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I'm trying to use Stack Overflow, but as a new user with experience in only a couple of areas, it is being quite difficult to raise my reputation and be able to use all features of the site.

My "strategy", now, so to speak, has been to find unanswered questions in my area of expertise (MATLAB, in a way) and try to provide an answer. Many times, these questions either lack research, are not explained clearly or maybe are not even MATLAB, but math-related.

Users posting these kind of questions are often new, and frequently they don't ackknowledge the answering attempts, be it with a rejection, additional clarification, comments, etc. I've answered four questions, and one of them has received feedback from the poster, in the form of comments. This way, all four of them ended with 0 upvotes/downvotes.

Thus, I've found myself in a point where I can't answer questions at all, as I've received the dreaded "We are no longer accepting answers from this account."

Is this supposed to happen? Should I avoid answering questions from non-active users so I can guarantee some feedback (good or bad) from the poster?

I guess that non-active users who only enter, answer a question, and then are nowhere to be seen again are not wanted, but this seems to discourage answering them. Is it intended?

For now, it seems to me that my only option is trying to think of clever questions, even if I don't currently have any.

Edit: One of the comments made me remember that one of my previous "answers" (it was really a comment) was deleted for this reason. That is probably part of the reason for the ban Edit2: Added account link to save some clicking https://stackoverflow.com/users/2987396/phonta

Edit 3: Nevermind, a couple of my questions were undeleted by Robert Harvey, so it looks like I get another chance. Thanks!

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    Just four zero-vote answers shouldn't lead to a ban. Do you have any deleted answers?
    – Mat
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:15
  • Uh... if you've gotten answer-banned, you've posted downvoted answers..
    – hichris123
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:15
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    I don't think "unpopular" or "clever" questions play any role on this...
    – brasofilo
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:17
  • Well, you can check my answer history, I think, all of them have a score of 0. I may have a deleted answer, though I'm not sure, I have an incomplete memory of it
    – pHonta
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:20
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    Some broad advice: I'm not sure what the questions are like overall in matlab, but it doesn't look like you're picking especially high-quality ones to answer. Additionally, your answer that just links elsewhere is not a good answer.
    – jscs
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:20
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    I ventured onto SO recently (despite its reputation -- deserved or not I can't say -- for harsh treatment of newcomers) and answered a question where I have relevant knowledge. After more than a week it got no response at all (including from the user who asked the question). So eh, I'm not anywhere near being answer-banned or the like, but it did make me wonder if it's worth trying and, if so, how I should be evaluating questions as being worth answering or not. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:20
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    @MonicaCellio: I reviewed your answer. One upvote on a question that only got 22 views is pretty good. I also upvoted.
    – user102937
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:29
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    Views! I didn't even think to look at that. Thanks. (The upvote came after my comment here, by the way -- guess that's "meta effect" on a small scale.) Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:32
  • For matlab stuff I want to point out the questions here on meta that discuss matlab: meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=matlab+is%3Aq you may find some questions and answers useful.
    – rene
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:44
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    I had a bit shaky start on SO when I was still learning the way the community works. I didn't have many upvotes at the start but quite soon it got much better. Best thing to do is to observe how high rep users give answers and learn from them.
    – Szymon
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 23:29
  • Same in the Access tab. The good news is, you have a good shot at eventually getting a Tenacious badge. The bad news is, you won't gain much rep. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 18:37

3 Answers 3

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When answering any question, the question you should be asking yourself is this:

Am I adding significant value to the question and answers that are already there?

This answer seems to be a comment, not an answer. It has a "Not an Answer" flag on it.

This answer also seems to be a comment. You seem to be asking the OP a question, rather than answering.

This answer is link-only; it requires the OP to go to some other resource to get his answer.

This answer points to a duplicate question. Cast a flag to vote to close as a duplicate instead.

This answer is just a "Me Too!" comment.

And so on.

Good answers will almost always get upvotes, if the questions are at all interesting. Note that upvotes are roughly proportional to views, so really obscure or uninteresting questions may not get any answer upvotes at all.

I undeleted a couple of answers, and you're not answer-banned anymore. Try to figure out what can and cannot be in an answer. Hint: anything that is not an actual answer to the question asked doesn't belong in an answer.

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    Yes, I agree that the last answer is really poor in content. However, how am I supposed to behave, as I can't post comments? My only way to interact with a post is to leave an answer. I can now recall that an "answer" of mine, some time ago, got deleted because it was not an answer but a comment. That probably played a huge part in the ban. However, this system really narrows down the questions I'm able to answer until I get to the point where I can comment, to the point that I don't feel that I can make a valuable contribution except very infrequently. Am I looking at this wrong?
    – pHonta
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:30
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    You'll have to wait until you have 50 reputation to leave comments on other people's posts. In my personal experience, you need to be actively working in the technology of the tag your answering questions for in order to be an effective answerer.
    – user102937
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 20:31
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    There is also the "back-door" method of obtaining 200+ reputation on a different exchange, thus triggering the association bonus. I certainly haven't earned 50+ on SO, but I am permitted to comment even so, simply because I've proven that I understand the SE system elsewhere. Depending on your other non-programming interests, this might be an easier way to access comment privileges. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 19:26
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The MATLAB tag has pretty low traffic, so it takes longer to accumulate rep. On the flip side, you have a good chance to earn Unsung Hero.

Until you have enough rep to comment, just leave any questions that aren't clear enough to be answered with a few lines of code and some explanation of same. You don't need to limit yourself to unanswered questions. If a question has already been answered, but you think you have an alternate solution which might be faster or uses bsxfun, then go ahead and contribute it.

For maximum effect, answers in the MATLAB tab should work in at least one of the following where possible:

  • here's how to do this with bsxfun
  • a reference to eval being evil
  • you should vectorise this
  • you should preallocate that
  • dbstop if error
  • also, here's how to do this in one line

(I'm mostly joking, except about the eval. I'm deadly serious about eval)

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  • What happens if you build a language around eval? Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 16:53
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    I don't think I want to know. If you decide to try, please give me sufficient warning so I have time to make it to the bunker.
    – nkjt
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 17:18
  • This answer is both funny and useful, cheers :)
    – pHonta
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 18:50
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"Unpopular, unanswered questions" on the site, are tough questions, almost by definition. Particularly for new users. Or put another way, they are best left to experienced users, unless you happen to be the next "Jon Skeets" (a person regarded as an answer machine on the site).

To a greater degree than on some other sites, you are held strictly accountable for the quality of answers you do post. If they happen to be of poor quality, there is no offset for "degree of difficulty" or that you tried to solve a problem that others couldn't solve.

The best way to advance on the site is to give good answers to questions, period, whether they are easy or hard. Once you've accumulated some experience and reputation, then you can revisit some of the harder questions, 1) because you'll know what to do and 2) people may give you a bit more leeway for trying, once you have proved yourself.

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