I like the community and appreciate the great service it's been to me over the past few months.

Sometimes I want to show my support for a great answer or comment, but I can't because I'm a new user and have only 1 reputation. It seems like the only way to gain the requisite 15 reputation (for voting) is to ask questions?

Until now I didn't have any questions that weren't already answered by the community. Is this the only way? Won't this one day lead to no new users not being able to participate?

migrated from stackoverflow.com May 2 '13 at 16:11

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

  • 4
    Reputation is not everything, get involved, you will get reputation. – Kami May 2 '13 at 16:07
  • Also, offering good comments to questions or answers may also get you reputation. Something as simple as linking to a question that had been asked in the past may get you the rep you need. – The Vanilla Thrilla May 2 '13 at 16:09
  • 1
    Try answering some questions. Two upvotes and you're in good shape. :) – Mysticial May 2 '13 at 16:11
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    @TheVanillaThrilla Votes on comments don't give reputation. Also, I'm pretty sure you need 50 reputation to comment everywhere, not sure what you can do before then. – Dukeling May 2 '13 at 16:20
  • I'm confused, 7 upvotes for someone basically asking how to get reputation on SO? This is explained in the FAQ. Am I missing something here? I would understand this question if it said "I'm not a good enough programmer to answer any questions", but that's not there now is it? – MarioDS May 2 '13 at 18:04
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    @Mario When I was milling around the site, I would come across great answers or comments that I wanted to upvote. But as a new user I didn't have those permissions. I couldn't even leave a comment. All I could do was ask or answer a question. Since the questions I came across seemed thoroughly covered, I didn't see any reasonable way for me to gain the permissions to give good questions/comments upvotes. Now I understand that I could have gone hunting for questions to answer. Now I can also participate in the community by up-voting and commenting. – Dihedral May 2 '13 at 18:57
  • @Mario I'm not looking for tons of rep. Just enough to join the conversations I see, and feel that I'm part of something. – Dihedral May 2 '13 at 18:58

You can raise your reputation mainly by answering people's questions with good answers (that get upvoted) or asking good questions that the community appreciates (enough to upvote).

It's true that a lot has been asked and a lot has been answered already. Yet we have new questions every day, which proves that the subject is huge and the languages, technologies and frameworks we're talking about are numerous enough to provoke new questions by the minute.

You'll have to keep in mind that in Stack Overflow there's enough traffic so that the easier questions are answered within a minute (often multiple times), while the harder questions remain unresolved for somewhat longer. Still, most questions are resolved fairly early, so don't bother actively looking for questions to answer. Instead, browse the home page (which lists the questions with the most recent activity) a couple of times and if something looks like you can handle it, go for it. Lots of high rep users give the answer quickly (which already gives them a few upvotes, while the question is still "hot") in compact form and then spend some time editing that answer to include all the information, context and explanations they feel is necessary.

  • Thanks! I appreciate the explanation. I'll get back to work and I'm sure better questions/answers will find there way out. – Dihedral May 2 '13 at 16:19
  • @Dihedral I've made a small edit with a tip about how to go about the issue, see if it helps you more. – T. C. May 2 '13 at 16:23
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    So they answer in brief to get their foot in and then expand on it later? Is that gaming the system, or encouraged as normal use? It's kind of what you just did with a brief answer and then a more thorough explanation. ;) – Dihedral May 2 '13 at 16:27
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    @Dihedral I realize the self referentiality in my example. :P I didn't do it on purpose, it's just that I assured you that "there are enough questions every moment" and after posting I thought that "hey, he'd also find a tip useful" so I went on and edited it. I honestly can't say for sure whether everyone does it because they remember things after posting, or as a gaming strategy, or both. And I definitely don't know if the community has agreed on whether it should be encouraged or not (I'll search!). But it's true that almost everyone, including high reputation users, does it very often. – T. C. May 2 '13 at 16:33
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    @Dihedral Gaming the system: very short answer followed by massive edits. So do it, some don't. Just remember there are mostly tons of high-rep users online that answer questions well very quickly. Spending lots of time making a long and complete answer (before posting) probably won't get you much reputation, but giving the best answer ever can get you to rise to the top. Also, confusingly short answers with no explanation will probably get you downvoted, often regardless of editing to improve. I'm not saying this to demotivate, or to convince you to game the system, just to prepare you. – Dukeling May 2 '13 at 16:54
  • don't forget that you can also answer questions that have an accepted answer - If you know of a better or easier way of doing something, you may get upvotes that way, or the original person may change the accepted answer to yours – SeanC May 2 '13 at 18:09

There are three ways to get rep on StackOverflow that you can use for commenting and voting:

  • edit questions and answers on StackOverflow (2 per edit until you have 1000 from edits or 2000 total, whichever comes first)
  • earn 200 rep on another site then get an association bonus of 100 on StackOverflow
  • spend some time in less popular tags that don't get the new questions "snapped up" so quickly

Editing is a tricky thing for a new user, but if you're an avid reader who just hasn't managed to answer a single question, you might be ready to try editing. Keep in mind that you should not edit to fix errors of fact - just for formatting, spelling and grammar, descriptive titles, and perhaps rewording unclear sentences, though approach this with care. You can also remove "meta talk" like "this is my first question" or "this problem is driving me crazy" or "I would really appreciate any suggestions any one has" since they are not truly necessary in a question. The suggested-edits tag here on Meta is full of instructions and tips for edit-suggesting. This is probably the easiest way to get you where you need to be. Some folks search for common spelling mistakes or phrases that are popular in bad posts and you're welcome to do that but PLEASE if you do, fix everything in the post, not just the mistake you searched for.

  • Formatting, spelling, grammar, clarity (via rephrasing), making question titles more precise ("how to fix my code" -> "nullpointerexception thrown when retrieving length of string")... – djechlin May 2 '13 at 16:42
  • @djechlin thanks, expanded – Kate Gregory May 2 '13 at 16:44
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    @dihedral Earning 200 rep on another site may be the easiest way "in", actually. There's almost certainly another Stack Exchange site that would interest you, and it's much easier to get a word in edgewise on the smaller sites. – nhinkle May 2 '13 at 17:10
  • yes I learnt this the hard way with an edit ban on SO! lol – Nobody May 27 '13 at 15:30

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