Note: This is not an official Stack Exchange post.
TL;DR: I propose that community members develop an open-source alternative for Area 51 that will eventually be used by Stack Exchange.
Area 51 is flawed. This has even been acknowledged by Stack Exchange’s own Community mangers for over six years now:
There were plans to create a new site (called "Area 52") with a different process. But there were no major changes to Area 51 except for a drastically reduced time needed to pass a proposal. As a consequence no proposal has made it to beta for almost seven months now.
Unfortunately Stack Exchange does not seem to have any resources to develop a new site staging zone. I personally think this is a pity, because the Stack Exchange system is really great.
Now, what do I want?
I have thought about how Area 51 could be improved and used some of the statements from Robert Cartaino as starting point. I am not sure whether these changes will be sufficient to un-flaw the site creation process, maybe a community manager (CM) can comment on this.
My main ideas are to split the definition in smaller, easier steps and to introduce a pre-private-beta experiment stage. The process would become like this:
- Somebody thinks they have an audience and proposes a new SE site with a title and a tag line. Users can subscribe/follow proposals.
- [NEW] This audience tries to agree on three main topics (tags). The topic suggestions can be voted on and there is a limited time in which a consensus must be reached.
- For each of these three topics must be found two (or more) example questions. These must have a minimum score.
- [NEW] When these questions are found in time and there are enough followers, the site experiment starts. All users that ever participated in this process and users that subscribed to the site are invited to test the site in an sandboxed environment. The example questions are automatically imported and there is a mini-meta allowing users to find consensus on topic-issues.
- [NEW] The system will automatically appoint three users as moderators for the site (they need to agree to this of course) after one week.
- If there has not been enough activity in the experiment after two weeks: The proposal is closed and the experiment site locked. Otherwise the current site process from beta to graduation (private-beta may be excluded) will be followed.
I have also created a few mockups that show what I intend to do:
You might wonder, why should Stack Exchange do this change when they did not do all these other suggestions over the years? This is a good question and leads directly to the most important part of this post:
How to implement this
As I said previously, Stack Exchange will probably not spend any resources to implement this. Therefore I propose to do it as an community project.
That’s right. I propose that committed members of the community help together to develop an open source community building theme. It would be published on GitHub with an permissive license like MIT, etc. Ideally one of the CMs would help us with ideas and maybe some of Stack Exchange’s developers would join the development process too.
This post is intended to solicit consensus about whether this type of community project is generally a good idea. Comments on the proposed implementation are also welcome.