Proposal: COVID-19 is a duplicate of at least the following (now deleted) proposals:

Area51 really needs a way to clamp-down on duplicating failed proposal (at least so quickly duplicated)


However, in each of these cases, it was a completely new person launching the proposal. We cannot expect that they'll have seen what was proposed and deleted last week. They also have no way to searching what old proposals have been made and deleted.

When Robert Cartaino closed proposals quickly after they were made, they would at least show up on Area51 in the "newest" category, and with the "[closed]" mark on them.

Now proposals are being killed "silently" in a way such that no one can even see what happened (nor the reason for the closure).

The solution to this problem might just be to go back to what Robert was doing, which was closing proposals but letting them stay visible (with the "closed" mark) for a while before being completely removed.

Even more useful would be to just never delete old proposals, because it's not like they take up too much space compared to the 19 million questions on SO. In a very lucky month, we might get 10 proposals. Maybe 120 per year (at the most). That's not a lot of storage space to worry about, and probably people will propose things less if they see that their proposal idea has already been tried and failed.

Bottom line: When we start typing a question on any stack exchange, similar questions get suggested in "real-time" so that we avoid making a duplicate. Why not do the same for proposals?"

  • Fwiw, our policy has not changed here. We still just close things. It's just that proposals that get closed early before they have attracted 5 followers or 5 example questions will get auto-deleted at the three day mark for not meeting minimal activity requirements. I see no strong reason to except these closed proposals from that process. Most often, early closures are due to not providing a real existing community link with the proposal, not because of any major problems with the topic itself. Neither of the proposals linked in the question even attempted to point to an existing community.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:01
  • @animuson Sure. I think deleted proposals should still be visible though, don't you? It would help to see what has already failed in the passed and what went wrong, which would help people when deciding to start a proposal. Otherwise how do they know if their proposal is a duplicate of something that was already closed in the past? Apr 28 at 20:15
  • There's a hard part to that though. Arguably not all of them should be shown. There are plenty of garbage proposals that get created that definitely should just be wiped from history because they provide zero value to future proposers. They had no activity and they failed in the sense that nothing ever happened with them - there is nothing to learn from them and that a duplicate existed is meaningless information. So what if a duplicate existed in the past. There's not one now. The number of failed proposals that have learning value in them is probably a single-digit percentage.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:37
  • As an example, I can search through deleted proposals, and sometimes do when new proposals pop up for a topic I've seen before. And I find it incredibly frustrating trying to find proposals that actually attempted to do something and failed for some reason versus nonsense proposals that never stood a chance, flipping through lists of stuff going "well that was a waste of a click."
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:38
  • (If you're curious for some numbers: there are 5 pages of proposals on main Area 51 right now. If I simply type deleted:1 into the search box, that becomes 683 pages. There's a lot of garbage to sift through.)
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:42
  • @animuson Through my entire life I've been reminded of the phrase "never say never" and I (personally) don't like the words "nothing" and "zero value" in contexts like these either, but we can all have our opinions on that. I appreciate what you're saying about "garbage" proposals, and I'm actually surprised that only 683 have been deleted because I thought it was so much more! Apr 28 at 20:46
  • However, there's a lot of "non-garbage" proposals too, as there was at least 8 proposals related to Matter Modeling by others: mattermodeling.meta.stackexchange.com/q/119/5 (all of those had a decent number of followers or committers) and there was also my own failed attempt at a "Scientific Software" site, which is now unfortunately deleted. Then there were attempts at a "computational fluid dynamics" proposal (the most recent one was deleted less than a month ago, but it had about 60 followers!). Since CFD is on-topic here: mattermodeling.meta.stackexchange.com/q/14/5 Apr 28 at 20:48
  • It would be nice to be able to see some of these deleted proposals and the associated discussions. Even if the number of useful failed proposals is only a single-digit percentage, 5% of 683 is 34 and 9% is 61. Some of those were fairly good proposals! perhaps the ones that had more than 15 followers could be undeleted? 683 pages of junk is nothing compared to the number of pages one has to go through when searching for something on SO or one of the other huge sites! Apr 28 at 20:52
  • I'm not saying there aren't valuable lessons to be had in some of the deleted proposals on Area 51. I am saying that we would absolutely not want to just dump all deleted content onto users for them to sift through looking for needles in mountainous haystacks. Especially in the specific case mentioned in this question, being able to see the few previous COVID-related proposals would result in no useful information other than "none of the proposers ever provided an existing community."
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:53
  • But alas, this will all be moot soon enough. The tech debt of Area 51 is catching up to it and I don't imagine this system, in its current form, to exist all that much longer. It's being investigated what to do with it as part of our current roadmap. If we do continue supporting the new site lifecycle, it will be literally nothing close to what we have now.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 20:56
  • @animuson I've seen people talking about replacing A51 for several years but finally there's something (posted 5 days ago by an SE Director) that seems a lot more crystallized! Thanks for sharing that. Apr 28 at 20:58
  • Yeah, we've been wanting something to happen for a long time. At this point, we're in a position where we must do something. Continuing to ignore it is becoming a security problem and coming up with no solution effectively means that our engineers are going to just shut it down. Kicking the can down the road isn't gonna fly anymore (thankfully, though who knows where that can is going to land at this point).
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 28 at 21:01

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