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In Area 51, the idea behind the Commitment phase is to gather enough committed people to reach a critical mass to insure that the site will be active and seeded with questions and answers for the actual launch.

For now we can only speculate how exactly the level of commitment is calculated, but it seems to be heavily based on the reputation of the users on the official SE sites. I can see how you could argue that high rep users are worth more than low-rep users. This doesn't seem to be a good way to handle this.

If I have understood the concept of Area 51, then it is to create sites for a community of experts on areas that isn't covered by the existing sites (SO, SF and SO). If the area is beyond what is represented at those sites, it seems like a bad idea to base the commitment level on rep level. The true experts that is needed to make the site great, might most likely be users with little or no rep.

A good example is Persian Information Technology and Computer, where the top rep that actually want to participate only has around 2k rep. It has gone to the extent, that the proposer has asked for commitment from high level rep users to help boost the commitment level.

This really beats the purpose of the of commitment, which is turning into sympathy votes.

I know area-51 is still in beta, but it seems like you should consider how the rep is calculated, as it clearly isn't working as intended now.

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I agree and as I said it seems that there is no way to pass commit phase without high rep users support (specially for non-English proposals) –  Hameds Jun 15 '10 at 16:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

You need some reasonably high rep users who know how our engine works, otherwise you'll end up with a bunch of newbies flailing around wondering why this new site doesn't work like their old PHPBB bulletin board -- and generating lots of garbage in, garbage out content in the process.

The general idea is that we're starting with "programmers and.." taking teeny tiny baby steps to obvious overlaps:

  • programmer and sysadmin (Server Fault)
  • programmer and computer enthusiasts (Super User)

Now let's broaden it a bit with SE 2.0, and take more baby steps:

  • programmer and musician
  • programmer and car nut
  • programmer and gun enthusiast
  • programmer and videogamer

That's the core audience for the new sites; it's driven by the anchor site which is an order of magnitude larger than the other sites in the trilogy (and two orders of magnitude larger than any Stack Exchange 1.0 website). But, if we keep taking a series of progressive baby steps...

  • musician and gardener
  • musician and airplane pilot
  • musician and GIS expert
  • musician and building contractor

Eventually, we'll take enough of these baby steps that entirely new non-programmery audiences will form. It's like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with forum topics!

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Yes, but do all of the committed high rep users even understand the language? How could they even begin to moderate, correct newbie mistakes ... or even participate? If the high rep users can't understand what they're looking at, how does this help curtail the garbage in / garbage out issue? –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 13:20
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I am a programmer and a post-human time-traveling paranoid superheroic game-playing shy IRC moderator with a paradoxical need for completeness who dresses incredibly well! –  XMLbog Jun 15 '10 at 13:20
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If I understand you correctly, you plan to let the rep gained on the newly formed SE 2.0 sites carry a weight on rep needed to form new SE 2.0 sites. –  googletorp Jun 15 '10 at 13:22
    
What are your current expectations for how long it will take to get to, let's say, the 3rd degree? I have no gauge at all on what kind of followers I'll get out of the initial announcement on the trilogy sites when Area51 comes out of beta and see more of a dependency on getting followers through manual recruiting and the later degrees that you hit on here. If my proposal doesn't gain many followers from the trilogy when Area51 goes public then the total amount of rep in my proposal is going to be about 100k. Seems like my proposal will need a LOT of commits to reach beta in that scenario. –  squillman Jun 15 '10 at 13:48
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@Jeff: David's put me at ease with these 2 answers: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/53695/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/53650/area-51-commit-percent/… –  squillman Jun 15 '10 at 21:18
    
It's like pay it forward! Or watching the powers of ten video! –  Adam Davis Jun 15 '10 at 21:19
    
@tim different language sites is a whole other issue that I am not addressing in the above post; Joel covered that here –  Jeff Atwood Jun 15 '10 at 21:35
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+1 Excellent explanation Jeff. Really clears up your intentions/vision for how SE2 should grow. I had a gut feeling that this was how you intended SE2 to work but had not seen/heard you state this explicity anywhere. –  David HAust Jun 15 '10 at 23:33
    
@google yes, as new sites become "full citizens" of the network, reputation on those sites will count toward new Area 51 proposals. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 16 '10 at 3:45
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While I understand the purpose of this rule, it means that new sites will likely be computer-related subjects. You won't be able to mobilize real experts in a subject like "literature" if you make that a requirement. Mathoverflow, the most successful SE 1.0 site, would never have made it through this process. –  Shane Jun 16 '10 at 16:54

In the first round, we only want to launch sites that will DEFINITELY succeed. So we require (1) lots of users, and (2) lots of users with high rep, because we know that those users contribute a lot and know how the system works. The formula right now is weighted heavily towards those people.

Once we have more data from some successful sites, we'll start to loosen it up a bit. Right now we really don't know if 200 committers with 1 reputation means 200 users on day 1, or 20 users on day 1. We're going to be fairly cautious with the first sites and gather as much data as we can with them.

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This makes me feel better about the chances of my proposal. I'm by no means expecting it to be a first gen launch. –  squillman Jun 15 '10 at 20:54
    
It would be interesting to hear more about how the commit phase is scored. I think right now new users may be a bit under-valued and high-rep users may be a bit over-valued. Seems to me that you would only need a dozen or two dozen high rep users to manage a beta site. Just seems odd that the Web Apps site with 138 committed and 21 referred is 62% ready and the GIS site with 231 committed and 66 referred is barely 20% ready. –  Greg Bray Jun 17 '10 at 6:24
    
I just found your other post on the Area 51 Commit Percent with details about the algorithm. Link for anyone that is interested: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/53650/area-51-commit-percent/… –  Greg Bray Jun 17 '10 at 6:39
    
Are referals taken into account? the Visual Studio ALM site proposal is having a hard time getting above 30% as most of our commiters have never been on Stack Overflow before. –  MrHinsh Oct 6 '10 at 8:47

I wanted to weigh in on the original poster's comment that "the true experts ... needed to make the site great, might most likely be users with little or no rep."

Personally, I believe that reputation is leaky... it leaks from place to place. That's because the true experts are leaders in their field, which means they have followers. And they can mobilize their followers, and that is far more important than just sitting around answering questions themselves.

For example, imagine someone who is the world expert on ponies, but has not participated in Stack Overflow before. She doesn't have a lot of reputation on our system yet, so we don't know that she is an expert.

But by virtue of being an expert, she has a following. Somewhere. On her blog, twitter, email newsletter, or when she speaks at pony industry conferences. And through this influence, she can mobilize her tribe to support the new Stack Exchange site. This mass of people will be far more valuable as she is... just like the people who I brought to Stack Overflow from Joel on Software were far more valuable than I was... and indeed, our algorithm recognizes this, giving little credit for "expertese" but a lot of credit if she can mobilize a lot of people.

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A following that actually wants to get involved with SE? At last count I had a few hundred, none of them were interested when I spoke to over 20 over Skype over the space of a month. "Waste of time" . "To what end?", "Glorified popularity contest" were the common responses. It all depends on what you do. Your measure is at (best) crude. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 22:52
    
Additionally, at least 1/3 of them speak English as a third language. Sorry, but your idea is entirely flawed. Yes, I am a native speaker, but not all of us live and work in the US. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 22:54
    
I agree with you but... building a following like I did on skepticexchange.org (StackExchange v1) is useless to me as my 'followers' only have rep on that site and it's not counted when committing to area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/12612/… –  rjstelling Sep 7 '10 at 15:05

I wish there was a way that I could "support" the site with my rep during this phase, without actually making a commitment.

By support, I mean cast a vote saying "Hey, Jeff, I have 16+k across the sites (10k+ on one) , I know how the system works and I think this site would do well.", which ups the percentage a bit.

I'd do it too, they're honestly stuck and I really do think the site would do well.

However, I'm:

  • Not going to spend one of my four commitments on a site where I can't be helpful or even participate. I don't understand the language.
  • Not going to sign my name to a promise that I know I can't keep, beyond just visiting the site every few days to keep the traffic up

This is indeed a quirk, some kind of provision should be made to handle special cases.

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What you are suggesting is the exact opposite of what Commit is about. We don't need people (in Commit) to say "Yeah, sound like a good site idea." We need people who will actually commit to using the site. All the good intentions in the world do not put people in the seats on day one. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 15 '10 at 13:48
    
@Robert - I didn't mean "Sounds like a good idea" , More of "I think this will work nicely with the backing its gathered". If you have a limited number of people who can actually understand and participate in the site, and all of them combined don't have enough rep to get it off the ground (even though the site would probably do quite well), what do you do then? I can't commit to it to help them get started, obviously, because I can't keep the promise to participate in a site where I don't understand the language. But, I would like to help them get it off the ground. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 14:00
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@Robert - And 'sympathy' votes aren't the exact opposite of a commit, when the people committing can't participate as well? –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 14:02
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@Robert: Perhaps what Tim is talking about is sort of a "guarantor". Or a letter of reference, if you prefer. The ability to say "This person is not a programmer and therefore doesn't have much rep, but he's a hardcore gamer / cook / conspiracy nut and will make huge contributions to the site." I can see this from yours/Jeff's angle as well and kind of agree with you this time around - but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's the exact opposite. It's about high-rep users backing lower-rep committed users, not the proposal itself. –  Aarobot Jun 15 '10 at 14:08
    
@Aarobot - something like that. "Letter of reference" best describes it, since this is in the absence of committing (basically, becoming a guarantor). This would not be for all cases, just cases where it would be next to impossible to launch the site with the reputation of the people actually committing to it. There just aren't enough high reputation users that speak Persian and can participate. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 14:32
    
I'm not saying that committed contributors aren't important. They are the hugest, most crucial part of the equation. But another vital component is the experience needed to do the behind-the-scenes hard work of community-moderation (voting, editing, closing, etc) and using those tools correctly. All the "commit equation" says is that both elements must be included to get the site off to a good start. A "guarantor" vouching for the enthusiasm doesn't bring the experience needed to the site. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 15 '10 at 14:33
    
@Robert - In this case, the people committing (sympathy votes) do not speak / read / write Persian. How are they going to help at all with behind the scenes stuff if they can't read the content of the questions and answers? Translators (e.g. Google) are only so accurate, not what I'd base moderation decisions from. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 15:17
    
@Robert: Not dismissing that argument, but it's possible that you might be overestimating the importance of experience relative to level of commitment. I don't really have any strong feelings one way or the other, I was just explaining my interpretation of the rationale; time will tell if the team has done enough to solve the chicken-and-egg problem. –  Aarobot Jun 15 '10 at 15:25
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@Tim: I understand you concern. But, if they (or any group) are so far removed from the existing Stack Exchange community, they will not be creating one of the first sites so early in our development. That is by design. Remember, we're creating a group of sites starting from the center and growing outward into increasingly diverse topics away from our programmer-centric origins: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5552/… –  Robert Cartaino Jun 15 '10 at 15:30
    
@Robert I think that there may be something missing from the equation, though I'm not sure what it is. The GIS proposal has attracted many of the most respected experts in our relatively specialized field. Many of us have experience with StackOverflow when we have used it for cross-cutting concerns, but the majority of our time has been invested in gardening a diaspora of community sites, from wikis to mailing lists to forums. These functions are not too far removed from StackOverflow mechanics, and the closed beta period should get us over that hurdle or allow us to fail without consequence. –  JasonBirch Jun 16 '10 at 22:48

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