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That was really disappointing.

If this whole Stack Exchange thing is going to be community-driven, then one and only one rule should apply to site proposals: if one of them can fulfill the requirements and clearly show a good community would follow it, then it should be opened, no matter how silly the SE staff thinks it could be.

The only exception to this policy could be is something is blatantly offensive and/or illegal... but this was definitely not the case.


Update:

I don't know who voted to close this questions as "noise or pointless", but I really don't think a discussion about

  • what can and can not be done in Stack Exchange,
  • whether having some fun is permitted here or severely censored,
  • and why a site proposal which had gained enough followers to made it halfway the commitment phase has been abruptly closed

can be considered "pointless" at all.

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15  
What!? Nooooooo –  Earlz Jun 16 '10 at 5:55
5  
Awwwww maaaaan! –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 16 '10 at 6:42
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And "Else", and "Time travel" and "Questions with no answer". –  Benjol Jun 16 '10 at 6:52
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Double awwwww maaaaaan! –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 16 '10 at 7:09
11  
"Time Travel" wasn't only CLOSED, it was DELETED!!! –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 8:27
42  
@Mass: Maybe the proposer killed his grandfather. –  KennyTM Jun 16 '10 at 8:43
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@Kenny: well, there was a question from a (supposed) time traveller stating the site wasn't going to be there in the future, so the proposal was actually pointless... looks like he was right after all. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 8:49
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Apocalyptic Defense isn't my cup-o-tea... but Questions with no answer was the best! Bring back my conundrums! –  beggs Jun 16 '10 at 10:25
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If you needed evidence that Atwood and co wants to destroy humanity, this is it: without Apocalyptic Defense we cannot develop sufficient methods for countering his vampiric reign before it begins. All hope is lost. If you'll excuse me I'll be moving to my secret underground raptor-proof shelter now. –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 10:56
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On one hand I get the concept of the community choosing sites, but on the other hand, Atwood et al are funding the running of the sites. They should (and honestly always will) have veto power because of that. –  C. Ross Jun 16 '10 at 11:05
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As much fun as I had (one of my questions was an example off-topic!), we all knew this day was coming. –  Jared Harley Jun 16 '10 at 14:21
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Okay... WAIT A SECOND! Time travel was DELETED?! I can't believe that the one place on the Internet that the topic would actually be taken seriously is now lost. This is the biggest tragedy of my day (and I am a dramatic actor for a living, so I witness/reenact many tragedies each day). Time travel is real folks, and a Q&A site focused on it would thrive. So disappointed. –  snicker Jun 16 '10 at 14:22
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@beggs: what? Unanswerable questions is gone too? Now where am I supposed to find questions for life's persistent answers?! –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 15:31
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Where's the 'Meh' vote over here? –  Ivo Flipse Jun 16 '10 at 17:32
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@Jared Harley - No, we did not. Many of us considered the fact that it was allowed to live to the commitment phase (and somewhat beyond) a tacit statement of tolerance. I really thought this would be tolerated with some oversight in the beta phase, or I would not have committed. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 19:33

19 Answers 19

up vote 46 down vote accepted

I think it should be reopened. Why? Because it would actually have a community!

It's unfair for the moderators to judge what is "serious enough" for a stack exchange. It's suppose to be created by the community for the community. I personally was very excited for that stack exchange. Along with getting some laughs here and there I had some actual hypothetical situations that I'd like evaluated. Especially concerning EMP-bombs and nuclear fallout. (as in, serious questions).

Please reopen and unlock this. Look at it this way. If we have a joke Q&A site, then why do we need to post jokes on Meta? (as in, it'd make Jeff happier by having less [always-friday-in-iceland] questions)

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+1 Absolutely right. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 16 '10 at 6:42
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And while you're at it... also undelete welbogs other proposals, will ya! –  fretje Jun 16 '10 at 9:19
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... and how would you market and make money off the site? –  Mark Henderson Jun 16 '10 at 10:46
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@Farseeker, how would you make money from any other SE site? –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 10:51
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@fretje: It's discrimination! I'm being targetted! At least the conspiracy theory proposal is still there! –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 10:57
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I doubt that it would have a community for very long. Geeks on the internet have a nasty habit of turning every joke into a meme and running it into the ground. It might take time, but eventually it would cease to be funny, at which point it would simply be abandoned. And don't even try to tell us that there are or might be serious questions; if they're drowning in a sea of jokes then they're not useful anyway. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:01
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I think there were a lot of serious discussions to be had as well .. but that's the problem .. 'discussions'. I think I'm going to just take one of the SE clones and put up a site for this anyway. I have a couple of servers / ip addresses and some bandwidth to spare. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 16:01
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@Tim: Great! I'll be the first to join. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 16 '10 at 20:38
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@Aarobot - The truth is that you have no idea what's going to happen and neither does any else. Human nature is notoriously hard to predict. So why don't we apply the scientific method and performance an experiment? Worst case scenario: the internets end up wasting a couple more gigs of space... OH NOES! –  Xavi Jun 18 '10 at 22:00
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@Xavi: The worst-case scenario is actually a permanent hit to SE 2.0's credibility. If you don't understand that then you're clearly not a businessman. And the scientific method, last time I checked, does not involve ignoring all prior research and data. If you don't understand that, then you're obviously not a scientist either. Maybe in the future you should consider making sure that you know what you're talking about before you start talking about it. –  Aarobot Jun 19 '10 at 2:25
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I remember an illustration about a shop owner who had customers coming in asking for pocket knives. One after the other he explained he didn't carry pocket knives. When does the shop owner realize that his profits are going out the door until he starts stocking pocket knives? –  Chris Jun 19 '10 at 6:58
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@Aarobot: "a permanent hit to SE 2.0's credibility"? Please, come on... didn't you notice the Area 51 theme? –  Massimo Jun 19 '10 at 18:12
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@Aarobot: why do you think a joke site wouldn't be able to survive on itself? The Internet is full of joke sites, and some of them look quite healthy. –  Massimo Jun 20 '10 at 14:50
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@Aarobot again you don't know what would happen. Maybe an Apocalyptic Defense site would expose stack exchange to a new demographic (e.g. film geeks and larpers). Also, if you knew anything about business, you'd know how important it is for a new business to explore their market space. Please get off your high horse and stop assuming what I do and do not know. –  Xavi Jun 20 '10 at 18:52
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@Aarobot -- You know what... you're right... you must be some kind of genius... and great with the ladies... Thanks for totally pwning me on the meta stackoverflow site. I'll walk a way a better person... Thank you =] –  Xavi Jun 20 '10 at 22:05

Let's be honest: that was a humorous proposal. Area51 is new and exciting, so it is natural that some users test the boundaries of relationship between the Stackoverflow Internet Services inc. and the interwebz people at large.

One of the goals of SE 2.0 is to create long-term viable sites. Was the zombie apocalypse defense a long-term joke? Would you like to spend month after month discussing horror cliche memes, or would you move on after a while? Maybe it's time to move on and admit that even though it's [always-friday-in-iceland], today is actually Wednesday.

The Stackoverflow team wants to take baby-steps expanding from programming and IT to other topics. Maybe one day they will finally reach comedy. This day has not come yet and community-run joke sites that keep fine over time are still terra incognita.

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It's Tuesday in some parts. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 16 '10 at 6:43
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I believe the existence of, oh, about half the internet, answers the "Would you like to spend month after month discussing horror cliche memes" question... many would move on. But new people would discover it and take over stewardship. –  beggs Jun 16 '10 at 10:29
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I think you are new to these Internets, @Tadeusz. Also, terra incognita is there for you to explore. Where is your sense of adventure? –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 11:00
    
Not if it's permanent terra incognita, @The Proposer. Then you have to get someone to draw a new map where it's explorable territory. /obscure-niche-game-joke –  mmyers Jun 16 '10 at 14:02
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/obligatory-reference-to-tvtropes.org –  György Andrasek Jun 16 '10 at 15:30
    
Curses, @mmyers, if you're going to make jokes like that, we'll seriously miss you in the Gaming proposal. It saddens me that you won't commit your obscure niche gamer knowledge, even if I perfectly understand why. –  Grace Note Jun 16 '10 at 16:51
    
@ccomet: Well, I could, but the obscure niche games I refer to already have a forum that is absolutely hopping with activity (though the member count is relatively low). And they're all I really know about. –  mmyers Jun 16 '10 at 16:54
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On what basis do you claim a "joke" site would not be viable in the long-term? And what prevents all non-joke sites from being viable in the long-term? It seems to me the system was setup to determine long-term viability whereby a site dwindling in the beta phase will be shut down. I don't think "long-term viability" is a very good reason to shut down a joke site so soon. –  Bob Jun 16 '10 at 19:35
    
Yes that's true, but why close it? The Area51 process should and does eliminate sites that are not long-term viable. –  Jouke van der Maas Aug 15 '10 at 21:53

For once I agree with the team's decision to overrule the "community."

Joke proposals are a bit like "fun" questions on Stack Overflow. A swarm of initial interest leading to lots of ill-gotten rep and users willing to fight tooth-and-nail to keep it alive because they feel "invested" in it. Eventually, if the topic isn't closed by the moderators or the community itself, it runs out of steam and gets abandoned anyway. The cycle begins anew.

At this point, we really need the moderators to step in, because there aren't enough (any?) Area 51 users with sufficient privileges to do the janitorial work themselves. And many if not most of the members getting close to that level... are the ones creating and participating in the joke proposals. This is not a good situation.

The concept of a Survivalism Q&A site is fine - it's a hobby for many. But if the proposal was actually intended to be a serious one, then the example questions clearly demonstrate the proposal's inability to succeed due to the community's inability to take it seriously. Of the top 5 questions, two are about raptors, one is about zombies, one is nonsense (Earth's magnetic field reversing?) and the last (decontamination of rice and chickens) is a "fun" question at best. A real survivalist Q&A site would be reminiscent of a Scouts meeting, talking about tool-making, hunting, knot-tying, plant identification and so on.

And if the proposal wasn't intended to be serious then it's simply noise for everybody else. It's drawing attention and resources away from the proposals that actually are serious. It's procrastination.

Apocalyptic Defense is the Programmer Cartoon question of Area 51. It's a monument to the early adopters and should be preserved, but at some point we need to draw our line in the sand and repair the broken windows so that Area 51 doesn't completely fill up with junk.

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You are aware that evidence points to the magnetic field having reversed in the past, right? I wouldn't quite call that "nonsense". (That said, I don't remember seeing the question, so I suppose it could have still ended up as nonsense with a valid premise.) –  mmyers Jun 16 '10 at 14:07
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@mmyers: The question in context was nonsense. ("How can I prepare my electronics to continue working after the Earth’s magnetic field reverses?") –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:10
    
People asked all kinds of crazy questions in the same vein in preparation for Y2K. That question sounds like something one might legitimately ask in concern, because they wouldn't know what impact the reversal might have. –  Grace Note Jun 16 '10 at 14:15
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@ccomet: I'm not buying it. Just because a bunch of nutters asked tinfoil hat questions in reference to a real event does not mean that the same questions are useful or important enough to be considered on-topic examples for a supposedly serious proposal. If the proposal was actually serious, such questions would be downvoted (well, NaGE-voted) into oblivion. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:18
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@Aarobot: so, in your view the policy should be "no fun allowed, this SE is serious business and it should stay so"? I can't really say I agree with this, but if this is what the SE team thinks... well, it's their site. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 14:18
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I'm only talking about the magnetic field reversal, Aarobot. That sounds like a legitimate question for a serious "end of all" Q&A site. I agree with your perspective on the other questions, but I don't agree that the magnetic field reversal was nonsense in context. If I thought a certain event was seriously going to happen and I was worried that it might affect certain technologies, how is it inappropriate to ask this in a place where people might actually be able to tell me "That's crackpot and you don't need to worry about that"? –  Grace Note Jun 16 '10 at 14:20
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@Massimo: Not every site is your personal playground. Are SO, SF, SU, Meta, and all of the existing SE 1.0 sites and the thousands of popular discussion forums not already enough for you? Maybe - and I stress maybe if there were a "Fun Flag" for proposals that behaved a bit like Community Wiki, giving no rep, no badges, and never leaving the "Definition" phase, then it might be OK, but as it is, it's actually interfering with the intended function of Area 51. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:22
    
@ccomet: Give me a break. The Earth's magnetic field is not going to reverse in our lifetime, and even if it did, the question still makes no sense. It's like asking how to supply yourself breathable air when the polar ice caps melt - there's just no relationship between the premise and the conclusion. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:24
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@Aarobot, why do you think it's "interfering"? There are presently more than 200 active proposals, and I'm willing to bet the majority of people there is interested in at most a couple of them. Why should one additional proposal bother you? Why should it bother you more only because it's a silly one? I'm sure you're aware nobody is forced to follow it if he's not interested. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 14:28
    
Speculative concerns about the stability of technology post-disaster sound on-topic to me, but that's coming from a person who has no investment in the topic, so I probably don't know any better. I don't have a stake in the Apocalypse Defense proposal (it's too much noise and I enjoy my very worry-free lifestyle), so I'll withdraw from this discussion. –  Grace Note Jun 16 '10 at 14:33
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@Massimo, you know as well as I do that newbies will gravitate toward (a) the most popular proposals and (b) the most fun-looking proposals. If we're to have any hope of creating real, useful SE 2.0 sites, we need to keep the focus on real proposals for the time being. Of those 200 proposals, how many have more than 10 followers? Yeah, that's what I thought. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:34
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@ccomet: If the question were worded as "Is it possible for the Earth's magnetic field to reverse, and would it have any effect on my electronics?" then that would be halfway reasonable, although still annoying. As worded, it's a very obvious tinfoil hat question. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:36
    
I'll agree that rewording it in that fashion does sound much more appropriate. –  Grace Note Jun 16 '10 at 14:37

Aw, man...

Jeff, when I die a horrible death from eating tainted rice and chickens, you're getting such a nasty email!

FWIW: I thought this was intended to be a spiritual successor to USENET. Might want to have a look at some of the more esoteric groups out there, especially those from its heyday: some people can get awful serious about a good joke.

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Better have it scheduled –  jmfsg Jun 16 '10 at 15:21
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@Juan: I expect Zombie Shog will still be able to send emails. Muscle memory and all that. –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 15:27
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@Shog9: If you turn, I'll put you down, man. That's what friends are for. –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 15:46
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Zombies mostly use twitter ... Make sure Jeff follows you. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 15:49
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@The Proposer how are we going to put him down now that there's no Apocalyptic Defense site to tell us how? –  Pëkka Jun 16 '10 at 15:53
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@Down: Trust me, I am an expert. –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 16:07

When I signed on to Apocalyptic Defense, weeks ago, I did so as a serious participant, hoping to ask/answer serious questions like "how can I build a bomb shelter in my backyard" and "how much water do I need to stockpile to last 2 people for six months". I was excited to receive an email notification yesterday announcing that it was in the Commitment phase -- until I looked at what had happened to the proposal: full of retarded joke questions like "Can you really blend in with the zombies if you act like one?".

Maybe that's what the rest of the community wanted, but it wasn't what I was interested in. If someone wants to revive this proposal as a serious site towards discussing home defense and survival tactics, let me know. Until then, I have no problem at all with the proposal being closed.

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I think there's a similar proposal already brewing for survivalists .. but I'm not sure that bomb shelter construction would be on topic for that. I may just set up a server with one of the SE clones (the python one is quite nice) and give it a go anyway. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 16:31
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FWIW... I suspect the system is partially to blame here: originally, Phase 1 was supposed to hash this out, with discussion and voting used to clarify the intent of a site. Whether or not the majority of the 69 followers agreed on the topics selected is unclear, but at very least you have been aware of the direction the proposal was taking prior to the commit phase. –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 16:33
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Sounds like someone followed a proposal without really following the proposal, amiright? –  Adam Davis Jun 16 '10 at 16:38
    
@Polly: yes, things got busy in the last few weeks and I tuned out of Area51 for a while. –  Ether Jun 16 '10 at 16:49
    
@Pollyanna: not just someone - on average, followers used only about 7 of their 10 votes, with the distribution skewed heavily toward the first page of questions. Nearly all questions got at least two votes, but my guess is that a lot of people followed, threw a few votes at the popular questions, and left. –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 16:53
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@Massimo: yeah, I think it's playing out rather poorly... I guess we'll just have to see how well the "serious" proposals fair in this regard. –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 17:20
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@Aarobot: I know. This is probably the most blatant example of how it can fall apart though; if I was involved in this, I'd be careful about just brushing it off as a "joke" - that may be how it started, and probably how it ended, but there were a fair number of rather serious questions posted, and their ranking was very different prior to the change... –  Shog9 Jun 16 '10 at 17:23
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@Pollyanna - Area 51 is the king of information overload once you follow a few popular proposals. In the ~45 minutes per day I have to spend there (more on the weekend) I did not keep up with what was going on in the discussion phase. Still, that could have been worked out more in the beta. If they were going to kill this, they should have done so weeks ago. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 17:46
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@Pollyanna - I think most if not all of us assumed that the proposal would be tolerated, however strange some may find it. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 17:48
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@Pollyanna - would you kill a proposal on collecting garden gnomes and pink flamingos? I would not, I'd wait to see if it just languished in definition first. If a community in fact appeared, I'd leave it alone. Why? Its likely to get promoted once launched, get traffic, generate revenue for SE and (likely) grow. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 17:50
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@Tim, can't upvote your comments due to voting limits, but just count as if I did :-) –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 18:54
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@Tim: I would definitely vote to close a proposal on collecting garden gnomes and pink flamingos, same way I'd vote to close a "How to launch a missile" question on Stack Overflow. As we've been discussing, joke questions/proposals invariably do get lots of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Do you really think that it would generate revenue for SE? The most obvious form of revenue generation is advertising - what would they advertise on such a site, and how? –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 19:38
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@Aarobot - Apparently you have not traveled much. I have been to every state in the US, as well as four other countries. Yes, people collect those and pay quite a bit of money to obtain one of a kind originals. Just because you don't like the topic doesn't mean that many others would not find it interesting. I'm beginning to think that SE 2.0 should not be launched by programmers. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 20:46
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@Aarobot - thinking individually that something is tacky , in poor taste, or 'who in the world would be interested in that' does not constitute a consensus that should be formed by many. Close votes should not be available until something has languished for sufficient time without any promise of a community forming, especially with programmers at the wheel. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 20:49
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@Tim: Actually, my mistake, I wasn't really thinking when I read your reply. I saw the word "Gnomes" and thought "fiction". In this case you're right, it's a narrow and probably silly topic but real nonetheless. Defending against zombie attacks, not so much. Still, it's wrong to say that close votes shouldn't be available until the proposal already looks dead; with joke proposals, it's even more important to close them quickly. Several of the complaints here seem to center around the question of "why did you only decide to lock it NOW?" –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 21:07

The odds of a joke proposal, especially a well-crafted one, generating enough interest in the short-term to meet the creation criteria is relatively high. People enjoy humor; they especially enjoy humor that makes them feel like they're in the know on an inside joke. Throw in the ability to stick it to the The ManTM and the bar gets even lower. The odds of a joke site actually being viable in the long term for the size of community intended is much lower. I suspect that if joke sites were allowed to actually be created, they'd fall afoul of the viability standards and get removed at the earliest opportunity allowed by the policy anyway.

You might ask, though, "what's the harm in creating them?" I'd say that the problem is the age-old problem that dooms nearly all forums that ever get created: the signal-to-noise ratio. The amount of noise in a channel doesn't need to be very big before people lose interest in the signal. Once it crosses a threshold, basically you're left with only the people who are more interested in the noise, than the signal. Having managed a community site for many years I can tell you that, especially early on before the culture is established, you need to be vigilant that your site doesn't fall into this abyss.

The converse of this is that over-management can lead to the same sorts of problems that undermanagement can. If you stomp too hard (or too often) people stop participating because they fear that what they have to say might be considered out of bounds. Eventually, if you're lucky, a self-regulating culture develops and people moderate themselves. New people join and they quickly learn how to participate or they find that the place is not for them and leave. Only a small number need to actually be asked to do so.

The way I see it is that, while closing down the joke proposals is entirely reasonable, especially while the culture of Area51 is being established, @Jeff may have forgotten the lessons learned with SOFU that you need the alt.* hierarchy: people will have fun with your serious tool, they will turn it into a toy if they can and it's not always a bad thing. You simply need a meta site specific to Area51 where the fun can occur.

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+1, but keep in mind that alt.* hierarchy wasn't created until '87 or so, when the Usenet was quite mature. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Jun 16 '10 at 13:18
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@Tad - that's because before then the users of Usenet were more mature. :-) –  tvanfosson Jun 16 '10 at 20:03

You guys had your fun in the beta -- but normals will be confused if they see joke proposals on the front page of the website. It would be causing harm.

The focus of the sites we're creating is learning. Amusement and entertainment has its place in the world (and even on our own sites occasionally), but it has little to do with our core mission of

  • making the internet a slightly better place
  • teaching each other professional(ish) skills through Q&A

As I said in that blog post, for grey area "fun" questions, the deciding factor is

Does this question teach me anything that could make me better at my job? Can I learn something from it?

We might eventually allow a humor site to be created ... who knows, maybe we'll eventually build another ICANHAZCHEEZBURGER network for great humanitarian justice.

but I doubt it

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@Jeff, so anything humorous, silly and/or just not liked by moderatos should be banned? WTF is the "community-driven" in this?!? –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 6:06
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Go and close Gaming! It's a big grey "fun" area! You, Jeff, have no idea, absolutely no idea what the terms "democratic" and "community driven" mean. You would be a better citizen of North Korea. Why does freedom scare you so much? –  Ladybug Killer Jun 16 '10 at 8:55
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"but normals will be confused if they see joke proposals on the front page of the website" - I agree, if I was referred to a proposal and see things like apocalypse defense also up there, I would be hesitant about about committing to a beta seriously when it seems that in other proposals, people are just joking. –  Oak Jun 16 '10 at 10:34
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@Ladybug: I think there's a more civil way to disagree with someone. –  Oak Jun 16 '10 at 10:37
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What if I told you I found Stack Overflow to be a hilarious web site and that I'm a garbage man, so it doesn't teach me any useful skills? Some people make books, movies, or video games regarding apocalyptic scenarios, after all, so it would relate to their creative jobs. –  Mark Rushakoff Jun 16 '10 at 10:43
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@Oak: Doesn't make him less right. –  fretje Jun 16 '10 at 11:20
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"Does this question teach me anything that could make me better at my job?" - Yes, as an apocalyptic fiction writer or concerned human being. "Can I learn something from it?" - You never know. Do you sparkle, Jeff? –  Firas Assaad Jun 16 '10 at 12:24
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Gaming is not a grey area @lady, what do you mean? It's absolutely a serious proposal for Q&A on games for computers and consoles and everything related to it. –  jmfsg Jun 16 '10 at 13:50
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@mmyers: Obviously we have to use a looser interpretation of the word "job" here, otherwise it would rule out Super User as well as several of the hobbyist/enthusiast proposals (Apple, Personal Finance, Homebrewing, etc.) How about rephrasing that as, does the question help you hone any relevant skill(s)? Gaming is entertainment, but it's still a real skill (albeit not the most useful one). Killing zombies is not. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:15
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Double standards. That's it. I'm not going to argue that the site was a joke or for fun. That's irrelevant. What bugs me to death is that you, Jeff, don't understand that this kind of authoritarian rule is contrary to the internet. The internet is a FREE exchange of ideas. Funny/wrong/stupid/important. ALl is allowed. If the public doesn't want it, then it dies off in obscurity. That's how it works. Take your fascism and go back to whining about being a software developer. –  Frank A. Krueger Jun 16 '10 at 16:14
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@Zombie: Area 51 is not "the internet", it's a private web site hosted on a private server operated by a private company and they are free to do as they wish with it. I would bet that if spammers came and decided to overrun the place, you would be screaming pretty loudly for the owners to do something about it. When somebody uses the term "fascism" in reference to closing a site proposal, I think that's a pretty clear indicator that they don't have any arguments worth listening to. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 16:51
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And to Jeff and anybody on the S[OFU]/SE team reading this: I want you to keep these comments in mind next time you're thinking about tightening up the close/delete rules. Notice how it's only the inclusionists who kick and scream and curse and swear and call you a fascist whenever they don't get their way. You give an inch, they take a mile. I'm all for everybody having a voice, but not every voice deserves an audience. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 16:54
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@Aarobot "Our new system was inspired by the way that new Usenet newsgroups were set up in the 1980s. Unlike the free-for-all in alt.*, where you had binaries, unicorns, and alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork, the mainstream newsgroups (comp.*, rec.*, talk.*, etc.) mostly consisted of serious, qualified, relevant sites on every topic imaginable." Every topic imaginable. But I won't argue with you, I admit that I was mistaken/misled by all this "community" BS. Bye bye. –  Frank A. Krueger Jun 16 '10 at 17:13
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After following Jeff's blog and even checking in on meta once in awhile, this was not at all surprising given his obvious world viewpoint. Which, apparently, is that he believes in community.. up until the community either does something or asks for something that he disagrees with. –  Chris Lively Jun 16 '10 at 19:23
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Wait a minute, "post apocalyptic" is too much nonsense for a serious matter, but the staging and signup and committment site is called "Area51"?!? WTF? That seems a bit contradictory and inconsistent. So, once again, some of YOUR humor is good and acceptable, but other people's humor is WAAAY off the reservation? –  tim Jun 17 '10 at 19:27

It's bad enough that Jeff refuses to blindly follow the demands of a few dozens strangers on the Internet. What's worse is that he has ensured that it will never be possible for the talented and motivated web developers who were following that proposal to go out and start their own Q&A site on Apocalyptic Defense.

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Why re-invent the wheel? Stack Overflow is fantastic software that is hard to compete with. It's probably more energy efficient to try and convince Jeff to do the right thing than it is to do it all from scratch. –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 11:50
    
I see what you did there!!! –  jjnguy Jun 16 '10 at 17:43
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Why do that when they can whine here? These are the same people that get on Freenode and bitch that they're not allowed to start a channel about video games, and when people tell them to go to Quakenet they say "no, we want to do it here". People have no concept of "it's fine for you to do that, it's just not what we're about, so go elsewhere"; it somehow gets turned into "so you're saying I'm not allowed to do that ever? You can't control me FASCISTS" –  Michael Mrozek Jun 16 '10 at 18:26
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@the good point. Whining is much easier than doing. –  user27414 Jun 17 '10 at 2:01
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@Michael When the site is specifically set up for the community to make community based decisions about what they want to Q&A about then it's fair for there to be some complaining when that's overruled. –  Bob Jun 17 '10 at 19:59
    
I'm sorry, but "Go do it yourself" is almost always a useless response. "Whining" is easier than finding good Q&A software, finding a host for the software, possibly paying money, keeping up with maintenance, etc.? I should say so! –  Bob Jun 17 '10 at 20:02
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@Bob when you ask for suggestions you are not obligated to use them. It blows my mind that anyone really expected Jeff and Joel to take this proposal seriously. It should have simply been clobbered right off the bat, like lots of the other joke proposals. –  user27414 Jun 17 '10 at 20:58
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@Jon I wasn't aware these proposals were merely suggestions that the higher ups would think about. Reading the FAQ it seems like it was by the community, for the community. Whether or not that's for the best, I'm not arguing here: just saying it's fair that people complain over this situation. –  Bob Jun 17 '10 at 21:34

When I looked at the questions for the proposal, and which was voted to serve as the foundation of the site, I understand why you would find it unserious and silly. But regarding apocalypse or what you want to call it, there are no real facts. We don't know for sure if it'll happen and how it'll be if it does happen. The foundation of the knowledge is from religious scriptures, etc.

But if you look at this subject with some seriousness, you can't deny that the proposal itself, how do I prepare for the end of the world? is valid. If you take a look at Wikipedia, you can see that almost every big religion tells that a time of great tribulation will come.

Numbers from wolframalpha:
Buddhism 369 million
Christianity 2070 million
Islam 1250 million

This is more than half of the world population, and if they actually believe, then this topic has some relevance for them.

If you search for books about the end time on Amazon, you get almost 3500 results.

So I'm just saying, you can't just throw it off as not a real proposal. I can understand some of welbog's other proposals was closed/deleted, but this one was backed by the community and I find it valid. With that many books written about the subject, there must be both experts and people with questions.

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I'd also like to point out that, even if a full-scale "end of the world" doesn't happen, there are many catastrophic events (tsunamis, solar flares, asteroids, NBC...) that could happen, and questions such as "what should I do to survive <something>" are perfectly reasonable. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 10:27
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@Massimo: come on. Top up-voted on-topic questions were about zombies and XKCD raptor in-jokes with boat-programming meme thrown in as a bonus. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Jun 16 '10 at 10:56
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@Tadeusz, I'm nowhere defending the "seriousness" of the site (although I think something really interesting could come out of it). My idea here is that even a "silly" site definitely has its own right to exist, if it has strong community support. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 11:22
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And how would you propose that such a community would function without endless baiting by the comedically inclined? There are some topics that, while of sufficient interest, are probably destined to not be viable due to the amount of noise that's created. –  tvanfosson Jun 16 '10 at 11:57
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Not to mention that precisely zero of the proposed example questions actually deal with realistic end-of-the-world scenarios. I'm fine with the idea of a survivalism site (even though it would probably attract a lot of kooks) but the name "apocalyptic defense" and questions about zombies don't agree with the idea of a serious proposal. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 13:42
    
So what's the numbers of those who believe in zombies? –  Lance Roberts Jun 16 '10 at 16:16
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I never saw this proposal as having any religious overtones at all, but more geared towards scenarios like nuclear war or a massive economic collapse. –  Ether Jun 16 '10 at 16:34
    
3.5 billion Jeffs vs 3.5 billion non-Jeffs. Who shall win? –  muntoo Nov 19 '11 at 3:17

Being community-driven doesn't mean you have to follow every whim of the community. I think that closing proposals that were obviously made in bad faith is good policy.

It's too bad, though, because I think the subject matter would work rather well. As it turns out, preparing for a 'zombie attack' involves lots of the same considerations as preparing for a flood, earthquake, or even just going camping. Mixing real advice with humorous hypotheticals might turn away the 'expert' audience, but it also dials down the tinfoil hat factor.

Example: another site that has lots of serious advice under the guise of "zombie defense."

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How is saving humanity from the rapture bad faith? –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 13:44
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Because it doesn't deserve to be saved @the, it just doesn't. –  jmfsg Jun 16 '10 at 13:53
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@Ryan, I don't think Welbog's attitude can be defined as "bad faith". I absolutely agree on the issue that, if you're willing to create a community, you should then listen to what the community is saying and adapt your views to how the community actually evolves over time. Otherwise it isn't a "community"... it's your personal playground, where you're allowing other people to stay only as long as they play the way you like. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 14:16
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@Massimo: Don't try to twist my words. There is no community on Area 51 yet. There are fewer than 200 users with more than 51 rep (which is what you get just for verifying your e-mail address), only 14 with the ability to edit, and just 3 who can vote to close/reopen. Unlike the sites that Area 51 is intended to spawn, Area 51 itself isn't ready to be entirely community-run yet, right now it still needs a considerable amount of moderation. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 14:31
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@Aarobot: I think a "fun" proposal having made it up to the commit phase and halfway into it was actually a sign of a good community being formed; it's not like all proposals were silly ones... a single funny one amongst ten serious oned was going to do no harm to anyone, and (in my opinion, of course) was precisely going to help building that community. I really can't see how stomping it could have been considered useful in any way. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 14:42
    
@Massimo: Well, after all it is Atwood's and Spolsky's playground. There's no point denying that. This "community driven" process was never meant to be a total anarchy. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Jun 16 '10 at 18:01
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@Massimo: If you're so sure that a great community was forming, then then why do we have people saying that the proposal was supposed to be serious when the top-voted questions were all jokes? Seems to me that a "great community" should be able to exercise more consistency than that. –  Aarobot Jun 16 '10 at 19:53
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@Aarobot, I was talking more generally about the Stack Exchange community, with special regard to Area 51. The community of those users which, when SE will go live for real, will manage the site and teach newbies what to do there. The building of this community will happen in many ways... and having (some) fun together is as important a part of this process as anything else. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 23:39
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@Tad: Look up "anarchy" and "democracy" at Wikipedia. After you have done that, tell Jeff the difference. –  Ladybug Killer Jun 17 '10 at 20:41

As much as I appreciate Welbog's creative genius (and that of the other people contributing as well of course), and as much as I demand that those questions be reopened at a later date, I can't bring myself to being too outraged over this. The whole project is young, and I can see its owners coming down on proposals they don't see as productive to protect it at this vulnerable stage.

I think this is definitely not an issue worth walking away over. The proposals were (as far as I can see) all created as jokes - rather excellent ones, but still jokes.

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not outraged, not a bit; that would not make sense. A lot disappointed, though. –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 18:57
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For the record, I lobbied for them to be kept until we went to public beta precisely because they were funny. (Yes this means other team members wanted them gone earlier.) But I do not support them in a public beta. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 17 '10 at 7:01
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@Jeff: Isn't that kind of leading on the community which formed there? Bear in mind that I have no interest (vested nor otherwise) in Apocalyptic Defense; I just have a difficult time reconciling this. Without letting the community know, it's kind of like you're pranking back -- and a bit harshly, at that. –  John Rudy Jun 17 '10 at 21:28

I strongly disagree with the closing of Apocalyptic Defense. Communities can be built and can learn from fun topics as well. Take TDWTF, which is humorous, yet can be a pretty useful teaching tool, showing you what not to do.

Jeff's set about to make the internet a slightly better place and to teach others, but eliminating all fun from the equation will not get him any closer to his goals. There should be a bit of fun in any community. Meta is just such a place for Stack Overflow, whether Jeff likes it or not; people need to unwind.

Why not have a Stack Exchange site that's light hearted? There are people who actually want that; Apocalyptic Defense got through the first phase and it actually had people that had committed to it.

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When the Zombie Sparkly Wear-wolves take over the planet, I hope Jeff gets it first. humph

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Don't forget the giant-spider raptors with flamethrowers and lock picks. –  XMLbog Jun 16 '10 at 15:13
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And the ass blasters (critters) –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 15:51

Someone said the StackExchange 2.0 creation procedure was inspired by the way Usenet groups where formed. Usenet has an alt.* hierarchy where anyone can create a newsgroup, but you could also publicly discuss it as a proposal (at alt.config).

StackExchange is not Usenet, but at the same time people will eventually demand sites which are not 'serious'. Even if closing Apocalyptic Defense was the right choice in this case (I don't think it is), it'd be nice if there was more discussion about dealing with similar future sites. Who defines what is acceptable and what isn't? The community has already decided it was worthwhile, so if the administration doesn't agree they should at least have a list of topics we're not supposed to propose.

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I can certainly see why you wouldn't want to confuse people with a joke site as the first (one of the first) sites to go up. But then you should be consistent and get rid of the Area51 designation. How can you argue one is too silly, but then have Area51?

That is totally inconsistent.

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You had a deferred success. Don't take it too hard, and try again. How about creating a more serious-sounding proposal for natural disaster survival?

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I have not seen the original proposal, but as I understand from this thread:

  • The proposal started out as serious.
  • After the proposal attracted some humorous questions about zombies, it was treated as a joke proposal and closed.

I hope this does not turn into a loophole for sabotaging other proposals. For example suppose you object to the "Sex" proposal for religious reasons (and you are not a moderator) instead of leaving a negative comment and/or voting to close, ask some silly questions involving sex & zombies. If a moderator comes along and sees those silly questions on the front page maybe they will close the proposal.

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alt text

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@Pollyanna, if the community allowed this to go through, this means there were lots of people interested in it. Why do you think this is wrong? Why should you feel the need to close such a proposal if it raised interest? Simply because you don't like it? –  Massimo Jun 16 '10 at 17:11
    
@Massimo - I updated my post to make my point more clearly. Hopefully this answers your question. –  Adam Davis Jun 16 '10 at 17:24
    
I'm quite certain that the site would have been viable. Useful is subjective, my friend who is a carpenter would not find SO useful at all. Productive? If this is a measure of how much user generated content is submitted per day, it would have done 'ok' in the beta. Nice freehand circle, though :) –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 17:40
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@Tim - You are quite certain it would have been viable, but I don't believe it would be sustainable in the long term for a variety of reasons. Either way, I have a vote to close, and I expect several others agree with me who will cross the 2k rep barrier soon. –  Adam Davis Jun 16 '10 at 17:46
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@Pollyanna - its already closed and locked (and probably soon deleted). We are looking at the same question, yes? I'll cross the same barrier in a few weeks, less if I spend more time on the site. I'm not arguing that you should not vote to close if you feel it just can't be sustained. That takes several votes. This particular proposal was just nuked, very late in the game by one person. Yes, I know, there aren't enough 2k+ people who may have done the same, but still ... If it simply won't be tolerated, it should have been yanked much sooner. It wasn't a joke, we all expected this site to fly –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 18:06
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@Tim "It wasn't a joke" is really not the tack I expected people to take with this. Of course it was a joke -- it was a discussion about how to defend against a zombie invasion. Maybe it didn't start that way, but it turned into that really fast. You can argue that it's all in good fun and people would've enjoyed themselves with it, but it's astounding how many people are trying to argue that this was a serious community discussion about defending against zombies –  Michael Mrozek Jun 16 '10 at 18:30
    
@mas, the community did no allow it to go through, there just wasn't enough people to vote to close it yet –  jmfsg Jun 16 '10 at 19:08
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@Michael: we argue that it was a legitimate website proposal, may be a bit with more muchness than other proposals, but one that could potentially garner enough of a following to generate revenue. The problem is that this is not the first time that some of us have felt the rug being pulled from under us in a sudden manner. The cosplay proposal was as one that I was really hoping to get through, and was deleted merely because it was proposed by Welbog. –  perbert Jun 16 '10 at 20:55
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@perbert - if you consider the example questions that were floating to the top of each of the proposals carefully, you will likely come to the same conclusion that the site owner's did - these sites are simply not reasonable as defined. Go ahead and re-propose them, and try to get them to move in a different direction if you like, but everyone needs to realize that some proposals simply aren't useful, productive, or viable as defined. –  Adam Davis Jun 16 '10 at 21:21
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@Michael - That was not the only topic brought up in the discussion phase. My point is, if it gets to commitment, see what happens in the beta period, if it even gets out of commitment. If it flops, you wasted a tiny bit of bandwidth and a few megs of disk space. –  Tim Post Jun 16 '10 at 22:12
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@Tim: What matters is what topics were voted for as definition questions. There's no sense in pushing out a beta for a site whose definition is completely off-the-wall. You say there's nothing to lose but I think you underestimate the elements of public image and opportunity cost. I don't want to sound like I'm making unwarranted assumptions about you, but unless you've run your own web business (or at least some business) before, you're not going to understand. –  Aarobot Jun 17 '10 at 2:34

The problem is not whether or not it was going to succeed - we would have found that out in beta. The problem is not whether it was 'practical' to delete the proposal. The problem is:

HYPOCRISY.

I think that the SE staff should let the flower bloom... and wither.

There is no need to manually R--I--P 17 2 SHREDS.


Let's run this fairly advanced simulation to determine whether or not I am correct:

std::string who = "Community";
assert(!who.compare("Staff"));

...Hold on. Why is it giving me:

THE APOCALYPSE IS NEAR.

run for(;your;) life();

Wait... you already had a beta? Why wasn't I invited?

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