As a new user, I find it impossible to contribute to the community or to even begin contributing. I know why the reputation system is in place and I respect it, but at the same time it is too hard on new users.

It started with me wanting to upvote a question...

"Vote Up requires 15 reputation"

Just to appreciate a good question that helped me I need 15 rep? OK..., so I find out how I can get reputation points. More or less, I need to ask a question for +5 and add an answer for +10. I don't have any questions at the moment and I don't want to spam a random question, but I did happen to have a slightly different answer to the earlier question that I wanted to upvote. So I try to answer...

This question is protected to prevent "thanks!", "me too!", or spam answers by new users. To answer it, you must have earned at least 10 reputation on this site.

Now... I know this doesn't apply to every question, but at the same time, this means I'm forced to answer yet another question, and I don't want to go around looking for random questions and spam irrelevant answers... Now I'm stuck. So I try to talk to some other users in the chat rooms about how to go about getting reputation points and how they first started. I entered into a "casual chat room".

You must have 20 reputation on Meta Stack Overflow to talk here.

Yes... I can understand why this is enforced, because we don't want new users to spam chat rooms, but all I wanted to do was ask for help. So I can't even talk to anyone about my newbie problems. So okay, I'll just settle for upvoting comments in the question that helped me. I don't see an upvote hover-over button so I can't even do that.

So now I'm stuck at 1 reputation point, unable to cross that 15 rep barrier, and even after posting this question I'll only have 6 rep points and still unable to do anything, and I'll be forced to look for questions to answer. Yes, I should be contributing to the community, but I shouldn't need to begin answering or making questions to upvote questions and answers. This only spurs more spam/irrelevant answers if anything.

Very, very, very new-user unfriendly.

  • 37
    Actually, it is very, very, very spammer unfriendly. All of the restrictions you mentioned are there to make spammers and abusers go away. Blame them.
    – user102937
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:15
  • 9
    "As a new user, I find it impossible to contribute to the community or to even begin contributing." Ask questions and provide answers.
    – user164207
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:20
  • 4
    You just reached the 20 reps barrier here in Meta ;)
    – brasofilo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:29
  • 2
    I see what you mean Robert, I guess the root cause of my frustration was that I had to ask a ask a question or make an answer before I could even upvote/thank someone (which isn't a feature that can be spammed anyways). As well as the fact that I had to encounter all these spam blockers before I could become a more active member. @brasofilo, yes I guess I realized getting 15 rep isn't too hard.
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:34
  • 16
    @gitsitgo I can understand your confusion and frustration, but actually upvoting is probably our most-spammed feature; people create a bunch of accounts to serial-upvote their own (or their friends') answers, and serial-downvote the answers of people they don't like. Is it silly, and do we wish it was a perfect world where we didn't have to protect the site from people like that? Yep. But unfortunately it happens a lot.
    – WendiKidd
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:41
  • 4
    @WendiKidd Wasn't aware of that, thanks. Quite sad that there exist people like that in the world.
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:46
  • 7
    It's a sheer stroke of bad luck that the first question you tried to answer was protected. In my 1 year of being an active member here I can count on my fingers how many protected questions I've seen. Jul 12, 2013 at 21:03
  • 4
    I'm not sure I understand the big deal; what more "participation" do you want from a questions and answers site than the ability to ask questions and submit answers? Do you just want the ability to push buttons that in the end don't have anything to do with asking questions or submitting answers?
    – Justin L.
    Jul 12, 2013 at 22:58
  • 6
    Put it this way Justin, pretend for a second that you're so new that you don't feel comfortable jumping into answering just yet. But being a respectful member, you want to thank answers that have helped you by giving them an upvote. Then you get 'nope, no can do, we don't acknowledge you at the moment so we don't even want your thanks.' How would a new user feel about that?
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 13, 2013 at 4:37
  • I have this problem too. Think about all the people that are actually good at finding answers before asking questions. We can have 1 rep for a long time without even having the possibility to do anything and being power users.
    – Ram Ram
    Feb 1, 2015 at 23:39
  • @RamRam As soon as you hit 200 on one site, you get a free! 100 points on every other site you have an account on
    – MTL
    Sep 15, 2015 at 20:30
  • @Shokhet That happens, but 200 rep is a very massive amount of rep to earn. Jul 16, 2019 at 17:26

9 Answers 9


I find it impossible to contribute to the community or to even begin contributing.

Yes, it is intentionally difficult for new users to participate in parts of the site we do not want new users participating in.

You are certainly welcome to ask and answer questions - which is the primary focus of the site - and you are certainly welcome to read questions and answers and take advantage of all the knowledge this site has to offer. Indeed, this is the best way to familiarize yourself with how to formulate questions and answers that are suitable for this site.

We restrict voting, commenting, and chatting to users who have spent some time participating in the primary goal - questions and answers. We find, in fact, that encouraging new users to participate in the main activity first, they become more aware of the community and its standards and, for lack of a better term, flavor of discussion, before they risk offending the community by voting, commenting, or chatting in a manner that goes against the grain.

Further, by forcing new users into a chute that allows only a certain type of interaction with the site we push the idea and concept that this is first, and foremost, a question and answer site. The primary participation for the entire community is, and should be, adding questions and answers.

Everything else - and I mean everything - exists solely to support asking questions and getting answers. These other aspects of the system are not side quests, or alternate games - they are only here to make Q&A better.

Now - as to seeming user unfriendly.

The reality is that if a new user finds this forced focus on Q&A uncomfortable then they will likely find the site uncomfortable in the long run and we want to weed out people who aren't here for asking and answering questions.

  • 2
    I understand all your points, except it's still user unfriendly IMO. New users generally might not know what is a good question/answer so its naturally for people to stick around and see how the system works until they know more. But all these spam blocking features on the more minor "game aspects" of the system discourages new users even more.
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:31
  • 4
    Yep. They discourage users from doing things we don't want new users doing. New users should be interested in asking or answering questions, and if they are interested in playing the game, well there are other websites where they can play games. It's all about the questions and answers here.
    – Pollyanna
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:06
  • 4
    Remarkably unfriendly, unwelcoming, hostile tone to this answer.
    – DanBeale
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:27
  • 3
    @DanBeale I agree. But the tone nonwithstanding it makes a very good point Jul 12, 2013 at 21:33
  • 10
    I was trying to match the tone of the OP. "So now I'm stuck at 1 rep point, unable to cross that 15 rep barrier, and even after posting this question I'll only have 6 rep points and still unable to do anything, and I'll be forced to look for questions to answer. Yes I should be contributing to the community but" might as well have ended with "I don't want to." Keep in mind, however, that I don't represent Stack Exchange, and am an old curmudgeon from when the site was in beta, but haven't actively participated for years now. I just poke my head in and stir things up occasionally...
    – Pollyanna
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:58
  • 1
    @DanBeale I modified my answer significantly. I don't know if it's more friendly, but it better conveys the point.
    – Pollyanna
    Jul 12, 2013 at 22:11
  • 3
    Being a relatively new user and prone to search for hours or days before giving up and asking a question, I greatly sympathize with the gitsitgo. If your answer, Adam, could be condensed into a sentence or two and appear on most every page near the title or in the masthead(right column), particularly on general public pages (e.g. not logged in), it would go a long way toward avoiding the appearance of arrogance that prospective users can often get from their first attempts to participate here. Jul 18, 2013 at 6:22
  • "You are certainly welcome to ask and answer questions" Not if most interesting questions are protected. Jul 28, 2015 at 17:05
  • 1
    @tepples I have a hard time taking your complaint seriously. A hypothetical new user who only wants to answer the "fun" questions, and refuses to ask questions or answer any of the 98% of the other content on the site? To paraphrase JAY-Z, "I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but finding questions to answer ain't one."
    – Pollyanna
    Jul 28, 2015 at 19:15

A second way that many people take is to find a site within the StackExchange network that is a bit friendlier than Stack Overflow, where reputation comes easier. Once you get 200 reputation on any single SE site, then all of your SE sites get a 100 reputation bonus. And then you aren't stuck at the limited reputation levels.

  • 2
    Seems like meta might be that 200 rep site Jul 12, 2013 at 20:41
  • Sometimes it works;-) Jul 12, 2013 at 21:34
  • This needs to be the top answer. Editing 7 questions and waiting for edit approval on every different S/E site takes entirely too long. I have a 156 Rep on Stack Overflow, 76 on Meta (for basically getting annoyed with not being able to comment/upvote and writing a duplicate of this exact question, which is ironic, since duplicates are not encouraged), and <15 on 4 other sites. Focusing on getting my 156 to 200 on Overflow will solve this problem for me forever. Oct 16, 2017 at 19:37

We need those restrictions to prevent abuse. So how do you get around?

You can go through some questions and see if they need improvement. You can edit them. Correct grammar, spelling, formatting. It's called a suggested edit. (But please don't make edits that are too minor.)

If an edit of yours gets approved you get 2 rep points. Do this with 7 posts and you have 15 rep.

  • 11
    Shall I correct your spelling of "grammer", or shall I leave it to the OP? Jul 12, 2013 at 16:13
  • 3
    @DanielFischer: Ironic?
    – user102937
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:16
  • 4
    Finally someone corrected me spelling grammar.
    – juergen d
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:20
  • 2
    You mean "MY"... Jul 12, 2013 at 16:55
  • 5
    Nah, he's clearly Scottish.
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2013 at 20:14
  • 3
    Please don't send another new person to make 'too minor' edits all over the place.
    – Rosinante
    Jul 12, 2013 at 22:50

The main purpose of Stack Exchange is to provide excellent answers to questions of a wide range of topics (depending on which Stack Exchange site you're on). Therefore, the best thing you can do is provide answers. "I don't want to go looking for questions to answer" is not the attitude promoted here. Personally, I find it invigorating to check SO every hour or so and see if there are new questions in my area of expertise, because at one time I was a n00b with limited skill and (at the time) didn't have resources like SO to answer my questions.

So, I guess the answer you may or may not want to hear is; keep answering questions! Eventually you'll have the points necessary to perform any function you want.

  • 2
    OP couldn't answer because answering protected questions requires 10 reputation. Dec 8, 2014 at 18:37
  • "Invigorating" is not the word I would use for compelling qualified, interested prospective members to compete by interrupting their productive workday once every hour to try to get the jump on new questions. "Offputting" is the word I would use. Everybody who's made the cut pretends it's easy for newcomers to "provide answers" on SO, when SO is set up to make it as difficult as possible. Or that you should just "keep answering questions", as if SO's other members aren't going to downvote you for spamming like that in a desperate attempt to make the cut, costing you reputation. Fustration++. Feb 5, 2015 at 21:28
  • Well, Raymond Up-Yer Poop-Chute, if you dread the prospect then you can go hit one of the many other Q&A sites where it isn't as offputting. Which is akin to being an Ebay hater and taking your business to Etsy. In other words, "Good luck with that". :o) Everyone here started with 1 reputation point. You get out of it what you put into it. If you're really having trouble, hit one of the other hundred or so SE sites and get some rep there. When you come back, you automatically get 100 points here for being a trusted member on another SE site. Feb 5, 2015 at 21:39
  • Sorry I wasn't clear, comment length limits got me… yes, that's the plan. Pardon my comment, if departing constructive criticism is unwelcome. In hindsight, it may have been presumptuous to think my 35+ yrs of experience in the programming trenches might have been an asset to SE if only the system hadn't made participation so difficult. Holy cow, you're right, my username does sound like that! But srsly folx… kudos on getting the pun, but brickbats on apparently not catching the Zappa reference. Shame. SHAME! The present-day composer refuses to die. RUP out. Good luck to you too. Feb 5, 2015 at 22:59
  • 1
    Ahhh, yes. I couldn't see past Raymond but it now makes sense. Zappa was one of the all-time greats; an incredibly talented and intelligent mind that's sorely missed. You should head on over to the Music SE site then, where you might be able to pick up some extra points. SE obviously needs and wants great minds and great answers, and I'm sure in a month or two when you have some points you'll probably look back on this and laugh. Just "don't get no jizz upon the sofa" if you decide to "stick it out" that long. ;o) Feb 5, 2015 at 23:52

The spam protection is very important. See for example PrimeFaces forum, which is flooding in spam from hydra-accounts (you delete one, two new are registered).

It should not be a problem to a new user. It wasn't a problem to me and my collegues. Your use case is a bit unusual. We began reading Stack Overflow questions and answer, being redirected from Google Search. We only created an account when we had a question to ask. 15 reputation is only 3 upvotes on the question, and when you provide some answer (even to your own question) the reputation would come very quickly.

Disclaimer: I don't have any statistics. I just haven't seen anyone in a workspace who would register only to upvote questions or answers. They register first when they have a question to ask.

  • Yep, in hindsight, 15 rep was pretty quick to gain, but I really don't see why there can't be a "lurker" type user that begins by mainly upvoting. Upvoting is part of contributing to the community as well, as it marks questions as valid/good and it can also be a form of appreciation. There are tons of people using SO without an account, and the thing that converts them into an active user is because they want to upvote a question. I know there are others like me because I've found similar questions being asked before.
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:44
  • 1
    @gitsitgo There is a unregistered voting system (you are asked "was this post helpful? Yes/No") implemented a while ago, but as far as I know the data from the system isn't used for very much.
    – Jeremy
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:11
  • 1
    Voting should be restricted to members of the community who actively participate. Do we really want to know what people who just whiz by briefly think? No, not really.
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2013 at 18:25
  • @Joe I see where you're coming from, but that's assuming people who don't post answers "whiz by". For instance, there have been times I ran through all solutions of a question to verify them (and wanted to upvote the good solutions), but I didn't have an answer myself. Just because I didn't answer, does that mean I didn't go through a question diligently?
    – gitsitgo
    Jul 12, 2013 at 20:10
  • 2
    Just voting is not active participation. If you're just voting on questions, then yes, you are whizzing by in my estimation. Participation involves asking and/or answering questions. You don't give a championship ring to everyone who 'liked' the team's facebook page, right? You give it to everyone who played in the game, or contributed to the team's success in a meaningful way. Same here, but on a smaller/larger scale.
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2013 at 20:12
  • Thanks, @Joe, for labeling my frustrating 2 years of trying to get involved on SE "whizzing by briefly". Feb 5, 2015 at 21:33

It all starts with a click...

Usually new users start to use Stack Overflow by simply clicking a link from Google Search and marveling at the fact that not only was their situation reproduced, but a solution which worked and had community consensus was present.

The process of making those situations available while ensuring that content quality remains as high as possible involves some protection. Some of these protections include requiring users to become accustomed to the dynamics of how the Stack Exchange network works before contributing to issues with which there is already a very strong consensus.

It is encouraging to hear that an answer here helped you. Sorry that you feel like it is hard on new users, but it isn't meant to be a deterrent to the user. It is merely an attempt to protect content quality and all of the hard work so many users in the community have already put in.

If you wish to attain reputation, ask a unique question, post a working/useful answer, or suggest edits. I certainly haven't ever gotten reputation points without doing one of those three things.


As it has already been said, the limits are here for protecting against spam and contribute by providing good answers is the best way if you do not have good questions.

You have to see for example the advanced search tips to try to find the best unanswered questions and the following is one of the query I often put in the search box:

[java] is:question answers:0 closed:no score:2-3

After you can tune it to search negatively voted question (some are even good to answer, even silly) or putting more tags e.g

[spring] [java] [jms] is:question answers:0 closed:no

After you can sort by the most recent (more probability the OP will vote or accept your answer) and to choose the question with bounties (Questions -> featured tab, and add a [tag] in the search box if necessary).

In the beginning I just started with few questions (which were not already asked) I had about by daily work and trying to provide answer to the same subject and I got more than 200 rep quite easily as well by providing an accepted answer to a bounty question.


Just saying (since apparently I can actually post an answer here, and that's about it). This problem is literally why I've never actually provided any useful information on any Stack Exchange despite having had an account for years. Every time I run across a location where I actually have something useful to say, I'm blocked from doing so.

Undoubtably this will be deleted and/or cost me the 1 reputation I have. I don't care, because my experience has always been that I'm already unable to contribute anything useful anywhere on Stack Exchange.

  • 3
    You'll be glad to know that your reputation can't drop below 1. It is strange that every question you've ever tried to answer has been protected, though. Only a very small number of questions are protected.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 20:06
  • It is relatively easy by submitting suggested edits (+2 rep. points per accepted suggestion), especially if you are literate (as you have demonstrated you are by this post). Starters: 1, 2, 3, and 4 (be sure to remove "Thanks in advanced.", "Halp me!", "Urgent!", "Any help would be appreciated.", etc. And capitalise "Android" and "I".) Aug 1, 2020 at 11:48
  • Rate limit yourself to a maximum of one edit suggestion per day, especially on the smaller sites. Use an external text document or the "Bookmark" feature to create a queue for this. Aug 1, 2020 at 11:49
  • @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q A maximum of one edit suggestion per day is absurdly low. How did you come by that number? Sep 1, 2020 at 17:43
  • I'm intrigued this is still here. I imagine the issue is that my experience is usually limited to Google searches that land on Stack Exchange, and I occasionally find wrong information there. Since none of those posts have allowed comments or follow-ups with no reputation, my impression has always been that the barrier to entry was not worth the effort.
    – Alfred
    Sep 2, 2020 at 18:12

I have about the same problem. I rarely have a question that wouldn't be a duplicate since I rarely wind up here unless Google sends me. It's stressed that we're not to ask duplicate questions, so I'm answering you instead, as I was going to ask this myself and, of course, found it would be a duplicate.

I get the whole "It's supposed to be a Q&A site" mentality. It's good to have quality control in place to prevent spam and multi-profile users upvoting more than once. But there should be some sort of introductory something to get users over the upvote hurdle, at least—even if it's some tutorial that's mind-numbing and painful to go through or points for reading FAQ pages. Something like that would stop the spammers and still get you to where you could at least upvote the answer you think is best for a question. And it would guide users toward a unified mindset and culture, something that the reputation system is intended to encourage.

The idea of editing for early points seems like a good way to start, but the Help Center says, "Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged." I'm a pedant and check spelling and grammar in everything I read. Edits should be easy. So at what point do spelling/grammar edits become non-trivial? To me, it's non-trivial to move, insert, or remove a comma—see Oscar Wilde. Or to correct improvment to improvement or similar single-character changes. The answers I've found on the subject of edit triviality tend to be one person saying, "A few characters is too trivial to matter, so you shouldn't submit so small an edit." followed by someone else saying, "The difference between e=mc^2 and e=mc^3 is a significant change and should be allowed as an edit."

So I guess the idea is that if you didn't get to the site early enough and aren't more clever than the people who showed up before you did, your presence isn't wanted. If you are more clever, keep your head down; the powers that be can downvote and delete you until you lose enough reputation to be silenced. This is a company town, after all. That's a feature, not a bug. It makes it so that this site, which touts itself as, first and foremost, a quality Q&A site, at least won't have spam or poor answers because you have to be a user in good standing to participate in the process. What's that? You can answer a question without being a member? Hmm. Well, at least they can't comment.

  • 3
    What editors often forget is too fix everything. So not just that comma, or that single typo but all improvments, grammar, spelling, code-blocks, formatting, layout, noise reduction (remove "Tanks in advanced" and other salutation variations) that are possible for that post. For questions that includes improving the title and selected tags. With over 5,000 posts on Stack Overflow, there are for sure a couple of posts per day that needs more than a trivial edit.
    – rene
    Jul 24, 2022 at 7:33
  • So something like this? "What editors often forget is to fix everything. So not just that comma or that single typo but all improvements, grammar, spelling, code-blocks, formatting, layout, noise reduction (remove "Thanks in advance"{though that might have been deliberate} and other salutation variations) that are possible for that post. For questions, that includes improving the title and selected tags. With over 5,000 posts on Stack Overflow, there are, for sure, a couple of posts per day that need more than a trivial edit."
    – WizeManBOB
    Jul 24, 2022 at 18:53
  • Note that's not an attempt to take a shot at you. You're from the Netherlands; your English is much better than my Dutch. My point is that that's nine characters changed. According to the character count, that is a trivial edit. And it is, and it isn't.
    – WizeManBOB
    Jul 24, 2022 at 18:59
  • It is up to you which battle you want to fight. The one here on meta about a rule that saves reviewers thousands of trivial edits to judge, or the one on Stack Overflow by finding a post that can thrive after you edited it into shape. We have all the time, right?
    – rene
    Jul 24, 2022 at 19:13
  • So if you were reviewing the edit suggestion I made, would you approve it or call it trivial? I'm not trying to fight; I'm looking for clarification. I don't want to waste people's time; I want to be useful, so I need to understand the parameters to work within.
    – WizeManBOB
    Jul 24, 2022 at 23:30
  • If the post that edit is for is worth keeping (so it is on-topic, clear, answerable or if it is an answer, it answers the question) and there nothing else to improve in that post, then yes, I would review that suggested-edit as looks ok. Whether all reviewers will come to that conclusion is beyond my reach but the reject rate on the suggested edit queue is pretty low so ....
    – rene
    Jul 25, 2022 at 17:16

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