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I'm trying to become more active on stack exchange sites (specifically StackOverflow, but also ServerFault and Meta sites), but I'm having some trouble with it.

I managed to get a small amount of reputation on as our company started heavily using the product, but I'm having trouble on the more populated sites like SO, where most of my questions are already asked and questions have answers faster than I can give them.

The problem is, I would like to be able to comment and up- or down-vote comments and answers as a way to contribute to the community, but I can't because I can't find questions to ask or answer.

So how should new users get started on stack exchange sites?

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You've only been back for a day after a 9 month hiatus. Give it some more time, you'll get the hang of it. Important too to know how to vote properly. – Uphill Luge Mar 4 '11 at 1:13
See? It works! Your reputation goes higher and higher! ;-) – Will Marcouiller Mar 4 '11 at 21:26
up vote 11 down vote accepted
  1. Be the first to answer the question, even if this means you don't put all the quality you would like, just edit it as soon as it is posted, so the time has already been stamped;

  2. While editing, make it quick so that you may repost your edit within a time range. This way, your edit will not show up;

  3. Don't only throw away something you're not sure of, link articles or tutorials or any other stuff related to the question you'Re attempting to answer, exceptions made for simple questions, or else, a subject which you're sure of and you can give proof by yourself;

  4. An image is worth a 1000 words, that is, for developers, code samples are important too. Sometimes you try to explain something, and don't find the words. Just bring in an example with a code sample, this will make your answer more attractive and useful to the OP;

  5. Organize your answer's text in a way that makes sense. Sometimes, you think of writing something, then you go back to erase because you thought of something else, then you continue on your idea. This can bring confusion to the reader. In other words, make your answer fluently and easily understandable;

  6. As our community friend Mr. Hans Passant said already, know how to vote properly, that is, don't downvote because you're having a bad day. And when doing so, leave a comment to explain why the downvote. This might even bring the answer's owner to rectify his answer in order to correct his/her mistake;

  7. While asking questions, try rereading your question as if you were another SO user passing by to read your question. Would you understand it? What other details shall you bring in order to make it easier to understand? I guess you got the point;

  8. Still while asking questions, make a supplemental effort to bring in some links that are related to your question. Some articles or other questions that are similar to your question, and try explaining what is different for your particular scenario and why this linked question doesn't solve your problem. This might help the others better and faster understand your point;

  9. Please accept answers by clicking the check beside the answer that solved your problem. This will point the others who could have about the same question as yours solve their problem. In that situation, they might as well upvote your question as a thank for having asked this question. While accepting an answer, you may as well upvote this same answer, if you feel like it deserves it;

  10. Don't be shy to leave comments when you find an answer clever or smart, or just to tell that you have learned something because of this question/answer. This will, I do believe so, appreciated.

I have based my answer on an answer to such a question as yours that I can no longer find. I shall link this question/answer as soon as I find it, which could give you even more details about asking and answering questions.

Well, I guess now that I will have to wait to see if my answer makes based on its votes! ;-)

I really hope this helps anyhow.


I finally found the question I was talking about. I remembered it as an answer, but in fact it seems it is a question from Jeff Atwood.

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This is a good answer (+1) but I am sad that #1 and #2 are encouraged. I wish reputation were more subtle (hidden, even) and people were more encouraged to take time and write answers purely for altruism's sake, not to get a few cheap points next to their name. – ide Mar 4 '11 at 2:31
@ide: I couldn't agree more, and that is what I'm doing when answering a question. I take the time to answer, as you can see, no matter whether I'm first or 10th. If I feel like I my grain of salt could add something, or simply bring my point of view, I do it. I am encouraging your thoughts to persevere, then your reputation points will become in my sense more valuable. – Will Marcouiller Mar 4 '11 at 3:32
Great list. I'd add one more thing: focus on answering questions in a niche or two where you have some experience and knowledge. Questions tagged 'jquery' are going to have dozens of users scrambling to answer them, but something like 'django' or 'wordpress' will probably present a little less competition. – keithjgrant Mar 4 '11 at 4:43
Thanks for the positive comments! =) – Will Marcouiller Mar 4 '11 at 21:26
Yes the quick and dirty solutions (#1 & #2) seem unsatisfying, but my guess is that after reaching a certain repuation level there is less incentive to do #1 & #2 and more incentive to do #4 & #5. At least I hope that is the way incentives are structured. – this.josh Apr 22 '11 at 0:57

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