Proposal: How Things Work

(IIRC*) I started to follow the How Things Work proposal a bit late, just to get reminded when the public beta would begin.

As I didn't get the mail, I decided to check the site from my browsing history. I was greeted by a notice:

The How Things Work site didn't have enough activity during the beta, and has been closed. […]

Also the statistics that the "End of the beta" stats are compared to are the same as they are for public betas.

What has happened? Was the progress really that worrying?

*) I Can't be 100% sure as I don't see myself in the "recent followers" list, neither the proposal appears in my profile — though when looking at other followers' profiles, the htw-proposal isn't visible there either.

1 Answer 1


The short version: there were several discussions along these lines at meta.htw during the private beta. My own take on the situation was that no one was able to come up with a reason for the site to exist other than to point to Wikipedia and HowStuffWorks.com—which makes for a lousy Q&A site.

This has been answered with more details at Please comment further on htw.stackexchange.com closure + how this process works (MSO).

Edited to add…

And to answer the title question: was this unusual? Yes, it was.

OTOH, overall, it's unusual for Area51-started sites to be closed at all. Of all the proposals to date:

That's better than 92%.

SE is trying to learn from history, and one of the things we've learned is that it's better to close sites that won't work earlier rather than later. That's what happened here.

And finally, we think that the Popular Natural Science proposal shows a lot of promise. If you were interested in How Things Work, please consider joining PNS.

  • 1
    (Oh, thought at first area51 would be a natural place to look for such discussions, but now just looking at the sheer number of questions tagged "area51" on MSO proves me wrong.) So, the real reason for closing isn't the statistical activity ("not enough activity during the beta") but rather the ethos in meta? If this is the case, I wholeheartedly understand the decision. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 22:08

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