It's been asked a few times in chat whether or not Code Golf Meta can be used as a means of promoting Area51 site proposals that are relevant to the realm of Code Golf. The answer has always been "no", with this SE Meta post linked as to why it's "off-topic" for our meta.
However, that answer is from 12 years ago, and SE culture has significantly changed, as has Code Golf culture. Area 51 proposals aren't as common as they used to be, and a lot of new site proposals fail because they are either ignored or too broad. It's time to reassess whether or not cross-site promotion is allowed here on meta.
What is Allowed on Meta?
The help center says:
Meta Code Golf Stack Exchange is the part of the site where users discuss the workings and policies of Code Golf Stack Exchange rather than discussing programming puzzles or code golf itself. It is separated from the main Q&A to reduce noise there while providing a legitimate space for people to ask how and why this site works the way it does. Meta is for...
- Code Golf Stack Exchange users to communicate with each other about Code Golf Stack Exchange (asking questions about how the websites work, or about policies and community decisions)
- Code Golf Stack Exchange users to communicate with Stack Overflow, the company (posting bugs, suggesting improvements, or proposing new features), and
- Stack Overflow, the company, to communicate with the community (soliciting feedback on new ideas or features, or discussing policies that affect the whole network)
Under this definition, Area 51 proposal promotion is not on-topic for Code Golf Meta. But under this definition, posts and events like Language of the Month, Best of CGCC, The Many Users of CGCC and even The Sandbox are off-topic - those posts aren't: a) about how the Code Golf website works, b) about code golf site policies and c) about community decisions (decisions here being interpreted like "why do we have consensus X"). Yet those posts haven't been closed.
However, the help center also says this about meta:
Please look around to see if your question has been asked before, and avoid asking questions that have nothing to do with Code Golf Stack Exchange or the Stack Exchange network.
The posts I listed before are on-topic because they are relevant to the Code Golf Stack Exchange site and the Code Golf community. Advertisements for Area 51 proposals that are relevant to the Code Golf community are, well, relevant to the Code Golf community, and should have a chance at being considered on-topic by the above definition.
But the Default Policy is That Area 51 Proposals Aren't Allowed!
To which I say we don't always follow what's default for StackExchange sites.
As a network site, we've always stuck out from all the other sites by requesting/having features that would otherwise be declined for other sites. Allowing Area 51 proposal promotions to be on-topic despite the fact that other sites don't shouldn't be the sole reason for declining this request.
And we wouldn't be the first site to override the default: it's, been done elsewhere. So clearly, the default is made to be overwritten.
But if Area 51 Proposals are Allowed, They'll Become Spam!
That's assuming there are no controls placed on what proposals are allowed to be promoted. In practice, only proposals reasonably relevant to the site would be allowed. For example, a proposal about Programming Language Design and Implementation would be relevant to the site, because it greatly intersects with the popular activity of golfing language and esolang design. On the other hand, a proposal about Agriculture wouldn't be relevant to the site, because, well, we don't really do agriculture here.
But Area 51 Has Site Categories to Group Relevant Proposals!
We have already started grouping proposals into "Categories" so we can advertise them to sites that might share an interest.
(from the SE Meta post that defaults to calling A51 promotion off-topic)
Be honest, unless you're already involved with a proposal, how many times do you just casually check the Area 51 proposals? I'd be willing to bet "almost never" would be the main response. The idea of "Categories" is only as effective as the user base of Area 51, which is already an obscure SE site.
And what about the code golfers who would be otherwise interested in relevant Area 51 site proposals who don't know about Area 51 at all? Do they just have to miss out on joining a site they'd love to be involved with?
Why not Just Post About Proposals in Chat?
Posting about relevant site proposals in chat is perfectly fine. But the reach of chat is just as niche as the reach of Area 51 on its own - the good majority of Code Golf site users never touch chat (as indicated by the fact that there are only ever really 20 users at a time in the room - usually less). The whole point of posting a proposal on Code Golf Meta is to potentially appeal to the wide user-base of Code Golfers. Just posting in chat doesn't accomplish that goal at all.
Make a Community Ad Like the Meta Default Suggests
There are 3 key problems with making a community ad for site proposals:
- A community ad would last the span of an entire year, and the site might reach private beta/proper beta (or even be abandoned/closed) during that year. This consequently takes up an advertisement slot that would otherwise be usable by a more persistent community ad. And while ads may have been able to be deleted in previous years, SE decided that community ads can't be changed or deleted in 2021.
- The 2021 changes to community ads means that SE might decide that Area 51 proposals aren't allowed as community ads:
Finally, ads can not be promoting products nor soliciting programmer time or resources for: knowledge sharing or collaboration tools for technologists, or for sites where ad buyers are primarily targeting technologists.
While they might make exceptions for StackExchange sites, it's still unclear whether they would allow such ads.
- It's unclear whether SE will continue running community ads, and whether they're still dedicated to them. For the entirety of 2022, there were no community ads, and we won't be getting any ads for the first half of the year, with no confirmation they're coming at all.
Quite frankly, community ads for Area 51 proposals are unreliable and wasteful, because of how community ads are structured.
Advertising of Proposals Should be Done on External Sites to Make Sure an Actual Community Exists
Sure, but advertising on Code Golf Meta should be allowed in addition to advertising on sites like Reddit and Discord. Part of the actual community might not be on Reddit or discord or other sites, but on StackExchange. I think this part of the SE Meta post is to say "don't rely solely on SE network traffic."
tl;dr: The SE meta post saying that Area51 proposals are off-topic on per-site metas is severely outdated, and only a default option for sites at best.
The community should decide whether it wants Area 51 proposal promotions to be on-topic. After all, moderators are but human exception handlers. Hence this meta post gives a chance to decide with votes whether Area 51 proposals should be allowed.