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I'm new to StackOverflow and would like to use it more, but I'm a little confused about the reputation system. Why do you need reputation to do things like comment or vote? It seems like a barrier to participation for new users. I understand wanting to prevent spam, but there must be a better way. I'd love to contribute more, but earning reputation feels like a chore rather than a natural part of using the site. Is there a reason behind this system that I'm missing?

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I'd say the 'real' goal is partially gamification, partially giving people a chance to learn the 'ways' of the network.

Association reputation aside (which shows that you get the basics of using the platform somewhere or the other) - getting to various reputation levels on the site shows you 'understand' the subject matter of a particular site.

I'm a 100k user on 2 sites (and a moderator on a third) - the culture and 'needs' for participating on say stack overflow, and a medium-sized site like super user (or a tiny one like pets) are all different.

It’s not 'just' about preventing spam - it’s about people gradually engaging and using new tools as they go along.

I'd point out you can always comment on your own posts - and while they're called comments, they really are for clarifications and feedback. They're transient, and generally you'd want to try to use them only if absolutely needed. The platform/model that most people are used to are forums, and they're a lot chattier than we want to be, and that minimum 50 rep to comment is so people get used to the way things are done here.

Voting is a little trickier. While at this point I don't fret about reputation, reputation matters enough that people try to 'cheat', with sockpuppets and such. While there were/have been discussions over lowering the voting - it is deeply unpopular - in simple terms, reputation matters to people enough that people try to cheat, and lowering the barrier needs deep thinking.

The contributions that matter for most are questions and answers especially interesting ones. Maybe it was a different time, but as a new user, I wasn't chasing reputation - I was optimising for interesting problems on my chosen site and reputation was a natural consequence of that. It’s a chore cause you're looking at the score, not at the game so to speak. I'd say the ideal thing here is to have fun and contribute for its own sake - reputation should come as a natural consequence of that.

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