While it's nice of Area51 to allow someone to meet their commitment well after the site is public, the reality is that they made a commitment to help the site at the very beginning, and they failed to do so.

This should have some repercussions beyond being unable to select a new commitment until they've fulfilled an old one.

If a user fails to meet their commitment during the site's beta, the commitment should be failed with repercussions, such as one or more of the following:

  • removed from their committed list (Thus allowing them to commit to a new proposal)
  • reduce their commitment weight when they commit to a new proposal (since they demonstrated that they have a hard time meeting their commitments during beta)
  • (possibly) ding the user's area51 reputation some nominal amount
  • other suggestions? Add an answer below...

This feature request would both strengthen the intention that a committed person is supposed to help bring up the site during beta and it would make sure that those who fail commitments are not as heavily relied on as their reputation might suggest they should be (according to the current commitment weight calculation).

It may result in fewer commitments, which is a good thing - if you aren't certain that you are both willing and able to provide great content right from the start, you shouldn't be counted on to do so.

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I think it does get removed from the commitment list after some time. I committed to two sites early in A51, never managed more than two posts on either site, and neither is in my list anymore. –  mmyers May 25 '11 at 14:37
@mmyers I believe the commitment is removed from the committed list when it's fulfilled or public beta ends, whichever comes first. –  Anna Lear May 25 '11 at 14:50
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3 Answers

I don't know if I agree with that.

I've followed two proposals that made it into private beta. On Guitars, I managed to pull enough questions and answers to fulfill the commitment. On Code Review, I expected to be able to answer things, but ran into the "most questions aren't in languages I'm familiar enough in" wall and I didn't have any code snippets of my own that were worth reviewing. I fully expected to be able to fulfill my commitment there, since I'm an active developer, but it just didn't work out. I don't think it'd be entirely fair to penalize me in that situation.

I think it'd be hard to automatically distinguish between "real" failed commitments where someone just didn't put the effort in and cases where other circumstances affect the commitment. "Real life" could interfere, someone might be on vacation when private beta pops up, etc.

I think you're right in saying that the mechanism you propose may result in fewer commitments, but I don't think that's a good thing.

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I had the same problem on Project Management, perhaps the measurement of commitment should also depend on secondary things like voting and views. Nobody visits a site regularly for three months without caring about it, so surely it shows your involvement. However, I do agree with @Adam that commitments shouldn't be taken lightly, just to get proposals through to beta. –  Ivo Flipse May 25 '11 at 16:48
@Ivo I think faking commitments to get proposals through to beta issue will take care of itself. Fake commitments mean no content. No content means the site will not survive beta and die off. –  Anna Lear May 25 '11 at 16:51
I'd rather see a site stay in the commitment phase for 6 months and finally get out with really dedicated people than see commitments get out the door in 3 months then fail. I believe the system should attempt, as much as possible, to set them up for success prior to launch. –  Adam Davis May 25 '11 at 22:29
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Alright, since the separate question for this got closed, here are my thoughts on the situation.

Basically the problem is that when you are committing on Area 51 you don't know exactly what direction the site might go once people start getting in there and asking and answering questions. For example, the Japanese.SE could have gone a couple of directions once it started and ended up going in a fairly advanced direction where I quite frankly can't keep up with what is going on in some of the questions and answers any more. I'd be willing to postulate that that isn't an uncommon occurrence and users shouldn't really be punished for over estimating what they can and can't do.

As such, I'd be more of an advocate of a system where after 90 days users are checked for their current work on the site:

  • Users that did no work are dinged reputation and their token is released.
  • Users that have done some work are asked if they want to keep with it or release their commitment token for a nominal reputation hit or none at all if they meet some criteria (i.e. half way to commitment, some comments, and some active participation on the sites meta).

Then after a fixed amount of time (say 180 days) all of the commitment to the site are freed without penalty. As others have mentioned, sites can sit in the "beta" phase for a long time and it doesn't make much sense to keep a lock on commitment tokens for users that are potentially doing the right thing and not spamming up a site to try and get their token released. Likewise, it allows them to take their expertise someplace where they might be able to make a better contribution.

As a way of encouraging people to try a bit harder reputation could be awarded to users who fulfill their commitments based upon when the fulfill their commitment, for example 100 reputation if it is less than 90 days and 50 reputation if it is after that.

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I got 50 Area 51 rep when I fulfilled my beta commitment. –  Troyen Jan 10 '12 at 1:50
@Troyen - Ah, cool, I've updated the answer to take that into account. –  rob Jan 10 '12 at 2:06
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I agree with Rob, the site definition process is poor and you are not guaranteed what you are signing up for and who decides to throw their weight around in the sites meta.

This can result in a completely different site than what was expected. Two good examples are History where the final site was different from the main consensus in the definition phase and the Healthcare IT site where I still don't think they have a clear definition of what Healthcare IT actually encompasses.

In both cases I attempted to participate, but with History the scope was overly narrowed and with Healthcare IT it is overly broad and under-defined so not enough eyeballs to get an answer or a consensus as to whether my questions were on topic.

In both case you have poor sites, not poor committers.

As I have suggested previously in discussions with the SE team, they really need to have at least one person strongly participating in sites when they come out to guide them. As currently sites left to their own device are being pushed, abandoned and moved in directions that aren't always helpful. The result is weak sites where certain people aren't willing to participate. The proof is in the stats for the majority of beta sites.

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Can you elaborate on history briefly? Did it become overly scholarly? –  Adam Rackis Jan 12 '12 at 21:08
@AdamRackis - See this meta discussion and the other question linked in the first sentence. Although many supporters and some agreement in meta. the behaviour of the site (close votes, down votes etc.) pointed to only geo-pol questions being allowed on the site. Which I personally find boring and you can either buy a book or get most of the info off wikipedia, looking at the # of views the site gets I guess others agree. –  xiaohouzi79 Jan 12 '12 at 23:59
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