I noticed there are a number of dedicated and helpful members on Ask Ubuntu. Has there been any suggestion to encourage such members to become Ubuntu Members as a recognition of their contributions here (similar to forums)?
I know of several people from the site who have become members, myself being one of them. Becoming a member is a personal choice so I wouldn't say every awesome contributor has to become one. However, just contributing in Ask Ubuntu typically isn't enough. Membership boards typically like to see involvement in other areas of the community, whether that be with your LoCo, LaunchPad, IRC, Forums, etc; though your reputation and contributions to Ask Ubuntu should certainly be mentioned if anyone is planning to apply for membership :)
I really hope that Ask Ubuntu will eventually have a separate avenue for becoming Ubuntu members. Not only does it puts us in par with other official support platforms like IRC and the Ubuntu forums, who already have such platform, it also motivates the contributors to do a little extra towards Ubuntu. I consider it to be a win-win situation.
I don't think this would be in violation of anyone's preferences but rather, act as an appreciation of users' contributions to Ask Ubuntu.
While you can always apply through the general route, it is pretty tricky to explain to the community council what sort of a platform Stack Exchange is. It is also not obvious for them to see beyond the number of answers you have so far. While, we the commoners of Ask Ubuntu would exactly know how useful a certain user is, that user would lose that advantage if he is to apply through a general route.
I don't find the argument that contributing to Ask Ubuntu is not just enough particularly convincing. We already are a thriving community and one that we should be proud of. While I had activity across a variety of community, which helped my Ubuntu membership application get approved, I would like to point out that Ask Ubuntu was a big part of my contribution.
In short, we should go beyond just encouraging Ask Ubuntu contributors to become Ubuntu members and set up a community council specially for that case. I doubt anyone wouldn't want to have that.
There has been some questioning within some of the councils about contributions primarily from here being driving forces of membership. A bunch of the members of here, myself included, have worked on this site primarily, but have other contributions throughout the Ubuntu project. I personally started on IRC, then on ubuntuforums, then here, and now I'm on the Bug Squad and trying to get myself onto other big teams.
Most of the regional councils have been briefed on how Ask Ubuntu works, and myself and jokerdino have both been driving forces for here to be used as primary support stuffs. Regional councils seem to recognize that Ask Ubuntu is an alternate iteration of the Ubuntu forums community, so accordingly support the stuff here.
The NDAs moderators sign prevent an Ask Ubuntu council from being formed, and since this site isnt controlled by the Community Council they can't support a council for just here.
I strongly suggest that strong contributors to here apply for Ubuntu membership. If I know you, I'll give you a testimonial to support you. But I strongly believe that Ask Ubuntu is gaining momentum in the Ubuntu community, and will one day become a driving factor for membership.