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I recently announced a pilot program we are trying on Quantum Computing Stack Exchange, but rather than pointing you elsewhere, I decided to re-post the original announcement here. Enjoy!


Sponsorship Pilot — Bringing resources BACK to Stack Exchange

As our devs continue to work on features like Talent and Channels (now called Teams), I've been anxiously looking for ways to increase engagement in our current Stack Exchange sites to help assure that development RETURNS to our Q&As… as soon as possible.

As the biz-dev folks spread the word about these new products, they've actually stirred up quite a bit of interest in our existing communities. Some of these project teams have sizeable communities of their own, so it would be amazing if we could engage these organizations to actively support our current sites — along with the financial resources they bring to finally make our Q&As more attractive for active development again.

We are trying a small pilot first.

A few months ago, a company called Strangeworks contacted us about creating a channel for a quantum computing community. When I showed them a similar proposal in Area 51 about ready to launch, they jumped on the chance to support those efforts.

With the help of Strangeworks, we just launched our Quantum Computing site into private beta. As a partner who can really help us promote this site, we needed to get this going ASAP so they could announce it this week at the SXSW Convergence Keynote! A sponsorship generally entails enabling ads relevant to the subject and affixing a small "sponsored by..." logo in the upper-right corner. We've modeled this program after our "tag sponsorship" feature, but this has become even more reminiscent of our collaboration with Canonical Ltd and the Ubuntu community (Remember Ask Ubuntu? — 286,000 questions and a half-million+ visitors/day).

<I'm kicking myself for not reviving this Ask-Ubuntu model sooner>

Let's get a few immediate concerns out of the way

First — sponsors do not own these Q&A sites. Sponsors work alongside our communities who ultimately build these sites. Communities ask the questions; communities create the tags; communities conduct elections as they do now, and we are not renaming our current sites like a garish sport stadium to the highest bidder. Any ads a sponsor submits still have go through our crazy-strict ad editorial process… as it has always been. Companies do not have access to personal data, and all Q&A content remains irrevocably licensed under Creative Commons for sharing and attribution.

I am energized about the potential for working with other organizations as a way to expand our site-building process. I finally got that aging Private Beta wall fixed so access to new sites easier than ever. I know that's not the biggest feature request in our ranks, but there are a lot features in Stack Exchange which need attention, so I'm reinvigorated that this could be the start of some good things to come.

Every site will ultimately benefit.

On a personal note, I am impressed with just how attuned our partners and marketing teams have been to the concerns of our community. We will work hard to find organizations who are willing to cede so much control back to the community. It's difficult to anticipate all the hiccups we might encounter along the way, but that's okay; we will adjust. But throughout this process, we have been steadfast in the guiding principle that these ideas should NOT interfere with the main experience of the Q&A.

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    $\begingroup$ maybe it's just me but the process with which this beta was opened feels kind of weird. Given that this proposal got to bypass the regular area51 stages, how will the beta stage work? Will its success or failure be determined like it usually is with other beta sites? Will these partners also ensure that the site stays open even if it turns out to not attract enough good quality traffic? $\endgroup$ – glS Mar 12 '18 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ @glS - it is worth also looking at Patents.SE - the process there involved a collaboration with the Patent Office so the private beta process was also different. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Mar 12 '18 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @glS This proposal was nearing completion regardless, so we called it done because the SXSW announcement was too big to let pass. But otherwise, the site will go through the same processes as any other. It would be disappointing if this went nowhere in private beta, but that doesn't seem likely given the extended support for this subject. Pragmatically speaking, we wouldn't easily be able to close such a site so early anyway because of contractual obligations, but those are the types of issues we will be working through as we see how this works in actual practice. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Mar 12 '18 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ In a way, at least, I like the idea of sponsorship for a new site, when it's a good fit. I trust that you, and SE collectively, have done the due diligence to make the fit right. I really hope this does work as one model for future sites. The only worry I have is that the "sponsor" might try to control the community. For a time it looked like the Stellar site was going to be under the thumb of an outside force. I've not returned to check, but I trust that such ambitions were quelled. With "sponsorship" they might feel even more possessive the community, if not the content. $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver Mar 12 '18 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertCartaino - If we could get IBM www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/49661.wss to sponsor us we could get assistance adding "Runnable Code Snippets" stackoverflow.blog/2014/09/16/… like StackOverflow has - every bit as useful as MathJax (and thanks for that!). $\endgroup$ – Rob Mar 21 '18 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ They've made us a Logo and it's Live (advertised on physics.SE). See here: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/10542/170832 - Looks like we are open to the public. $\endgroup$ – Rob Mar 25 '18 at 17:43
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The real question isn't just why the Quantum Computing site looks different, it's

Why doesn't the Quantum Computing site have a 'beta' marker?

Does it mean that it's not a beta site? Does it mean that it goes directly from a private beta to a graduated site? What happens with the reputation thresholds for privileges once this site exits private beta? Will 'site graduation' be a thing? If so, what criteria will be used to determine when graduation happens, and how will they differ from standard SE beta sites?

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  • $\begingroup$ This sites is going through the same life cycle/progression like any other. I don't know how the labeling will work on this site. I have been trying to resolve this labeling issue for years, but my efforts were vetoed in the final hours, so I eventually just have to disengage and stay away from it. See “Can We Do Something About... the Beta Label? ... the Graduation Label? ... the Site Progression? $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Mar 16 '18 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ So, much like the mess it was before except messier? For one, first "graduation" happened before the site got a custom design (then later, if it got a custom design), now sites can get designs on private beta. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 16 '18 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ But yeah, you're right, the 'beta' marker needs to be unbundled. I see it as (i) there's a chance the site will be shut down, (ii) scope and rules are still being worked out, and (iii) rep thresholds are different. (Site design is out of the bundle already, cf. e.g. Code Golf.) I guess it'd be good to have some clarification from SE on what happens with (i), and also some kind of visual marker for (ii) and (iii), particularly since (iii) does impact the working of the engine. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 16 '18 at 14:12
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On the off-chance that this works: is it possible to ask for a minor implementation of the design in Community Ads format? The logo looks nice but that font looks hard to replicate without unceremoniously digging into the source.

So, using the converse of "ask and you shall receive" (i.e. if you don't ask you'll definitely not receive), is this a thing that can happen?

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  • $\begingroup$ There's been a spread out discussion in Quantum Computing Chat with a couple of people from Strangeworks who seem willing to offer their designer to help with this $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Mar 20 '18 at 1:00

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