Proposal: Culture and life in Japan

The proposal "Culture and life in Japan" was closed during the commitment phase as not viable.

I attempted to promote the proposal to people who hadn't participated in the Stack Exchange network before. If I had successfully promoted it, and those people find out the proposal was closed as not viable, that'd leave them with a bad experience. They might be less likely to participate in Stack Exchange in future.

It might also make them less likely to participate in the definition or commitment stage of modified proposals, such as Japan. Partially because they may think it's advertising for the closed proposal, and partially because they may be discouraged by the previous failure.

Would it be better to check whether a proposal is viable before, rather than during, the commitment phase?

The only potential downside is that the commitment phase allows the management to gauge how much interest there is in the proposal, but I don't think that plays a major role in viability.

Edit - whoops, I just realised that the proposal had hit the 2 year limit. There I was thinking it was closed because it was too broad! However, it entered the commitment phase 2 weeks ago. It'd be extremely unlikely to hit beta in that time-frame, so it should have either been given extra time, or shut down.

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Well, even with the 2 year limit, I think some of your comments are still valid. It was disappointing to see it closed so quickly after it entered commitment. If I were a new user, I might feel betrayed/confused that something I supported was closed after I had eagerly followed it for months. I agree that when we reached commitment at 2 weeks away from the 2 year limit, they should have just closed it then instead of giving a false hope for those 2 weeks. – atlantiza Aug 20 '13 at 14:38
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Good news! — We tweaked the process a bit to avoid closing proposals soon after starting a new phase… and without adding any undue complexity.

Instead of a 2-year limit, we are now going to institute proposal limit of

1 year in Definition + 1 year in Commitment

This 1+1-year method takes care of two important scenarios — (1) You don't cut off proposals entering a new phase when they finally found enough support late in the process… and (2) You don't drag out proposals in Definition that just aren't going anywhere for over a year.

In a hypothetical case, it DOES seem a bit crazy to restart a proposal if they race from zero to (let's say) 95% in Commitment in the last two weeks. At the same time, if the proposal was plodding along in Definition for 1 year, 11 months, and 15 days… it probably should have been rebooted a long time ago. That's just the reality of slow-growing proposals: they create poorly-performing sites.

Remember that closing a slow-growing proposal doesn't have to be the end of the process. We actively encourage any community that looses momentum to try again. It's an iterative process, and rebooting a proposal has created some of our most successful launches to date!

This will go into effect starting in the next monthly maintenance cycle.



I'm leaving my original reply (below) which addressed some of the earlier points raised in the question… but the proposed solution should address the underlying issues nicely. Saved for posterity —


It's unfortunate when an idea simply becomes inviable — but until that point you try your darnedest to promote your cause as best you can. But you can't short-circuit that process.

There are literally dozens of ways I "just know" a proposal isn't going to work; believe me, I vet these ideas and watch them grow (or not) every day. But for each of those short cuts, there's an equally avid supporter shouting from the rafters that I'm wrong and they should have their chance.

So we keep it simple. Everyone has their day in court.

Area 51 is a vetting of ideas. As much as we like to say "that's a silly idea…" or "it doesn't make sense to move forward…" or "you're not going to make it…", there's a process we follow to let it play out to completion.

So whether they have a month to go, or a week, or even a few minutes, it's their time in the spotlight to at least try… even if it's just to gather or organize a bit more support for a second time around.

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Is this retroactive? Will current proposals that are over a year old and still in the definition stage be shut down? – JohnB Aug 23 '13 at 2:09
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Yes, it will be retroactive starting with the next maintenance cycle in early September. – Robert Cartaino Aug 23 '13 at 13:00
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"rebooting a proposal has created some of our most successful launches to date" Are there any posts I could read that demonstrate what steps have been taken to ensure that the rebooted proposals find success? – Mr. Bultitude Mar 6 '15 at 20:55

I agree that it makes little sense to close a proposal that has only been in commitment phase for a few weeks. If the closing of 2-year-old proposals is supposed to be to avoid proposals that aren't viable, then something that took nearly 2 years to get to commitment phase should have been identifiable as not viable a while ago.

With that in mind, I propose that in addition to closing 2-year-old proposals in commitment phase, any proposals that are over 18 months old in definition phase should be closed. That still gives 6 months to get through commitment phase, which isn't entirely impossible, and it will speed up the process considerably for the next iteration. The 18 months is pretty arbitrary, but it seems like a reasonable amount of time to me.

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Hmm, this closing seems a bit quirky to me, and I'm not entirely sure if it was necessary.

One of the reasons for the 2-year closings is because most of the people who signed up for definition aren't around or interested any more. The commitment phase is a good way to check if there still is interest -- IMO a better criteria would be that the rate of it grabbing committers is sustainable (not so low that it will take many months to reach beta).

However, this makes sense too:

@Mechanicalsnail - Because the criteria for moving from definition to commitment are now much more stringent than they were, leading to much a more comprehensive definition phase, a better definition, more involvement from followers, greater likelihood of followers committing and ultimately a much greater chance of a site succeeding. Area 51 now has a wealth of knowledge about what is needed to make a stack exchange site successful, so we should trust their decisions.

At this point the proposal was just too old. Which comes back to your point that the proposal shouldn't have reached commitment in the first place, and instead could have been closed in definition. A two-month buffer (giving definition stages 22 months to succeed) could work here.

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