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I don't mean to be unhelpful, but I don't sit around waiting for new questions to come in so I can hopefully answer them faster and more thoroughly than everyone else on the internet. I've tried this and failed miserably.

However, by simply being able to upvote other correct answers each time I find something that works for me, I feel like I could contribute to the community without committing too much time.

Moreover, by being able to comment on other people's questions, I feel like I could help describe my own experience solving similar problems in ways that can be helpful without having to post my own 95% redundant answer.

Basically, I feel like I'm being punished for NOT asking any questions (see here: The surest way to gain lots of reputation on Stack Overflow- ask questions), which I haven't had to do because I've been so successful at finding answers to similar questions on S.O., and therefore I'm stuck with my 1 reputation and no easy way to contribute to the site.

UPDATE - This guy and I have the same problem, so I guess I'm actually hurting the site by posting a duplicate question. Great. Do we indirectly punish good citizens?

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marked as duplicate by gnat, ben is uǝq backwards, Martijn Pieters, Lance Roberts, Josh Crozier Jan 6 at 18:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Try suggesting edits to questions. Should be easy to get you enough rep to get started. –  Antony May 10 '13 at 20:14
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15 points is not much at all. Unfortunately, sock puppet accounts and other malicious new users would happily abuse the ability to upvote with a new account. –  Martijn Pieters May 10 '13 at 20:15
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find a niche, maybe answer an older question really well, try not to be downhearted, it takes time. –  hayd May 10 '13 at 20:15
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I don't think you'll have a problem anymore. ;) By the way - you have some good answers. I hope you provide some more for the benefit of the SO community. –  JDB May 10 '13 at 20:30
    
Now you have 10 more reputation, because I liked one of your answers ;). –  Linuxios May 10 '13 at 21:10
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Another way is to get active on another site. Get 200 reputation points and associate the accounts, this give you a 100 reputation bonus, enough for upvoting and commenting. –  Toon Krijthe May 10 '13 at 21:52
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If you want to find questions to answer without playing the FGITW game, then stackoverflow.com/unanswered is your friend... –  Shog9 May 10 '13 at 23:51

5 Answers 5

You need 15 rep to upvote. How can you get there? You need either

  • 1 good answer (2 upvotes) or
  • 1 good question (3 upvotes) or
  • 7 suggested edits (That is only a matter of a little effort and not so much of being a programming expert)

It is actually not that hard. If you suggest edits you can get there easily today. See the FAQ what actions get you rep points.

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Why can't I can't at least upvote and comment on correct and helpful answers without first earning reputation?

Because the potential for abuse from malicious users (spambots in the case of comments, and voting fraud, sock puppets, serial downvoters, etc. in the case of voting) is just too overwhelming if they don't need to make any positive contribution to the site first. Even these minimal requirements are extraordinarily effective at reducing the amount of malicious activity to levels that the active members and moderators are capable of dealing with.

The reputation limits are extremely low such that virtually any appropriate contribution should be enough to provide the ability to upvote, and others have described numerous ways you could go about earning it. Yes, it would be nice if there were no malicious users; if that were the case then all privileges could be given at 0 rep. Alas that's just not the world we live in.

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While true, in most of the cases you cite, getting 15 rep is really not all that much of a barrier. And egregious abuses of this are automatically captured and reversed by the system anyway. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 21:01
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@AaronBertrand - Not all voting fraud is caught by the system, and many users find their way around the safeguards by testing the bounds of the serial voting reversals. With a site this size, even the tiny, tiny percentage of users who do this is a surprisingly large number. Were we to open up the system to 0-rep users being able to vote, I could see fighting this becoming a full-time job for moderators. –  Brad Larson May 10 '13 at 21:16
    
@BradLarson I wasn't at all suggesting that the barrier be removed. I was just noting that the barrier isn't very large. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 21:19
    
How would spam bots be a problem? Do you foresee spambots successfully creating SO accounts and then posting spam comments? –  Adam Rackis May 10 '13 at 21:47
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@AdamRackis - Spam users, yes, and we don't have the level of oversight on comments that we do on questions and answers (like the promotion of posts to the front page, or appearance in the First Posts or Late Answers review queues). A decent amount of spam comes in as questions or answers from new users, but most people never see it because the community flags this very quickly. A handful of users have gamed the system in the past and posted spam comments that lasted for months before they were found and cleaned up. –  Brad Larson May 10 '13 at 22:11
    
@Brad - fair enough, thanks. Ultimately I like the 15 threashold, so no arguments here. I just didn't think spam bots would be a problem. –  Adam Rackis May 10 '13 at 23:18
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Spambots would be a burden, but IMHO the best reason for disallowing commenting on arbitrary posts from new users is simply the emphasis this places on posting actual questions and answers - the meat & potatoes of the site. A rather large number of new users would end up using comments for both of these if this restriction wasn't in place. –  Shog9 May 10 '13 at 23:50
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@AdamRackis As it stands you it's not practical to create a bot capable of creating an account, earning enough rep to comment, and then posting a bunch of spam comments. However, it's quite conceivable for a bot to be created that's capable of creating a new account and then posting a lot of spam comments, entirely automatically. The (minimal as it is) rep requirement is actually highly effective at preventing this behavior, virtually in entirety. –  Servy May 13 '13 at 14:11

My take on it: (focussing on "why can't I")

Unfortunately any steps taken to stop the below also affects legitimate users. But, as mentioned in the other answers, these reputation limits are fairly low, so you should be able to easily get there by posting an answer or two (answers tend to be upvoted more than questions, assuming they're right and don't duplicate other answers).

By no means a complete list, but what I see as "the important stuff":

Why can't I upvote?

In order to prevent from .

Why can't I comment?

In order to prevent spam commenting (and also presumably to reduce "thanks" and "great answer" comments, which should just be an upvote, not a comment, and for other reasons you shouldn't be commenting).

Posting has rate limiting (only allow a certain amount in a certain time frame) at low reputation, but commenting does not at any point (to my knowledge). With rate limiting, we can easily get spam accounts banned before they do too much damage.

Rate limiting on commenting wouldn't make all that much sense as sometimes you need to have a bit of back-and-forth in the comments.

And there's an automated ban for too many downvoted posts, without enough upvoted ones, while a ban stemming from too many flagged comments is likely manual (so we can stop spam accounts without manual moderator intervention, which is useful).

Why can't I upload image?

Imagine opening a post and seeing a completely offensive image (by whatever definition of 'offensive' you have). That won't be a very pleasant experience.

Now just stopping spam bots from doing this already helps.

Now words can also be offensive, but there may also be preventative measures for that, and you can just stop reading before the words do too much damage.

Why can't I post more than two hyperlinks at a time?

I'm not 100% sure on this one, but my guesses are:

  • It's too prevent posts that are too dependent on external resources by legitimate new users.

  • It's too prevent spam bots. Perhaps some just try to fill the post with links, so it prevents those.

Why can't I contribute answers to protected questions?

In order to prevent "thanks", "me too!" and spam answers from new users on high traffic questions. Keep in mind that most of these questions already have many answers, thus new answers are unlikely to contribute new information, but it's certainly possible that they will, so we just stop new users from posting them.

Why do I need 20 rep to talk in chat?

We can't allow anonymous participation on chat, so we require a small bit of parent site reputation to ensure that chat is reserved for active, engaged members of the community. (reference)

Keep in mind that Stack Exchange is a network of Q&A sites, not a network of chat sites, the focus is primarily on Q&A, being able to chat is just an added bonus.

Why do I need 5 rep to post on Meta?

Because we allow anonymous participation, we require a small bit of parent site reputation to prevent spam, and ensure that meta is for active, engaged members of the community. (reference)

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Asking questions are not the quickest way to make reputations here IMO.

You are rewarded for your contribution.

Your question

  • Upvote = 5rep
  • Accept = 2rep

You answer

  • Upvote = 10rep
  • Accept = 15rep

Now I guess the rep minimum to allow voting / commenting is to make sure that

  • Users don't make quick dummy accounts to vote their answers
  • Users don't make quick dummy accounts to spam stupid comments

Don't worry the rep minimum to get those privileges is very low and you should get it with a single answer.

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I feel your pain. When I first started using SO, I found that all of my questions were already posted and answered, and anything I knew well enough to quickly give an answer would get answered very quickly. I eventually got my first 15 points by getting 1 vote on an answer, and managing to get 3 suggested edits, but it was hard to even get the edits in, as this community moves fast on most common typos. I got over the next hurdle because I got a 400 point bounty on a different SO site, and the association then shot this account up by 100. After that, the points have been slow, but they do accumulate over time.

SO makes it VERY difficult to get started on this site. It makes you work hard to get over its first few hurdles. Frankly, I'm surprised anyone sticks through it who isn't on the clock, as this site does make it hard on new users to become worthwhile members.

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Really? Today I've answered two questions. For the first there was already two answers and was 25 minutes old, the second had 0 answers but was already 25 minutes old. 8 minutes work and 70 reputation... It's not always as difficult as you're making out. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 10 '13 at 23:27
    
Yes, really. It is rare to be able to just come in and get enough points to VOTE on SO. –  StarPilot May 10 '13 at 23:41
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Yes, I understood what the OP is asking about; I'm saying that I don't think it's as difficult as you're making out... Maybe I've just got more experienced at knowing which questions to answer. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 10 '13 at 23:44
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For a NEW user to SO, it can be tough if your programming expertise is in the more common areas. A few new users will be able to come in, ask a question, and quickly get rep for their question. or ask a question, play around a bit, and post a good answer on something missed. Most people that come here will however, not be so lucky. That was the point--- SO is basically a stuck up site to new users. If your expertise is in the common areas, you are in for a challenge to just get voting privs. That's simple usage. I've watched the same thing befall my co-workers so it isn't "just me". –  StarPilot May 11 '13 at 0:37
    
I feel the same; and the reputation isn't shared either. So I have some rep on StackExchange, but when I log in with my StackExchange account on SuperUser (usually covering very similar topics), I have 1 reputation and cannot even upvote a helpful answer that has 0 votes, even though it solved my problem (and likely solves the problem for everyone else too). Now I'd either have to think of a question for SU that no one asked before, or invest a chunk of time competing for answers, or look for edits for 2 rep - all that, just so I can tell the world "hey, this answer will solve the problem". –  Stefan May 10 at 14:06

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