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I am a constant Googler, and I often prefer/select Stack Overflow results when given the opportunity.

I use Stack Overflow to find information as opposed to asking questions of the community, and I use it frequently. I think it is fair to say that this site has helped me at least a couple/few hundred times. I started out by learning VB so at first I hated the preponderance of C on Stack Overflow -until I learned enough that the C makes just as much sense as the VB, and I like seeing code in C because it makes me think.

It is somewhat frustrating that I am not allowed to express my gratitude by up-voting posts which I find helpful because I am not a contributor.

I assume there is a reason I am not allowed to provide feedback which may involve spammers and rude behaviors, and I respect that. You may see it as participation, but I see it as expressing gratitude. I consider this result of your policy as your loss, and also a loss to the awesome folks who have helped me so much by posting technical information.

You might recommend that I just become an active contributor, but I am fairly new to programming, and I am not confident enough in my knowledge to share it with other people.

I recommend that you loosen your policy and allow me to express my gratitude.

I still think this site is awesome, and I am very grateful to those who run it and contribute to it.

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If you have a decent grasp of the English language, there is more than enough work for you to do. Suggest edits to posts and earn 2 points per accepted edit. 7 of them and you can upvote all you want. –  Bart Mar 6 '13 at 17:21
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Though I'd suggest a few more, 25 approved suggestions, and you can even comment to ask for clarifications and such. –  Daniel Fischer Mar 6 '13 at 17:26
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See also: Getting started with Stack Overflow –  Al E. Mar 6 '13 at 18:12
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See also: Should I be discouraged by Stack Overflow? –  Al E. Mar 6 '13 at 18:13
    
Another possibility would be to participate on another SE site and earn 200 points there. Then you will get 100 bonus points on each associate SE account. –  juergen d Mar 7 '13 at 11:53
    
I would just like to say that I agree with the person that asked this question and I can't upvote them so I am writing this. I know all of the other people on here think it is not a big deal, but it is definitely not very user friendly for newbies that are trying to get comfortable. –  cwhit25 Apr 2 '13 at 14:47
    
I'm also going to add a comment here with the same message - it's just crazy that the ONLY thing I want to do on Stack Overflow, I can't. –  Daveoc64 May 2 '13 at 8:57

5 Answers 5

You need only 15 reputation points to upvote. You can easily get that points from asking one good question or answer one. You already got that much points right now on meta for this single question.

I would not really call that contributing, but minimally participating.

See the FAQ about actions that increase your reputation.

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The largest part of the network is made up of minimal participants, just saying. –  AsheeshR Mar 6 '13 at 17:19
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Wow, that was quick. Thank you for the advice. In my short 3 months of programming (obsessively) I have yet to come across a problem that hasn't been answered somewhere/somehow on the interweb, so it has not been necessary for me to ask a question. At some point I will probably break down and attempt to help someone else (hopefully, it won't be useless and get me down-voted ;o) Respectfully. –  StillLearning Mar 6 '13 at 17:22
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@StillLearning one of the best ways to learn is to answer. Try exploring the unanswered questions tab. You may find something that doesn't have an answer that you can do your own research and provide a good answer –  psubsee2003 Mar 6 '13 at 17:31
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@StillLearning I feel the same about finding existing answers instead of asking new questions. If more people acted this way, there would be less duplicate questions on SO. –  Eran Mar 6 '13 at 17:32
    
@StillLearning, just reinforcing what's been already said: the Unanswered questions are a gold mine, for learning How to Answer, to improve your technical skills through research to answer those and, surely enough, to gain your deserved reputation. –  brasofilo Mar 6 '13 at 19:02

You've had several good answers already. I'd like to add another option:

if you get over 200 reputation on any of the ~100 Stack Exchange sites, you'll get a 100 association bonus to all your associated accounts, allowing you to upvote and comment across all those sites.

So if you find earning rep on Stack Overflow daunting, maybe there's already a site where you have a lot of expertise that you could share, giving you up-voting and commenting privileges across the network, including on Stack Overflow.

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To the other excellent answers and comments already posted, I would add that if you have spent as much time on Stack Overflow as you say, you're probably already more prepared to ask questions than many visitors to the site.

Many first-time posters here aren't familiar with the culture, and ask questions that aren't up to our standards -- not because they can't, but simply because they don't know those standards. At the same time, I've seen many very basic questions by new users receive multiple upvotes because the asker took the time to ask a precise question, to say what he or she has tried, and to provide clear examples, clean sample code, detailed error messages, expected input and output, and so on.

You're already well-positioned to ask the second kind of question. As someone who has read hundreds of questions and answers, you already have a clearer sense of what makes a good question on Stack Overflow than many other first-time posters.

The truth is, asking a good question is probably the hardest thing to do on Stack Overflow, and we need more thoughtful, diligent question askers. I admire (and identify with) your self-teaching tendencies, and I don't want to encourage you to post a duplicate question. But I feel certain that if you give it some thought, you can formulate a question that would make a positive contribution to the community. I hope you will give it a shot!

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  1. Ask a question
  2. Get 3 upvotes on that question

Congratulations, you can now up-vote.

Method 2:

  1. Look at the homepage until you see a softball question such as "What is a null reference exception"
  2. answer the softball question
  3. get 2 upvotes

congratulations, you can now up-vote.

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Or suggest some edits... –  Adam Rackis Mar 6 '13 at 19:16

When you're Googling up a question, you often acquire a lot of links to related content. Before you find the answer to your own question, you may find an answer to a related unanswered question.

Keep an eye out for related unanswered questions in your search results, and provide helpful links you stumble into as answers. The more obscure the search the more likely such answers are to be helpful. For common issues you'll probably be out-voted by someone with a more comprehensive answer they wrote out themselves.

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