If you're like me, you might have been surprised to learn from this meta post that StackExchange is in the process of completely revamping the infrastructure underlying all of its websites to make them more uniform, and that MO is currently in beta for the new system (see that post for information on how to turn on the new theme beta).

The practical effect of this is that the look and feel of the site is substantially changed (to my eye, it looks a lot more like MSE). The post linked to above is the place to give "feedback" to StackExchange about the new look. But I think in order to give adequate feedback, we need a better understanding of what is going on.

So here are a few more basic questions:

  1. What is the timeline for this process as regards MO specifically?

  2. More specifically, when does the new theme exit beta mode and become live? Weeks? Months? Years from now?

The beta version of the new theme is not the final version apparently -- in the future, we're supposed to hear about options for customizing off of this core. But apparently StackExchange doesn't even know what the options are going to be yet. This references a timescale of 6-8 years over which they foresee customization options evolving. So apparently this is going to be a complex process. But for the first step, I'd really like to know:

  1. What customization options will be available to us before the new theme goes live (i.e. which customization options can we have active on the first day the new theme goes live)?

I'm assuming that the answer will at least be "a nonzero number of options", because I'm assuming that nobody at MO or at StackExchange wants a scenario where the live version of the website is a cookie-cutter plain vanilla theme which looks exactly the same as every other StackExchange site.

  1. What will the process be for deciding which customization options we want to use before the new theme goes live?

From the look of the meta post I linked to at the top, there are a lot of feelings out there about what the site should look like. As mathematicians, nobody really wants to spend too much energy hashing this stuff out, but I would have anticipated a process a little more structured than just "give us constructive feedback in response to this meta post".

  1. What will the process be going forward for deciding about future customization options as they become available?

  2. Who is the person with primary responsibility for the look and feel of MO under the new theme? Is it Jon Ericson, who posted the first meta post?

I can't envision this process working smoothly without there being an individual at whose desk the buck stops on these things -- whether it's a StackExchange employee, a moderator, or whoever, it seems to me there should be a point person.

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    $\begingroup$ This post was linked in the previous discussion: Responsive Design Themes - What can sites customize and how can they get changes implemented? Maybe it answers at least some of your question. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding question 2: "When does the new theme exit beta mode and become live?" As far as I can tell, it already is live. This post seems to confirm it: Rollout of responsive design site themes - Tracking post. As pointed out in jeq's comment on the previous post, this happend on December 7th: meta.stackexchange.com/revisions/314979/35 meta.stackexchange.com/revisions/314979/36 $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ Oh wow -- it hadn't even occurred to me that the changes might already be live -- that was very fast! Which leaves me wondering what the point of the beta testing phase was... $\endgroup$
    – Tim Campion Mod
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ The beta phase was longer on some sites depending on when we announced the upcoming update to the theme. Unfortunately, MO ended up in one of the later groups and we had a hard activation date of December 7th due to Winter Bash (which I'm aware MO doesn't participate in). I do apologize for the brevity of the beta, though. In an effort to balance that, I'm trying to be accessible to MO so that if there are concerns we could address quickly, we're easy to reach. Both Jon Ericson and I are points of contact regarding this. I was on parental leave when the announcement was posted on MO. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 5:08

1 Answer 1


In the interest of wrapping this up, the answers to my questions apparently are:

  1. The new theme is already live.

  2. See (1).

  3. The beta mode only lasted a week or two -- it was never very likely that we'd get any customizations done before going live. StackExchange's philosophy on these changes is to go cold turkey and only re-implement things that people really, really want.

  4. See (3).

  5. The process is: if you want something, suggest it in a meta question. If it goes over favorably, then it might happen. EDIT: A bit more information from Catija is available here. The timeline seems to be that it will take a few weeks / months to get any kind of customization from SE, especially with the holiday season. And if we want anything that's not currently ready to go, it will take longer than that.

  6. Catija and Jon Ericson are points of contact at StackExchange.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to advertise here that an example of (5) is up and running in this question. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Campion Mod
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 20:29

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