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I'm a Community Manager with Stack Exchange. We've just completed our review of the private beta.

The bad news: this site isn't suitable to go public.

The good news: it could be.

There are two major problems that must be addressed before we'll be comfortable opening this site up to a broader audience:

  1. Activity: only about half the folks who committed to the proposal signed up initially; more have since come on board though, so that's looking up. More concerning is the paltry number of questions asked so far: 51 open, 60 total. That's not enough to really define the initial boundaries of the topic, much less create an inviting environment for new users. Remember, we tried this once before and the site died on the vine - y'all are doing a little bit better this time around, but... Not a lot better. Stack Exchange sites work best when there's a large body of knowledge to share, so seeing this few questions so far is disconcerting.

    That said, there was a long weekend for a fair number of us coinciding with this beta, so it's worth assuming folks were busy elsewhere... But now's the time to fish up those questions you've been sitting on, invite those friends or colleagues you think would benefit from a site like this, and demonstrate that this subject has legs!

  2. Quality: It's not hard to find folks willing to pontificate on the topic of freelancing, or hang around and tell stories about their experiences. That's fun and all, but...

    • Why should I trust what someone here says I should do - can you support your assertions with anything?
    • Why are your stories more than idle entertainment - can they be generalized to illustrate a common pattern?

    The core idea of Good Subjective Q&A is that answers must amount to more than opinions and idle chatter - if you can't write a persuasive argument and back it up with an explanation then you're adding noise, not signal. I don't want to overemphasize this - there are folks here writing fairly good answers - but it's entirely too easy to fall into a "forum" mentality that values participation over all else; after all, socializing is fun. To avoid this you must consciously work against it - not to stifle the fun, but to ensure that you're learning something while having fun.

On a final note, it's great to see you actively discussing these problems here on meta. Keep it up! We'll be here to help and support you and hopefully by next week's review this site will be ready to face the world.

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Question:

What audience do we have to back things up to (in order to justify objectivity)? To freelancers or to those who are not involved in such activities? If I am writing to freelancers I am going to omit what I can presume to be shared context. It might be worth clarifying that if the final review on the site does not include some sort of review by people with significant, longer-term freelancing experience, that we are justifying objectivity to non-freelancers (I think such a clarification, if that is in fact an accurate assessment, would help out a great deal).

This would be no different than if Cooking.se had a rule that said that non-cooks should be able to understand the justifications and objective reasons, though it is somewhat different from requiring such a rule in specialized fields like programming just because there is a significant barrier to entry in programming that doesn't exist in freelancing or cooking. The alternative of course would be to try to get some additional review by questions you folks have questions about, so that there is a more of an insider's view of objectivity.

Both these options could be helpful but it would be helpful to us if the path were clarified slightly.

Otherwise, largely in agreement regarding activity.

  • The audience you're targeting should always be "folks with the problem described in the question". Questions regarding problems faced by beginners should be answered differently than those regarding more advanced problems. If you don't know, err on the side of at least linking to supporting information, so readers can choose for themselves how far they need to dig. And yeah, this is always troublesome early on, because on a small site there tend to be more passively-interested people reading. – Shog9 May 29 '13 at 16:05
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    FWIW, I'm less concerned about answers that assume a certain background when explaining their solutions than I am about answers that don't bother attempting any explanation at all. – Shog9 May 29 '13 at 16:08
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70 questions in 9 days, is it really so bad? The difference to other sites that have been launched is not more than 50%.

But the problem I see is with the community of the site and the tendency to kill questions as too localized. For example, my question EU-citizen working as contractor in Switzerland? was nearly closed as too localized, because the community probably expected the formulation "Working as contractor in other country?". Such question would initiate a long discussion (the community seems to enjoy it) with a lot of examples but no concrete answer to the situation of OP, since it strongly depends on the citizenship of OP and the target country.

Such open-end question would block the possible questions about people from Turkey, Russia, Latin America etc. wanting to work as contractors in EU, USA etc. Additionally, it depends on the branch of industry. The realities are other for people wanting to work as webmasters/developers, completely other for translators, drivers or guides. Thus instead of NxMxP questions that could be asked on the site, even in beta phase, we would have only 1.

Another my question, that was closed as too localized was https://freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/209/hourly-rate-for-experienced-java-contractors-in-germany. In my opinion it's a great question since it is very interesting to many people, and the information about that are very hard (if any) to find. It was closed as too localized on pretext that the rates would change in future. Yes they would, but in what perspective? 5 or 10 years. After that time they could be asked once again, or simply again answered. But so can any other question, that is not open-ended. The laws are changing constantly, the industry changes. Should the question about working as freelance taxi driver be closed as too localized, because in 10 years there could be no taxi drivers because all cars would be computer-steered?

Without applying some common sense this site would die because of the wings chopped off at the very beginning.

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    The challenge with your first question is that it's specific to a certain moment in time. Laws change. As a result, future visitors who find your post from search engines will still have to verify the correct answer on their own, as it won't be clear if the answers would still be factual or not. The best questions are those where the answers can apply to future visitors as well. One technique to improve these questions is to word them in a way so it asks how to solve the problem or where to look to solve the problem. Then at least future visitors have something actionable they can use. :) – jmort253 Jun 1 '13 at 20:53
  • For the second question, rates of pay can also change. I wouldn't charge the same amount in 2008 that I would charge in 2013, and the economic climate has an impact on wages and rates of pay. Still, I think this question can also be improved. Please see my comment here. With that said, the too localized close reason does get overused sometimes, but it still may benefit future visitors to provide them with information that won't become outdated. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Jun 1 '13 at 20:56
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    @jmort253 but I'd like to have an answer about exact rates, even if they would apply 'only' 5 years, which is really a lot of time! Do you have a concept how to ask such questions? Because as I've already stated in a few places, I think that such questions would attract a lot of traffic and simply throwing them away would hurt the site. – Danubian Sailor Jun 1 '13 at 21:05
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    Did you read the blog post Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping? Here's what I would do: Instead of What are the rates for contractors in X? I would ask How can I determine how much to charge as a contractor in X country?. The difference between the two is learning to fish and being given a fish. If this site exists only to give people fish, and not to reach them how, then many answers won't be helpful a year from now. – jmort253 Jun 1 '13 at 21:09
  • In short, I'm not suggesting you throw away you're question. I'm suggesting we edit them to focus on the how. We might be a little too quick to close posts instead of editing, so I do think you're making some good points here. Editing is Stack Exchange's most powerful feature. – jmort253 Jun 1 '13 at 21:11
  • @jmort253 Outdoor.SE is for people who like fishing, Cooking.SE is for people who like fish. Both conceptions are good, the question is how we define the topic. You are free to edit my question, because I've asked new one which is generic and which will probably not give me the answer I'm looking for. – Danubian Sailor Jun 1 '13 at 21:19

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