The Area 51 beta progress bar ends at 90 days. We're at 93 days, and our page says:

This site has finished its beta and will be launching very soon.

Why haven't we launched yet? What impact do the Area 51 metrics have on our launch? What do we need to do before we're ready to launch?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This somehow turned into a giant entry, so I split it into a few sections; it starts discussing the launch procedure and ends with me rambling about how voting is good and why we should vote more :)

Area 51 metrics and launch process

The beta launch process was changed somewhat after the first few sites launched. Originally it boiled down to "at 90 days, either the site launches or it folds", and the first few sites all made the cut. However, they immediately ran into problems, so the process was changed. There are a bunch of useful metrics listed on our Area 51 page now:

  • Number of questions
  • Percentage of questions answered
  • Number of users, including users with 200+ rep, 2000+ rep, and 3000+ rep
  • Average number of answers per question
  • Average number of visits per day

Each of those is marked Worrying, Okay, or Excellent

Importance of reputation

As Robert (the community coordinator) said in the blog post:

the graduation date of a site will depend heavily on having enough users with sufficient reputation to properly lead and govern the site.

Users who haven't been on a launched SE site before may not realize that we're currently operating with greatly lowered reputation requirements. Most relevant to this post:

The reason for Area 51 emphasizing the number of users with 2k and 3k rep should be clear now -- those translate to the number of users who can edit and close posts, the two most important maintenance tasks. It takes 5 votes to close a post, so even if all our 3k users vote it won't be enough; a moderator needs to do it. Sites need to be able to self-police (edit and close posts without mods getting involved), so they won't launch until that happens.

Launch schedule

We discussed beta launches at the network meeting this week. Jin (the SE designer) can design about 1-1.5 sites per week, so they can't really launch faster than that. We're told this is the current way site launches are ordered, in order of decreasing importance:

  • 90+ days -- sites need to be at 90 days before they can launch
  • Sufficient 2k and 3k users to maintain the site
  • Number of Excellent, Okay, and Worrying stats on Area 51 (in that order, naturally)

As of 10 Nov, the sites ready to launch were TeX, English Language and Usage, and Personal Finance and Money, and TeX actually did launch about six hours ago.

We're second of the other five 90+ day betas (first is Home Improvement) that aren't ready to launch yet -- we're missing sufficient high reputation users

This leads nicely into the last point:

Importance of Voting

People gain reputation through high quality posts, but they only do so if the posts are voted on. From what I've heard talking to mods on other sites, the sites that have gone on to launch averaged about 200 upvotes/day during the beta period. Last month we were averaging just over 100/day, and so far this month (through 10 Nov when I pulled the data) we've averaged about 55/day, despite having about the same question volume and an increased number of visits (the last four days have had more visits than any days since just after public beta started).

Votes do more than just affect reputation, they're used in lots of places. Off the top of my head, for questions:

  • They affect the hot, week, and month tabs on the homepage
  • They affect the hot and votes tabs on the questions page
  • They affect the votes tab for an individual tag
  • Highly upvoted questions are featured in house ads on other SE sites
  • Posts with -2 or less score are hidden from the homepage
  • The top (and bottom) 15 show up in the 10k tools

For answers:

  • They affect the ordering of answers on a question (by default it's accepted answer followed by descending answer score)
  • They affect the unanswered page -- questions are considered "answered" when they have at least one upvoted answer

There's a good post on the Web Applications meta about when you should up/downvote. We each get 30 votes/day, which is almost exactly the number of posts/day we average, so running out isn't a big concern. As an added bonus, there are quite a few badges associated both with voting and receiving votes

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Voting is considered a civic duty. It seems that there's no snazzy way to pinpoint the worst abstainers until the site leaves beta. –  Gilles Nov 12 '10 at 21:22
    
@Gilles You can see how many votes people have on their profile page, so you could always do it manually, but I don't really want to say "The following people are failing the site and should be ashamed ". I thought there'd be more with that badge though, that's depressing; I'm 10 votes away –  Michael Mrozek Nov 13 '10 at 3:08
    
I think far more important than the non-voters are the non-acceptors... –  Stefan Nov 13 '10 at 13:11
    
This Answer has this burning need to be updated. Looks like we are ready to launch. –  Tshepang Dec 9 '10 at 20:02
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@Tshepang Indeed, people rallied most impressively and we hit enough users pretty quick; I sent this graph of votes/day to the other SE mods a few days after this post was written. I don't know the current launch schedule, we haven't had a network meeting in about a month now; programmers is scheduled to launch in a day or two. It looks like RPG and Money will be after that (it's hard to tell the exact order), and we're third, but it's not guaranteed since the order can shift between launches –  Michael Mrozek Dec 9 '10 at 20:12
    
BTW, did anyone find out why the vote counts were so low? –  Tshepang Dec 9 '10 at 20:33
    
@Tshepang Oh, lame. At some point I want to write a script that just computes the order; I'm too lazy to keep going through A51 pages checking it. And I have no idea why the vote counts kept going down, that was weird. We bounced back for a while and then dropped again; we hover between 50 and 100 upvotes per day, but our two lowest days ever were back to back this week (there was a fairly low number of posts those days too though) –  Michael Mrozek Dec 9 '10 at 20:40
    
@michael oh so it doesn't matter that we have 0 10k users? –  xenoterracide Dec 11 '10 at 10:40
    
@xeno I don't think so; I think total users, "dedicated" users (200 rep), editors, and closers all factor in, but that's it –  Michael Mrozek Dec 11 '10 at 10:42
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@Michael ah... well gilles will be 10k in a week... and with a little pushing we've got several 3k's now. –  xenoterracide Dec 11 '10 at 10:43
    
@tshepang well since I didn't know this was being updated... per comment from other thread.. I'll stop reminding people though giving them hints that they should (once in a while) doesn't hurt... –  xenoterracide Dec 11 '10 at 10:45
    
@xeno Right, we meet all the metrics now, but so do a few other sites that haven't launched yet; sites with more users (particularly at the key reps) get to launch first. At some point it was rumored we were third; Tshepang said we're now sixth, but I haven't checked. One programmers launches in the next few days the order will get recalculated, I'll ask Robert about it then –  Michael Mrozek Dec 11 '10 at 10:49
    
@Mic If SE sites is any indicator, we are ahead of every other Beta, although it looks like RPG.SE (or even money.SE) might get launched first. Apple does not have enough high-rep users. –  Tshepang Dec 19 '10 at 8:59
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@Tshepang I don't think it is, I don't know where you got that impression; it shows Android ahead of us when they're not, and several behind us when they're not. It looks like RPG and Money are the two 90+ days ahead of us, but by the time they launch Startup and E&R will both be at 90 days, and they're ahead of us too. So it'll be a while –  Michael Mrozek Dec 19 '10 at 9:33
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@Tshepang Well, Jin just mentioned in chat that he's looking into Unix designs now and is going to try and post here sometime this week, so we might be sooner than I thought –  Michael Mrozek Dec 20 '10 at 6:06
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