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I'm sorry to bother you with my thoughts but since I'm quite new here, I am not familiar with this. Stack Overflow was my first choice for help for a long time. I decided, now that I'm a bit better in my programming skills, to "join" the Q&A. But I somehow had a bad start and after writing 6 answers I had sadly only one (so far) that was rated positively. The other five have just no answer (yet).

So that obviously leads to the question whether or not my answers are not really that good. What's more, I got "banned" from answering.

Well, I don't know, it might be that I'm not the best for every answer. But from other forums I'm used to post what might help to give a direction - even if it is not the perfect solution. So I did the same thing here with the conclusion that I can't answer any more.

I somehow have the feeling that it is difficult to get a vote for your answer, especially since I'm not a professional programmer with many years of work experience. And I have the feeling that some people who ask don't easily give a vote after reading the answer. Perhaps they want to try the solution immediately and forget to vote. I don't know. But re-editing my answers don't seem to work much. I don't think I will get a vote for it if the solution is already given and they don't come back to see my re-edit.

So here is my question.
Is it normal that it is so "difficult" at the beginning? Do many people have this problem? Or did I simply have had a bad start? I'm a bit lost, since I see some questions I'd like to help but I can't. Well, that's it. I just wanted to hear if my case is a strange one or if everyone has difficulties at the beginning.

I really want to participate and help other people with my knowledge.

Thanks anyway for all this. You make a wonderful work every day!

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A tiny nitpick: this is not a forum. It's a Q&A. And are you saying you got answer-banned, or that you are afraid of getting a ban? –  Bart Aug 9 '12 at 22:51
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No I actually got banned already and I was surprised how fast it went (after 6 replies and sadly only one positive). And for the Q&A, well sorry for that. I wasn't sure where to ask and perhaps I needed some support. Thank you anyway. –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 22:57
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You seem to have some decent answers. I edited a screenshot into one and left a comment on it (it could have used some explanation), but your other answers seem to be on-point, and have a good balance of code and explanation. I should note that I can't vouch for the answers' accuracy that much, since I am not as familiar with the topics you are. All-in-all; I'd say you are doing OK. –  Andrew Barber Aug 9 '12 at 23:01
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I recall that some of your questions are closed (for posting three very similar sounding questions in a short time frame), but this is not the same thing as being banned, it just means that you can no longer answer the questions which are closed. I'm not even sure if such a thing as a ban exists. Don't worry if your answers don't get upvoted, that's just a normal part of life (especially in some of the less active tags). –  Tim Aug 9 '12 at 23:06
    
That's why I was asking. Yes I'd a "repost" cause I had a question for "OpenGLES 2" and somehow the same for "OpenGL1.0". Anyway,I understand that one of them got closed since it's likely to understand them both if you get one. And I even found an answer for them. But I tried to answer on a question recently and couldn't. I can still post so I was surprised. I thought,I probably wouldn't be able to ask if I don't help others but this was the other way around. Anyway, this wasn't ment to cry and ask you for good votes. I was just surprised and wanted to know if I'm doing something wrong. –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:14
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FYI: you're not currently banned. Congrats on posting a solid question here and getting attention for your better answers on SO! –  Shogging through the snow Aug 9 '12 at 23:18
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Huh, I feel like a beggar for votes now. That was really not my intention. Uhh, I'm sorry! –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:21
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Not a beggar at all. The meta community scoured your account and found a lot to upvote. Just stop using answers for asking questions (and thereby ending up with a lot of deleted answers) and you should be good to go –  Adam Rackis Aug 9 '12 at 23:58
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@Shog - I continue to doubt the usefulness of the 50 rep comment requirement... –  Adam Rackis Aug 10 '12 at 0:00
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@AdamRackis - I wonder how many frivolous comments don't ever get posted because of the comment rep threshold. Sure, we see the occasional comment posted as an answer, but something tells me most people who try to comment at say, 1 rep, probably just move on and forgettaboutit. It would be cool to see the stats on how many 1 rep folks click "Add comment", get the "sorry you don't have enough rep" message, then simply move on vs those who erroneously post non-answers as answers. My uneducated guess is that it's probably doing what it's supposed to. –  jmort253 Aug 10 '12 at 0:26
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@Shog9 - Also, I want to add that Tobias's meta question is a shining example of how to get help from the meta community when you're new. He doesn't rant, he doesn't scoff at the system. Instead, he uses a polite, objective approach and makes a genuine attempt to understand the system. It would be cool if this example could somehow be highlighted somewhere in the Meta "How to Ask" section. Just a thought, as I've seen some people ask questions like this "the wrong way" and get a very harsh response from the community. –  jmort253 Aug 10 '12 at 0:33
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In addition to what jmort talks about, there's a q-ban that kicks in really fast if you show up new and everything you post gets deleted, @Adam. Unlike the question ban, it's pretty hard to get answer-banned if you post anything useful - but there's also a much lower threshold if you don't. Applying this to comments would be problematic. –  Shogging through the snow Aug 10 '12 at 1:05
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This is a really constructive approach to some initial challenges. Stick with it. –  Jaydles Aug 10 '12 at 2:19
    
I know exactly what you're talking about. I'm a member at SO now for over a year, coming every once in a while, and haven't reached reputation 50 until now, although I'd consider myself an advanced iOS programmer. I tend to write comprehensive and accurate answers, and put really much time and effort into them, but I hardly get any upvotes. Seems to me like quantity weighs more at SO than quality (at least when starting), which is kind of sad. So yes... it is normal I'd say. –  Tafkadasoh Aug 29 '12 at 12:38
    
@tafkadasoh- i disagree. if you write many bad, low quality answers then you'll be downvoted to oblivion. it is better to answer a few high quality answers then many, many low quality answers. now, the more good quality answers you provide, the higher your reputation will be. keep in mind that everything mentioned above applies to questions as well. another thin i want to point out is that i looked at your history, and you've asked 2 questions and wrote 8 answers, which is not a lot. however, most were good quality; you have no downvotes. –  tehdoommarine Sep 2 '12 at 19:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 71 down vote accepted

I've skimmed through your questions and answers, and I've seen some easily fixable problems:

  1. Always provide context for links

    Whenever you include a link for reference in one of your posts make sure to add a short summary of the main points of the link. There are two reasons for that, the official and the real one. The official is that links sometimes break, and your link becomes useless as it points to nowhere, and the real one is that we are just too lazy to follow a link to find out what you are talking about.

  2. You talk a bit too much

    In several of your questions I've noticed that you have a tendency of adding a lot of irrelevant (to the core question) information. You need to keep your questions as concise and to the point as possible, people reading them have limited time and might lose interest if they don't get to the core question after a few seconds. I've edited a couple of your questions to show you what I'm talking about:

    You'll notice that my edits aren't anything special, removed a few words, taglines and salutations (your name and gravatar is under every post you make, and it's enough), and fixed your formatting just a tiny bit. I'm not promising that my edits will help you get upvotes, they are just examples of how you can (slightly) improve your existing posts in less than five minutes.

  3. Stack Overflow is not a forum

    As Bart already mentioned, you've fallen in the classic new user trap. This Q&A thing is complex. We have quite a few rules & guidelines (perhaps too many for our own good), and it will take some time before you learn the basics. But you will, no doubt about it. For future reference, only post answers that directly answer the question as asked - don't post comments or questions as answers. Since you are new, and a bit in trouble, I'd advise you avoid posting partial answers and concentrate on questions you can fully and thoroughly answer (more up votes your way, this way, especially if you back your answers with solid references).

Some general pro tips:

  • Don't get discouraged

    As you may have noticed from your first Meta Stack Overflow adventure, we are a very friendly bunch. If you continue approaching issues constructively, we are all here to help, feel free to ask about everything and anything (relating to the site or your questions and answers).

    Meta Stack Overflow can be a harsh mistress sometimes, but even if you catch us in a bad day don't worry about it, we usually revert to our usual friendly self soon enough.

  • Use chat

    There is a ton of chat rooms on Stack Overflow. Visit the ones that are closer to your expertise (Android development) and ask for feedback on your questions and answers. Sometimes people will just vote on them (up or down), and that's OK (it's feedback after all), but most of the time people will be happy to discuss your posts with you (at least in the rooms I frequent) and provide helpful pointers.

  • Learn from the best

    If you click on any tag, you'll notice a "top users" link and if you follow it you'll find the list of top answerers and askers for the tag. For example, these are the top Android users. Visit their profiles and read their questions and answers, try to find out what made them top users. You'll probably notice that most of them write concise, crystal clear and to the point posts. Try to adopt their style.

    Important: Resist the urge to vote on posts you found by visiting a user's profile, that's considered serial voting. It will be reversed and it will get you in trouble. The reasoning is that you didn't discover the posts naturally (through browsing the site), and the system can't distinguish whether you are honestly voting for the post or the user. There are a few people around who vote everything their friends / colleagues post, or even worse create secondary accounts to vote for themselves, and spoil the fun for everyone. Always vote the post, never the user.

  • Keep improving your posts

    Ban or no ban. A couple of days ago I edited a +18 PHP answer of mine (on Programmers), to remove a paragraph that a commenter pointed out was a bit... I could have just ignored the comment, it was a highly up voted answer, but the edit brought it back to attention and:

    1. It's currently at +25, earning me a silver Good Answer badge (and it keeps getting attention),
    2. A core contributor of the language noticed the (oldish) question and posted an excellent answer.

    I call that a win! Don't abandon your old posts just because they got upvotes, check back every now and then and see if you can improve them (I check them every three months). Don't do minor edits just to bump them though, that's generally frowned upon, and it may result in a rain of down votes.

I'll close with my usual story: I've asked my first question on Programmers back in May '11. It was closed, as was my second one, and I'll admit it stung a bit. I've read the FAQ (twice), and started scouting for great questions and answers to model mine on. I did everything I'm advising you to do, and after a while the reputation started flowing. If you check my network reputation graph you'll notice that after a (very) slow start, I started earning reputation rapidly. It takes a while, and it took a while for everyone, it's absolutely normal.

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the philosophy, structure, and guidelines of the site. Be patient and respectful to the community and you'll soon start harvesting the sweet rep!

That's about it, young padawan.

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"we are a very friendly bunch"...for as long as this summer of love thing lasts. ;) –  Bart Aug 10 '12 at 11:00
    
@Bart meta.stackexchange.com/questions/137784/… –  Yannis Aug 10 '12 at 11:01
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Yes, that seems to be a good summary. I think I understand some things much better now. Thank you, my master! –  Tobias Reich Aug 10 '12 at 11:03
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@TobiasReich Notice that the first question I edited was further edited by another user. It always works like that, you do a few minor fixes, someone else notices and continues the work, few edits later you have a near perfect post. We like working together around here... –  Yannis Aug 10 '12 at 11:17
    
I must admit, I still feel not really compfortable in editing someones post. Feels like penetrating privacy somehow. Maybe this person didn't want me to do that. Or I didn't get the reason why it was the way it was. I better use the comments if I see a bigger problem. But thanks, I will try to get used to this! :-) –  Tobias Reich Aug 10 '12 at 11:26
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@TobiasReich Every edit is reversible, others will review your edit and reverse it (or improve it) if it's somehow wrong. The FAQ clearly states: "If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you." - Every user is (or should be) aware that every post is editable by everyone, be bold and edit! And until you reach 2K rep, your edits need to be approved by two other members, there isn't much chance of something going wrong. –  Yannis Aug 10 '12 at 11:30
    
Well, alright. I will do my best! –  Tobias Reich Aug 10 '12 at 11:31
    
@TobiasReich Check out our basic editing guidelines here. The page describes the 2K privilege "Edit questions and answers", but the guidelines on when you should edit a post apply for everyone. –  Yannis Aug 10 '12 at 11:33
    
@YannisRizos I strongly disagree with your suggestion for using the chat. That statement should come with a great big "Achtung!" warning next to it. A good portion of the chats on SE sites are just a plethora of abrasive, egotistical maniacs who A never answer questions and B just close questions posted by newcomers, but only after they've made it absolutely clear that they think you're a total invalid. –  mmmshuddup Oct 8 '12 at 21:00
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@mmmshuddup As a SE chat moderator (SE chat, not SO chat) I take those accusations very seriously. Care to point me to concrete examples? –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 21:31
    
@YannisRizos Most definitely. Just peruse the PHP chat from about 12 hours ago. Should I reference users or is that discouraged? EDIT: Also, thanks for responding so quickly. –  mmmshuddup Oct 8 '12 at 21:32
    
@mmmshuddup The PHP chat room is on SO chat, not SE chat, so I can't do much about it. Preferably you should post a Meta question here on MSO, targeting the general behaviour(s) you've noticed, not individuals. Adding a couple of concrete examples with links to the transcript would be more than ok, just don't make it about people. If you decide to post a Meta question I'd advice against the tone you used in your previous comment, it would be a shame for people to ignore your question because it reads like a rant. –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 21:38
    
@mmmshuddup I have in the past called chat "evil", and the link at the last paragraph there is about the PHP chat room. There is a problem (not with the specific chat room, but with chat in general). Don't know how major the problem is, but it's definitely worth investigating. Just don't rant ;) –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 21:41
    
@YannisRizos :) Ok, yeah sorry I tend to get intense sometimes. If I do decide to post a question here about it I will definitely choose my words very carefully. Thanks for the advice and that link, I enjoyed your post on that question! –  mmmshuddup Oct 8 '12 at 21:53

In your case it's the deleted answers that are causing the ban. (I don't know the algorithm, but there's nothing else I can see that would be causing it.) In particular, do not post questions in the answers section. Those will be deleted every time. Once you get 50 reputation you'll be able to leave comments, which is where follow-up questions and clarifying statements belong. Until then, improve your other answers and try to ask good questions that will get upvotes so that the answer ban will be lifted.

But in the future, please only post in the "Your Answer" section when you have an actual answer to the question being asked.

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Perhaps the whole "forum" remark I made earlier factors into this. SO is not a forum but a Q&A. It has a strict question and answer structure and you should never use the answers for what is essentially a question. –  Bart Aug 9 '12 at 23:11
    
@Bart Yes, forum-like behavior (follow-up/related questions posted as answers) is exactly what I'm seeing in the deleted answers. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 9 '12 at 23:15
    
Huh, I deleted answers? My own? Where can I take a look at them? Sorry, I didn't mean to do that. Or was it when I answered but asked for clarification or so? So maybe that one got deleted. I'm sorry for creating all the mess for you. I guess I just made something wrong. Well, that answers my question somehow. :-( –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:18
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@TobiasReich No worries. You deleted one and moderators deleted a few others. stackoverflow.com/a/11739878/1288 stackoverflow.com/a/11847003/1288 stackoverflow.com/a/11872948/1288 stackoverflow.com/a/11875586/1288 –  Bill the Lizard Aug 9 '12 at 23:20
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Ah, okay, I see. So the deleted ones still carry weight. So, I will try hardter to make good answers. After all - I think I understand some things better now. Especially the Q&A idea. We will see. Thanks for all your help, everyone! –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:24

So here is my question. Is it normal that it is so "difficult" at the beginning?

Yes. As simple as that. But don't let that discourage you. Just keep an open mind. Have a look at the other answers on the same question. Did they get upvotes? How do they differ? Are they better answers? Are they well formulated? Figure out what you could have done to improve your answer. And if you do figure it out, then improve your answer.

Receive the occasional downvote? No problem. That's something to learn from. Try to figure out why you got it. They are not personal. They are not there to put you down. They are simply an indication that there might be something you have missed or could improve upon.

Over time you'll pick up the occasional upvote. Both asking questions and answering them are learning experiences. And the more you learn, the better you get at it.

All I can say is, stick to it. You'll get there. And don't forget that you can help out in many other ways as well. Suggest edits. Flag content that should not be there. Help to keep this place clean.

Don't focus on reputation. Focus on learning. You'll enjoy your time here far more if you do and you'll pick up some points as a side-effect in the end.

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So how can I deal with a question I answered (hopefully good) and none of the answers there got a vote. I'm somehow stuck with 5 answers that are given a while ago and I'm afraid noone will ever take a look at them again to vote. Besides I don't want to copy the good answer from someone who came after me. So well, might be I didn't give the perfect answer. I find it difficult to "optimize" it without saying the same again. But thanks for your encouraging words. I will try - even though I can't answer at the moment! :-) –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:03
    
I'm actually rather surprised that you got answer-banned. Unless you deleted a significant amount of content that I can't see. (Ah, I see Bill's answer now. That explains it) –  Bart Aug 9 '12 at 23:06
    
No, I didn't - as long as I didn't do it without knowing. Well, its true now that I think of it. I once had an answer that was a question for clarification, too. Maybe that one got deleted?! And I clicked once on delete for my "repost" (the OpenGL1.0 / OpenGLES question) but not for an answer. Is it possible, that this happened because I re-edited them too often??? –  Tobias Reich Aug 9 '12 at 23:15
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Read Bill's answer. It explains the cause for the ban. –  Bart Aug 9 '12 at 23:17

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