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Given that there tend to be a number of questions on Meta about the commitment process, specifically the completion of commitments, for example:

It seems like there might be some issues with the commitment process, namely around knowing what is expected of you and having commitment tokens locked into sites that you might not be able to positively contribute to any more for any one of a number of reasons.

As such, is there a why that this process could be made better?

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3 Answers 3

It seems to me that this is a two part problem: helping users to know what is expected of them and also allowing for commitment tokens to be freed up in some way other than the fulfillment of their commitment to the site.

In an answer to a question here on Meta the following is mentioned:

To fulfill your commitment, you have to post a combined total of 10 questions and answers and participate for three months...

These requirements are quite clear if you can find them but for the most part they can be really hard to find and the de facto policy seems to be to not inform users as to what is expected in hopes that it will encourage them to contribute to the betterment of the site. Personally, I think this might be the wrong way to address the situation as people generally want clear indications as to what is expected of them.

As such, my suggestion would be to make the question and answers requirement clearer, but also extend the requirement to require that they be "good" questions and answers that are up-voted by other users of the site. This would serve two purposes: users know what is expected of them and since they must be up-voted it ensures they put some thought into what they are doing and it also encourages users to up-vote questions and answers on the site. Both of these would be a good thing for a new site.

Next we have the issue of commitment tokens being locked in which can cause people that may not be able to fulfill their commitments from trying to work on another site where they might be able to make a better, positive impact. Obviously some work would be needed to ensure that people don't just game the system, but you also don't want to penalize people that recognize their own limitations and what to bow out accordingly. Case and point would be my experience with the Japanese.SE site, I tried to do what I could in the beginning but as the site moved in the direction of requiring knowledge of hiragana and kanji that is beyond my current capability I'm unable to contribute to the site in a positive fashion.

As such, my suggestion for handling this would be in line with what I suggestion in an answer to another question: penalize users that make no effort but allow others to bow out with either a nominal or no penalty hit after a certain time criteria is hit (i.e. 90 or 180 days in beta). As others have noted, sites can stay in beta for an extremely long time, the aforementioned Japanese.SE site has been in beta for over 225 days and there is no clear indication that it will be closed or moved forward any time soon. Thus, by locking commitments for a specific amount of time we encourage users to contribute to the site in a positive manner to release their tokens early, but also allow for them to move on if they find themselves unable to contribute for a variety of reasons.

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TLDR: How can we make the commitment process better? Have a way to better define a site pre-beta so you know what you are putting your commitment down for and don't punish users when a site is different from the definition.


The issue: Once the site goes into private beta certain users can force decisions that cause the site to be completely different from what was in the Area 51 proposal. This is acceptable, however, I don't accept that people should be punished for committing to one thing and not willing to participate in something that has turned out differently.

The problem lies in the definition phase of the site which provides no way of defining the site outside of a handful of questions.

e.g. The history site, where in the definition phase many top questions were not about geo-politics and the top two announcements on the site, and I think there was also a discussion suggesting that the site would be a broad ranging history site. Once the site went into private beta it immediately became clear (and from meta discussion) it was a purely geo-pol history site. Which to me is a yawn-fest and something I can find enough info from Wikipedia.


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The definition phase can also happen a long time before private beta starts (I think the average I'm seeing is 6-12 months). That means by the time the site starts up, the audience (or even topic material) could have completely changed. –  Troyen Jan 24 '12 at 0:03

How about at the end of the private beta, just as it goes into public beta, you give the committers a time-limited chance to uncommit? If the direction of the site changed since the committment, an exodus of committers would highlight the consequences. Yes, some committers would actually be uncommitting because something new and shiny is on Area 51 that they want to commit to, but there is information in that too. A site that went to private beta with X committers but then lost half of them in that first week is a site that clearly will need more time to find its feet than one that kept all its committers.

It's a small enough window that I can't see it being used to farm committment opprtunities.

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