I would like to raise the issue of whether the commitment criteria are too stringent to allow areas to form in relatively new directions. My case-in-point is the Buddhism proposal, which is in commitment phase and leveling off under 40% -- frankly it looks like it will not make it to beta.
When I committed and saw the process and stats, I immediately thought of inviting my 150 or so online Buddhism buddies, and posting it in places that would reach thousands more online types. But then I realized that, since the commitment score is the minimum of the three components, it was futile unless I could find folks who were already active on SE -- the proposal only has 37/100 of those with 200+ rep. Well, among my friends I'd be surprised if I could find even one already active on SE. I am connected with them because of Buddhism, not because of computers, math or other technical subjects, which is where SE mostly is today (26 of the top 30 SE sites by # of users).
In effect, the commitment requirement as written now forces SE to expand only by leveraging its current active user population, which, when you get down to it, is a pretty small sliver of all online activity and heavily weighted toward technical or computer-related topics.
I certainly see the need for (a) committers to show firm evidence of likely active participation; and (b) some limiting mechanism to prevent SE from branching out wildly in all directions like a weed -- we're not trying to build a fb or even a quora here. But I think the requirements as written may be overdoing things significantly... and missing a good bet that can be handled differently... read on.
Among my online friends are certainly 10-20 or more who would be eager to answer questions regularly on Buddhism and are also qualified to do so (and also perhaps to ask questions across a range, but generally at the more knowledgeable end). How can I be so sure? Easy! They post a lot on fb, with just the kinds of things that would enliven an SE area on Buddhism. And they've been doing it for quite a while with little sign of tiring. I'd rate all of these in the 500+ equivalent range for rep, many in the thousands, and at least one in the multi-thousands.
The obvious problem is -- how to confirm the level of interest of such folks behaviorally, which is the only really reliable method, and without manual processes. I don't think we want to start writing code to extract activity levels from fb, quora or other such places. But we can simply ask committers -- not "will you be active on SE?", but objective things like, "how often do you post on this topic on fb, quora or other such sites: continuously, several/day, one/day, several/week, one/week, less". Sure, folks can misrepresent their level of activity for a variety of reasons conscious or not, but that doesn't concern me very much, as long as we ask for very specific, quantifiable responses. And if we're really worried about that kind of tilt -- or even systematic ballot-box stuffing -- someone can do an easy manual spot check or sampling at some points during the commitment phase.
So, make any sense? Has this been already discussed -- perhaps endlessly -- and is already firmly decided? Or are we open to such possible changes?
Disclaimer -- I am somewhat new to SE and very new to Area 51. I did search discussions for this topic, but did not find anything in the first 5 or so pages (there are a zillion pages from searching "commitment")