I received the following comment after htw.stackexchange.com closed after a beta period of 7 days.
I am contacting you because you recently committed to the "How Things Work" Stack Exchange site.
We are approaching the end of the private beta period, at which time we are going to discontinue the site.
After working with members of the community and exploring what this site would become, it became evident that "How Things Work" was simply duplicating content found on any of the other giant repositories of "how things work."
The primary mission of Stack Exchange sites is to make the Internet a better place to get expert answers to your questions. But by simply duplicating content found elsewhere, all we were doing was delaying users on their path to the primary source of the information.
That's seven days.
I am angry. Not because the site was closed, or because it was closed fast, but because the "rules", if there are any, for the beta phase are extremely confusing. I feel like I played in a football game where we were winning and all of a sudden the referee called the game for the opponents because of Rule 26 in their guidebook, which I don't have, and which had something to do with two of our team members having their shoelaces untied.
Admins: I would implore you to please take a little time and make a concerted effort to write up a user guide for people who wish to start a Stack Exchange site using the Area 51 process. The FAQ is not enough. I've talked with friends who have tried to log on to Area 51 and support proposals, and they can't understand what they're supposed to do. These are smart people who are reasonably familiar with computers, but they lead busy lives and they have little to no motivation to participate in a process where the rules are unclear and once you commit to a proposal, there's almost nothing to do. And those are the people who are familiar with computers and websites. There are lots of smart people out there who are smart w/r/t their fields of expertise but even something as simple as OpenID can be daunting.
I got excited because HTW sounded like a good idea, so I took time to participate. And then, poof, it's gone without much explanation.
Does a beta last 7 days? 90 days? Why? Is it flexible, and if so, how are you supposed to ask for more time?
Who decided to discontinue HTW? Where did those discussions take place? Were they in private? Were they on meta.htw.stackexchange.com? Can we see those discussions, so we can learn how to make other sites a success?
But by simply duplicating content found elsewhere, all we were doing was delaying users on their path to the primary source of the information.
What percentage of answers were deemed to be duplicates for elsewhere? How is this different from other Stack Exchange sites where answers are 2nd source and cite primary sources?
I've been an avid user of Stack Overflow for almost 2.5 years, and I can tell you that the reason I'm satisfied with that site is the same reason I'm dissatisfied with the Area 51 process. With a few minor exceptions, Stack Overflow has been a predictable place to participate in. Area 51 has not.
It's your framework, do with it what you want, but if you want people to participate and draw in advertising revenue, don't make the process unpredictable.