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Like some other sites, CMs have told us they wanted to remove the beta label from this site on December 16th. According to them, that's because our site meets the following criteria:

have at least 1K open questions,
have at least one upvoted answer on 70% of their open questions,
have been in public beta for at least six months.

Removal of the label does not come with a site design or raising of the privilege thresholds from beta to graduated site levels. The only consequence will be that there's no longer a beta label, and the site will get a graduation election somewhere in 2022 or 2023.

CMs told us now, because they wanted to give communities the opportunity to decide if leaving Beta was right for them now and not force them to if they felt they weren't ready. As moderators, we're not so sure of going blindly ahead with this, based on the above criteria vs. recent site activity. So, we want to have a discussion with the IPS community about having this beta label removed, and get back to the CMs with an answer on December 6th.

So, please help us by answering the following question:

  • Why do you think this site should, or shouldn't, have its beta label removed?

We know it's easy to say yes or no to removing a beta label based on gut feelings, but we're really looking for a well-thought out discussion here, not just a simple 'yes or no' poll. While we want to know if you want the beta label removed or not, we also want answers that are more substantial than just yes or no and that also include your reasons for wanting things a certain way. Do you see certain benefits or downsides to removing the beta label? Do you agree the recent activity on the site meets the criteria used by the CMs as quoted above? Anything else?

Remember, the CMs want to know what this site wants by December 6th, so please get your answers in on time and keep in mind that people need time to read your answer in order to vote on it. Vote for those answers with arguments that you agree with, on whether or not to remove the Beta label. On December 6th, the IPS moderator team will take the community's decision back to the CMs.

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TL;DR: At the point where the site is now, I don't think this site should have its beta label removed.

The point of a beta is to achieve certain goals, like creating quality content and an active community. I feel like this isn't being met at this time, we currently don't get enough high-quality content, both in questions and answers, to deserve being a 'full' site. Also, our community moderation participation seems to be at an all-time low.

While the area51 statistics may look promising and suggest that only our questions per day need work, they're far from representative of the real state this site is currently in, and has been in for the past year or more.

This site should be labelled correctly, and at this point, with the current activity and quality levels, that means retaining the beta label.


First of all, question quality.

While IPS does meet all of the requirements as quoted in the question, that's mostly because we have a whole lot of 'old' questions (and some of those are definitely not living up to today's IPS standards!). The site has been around for 4 years and a bit, but if you take our recent question close statistics, it would've never reached those 1000 open questions. I've gone to Meta Stack Exchange and pulled the numbers for asked and closed questions each year from the 'a year in closing' posts. I've also used the moderator tools on this site to get the numbers for the past 90 and 30 days:

Year Asked Asked
And
Closed
Percent
Asked
And
Closed
All
Closed
Duplicates
Closed
Duplicates
Reopened
Off-Topic
Closed
Off-Topic
Reopened
Unclear
Closed
Unclear
Reopened
Too
Broad
Closed
Too Broad
Reopened
Opinion
Based
Closed
Opinion
Based
Reopened
Last 30 days 40 34 85.00% -- 1 0 19 0 8 1 0 0 6 0
Last 90 days 118 86 72.88% -- 2 0 57 1 14 1 2 0 11 0
2020 730 369 50.55% 370 15 0 163 2 104 4 23 1 65 5
2019 1,178 592 50.25 % 640 15 1 267 26 105 19 126 10 127 7
2018 2,599 1,333 51.29 % 1,414 70 7 620 82 223 40 248 45 253 33
2017* 1,533 600 39.14 % 600 29 6 189 25 103 17 214 46 65 13

*Private beta started on June 27th that year, public beta started on July 18th. So, these numbers are only for ~6 months of public beta, not a full year.

In addition, I've used the site itself to see how many questions are still open and undeleted since January 1st 2021: 113. This sort of matches the stats for the past 90 days, where ~10.67 questions remain open each month. But the past 30 days have been even worse: just 6 questions a month that are remaining open. So there's definitely a decline in quality that's still going on.

If you take these recent numbers (from this year, the past 90 or 30 days), IPS would've never gotten to have over a 1000 open questions in the 4 years that the site is live. And it feels very wrong to me to just remove the beta label based on numbers from long ago, as those aren't reflective of the current site activity and quality of posts on this site.


Then, community moderation.

(Before I start here, I wanted to say that I don't intend to blame anyone for lack of participation here, or be accusatory. But the fact is that the activity levels in general are low, too low for comfort).

This is a hard one to capture in hard numbers, but there are a few numbers available. For example, looking at the review queues, moderators can see how many posts were reviewed in the past 30 days, and by whom.

Queue Nr. done by mod* Nr. done by community members Nr of different community members
First answers 3 0 0
Close votes 3 1 1
First questions 3 5 1
Late answers 4 0 0
Low quality posts 3 3 2
Reopen votes 6 6 3
Suggested edits 6 3 3

*Including the community bot.

Looking at some other stuff, a comparison was made last year that shows a big decrease in community participation when it comes to things like flagging and close-voting questions. For example, the community went from closing 42.8% of questions in 2019 to closing only 12.7% of the questions that need closing in 2020.

That's it for the numbers, but I have no illusions that 2021 numbers are better than the ones from 2020. When I look at the flags on e.g. low-quality posts/answers not meeting the citation guidelines that I have handled recently, they've all been raised by a few (1 or 2) users and moderators. As for closing, moderators often end up casting votes because it takes too long for a post to reach 5 votes otherwise. Or we find posts that are clearly not suitable for the site, but they don't have any close votes at all. I see only a few users that are regularly active in commenting on questions that need closing and answers that don't meet the citation expectations.

Most of our recent questions (while bad) are also asked with 'hit and run' unregistered accounts, which means these users will never be able to partake in community moderation. Without good questions, we also can't have people that write great answers, so it's even harder to engage a community and have users gain the necessary reputation for community moderation tasks. I can only conclude that the 'community' on IPS has declined in both numbers and activity, and isn't as active in moderating posts as it used to be in the past.

I also want to add that it's not just the community that has little activity here. You would be right if you think that moderators can also write great questions for the community to answer, start discussions on meta and/or work on the help center/faq/tag excerpts/custom close reasons, and that you haven't seen us doing much/any of that.

There are no excuses for this, it's also not a problem that you can fix by just throwing more mods at the site (after all, these are things regular community members can do too). They are time-consuming jobs and at least for me, that time has been lacking. What time there was, has been spent keeping track and moderating new posts, and while that's sufficient, I (like maybe many community members here) haven't had the time to go above and beyond.


Conclusion:

Removing the beta label would imply that the site has fulfilled the goals of being in beta, like having an active community that posts quality content, which is just not there at the moment.

I would argue against removing the beta label at this time, and first carefully investigating what should be done to bring our question quality up, so the community can have questions to answer. Then, we need answer quality to consistently meet the requirements set out in the citation expectations, so those answers are actually eligible for upvotes. Hopefully, by doing that, we can increase the number of active users with community moderation privileges that are also willing/wanting to use those privileges, and work our way back to being a site that has good quality content and an active userbase.

After we've done all that and have become a good quality site, we can contact the CMs about having our beta label removed. But at this time, removing it would present a false image of the state of this site to the rest of the network.

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  • I have noticed that the level of activity on the site has been pretty low. As far as not doing community moderation, I have to plead guilty as charged, with a few caveats. First the activity is so low that by the time I see a question, it's usually already closed. Second, even after all the time I've been on this site, I still don't have a good feel for when an answer will be considered to have insufficient backup, so I try to avoid muddying the waters.
    – DaveG
    Nov 18 at 20:08
1

I don't think this site should come out of Beta yet.

My reason being what appears to be (I can't find out if there is a way to see actual stats) a high rate of closure of answers for failing to pass the bar on 'back up'.

My activity on the site has pretty much come to an end. The reason for this being the moderation approach to 'backing it up'. Kate Gregory said in this answer on the subject that

Back it up doesn't have to be "I tried this once and here's what happened." It just has to explain why the suggestion is likely to be a good one.

But under the current incarnation of the policy, answers which don't claim personal experience are likely to be closed, even if they do include rational and detailed explanation of why a suggestion is likely to be a good one.

I've seen a number of instances where thoughtful and useful answers were closed after a discussion in comments with moderators, where the user, often a new one, is so frustrated by the way the requirement for back up is expressed that they just bugger off never to be seen again.

One is almost left questioning whether some of the moderation team actually want the site to grow.

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  • Just note that the post from Kate that you're quoting is outdated: This is the current policy because 'just explain why it's likely to work' did, unsurprisingly, not work at all. So yes, anything not meeting that policy should be deleted (answers can't be closed, just deleted). While I agree the site shouldn't move out of beta, I am down voting this for the misinformation it contains.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Nov 23 at 13:43
  • I 100% agree with your before last paragraph, and also feel frustrated when this happens. But 100% disagree with the last paragraph :/ moderation team doesn't make the rules, they help enforce them and clean the site. When a user is complaining about the rules, he should be informed and referred to relevant posts on meta. (power / regular) users must do that, but nonetheless the post must be flagged / deleted. 1/2
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 23 at 16:00
  • If a (power) user is constantly using comments to make partial answers or expressing thoughts (as on other stacks), he should see his comments flagged and removed (and even be warned if necessary). The moderation team isn't setting its own rules, the community has set them, and mods help enforce them. 2/2
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 23 at 16:01
  • @Tinkeringbell I didn't mean to say that Kate's post set the policy, I intended to convey my view that that would be a better policy than one which, purely IMO, effectively encourages people to pretend they have experiences they don't. Apologies for the lack of clarity.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 23 at 16:30
  • "Calls to lower the bar on quality or close less questions are focusing on the wrong thing.". From this blog post. And from another blog: "Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either: - Something that happened to you personally - Something you can back up with a reference". "Back up" never was 'just explain why your suggestion is likely to be a good one', and settling for lower quality is not recommended by SE.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Nov 23 at 16:45
  • @OldPadawan I didn't mean that Mods were making up new rules ad hoc. Nor was I addressing 'power users' making partial answers in comments, I heartily agree that answers in comments should be discouraged. I'm not even sure what a 'power user is'.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 23 at 16:59
  • @tinkeringbell I wasn't suggesting anything about settling for lower quality.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 23 at 17:00

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