-26

UPDATE: Given the information uncovered in this answer and the comment discussion underneath it — particularly, the fact the the email we send to committers once the site enters private beta is outdated to reflect older versions of the site lifecycle process and includes information that contradicts our current process — the Community Team is discussing how to proceed and I should be able to provide you some updates on Thursday, March 17th, 2022.


As the Substrate site completes its 5-week private beta, I'm afraid this site is not going to make it.

We had 642 users commit to help build this community before it launched; unfortunately less than one-fourth of them showed up (22.1%). At this point, we generally see at least 150 high-quality questions, which correlates strongly with a healthy launch (that's an absolute minimum), but this subject has not reached that — there are under 150 questions with a score of 2 or more and at least one upvoted answer, and the numbers go drastically down if you look at higher-scoring questions. Looking at the voters page, it appears that most of the voting on the site was done by a handful of people, as opposed to what usually happens on healthy communities, where a lot of users vote for good quality content. At this point, it's evident that this community does not have enough interest or activity to continue.

This site will be closing on Tuesday, March 22nd. The content will be saved, and a link to the archive will be available from the proposal page on Area 51.

These decisions are always difficult and I'm sure disappointing to everyone involved, but I want to thank everyone for their efforts to give this subject the best chance of succeeding.

Take care and good luck!

14
  • 5
    we really were just warming up to this site. it's incredibly useful and the best possible way to get answers to some of the very complex questions around making use of substrate technology. it's very disappointing that it is apparently not being given the opportunity to grow some legs here. we had nowhere near enough time to make the community aware that they could get answers here.
    – grenade
    Mar 15 at 6:36
  • 2
    As a new dev to substrate this is very disappointing to see. Time is needed for these forums to take shape. Please understand that this community is growing vibrantly and this site will grow alongside it but patience is required.
    – Dutt
    Mar 15 at 16:17
  • 2
    I understand that this may be very frustrating to some of the folks who put in time and effort, but I feel I must point out that, in addition to the definition and commitment phases, you had a whole of 5 weeks to make people aware that this site existed, and to prove that there was enough of a community to sustain this site organically. Our process usually foresees 2~3 weeks for the private beta phase.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 16:45
  • 1
    I guess it's a wrong decision, it's normal the community is small, i just discover this site two days ago. Mar 15 at 17:20
  • 2
    @JNat If you have metrics you want us to reach, can you please define them as an explicit target, including a timeline in which you want us to reach it. This is literally the first communication any staff has had onto our community, and to take action directly as a result seems extreme. Tell us in the next 30 days what you want to see in order to prove ourselves as a proper community, and give us those 30 days to do that.
    – Shawn Tabrizi Mod
    Mar 15 at 17:31
  • As a new joiner to substrate, I'm really hoping for having such a forum to ask and discuss both technical and overall questions. The whole substrate ecosystem is one of the fastest-growing developer communities in the last year/few years. I'm sure that launching an SE subpage is definitely something that a lot of developers are looking forward to.
    – Kailai
    Mar 15 at 18:13
  • 1
    @ShawnTabrizi, there aren't hard metrics, because those are too easy to game. Rather, there's the accumulated experience of a decade of launching sites and a general feel for what a what a successful site looks like. Substrate feels like a site being driven by a dozen contributors; the most likely outcome if the site is left open is for the site to muddle along for a while, slowly shrinking as those contributors leave for one reason or another.
    – Mark
    Mar 15 at 23:25
  • @Mark it feels that way because you have told us that it is still a "private" beta, where only the committers are allowed to enter and contribute to this site. See Shawn's answer for the email that was sent to us. Mar 16 at 6:57
  • 2
    I understand that having clear goals made clear upfront might alleviate some of the tension for private betas, @ShawnTabrizi, but the flipside of that is that we'd be giving you clear goals you could game the site towards: if we say we need to see X questions with at least Y score and Z upvoted answers (for instance), you might be tempted to heavily upvote and never downvote, and to refrain from closing and deleting bad questions — essentially, we would be inviting you to not use the system properly, in a way that can sustain a healthy community, and that would be a problem.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 16 at 9:23
  • Looking for that updated @JNat 🙏 - I really hope we have some time to gather more healthy community interaction into our stack exchange, knowing that it's open to the public.... Would it be possible to actually move to public beta? So no account is required for people to see what the community is engaging on? Or would that be counterproductive to gathering metrics and increasing the genuine user count overall?
    – Dan Shields Mod
    Mar 17 at 15:42
  • To anyone still reading this thread: see our followup announcement here.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Mar 17 at 18:24
  • 1
    @ShawnTabrizi Metrics that are indicators can be found here. If I read this right, we'd need at least more high-rep users (roughly triple active users and more votes on their posts) and many more visits per day. Basically, more recruitment and more votes is required.
    – Mast
    Mar 18 at 7:33
  • 1
    if it gets shut down that'd be the worst news i've heard since web2, the epidemic, and the war, but the best news for web3. should we just assume the worst now and apply for a w3f grant to just building our own decentralised web3 version with substrate itself and deploy it on kusama that uses things like the tips pallet for incentivisation using cross-chain tokens. i would be pleased to contribute to it and even fund some bounties to move it along. Mar 18 at 22:14
  • 1
    some of the people who signed up for the private beta, myself included, might have been affected by covid-19 or the war during the private beta period, and this is an ongoing issue. even a mild case of covid-19 can last a few weeks. why are we using a privately held service that doesn't sympathise with these situations and provides a centralised community space that can shutdown at a whim? Mar 18 at 22:37

12 Answers 12

31

@JNat, this is really not how I expected the process to work, and I would ask you give us more time here, and a little more clarity on your process.

From the FAQ:

Beta. Perhaps the most important phase. This is the actual, live site set up on a "probationary" basis to see if people use it. It is very important to participate early. The earliest questions set the tone and topic of the site for a long time. This is also the time to spread the word via Twitter, blogs, and email far and wide. If the site does not get used, it will be deleted.

I was not aware we were in this phase yet, I assumed the "private" beta was something that happened beforehand.

The notice on the StackExchange process notes about the private beta:

Everyone who committed to the proposal can participate.

The site's Public Beta will begin soon.

We did not really use any social media, twitter, or anything to drive traffic to this site yet because we though we were simply "preparing the site with questions in the private beta". If we pointed new users to this site, they would not be allowed to access the private beta.

Furthermore, we did not close off many of our existing support channels since not everyone has access to the private beta, only those who committed.

There is certainly a much larger community waiting to join this forum, but we need it to be public first.

What can be done here to help us make this right?


EDIT:

Look at the email sent for the private beta:

enter image description here

Q: Who can access the site during the private beta? A: Only the 642 people who committed to it.

This is why we thought we could not invite others! A "private" beta!

Q: How can I help the site succeed? A: During the private beta, ask questions, answer questions, tag questions, edit questions, and vote.

This is what we have been doing!

Q: What else? A: The minute the public beta opens, invite your friends. Spread the word via Twitter, blogs, and email far and wide. Hang out on the site answering incoming questions during the first few hours so that newcomers understand what a great experience a working, popular Stack Exchange site can be.

This is why we did not aggressively use social media to drive our "larger" community here yet. We literally thought we were waiting for Public beta!

This is so confusing!

23
  • 1
    I understand that this decision is frustrating after you've put so much time and effort into this proposal. As I noted in the original post, the decision wasn't an easy one to make, but we believe it is ultimately the best one. I've just dug up an older post that makes some of the points you make about how some parts of the process cause confusion, and will hope to address those concerns soon so future proposals have that spelled out more clearly to them.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:01
  • 1
    That being said, I should point out that there is a clearly visible "invite fellow experts" prompt in the sidebar of the main site, and that even without that users can sign up for the private beta by coming to the site — it is listed in search engines, and you can try accessing it logged out to see for yourself.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:02
  • 1
    More importantly, I want to point out that if your intention was to have this site be your primary support channel, that might not be the best solution. Additionally, if that was the intention from the beginning, ideally you would have emailed someone from staff well in advance of the proposal nearing launch into private beta — the best case scenario is that we would've been able to advise and provide more handholding to help the site succeed...
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:02
  • 1
    ... and the worst case scenario is that we could've told you this was unlikely to work out before a lot of people spent time and effort on this. As I noted in a comment above, there was plenty of time to prove that this site could host a healthy and self-sustaining community, and I think extending the private beta period any longer would not provide proof that it could do so organically at this point.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:03
  • 2
    That aside, though, I noted that only 22% of the users who committed to the proposal actually signed up — that indicates that you may have been successful at channeling a bunch of people to Area 51 and that you maybe would be able to do the same for the private beta now if we extended it, but it also worries me because the discrepancy between commits and actual signups shows no follow-through, and in fact might be a sign that the activity shown while the proposal was still on Area 51 might not be the kind of organic participation we need to sustain a community on the Stack Exchange Network.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:03
  • 2
    I think you should note that it took 3 months for the site to launch after we got to the required number of people. You can imagine that killed a lot of the momentum of the site. Further, I am stating that we can absolutely drive more traffic to the site through social media, but we just havent done that explicitly because we are waiting for it to exit "private" beta! With this information in mind, please set the site to public beta, and give us 30 more days... I dont see how it is far to close the site in a shorter amount of time than it took you guys to launch it for us
    – Shawn Tabrizi Mod
    Mar 15 at 17:06
  • 2
    And this is not a "dedicated support channel", this is a community, who is all trying to learn about a technology. Our company Parity provides a lot of that cause we wrote the software, but as you can see, we are trying to turn this into a community effort, where we do have lots of tinkerers and experts who can help one another.
    – Shawn Tabrizi Mod
    Mar 15 at 17:06
  • 2
    Also, how would you justify the closure of this site compared to: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/126242/proof-assistants and area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101265/constructed-languages and area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/61574/music-fans Why does it feel we are being targeted aggressively to be shut down? I have emailed you, and I would appreciate if we could have a conversation before you take action.
    – Shawn Tabrizi Mod
    Mar 15 at 17:08
  • 1
    Search "substrate stack exchange" and see for yourself, @HenryWHHackv3.0b ;)
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:50
  • 2
    I think you're misunderstanding how private beta works @ShawnTabrizi — you could have, from day one, leveraged your social media following to increase the activity on the site. The "private" there just means that the content is only visible for folks who've created and account and signed up, as opposed to sites that leave private beta and whose content is indexed in search engines. And the time between meeting the commitment requirements and launch was around a month because it clashed with the late-year holidays in 2021...
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:51
  • 3
    While that may have slightly affected momentum, launching in late-December was simply not a possibility. All of that being said, I should bring up again that only 22% of the people that said "yes, I want to actively participate in this community once it launches; keep me updated!" (see the actual UI prompt here) actually did sign up (and I'm not even looking at whether those 22% did participate afterwards)...
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:52
  • 1
    This number worries me because it relates to an actual active commitment, not a passive one, and the fact that you have a big social media following does not appease that worry because we want to see users commit to sticking around and keeping this community healthy, something we've failed to see in the phase designed specifically for that to happen.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:52
  • 1
    Finally, see the % of signups compared to commitments on Proof Assistants, a site that launched into private beta at the same time y'all did (and that met the commitment requirements before, potentially losing even more momentum than you did) and has 170+ questions with a score of 5 or higher and at least one upvoted answer.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 17:52
  • 2
    @JNat I just included a screenshot from the email people got about the Private Beta. What you are saying, and what is said in that email is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. In the Proof Assists site, maybe they do have more sign ups, but they have basically no question traffic at all. The metric on which you are judging us lends toward a very specific mentality of success.
    – Shawn Tabrizi Mod
    Mar 15 at 18:00
  • 8
    Oof, @ShawnTabrizi — that email is very outdated, but it does contradict most of what I said. Gonna need to deliberate what options we have, given that, and will update y'all as soon as I have a notion of what we can do. Completely understand where your confusion was coming from, now — apologies for the mixed signals.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 15 at 18:17
15

To say I would be incredibly disappointed with such a decision would be an understatement. I personally have seen and helped stack exchange be a massive success in the past in Credit Suisse. Given what I had seen there I was certain that stack exchange will be a perfect fit for substrate given time. The technical nature of substrate makes it ideal for this kind of question and answer platform and the fact that there are so many disparate teams all using it means that they can self help each other understand a technically complex platform.

It takes time for people to get used to a new resource. While Kusama started in earnest in May last year, Polkadot only truly launched this January. What we see now is a fraction of what is to come.

It takes time for there to be enough questions and answers there for it to have that go-to pull.

It takes time for search engines to learn to drive traffic to the site.

It takes time to grow something beautiful, it does not happen overnight.

12 months would be a reasonable time to make an informed decision on the community that grows up around this site. I'm sure we as a community are more than happy to self police and do anything that helps make the beta less of a burden to you while it gains critical mass, but please do give the substrate community a fair crack of the whip.

I don't ask for anything else other than time.

3
  • 1
    Seems to me that the substrate site is far more healthy than area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101265/constructed-languages for example. There's already been 300+ questions in such a short space of time. Many do not have 2 answers because the first answer was a slam dunk.
    – Squirrel
    Mar 15 at 13:58
  • 2
    Question count alone isn't a good measure. It's the whole question-answer-vote system that matters, and by that metric, Constructed Languages is (surprisingly) still healthy. True, it's only seen eight questions since the start of the year, but each of those questions has received at least one answer, and those questions and answers have all been voted on repeatedly.
    – Mark
    Mar 15 at 23:43
  • Many in our community are young and new to stack overflow (yes we bring you new users), but I don't think they realize yet that they should be up voting good answers. It takes new users a little while to get comfortable with new platforms and get the hang of things. Remember also that English is not for a lot of substrate developers their first language as there are teams in many countries around the world. Please give them a chance.
    – Squirrel
    Mar 16 at 12:40
10

I also find this a hugely disappointing decision. I've already had some really useful help from questions I've posted and posted by others.

10

Please keep this resource open, I use this regularly, and I'm certain it will keep growing, in particular now that Polkadot and Kusama, the main relay networks, for this tooling are almost fully there.

8

I think it needs more time as the ecosystem is in the diapers but it's growing, slowly, but it is, we can see it anywhere (twitter, element, etc.). I would consider giving this a little bit more time and a bit of propaganda :)

8

It's been amazing to be a part of the Substrate's community. So if it counts, here is one more developer that keeps an eye on the Substrate Stack Exchange daily, both to help and to be helped.

7

I think it's too early to come to that conclusion that it's not going to make it. 22% of the people committed found a way to interact in 5-weeks time, that is actually not bad. Also you have to give it time to grow as substrate its-self is still early software.

We are actively developing a project and an environment as the substrate stack-exchange really helped us to ask questions and surf through instead of a chat channel as it used to be.

Hope you will reconsider

6

It is very contradictory to mention reduced traffic for a site that is:

  • precisely defined as private and beta
  • not included in search engines

So private here may have another meaning but we are all waiting for this site to be available publicly to finally tell people about it and allow a wider audience to enjoy it.

It is also understandable that the people who found their way in despite not promoting the site, are not throwing themselves in a beta site.

The popularity of both Substrate and all Substrate based projects no longer needs to be demonstrated and the site will benefit all those builders once they know about it being publicly available.

Substrate is indeed very technical, making it a great candidate for such a site. This decision sounds a bit rushed and targetted and I would love to see a bit more care in research and less focus on raw numbers, especially as it sounds coming from a big missunderstanding.

1
  • 1
    You can check this answer and the comments underneath it to clear some of the confusion you reference — I believe all of it is addressed there.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 16 at 14:23
5

Any chance we could just change the name of this channel to Polkadot?

Almost nobody outside of devs knows what Substrate is. I believe this forum would get much more traction with a recognisable brand. For example if the ethereum stack exchange had been called 'solidity' i think it would have suffered the same fate.

5

Substrate is a very technical project and I could understand that laypeople might not appreciate how pivotal it is to the whole blockchain space.

To give you an idea of what substrate is powering, have a look at the market caps of things in the polkadot ecosystem: https://coinmarketcap.com/view/polkadot-ecosystem/ - that is already many billions of dollars. All powered by substrate. But that's just the polkadot related stuff.

I would beseech you to spend 7 minutes of your time to understand what our shared vision is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcOKXAOh4Xw

Again, all I ask for is more time. Rome was not built in a day.

2

I believe it is a very good opportunity for Prosus to get some insights into a community that is more privacy-focused and quite a few of its people do not provide much behavior data to Web2 platforms (okay, some developers leave quite some trails for Microsoft on github though). I can understand the algorithms that estimate the possible income are confused by the cohort these people represent. In the commitment phase we really had to push forward on many channels to get people register on StackExchange and start using a behavior measuring and shaping platform like this. Since we had a 3-month waiting period and misunderstood private beta, the activities only come from those questions we redirected from our own self-hosted platforms into yours.

All we ask is let us spend some more time and money to get our users familiar with your platform, so it is easier for users to navigate between our community and the other SE communities. And easier for your advertisers to understand more about the people working on Web3 technologies.

1
  • Not a fan. This is an important resource for Polkadot, Kusama, the substrate ecosystem, and the blockchain/web3 space writ large. We should keep this space continuing as a valuable resource for devs looking to learn!
    – haochizzle
    Mar 18 at 3:29
1

Oh, good old linear thinking. Here's how it actually would have grown, if you wouldn't close it:

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?hl=en-US&tz=-180&date=all&hl=en-US&q=Substrate+blockchain&tz=-180&sni=6

Yes, you got that — it would have grown exponentially.

3
  • 1
    This doesn't tell me anything about how healthy a community hosted on this site would be.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 16 at 14:29
  • 2
    Alright. For your it's just another community around some framework which may or may not lift off. For us it's the only framework existing these days, which allows people to build their own blockchain from scratch. Closing is now — it's like banning bitcoin community in the early days. Mar 16 at 14:40
  • 1
    No one's talking about banning anything, and I've made no remarks about whether or not the framework will succeed — I'm here to evaluate how healthy the community on this platform is, and however popular the technology might be outside this platform doesn't tell me anything about that, is all I'm saying.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Mar 16 at 14:59

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