When a site leaves Public Beta, the most noticeable change is the "Beta" label on the main site is removed. Aside from that here are the other changes and options to sites once they've exited beta:
First Non-Beta Election
Moderators for sites in beta are generally appointed as a result of pro-tempore elections. This is a simplified version of the election system we use for non-beta sites, which are structured a little differently. These pro-tempore roles are considered temporary until the site leaves beta, which means that current moderators come up for re-election when the beta period ends and the site's first full election is held. Existing pro-tempore moderators must nominate in and win this election to continue serving.
The two main differences between beta elections and full elections are:
The election questionnaire - Because of the addition of a Question Collection phase to Non-Beta elections, they have an additional week in their timeline. A question collection post will appear on the site's Meta site the week the election kicks off. This is an opportunity for community members to propose questions that they'd like nominees who are running to be a moderator to answer. The following week, when nominations open, nominees can answer the default questions that are part of every election as well as the top scoring ones that are proposed and voted on by the community.
Non-Beta elections must be competitive- That means that there need to be
n+1 qualified candidates running in the election — where
n is the number of seats available in the election — for it to proceed to the voting phase. Simply put, there must be at least one more candidate than the number of seats to be filled. So for example: most first non-Beta elections are to elect three "full" moderators. In order for the election to make it to the voting phase there must be a minimum of four candidates.
Timeline for Non-Beta Elections and How to Request One
We don't force communities to hold their first non-Beta election before they are ready. We typically encourage the current pro-tem moderators to post an interest check on their meta site. This is an opportunity for them to let the community know which of them plan to run in an election and to see who else is interested in stepping forward to self-nominate when an election happens. When the pro-tem mods feel confident the community is ready for an election they can email the Community Management team at email@example.com to kick off the process. A Community Manager will check in with the Mod Team to let them know when we'd be able to run an election for their site.
Raising the Reputation Requirements for Site Privileges
Thresholds for reputation-based privileges are artificially lowered during a site's Beta stage, to help that community get started while still being able to self-moderate. In the past, these were automatically raised when a site left Public Beta, which would mean that community members who had access to certain privileges might lose those privileges once the reputation levels were raised. When we split off "design-independent graduation", we began delaying raising the reputation requirements until a site design was released. What we've moved towards since then is not raising the site requirements until a community comes to a consensus that they are ready for the reputation change, regardless of the site having a design.
Timeline for Raising Reputation Requirements and How to Request It
If moderators feel that their community is ready to adopt higher reputation levels for their site, we encourage them to start a discussion on their Meta. If the community has come to a consensus to update the reputation levels the moderators can tag the post as status-review and the Community Managers will review and process the change. In general, we do not plan to programmatically raise sites reputation levels based on leaving beta or a site design, though if we feel it may be appropriate to raise the levels, we may start a discussion about it.
Setting up Question Migration Paths
Traditionally we avoided allowing migration paths to and from beta sites, though that's less true more recently. One option for sites is to request a migration path to or from another site. This is most useful when it's relatively common that users post questions about a subject that's off-topic on one site but is on topic on another site in the Stack Exchange Network.
In addition to showing need, creating these pathways require agreement between both sites as there's often concern that the content being migrated may not be of good quality or in-scope for the target site. Unless high-quality questions are regularly asked that consistently belong on another site, it's unlikely that a migration path will be necessary.
It's also important to remember that we limit each site to having five migration targets, including their own meta site.
Timeline for Setting Question Migration Paths and How to Request Them
There is no timeline for setting up question migrations and if your SE site has little to no cross-over with topics on other SE sites you may not need them at all. If you determine that there is a good reason for a question migration path to be created, start a discussion on your meta. Be sure to look at the migration history between the two sites including both the frequency of migrations and the success rate.
If the community is able to show both interest and need, you'll want to also discuss the possibility of migration paths with the other site through a meta post there.
Once both sites are in agreement about creating the migration path, have the moderators mark both posts with the status-review tag so that the community team can review the request.
Future Updates to Sites That Leave Public Beta
Custom themes for sites that have left Beta and being able to display community promoted ads have been two areas that have been top of mind but we had been without product resources to build and automate these areas in a sustainable way. If site currently leaves Public Beta there isn't an immediate timeline to when these two features will be rolled out to you. However, we do have some updates on both fronts that are worth sharing.
Prior to 2015 sites used to get a redesign out of the "beta blue" theme once they left Public Beta. Design resources have been scarce for several years so we have not been able to offer that redesign for some time. Recent work from the Stacks team promises huge steps forward that will allow for individual site custom theming. As well, we are excited that Stack Overflow's in-house design guild has been stepping forward through the backlog of sites that need custom themes. Because this work is being done around other priorities, we can not give estimates to when a particular site will be offered custom themes. At the moment there isn't a timeline. If your site is being offered a redesign, we will reach out to you.
Community Promotion Ads
As we mentioned in December we will be sharing updates in the near future on the results of last year's Community Ads. The Community Managers and Product Team will be syncing during the second half of the year to what the process will look like moving forward and we'll share those updates once we have them.