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Area 51 has a number of bad disparities between the "best practices" suggested on meta, the observed behavior, and the directions in the prompts triggered on the site when performing the actions.

Concerns about theses discrepancies have been raised before, only to sink for being too broad, so I'm going to do what I do best and focus on the immediate problems I'm encountering with my personal use case: creating a brand new proposal.

Step 0: Inspiration

The other night, I was watching a thriller with my family, and at multiple points we had to pause it for one person to ask the room to explain something they were confused about. In a few cases, the other people in the room were able to catch them up, but sometimes the rest of us were just as baffled. By the time the credits were rolling, I was already thinking about a Stack Exchange site like the ones I knew (SO, Programmers, English, Gaming, Scifi), in terms of what you would see when you landed on the page: a sampling of questions, the target audience, and the content of the FAQ (which a new user would visit, as it's linked to in the imperative banner at the top).

Step 1: Landing in Area 51

So, after going to area51.stackexchange.com and bumping around until I determined how to submit a proposal, I clicked "Arts" and then proposed my site. That was over an hour ago and as such too long for my memory to recall without a refresher, so I'll have to embellish the exact process for that tomorrow when I can try it again. What I distinctly remember is that at the end of the process I was brought to my proposal.

Step 2: Where do I go from here?

At this point, I wanted to go into further detail on the idea I have for the site, but I didn't see any field for what would be the prototype content for the FAQ. I decided to hold off on writing for now and try demonstrating my train of thought through my example questions. Rather than writing down specific example questions, I followed the trend I saw the other proposals doing and wrote down the formula of a few questions that would be on topic and a few that wouldn't (despite Joel saying on meta that formulas are not as useful as concrete questions). Once I'd written examples both good and bad, however, I discovered that I can't specify which is which to clarify the idea through those, either.

Going from the focus of the directions and prompts, it would seem that the only thing Area 51 wants me to do after I propose a Stack Exchange site is tell other people about it, but in this state, there's hardly anything to tell.

Summary: tl;dr

To pick the problems out of the text as specific complaints (and even suggestions!):

  • New Area 51 proposals have no good place to describe the kind of questions they address. There's a field for the kind of people they're aimed at, but nowhere can it explain what these people would be doing.
    • This could be solved by including a field for a description of the question domain. Many proposals are already using the Audience field for this, even though Joel claims this is undesired behavior.
  • With nowhere to elaborate on question domain, example questions are just as likely to confuse prospective followers as entice them. When one person proposes an example off-topic question, they can't mark it as such, which is especially hard for example questions chosen specifically for their questionable topicality. While they can give the reasons it would be one or the other in an attached comment, in its current form, this is like having a rope around your wrists, directing to a blindfolded teammate to handing you a knife.
    • On top of providing a place to elaborate on the question field, this would be cleared up quickly by allowing the user suggesting the example question to mark it as an on- or off- topic example.
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This is a lot of text and no concrete suggestions, or even complaints, at all. –  Rosinante Jun 10 '11 at 22:00
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@Rosinante: There is now an explicit list of complaints and suggestions. –  Stuart P. Bentley Jun 10 '11 at 22:26
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That's the longest TL;DR ever! –  NickC Jun 11 '11 at 0:15
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I require a TL;DR to your TL;DR. Now. –  Borror0 Jun 11 '11 at 0:47

1 Answer 1

New Area 51 proposals have no good place to describe the kind of questions they address. There's a field for the kind of people they're aimed at, but nowhere can it explain what these people would be doing.

This is by design. While the creator of the proposal may identify the potential target audience, it is up to the community (via a democratic process of proposing sample questions and voting) to determine what the scope of the site is.

Example questions are just as likely to confuse prospective followers as entice them

That's why there's a Not a Good Example vote reason for proposed questions.

When one person proposes an example off-topic question, they can't mark it as such

That's because we're letting the community (via the voting process) decide whether the question is on-topic or off-topic for the site, not the question proposer.

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