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How do users on the new Stack Exchange sites get started? Each user starts with 1 rep, and can't upvote until they have 15 rep. It struck me that this creates a bit of a deadlock. If a new user asks a question and a new user answers, neither can upvote the other.

Are we relying solely on existing SE users to join these exchange sites (with their bonus 100 rep) so that they can get started?

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    Good thing those 2 users aren't the only users on the site. (: Oct 5, 2010 at 18:07

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Hm, I'm surprised this has never gotten a more comprehensive answer.

Brand-new sites start out in "private beta", where the reputation requirement for voting is 1 (i.e. everyone may vote). These votes count the same as any other vote for the purposes of rep increases (or decreases). (DMA's answer discusses this.)

Even after the short private beta period, there is no reputation requirement for askers to select accepted answers, which carry a +15 rep reward. This means that even if a new user answered a question from another new user, acceptances could get sites off the ground. (Geoff's answer mentions this.)

Users who are new to a given site—even a brand-new site—but have some experience with other network sites usually get a 100-rep bonus right off the bat, in recognition of their understanding of Stack Exchange mechanics. This bonus is enough to allow those users to vote, and even offer small bounties. (Robert's answer has more about this.)

Shortly after a site is started, it gets a set of moderators, chosen from the community. Those moderators, as well as a select group of Stack Exchange employees, have the ability to cast votes (as well as all other reputation-based privileges) ex officio, regardless of their actual reputation on the site.

In the years after this question was asked, a new feature was introduced: suggested edits. Users of any reputation level may suggest edits, and for users without the "edit anywhere" privilege, the first 1000 suggested edits that are approved result in a +2 rep reward. Even on a site with the "full" reputation level for editing, it is theoretically possible to earn the editing privilege by doing nothing other than suggesting edits.

Finally, just for historical interest, there was a time years ago when the system would create rep "out of thin air" to add to bounties. This is no longer done, but could have accelerated the growth of some sites in the past.

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Apparently (I say apparently because I've not been part of any private beta) the rep limits are much lower when a site is in the initial 7-day long private beta period. This includes the ability to vote up (and do many other things) with only 1 rep.

This allows the users of a brand new private beta site to seed the site, increase the rep of the initial user base and get everything started.

Then, once the site is public and the rep requirements rise, there's plenty of people around to provide the votes required for each new user.

Source: Reputation requirements compared

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Having an answer accepted gives 15 reputation, and of course both the asker and answerer can get upvotes from anyone else on the site who's ever had a question answered and thus has 15 reputation.

A new site could easily get bootstrapped this way even without the users from other SE sites.

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  • Fair point, and I can see a closed system could work in theory. In practice however I have seen many unregistered users drop in and ask questions without ever coming back and accepting an answer. For a site with low activity getting the ball rolling could be a problem.
    – PaulG
    Oct 5, 2010 at 19:03
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Are we relying solely on existing SE users to join these exchange sites (with their bonus 100 rep) so that they can get started?

Exactly. Area 51 commitment requires and guarantees it. You need experienced users to get the system going in the right directions.

The fundamental, core use of Stack Exchange — asking and answering questions — does not require any reputation whatsoever. But brand spanking new users don't necessarily understand or appreciate the subtleties of when/why they should vote on posts. If you stick around a short time before jumping in (i.e. post a few questions or answers) you'll quickly get it and the reputation requirements will take care of itself.

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