As was outlined in this post, this site failed to meet the type of activity and engagement we expect successful and healthy communities to have met during their 2–4 weeks in the private beta phase. Given that and our site lifecycle process, the next natural step would be to shut down the site and provide a data dump with all the questions on Area 51.
However, after discussion in the above post, it became apparent that the email that is sent to users who've committed to the proposal on Area 51 once a site makes it into private beta is actually very outdated. It reflects an older version of the site lifecycle process, and thus has information that doesn't match our current process. That obviously caused some confusion, particularly around the word "private" in the phase's name, and led some of you to wait for the site to make it into public beta before trying to invite more fellow experts to shape the site in its early stages.
Furthermore, the email doesn't set expectations properly. It makes it seem like all sites that make it into private beta will surely make into public beta, with time being the only thing between one phase and the other — when, in fact, sites that don't perform well in private beta get shut down.
I want to apologize for the confusion: I don't know why the email wasn't updated along with our process, nor why it took us so long to notice this. It doesn't help this proposal at this point, but we'll be looking at updating that email before any other proposals get launched into private beta.
Given all of the above, it seems fair to extend this site's private beta phase until April 7th, 2022, at which point the Community Team will evaluate the community's health and viability once more, and post our assessment that or the following day.
I want to highlight that the only reason we're extending the private beta is because, despite having a process by which we evaluate sites' health and viability, this process was not clearly communicated and expectations were wrongly set for you. Our decision evaluates for one item alone: whether the community will be able to stay healthy and self-sustain on Stack Exchange. We do not take into account how popular a product, technology, or topic may be outside the Stack Exchange network - it's what you build here that counts above all.
With the extension and the lack of proper prior guidance in mind, below is some advice for how you can succeed — y'know, the type of guidance the email should've given you from the start:
Read through the help center: We have a comprehensive help center with articles explaining how most of our system works. We suggest you go through some of the articles there — especially if you're new to the Stack Exchange network.
Vote early, vote often: Voting is how good content gets recognized, wrong or incoherent content is signaled, and how a community of editors, closers, stewards, and moderators comes into existence in the SE network. Read more in this blog post and in this FAQ on Meta Stack Exchange, and be careful not to engage in voting fraud or sock-puppeting.
Discuss what your site is about on Meta: The Essential Questions of Every Beta is a community-curated revised version of an earlier blog post that lists a few of the most important things new communities should be discussing in Meta. You should be making use of your Meta site to discuss things like:
- Are questions about [subject] on- or off-topic?
- What should our documentation contain?
- How should we tag questions about [subject]?
- What's the site's 'elevator pitch'?
- How do we promote our site?
Edit, close, or delete content: Sometimes questions or answers need a little tweak, either because they have typos or because they don't quite fit the site's scope without some edits; you should help out by editing those posts. Sometimes questions are beyond being salvageable, though, and you should instead be closing or deleting them.
Invite fellow experts to the site: There's an "invite fellow experts" box on the site's right sidebar – make use of it!
Start building guidance for tags: Tags are an important way to sort content in our sites, and having the proper guidance on how tags should be used is essential to ensure content is properly tagged. Read more here about tagging, and here about providing tag guidance.
With the above guidance — and the initial confusion cleared up — I think you might be better positioned to succeed. That being said, I would be remiss to not reiterate the fact that it is still worrying that of the 642 users who committed to the proposal only ~22% showed up for the private beta. I reckon you might start promoting the site more heavily in social media now, but I want to highlight that we're looking for an engaged community, and not simply seeing the signups bumped.
Finally – and as I explained previously – we will not be sharing specific thresholds for you to aim for, since doing so might promote gaming the system in a way that makes a community seem healthy from the outside when in fact it is hollow. Gaming the system in this way would work to that community's detriment, and potentially only delay site closure for some time. Ideally, you should be promoting some of the good behaviors mentioned above because you want the site to succeed, and not because you have goals to meet — and that, in turn, should make for a healthier community that might stick around for much longer. We want your community to succeed as much as you do, and we will be looking holistically for signs of future success.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please stick 'em in an answer below, and I'll do my best to address 'em.
Best of luck!