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.

1 Answer 1


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.) Apr 29, 2018 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. Apr 29, 2018 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? Apr 29, 2018 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? Apr 29, 2018 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. Apr 29, 2018 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? Apr 30, 2018 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! Apr 30, 2018 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, 2018 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. Apr 30, 2018 at 13:28

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