentioned that

For the sites that are leaving Beta today the following criteria were determined:

  • The site needed to be in public Beta for at least six months
  • The site needed to have at least 1000 open questions
  • At least 70% of the questions on the site needed to have at least one upvoted answer

And it's also said that by the grace of Adam Lear,

So in the future, if a site is eligible and ready to leave Beta, we can process those requests ad-hoc and in a more timely manner.

So, we are curious to know whether this is the latest applicable criteria for a beta site to become eligible from now onwards? If not, we look forward to know the update after this obsolete post: Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites

0
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You said (emphasis mine):

In the past, moving a site out of Beta required a developer’s assistance to remove the Beta label and either keep reputation levels lowered or bring them up to the regular levels

But then, under the "What does it mean to lose the Beta label?" section, it says:

retain the artificially-lowered reputation thresholds for site privileges, so that they stay the same as in Beta

This raises the following question:

Are there separate criteria for bringing privileges' rep thresholds to the regular levels when (or some time after) a site leaves beta?

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    While we don't have an official answer to this and we'll be discussing it more as we figure out the site lifecycle changes and what each step will look like in the future, one thing that we very much want to stop doing is making changes in a way that don't really recognize the site's community. We've just removed the beta label from a ton of sites but that doesn't mean that the reputation levels of the users on the site can allow for all of the privileges to be used by non-mods. We don't want to rely on mods for all closure or deletion!
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 19:11
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    What this means is that we'll probably assess sites on a per-site basis to see how many active users they have who meet the higher rep thresholds and only change to the higher levels when it makes sense. So, essentially, if you don't have at least 5-10 active community members with 10k rep and 10-15 with 3 k rep - you may never have the higher levels. And, to reiterate, this is a preliminary thought, not the final answer but I think it's something we'll be putting a lot of consideration into.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 19:13
  • @Catija, If we're going to raise thresholds (or even leave them the same), can we be consistent and also likewise adjust the thresholds for obtaining review badges? And perhaps a even a few other badges that are dependent on numerical limits?
    – ouflak
    Dec 20 '21 at 13:36
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    @ouflak As far as I'm aware, we don't have a way to change the tasks needed for those badges on a per-site basis. They're fixed network-wide. We do and have always had a way to adjust rep needed for privileges. The two asks are worlds apart in difficulty.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Dec 20 '21 at 13:44
  • @Catija, Fair enough. Thanks for the prompt reply.
    – ouflak
    Dec 20 '21 at 14:53
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As a moderator to one of the sites that just graduated I'd like to say thank you everyone who made this possible: the CMs, SE staff, the fellow moderators and of course all the diverse users who joined up and asked questions, answered them, and helped keep the site clean and functional.

I'm hoping for another constructive 7 years, and I'm glad we'll likely have an easier way to graduate sites in the future.

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  • Likewise! (I'm a mod for Drones.SE)
    – ifconfig
    Dec 17 '21 at 8:02
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    @ifconfig No need to drone on about it ;-) Just kidding, thanks from me too as a Literature mod. Dec 17 '21 at 8:59
  • And thank you for moderating! :)
    – Joachim
    Jan 5 at 16:58
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The post says:

For the sites that are leaving Beta today, the following criteria were determined:

  • [...]
  • The site needed to have at least 1000 open questions
  • [...]

There is one exception we did make for a community, and that was on the Artificial Intelligence site. [...]

There appears to be another exception: Drones & Model Aircraft has 648 total questions (634 of which are open) and therefore didn't meet the 1000 question requirement.

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    Oops. It looks like one of our metrics was miscalculated here. We double-checked the others to make sure they are right. We have communicated with the moderators and believe their community is committed to crossing that threshold as soon as possible so we are happy to count them as part of today's cohort leaving Beta.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 19:48
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Is there any plan to update Area 51?

As of right now, Politics still shows up as beta on Area 511, and the old stats required for graduating are still showing up on Cardano.

Are there any plans to update Area 51?

1As mentioned in Rosie's comment this no longer happens, if it still shows up for you (and you're quite certain it isn't caching) then it's probably a bug.

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    Politics is showing as launched when I look on Area51 now. There may have been a delay but it seems to be displaying correctly now. Please let me know if that's not the case.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Dec 16 '21 at 15:23
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    @Rosie yep, appears to be working, thanks! Dec 16 '21 at 15:23
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For this group of eligible communities, we allowed the communities to stay in Beta if they didn’t feel ready to leave that state yet.

How was this determined? I didn't see any consultation happening on my 'primary' site -- we were presented with a 'fait accompli' early announcement that didn't include much important information, such as the fact the reputation thresholds wouldn't change immediately (it will be an issue when they do change, so I hope users are consulted then) and also didn't include any indication that we could ask not to be included.

The site moderator(s) I've challenged on this have said 'we didn't know' and 'we weren't asked', which either indicates that there was a communications failure -- perhaps between SE and the moderators community? or between the moderators and the site community?

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    Interpersonal Skills met the criteria but opted not to graduate. The moderators were clearly aware of the option and presented it to the community. Dec 18 '21 at 17:25
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog Yes, but is it clear that Interpersonal Skills is the OP's primary site? I was presuming they meant Genealogy & Family History, based on their answer to the relevant meta post on that site. Dec 18 '21 at 17:28
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    @TheAmplitwist What I'm trying to say is, if SE never communicated that option, no site would have been aware of it - yet there was at least one site that was aware of it, so that's not true. Perhaps it was communicated, but not clearly so, or the Genealogy site moderators overlooked it. Dec 18 '21 at 17:30
  • There were also a bunch of sites' mod teams that were aware that their respective site would retain its existing reputation levels. Dec 18 '21 at 17:31
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog From my reading, the OP of this post seems to be talking only about the (mis?)communication between the moderator team of their primary site and SE, not in any more general terms. Dec 18 '21 at 17:33
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    @TheAmplitwist I was trying to understand where the miscommunication occurred -- sounds like the info was available but wasn't communicated to GFH. Dec 18 '21 at 17:51
  • @ColeValleyGirl Thank you for clarifying. At least for me, that is how I originally understood your post as well. If my comments above are distracting, I can remove them. (Or, feel free to flag them as "no longer needed".) Dec 18 '21 at 18:16
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    @TheAmplitwist Let the comments be? Others may misunderstand, so your comments will help. Dec 18 '21 at 18:19
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    As a moderator on Genealogy, I do not think there was any miscommunication. When we were alerted by staff that we were eligible for graduation, all the mods thought that graduation was a positive step forward. It was made quite clear in our meta post that not much would change immediately apart from the beta label being removed and an election next year. I would also say that if you really opposed graduation, there was ample opportunity in the past month, since we announced it, to voice those objections or concerns. I would consider this past month a reasonable "consultation" period.
    – Harry V.
    Dec 19 '21 at 15:22
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    @Harry V. Is it a "consultation" if you're informed a site is graduating with no indication that the decision can be discussed? I wouldn't say so. I'm glad 'all the mods' thought it was a positive step -- I don't actually disagree with that -- but taking decisions of behalf of the community isn't part of a mods role. I suspect you (collectively) didn't realise that there was a possibility to dissent from graduation, or you would have consulted -- hence me thinking there was a miscommunication somewhere along the chain. Dec 19 '21 at 15:52
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    @ColeValleyGirl Sorry. No, I was not aware there was a possibility of dissent, because no one had voiced any such opinion over the past month. Apparently, miscommunication all around.
    – Harry V.
    Dec 19 '21 at 20:13
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    @HarryV, I wasn't saying there was the possibility of dissent on GFH although there has been, every time the topic has come up on our Meta; I was saying that apparently the GFH mods weren't made aware that they could/should(?) consult rather than being handed a decision on tablets of stone by SE. Dec 19 '21 at 20:16
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    I will repeat: my problem is with what seems to have been a very inconsistent communications process that means some sites were explicitly consulted and some were just told it was going to happen. SE seem to have expected consultation, based on their post above, but you don't seem to have been made aware that not graduating was an option... which is a failure of the communications process, not a failure by any of the mods. Dec 19 '21 at 20:20
  • We basically shared the same initial message with the mod teams of all sites that were eligible to leave Beta at that time. Part of that "form letter" did explicitly say that we wanted to make sure that the mods felt their site was ready to shed the Beta label (and asked them to inform us if they didn't think it should lose the Beta label yet). I've also just gone back and confirmed that this line was in our message to the GFH mods... Some mods may just have missed/skipped over that line of the message (which is totally understandable, given that it was a somewhat long message).
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jan 12 at 21:37
  • Also, the sentence before that in the form letter mentions that we wanted to let the mods know ahead of time in case they wanted to draft an announcement to their own community, and noted that the mods could share the news with their community before our (SE Inc.'s) announcement. The form letter didn't actually mention the possibility of asking the site's community if they felt the site should leave Beta – but we didn't forbid it either, so a site's mods could have done so if they wanted to.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jan 12 at 21:40
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On behalf of the Korean Language community, I would like to thank the Stack Exchange team for graduating our site out of beta.

2

There seems to be at least one other exception. Cardano.SE meets those criteria but did not graduate. They reached 1000 questions (with more than 80% answered), weeks ago. The site has also been live for more than 8 months (and in Public Beta for more than 7 months). Therefore all three of the itemized criteria listed in this question, were met 11 days ago when it was posted. Cardano might simply have been overlooked because they weren't yet at 1000 questions (though they were very close to it) back in November when the CMs were first looking into this.

I do understand that some sites met the requirements but requested not to graduate, but I confirmed on the Cardano.Meta site that the community didn't request this, and the diamond moderators didn't either.

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  • While I'm not sure exactly when the data was taken for the decisions, the mods on the sites themselves were asked back in mid November so most likely Cardano crossed those thresholds after the list of sites to graduate was made. Still could be an oversight or an edge case, but I don't think it's due to a hidden criteria.
    – Dom
    Dec 28 '21 at 3:07
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    @Dom It doesn't seem like it's due to hidden criteria. It seems that Cardano was only at 950 questions in mid-November but reached 1000 well before the other 58 sites graduated 11 days ago. The diamond mods would have been told that they didn't qualify to graduate, but now they do (and they seem not to have been told that). Dec 28 '21 at 3:16

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