[wp-hackers] Fwd: Changes to Area 51

Arlen Beiler arlenbee at gmail.com
Sat Jun 5 01:25:30 UTC 2010

Hello everyone, Robert from Stack Exchange emailed me the following
concerning the proposals on Area51.

In short, they decided to do things a little differently, and are going to
reset all the votes on questions, and any rep gotten from them. Then we are
going to pick out the best 10 on-topic and off-topic questions. Each person
has five on-topic and 5 off-topic votes they can cast. With the following we
have on the proposal that should be nothing. The reason they did this is
because these questions are suppose to define the site. The followers will
not be reset, which is good, as that is the part of phase 1 that takes a
while. I attached our email conversation for everyone's benefit. The email
conversation makes it clearer. If you don't read the whole thing, at least
read the part toward the end where I asked what they mean by a good
off-topic and on-topic question.

Forwarded conversation
Subject: Changes to Area 51

From: *Robert Cartaino* <rcartaino at stackoverflow.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 11:26 PM
To: rcartaino at stackoverflow.com

 Hi! This is Robert Cartaino. I'm the Community Coordinator for Stack
Exchange. As one of our top participants in Area 51, I wanted to give you a
heads up on some changes we are about to make.

Almost as soon as Area 51 went online, we realized the system was not
producing the results we were trying to achieve. It was never our intention
for users to submit large quantities of questions and have everyone vote on
all those questions as on-topic and off topic.

Here is some background and related discussions:
Asking and voting for good (and bad) questions in Area
How can we get better quality on- and off-topic questions in our site

We are making a few interface changes to present the Discussion phase in a
different light. The purpose of the Discussion phase is for everyone to find
the 10 best on-topic and 10 off-topic question for the FAQ. That's the first
step in defining the site. Each person can submit up to five questions for
voting. From the list of questions, each user picks their favorite questions
(up to 5 on-topic, 5 off-topic) and we tally the results. We also added the
Meh™ vote which lets users push less interesting questions down the list.

Unfortunately, the new voting scheme renders the voting data invalid.

We will be:

   - Removing all question votes (on-topic and off-topic)
   - Recalculating everyone's reputation scores

We will *not* be:

   - Removing any proposals or followers
   - Removing any questions
   - Removing any comments or comment voting

Any reputation gained from account association, e-mail verification,
followers, and other non-voting activity will remain with your account.
Existing questions will still be available for voting so reputation will be
regained when voting continues.

It is unfortunate that we have to undo work already put into the system, but
we want to work out these kinks early in the beta before the service is

We expect to push these changes sometime tomorrow.

Robert Cartaino
Community Coordinator, Stack Overflow, Inc.

From: *Arlen Beiler* <arlenbee at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 8:01 AM
To: Robert Cartaino <rcartaino at stackoverflow.com>

So what are you going to do different?

From: *Robert Cartaino* <rcartaino at stackoverflow.com>
Date: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 8:11 AM
To: Arlen Beiler <arlenbee at gmail.com>

   - Limit the number of questions a person can submit (per proposal) to 5
   (i.e. submit your *best* questions)
   - Ask followers to pick their favorite 5 on-topic and off-topic questions
   - Interface changes to support the above.

From: *Arlen Beiler* <arlenbee at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 8:16 AM
To: Robert Cartaino <rcartaino at stackoverflow.com>

I have a question. One thing I always puzzled over is what you mean by a
question that defines the site. Is it questions that are clearly on-topic or
off-topic? Could you explain it?

From: *Robert Cartaino* <rcartaino at stackoverflow.com>
Date: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 9:48 AM
To: Arlen Beiler <arlenbee at gmail.com>

When an expert visits the site, they are going to see questions. And those
questions are *going to say to them "Yeah! This is the site for me," or
they're not.* Treat your selection of the "ideal" question is like an
audition. It's like an elevator pitch. You have one shot to attract that new
expert. Show them your best stuff. You're saying "At Plumber Overflow, we
ask *these* types of questions, we but doesn't include *these* types of

Let's say you were creating a site for plumbers (this is from the FAQ). One
of the questions is "How do I unclog a drain." Clearly on topic, but not a
very good "exemplary" question for the site. It's kind of basic and it
wouldn't really get an expert (your target audience) too excited. Pass.

The next question, "*If you run 2.5 GPM through 50 feet of 1/2" galv pipe,
how many psi will be lost to friction loss?" *Wow! Awesome question. That's
exactly the type of question I would like to see asked on my site for
plumbers. I would pick this one.

Off-topic questions help define the site. It's a question you think someone
might actually ask on the site but is off-topic nonetheless. So, let's go
through the same exercise as above . On Super User (a site about computers)
you see a question, "Do cats chase computer mice?" It's obviously off-topic
but it doesn't help tell anyone what this site is (not) about. Pass.

The next question, "How do you merge your World of Warcraft and Battle.net
accounts?" Again, awesome question but Super User is not about video games.
This would be a good off-topic question which helps define the site.


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