I know that the private beta was at risk, but it seems that the site disappears without any message anywhere about that. Maybe it is a bug, but since I can access all others stackexchange sites, I am not sure.
Yes, the site has been closed. A system message (see below) was put up letting people know the decision had been made and the closure was pending. The proposal page will be updated soon to officially say the site has closed and a data dump will be posted.
I'll put up a temporary message for the meantime.
The message that was posted on the site:
Due to the concerns in this post, this site will be shut down soon. Unfortunately, we lack enough high-quality content to launch the site from private beta, but we thank you for your hard work and support. A data dump of the public content will be made available in accordance with our content policy.
Scraped from the data dump, meta qn numbered post #22, dated 8th August:
which referred to meta qn #15:
There is a grave concern that this site hasn't made much progress since the announcement to hold it back — Not one response to concerns or advice raised in "Extending private beta" post, no discussions about how to improve the site, few questions working on what this site is about, and very little meta participation overall.
By the end of of a private beta, most communities have taken ownership of their site. They've discussed what the site is about, how they are going to improve the content, how to publicize it, who the leaders of the community are; essentially, how they are going to thrive.
Does the lack of activity show general apathy — a lack of interest or enthusiasm among he participants?
This site doesn't have to be huge. Going public will bring in those numbers. But the site has to establish a strong foundation of why it exists. It's not just a few meta discussions, but how those improve the scope of questions being asked on the site. But, frankly, I'm not seeing it.
A good Stack Exchange site will eventually generate an encyclopedia of content; volumes of canonical, long-tailed questions about the hard-earned expertise of that industry. So far, the scope of content on this site might fill up one good book. I'm not talking about creating a huge number of question during your private beta. I'm talking about the types of questions that could potentially be asked here. We're looking for that breadth of topics that will make this site interesting.
Once you get past the endless variations of general "how do I find work?" questions, it's hard to envision where this site is going. If a long book can summarize all there is to know on the subject, there won't be enough questions.
So here's where we stand:
- We've already extended Freelancer's private beta but we're looking for signs of progress.
- HedgeMage outlined the activities we look for in a private beta.
- There an list of essential questions that need discussion to create a healthy site.
We simply cannot release a site to the public until the community has established that their subject would make a great Q&A. If the site begins to lose that momentum early in it's private beta, there's nowhere else to go except to shut it down so, perhaps, a future generation can make a go of it.
The work of a private beta isn't easy: what we build now will be the example new users will follow when they join our community, and Freelancers.SE isn't quite there yet. A truly solid private beta produces a lot of different things:
- A consensus on the site's scope — that is, we as a community know what the site is and isn't about.
- A community that has a good feel for what makes quality content
- clear, understandable questions and answers
- specific, expert-level questions
- comments used for clarification and improvement of existing questions and answers, but not for discussion about them
- chat being used to discuss what's going on on the site
- meta being used to make decisions on the site's content, organization, and direction, especially the 7 Essential Questions of Every Private Beta
- extremely low drama level
- a community that is actively self-moderating through edits, up/down votes, comments, and flags
The good news is that you can do a lot to help things along:
- Hang out in the Freelancers.SE Chat to keep up with what's going on in the site, talk to fellow Freelancers.SE members and meet the Stack Exchange Community Team.
- Participate on our meta site by asking questions about what is on/off topic, how things should be tagged, and so on. Especially give attention to those 7 Essential Questions.
- Edit questions (especially their titles) to be clear, correctly spelled, and grammatically correct.
- Ask specific, "long tail" questions, rather than overly generalized or "big list" questions.
- Actively flag chatty content, spam, things that don't fit the Stack Exchange format, and more so that the Community team can help improve poorly put together content and eliminate noise on the site.
- Think like an expert! The more expert-level questions you produce, the better an audience you will attract in public beta.
- Think about what we want for the site, and don't take edits, downvotes, upvotes, etc. personally — in other words, think about the content, not the users behind it, and be as diplomatic as possible when you need to correct someone.
- Feel free to ping any of the Community Team members in the chat room if you need advice on any of this. We are here to help, and we love sharing the expertise we've gained from 50-something other private betas to help Freelancers grow strong.
We hope to see Freelancers grow toward the goal of opening a successful public beta.
My limited participation in the beta was mostly explained by vacation. August 13th seems rather an odd date to decide the site was doomed.