I'm thinking about writing a book focusing mostly on the strategy of getting rep on Stack Overflow. Here is a sneak preview. I want to see how much demand is out there for this. I think SAMs might be convinced to publish it. The real version will have to be like 200 pages, so I'll have to write a lot more.
Evan Carroll's Unofficial Guide to Stack Overflow
Chapter 1: Introduction
Stack Overflow is a more open Web 2.0 version of Experts Exchange. It is a replacement created by .NET programmers for the specific purpose of catering to the programming community. It has many features that Perlmonks, phpBB, and Yahoo! Answers are currently lacking including, tagging, (some) self-moderation, and a very bold outward REPUTATION system (phpBB has this). The largest feature is certainly tagging which makes it easy to follow the questions that interest you (even using RSS), and block the ones that don't. There is also an aggressive group of moderators that will filter out questions by blocking, closing, or deleting them. The StackOverflow is funded largely by Windows Shared Hosts in the form of advertising.
In the future, Stack Overflow will certainly be a big attraction to an employer. And, the developers creating the site have stated a desire to take it this direction. This is evidenced by their LinkedIn clone: http://careers.stackoverflow.com, which already returns a modest revenue stream. Soon, having REPUTATION could make the difference between getting a job, and not.
Chapter 2: Strategies
Using Stack Overflow without a solid strategy to get REPUTATION quickly is a major waste of time. At least, in so much as securing future employment. Everyone, should have fun with the service, but at the same time you need to be comparatively higher leveled than them to stand out.
Section "a": "Take the lead"
This strategy is a good one. Let's say someone asks a question, "How do I join two tables". Even if someone has already answered, so long as you can make your answer appear marginally different, and so long as they have fewer than 1 vote, you can answer along the same lines and downvote them! Because, Stack Overflow keeps the votes anonymous you can rest assured very few people will know you did. And, the gain? Your answer sits above theirs now. This is always a good tactic even with a minor point hit (-1 for downvoting) you gain a position worth at least 5 times that. People read the page from the top to the bottom. If your answer sits above, they'll assume it is better or that you answered first,
When it comes to explaining this strategy I like to make an analogy to moving a knight to the center of the board at the expense of losing a pawn. Often, it simply works out well for you.
Remember Stack Overflow has a snowballing effect on the answers towards the top of the page. The longer you go without taking the lead the less likely it is that you will outperform the other answers, or be chosen for best answer.
This strategy was approved of by devinb,
Actually the comment "-1 to every answer except this" IS an explanation. He is CLEARLY stating that this answer is correct and all the other answers are wrong (in his opinion). Which he is perfectly allowed to do on this site. – devinb May 16 '10 at 16:16
Section "b": "The art of knowing when to stop upvoting"
Keep in mind when you upvote that you don't get anything in return (except a few minor badges in the beginning). It is kind of like giving money to an enemy, in a system where money is free. Sure, the vote doesn't cost you anything... But, what do you really gain other than gloryifing your competition?
Section "c": "Upvoting the question"
This is a must!! Always, upvote the question. This ensures it will look like a more interesting question from the index page, and more people will look at it. Think of it like your own way to advertise that this question has your great answer. The more people that look at the question, the more people that might upvote your answer.