I've wanted to uncommit to the Ubuntu Stack Exchange for a while - when I first committed, it seemed good, especially since I use Ubuntu. However, I don't like the direction that the community has decided to take the site and would rather use the commit so I can commit to my own proposal, which has just reached Committal phase.

First off, I don't think it's right that I can't commit to my own proposal even if I have committed to three other sites. If I can't uncommit to Ubuntu, I won't be in the private beta of my own idea! I'm very interested in my other two committals - Mathematics and Statistical Analysis, however a lot of the questions are beyond my ability to answer and the ones that I can answer, someone usually beats me to them, so I'm having a tough time fulfilling my commitment to the sites, even though I visit them regularly. Ubuntu on the other hand isn't that helpful to me - it didn't turn out the way I expected it would when I committed to it and I'm now waiting for the Unix and Linux exchange to go public beta so I can join that community.

Second, I don't see why I'm not automatically committed to my own proposal. I came up with the idea, so I should be part of the process all the way through. Even though I am committed to three other sites, I don't get why I can't be committed to my own idea. If anything, I'm more strongly committed to it since it is my idea after all.

What can I do? I don't want to be part of the Ubuntu exchange anymore since it didn't live up to my expectations and I want in on my own idea. Since it's come up, I feel like the Ubuntu Stack Exchange is fracturing the Linux/Unix community far too much and I do not want to be a part of that fracturing - I have openly supported the Unix/Linux SE site and intend to become a member of that community when it goes to public beta.

My proposal is at 25%. I am still unable to commit to it. I'm working as best as I can at fulfilling my commitment to Mathematics and Statistical Analysis, but I would like an answer from the administration here as to a resolution to this problem. I think it's broken that a proposer can't commit to his own proposal, even if he has 3 commitments. It's all about the timing and exceptions in cases like this should be made.

  • "it didn't turn out the way I expected it would when I committed" so did you try to help shaping it? You asked one single question and all you did on meta.ubuntu was one answer and one downvote. How do you expect the site to turn out the way you wanted it to be when you don't participate? Aug 13, 2010 at 7:24
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    I don't have the time to post in every question on meta and share my thoughts. I had an expectation in mind when reading the description of the site and looking at the on and off topic questions. My expectations were not met starting with Day 1 of the private beta. As soon as I saw the first wave of questions and discussions on meta, I realized that most of the community had a different intention that I saw in the site. Aug 13, 2010 at 10:05
  • If people could just uncommit, what would the meaning of commit be, then? Jan 10, 2012 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


You have two options:

  1. Uncommit from another proposal that hasn't reached the beta stage to free up a token.

  2. Post 10 questions and/or answers to one of the proposals that is in beta and you should get your token back. Though I think this is only after site hits public beta.

I realise that this probably isn't what you want to hear, but they are the current rules.

  • So I have to come up with 10 questions/answers for Mathematics or Statistical Analysis? I have no desire to go back to Ubuntu - that's why I want to uncommit. Aug 12, 2010 at 21:40
  • @Thomas - yes, they're the rules. I can't find the post where Jeff states them though.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 12, 2010 at 21:53
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    Well, I think it's time to revisit these rules, given the upvotes on this question. Maybe not change the rules for committal, but at least let a person commit to their own proposal. Aug 12, 2010 at 22:06
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    Also, I don't have a proposal that's not in beta stage. It's all about the timing, and the timing on this one sucked. But at least we found a clear problem with Area 51 that needs to be fixed. Aug 13, 2010 at 0:23

Now that Ubuntu is in the beta-phase (even the public-beta-phase), I don't know of a way for you to uncommit.

If no-one finds a way, you could create another Area51 account using a different OpenID to commit to your own proposal - it's not exactly legal, but I think this case permits it.

  • But then anything that I do on Area 51 under my pseudo account won't count toward my account when I can bring mine onto my proposal. I want to use this account for the purposes of linking them. Aug 12, 2010 at 19:56
  • If you only use the second account for committing to the proposal (and use the first account for all other interaction), I don't think there will be anything that won't count for your first account. Plus, once your proposal goes into beta, you can add an alternate OpenID (such as your main OpenID) to your second account on the beta site. Aug 12, 2010 at 19:59
  • But if I commit using a second account, things I do on the private beta won't count unless I start playing games with my OpenIDs. And I'm not a fan of playing games around with permissions, since I don't want my accounts to be suspended or the proposal to be closed because of fraud on my part. Aug 12, 2010 at 20:01
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    Is it really so difficult to ask 10 questions about Ubuntu? As soon you have done that your commitment should be released.
    – txwikinger
    Aug 13, 2010 at 0:49
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    I got locked into the webapps stackexchange. I thought It would be a good site. It turns out that when you get rid of topics related to the use of webapps like browser plug ins thing can get pretty boring. I was scraping the barrel for things to ask and was happy to be free of it.
    – Willbill
    Sep 21, 2010 at 20:29
  • @txwikinger it didn't work that way for me with Network Engineering. Starting on private beta Day 1, I posted two questions (deleted one of them due to down-votes which earned me a badge, so it seems that both the question and its deletion ought to count towards commitment), ten answers, and yet on Day 12 of the site's beta, my profile still shows zero fulfilled commitments. And as for difficulty, that really depends on the community climate. I didn't see Ubuntu in beta, but NE in beta seems to require one to be a L2/L3 professional Network Engineer to be able to post vote-worthy questions. May 20, 2013 at 18:31

(This answer may come across as a bit of a rant, and to anyone who interprets it that way, I'll apologize in advance for that's not my intent. My intent is to make a coherent argument supported by current evidence that SE, Inc. ought to revise their software and/or rules so as to allow for the option of some committed members to uncommit from certain beta communities under certain circumstances.)

I think @ThomasOwens has an excellent point with this question. The Network Engineering proposal and beta community is a perfect example going on presently of why there ought to be a way out of a commitment after a site goes into beta and before the commitment is fulfilled.

The NE proposal itself and at least one solicitation for recruits (see "Update 2" which reads in part, "Now, we just need people to commit to being active (writing questions and answers) for the beta site to launch, essentially signing a petition. We can really use people who are already active on other Stack Exchange sites, so please spread the word to friends and colleagues in sister fields.") gave no indication whatsoever that SOHO networking would be way off-topic in a community proposal titled "network engineering."

Indeed, had the site proposal description been written explicitly with such a limitation, I think it likely would have stayed closed as a proposal rather than getting re-opened and moving on to beta as it did. Consider that when I proposed CopyrightX (with the explicit proposal description, "initially: 500 students of Professor William Fisher's CopyrightX course at edX.org, first taught in spring 2013. Ultimately a medium where everyone in the world can ask questions and get answers about existing and ideal copyright laws in all nations."), I did so with the vision of attempting to recruit an initial cohort of experts comprised of 500 of my fellow students in a Harvard Law School MOOC (with many more outside that cohort enthusiastically welcome to join too). But <24 hours after proposing it, Robert Cartaino closed it with the comment, "...we cannot create a closed-group site. Instead proposals should identify an area of expertise to a broader public interest." (my emphasis.) One Area51 user elaborated on Robert's behalf that, "we don't want the wording in the proposal to sound like it may be intentionally excluding people," and that my initial proposal description "sounds like you're excluding people."

So even creating the impression of excluding people is enough to get a proposal closed. Yet on Day 1 of its private beta, Network Engineering essentially became, in Robert's words to me, the verboten "closed-group site" in that it was essentially off-limits to non-L2/L3 professional Network Engineers, if not through any explicit software enforcing its exclusivity, then certainly through peer pressure. For example, one NE user wrote about a wifi troubleshooting question, "Most of the people that are going to be populating this SE are network engineers - either L2 or L3 by trade. While there will most likely be some people who have more experience with wifi from a signals level, troubleshooting at the OSI layer that you're having problems with is much less common. However, even at a very quick level, I don't think anything with the word 'linksys' (which is strongly correlated to consumer-level gear) will get a lot of traction on this SE. Perhaps a wifi signals question dealing with large build-outs will get traction..."

Despite explicit private blog posts to the contrary (see "Update 4" which reads in part, "Everyone is welcome to join and contribute."), the closed-group status of the community is implicitly clear in several respects, with some users who are not quite full-blown L2/L3 professional Network Engineers feeling intimidated within the community about asking questions that are perhaps "too amateurish," and also in the rapidly falling question-per-day ratio which started above 22 and which twelve days later is about half of that despite many members openly admitting to reposting their own questions and answers from other forums (perhaps infringing those other sites' copyrights on their user-submitted content) in an apparent attempt to artificially inflate their Q/D ratio on SE.

Now I'll admit to feeling some resentment about this community that seems to be implicitly a closed-group site hosted by SE, Inc., but that's not my main point in this answer. My main point is that I knew on Day 1 of the NE private beta that SOHO networking questions were overwhelmingly off-topic there, and I had committed to the proposal with the firm impression that such questions would be perfectly on-topic, and with lots of clear indicators to support that impression. So regardless of whether or not NE would have stayed closed as a duplicate, I certainly would never have committed to the proposal had there been an explicit indication or even a hint anywhere (in the Example Questions or proposal description or Discussion Questions) that SOHO networking would be strictly off-limits in a community explicitly described as being, "For network engineers".

Having held one impression about the community based on Example Questions et. al., I committed to it enthusiastically, and on Day 1 of the private beta, I spent more than an hour composing a question that's been subtle and quite interesting to me for several years. Within minutes of posting that question it was very clear that my impression about the community was completely incorrect. Nonetheless I participated as described by SE staff in various questions scattered throughout meta.SO with 10 questions and answers on main (in spite of a rather hostile reception to same on NE) and several questions, answers, and comments on meta. I had one main question closed and another almost closed before I voluntarily deleted it (apparently a desirable thing to do on SE as I earned a "Peer Pressure" badge for having done so? does that count as participation?).

So even on Day 1 of the NE private beta, it was clearly a very bad fit for me (as @ThomasOwens also mentioned about the Ubuntu community and himself). In spite of this, I fulfilled my commitment to NE. However, 5 days into NE's public beta and my commitment token still hasn't cleared so as to allow me to be able to commit to another proposal. And I just read that I may have to wait as much as six months to get it back?! If that's the case then I'd like to uncommit from NE but that is currently not an option, and I think it should be. Fortunately my own community proposal is not near to being commitment-ready, for I fully intend to commit to it, but I never imagined I'd be prevented from committing to my own proposal because of these limited-commitment rules.

Like @ThomasOwens described for the Ubuntu community, I think that in cases where a minority is unable to shape the direction of the community (as was the case for me in NE and for him with Ubuntu), and where the majority repeatedly shuts out attempted contributions from such individuals (as was the case for me with NE), I think there ought to be a threshold level of attempted participation where the shut-out minority members eventually gain the option of uncommitting from the proposal/community without suffering any reputation penalty. This presents a small disincentive to would-be gangs from intimidating minority opinions out of the community while still keeping those same minority members' commitment tokens hostage. If the majority is strong enough then the minority truly doesn't belong there and shouldn't have their commitment token held hostage there. But the majority at least needs to reckon with the loss of a significant portion of their members if they repeatedly shut out minority opinions. I think that such a rule would be a significant improvement upon existing SE community rules, for it encourages a tolerant attitude in nascent communities which creates a welcoming atmosphere for potential new community members which would ultimately increase the probability of every new beta going live.

  • The fundamental problem with this kind of uncommittment is this: you would allow gaming of the system. People would commit to something just to get it into beta, then not follow through and just uncommit themselves. Beta represents a non-trivial amount of work on the SE team's side, so they want some reasonable assurance that the site will have a decent chance of working out. May 20, 2013 at 11:33

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