We recently made some changes the voting interface for Area 51 example questions. The improvements are designed to make the voting experience more like that of an actual, launched Stack Exchange site. Upvoting, downvoting, closing questions: It's all in there!

Area 51 Voting

Closing Questions

Gone are the days of trying to figure out what voting "not a good example" means. It's been replaced with the ability to close questions, just like you would on a real Stack Exchange site. If a question is a poor fit for the site, close it as "off topic", "not constructive", "not a real question", etc. If you don't agree with a closure, vote to re-open. Questions can be discussed and improved in comments. This works just like any other Stack Exchange site!


Moving a proposal into Commitment is still a matter of picking your favorite example questions, but now it's done through upvoting and downvoting. Questions can be upvoted if you think they’ll be interesting, downvoted if you think they won’t be. Once you come up with at least ten questions that embody the topic’s scope, the proposal moves on to Commitment.

Side note: We no longer require communities to find five good 'off-topic' questions. It's important to propose questions that push the boundaries of the topic, but we're hoping to determine what voting pattern identifies an "excellent off-topic question" based on actual usage. It's just not currently part of the Definition phase requirements.

Moving Forward

Overall, I think you'll find the more-familiar interface a refreshing change. We mapped the "old voting" into the new system and the progress of most sites changed remarkably little. You can read about the changes and reputation level requirements in the

updated FAQ

There may be a few gotchas we didn't consider, but we'll work those out when we see how these features play out under actual use. If the quality of proposed questions get half the attention they receive on a live Stack Exchange site, the end-product coming out of Area 51 should improve dramatically.

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    What about reputation? Do question posters lose reputation from downvotes? – Lukman Sep 29 '11 at 15:25
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    @Shog9 I hope the new changes won't penalize us who received "good off-topic example" votes before the changes took place. – Lukman Sep 29 '11 at 16:25
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    This is going to be very interesting, I can't wait to see how it impacts area 51 voting. Does this mean that we should get rid of our off-topic example questions, since now they are more likely to receive downvotes? (because new voters won't recognize that the questions were intentionally off-topic) – Mark Rogers Sep 29 '11 at 16:26
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    No, @Lukman it won't - because those were silently converted into close votes. Using arcane alchemy. – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 16:27
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    @MarkRogers I think so. Also, deleting off-topic examples would free up the 5-examples-per-proposal slots so that we can post more on-topic examples to replace the off-topic ones. – Lukman Sep 29 '11 at 16:31
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    @Mark: if they are not good questions, then yes - delete them! If they're good, interesting, but probably OT, then it's up to you... I would consider keeping them around, even if they might get closed. The intention here is to promote proposing questions that might actually get asked on the site - so if it's not a question you would ever envision seeing, there's no point to it. – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 16:32
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    I totally agree with Mark here. People will be punished for posting good, helpful off-topic examples and (1) there will be complaints and (2) people will stop posting those examples. You're replacing the problem of training people the difference between OT and and NaGE with the problem of training people not to downvote when closing. I don't see it working as-is. – Matthew Read Sep 29 '11 at 17:12
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    @user9325 5 upvotes per proposal, 30 up/down votes per day. – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 29 '11 at 17:27
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    @Matthew: that "problem" exists on the sites as well. Truth is, the really helpful OT questions (when it comes to defining a site) are the ones that get the same number or more up-votes as down-votes, while still being closed. Fascinating question, but OT vs. dumb OT question. – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 17:37
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    I missed the paragraph saying off-topic examples are no longer required; that mitigates a lot of my concern. Sorry about that! – Matthew Read Sep 29 '11 at 17:47
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    @Wikis All the existing votes were migrated: on-topic > up; not-a-good-example > down; & off-topic > close-as-off-topic. – Emmett Sep 29 '11 at 21:02
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    @Wikis Yes. This way, as will the old system, a minimum of 20 people (all maxing out their up-votes) are required to satisfy the up-voted-question part of the commitment criteria. – Emmett Sep 29 '11 at 21:09
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    @Troyen: the goal isn't to pile up a huge list of heavily-upvoted OT questions. That's what we were doing, and it ended up just sucking focus away from what we really need: a broad set of on-topic questions. If you think a question is good, up-vote it. If you think it's off-topic, vote to close it. And if you've voted for a question closed as OT, then either remove your vote, or vote to re-open and make a good argument for why it's On-topic! Ideally, we'll see the controversial edge-cases ending up as highly-voted closed questions, not the crazy bad tangential stuff. – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 22:32
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    So if I get it right, we are supposed now to only propose questions which would have been previously voted "good on-topic question". How is that supposed to help find the limits of a proposal? – Alexis Dufrenoy Sep 30 '11 at 14:12
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    Not to put too fine a point on it, @Traroth, but... A lot of those "on/off-topic questions" sucked. Ideally, folks would propose questions they want to see answered, and let their peers discuss whether that falls into the domain of the site or not, but all too often that wasn't really happening for the "good off-topic" - folks would just throw up extremely tangential topics and everyone would vote them OT. It's like defining the boundaries of your Nebraska property by enumerating all the African countries that aren't in it. – Shog9 Sep 30 '11 at 15:02

Sounds great - this is a much more intuitive voting system. My one concern is that this:


might be the most awkwardly worded sentence I've ever seen. "5 up questions"? What's an "up question"? Consider revising - perhaps to "You've already voted up(/upvoted) 5 questions for this proposal", or similar.

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    Should be, "5 hep questions" – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 17:58
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    Fixing it now. The changes will be pushed shortly. – Robert Cartaino Sep 29 '11 at 18:03

Another minor bug, that I've noticed: up and down votes are inverted.

Voting bug

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    d'oh! fixed now. – Emmett Sep 30 '11 at 1:52

Small bug on the new changes (WHICH I LOVE). If you upvote your own question, you get the "you can't do that" box but the number still increments until you reload the page.

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    I noticed this too. It'll be fixed shortly. – Emmett Sep 29 '11 at 20:46
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    (it's fixed now) – Emmett Sep 30 '11 at 21:05

This is definitely a step forward towards fixing area 51 (Closing at least one MSO question of mine), but I still think the commitment phase needs some work.


When I click on the upvote, it shows 51 for a second before reverting back to 5. (Or 6.)

This only happens after clicking the 5 to show the +5/-0 vote counts.

Also, if I keep clicking the vote up button, more red boxes appear on top of previous ones. It should have an automatic hide box event after ~5 seconds. (And suppress the same message from popping up over and over.)


Well now, it's super easy to boost a site from definition to commitment, just +1 the top 5 posts under 20. I guess it was always like that, but now it's REALLY like that.

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    Well, if you only get 5 questions past 10, you aren't going anywhere. So just like before, you need at least 20 people using all their votes. And just like before, if your users don't mind voting on stupid questions, you'll have an easier time pushing the proposal through. And of course, if you make it to commitment with a list of dumb questions under your title, you might find it taking longer to draw in committers. This wasn't so much about changing the requirements as it was about trying to make it less confusing to comply with them - whether you do so mechanically or not is up to you. – Shog9 Sep 29 '11 at 22:44

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