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New users can’t ask for clarifications except as answers

I'm a new user and would like to help answer a question (Question link). Ideally I would like to post a comment to ask some clarifying questions, but I'm unable to as my reputation is still at 1 as a 'newbie'. In my eagerness to help, I posted an 'answer' with my questions and a suggestion I thought would be helpful. It got a few upvotes but was then deleted by a moderator - which I now realise was probably inevitable given I was asking clarifying questions. I really want to help answer the question, but it feels like I'm in a catch 22 situation - what's the best way for me to still contribute to the question?

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    Good question, and thanks for trying to help. I'm not posting this as an aswer because I'm not 100% sure it is correct, but I think you're pretty much stuck until you have the rep to comment. The best thing for you to do now is provide legitimate answers and/or ask good questions. Your rep will be high enough before you know it, and there will be plenty of opportunity to help in the future. – John Dibling Nov 29 '12 at 20:03
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    The irony being, you'll probably get enough rep to comment everywhere on meta pretty soon. – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 20:04
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    @casperOne: Only 1 rep necessary to comment on meta :) – juergen d Nov 29 '12 at 20:12
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    @juergend Doh!! – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 20:20
  • I can't see the deleted answer in the linked-to question, but I find it strange that it wasn't converted to a comment. Why not? Didn't it qualify? – Mr Reenlist'er Nov 29 '12 at 20:32
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    @MrLister The mods, as a rule, don't convert answers to comments when the poster doesn't have enough rep to post a comment. If they did people would post comments-as-answers knowing that the mods will just convert it to a comment, thus working around the lack of permissions. – Servy Nov 29 '12 at 20:48
  • @Servy I see your point, but I also know that there are lots of answers (that specifically ask for clarification) which get converted to comments. Oh well. – Mr Reenlist'er Nov 29 '12 at 20:51
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    If a user reaches the threshold for an association rep bonus from MSO, will they then get 100 rep on SO? – KatieK Nov 29 '12 at 20:54
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    @MrLister Yes, if the user has enough rep to post a comment the answer will be converted to a comment, since that's what they should have done in the first place. They just won't do that for <50 rep users. – Servy Nov 29 '12 at 21:01
  • @KatieK: Yes, MSO is a site that qualifies for the association bonus, but he's still far from 200 reputation. – animuson Nov 29 '12 at 21:01
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    @Servy I thought the rule was just there to filter out useless comments (which new users seem statistically more prone to). What purpose does blocking useful comments from a user with insufficient privileges serve? – user200500 Nov 29 '12 at 21:03
  • @animuson - It seems like with one good freehand Skeet-waffles post, chamila_c would be there. ;) – KatieK Nov 29 '12 at 21:04

Try to focus on questions that have straight forward answers until you reach the 50 rep threshold.

Alternatively, you could wait until other users post comments asking for clarification. Usually, if there is an obvious omission or flaw in the question, someone will comment on this soon enough. You could try to gather information from these comments and post an answer.

Very frequently people post answers that are based on informed guesses. While it is a good idea to clarify ambiguities in the question, sometimes it is OK to make assumptions based on the most likely scenario, and post your answer along with the assuptions you are making. For example, sometimes people will post JS questions that hint at the library being used, but with no explicit tag. A comment asking for clarification is great, but writing an answer and stating your assumption is fine too.

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    Thanks - I'm giving your advice a shot. I edited my answer with a 'best effort' with some assumptions. Requested an undelete so will see how it goes. – Chamila Chulatunga Nov 29 '12 at 20:39
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    Your advice seems to have worked - my new, edited answer has been undeleted. Hopefully it's of some use to the asker. – Chamila Chulatunga Nov 30 '12 at 4:02

Unfortunately, you can't.

I'd recommend bookmarking the question, and then trying to earn the 50 reputation required to comment once you've earned it, and when you get the clarification you're looking for, you can answer that question.

Moderators are not encouraged to convert answers to comments as a way for low-rep users to get around the reputation requirement.

Also, this isn't me trying to rationalize the justification behind the 50 rep requirement, or the moderators not being encouraged to perform conversions when it's an obvious request for clarification, I'm just declaring the state of things.

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  • Moderators are not encouraged to convert answers to comments as a way for low-rep users to get around the reputation requirement Do you know of a meta post on this? The only ones I found meta.stackexchange.com/q/79962 and meta.stackexchange.com/q/76186 seem to predate this idea. – Some Helpful Commenter Nov 29 '12 at 22:02
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter I have to find it, but there's a post from Jeff lurking around here somewhere. – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 22:04
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter Note that those indicate that we have the ability to, I'm saying that we are told not to do it (in those cases, I would not have converted to a comment based on what I was referencing before). – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 22:05
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter Here's the first reference from Jeff - meta.stackexchange.com/a/51939/140951 - But I believe there is something more direct. – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 22:07
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    I found it here meta.stackexchange.com/a/120465/148672 Moderators should never do this. The "convert to comment" function is for useful answers that add something tiny but meaningful to the question -- it is not intended as a proxy function for 1 rep users to pile more question marks on the question. – Some Helpful Commenter Nov 29 '12 at 22:24
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter There you go. – casperOne Nov 29 '12 at 23:35

You need 50 reputation points to comment everywhere.

Ask good questions and/or give good answers. With just a few upvotes you will get enough reputation to comment very soon. With maybe just one good answer you will have enough reputation.

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As a new member with low rep, Stackoverflow (and all SE sites?) has a great way to get you going, Suggested Edits.

Look in the Latest questions page, you'll see tens of questions without code formatting, filled with "Hi"s, "Bye"s and "Thank you"s or having wrong tags. Edit them, correct them, make them better, you'll earn +2 each. Couple that with an answer or two and you're ready to comment. Maybe if you earn a bit more rep you'll have the privilege of losing some of your rep.

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    It almost seems like you're implying he make serial minor edits by just fixing salutations. That's...not behavior we want to encourage. Editing posts is hard, if you want to do it right. – Servy Nov 29 '12 at 20:48
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    @Servy, I think that fixing an answer with greetings, improper code formatting, and incorrect tags, is indeed a valid edit. Editing posts shouldn't be hard nor easy, if you're doing it right. – Adi Nov 29 '12 at 21:15
  • When suggesting an edit you should fix all of the problems with the post. You should remove tags from titles, re-phrase or simplify titles if needed (this is a very hard thing to do well) fix grammer/spelling mistakes, ensure code is formatted properly, ensure bold/italics/links/images/quotes/numbered or bulleted lists/etc. are formatted properly, ensure proper tags are used, add important information agreed upon in comments, ensure that the author's original voice is maintained, etc. (That's not an exhaustive list.) Going through posts and just removing greetings is improper. – Servy Nov 29 '12 at 21:21
  • @Servy, oh I'm sorry, I must've missed the part of my post and comment where I suggested just removing greetings. Thank you for pointing that out, I've just made an edit to remove it. – Adi Nov 29 '12 at 21:25
  • I didn't say you said that, my exact words were: "It almost seems like you're implying [...]". It wasn't clear if you were saying that or not. I was stating that it's not desirable to clear up any possible ambiguities or mis-understandings. – Servy Nov 29 '12 at 21:27

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