36

I'm familiar with the Area 51->Beta->Graduation process for creating new SE sites, but is there an established mechanism for closing SE sites either permanently or temporarily? Has it been done before?

By "closing" I mean either completely deleting a site and all its contents or just closing it to new questions/answers, perhaps only temporarily. This company blog post from 2012 When A Site Grows Quiet discusses closing struggling sites in Beta, but not graduated sites. Presumably Stack Exchange, Inc. can unilaterally shut down a site whenever they like, but is there a way for the community to request/suggest that they should do so?

This is a general question, but my specific reason for asking is that Writing.SE has basically died since October (see below). There is still some activity there, but no active moderators and the questions/answers that are being posted there are of questionable quality (see e.g. Has there been a noticable downturn in the quality of questions on Writing SE?). Several previously active users and moderators have left and set up an independent fork of the site. The current situation seems unsustainable, and it would be a shame for the existing site content to be gradually swamped by unmoderated stuff.

There are specific reasons for this happening to Writing at this specific time, but it's not unimaginable that it could happen to other sites for other reasons at other times. Is this uncharted territory, or is there a way to put sites like this to bed gracefully?

enter image description here

  • 2
    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/257614/132874 – goldPseudo Jan 26 at 20:25
  • 3
    If questions still happen, it’s useful to some users, and who know how many old questions are still looked up. For that matter in my own idea a deletion would be a bad move, as people answered and put efforts to build a knowledge site – yagmoth555 Jan 26 at 20:48
  • 4
    Looks like the number of questions has been stable but the number of answers has roughly halved. We really need to invent some better measure of healthiness of a site. – Trilarion Jan 26 at 21:28
  • 4
    @yagmoth555 Deletion is a bit drastic indeed, but I can imagine putting a historic lock on an entire site so it no longer needs moderation yet the content remains available. Won't look good though, so they'll probably only provide the data dump of any next site that goes down, like Rand al'Thor indicates is what happening with previous closures. – Mast Jan 27 at 7:12
  • 2
    @Trilarion the number of questions may be stable, but the (admittedly subjective) quality of questions has gone way,way down and questions are now left open which would have been closed as off-topic or migrated when there were active mods. – Bob says reinstate Monica Jan 27 at 11:23
  • Quality is notoriously difficult to estimate. It's not really the score. Some people say that everything with a positive score is good quality. Voting seems to still take place to some extent and that should still ensure some kind of quality selection. It looks like there is still some activity, although considerably less than for example in March 2019. No moderation is not good of course, but another question would be if maybe the activity could go up again or which level of activity is regarded as healthy in the long run. I hope we can have more discussions about healthiness of sites. – Trilarion Jan 27 at 11:41
  • @Mast I will wait for a official answer, as Catija seem to state that when a site close, the url cease to exist and the data is stored in a datadump, so for me it's like a deletion. (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/342915/…) – yagmoth555 Jan 27 at 14:34
  • Considering SE killed the community dead; yeah, they should probably bury the body too. As a writing member who keeps coming back to refresh the page, but then doesn't want to contribute anymore because the drama has tainted the experience and there's not been an increase in quality membership I support removing the site. I refuse to take on unpaid moderating anywhere, so even if I were willing to be active in terms of asking/answering, that wouldn't help SE and I'm not sure I want to to be active asking or answering anymore. – Kirk Feb 18 at 21:30
30

The blog post you linked is a bit out of date: SE no longer shuts down sites simply for "struggl[ing] to maintain any semblance of steady progress". But a few sites have still been shut down in the last year or two:

  • Startups
  • Personal Productivity
  • Augur

As I recall, in all three cases the shutdown was because of not enough people to moderate the sites (moderators went inactive or wanted to step down, elections were held and nobody nominated themselves). The argument was that, if nobody was willing to step up and keep the sites nice and free of spam etc, then there couldn't be enough participation/activity to keep the sites running.

After a site is closed, SE stops hosting the URL and content, but a data dump remains, containing all the content of the questions and answers, which can be freely downloaded.

CM Catija has confirmed in a comment that the above would apply to graduated sites as well as beta sites. Any perceived 'guarantee' that graduated sites are immune to shutdown would simply have been a general principle that sites with enough activity to graduate are very unlikely to need to shut down (the fact that no graduated site has been shut down to date is simply incidental).

In the case of Writing SE, there are no active moderators currently, but probably SE will try to run elections in the next month or two. If some people want to step up and try to rebuild the site from the ashes of the departed community, they may get a chance to do that. If not, it will be a sad day indeed for a site that fought so hard for graduation and finally achieved it.

|improve this answer|||||
  • This question was specifically talking about launched sites. (That wasn't clear in the initial revision, but in the second paragraph, the author explicitly excluded beta sites.) – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Jan 26 at 20:58
  • "This company blog post from 2012 When A Site Grows Quiet discusses closing struggling sites in Beta, but not graduated sites." That's not explicitly excluding. It might be the OP isn't interested in the new process for shutting down beta sites, but I expect they'll find this answer useful - not least because it's likely the same process would apply regardless of whether a site is beta or graduated. – Rand al'Thor Jan 26 at 21:03
  • 5
    While the mentioned sites were all closed "in beta", the lines between "beta" and "graduated" have blurred significantly in recent years. I don't see why the same logic wouldn't also apply here. – goldPseudo Jan 26 at 21:03
  • 18
    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog there’s no difference. If sci-fi or cooking or any other site ceases to get sufficient moderation, it can also shut down. Getting out of beta won’t change that. – Catija Jan 26 at 21:18
  • 3
    The comment by Catija above should maybe be edited into this answer or be its own answer. – Trilarion Jan 26 at 21:48
  • @Catija Is missing capability for moderation the only aspect. What if nobody is answering anymore (or nobody asking)?n And is the shutdown more like a set to read-only or would the content be removed completely? Should I ask this as separate questions? – Trilarion Jan 26 at 21:51
  • 2
    @Catija In the past, site graduation would also come with a guarantee that the site would not be shut down; is this no longer the case? If so, since when is this no longer the case? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Jan 26 at 21:51
  • 8
    @sonic I think that's more of a misunderstanding. In my understanding, there was never any sort of guarantee... it was mostly that once a site reached that level of participation, it was determined that it would be extremely unlikely to need to be shut down... but if we have no community participation, particularly in Moderation capacity we can not leave a site around collecting spam and junk. – Catija Jan 26 at 22:06
  • 3
    @Trilarion Most of the questions about what happens when a site shuts down have been answered, since it has happened previously... but it's mostly that the content is preserved in a data dump and the site URL ceases to serve any content. – Catija Jan 26 at 22:11
  • 1
    @Trilarion I've updated my answer reflecting your and Catija's comments. – Rand al'Thor Jan 27 at 6:50
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog perhaps I should have put "graduated" in the question title, "launched" wasn't a good choice of word. I did mean to specifically ask about established sites that had clearly been viable in the past. – Bob says reinstate Monica Jan 27 at 13:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .