The Stack Exchange Network: A Wider View
Chances are that if you follow my ramblings on twitter, read this blog, or have been active in some of the Salesforce related LinkedIn groups recently, you may well be aware of the Salesforce StackExchange proposal. I've presented my case for the site twice before,, and don't intend to cover old ground again; instead I want to highlight our progress so far, show how those who have already committed (and those who are yet to commit) can help the community move closer to the goal of a live site, and demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and support available across the Stack Exchange network.
Our Progress so Far
Progress as of 18th April, 2012
First of all, when visiting the proposal you'll see an image which highlights how far through the commit phase the proposal is; it looks much like the one to the right, in the sidebar of my blog, but it has a magical link which expands the box to provide some extra information, as shown in the image on the left. We're up to 103 committers right now, which is very impressive for a proposal that is only a few months old; there are many other proposals with half that number which have been around for considerably longer, so already the Salesforce/force.com community is showing its strength.
As the nice blue box explains, the 18% displayed at the top is the lowest of three different scores, which are listed at the bottom. Rather than delve into the details of commitment score (which we don't really need to be concerned with right now), or worry about the top score (51%, which is pretty straightforward and progressing nicely as word gets around — keep spreading it!), I want to focus on the middle score. The 18%. As commitment scores go, this is the big one, not in terms of numerical magnitude, but what it represents. As you can see we need 100 committers with a reputation score equal to, or greater than, 200 on other sites in the network, , i.e. on Stack Exchange sites other than the Area 51 site which is where proposals for new sites (such as ours) germinate. Reputation is earned through the asking, and answering, of good, valuable questions, and can also be gained through effective and helpful moderation—initially your moderation and editing capabilities are severely restricted (limited to flagging and peer-reviewed edits), but the more your prove yourself to be a valuable community member, the more reputation you earn, and the more tools you are granted access to.
For many developers who have committed to the proposal, having 200+ reputation hasn't posed a problem, primarily because the very first Stack Exchange site was Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for professional and enthusiast programmers working on any kind of system or platform. This means that many force.com developers and those attracted to the proposal are already active users of Stack Overflow and have already built up their reputation on there — at the time of writing the top 12 committers in terms of reputation are all Stack Overflow users.
One thing to be wary of is that if you are a user of another site, or sites, on the network your account information may not be linked up. If you don't have other Stack Exchange accounts, feel free to skip to the next part - The Network.
If you are a user of another Stack Exchange site already, please make sure that your Area 51 account has been linked with your other accounts to ensure our commitment score is accurate and as high as it can be!
To you view your Area 51 profile, log in and then click on your username at the top of the screen, if you have other accounts on the network there should be an option available to link them.
Your username links to your Area 51 profile
To check that your accounts are linked, login to Area 51, click on your username at the top of the screen, then click on the network profile link below your avatar. Once you are viewing your Stack Exchange profile you'll notice one of the tabs is "accounts" which does exactly what it says on the tin, and shows you your accounts — here you can check that all of your accounts are present and correct. If you do hook up an account it may not have an immediate effect on the Salesforce proposal, details regarding reputation etc. appear to be synchronised across the sites on a daily basis.
The link to your Stack Exchange network profile
So let's say that you've either committed to the Salesforce proposal (or you're going to right now), but you don't yet have an account on another of the network sites and would like to help further our progress by building up some reputation elsewhere. As luck would have it (or some careful thought and consideration by the Stack Exchange team) there is a nice page showing all of the sites currently available, a screenshot of which is shown above with the Cooking site highlighted. Whoever you are, and whatever you do for a living, there is likely to be at least one site which piques your interest. You may for instance be an avid cyclist, and could help Benzo treat his saddle sores.
It may be that like myself and Michael, you're not always 100% sure of when to use 'passed' and when to use 'past' (with regards to motion, as opposed to tense), in which case you may want to join the English Language & Usage site.
Or perhaps you happen to be a LEGO® enthusiast, and you've found yourself wondering: "What's the thing between the pant legs?". I can't say I've ever wondered that myself, but thanks to Ben Duguid I now know that the answer isn't really as interesting as it could be; Minifig hips indeed.
I've barely scratched the surface here and I could carry on all day, but this post is already getting a bit on the long side and could do with wrapping up. Hopefully this very brief introduction has given you some insight into what's out there on the Stack Exchange network of sites, of what could be useful to you outside of the Salesforce Q&A site proposal. With luck it has also provided you with the inspiration to sign up and participate in some of the other communities, to see the power of the Stack Exchange model for yourself, and to earn some badges and start gaining some reputation which reflects your expertise in a given subject, such as Minifig anatomy.