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Yesterday I came across this proposal on Area 51: Applying to Foreign Colleges & Universities (in Chinese)

This site basically went through a 2 or 3 day definition before getting enough users to send it into the commitment phase.

The problem with this proposal is that the person who proposed the site and most of the people who joined have little or no experience with the SE network.

I reached out to the owner via email and mentioned some of the issues I saw with the proposal and introduce some of the network concepts. I also emailed a team member from SE to offer my assistance with this proposal.

I think although it will be hard to get a site like this set up I think there are a few things to note here:

  • The new users and the person who proposed the site have tried hard to work within the rules of the site
  • The proposer has tried to encourage other users to follow the rules

The proposer set up this discussion to try and explain to the new users how they can work to get more reputation. This discussion which was trying to help has now been closed as off-topic. I even added an announcement in the announcements section to tell new users (in Chinese) not to use the Discussions area to ask questions, but this was deleted by moderators.

I understand that some of the advice in the discussion is incorrect, but I feel rather than just closing it we should be working to get the information in there correct. Closing it is not going to help anyone. The purpose was to help people to use your site.

I think we should at least try and work with people setting up foreign language sites, especially if they are trying to work within our rules.

I feel if we are too stand-offish or don't reach out the bad impression can circulate. If people can't do it here they will do it elsewhere.

If we are not going to help people set up foreign language sites then our policy in Area 51 should be "no foreign language sites". If that's not the policy then there needs to be a bit of help and understanding and where that falls down you should rely on existing members who can help in this area rather than just shutting down discussions that are aiming to help.

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I'm not sure that "no foreign language sites" is a bad policy. Yes, it's somewhat exclusionary. But how is the SE team going to successfully moderate sites where all discussion occurs in a language no one is fluent in, or can even speak at all. Google Translate just isn't good enough yet. –  Cody Gray Aug 18 '11 at 7:31
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@Cody - Either we are there or we're not. A policy down the middle won't work. There are also people like myself who can help and can speak both languages. Sitting on the fence or even worse, being rude and unhelpful isn't getting us anywhere. –  xiaohouzi79 Aug 18 '11 at 7:55
    
Oh, I totally agree. I think this is an excellent question and certainly something that needs to be decided upon. I was just expressing my opinion about what the official policy might need to be, even if regrettably so. –  Cody Gray Aug 18 '11 at 7:57
    
@Cody - I agree. I don't mind if it is no foreign sites, or a "let's wait until later". As long as everyone understands where the line is. –  xiaohouzi79 Aug 18 '11 at 8:03
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English is also a foreign language to many of us. –  Bo Persson Aug 18 '11 at 8:53

2 Answers 2

After proposing the site, Applying to Foreign Colleges & Universities (in Chinese), I felt the main problem might not mainly be the language. Rather, the issue is more about "how to deal with other realms?"

After the proposal came into "Commitment Phase", the criterion is very hard to meet:

commitments of 100 users with rep 200+

Because the majority of followers of the new proposal has too limited mean to gain rep.

The only "proper" way for new comers to gain rep is to join the discussion of other sites or other proposal, the realm of which might well be out of their scopes.

Another "fast" yet clearly "improper" way is to propose yet another site, by which new users can quickly gain more than 200+ rep (confirm email +50; propose a new site +100; setup on/off-topic example questions +50 (5 x 10) and get votes (+10/per vote?)...

From this perspective, this system is clearly misleading.

Another drawback of the system, perhaps very damaging, is that new followers cannot ask and questions on the new proposal for a very long time. And it's quite possible that followers of a new proposal comprises mainly of new comers, who might know SE or SO for the first time (albeit SE and SO are extremely popular in IT sphere). It's meaningless for them to wait more than six months or even one year, just for ask a simple yet urgent question; and such users have no reason come back at all.

I personally like SO/SE very much, and believe they are a knowledge base as important as are wikipedia and quora. But after engaging in depth, I feel SO and SE are less open, as least less open to realms other than computer related realms.

Language issue is quite far from previously discussed one. In fact, any site of SE, and even SO, all of them may, and can have various versions in many other languages. If in English language society, people need an SE site, there's no reason to believe people in Chinese language society do not need an equivalent. Am I right?

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My answer started as a reply to yours, you may want to take a look at it. –  Brad Mace Aug 18 '11 at 17:22
    
Note to other users who cringe at I personally like SO/SE very much and notice that he has 12 points apart from his proposal on a51. It appears that he simply hasn't linked his accounts. That said, @xiaolai, I believe there is much credence to requiring an informed base of users, who are experienced with the stack exchange system, before a proposal can leave the commitment phase. –  M. Tibbits Aug 18 '11 at 19:56
    
One further note -- if/when Chinese Language and Usage leaves the commitment phase, it would be very useful to have experienced users who can migrate questions to your site which are considered off-topic & vice versa. –  M. Tibbits Aug 18 '11 at 19:59
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Making proposals on Area 51 will not earn points necessary to meet the 100 users with 200+ reputation because Area 51 reputation is excluded from that particular calculation. –  moberley Aug 22 '11 at 5:40

About being open to other "realms": I think they've made a deliberate decision to expand the network in an incremental fashion, and therefore designed the Area 51 process to favor proposals which appeal to users of the existing sites. The intent isn't to prevent sites on completely different topics from ever being created, but to delay them a bit until there is some overlap in the user base. As the network continues to grow, "island" proposals will gradually cease to be remote islands and will be able to progress into the beta phases and perhaps be launched.

This approach helps ensure that the new site will have a sufficient number of users, and that those users are familiar with the StackExchange concept. This is important for starting the site started on the right path (by setting a good example of what types of questions to ask and how to provide good answers), and keeping it on track (by ensuring there are good moderator candidates) when it moves into the beta stage.

Reaching 200 rep: The commitment phase requires 100 users that have 200+ rep on any other StackExchange site. There are quite a few sites to pick from, and 200 rep isn't that much. Granted, since they're all currently in English, only users that speak English and the other language would be able to earn the rep and commit to the proposal, which does have the effect of limiting the number of candidates. However, if a non-English site were to launch, the team would have to rely on those users that speak both languages to act as moderators and liaisons. As a result, ensuring the site has interested and experienced users with those language skills would still be necessary to ensure the site's viability.

Regarding the closed discussions, I'm a bit surprised by that. I was under the impression that discussions were for working out whatever issues were holding a proposal back, including helping people understand how StackExchange sites are supposed to work. I'm not involved enough on Area 51 to say for certain though, so I'll be interested to see what others have to say about it. To me though, teaching people how StackExchange works seems like something we should be encouraging.

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