# What's the fate of this beta?

This site has been in beta for a pretty long while now. I was looking at the A51 stats, and for the most part the site seems to be doing really well, but our questions/day ratio is VERY low and the answers/question is also lacking.

With these stats what's the likely hood of this becoming an official SE site? And if it doesn't make it what's going to happen to all these questions? Usually they migrate the questions to similar sites, but this SE site is uniquely unique, and I can't imagine where they would put many of the questions (yes, the avionics questions could go to electrical, etc but I'm talking about the very specific aviation questions).

What is the fate of this beta today? We have become excellent on everything (other than answer ratio). As Bret Copeland says "The biggest issue right now is, as you say, question count." It looks to be solved pretty much now. So, what's about graduation now?

Area 51 metrics

• This site hasn't been in beta that long really. Expect the beta to last somewhere between 1 and 3 years (or even longer), depending on many factors that aren't included on the A51 page. Aug 15 '14 at 20:20
• To be honest this site is doing really well compared to sites launched around the same time Aug 23 '14 at 9:53
• been in beta a long time, now, huh? looks coldly at his home, SQA.se tell me more... Aug 27 '14 at 21:56

My understanding is that SE management feels that we are doing quite well for a beta site, and that those stats are simply goals. They won't keep us from leaving beta if they feel that the site will make it.

Based on the participation and quality of questions and answers that we are getting, I don't see this being a problem. Unfortunately, it seems to take quite awhile even for sites that have a larger audience and better stats than us to actually make the transition from beta to a full site, mostly due to the work that it takes (from a design perspective, etc.) on their end.

I wouldn't worry about Aviation.SE getting shut down, but instead focus on trying to bring more aviation people to the site!

• Agreed! It seems like the questions here are getting a lot of views... probably from outsiders finding them through Google, which is good. Aug 15 '14 at 18:56
• @KeeganMcCarthy Without divulging any super-secret the-Stack-folks-will-take-away-your-diamond-if-you-show-people-this information I can say that our traffic is trending generally upward, and that a lot of that traffic is coming to us from search engines. That usually means we're doing something right :) Aug 15 '14 at 19:23

The team which decides the fate of SE sites is our "Community Growth" team, which I am not part of. I participate in this site because, like many, I'm a pilot and I love aviation. However, as a developer at Stack, I get to have a lot more conversations with our community team than most of you, so I'll share some of the insights I've gathered to the best of my ability.

Area 51 Metrics

The biggest issue right now is, as you say, question count. Everything else is great. Lnafziger is right that those are not strict requirements for graduation. The reality of it is that those goals are fairly arbitrary. When Area 51 was created, there was an attempt to formalize what criteria would make a good site, but we've learned there's really no way to objectively rate them and every progressive step in a site's life requires human judgment.

Next Step Decisions

The decision on whether to actually permit a proposal, launch a site, graduate a site, or shut it down all tend to be gut decisions supported by the most compelling evidence available. Occasionally we will launch sites against our better judgment... and usually they get shutdown after a few days in private beta. Our community team has gained pretty good intuition over the years about what works and what doesn't.

Why Sites Get Shutdown

The most common reasons for shutting down sites seem to be 1. too much overlap with another site where the same questions would be on-topic, 2. the subject does not lend itself to our Q&A format (too subjective, like Relationships and Dating), or 3. the questions being asked don't interest experts enough that they want to stick around... assuming they were there to begin with.

The first two are pretty easy to spot and those almost never make it out of private beta. The third reason can be harder to spot, and slow growing. answers.onstartups.com succumbed to this problem, and even some of our big sites like Server Fault show signs of this issue. I think that aviation has, so far, done reasonably well with this, but not spectacular. We get questions which community members/experts are interested in, but the question is whether we get enough of that to maintain a base of people who are actively interested in the site.

Sites don't typically get shutdown for low traffic. There might be mixed feelings about this internally, but it generally seems to be our policy in practice. Even if a site is only getting a couple questions per day, if they're good quality, and they get good answers in a timely manner, then it's still making the internet a better place and there's really no reason to shut it down.

Warning Signs

A community team member would be so much better equipped to fill out this section, but there are two really big red flags I'm aware of which signal to us that a site is trending downhill: questions going unanswered and moderators abandoning their duties.

If people don't get answers in a timely manner they don't come back. It's also an indication that the experts have either left, or aren't interested in the types of questions being asked. Furthermore, this has a really negative affect on people who arrive here via search (most of our traffic). If they get to a page which is asking the same question they had, but doesn't have an answer, then two things happen. First, they don't develop a positive impression of our site or SE in general. Second, they go back to Google and start clicking other results trying to find an answer. This indicates to Google that the user didn't find what they were looking for and, over time, trains Google to rank us lower in search results - ruining any chance the site had for growth.

Similarly, when moderators stop moderating, the site loses focus and attracts low quality and clutter. The only way for these small sites to be economical is for them to be self-moderating. If SE staff had to moderate them, we would simply shut them down. Remember, we don't even run ads on most of our sites. They generate zero direct revenue. Also, having moderators leave en masse is troubling because they are typically experts who were once enthusiastic about the site, but are apparently no longer interested, which is probably an indirect measurement of quality.

Eternal Beta?

There are many (probably most) of our sites, which will never attract enough traffic to graduate. When the A51 process was created, this wasn't really ever considered. We thought that 1. there wouldn't be nearly as many sites, and 2. the few which made it through would grow big in a matter of months just like Super User and Server Fault did.

In the years since, we've realized that this leaves a lot of sites in a grey area called "beta" where there is a perceived threat of shutdown always looming just over the horizon. We've been contemplating how to address this. One proposal I've heard would amount to a limited graduation where we remove the "beta" label and... nothing else. It would be a recognition that we have no intention to shutdown this site, however it may never be large enough to warrant its own graphic design or the higher reputation requirements for certain permissions which come with traditional graduation. I have no idea when, if ever, we'll implement this, but I wanted to point out that we're aware of how "beta" can stir worries and insecurities in communities.

Small sites which do a good job of self-moderating cost us very little in terms of human or infrastructure, and they give us great good-will in the community. Again, if they're making the internet just little bit better place to find answers, there's no reason to shut them down.

What's the fate of this beta?

To answer your original question as it relates specifically to this site... currently, we're trending slightly upward in visits, but slightly downward in posts. It is, of course, not up to me, but at this rate, I would guess graduation isn't in our future. If we could reverse the downward post trend, I think we would reach graduation eventually. I can't give you an exact questions per day number, or guarantee that's the only thing holding us back, but more than four per day would certainly help a lot. Either way, I don't see any reason to worry that the site is going to disappear. I am consistently impressed by many of our users and the quality of their posts, so I really do believe in this community and that we are making the internet a better place to find answers to aviation questions. That's the point. Whether it says beta at the top of the page isn't the point.

• I can't help but wonder if the question rate will ever really go up. One of the difficulties with aviation vs., say, programming, is that there aren't a lot of new technologies and techniques popping up. On SO, that's what really drives growth, there always seems to be new programming related tech coming out of nowhere (Swift anyone? Grails perhaps? Spock?). All of that being said, I think the site has a lot of merit. Sure we don't turn out a lot of questions, but the questions and answers we do get are of a high quality. Aug 20 '14 at 13:10
• Personally I'd be in favor of a limited graduation. One that see's us with a new site design (and no betan moniker), but where the points required for privileges changes very little, if at all (we don't need people hunting points too much around here, I'm not sure there's enough material.) I think this is just what you have to do for a field that's interesting but isn't currently seeing a lot of change... Aug 20 '14 at 13:11
• Whether it says beta at the top of the page isn't the point. user-moderation-wise it seems to have an effect, though chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/12036?m=16268295#16268295
– Federico Mod
Aug 21 '14 at 11:48
• @Federico migrations are really quite rare. Maybe a slight annoyance, but I don't think they've caused much of a problem. People seem to have done a pretty good job with suggesting a migration site and flagging the question for mod review. It's also not quite clear what our migration sites would be. Probably travel. Maybe physics and skeptics? Not sure we have enough history to actually pick the right ones. Aug 21 '14 at 15:08
• Just with reference to the "More than 4 questions a day would certainly help a lot": the Questions per day over the last week has been around the 6-8 mark, we do seem to be growing. And as Jay said in a previous answer, the questions and answers seem to be of a high quality. Along with the strong self-moderation and good edit ethic we seem to have, we seem to be doing fairly well Feb 11 '15 at 23:43
• And to double-post with an unrelated comment: the "Out of beta, but not graduated to a full site" concept seems to be an excellent one. A recognition that the site is working and fit for purpose, but perhaps not large enough to warrant the graphical work until there's spare capacity in the design team. It's not an immunity from ever closing, but rather an acknowledgement that it is not going to happen unless things deteriorate to a significant degree. Feb 11 '15 at 23:45
• @1999 yes, graduation certainly seems more likely than it did a year ago. Jul 9 '15 at 18:00
• Nearly a year later and we're up to 8.7 questions/day, and a 2.2 answer ratio. Code Review is starting the partial graduation process - they just had moderator elections close yesterday. Their stats are quite a bit stronger, but it does show that SE is moving forward on graduating sites, even if they don't have a design, which has been one of the quoted hold ups for a while now. Jul 15 '15 at 14:42