9

UPDATE

Nice job, everyone! We've gone live and are now open to the public — Enjoy!


We've got a lot of work to do here.

The purpose of a private beta is to prepare the site for opening day. But this site needs a lot more participation or I fear it may never get out of private beta. We've extend the private-beta of this site, but that's only a stop-gap measure to give you more time.

It's odd because there was obviously a lot of drive to have this site created. The proposal was launched in near-record time (~30 days). You usually know when a site is going to do great when there is so much buzz and enthusiasm — but somewhere between creating this proposal and launching the site, only about half the people showed up, and that enthusiasm and momentum was lost.

There's little participation in the meta forum or asking the 7-essential questions during beta. Of the 80-or-so questions we expect to see during the private beta (minimum bar), this site asked only 33 questions. But it's not about simply asking more questions. At this point, we need to gauge the interest-level in having this site at all.

The only way to make up for the shortfall is to use the 'Invite Fellow Experts' interface found on the home page.

Invite Fellow Experts

Why not just launch to get more people?

The purpose of a private beta is organize a group of founders who want to help build the new site. We are here to gauge the interest and wherewithal of this group to create a strong foundation before we open it to the public. Historically, when there wasn't enough interest or participation in building the early community, we've tried opening sites despite their lackluster beginnings. But such last-ditch efforts consistently resulted in sites sites that continued their long decline well after they went public.

So we're here to assure the idea for this site has enough interest before launch. That's the entire purpose behind Area 51 and the private beta. But right now my fear is that there was more interest in having this site than using it.

Traffic slows down somewhat during the US Thanksgiving holidays; we've taken that into account. But this site clearly does not have enough participants to found a healthy site. We need more participants.

  • I want to be sure that it's okay to ask questions that one already knows the answer to in order to help build content for the site. – CreateSean Nov 20 '12 at 20:17
  • @CreateSean I'm pretty sure that is OK - it's common on Stack Overflow for users to answer their own questions. You could always ask that as a question here in Meta. – Alex Kendrick Nov 20 '12 at 20:19
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    @CreateSean Asking canned questions is not generally recommended so early with a brand new site. It is better to ask about actual problems you face. In limited cases, it can be okay sometimes to ask about a particularly intriguing problem you've faced in the past if you can really kill the answer with an awesome post. But as a general rule, sites that start contriving questions just to build content do not do all that well. Be sure to read Your new site — Asking the First Questions. – Robert Cartaino Nov 20 '12 at 20:42
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    Continuing to see people who are saying they didn't get the beta invite email or can't login so we are sending them invites, again. – Natetronn Nov 21 '12 at 7:36
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    @RobertCartaino I think that "Your new site -- Asking the First Questions" may be precisely what is throwing people off. Well, at least that was the case for me. I remember having some questions to post but upon reviewing that page I declined to submit them. – notacouch Nov 21 '12 at 16:54
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    1 week later and we have 139 questions, 99% answer rate, 2.5 answer ratio, 11.3 questions per day. When are we going to move to public beta? – CreateSean Nov 27 '12 at 16:52
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    @CreateSean Everything is going really well and we'll almost certainly be launching to the public in the next few days. I'm going to check if we can do it sooner — Update: Done. You are now public! – Robert Cartaino Nov 27 '12 at 17:24
21

Derek makes a good point - most of the people who committed to the beta are EE-pros, and so the private beta is a bit of an echo chamber at the moment. There are also a few other reasons I think this private beta isn't doing so well, and why it should be made public anyway:

  1. Lots of people are complaining about your terrible login system (yes, those are 10 separate links). OpenID, seriously? Most websites stopped using that in 2009. Why don't you have a single login for all SE sites? When probably 10% of committers are complaining how difficult your login system is to use, you know it's bad (Note this is not just EE related either. Stack Exchange has been the butt of login jokes for years).
  2. Related to that, we have had to send invites to many people who complained they couldn't access the private beta (probably because they inadvertently used a different OpenID/email account, though some people are adamant they are using the same account). I understand the need for a private beta, but I think SE should remove the requirement to have previously committed to the proposal, mostly because of your ridiculous login system (see point 1).
  3. Nobody told us there was an expectation on the number of questions asked during private beta. Is this documented anywhere? That is why we have not been pushing people to use the site (like we did with the commitment phase). I personally have been waiting for the site to go public before pushing it, since I'm well aware of the difficulties people are having signing up (see points 1 and 2).
  4. Some people can't ask or answer questions at all (tweet). Also see this related meta question. For some reason, people need a minimum rep to even ask or answer questions. How are these people supposed to build enough rep to ask questions?
  5. Many of us currently in the private beta know each other (EE has a tight-knit community), and we have already discussed what will and won't work on the SE site quite a bit. I think we're all pretty much on the same page now about what this site will be useful for, and what sort of questions will suit it. I would think many of your other sites (for example Robotics) have a much more diverse group of users committing to it, which would lead to much more discussion about the goals for the site. This would explain the lack of involvement in Meta. I also think some of your 7 essential meta questions (such as "what should the site design look like") are largely irrelevant at this point, since we are at least 3 months (and probably more) away from graduating beta.
  6. Many of us committed to the beta are responsible for large add-on communities, currently using dozens of siloed Get Satisfaction accounts and forums to answer user questions (refer to other meta questions and blog posts on this topic). I personally have some changes to our support page ready to go, encouraging users to ask questions (not bug reports and features, mind you) on the Stack Exchange site. However, for obvious reasons I'm not going to make these changes until the site reaches public beta. For this reason I have been pretty much sitting around waiting for the private beta to end, since I didn't realize there was a quota on the number of questions to ask during it (see point 3).

For these reasons, I think you should launch the public beta tomorrow as planned. You have our word that we will be pushing this Stack Exchange site to the ExpressionEngine community (as we have done with the proposal and commitment phases). However, I can't stand to see the daily barrage of tweets about login difficulties any longer. If you open up the public beta, we can start encouraging people on Twitter to use the site without getting so much backlash about how difficult it is to access the site, we can encourage people currently using Stack Overflow to start asking questions here, and we can encourage our add-on communities to ask questions here.

If you're certain you won't launch the public beta until we get enough questions on it, then fine. We will push this private beta until we are blue in the face, and get enough support to launch it (as we have done with the past two phases). However, I think most of us did not realize we needed to reach a quota here, and were simply sitting around waiting for the site to go public.

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    I am one of those that had issues with logging into the new SE site, and I was using the same google account. Once in my rep was set back to zero instead of carrying over what I had built up elsewhere. I thought that SE had created a brand new account for me which totally confused me. – since1976 Nov 21 '12 at 0:36
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    Yeah, I think it should be clearer to people that your rep is not shared between sites. Regardless, the login system should not be this difficult for people to figure out (we are web developers, after all!). – Adrian Macneil Nov 21 '12 at 0:38
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    Also, according to this nearly 70% of committers have signed up already. If you add 10% of people who probably tried to sign up and failed (or got an invite and made a new account), that's 80% which doesn't seem bad to me at all! – Adrian Macneil Nov 21 '12 at 0:45
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    Everything here is spot on! I feel SE hasen't taken in all the facts and hope they take step back, see ALL we've accomplished, know that the momentum will move more rapidly again once beta is public and own any faults which are their own. – Natetronn Nov 21 '12 at 0:55
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    I had problems with the log-in system; never got an email with the invite to the beta. – Dylan Smith Nov 21 '12 at 0:58
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    Will Robert Cartaino even see this answer? Because it's phenomenal and important. – adrienne Nov 21 '12 at 5:09
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    While it should probably be stated more obviously, that reputation is not shared across sites, there is a good reason for that: reputation is intended to help reveal how much someone knows about the topic, not how active they are on StackExchange. I might have a high rep on Site X because I know a lot about that, but on Site Y, I'm still a novice and so my rep should help reflect that. – Brooks Seymore Nov 21 '12 at 5:40
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    Good post— So not to go blow-by-blow through the points, this thread is not an adversarial attack. I'm confident we can pull this off, noting the strange incongruity between proposal and launch. The purpose of a private beta is both educational and proof of concept; building a community and preparing a site for opening day. Please read Take ownership of your community. Saying "Just launch it and they will come" has failed miserably in every case tried, so these meta posts are essential to getting everyone on the same page as to why we are here. I'm very optimistic. – Robert Cartaino Nov 21 '12 at 15:42
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    These are all excellent points. The only thing I would add is that Robert's concerns are valid - there hasn't been a huge influx of initial questions, nor have we made that much effort to define what the site should become. If it takes another week for us to build up a database of questions and decide on our approaches to some of the 'essential questions' then so be it. The SE guys have done this many times before and know what it takes to build successful sites. Plus, we've all put up with dreadful community support options for years - another few days won't hurt. – Dom Stubbs Nov 21 '12 at 16:10
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    Regarding Point 1: Our signup system is indeed sub-optimal. I say that because it sounds nicer than "sucky". It's been a top priority for a couple of months, and we're rolling out SOME major improvements in the weeks and months ahead. It won't solve anything this minute, but I wanted to acknowledge that you're right, and we're doing something about it. – Jaydles Nov 21 '12 at 16:19
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    Thanks Robert and @Jaydles for the responses, much appreciated :) – Adrian Macneil Nov 21 '12 at 23:12
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Thinking on this: many of the committers to this site on Area 51 were EE pros. People who build several EE sites a year, and probably have been for many years.

Since it's only the committers who can join the private beta, it's in retrospect not surprising to me that we've had fewer questions than expected of us. We pretty much know the answers to most of these questions already.

The EE developer community is much smaller than some others, so right now the beta is a bit of an echo chamber. But the number of developers who are outgrowing/frustrated with other CMS's and giving EE a shot is growing. This is evidenced by browsing the expressionengine tag on StackOverflow, which is often populated by questions from relative newcomers to EE. Obviously they wouldn't have committed to the site in proposal phase, and hence aren't here.

So, a bit of a catch-22.

  • 3
    Curious, if it would be beneficial to copy some of the new questions asked in the EE forums, wether in the Technical support or community section to Stack Exchange and see the response. This might help generate some questions of new users that can be answered by the pros who are committed to the proposal. – blenddev Nov 20 '12 at 20:30
  • This is definitely a factor as it does feel strange to ask questions when you already know the answer. I'm positive that the site will take off once we get authentic questions. – CreateSean Nov 20 '12 at 20:33
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    Exactly. Derek's answer pretty much nails the current situation. Would be a shame to kill this site even before it gets going. Lots of people reporting log-in issues on twitter as well – erwinheiser Nov 20 '12 at 20:58
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    Plus, my fault I know, but whilst I was aware of the beta site I had no clue about the meta site or about the expectations (other than to ask/answer questions). I know it's a matter of reading what's in front of me but I missed it so I'm sure many others will have too. – foamcow Nov 20 '12 at 22:46
  • Yes, I'm slightly embarrassed to ask 'simple' questions, but maybe we should humbly submit some! – Richard Frank Nov 27 '12 at 5:24
12

I think Darek's answer pretty much nailed it though, I'm 100% in agreement with everything Adrian had to say. He took this to a whole new level!

I'd also like to point out that there has been a jump in ExpressionEngine related question on SO itself which was probably due to some of the login issues over the past month and partially due to meeting commitment. I'd say there are about 225 new questions that you wouldn't normally have yet those haven't been moved over to our site and or accounted for. Not to mention the other 500 or so from before we started this endeavor.

Those numbers might sound "bla" to you though, please take in all the data before you decide to not open beta.

We have been pushing this site very hard and are willing to push it harder, "blue in the face" even like Adrian said, though, keeping the beta private isn't going to help us do that. The longer you keep the beta private the harder it will be for us to keep the momentum moving and you your self admitted we did an amazing job getting to this point. We won't give up if you don't open beta though, you will be slowing us down.

Please step aside and open the site so we can get-er done!

(I say that with a smile of course)

Update: This question just came over the #eecms hash tag on Twitter and I, wanting to get in there and help as fast as I could, didn't even notice it was the StackOverflow site :/

Point being is that there are quite a few questions going to SO which should be coming here and for some reason they are not. People are having trouble making a distinction and I feel it's the fact that beta isn't open yet. Shoot, even I just made the mistake not realizing I was answering a question on SO vs here on EE.

Update 2:

I understand why you have rules establish to help launch a quality site though, allot of people don't understand this and question all the "hoops." Let me give you an example:

I tweet out this:

How committed are we and what's it going to take: link

And this is the tweet I got in return:

I don't get this. Is this a Q&A site, or a game? Why set minimum # of daily Qs vs I dunno, waiting until you have a question?

I replied:

have you read this (linking to this post)

and in return I get this:

Ah, it is a game, and they are the dungeon masters. :) Seems to be a lot of hoops to jump through @ each level. Turning people off.

Point being is that people will use the site though, quite a few won't because you're making them jump through hoops they wouldn't normally be accustomed to anywhere else.

So again, public beta will remove said hoops and in-turn open the door to a great SE site and community. The drive is there, just remove the barrier to entry so we can prove it to you.

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    Well said Nate, couldn't agree more. – CreateSean Nov 21 '12 at 2:30
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    Thanks Sean! Let's hope they reconsider their position and open this baby up so we can do right by them :) – Natetronn Nov 21 '12 at 2:55
6

Actually I'm a little surprised that we would be in danger of being shut down especially when you compare our stats with the robotics proposal which has been in beta for 30 days at this time. See screenshots.

As you can see we have far more questions per day then they do. Our answer rate is comparable, our avid users is lower, but we've only been running 25% of the time they have but have 80% of the avid users they do. Our total users is also 64% of robotics despite being in private beta for only 7 days. Our answer ration is effectively equal and our visits per day is double.

Please explain how we are in danger of not going public beta when We are equal to or surpassing Robotics which is already in public beta.

EE Beta Screenshot

Robotics Beta Screenshot

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    And if you look at the robotics meta site, they were getting far kinder words from Robert et al early on. Maybe they figured we just needed a bit of a prod. – Adrian Macneil Nov 22 '12 at 21:00
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    I think this is exactly the case - they saw a mismatch between activity at the proposal stage and the first few days of private beta and decided we needed a poke, and much as I hate to say it, I think it actually worked... – Tom Davies Nov 23 '12 at 17:14
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    It definitely worked. Dam them and their gaming everything! – Adrian Macneil Nov 23 '12 at 21:13
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    It's difficult to look at comparisons like this and feel they aren't doing anything other than playing games. Looking at other betas it appears that this is a push they make on most betas before going public. Too bad this type of behavior, good intentions or not, actually makes it more difficult for us to push this site to people who are on the fence and already questioning the platform. It appears they were going easier on other sites though, those sites did in fact need the push in the start come to find out so, they've changed things up a bit and hit us hard. I don't think it's personal. – Natetronn Nov 25 '12 at 21:27
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    It's not "playing games" to tell a site if you have concerns about their direction rather than letting them persist. Your Robotics-ExpressionEngine comparison is incorrect. By time ExpressionEngine asked 30 questions, Robotics was surpassing 60 in the same period. Normally sites have more questions in the first days before settling into a normal growth pattern. The opening week of this site was extremely low when compared to just about every other launch on record. You're doing much better now, so we're launching today. Incidentally, Robotics got an extension to their private beta, too. – Robert Cartaino Nov 27 '12 at 17:48
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    @robert SE could give us some slack. We have a core community of over 200 people that needs to find its way onto the stack exch. way of things. it probably will even take another extra couple of weeks if not some months. ExpressionEngine itself has now (26 nov 2012) closed their public support forums, so i expect even more solutions and questions overhere. IMO we have to pull this thru till next summer, at which point we can be sure to stop or go. For instance myself i have some work-projects so i can only dive in really from half december onwards. Hope you're willing to sit this thru with us. – GDmac Nov 27 '12 at 21:27
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    I think the reason the site was slow to start is that people were simply waiting until they had "real questions". Even a professional EE developer is probably only going to run in to one problem a day they could ask on SE. And as @GDmac pointed out, most people here are fairly new to the SE platform. Glad we are on track now though! – Adrian Macneil Nov 27 '12 at 22:20
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    @GDmac This post was all about "giving slack" and allotting some much-needed time to get you off to a stronger start. I read about the closure of EE's official public support channels. That's unfortunate, but it raises the importance of having true grass-roots acceptance and support for a forum like this. We seem to be doing well now and you are now open to the public. Good luck! – Robert Cartaino Nov 27 '12 at 23:10
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    Thank you for your help Robert! Are you our official contact at SE should issues arise? There are a couple of us who are very strong advocates for this site and will be pleased to rally troops as needed. – Anna_MediaGirl Nov 28 '12 at 0:12
  • @MediaGirl You don't have an "official contact", per se. The Community Team at large plays the role of official contact with Stack Exchange (this is me). Soon we will be appointing several provisional moderators who will have access to tools and additional channels of communication if the need arises. But your best resource is typically your meta forum. We monitor these forums and and provide assistance where needed... but most issues can typecally be handled by the community. – Robert Cartaino Nov 28 '12 at 18:12
  • Sounds good. Thank you Robert. We're all very excited to be in public beta! We've been needing a dedicated place for peer to peer support for many many years now. This site has been proposed a couple times before but the timing this time was perfect and voila! – Anna_MediaGirl Nov 28 '12 at 21:19

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