As of two days ago, the minimum time thresholds for going through the definition and commitment phases of a proposal were changed. This change was announced one week ahead of the change.

In that announcement, there is the following text:

Going forward, we generally expect proposal authors to have the means to see their site ideas through.

Based on that text, I believe that these new requirements were only supposed to apply to new proposals created after the April 27 changes to the requirements.

Today, however, I noticed that a large amount of proposals (more than half the current ones) were closed for not meeting those requirements. It seems to me like those proposals were closed immediately without much warning, with the previous expectation that they would be closed one year later.

Also note that according to a comment on that question (emphasis mine):

This is incredibly unfair. After 6 months trying to get automotive people to follow an autonomous vehicle proposal, without warning, it's been shut down. In fact Robert was still recommending changes and closing questions he didn't like on our proposal until a few days ago. How in any world is this fair? It's like playing a game of football and the referee changes the rules five minutes before the end so the other team can win. Ridiculous!

Based on the above, were these changes supposed to occur retroactively to older proposals, or is this a bug? I'm just asking; I'm not asserting that it's a bug or that I think it's a bad idea.

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, otherwise we're thinking of Area 51 like some sort of contest where, if you can meet the minimum requirements, the prize is a site regardless of whether that site will work or not.

For as infrequently as I’m able to improve the Area 51 process (due to dev resources), when I can determine that {criteria X} no longer results in a healthy site, launching a site regardless would be like saying, "we don't care, we want our site anyway."

The purpose of Area 51 is to determine (as best as we are able) that we have the resources and support to bring your idea to a healthy site launch. That has not been working here for awhile. For any idea that did not meet these minimum requirements, I am truly sorry. But calls to say "we want it anyway" isn't all that unlike folks who drop into Area 51 with calls to redistribute the votes at any cost — "we just want our site!"

Incidentally… along with these these changes, we are going to be asking proposal authors to identify the audience who will help build theses sites. Unfortunately, those changes were delayed a few days — and the result was folks just piling in to re-submit their same old tired, failed proposals we've seen many times before. You can see them here. There's nothing inherently wrong with most of these subjects, but it's hard watch the same proposals fail again and again without change hoping that maybe this time around, it might just get by with a "D—”.

The old process was no longer sufficient to build strong sites. Launching sites with insufficient support to see them through is what is going to get Area 51 shut down.

And no one will benefit from that.

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    Your answer to the question is unclear: yes or no? (I understand it, but I'm certain a fair number of people won't.) – damryfbfnetsi Apr 29 at 23:08
  • @damryfbfnetsi My apologies; I got sidetracked. It's not a bug. There was no intention to introduce a system where a weak proposal would launch anyway simply because it was created before the new criteria could determine that it would very likely fail. – Robert Cartaino Apr 29 at 23:11
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    Quick question: If, upon closure date, the site is just 1-2 commitments behind the necessary minimum, will an exception be made for it, or will the same rules apply? – damryfbfnetsi Apr 29 at 23:15
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    Also, there is one important thing to note: The MSE FAQ for how to propose a new site just says to go to Area 51 and propose it. Maybe it requires drastic editing? – damryfbfnetsi Apr 29 at 23:17
  • @damryfbfnetsi I always try to err on the conservation side so when someone says, "we were only 1-2 away" I can say with confidence: "in reality you were a lot farther away than that." As for the Meta.SE FAQ, I will take a look; but the upcoming changes to the site-creation dialog should make the submission expectations/requirements a LOT more clear. – Robert Cartaino Apr 29 at 23:22
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    Two last things: first, one way that this can backfire is that it can make it more likely that proposals will just receive sympathy commits, follows, or upvotes, because of the new thresholds; second, I can think of at least two proposals that made it past the first two phases much faster than the new thresholds but still failed in private beta. Did you consider these when making this change? – damryfbfnetsi Apr 30 at 0:06
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    This is madness. I can't believe Robert is getting away with changing the rules arbitrarily. That is how a tyrant behaves. We were close several times until Robert came on and closed questions. Eric actually deleted a question with 22 votes because Robert closed it in order to placate his shutting down questions. For the record there were 208 followers on our proposal! – SeanJ Apr 30 at 8:41
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    @RobertCartaino Did you run any test of how many of currently healthy betas would have been closed at some point during the proposal stage, if the new rules had been in place already? For example, I seem to recall that Interpersonal Skills had difficulties through Area51. – gerrit Apr 30 at 12:51
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    @gerrit Yes, the pattern of slow launches is a small push by early followers (typically from a group of area 51 regulars) followed by a slow climb from whomever happens to be passing by. By time the site launches, half the community either forgot they followed it or were never really interested at all. Area 51 regulars dabble in a LOT of proposals. That’s not sustainable; site launches become very passive (30-50% turnout not uncommon). Sites need to be built (predominantly) by dedicated, engaged communities. That is what necessitated these changes, as described in the original announcement. – Robert Cartaino Apr 30 at 13:28

Area51 is not a collaborative process. It is run by Robert Cartaino. It is his toy to do with as he pleases.

In our case, everytime autonomous vehicles came close to completion, Robert would appear to shut down questions many of which were very much on topic, (I work in the automotive sector while Robert does not). Worse again, Robert would not shut down all the questions he didn't like at once but would wait until we got close again and then shut down some more (death by 1,000 cuts) but still we persisted. With 208 followers we were very close to completion.

Then the rules were changed entirely.

There are over 14,000 members of the linkedin autonomous vehicles group but in my experience many working in automotive do their job and go home. The difficulty was to get these people into a collaborative network. We almost succeeded.

For all the people downvoting my reply, consider this. Imagine you were in university working on your final year project for 6 months and had less than 1 month to go and your professor said, "I have decided that projects are only allowed 3 months, your project is too late and you failed". The professor would not get away with it, he might even be fired.

For those who think I am taking this personally, perhaps put yourself in my shoes and the shoes of those who supported this proposal based on the rules that existed and the time we have lost as a consequence of Robert's caprice.

The rules of area 51 have been changed arbitrarily by Robert Cartaino who does what he likes and will not be changed back unless stacks overflow management intervenes or Robert changes his mind.

Who knows, in a few months he may change the time limit again for fun or maybe only allow people who bark like a dog submit a proposal. Maybe he likes destroying the work of others?

Caveat emptor!

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    This post is firm evidence that you haven't understood the changes, the reasons behind them, and indeed perhaps the point of using A51 to found a site. If 14000 is not enough to get you a healthy beta in six weeks, let alone six months, let alone multiple attempts, perhaps you have actually misjudged the amount of support you really have, and perhaps you would not at all be able to ensure a "healthy" site launch. – Nij May 3 at 5:28
  • If university a professor said, "I have decided that projects are only allowed 3 months not 6 months, your project is too late and you failed", would you think it was fair? We were working to a deadline. Your point is completely baseless and without foundation. Show me the stats that show chemistry is useless because that too would have been rejected with the new rules. – SeanJ May 3 at 21:42
  • Chemistry wasn't proposed this year, so to completely ignore the context of Area 51 at different times in its development does not give you a great argument. You haven't responded to the critique at all, instead using a poor analogy that isn't sensible. – Nij May 4 at 3:49
  • Your critique read as if you hadn't understood my response, "....many working in automotive do their job and go home. The difficulty was to get these people into a collaborative network. We almost succeeded.". It is about bringing people to the next level, once they get there they are happy but often need help getting there. This is especially true in the highly regulated automotive industry imho. The purpose of my answer is to illustrate the arbitrary nature of area51 which is devoid of natural logic. – SeanJ May 5 at 0:14
  • This builds the case for the answer which is that basically the rules exist as Robert sets them and even though it is unfair to change the rules midstream, area51 does not take fairness into account. – SeanJ May 5 at 0:15
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    Your proposal was borderline. If it had the strength you suppose, it wouldn't require such a long time, and that's the point of changing the limit to three months - those that take six months actually are not going to do well enough to be supported. You're taking the closure very personally instead of (again) looking at the reasons put forward for the change and understanding them. The rules haven't been changed - the recognition of what the rules are, has. – Nij May 5 at 0:21
  • Chemistry worked but that is off topic. Maybe the av proposal was rubbish maybe not. My answer is that the new rule is applied retrospectively as Robert will do what he wants unless SE management intervenes. At least Trump was elected, I don't recall an election to put Robert in charge of area51. The is very poor imho. – SeanJ May 9 at 13:21

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