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I can't believe this site wasn't given a chance in public beta. A domain that has millions of active participants, that is highly specialized and has tons of people who struggle day-in-day-out with issues in exactly the same way people did with programming, pre-StackOverflow. This should be the prototypical StackExchange, and yet someone decided that based on some funky numbers, it didn't deserve the light of day. Shame.

Had it failed in public beta, then I would have accepted this defeat gracefully. But, as I explained in the response to the "Has this site fizzled" meta question for this site, this is a domain with many cross-sections (Product X Domain) that was suffering from a critical mass issue. Not enough experts to cover the individual slices in a reasonable way.

I challenge anyone who reads this to honestly tell themselves that a site dedicated to the technical ins-and-outs of 3D Graphics as a whole doesn't deserve an Exchange. The process is broken.

Proposal: 3D Graphics

  • Can you give your topic a better title? Preferrably one that refers to what the outcome is, and what site it is in relation to. It might get more attention that way. – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 7 '11 at 13:17
  • Wow - apparently there are more Biologists than 3D artists. Sigh... – John C Dec 31 '11 at 20:52
  • is there another chance to reopen it? – md nth Jan 15 '13 at 15:24
  • I just created a proposal for 3D Modeling and Animation, and I hope you will all support it! There are many exchanges that dabble in the area, and 3D Graphics was close to release. Hopefully 3D Modeling and Animation is inclusive enough to combine those scattered resources into one great one. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/66353/… – kcdwayne Mar 15 '14 at 16:43
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I challenge anyone who reads this to honestly tell themselves that a site dedicated to the technical ins-and-outs of 3D Graphics as a whole doesn't deserve an Exchange.

Of course it does. So do crafts, outdoorsmanship and aviation - but we don't have sites for those topics yet either.

It's not enough to just throw up an empty site and hope folks use it. We learned the hard way with SE 1.0, where anyone could throw a site up on whatever topic they chose and try to make a go of it...

...With the end result being endless ghost towns.

We don't expect you to create a bustling metropolis over night. The only goal of the private beta period is to get enough of a site up to demonstrate to folks what it's about. Numbers are a poor approximation of this, but... When we can't get at least one question for every second person to sign up for the beta, that's deeply concerning...

The philosophy of seeding a broad topic

Stack Overflow handles questions on a vast number of topics. From major languages and libraries to the obscure and niche tools. But it started with a fairly enthusiastic core of developers, most of whom were working day-to-day in the Windows / .NET world. It's never been limited to that, and right from the start it was expanding at a fantastic rate... But without those core users, it's a pretty safe bet it wouldn't have gone anywhere.

And the niche topics didn't all stay on SO either. We've since launched dedicated sites for statisticians, scientists, systems administrators, etc. - because even when their work involves programming, there's so much more that doesn't. SO and SE have never been about creating a "one size fits all" Q&A site...

It doesn't matter if there are a thousand and one topics that could have been in scope for 3D Graphics. What matters is that there wasn't a core group of experts in any one of them willing and able to start building the site from Day 1.

So that presented us with a difficult decision: do we open this site up to the public and... Just hope folks show up? Remember, this hasn't worked at all well in the past. Or do we shut it down, with the understanding that a new site could be created in the future?

Back to square one: who wants this badly enough to try again?

From time to time, I work with drafters and engineers who deal in 2D/3D technical drawings and CAD/CAM. While there's definitely some connection to "3D graphics" there, I don't see any of them looking to spend serious time on a site with that title. You mention in a comment working on an Autodesk app - I'm guessing you've probably also had exposure to a number of fields where the "graphics" part is more a means to an end than a goal in and of itself.

If I wanted to build a site for my engineers, it would start out more like this one. Could it potentially provide some benefit to more "artistic" modelers at some point? Maybe; but those aren't the folks I'd want to drag into the private beta - a question on rendering volumetric clouds isn't going to do anyone much good at that point.

And the reverse is also true... If the artists building models as a means to their end-goal of an attractive rendered scene want a SE site, that site needs to be clearly defined as a site for artists. Might I eventually send an engineer over there if Marketing asks him for a nice breakaway for use in the catalog? Maybe... But again, that's probably more of a distraction early on, when we're really looking to convince the folks who know how to get clouds looking just right that this site is worth their time.

So when I say, "go out and propose a new site", that's not a brush-off. A useful site needs a ready community of experts and enthusiasts, and that community needs a site tailored for their interests. We can't create the former, but if you bring it, we'll do everything we can to support it.

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    That does effectively answer my 'question' or concern. I might have more to say about this, but I appreciate the answer regardless. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 17:59
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    The notion of a "private beta" remains a useless idea. I wasted a lot of my time on this. I could have made this a successful StackExchange if the beta was public. – cdiggins Dec 10 '11 at 20:14
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I can see that you're disappointed (I would have been, had I been in your shoes). But I don't think all your rants make perfect sense, and I don't think all is necessarily lost.

I'm coming in very late to the game here, but I couldn't understand the site very well from either the proposal or the description.

One or two of the questions were programming related ("how do I create a python script to..."). In fact, just looking at the title and short description, I thought this might have been a site for 3D graphics programming as well as content creators.

My question for you: How different is this really from gamedev.SE? Would questions from there be welcome on 3D Graphics? Vice-versa?

What about CAD users, drafters, civil engineers - Are there already better sites for them already on SE? If not, how were they encouraged to participate, and how many questions were asked by such users?

Would questions on new techniques that might be presented at SIGGRAPH be welcome on gamedev? Would they be more or less welcome on 3D Graphics? Were those types of people encouraged to participate in any way?

A domain that has millions of active participants

Are there really that many potential users of that proposal site? Was that how many people were explicitly targeted in the charter of the site, or was it was going to be, had it not been closed and had it grown and further defined to include more people?

What did that proposal site even represent? What more could it have represented to draw in more beta users?

exactly the same way people did with programming, pre-StackOverflow

There have been tons of huge programming forums before SO. It wasn't like programmers were just sitting around waiting for such a site. The site was born out of dislike for Experts Exchange, and also drew many MS "MVPs", so managed to draw from their community. It was started by extremely popular and influential programmers.

What site(s) was this replacing to have a similar power diversion? What sites should it have been replacing? What personalities were involved that could pull in droves of people?

These questions aren't meant to insult the proposal. They're meant as avenues for advocacy and evangelism, should the site ever be resurrected.

I challenge anyone who reads this to honestly tell themselves that a site dedicated to the technical ins-and-outs of 3D Graphics as a whole doesn't deserve an Exchange

I think it probably does deserve it, but it will need more work and thought and strategy to be made to succeed.

The process is broken.

I counter that it either wasn't the right time, didn't yet draw the right community, or the community could learn more about launching such sites successfully.

  • Thanks for the response. My background is as a programmer for a major 3D modeling application developed by Autodesk. I was around and programming before StackOverflow, and I agree that it wasn't a barren wasteland. But it was different. SO did create a paradigm shift in that field, especially in the work I do as a generalist. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 14:36
  • This site was different from gamedev in that not all 3D Graphics are applied to game development. Game shops use graphics for character animation, modeling, and real-time rendering. That is one of the "slices" I talk about in the rant, but it does not by any means cover the entirety of the topic. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 14:40
  • If this site was supposed to be for application and toolchain programmers too, or people interested in CG programming in general (more theoretical or production-chain-oriented than game oriented), then I'd totally be all over it. But I stink at 3D graphics production (I'm not an artist) and could only help with mechanical aspects (like polycount, UV unwrapping, hight map generation, etc), and I'm still no expert there. That's kind of why I've pushed all these questions here. – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 7 '11 at 14:42
  • Yes, absolutely questions discussing techniques covered by Siggraph would be accepted and welcome! Contributors would have been contacted and invited, had the site escaped the vacuum of a private beta. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 14:43
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    re: 1M users: That is accurate. I work in the field, and when you combine all the paid users of our products, factor in piracy rates, then add the users of Cinema4D, Blender, and finally all the people who develop plug-ins, code, scripts, and who generally just work in fields relating to 3D (it's huge in the architecture, design, and civil engineering domains), we are talking about millions of users. This is not a false statement. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 14:49
  • re: doing vs. programming comment: I am not user of 3d software, nor even a particularly good 3d programmer. I work on the application infrastructure. I wasn't able to add much to the questions and answers, beyond discussions in the meta. But I do use SO on a day-to-day basis and thought that the fit with the 3d domain as a whole was so natural that it just had to happen. I wasn't in control of the proposal, but the spirit of the site should have driven it forward, at least to public beta, regardless of the wording. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 14:53
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    Shifting focus, I speculate that the model is designed to force inertia because they're trying to invest in all fully realized proposals. They have to pay real money to create and host each site. They have to have their SE-wide community managers pay some attention to them. They have to have their on-staff designer design the look and feel of the page. They have to support moderator elections. It's a lot of work, and I imagine they want to make sure they have thriving communities that take off like a rocket. I do think it makes more sense to regress a proposal than kill it though... – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 7 '11 at 15:04
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    Good point, and you've made them throughout. Sure, it all takes effort and real money, though a lot of that stuff could be crowd-sourced to the actual users. My main point, which still stands, is that the inertia should have been installed later, in a real context. It wasn't even clear from the outset that the private beta could fail. We were encouraged to contribute questions that would lay the groundwork for a public beta. Having it not reach that promised stage is disheartening, and will naturally lead us to look for alternatives. – cunningdave Dec 7 '11 at 15:41
  • "It wasn't even clear from the outset that the private beta could fail." - I don't know how well this is spelled out, but it is a little surprising to me too. Not sure at all yet what instigates, constitutes, and contributes to the failure of a proposal. – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 7 '11 at 15:46
  • >> Are there really that many potential users of that proposal site? Well, it's a domain that is hosting the following major conventions : Siggraph, NAB, GDC. Most universities offer an infography (computer graphics) specialty. The context of the final proposal suits the maker and users of most 3D products. The total addressable market is massive. – Jean-Francois Yelle Dec 7 '11 at 18:28
2

I concur. The entire beta process for proposed stackExchange sites is FUBAR. They are measuing the number of questions, but I couldn't publicize the site on my blog, because people couldn't contribute, because it didn't go public. This makes my head spin.

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    You could have invited people to the private beta - there was a link on the right hand side bar. However, I agree that the site should have worked. I don't know why it didn't. – ChrisF Dec 7 '11 at 12:18
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    Thats a catch 22. Representing the Autodesk corporation, we couldnt commit to drive any traffic to SE until it proved itself and get an internal strategy agreed upon. Chris, Dave and I showed our willingness and worth by being active on the site. – Jean-Francois Yelle Dec 7 '11 at 18:19
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    It didn't work, because we need all betas to be public. Private beta is not a useful stage. It just killed the site, before it had a chance to gain steam. The chart of activity and commitment was logarithmically growing. – cdiggins Dec 10 '11 at 20:13
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I think this project failed for a number of reasons:

Lack of clear scope

Here's what I mean: "Q&A site for 3D graphics creators"

What is a "3D graphics creator"? For me, as a programmer who deals with game development, a "3D graphics creator" is a modeller and/or animator. This might also extend to texture artists and possibly shader artists.

And yet:

Yes, absolutely questions discussing techniques covered by Siggraph would be accepted and welcome!

That doesn't sound like what the site's scope is to me. That is, it is not clear to me that discussions of SIGGRAPH papers, particularly those that focus on programming techniques, would be welcome on a site for "3D graphics creators".

Similarly, application and toolchain programmers are not "3D graphics creators" from my perspective.

My point is simply that the site's scope was not communicated well. Many people who might have wanted to participate were thus warded off. This led directly into the next problem:

Insufficient enthusiasm

In order to make a Stack Exchange site, you need people who want it. When even the person who proposed the site originally got tired of it before it hit beta, there are issues.

Most successful SE sites were initially built around a core of people who wanted it to succeed. These people had the energy and drive to go out and try to make it a reality. They were also connected to various communities that already existed, so that they could draw those persons to the site.

You cannot rely on Google drawing people to the site; not when it's starting out. You need to have "boots on the ground" to make a site a reality.

And that's the purpose of the private beta: to prove that people who are already involved with the site are sufficiently energized. To prove that they are connected enough for them to hand out invitations to people who would become the first wave of converts.

That didn't happen.

Ignoring the question of whether there truly are millions of people who would fall within this scope, the size of the audience alone simply isn't enough. You can have a product that anyone might find useful. But without actual marketing, it's just not going to work. Nobody who might want it will know about it.

The private beta is a test of the community's ability to market, to build the userbase through direct contact with potential users. Without that basic level of marketing, the site would surely die out.

You cannot simply build something and expect people to show up, no matter how wide the audience is.

But there's one other problem:

The alternatives work

Stack Overflow came about for two reasons:

  • Forums have a major problem with help vampires and other creatures of the night who eventually cause experts to retreat.

  • Experts Exchange, an attempt to deal with the aforementioned problems, was taking some unpopular steps.

Help vampires exist on graphics forums, certainly. But they're not nearly as pervasive and persistent as they are in pure programming circles. It seems to me that such persons become more quickly dissuaded from pursuing modelling or other things as a hobby when they see how much work it is than for hobbyist programmers.

Stack Overflow fulfilled a real need among the programming community. A need that people really wanted filled. This 3D graphics site would fulfill a need, but it isn't so drastic of a need. It just isn't as badly needed.

Without the driving force of that need, you now need some way to convince people to abandon their forums (by spending more leisure time on this site) for this Q&A stuff. That's not an easy sell.

  • I'm not sure if the focus of the site was the real problem. There were enough sample questions and answers to make that clear. My original complaint was about how it never made it to public beta and was arbitrarily shut down. My colleagues and I were trying to get this going, and then the rug was pulled out from under us by... who knows? As was pointed out above, it's hard to publicize in a general way a site that is in private beta. We had access to and run blogs and pubs that are read by 1000s of professionals, and yet there wasn't much we could say about the site until it went public. – cunningdave May 7 '12 at 23:49
  • @cunningdave: As I understand it, the way a private beta works is that you invite people to the beta. This ensures that the people who committed to the proposal are sufficiently connected to other individuals, not merely people who might drop by. This ensures that there is are people who are sufficiently enthusiastic about the project to go through the trouble of connecting with individuals and inviting them. Getting an SE site off the ground requires more than just making some blog posts, no matter how large your readership. – Nicol Bolas May 8 '12 at 1:58
  • Meh, water under the bridge. You're right, if the site becomes necessary, someone will invent it. It just won't be us. I was just angry to have wasted a lot of time (and credibility, since I helped to sell the idea internally here at Autodesk.) – cunningdave May 8 '12 at 20:30

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