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I'm surprised that I haven't found anything addressing this. I have been active on the Japanese beta for some time now, and would quite like to see it get launched. It looks like the metrics are all good: two excellents, two okays, and a needs work. Is it the one "needs work" that's holding it back? Is there a scoring system in place that decides when it's time to launch (e.g. 1 point for okay, 2 points for excellent, 8 points triggers a launch)? Is launching automated or is it at the moderators' discretion?

Update: I keep seeing this buzzword "critical mass" used quite often, but it's never defined, and sounds like a vague way of describing the requirement for a not-so-vague event (that is, a site being launched).

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The metrics are confusing and won't reliably tell you when a site is going to launch. They are not the only criteria, and the specific thresholds where chosen a long time ago, they don't really apply to all sites now.

What a site needs is:

  • Reasonably good quality. This is a very important part that isn't reflected in the metrics. If a site is producing mediocre to bad content, it'll likely stay in beta until the quality problems are adressed, or it will be shut down.

  • A sufficiently large core community. These are users that will moderate the site and help it define policies. You need a certain minimum amount of engaged users for a site to succeed.

  • Sustainable growth. The site needs to show a growth pattern to graduate. If the traffic of a site is on a steady increase, this is a good indicator for growth.

Launching a site is a judgement call made by SE employees (Area 51 is the responsibility of Robert Cartaino). There is nothing automated there.

1

It looks like the metrics are all good: two excellents, two okays, and a needs work.

It's a question of site viability. The "needs work" is in questions-per-day, and it's well below par (4.3, when 15 is the standard).

That's not a minor, insignificant stat. A site that is not getting a good number of questions-per-day is not a healthy site. New users probably aren't going to frequent it much because there's not a whole lot to do. Oh, you might get a core of enthusiasts who answer the few questions that come up, but in general, a site is not ready if it's not getting questions in.

They don't add up points and then say, "when the site hits this, it goes live." They look at the viability of the site overall. And, no matter how good it is at every other stat, if it's not getting questions in, it's not ready to launch.

  • 1
    Thanks, but I should have clarified. I didn't mean the specific example to be the focus of the question. In general I have seen a few betas that don't have a single "needs work", but still aren't launched. How much time after a site meets all the metric requirements does the site actually launch? Is it automated or do moderators determine it? – Ataraxia Sep 22 '12 at 2:35
  • Also, it appears that this is false. At the time RPG was launched it had 3.4 questions per day, and bicycles had 4 questions per day. – Ataraxia Sep 23 '12 at 14:47
  • @phoenixheart6: Yes, and we see just how well these sites are doing, don't we? – Nicol Bolas Sep 23 '12 at 18:25
  • I'm not a user on either of those sites, so no, I don't. But this is a question about when it gets launched, not how well it does after it gets launched. Whether they're doing poorly or not, they got launched. So perhaps QPD is a bottleneck for the lasting success of a site, but it is apparently not a bottleneck for a site to come out of public beta. – Ataraxia Sep 23 '12 at 18:42
  • @phoenixheart6: My point is that the Powers That Be clearly screwed up by launching those sites prematurely. They probably won't be doing that again. – Nicol Bolas Sep 23 '12 at 18:47

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