Update: The public beta of the Physics StackExchange site will be available beginning on November 9th. Head over and show your support, be it answering or asking questions!
For those of you familiar with the wonderful Stack Overflow site for questions and discussing relating to programming, you will know how astoundingly successful this sort of website/online community model has been. No surprise that the number of questions on the site, only about a year and a half in, is already approaching 1 million, and various sister sites have been spawned.
Many unofficial sites that use the Stack Overflow software (the so-called Stack Exchange) system have also sprung up over the past months, perhaps the most active and well-known of these being Math Overflow. (Beware, however, the content is more than a bit scary unless you’re a post-graduate level mathematician!) This surge in popularity has even led to the creation of the Area 51 Stack Exchange site, which is a sort of officially-run staging ground for new Stack Exchange sites. (It does however require a strict process of definition, commitment, and beta testing before such communities are created as websites of there own.) Several communities are already on there way to becoming fully-fledged communities in the theme of Stack Overflow, for topics such as Web Applications, Cooking, Mathematics, and English Language.
What is more, a Physics proposal has been made for a Stack Exchange community, but is still only in its middle stages of creation. What it needs at the moment is what the creators of Area 51 term commitment (users stating that they intend to be active in the new community). No surprise then, that I’m advertising to the physics enthusiasts out there to go and sign up for the new community by committing. It takes no more time than signing in with your Google Account and clicking a button, but will give this community a real chance to develop into something great.
The popularity and sheer visitor count of the Stack Exchange and now the Area 51 websites should indicate that this could potentially be a very active and hugely useful community for physicists and physics students assisting each other in problems and sharing knowledge across the world. Unfortunately the existing attempt at a Stack Exchange community for physics over at physicsoverflow.net has shown little sign of taking off. Let us hope the two sites merge once things take off on the staging ground. Certainly, the process that Area 51 forces such sites to go through does however give every sign of success!