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Update
When I went to see if Kolachi had responded to my response to his question (i.e., what started this question initially), his question was no longer there and at the bottom of my response was a message informing me that it had been "deleted by Bill the Lizard".

Kolachi's question was about whether Ubuntu Server or Ubuntu Desktop was a better version of Ubuntu for deploying a Ruby-on-Rails application.

So, I'm not allowed to send a perfectly reasonable private message, or comment response, but my valid response can be deleted with no warning and no reason!!!
End of Update

I have a question on SO marked as a favorite and saw a notice that there had been activity on that question. I went to the question and the activity is from a new user (rep of 1) who has asked what I believe is a new question.

My first thought was to send an off-thread comment to the user, but I can't do that - Any way to send a personal message to another user? (of course, still being a fairly new user myself, it took a little searching on my part to find out that it definitely couldn't be done).

My second thought was to comment directly to the user's comment, but I can't do that either because my SO rep isn't high enough (it's a pitiful 24, mostly because I find existing answers to my questions) - How do comments work? . This actually took a lot of searching because it was clear -- from the very question thread that I was in (e.g.)-- that SO supports this functionality, and it was only when I found some other low rep user's support question that I had any idea why I couldn't do what was clearly possible to do.

So what I ended up doing, which, because of the user's extremely new status, I wonder if s/he'll even notice, is I made what I believe is an extremely inelegant "@ username - timestamp" callout at the beginning of a new answer. Of course, because of the ordering of the threads, my response answer comes before this new user's question answer.

Had either of these functionalities existed, I could have clearly and quickly addressed this user, but instead spent at least more than 20 minutes trying to figure out what I could and couldn't do, why I couldn't do it (which I clearly still don't know), how to best help this poor new user, and of course, writing this question so that other users might not have to go through quite as much frustration, for quite as long, and for quite as perplexing reasons.

So, what is the logic behind not supporting private messages or limiting comments to users with a rep over 50?

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2  
The list of reputation thresholds is in the faq, if you ever need to check any of the others –  Michael Mrozek Jul 10 '10 at 17:16
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@Michael - Thank you. I hadn't even realized that such feature, a feature that strikes me as so basic, would have a reputation threshold. Features like down-voting, closing topics, and banning users, it makes perfect sense to have a reputation threshold. I just wanted to direct a response to a specific user; which is a feature that I've never seen restricted by reputation in any other system that I've interacted with. –  A Lion Jul 10 '10 at 23:26

2 Answers 2

There's a 50 rep threshold on comments mainly because we want users to focus first on the core part of a Q&A site -- asking great questions and providing great answers!

Also, comments tend to be meta-commentary, which while useful and often illuminating, isn't providing an answer.

We want users to learn this distinction before they are allowed to comment, hence, the requirement to earn 50 reputation.

(and remember, you can always comment on your own posts (and any answers to your questions) with only 1 reputation.)

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Can you really always comment on your own posts? This user seems to think they can't. –  poolie Sep 26 '11 at 7:25
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@poolie two different users; one registered, one unregistered. I merged them. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 26 '11 at 7:45
    
Oh I see, two uids with the same name and the same real person. That was confusing. Thanks. –  poolie Sep 26 '11 at 9:19

The comment threshold is there to cut down on noise and spam. At only 50 rep it's low enough that a real user can get over it quickly, but just high enough that a spammer will be discouraged.

Update:

Please read the FAQ.

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Wouldn't a flag mechanism for inappropriate comments work better? It wouldn't prevent valid, on-topic comments from real users who have a low-rep, but it would allow spam to be easily removed. –  A Lion Jul 10 '10 at 17:12
    
@A Lion: We have both. I like having the minimum threshold in place for real users as well. I think it's a good idea to make sure users have been around for awhile (usually just a few days to get over the 50 rep bar) and are used to the way the site works before they unlock certain abilities. If you have over 200 rep on any of the sites you can associate your accounts (on your user page, under the accounts tab) to get 100 free rep on any other SE network site. –  Bill the Lizard Jul 10 '10 at 17:14
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@A Lion it would probably be too much work for everyone in the long run. It should be possible to gain 50-100 points in reasonable time: New questions trickle in all the time. –  Pëkka Jul 10 '10 at 17:16
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@Bill the Lizard & @Pekka -I've been a SO member for 6 months, but I'm not a programmer and I don't often get to program, so I don't have a lot of answers, and by the time I see a question at the level I could ask, it's been answered. So for somebody like me, no it's not easy to get 50-100 points in a reasonable time. –  A Lion Jul 10 '10 at 23:11
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@Bill the Lizard - Why did you delete Kolachi's question and my response to it? –  A Lion Jul 10 '10 at 23:12
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@A Lion: Kolachi's question was posted as an Answer. I left a comment for them. –  Bill the Lizard Jul 11 '10 at 0:34
    
@A I certainly can't speak for him, but I imagine he deleted Kolachi's question because (as you said) it was improperly posted as an answer when it's actually a separate question, and your answer because it was an answer to Kolachi's fake question. Neither of your answers were answers to the question they were posted on –  Michael Mrozek Jul 11 '10 at 0:36

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