At the time of asking this question, Politics has been in beta for more than 1500 days. That's more than four years.

Area 51 FAQ tells us that:

If a site reaches critical mass, it becomes a full member of the Stack Exchange Network.


1) What does a critical mass mean? Having excellent for all KPIs except for one (e.g. CodeReview site stats at the end of beta)?

2) Is it enough to improve answered KPI (currently 90%) to get it out of beta phase? (and keep other KPIs at "Excellent")

  • The last time this came up, they said consistency was the most important missing ingredient. We're still enjoying (or hating, depending on perspective) the bump from Trump's inauguration. Once the US smooths out, will this continue? Or are we still in a temporary bump?
    – Brythan
    Feb 5, 2017 at 4:18
  • I think your explanation may fit as an answer. It is strange that they are not including such criteria in the Area 51 FAQ. I will make a suggestion for this, if none exists. Regarding the bump due to Trump: I think the site fails to generate more non-US questions. What happens in USA is interesting for everybody (where I live, the USA president is traditionally called "the most powerful man in the world"), but there is a lot of world outside USA :). I will try to ask more EU related questions, but they usually generate minor feedback.
    – Alexei
    Feb 5, 2017 at 6:53

2 Answers 2


Measurable numbers aside, I personally think that this website is not yet ready to leave the beta status. There are still some problems which need to be solved and meta-questions which need to be answered. Among those are:

  • How can we train people to vote based on quality, not on ideology? There are still too many bad questions and answers on this website which get upvoted just because they pander to some ideology (and no, I don't mean any specific ideology).
  • How much personal opinion do we want to allow in questions, answers and comments? You know my opinion about this (none) but this is obviously not the consensus of the community. There are still too many examples of opinions being posted on this website and people tolerating or even encouraging that.
  • Currently there is a strong focus on US-American politics. Do we want that? Or do we need to do something to attract a more international audience?
  • And what's with all these flags being risen? According to the mod panel, we three moderators handled over 250 flags in the past month. I never moderated another Stackexchange site before, but I can't believe that it's normal for a site as small as this one that I have between 2 and 6 mod flags whenever I visit it. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean you shouldn't flag bad content when you see it, but the fact that we apparently have so much content perceived as bad is a sign that there is something wrong in this community.
  • Thanks for the elaborate answer. 1. I support the idea of quality (as opposed to ideology), but this is almost impossible for most human beings. This is highly debated, but SE sites are advertised as "community-driven", so much of the "quality" (upvotes) will be decided by members of the community. 2. Personally, I would allow personal opinion if it is on-topic and obeys the "be nice policy" (which is common sense to any civilized person) - I will try to post this in an elaborate question here on meta.
    – Alexei
    Feb 8, 2017 at 11:15
  • 3. US-American politics endemic content - it reflects a simple truth: the Americans are more interested and evolved (history plays a role here) when it comes to politics. 4. Many flags - I have never been a mod, but have reviewed many posts on StackOverflow. It's normal to have bad content now and then, but the topic itself (politics) is prone to much "deviation" (as opposed to programming, which is much closer to an exact science). In my native country there is a saying: "everybody knows about politics and football (soccer)."
    – Alexei
    Feb 8, 2017 at 11:20
  • Spanish Language has about 4 questions per day (half than Politics) and we had 70 flags last month (3.5 times left than Politics). Yes, it looks like there are a lot of flags here.
    – fedorqui
    Apr 21, 2017 at 8:56

Is it enough to improve answered KPI (currently 90%) to get it out of beta phase? (and keep other KPIs at "Excellent")

I don't think that we should try to improve that stat at the expense of other things. First, I don't think that 89.7% or whatever is too low. Second, I think that the unanswered questions that we have is a result of more of a lack of international experts. We have lots of people answering US questions but very few who can answer obscure questions about sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, or Latin America.

I actually think that having some unanswered questions is good. It means that if we do pick up an expert in a relevant area, there is a lot of room for that person to answer questions.

Note that the GameDev site had almost the opposite statistics. Most of its questions are answered and it has many answers per question but it would have fallen short on views, number of questions, and avid users. Yet it graduated. I suspect that "critical mass" is as much art as science.

What does a critical mass mean? Having excellent for all KPIs except for one (e.g. CodeReview site stats at the end of beta)?

In general, it means that they feel that the site has matured into a sustainable state. I don't think that either of the answered stats is the real problem for this site. The larger problem is that for several years, the site wasn't meeting the views and questions standards. Because this site is heavily related to the news, one worry is that when the news dies down, so does the site. The site was much slower before the presidential election, even years after starting.

Just looking at those stats, there is a solid argument for allowing the site to graduate. The greater question is if the stats are maintainable. A year from now, Trump's every action won't be new anymore. The basic thrusts of his legislation will have been established. If he pauses travel from a country, there will be a well worn judicial precedent to determine what happens.

The current changes are newsworthy and politics worthy. When the administration moves into a more steady state, will they still be? Will the issues of the midterm elections drive questions the same way?

Will other countries step in and provide question fodder at the same rate as the United States does? A site that answers questions regarding a variety of countries would be more stable than one that concentrates purely on the United States.

Will we be able to get back to the more theoretical parts of the site? E.g. talking about the Condorcet criterion and other voting measures. That is less news dependent, but it also seems to have been lower volume.

I think that there is more risk about graduating the site early than leaving it in beta. The public beta allows for more participation than a graduated site has. Many who currently have privileges would lose them on graduation. Graduation does give a site redesign, but I don't know that the generic beta design is hurting the site.

Graduation is certainly a site milestone, but I don't know how much it matters. Particularly with an older site like this. I don't know that there are many who might participate if only the site were graduated.

If they graduate it, great! If not, that can always change.


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