The proposals Economics and Coffee and coffee for example.

Coffee has 76 example questions, and 119 followers.

Economics has 77 example questions, and 119 followers.

Each requires about 10 more example questions with a score of 10 or more.

Call this about 20 followers.

At the rate they're currently going, I estimate this will be 20 days to a month. This progress is steadily happening, especially as the proposals have been on the hot list in the last month.

However, I can't see that there is a huge amount of value added prolonging the definition phase.

Yes, new example questions are added. In the last month, there appears to be around 10-15 new example questions. Some value is added, but I don't think it warrants needlessly not moving on and getting a beta going.

Consider some of the sucessfully launched sites:

  • English - 64 example questions, 156 followers
  • Cooking - 85 example questions, 174 followers
  • Skeptics - 39 example questions, 179 followers
  • Workplace - 34 example questions, 134 followers
  • Academia - 61 example questions, 149 followers

So admittedly all of these proposals had more followers before moving on commitment phase.

I think the requirement to have so many questions of score 10 or more just warps the definition phase. It has people playing games with the votes, rather than voting honestly.

I think it would be a fair argument that both Economics and Coffee need more expert users for example, but the proposals do have plenty of defining questions.

2 Answers 2


We (Stack Exchange) do not believe in the adage "if you build it, they will come." Every time we tried that, the site has failed utterly.

The Definition phase does more than just define the scope of the proposal. This phase helps determine if there is a sufficient depth of questions to keep the site interesting, while measuring if there is enough engagement from an enthusiastic community to actually sustain a healthy site. I can easily define a hypothetical "coffee" and "economics" site in a few sentences, but that doesn't tell us if have a community with a broad scope of engaging questions to actually build it.

The Economics and Coffee site aren't ready, because in 6-7 months, those communities have not (yet) amassed enough momentum to get the site off the ground. That's based on our experience in launching about 140-150 of these things.

By the way, we did once launch an Economics site under a much reduced set of requirements as you are suggesting. But the problem with launching the site before we had a critical mass of participants was that the economists by and large never showed up. The community just petered out until we eventually had the close the site. Closing a struggling site is a very distressing experience to everyone involved. It's simply better to be patient and do everything we can to assure it can be success before we rush into moving it forward without sufficient support.

  • You probably have some good analytics on this internally. Any chance you could share some of that to expand on your answer? i.e., show how the common metrics representing site adoption progress on sites that make it vs sites that don't. Jan 7, 2015 at 19:58
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    @TheGrimmScientist It turns out that the main Area 51 requirements still align pretty well with good "site adoption progress" (although allowing 1 year for each phase is probably too long). Most of our "good analytics" are coming from how sites perform once launched. Even early on we can tell a lot, which is why a next-generation site-creation process will likely be much closer to launching an actual (provisional) pre-site to see how it does, rather than this "measure the engagement" methodology of Area 51. Jan 7, 2015 at 20:12

It would be nice if the proposals could just progress into the commitment phase with what they have. I am sure many people are very excited to see these proposals start moving onto to betas.

However, the definition phase is there for that very purpose... to define the proposal. Coffee has many questions yet it needs more followers. In the past, the Coffee proposal experienced difficulties in the definition phase especially because of certain overlaps with Cooking.SE. So this time around, it is very important that it be hammered out very precisely. Apart from that, the critical mass of followers is needed to properly define and make this proposal a success. Without enough avid followers, I fear that it may stagnate in the commitment phase.

I think the requirement to have so many questions of score 10 or more just warps the definition phase. It has people playing games with the votes, rather than voting honestly.

I agree with this completely. Perhaps the bar for a proposal is set too high? Perhaps it isn't. People definitely play games with this though which leads to an inappropriate definition.

These are just my thoughts on the matter.

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