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I understand that reputation can be gained by answering questions. However, it seems that more often than not the questions do not contain all the required information to give an answer. Since new users can not comment questions and ask for more details, this creates a sort of catch-22.

Any good advice on how to get initial reputation, given the new user restrictions?

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  • Now, would you believe that I have Catch-22 at arm's length?
    – yannis
    Jul 13, 2012 at 11:42
  • 2
    Just answer some easy question. Save the hard ones for next week. 50 rep is like 2 or 3 answers, no big deal.
    – Bo Persson
    Jul 13, 2012 at 17:59
  • 19
    I have not had any success just by browsing questions. If a question is simple and answerable, it is already taken by 'the fastest gun in the west'. The rest lack details. Jul 17, 2012 at 9:55
  • 1
    Would the top specific tactic be: "Ask some good new questions and nicely manage/curate the answers you receive?" (as that, and this comment, have been the only things I can do so far)
    – esalwin
    Feb 15, 2014 at 1:13
  • 1
    You can gain reputation by editing posts in StackOverflow. This video helped me for the first time: youtube.com/watch?v=Owpn0SCzkLU
    – Dilshod K
    Jun 21, 2020 at 6:03
  • Get an accepted answer. +15! Aug 9, 2021 at 23:05

4 Answers 4

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50 reputation isn't all that hard to get, unless you're only knowledgeable in a very specific and isolated section of programming. Sure, that initial 50 reputation might seem like an insurmountable barrier, but it'll be gone before you know it if you do the following things:

  • Write well-formed questions and answers — Do your research. If a question doesn't seem to provide enough information, you don't have to write a very specific answer. Research what could possibly cause the error and post as many solutions as you can. If your technical knowledge is lacking right now, post good questions.
  • Improve Stack Overflow — Propose edits for answers and questions. Even if it's just grammatical or orthographical errors, correcting such things will improve the readability and provide better accessibility to other SO users/visitors.
  • PROGRAM — Above all else, keep programming. It's easy to get into a rut just surfing Stack Overflow. Don't do this. You'll learn more programming by doing, which will expand your knowledge base for answering questions, and you'll eventually run into problems while programming, which will provide fuel for questions.

Remember, when asking or answering questions, no question is too basic (unless it's a duplicate). Stack Overflow is to be the repository of programming knowledge, essentially the Library of Alexandria without all the fire and burning.

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Advice based on recent experience.

Recap

Initially it is very hard to find questions you can answer for rep and you can't ask clarification without comment rights.

Recommendations

  • Do not browse at random. The volume of questions on Stack Overflow is huge. If you just hit refresh you are probably just wasting time.
  • 'Very easy questions' are probably not a very good investment either. They are quickly taken by the 'fastest gun in the west'.
  • Setup some filtering. Browse a bit and look for tags. There are likely some tags with a lot of volume that are not relevant to you, ignore those. Similarly adding favorites may actually let you find something relevant.
  • Keep programming. Keep developing code and searching for solutions. This is a good way to find relevant questions. Questions related to specific libraries are more likely to be complete and answerable than very general questions on some programming language.
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I just ask questions!

I rarely answer questions, rate things, or edit things, yet I have 5k of reputation on Stack Overflow.

Primarily I use Stack Overflow as my problem unblocker.

If I get stuck on something, I try to write up the question in the clearest possible language so the problem is easily understood. Usually within an hour I have a good answer for common things, or a few days if I am working with something really obscure.

Sometimes Stack Overflow is just my duck

While writing up the problem, since it has to be clear, I will often rubber duck debug myself into the answer, and I will either answer my own question or just delete the question if it doesn't seem like it would be useful to others.

With this method, SO becomes my tool, and the points are a side effect. What is nice is that when you ask questions, you will continue to get points forever as people find and upvote the question.

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  • Why don't you search on Stack Overflow for similar questions (not a rhetorical question)? Is it too hard to find them (finding the right keywords, way too many false positives, etc.)? Aug 9, 2021 at 23:30
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Suggest Edits

Reputation is earned only by posting questions and answers or by suggesting edits to existing Q&A.

When you post Q&A, you'll only gain reputation when other users upvote it. Your post may stay at 0 for a long time if no one sees it or finds it useful.

If you're looking to quickly gain some rep to post a comment, the more pragmatic approach is likely to suggest edits to existing posts whenever you see something that can be improved. These edits should move relatively quickly through the review queue, and each good suggested edit will earn you +2 reputation.


With only a few hours or days worth of suggested edits, you will gain all of the useful low-reputation privileges.

  •     5 Suggested Edits: Remove new user restrictions
  •     7 Suggested Edits: Vote Up
  •   25 Suggested Edits: Comment Everywhere
  •   62 Suggested Edits: Vote Down
  • 100 Suggested Edits: Association Bonus, so you'll never have to do this again on other SE sites.

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