Area 51 Gets Organized. Let's Talk!

by Robert Cartaino

on January 28, 2011

Dust off your tuxedo; notify the paparazzi. You are invited to the hottest ribbon-cutting ceremony this side of Rovio. Stack Exchange is launching the long-awaited Discussion Zone of Area 51!

The Discussion Zone is similar to a meta forum where users can bandy about proposal ideas, discuss promotions, and decide how to best mix and match these proposals into great sites. For example:

  • Should we merge the ___ and ___ proposals?

  • Do we really need another site about ___?

  • Would a site about ___ work in the Stack Exchange network?

But there's so much more going on under the hood than a new discussion forum. The Area 51 proposals have also been organized and grouped into a series of "Categories."

Area 51 Categories

Categories provide more than just a cataloging system to help find interesting proposals. Categories form the basis of building communities around users with similar interests:

Area 51 was long overdue for a v2.0 makeover; it hasn't changed much since it launched last June. With almost 700 proposals vying for attention, users were having a hard time organizing and rallying around individual proposals. Some of those proposals will make great sites. But the listings are fraught with duplicates, overlapping ideas, and subsets of similar proposals -- and a few genuinely great ideas that are simply struggling to find its audience. We hope that, by creating this collaborative association, users will sort and distill the proposal list down into a collection of viable topics; proposals that need little more than the time to gather support.

The concept behind the new Area 51 design is simple…

Each time you visit a proposal, you should find yourself surrounded by activities of interest: related proposals, interesting discussions, like-minded users; all working together to discuss how best to create great sites from these proposal ideas.

Assigning Categories to proposals will also help us introduce Stack Exchange sites to proposals of interest. The added visibility will help promote the next generation of even more diverse Q&A sites.

It's hard to predict just how these "Discussion Zone" forums will be used. They may not be the silver bullet that I'm hoping for. But at the very least, it gives everyone a voice.