When the first site proposals on Area 51 went to the commitment phase, I eagerly slapped my name down on the petitions for both Web Apps and Gaming. I was honestly excited about both sites and wanted to get in on them from the start. Unfortunately, once the sites went live, I realized I didn't know many answers, and only had a few questions. (I rarely use facebook, don't have a twitter account and still prefer desktop office apps to Google's cloud apps; and I apparently don't play the same games as other people, especially when it comes to MMOs.) I am still, however, glad that both sites exist, and look forward to using them in the coming years.

Should people in situations like mine sign up for private betas, or wait until the public betas? Or, worded differently, is enthusiasm enough to make up for lack of expertise? For the purposes of this question, assume the hypothetical user knows he won't be able to contribute much in the way of answers during the beta.

To be clear, I am not asking about "sympathy commitment." This question is about people who do care but are not experts.

  • 2
    I have had the same experience. I committed to both Webmasters and Game Development, and so far I've posted a total of one question and one answer (both on gamedev).
    – mmyers
    Jul 23, 2010 at 2:26
  • @mmy, likewise (gadgets, webaps)
    – jjnguy
    Jul 23, 2010 at 2:53
  • Ask more questions on Gaming! By asking a question about a game that isn't covered, you'll either uncover a user who has played the game, or possibly attract the attention of a new expert to our midst! Win-win situation!
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 23, 2010 at 16:10
  • @Grace, or I could end up being that one guy who keeps asking about stupid games nobody cares about and clutters up the site. But yeah, I plan to start doing that.
    – Pops
    Jul 23, 2010 at 16:35
  • I'm so with you. I'm a bit bummed at how bad I suck at web apps...
    – squillman
    Jul 24, 2010 at 2:06
  • Ugh, I just showed up to Food and Cooking yesterday, and already I have a Nice Question badge, which I couldn't achieve on the sites I actually private beta-ed.
    – Pops
    Jul 24, 2010 at 3:00

3 Answers 3


I committed to web apps and gadgets right off the bat. I use web apps every day, and I own a smart phone. I was really excited to get those sites off the ground.

It turns out that I really have nothing to offer to those sites because I'm not an expert on either, nor do I use them enough to generate any interesting questions.

Basically, my point is:
Don't commit unless you actually have something to bring to the table. Page views are a good thing, but just looking at a webpage will not drive good Q and A.

  • 2
    Now I just need to ask "how do I know if I'm expert enough to ask and answer questions in the private beta?" And watch the close votes roll in....
    – Pops
    Jul 23, 2010 at 16:34
  • @Popular Ask that on the meta!
    – jjnguy
    Jul 23, 2010 at 16:44
  • ... you're serious?
    – Pops
    Jul 23, 2010 at 16:55
  • 2
    Given the way things work I would agree but in general I think this is a problem as you can still add value by voting up good content
    – Willbill
    Aug 25, 2010 at 13:25
  • +1 @willbill makes a good point
    – greatwolf
    Jan 20, 2011 at 23:19

If you feel that your interests represent the proposed aim of the site, I think it is a good idea to commit. This will allow you to help shape the community that the experts are attempting to reach.


There were maybe 3 or 4 proposals I thought sounded interesting, but the only one I had any half-decent questions for was cooking. So I committed to that one.

I guess I could see committing if you were part of some other community on the topic, and felt you could draw your compadres in... But in that case, you'd probably have a ready source of good questions too.

What's the point of committing if you have nothing to offer?

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