I've committed to three proposals at Area 51. For all three I'm waiting for them to go Beta. That's all I can do now - wait.

But that is stopping me committing to other proposals. Why? I got a message in asking me to commit to Personal Productivity and Organization (GTD, Covey, etc.) (which I was following) but I can't.

Why not? This is a bottleneck to getting these proposals off the ground. My suggestion: remove it. Let people commit to as many proposals as they like (just as we can currently follow as many as we like).

Update: It's happened again. I'm stuck here!

  • 3
    Alternative 1: link maximum number of proposals to reputation e.g. 2 proposals extra per 1000 rep. Oct 1 '10 at 9:25
  • 2
    Alternative 2: (from @Tim, below) - discount "stalled" proposals from maximum, e.g. any proposal that has not made progress for a week (or is in commitment for a month) gets knocked off your count. Oct 1 '10 at 9:26
  • 1
    I think it's supposed to be a bottleneck, or more accurately a sieve, in order to get people focused on the best proposals
    – Brad Mace
    Oct 8 '10 at 18:21
  • See my comment down on George's answer.
    – Mark C
    Nov 15 '10 at 15:36

No, you can not remove the limit on commitments.

Commitment is where we say, "Put your money where your mouth is." But that "money" isn't worth anything if you have an infinite (or even a large) supply of it.

It's one thing to say "Yeah! That's a great idea." That's the definition phase. It's an entirely different exercise to really commit yourself by investing a valuable resource; something in limited supply — Time and "money" (i.e. your commitment token).

I have no idea how many proposals you can reasonably fulfill a commitment to. Three? Ten? Dozens? It's irrelevant. The idea is to make your commitment worth more than a button press.

If a stalled proposal isn't "worth" waiting for, un-commit and spend your token on a different proposal.

  • I've chosen to accept this as the "official" response from the SO team (though I strongly disagree with it). Jan 26 '11 at 7:29
  • It is not irrelevant if it is three or ten. The number of proposals in the commitment phase has doubled since I first took a look at area51. It is obvious that this spreads commitment thinner among the proposals. I do agree that an upper bound is a good thing, but three is too small a number for the current number of proposals in commitment phase.
    – Phira
    Oct 7 '11 at 9:59
  • @Phira: You can still "follow" proposals (an unlimited number of them). We now send notices when when a proposal reaches 60% commitment (and again at 90%). Commit to any up-and-coming proposal you wish to actually help build. Three sites at once is a lot of sites to help found, if you're doing it right. It isn't really helpful to us if hoards of committers don't show up because anyone can click-click-click-clicks through every proposal that sounds even vaguely interesting. It takes a lot more work than that. More proposals in Area 51 doesn't mean you can seriously "commit" to more. Oct 7 '11 at 14:17
  • The time a proposal spends in commitment is now often a year, and more proposals in area51 means that this time becomes longer. So talking about "three site at once" is somewhat misleading.
    – Phira
    Nov 23 '11 at 23:31

I think the problem there is that the act of committing is really effortless, making it easy for people to be over-optimistic about participating in all of the proposals that they're committing to. So, if the majority of a proposal's user base is equally tied up in six other proposals that could be nearing beta, the actual level of commitment would probably end up being far less than anticipated.

It seems more appropriate in that case to restrict people to only a few commitments, with the expectation that if a site should fail, it will do so because the site concept isn't successful, not because the committed members at large took on too much at once.

At the same time though, it does put you at a huge disadvantage if the proposals that you've committed to aren't gaining a huge amount of momentum. The argument that you wouldn't be able to contribute adequately to all of the sites is largely irrelevant if only one of the proposals goes to beta after all.

A potential solution in that case would be to keep the commitment limit, but allow for "stalled" proposals to not count towards that limit based on certain activity criteria. I haven't observed Area 51 processes enough to know whether or not there's anything to reasonably determine that though, and to some degree I feel like it may be more trouble than it's worth even if there was (without knowing this is a common problem).


There's a very good reason you can only commit to so many at a time - a commitment is a pledge to devote time toward the site. If you commit to too many sites, you won't be able to do that.

The team has decided to make that limit 3 to ensure that people don't spread themselves too thin. It also gives the proposal a better chance of succeeding.

  • 4
    I get the concept but I'm not sure "the team" can decide better than me how much time I will commit to each proposal. Oct 1 '10 at 9:23
  • and @MarkR: Yes, you can only give so much attention to each site during the commit phase, but the problem is when you have multiple sites you would like to help out of the commit phase. Once they get past the first phase, you have a "seed" of sorts that will grow more or less on its own (provided there exists a user base). I agree with the rationale behind limiting proposal commitments, but I would hate to see proposals I believe in fail because I am committed to a couple others for 90 days or so. If only they could wait a little!
    – Mark C
    Oct 19 '10 at 1:07
  • 1
    If the promotion to beta spans months between each site, I will be able to give time to all of them. Jan 26 '11 at 0:05

If some proposal is nearing to going to beta, you can always uncommit from other proposal, commit to that proposal, fulfill your commitment and in no more that 2 weeks return to the previously uncommited one. It is not very probable you'll have more than 3 proposals you're interested in launching simultaneously, and even if that's the case, would you really be able to fully participate in 4 or more sites, and concentrate on inventing so many example questions or answering that questions, without loosing quality?


Area 51 isn't a fast process (and I gather it's gotten slower), so I see the frustration. There should be a limit, but the current one is too restrictive.

I'd like to see the limit be based on where the proposals you're committed to (and/or the one you want to commit to) are in their paths to beta. If I'm committer #2 it's going to be a while and you can't predict how much time I'll have in a year or two, so it doesn't make sense to have a limit there. But if my commitment is the one that's going to kick a site into beta, then I need to not have too many commitments now.

So, just picking numbers here, maybe you can commit to up to 3 proposals that are past the 50% mark, and anoother 5 that are below that? If one of your <50% commits goes up so you have 4 (or more) active commitments, then either you have to drop one of them (hand-wave around the looping problem if yours is the pivotal commit), or you're just blocked from adding any more.

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