Is the vetting process on Area 51 predisposed to plain-vanilla, populist sites?
Somewhat... Yes, what's so bad about that?
Just as an example compare the trilogy and ask yourself, what does it mean to be a high reputation user on [trilogySite]:
- Stack Overflow: you're a talented and dedicated programmer
- Server Fault: you're a talented and dedicated sysadmin
- Super User: you're talented and dedicated at ??? being ::lisp:super::/lisp::? you could out perform a hoard of geeksquad employees in your sleep with both hands tied behind your back?
In the realm of the trilogy, Super user is the dumping ground for questions that aren't appropriate for Stack Overflow or Server Fault. Is that such a bad thing.
I say no... Why?
Because the community has to grow from somewhere. Yes, Stack Overflow was hugely successful when it came to attracting a specialist programmer base but that's an anomaly that was engineered by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky when they chose to draw their blogger audiences to SO.
To say that all Stack Exchange sites have to start with a very focused demographic and always remain that way is unrealistic. Some sites may need to lean a little more toward to plain-vanilla just to reach critical mass.
The major point that's being missed here is. If you search SuperUser you have a 1000x better chance of finding a specific answer to a question regarding general computing vs searching it on Google.
Just because you could create a site for guys that could stop a goats heart by staring at them doesn't mean that the site shouldn't also include related concepts like cloud bursting, running through walls, or general jedi mind tricks.
Which leads me to my next point that sysadmin1138 illustrated so well.
The Area 51 system is strongly biased towards known experts (high reputation) over unknown experts (no reputation), so the effects of external advocacy are negligible at this stage. Once the breadth of Stack Exchange broadens from the pure-tech areas, we'll see a bit more known-experts in a wider area of expertise and these other proposals will get better traction.
My favorite example of a 'truly specialist' site proposal right now is the Aviation FAQ site.
The majority of the current trilogy community is high-tech based yes, but Aviation is its own highly-specialized field. It comes down to, those who are pilots and those who are directly or indirectly involved in the industry.
I seriously doubt that this site will take off right away because it will be extremely difficult to garner support from members of the existing trilogy community but that doesn't mean it never will. Aviation is a vast and complex field that has the potential to attract a massive community that is currently fractionalized across the Internet. It will just take time to grow because the existing community doesn't complement that specific specialty.
An example of a more 'plain-vanilla' or 'populist' site would be the Extreme Sports site that I created.
Personally, it appeals to me because I'm an adrenaline junky. I live in Colorado, I have 7 years of experience of Skiing and I've spent the last 11 Snowboarding. I wakeboard in the summers, drive a crotch-rocket, occasionally take long treks to remote places like hiking Moab or sandboarding the sand dunes in southwest CO, etc...
For me, extreme sports are as much a lifestyle as being a programmer and even with all my experience, all that I know about it only scratches the surface of what I could know.
Before I created the proposal I searched through the existing proposals and found Snowboard & Ski but I think that proposal is too focused. I think it would benefit to have a larger community based around Extreme Sports because there are a lot of concepts that cross boundaries.
For example, knowing how to mitigate avalanche risk in the back country is just as important to a tele skiier who is making a 100 miles trek across the continental divide as it is for snowboarders who are tree-bashing in search of fresh powder and natural booters with soft landings to practice tricks. Or how, learning spatial awareness is just as important to a freestyle snowboarder working on rodeos as it is to a wakeboarding learning to do his/her first tantrum.
Plus, most people I know who specialize in one extreme sport usually specialize or participate in another so generalizing attracts a larger community following while creating an environment where people can branch off into new things.
Do I expect much support from the current community? No...
Mostly because, out of all the snowboarders, skiiers, rock climbers, skaters, wakeboarders, motocross riders, sport bike riders, extreme trekkers, or just wild adrenaline junkies I know; I couldn't imagine any of them beside me hanging out on one of the current trilogy sites for fun.
So what's the point?
- Highly specialized sites are great under the right circumstances
- plain-vanilla and/or populist sites are great under the right circumstances
and... most specialist sites (not related to technology) will have an extremely difficult time reaching maturity until Stack Exchange becomes less of a technocracy.
If you don't like it, propose a system where high-reputation users have no more influence than low-reputation users on Area 51.