Currently, Area 51 proposals that are completely inactive for a period of time are silently deleted, losing all questions and comments from the proposal.

I propose that instead Area 51 proposals be closed, so that this information is available, together with the fact of the closing. This information may be valuable to other proposals: for example, the Science Communication proposal contained discussion that I wanted to refer to with regards to the current Technical Writing proposal.

See What happened to the old Theatre SE proposal?

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    I agree - often identical proposals are created. It would be nice to be able to show people what has previously failed and why. Dec 7, 2010 at 15:16
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    +1 At the very least, the deleted proposals should show up on your own profile page somewhere, for personal record keeping. No need to bring it up on search results, but all the work that went into it should not be lost.
    – Thilo
    Mar 5, 2012 at 2:26

2 Answers 2


I disagree.

There are already too many proposals in Area 51 with little-to-no effort in building and promoting them. You do not want to add thousands of those now-deleted proposals to that list. I have already removed thousands and thousands of abandoned and virtually unsupported proposals from Area 51 that you no longer have to wade though. Adding them back means that two out of every three proposals in Area 51 would be [closed].

Besides, you don't want all the questions and comments from that old proposal. If the original proposal received absolutely NO activity — not one question, not one vote, not one comment — for an entire month, you don't want to start pulling anything from that old proposal. I'd rather clean them out to let someone else propose them with a completely fresh start.

I like that we delete old proposals routinely. Users are free to re-propose a delete proposal if they feel they are better able to recruit a critical mass of supporters. I like that users are completely free and unencumbered from starting them again.

Proposals should be recreated with renewed energy and, hopefully, better resources to bring them to commitment. You don't want a bunch of naysayers pointing to an ill-conceived first attempt as a reason not to try again.

  • 6
    I understand, but it is a bit frustrating to hit links referring to a proposal and have it come up with a 404. Wouldn a good solution be to close rather than delete proposals, as Charles is suggesting, but to have closed proposals only visible by url, and not appearing in any lists?
    – Benjol
    Dec 8, 2010 at 6:11
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    I really do want the questions and comments from the Science Communication proposal. It was a high quality proposal that failed to gather much momentum (around 15 followers, IIRC) for reason of limites Area15 interest, but would have been useful for other existing and possible proposals in the science/writing space. Dec 8, 2010 at 6:46
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    Hey Robert, I'm curious to see if your position on this has changed over the past 6 years. Any new thoughts?
    – JAL
    Sep 11, 2016 at 23:08
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    @JAL No, if anything, unsupported and half-baked proposal ideas later became a bigger problem, so we formalized the requirements to keep a proposal going and automated their removal to so folks would stop hammering on them so hard. The process has worked exceedingly well, but I also have a feature-request in the works to make older proposals more visible to those who need it (undefined). Sep 12, 2016 at 14:41
  • Great answer and follow up, thank you.
    – JAL
    Sep 12, 2016 at 14:42
  • I have to disagree with your disagreement - your reasons above are actually reasons to keep the old proposals. Precisely because the old proposals contain resources a new proposer and interested people need, and should not have to repeat. Aren't clarity and 'not reinventing the wheel' hallmarks of SE? "You don't want a bunch of naysayers pointing to an ill-conceived first attempt as a reason not to try again." On the contrary - knowing how and why your predecessors failed gives you more ability to succeed. If the naysayers can make use of that old info, then maybe the new proposal stinks. Sep 14, 2016 at 22:50

I'd consider an alternative: Close and historically lock the proposal, and hide it from searches unless a checkbox "Show closed proposals" is selected. This ensures that they will not clutter up searches unless the user specifically requests them. This also allows users to look at failed proposals, which can help guide users towards making more successful proposals.

Perhaps more importantly, this allows users to keep the reputation they earned, rather than lose it (on the next rep recalc). We want to encourage "good tries", rather than cause users to lose the rep they earned for their efforts.

I acknowledge that the presence of a previous failed proposal may discourage future attempts to propose sites on the same or similar topics. However, if users are properly educated that a previously failed proposal does not mean that another attempt will automatically fail, this will not be a problem.

Having access to the original, closed, proposal would provide information that would help in starting a new one based on the failed proposal, without having to carry everything over to the new proposal.

Proposals that had very little or no activity at all should still be deleted as there would be no advantage to making them visible, even in a special search mode. I'd probably suggest setting the threshold somewhere around 3-5 questions; this will eliminate most unusable content. Otherwise, I stand by my original recommendation of historically locking and hiding failed proposals.

  • 1
    "As it stands, a proposal is more likely than not to end up getting deleted and lost to oblivion." - I'm not convinced that this is due to proposals starting from scratch instead of piggy-backing on older, failed proposals. Further, I'm not convinced it's true at all for a proposal that doesn't suffer from one or more of the typical issues - lack of interest at the time it was proposed, lack of promotion, lack of attention from the proposer and followers to define the proposal, etc.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:45
  • @AdamLear however, I do think it would be good for historical reasons so that if it failed horribly, people can see that, or see why. It may have been a bad proposal at the time, but in the future people could propose again and avoid the errors of the old one Dec 16, 2012 at 18:47
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    @AdamLear: I think it would be easier to resume from where one had left off. Users should be able to try again if the community feels that it has a chance of succeeding in a modified form, hence "submit a closed proposal with modifications to a moderator or for community voting".
    – bwDraco
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:47
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    We have also had proposals that were restarted from scratch (Mathematica comes to mind right away) that went on to be very successful. I would hesitate to make it easy to recommit to a previously-failed-but-resurrected-just-as-it-was proposal with no effort. That doesn't build an engaged, interested community.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:47
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    @SimonSheehan In the vast majority of cases, the past errors aren't anything special - not enough questions proposed in the definition stage, not a Q&A topic at all, a proposal that sits in definition for 2 years, etc. We are actually fairly liberal with letting proposals run their course and we try to avoid taking any action until it's absolutely clear that it's not going to work.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:50
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    In the case of a closed beta, the proposal is available (along with the data dump of all questions and answers) forever. And if an active proposal ends up closed for some reason, there are plenty of discussions happening and those proposals aren't deleted right away. They're available to anyone who wants to recreate them or argue for reopening. (A recent example of the latter is the English Language Learners proposal.)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:52
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    @DragonLordtheFiery I honestly don't think there's much difference between "Here's my modified proposal, please review and recommit" and "Here's my new proposal on the same topic as the old, failed one.". If you're going to restart something, you might as well shed the old baggage and start fresh.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:53
  • @AdamLear that is very true, and I do feel you guys are very liberal. I see your point. Dec 16, 2012 at 18:53
  • I think you've made some great points, all except for preserving the reputation. Reputation should be measured by what currently exists and is successful, not just an 'attaboy' attempt to do a good job. SE isn't the boy scouts. Instead, if you know an Area 51 proposal won't be successful, don't write example questions. Instead, flag it or vote to close. Disclaimer: I stand to lose a lot of rep when my proposals hit the 2 year mark, and I fully expect to lose that rep.
    – jmort253
    Dec 16, 2012 at 19:34

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