I was advised that my question on Area 51 - Linguistics belonged here.
I'll restate it for this different context.
Like many people, I've stumbled across some proposals on Area 51 that I liked. Yesterday it was a banner ad I clicked on for Linguistics. I read the list of questions that were in/out of scope, and my interest grew. I skimmed through the details of the commitment clause, noting that I was would be promising to ask or answer 10 questions in a 3-month period. I clicked on "commit".
Then I was ready to fulfill my commitment. I began looking on the site for linguistics questions I could answer, or where to ask them. I could not find a way to do that. Nor could I find a statement saying that I could not yet ask/answer questions. It was frustrating. As a new recruit to the site, I was turned off.
I tried to vote or comment on some of the example questions. If you click on one of the titles of the example questions, and then happen to scroll to the top of the list, NOT the top of the page, you see a notice saying "This proposal is now in the Commitment phase — example questions are locked!" I didn't happen to do that for quite a while. Nor does it say anything about real questions.
People familiar with Area 51 already know that during the commitment phase, you can't ask or answer questions about the topic. You have to wait till the beta. I know that now. However it was not clearly displayed for me to see. Presumably if I had dug deep enough into documentation about Area 51 processes, I would have found this information. But that is not a way to encourage new recruits. "RTFM and when you're done, come back and we'll talk"?
Others have argued for more things to do during commitment phase, and while I agree, that's not my point here. Rather, given the way things are, can we please label them better? If new recruits have to wait an unknown period of time before they can contribute, at least let them know that prominently, so they don't go banging their heads against the wall in an effort to contribute, and get soured in the process.
For example, in the upper right corner where it says
This proposal is in: Commitment
Before the site is created, it needs people to commit to use it. Right now, it's 36% complete. When it reaches 100%, the beta will begin.
We could add
Until then, it is not possible to ask or answer questions about the topic.
And to the "more info" area, add a link to information about the life cycle of a proposed Q&A site, where we can find out more about what Commitment Phase implies.