Note: There really is a question in this, but I feel a little background is needed to highlight the question in context. Also, this is not intended as a rant or a complaint, nor to pick fault with moderators who I am sure have acted with good intentions. If you are impatient, you can jump to the question summary at the end, but I do urge you to read this question in its entirety. Thanks.

I was quite surprised this morning when I decided to log on to Area51 in order to expand the proposal and to make a start promoting it, only to find the proposal has already been closed!

Reasons given were that it (allegedly) duplicates The Great Outdoors, and that "This proposal would tend to drain audience from an existing Stack Exchange site."

A few issues concern me with regards to this closure:

  • There appears to be no evidence to support the assumption that GreatOutdoors would suffer as a result of the creation of the FishingLine proposal. Indeed, the proposal was closed without being given the benefit of doubt to run its course. Had this been done, we would at least be able to gather some statistics and provide questions to the community to determine if this assumption would hold true.
  • Given the closure occurred within 4 hours of the proposal being created, there has been no opportunity to see if there will be enough interest generated in the wider community. Heck, I hadn't even begun to promote the idea yet among the various fishing communities of which I am aware.
  • GreatOutdoors appears so far to have a very low participation rate in terms of fishing enthusiasts. I could be wrong, although I've found it very hard to gather any evidence as yet to confirm if this is indeed the case.
  • A prior proposal for a fishing and hunting site seems to have been merged into Great Outdoors, yet from my own experience I know there is a lot of knowledge that is specific to fishing, and I understand fishermen who while they might find GreatOutdoors interesting, would likely feel that it is too broad a category to satisfy their particular interests, and would again likely steer away from a site that might potentially hide much of the information sought in the general noise of the other interests that GreatOutdoors seeks to cover.
  • GreatOutdoors is a very broad general interest category. Too broad perhaps in that it doesn't really allow a scope for specialization in the way that FishingLine is intended. Fishing itself is every bit as specialized as Photography is for instance, with lots of sub-categories relating to the various different activities and types of equipment/fish/locations/etc that would be the heart of good fishing related questions. It is one of those subject areas that only loosely overlaps with other areas, unlike Software Development for instance, which touches on areas such as management, recruiting, law, and many others. My concern is that the questions fisherfolk might ask would likely be lost in the general "noise" of questions from many other subject areas if left buried in the vast area of interest that the Great Outdoors represents.
  • It does not seem to be in keeping with the community-minded approach that is the foundation of the Stack Exchange network, to have a proposal closure without referring the matter first to the originating member and any others who might be following or committing to a given proposal. It certainly feels that this approach is very non-inclusive and unfriendly, particularly when on your next login you find your idea that you spent some time on closed to you without input, notice, and without a supporting argument behind the reason listed in the closure notice.

Quoting Robert Cartaino from his response to this question:

"Most definitely, users should be free to propose a site idea again if they feel they are better able to recruit a critical mass of supporters. But, if no further efforts are made to promote the site idea, the site isn't likely to be created."

Reintroduction of a site idea in a slightly different vein is something I have attempted to do here. I'll admit to being a little disappointed to see that the proposal was not afforded the opportunity to attract the critical mass of users necessary to contribute to the idea. I am driven to see projects through to completion, and I can see where other proposals might fail to attract the necessary contributors if not promoted well outside of the Stack Exchange sphere of immediate influence.

I realize also that the Area51 FAQ suggests allowing larger sites to subsume smaller niche sites, however if this were the case, sites such as Programmers should never have been created as separate from Stack Overflow, except of course that there are site ideas that can be niches that are large enough to support a self sustaining community of experts and enthusiasts, and still be of interest to users of other sites without the need to actually be subsumed. My own knowledge of the fishing subject area (as limited as it may be) can see clearly that Fishing would also be an area of wider interest with a level of specialization similar to Programmers. It should therefore be given the opportunity to run its course.

So my question in summary is as follows:

  • How can a proposal be closed a mere 4 hours after creation without input from the wider community, and without discussion with the proposer?
  • What is the usual policy behind closures?
  • How can I see this proposal is reinstated long enough to give me a chance to gather support I know will be available from the wider fishing community?

Thank you for your consideration.

@RobertCartaino apologies for sending an email to you prior to posting this question. I am still feeling my way about with regards to the specific etiquette/protocol with regards to raising concerns about issues such as this. I hope that this question serves to expand on and explain my position better than in my message to you. :-) – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 3:01
To everyone else, I can see that this issue while explained in terms of the specific proposal I am hoping to resurrect, could perhaps relate to how other proposals might be handled in the future. I hope that this issue sparks a lively debate beyond the limits of the question I have listed. :-) – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 3:03

Fishing isn't some niche interest of The Great Outdoors. It is flat-squarely and wholly consumed by the entire bulls eye of Outdoors SE. The site was created exactly for questions like these (one my personal interests).

Can you honestly see the FAQ of The Great Outdoors reading something like:

The Great Outdoors is for people who love outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship.

Off topic:

  • Fishing

It doesn't make sense, except that you want a separate site. The original Fishing proposal attracted only 11 followers over nine months. I'm sure you could do better, but that proposal was already merged in favor of the bigger site. It's too late. The Outdoors site has been public for two days and is doing tremendously well. You haven't even tried posting a question to the Outdoor site, so claims that the site is too broad or uninterested in deeper fishing topics would seem to be premature. Personally, I would love to see them.

If the Outdoors site excludes a large collection of intriguing questions that somehow just don't fit, we can talk about splintering off another site. Programmers SE was borne of topics not welcomed on Stack Overflow. But until a problem like that emerges, we cannot let users pour a lot of effort into factional proposals that we would almost assuredly have to close later; those that are clearly covered by another site.

I think your "off topic" comment stretches the point a bit. I'm not saying that a question relating to fishing would necessarily be off topic per-se, yet the great outdoors is too broad a category. You could claim that any activity that can be conducted outdoors is covered by the site, and need never open another. This apparent policy to instantly close a proposal without letting it run its course effectively disallows any more subject areas being created unless some sort of approval from Great Outdoors becomes evident. A bad policy, and not in keeping with SE's basic reason for being. – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 21:17
Further, you claim it's too late. Why? it's not a question of whether I've tried to post questions elsewhere. It's being closed down at a whim by a couple of people disallowing the effort to get the site up and running. Saying "we cannot let users pour a lot of effort" is a terrible position. It's not your effort, so why should you care? If the site never gets the backing of the community, why should it bother you if the proposal ends up closing later? What gives 3 individuals the right to act like they represent the entire community? It seems an abuse of power unworthy of SE members. – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 21:26
I also find it sad that you've taken an extreme position, and I don't feel you've attempted to address any of the points that I have raised in my question. I even quoted you as saying that it's allowed to reintroduce proposals, and that they will get closed down if no effort is made to promote them. How can you justify closing a topic after 4 hours if that is the case? I haven't been afforded the courtesy to at least TRY to promote the site, and you seem to have gone back on your statement completely. Why the need to wait on factionalism to create a new site? – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 21:34
Might as well create an "EVERYTHING" proposal, and get ALL sites merged into one. That idea is only slightly less ridiculous than preventing people from the benefit of at least trying to do something useful for the community. You're promoting the idea of creating a site that takes in every topic you think might fit the category, and disallowing anything to exist on its own merits. It's dreadful. The Great Outdoors conceptually should never have been created. Better to create narrower subject areas, like Hiking & Camping, or Surviving in the Wild, or whatever might otherwise fit. – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 21:40
We don't create sites that will completely duplicate the content of another. Read the links I posted above. We close (for example) ".NET Enthusiasts" proposals all the time (dupe of Stack Overflow). That's not abuse of power; that's just basic policy based on the hard-earned experiences of how we do things. "If your area of expertise doesn't already have a Stack Exchange site, propose it!" -- Area 51 FAQ. Nothing you've said addresses why fishing isn't completely covered by the just-launched Great Outdoors site, so I'll just stop repeating myself now. – Robert Cartaino Feb 2 '12 at 21:51
I'll end my rant ;-), but your two links about Factionalism and Merging really support my case. Programming is a broad category with many specialty areas, just like Fishing is. SO and Programmers could be merged into "Computing", but that wouldn't be useful as computing is too broad to satisfy the community. The X vs Y rules don't really deal with creating umbrella categories, like Computing, or Great Outdoors. SE & Area51 aren't so brittle that they won't cope with ideas that you may not personally like. It was designed to be flexible. Why not be the same, wait a while, then we'll see? – S.Robins Feb 2 '12 at 21:53

It's not just how broad the category is on a definitional level per-se, it's also how much activity we see in that category. If the great outdoors beta was overrun with questions about fishing, I'd say it made perfect sense to split it into its own separate proposal, but as it stands there are really very few so creating a separate niche site seems somewhat futile.

A lot of things such as hunting, backwoodsmanship etc. got merged with the great outdoors early on for just this reason.


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