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I realize that this issue may be more appropriate for Discuss.Area51, but I have posted about it there, and I believe that a greater number of eyes on the issue are needed.

Mechanical Engineering was just closed after 1 year of "inactivity." However, the proposal had 154 followers, and had added 25 new adherents in September and October, and was a mere 15 votes away from having the requisite 40 questions.

I understand the need to crack down on idling proposals, and I respect Robert's decision to close this one in an attempt at consistency, but other proposals have been closed long after the 1 year and 1 week tenure that this proposal held.

I understand that the Community Team has experience in vetting proposals, but I'm not sure a single judge and no visible jury are sufficient to shut down what may have been months of effort on the part of users and early adherents.

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Software Recommendations was closed yesterday too. It was in the "hottest" proposals list almost on top and had 149 followers. – juergen d Oct 10 '13 at 13:49
Can you give examples of proposals that took longer to close? I was under the impression that there's a consistent policy and that Robert is not in fact making judgement calls. – Wooble Oct 10 '13 at 14:13
@Wooble I looked for some from the last iteration of closures, but they had been deleted already. Anecdotally, I think that Neuroinformatics and the old Neuroscience festered around for about a year and half, but I can't view it to be sure. – jonsca Oct 10 '13 at 14:16
Robert basically closes them because they took too long to pass definition/commitment phase (despite being close). I understand where he's coming from but I agree it does seem unfair for the people who put a lot of effort into defining the proposal. – gitsitgo Oct 10 '13 at 14:26
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Closing a proposal that takes so long to accrue support is not just a judgement call. The 1-year time frame to get through the first phase is part of the minimum requirements show you have sufficient support at this time to move forward. Unfortunately, it's been over a year, and your proposal is still in Definition.

One year is actually way more conservative than it probably should be. We learned a lot over the years creating these sites (with varying success), and one unshakable pattern we learned is that proposals taking this long to build support do not go on to create strong sites. You really don't want to launch a site with much less support than you think you actually have. We've tried it. Many times. And it never works. These slow-growing proposals simply do not create sites as healthy as the slow accumulation of numbers might suggest.

There's nothing wrong with the subject — a Mechanical Engineering site makes sense — but it simply took too long for this iteration to make it work. If you still believe in this subject can work (I do), feel free to restart the proposal. Slow-growing proposals typically create poorly-performing sites — but rebooting a proposal to get the running start you'll need has created some of our most successful launches to date!

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I don't think you've answered the question, though, Robert. I think you've reiterated "Robert says so because Robert says so". – jonsca Oct 10 '13 at 14:59
@jonsca You're being a disingenuous implying that I'm somehow acting as a "single judge" picking on your proposal unjustly. The process of proving a proposal has been set up and improved over years of deep study about what works... and what doesn't. Don't shoot the messenger. These closures could just have easily been automated. – Robert Cartaino Oct 10 '13 at 15:09
@jonsca The reasoning that Robert provided here isn't an artifact of his own view, it's an artifact of something the whole community team has developed and refined over the years. He's simply following what we all established based on history and data. Sites that fail to get out of the definition stage within a year almost always flounder, end up closing, and begin anew in a new proposal. Trying your best on a private / public beta and closing is a lot more disheartening than restarting a closed proposal, and we want to avoid that whenever we can. – Tim Post Oct 10 '13 at 15:09
@RobertCartaino It's not even my proposal, but that's not the point I'm asking for a) Consistency, b) Transparency, and c) Due process. It feels like everyone's been kicking around the idea of refining A51 to be more in line with the rest of SE for too long, and as a result, we get these sort of "duct tape" policies that seem to change with each passing month. I think that's my inherent frustration. Someone has already rebooted Mechanical Engineering, and it will have its day in the sun, but I think that there are greater issues at stake here. – jonsca Oct 10 '13 at 15:17
@TimPost Then I wish there were realistic metrics that were made absolutely and perfectly clear right on the A51 site itself. That way there is no question in anyone's mind as to which just plain aren't performing and which are in imminent danger of being closed. – jonsca Oct 10 '13 at 15:20
@jonsca: it's worth keeping in mind that the primary goal of A51 is to act as a hurdle to prevent wasted effort - as irritating as it can be to see a perfectly good proposal shuttered, that pales in comparison to what is wasted when a dead site has to be closed after a handful of folks have put their heart into creating useful content and simply couldn't get anyone else to join in. Yeah, we do want something better - but it has to be clearly better. We finally shut down SE 1.0 a few weeks back, after years of watching the vast majority of those sites die slow, painful deaths... – Shog9 Oct 10 '13 at 16:20

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