Is the commitment "critical mass" too strict?

Let me start by stating I total agree with the principles of the "commitment phase", however there are issues worth discussing.

1. Users from my original Stack Exchange v1.0 site count for shit. I started Skeptic Exchange last November, while not being the most popular SE site, it was gaining a following.

The biggest problem was educating the user, as a non-programming related site it had little crossover with Stack Overflow, Server Fault and Super User. Therefore it was difficult to pick up new users who would 'get' the concept.

Now having attracted all these new users I have to get them to sign up to the Stack Exchange proposal over at Area 51. Many of them did, but as they were never members of the original trilogy their commitment counts for less than 0.5%.

Skeptic Exchange - www.skepticexchange.org

2. Stuck in limbo. At its current rate the Stack Exchange proposal will require approximately 350 users. This will take months, that's fine. However, since the proposal was started new questions and answers have dried up on Skeptic Exchange v1.0 because everyone is waiting for the new site.

3. Complexity and confusion. The final hurdle is people finding it difficult to grasp the concept of committing. The Stack Exchange proposal is probably one of the most widely advertised Area 51 proposals. I regularly contact members in the skeptical community to tweet and talk about it on their podcasts, etc. These all generate a lot of click-throughs but very few actual commits.

Have other people found these issues with their proposals?


3 Answers 3


I think the number of people who commit bear little influence on the success of the website. Some proposals may look good on paper but end up being quite boring, and the reverse also happens.

Look at the ladder. Web apps, the most successful proposal on area51 and the first website to reach beta status, is now one of the least successful proposals based on views. Programmers which was one of the slower growing in area51 is now by a large margin the most successful.

Webmasters, which was I believe the 3rd, is now at the very bottom of the list (probably because it overlaps too much with stack overflow).

So in short what as you say counts for shit is the number of people who commit; they seem to bear little to no significance to the success of the proposal. So I agree, the bar should be greatly lowered, the only way to know if a website is successful is to try it out.


I agree with sentiment of the OP. Comparing between 'Audio Recording and Production' which has 87% from 179 users, compared with Libraries with 35% from 300 users, it seems like the 'critical mass' calculation / weighting isn't working too well. Is there too much weight on having high rep users from other SE sites (e.g. will they spend a similar amount of time on the new commitment?)

  • the calculation is correct; the chances of success with a site that has 100% newbies, who don't know anything about our Q&A format, is exceedingly low. See: Stack Exchange 1.0. Dec 1, 2010 at 23:16
  • 2
    Surely by that logic, a topic with little interest to current SE users is likely to fail whether it launches with 300 or 3000 users. I guess there is a risk with the reliance on veterans, that the veterans are going to be spread ever thinner as new sites open up unless there are new users from outside of the trilogy stepping up to take their place?
    – Kris C
    Dec 2, 2010 at 10:06
  • @Jeff I'm trying to create a site (area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/20632/…) for a highly technical community that could easily grasp the SE Q&A concept, but that was largely not active on the SE network up to now. We currently have 50 committers but are at only 10%! At least in the case of this proposal, I think that the high rep weight in the calculation isn't going to work in favor of both the proposal and the SE network as a whole (as @Kris points out). Jan 14, 2011 at 12:17

If an original Stack Exchange v1.0 site is to become a new 2.0 site, then I think it is reasonable to count every active user on the original site as having committed to the new site.

However in the case in Skeptic Exchange, it may be that the site has got to the end of it’s life – e.g. people get bored with the subject quickly.

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