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So, I am relatively new to Ubuntu (a couple years) and completely new to this site as a registered user. I have found lots of good information here before, but just now did I find something to contribute.

Hence I create an account and login. But in order to put small contributions into comments on already existing questions and answers, I need 50 reputation. I can get this only through asking and answering new, good questions.

But such questions are generally outside my level of knowledge. As a relative beginner, I cannot do more useful stuff than a tidbit here and a tidbit there. So what do I do? Does the current reputation model really work, when a large base of already answered questions is in place? Or do we need to change something here?

I thought commenting on already existing stuff would be the natural place for a newcomer to start. But maybe that would cause excessive comment threads full of garbage?

Update:

The comment by @ByteCommander leads to an old answer on a different Stack Exchange site.

There's a 50 rep threshold on comments mainly because we want users to focus first on the core part of a Q&A site -- asking great questions and providing great answers!

Also, comments tend to be meta-commentary, which while useful and often illuminating, isn't providing an answer.

We want users to learn this distinction before they are allowed to comment, hence, the requirement to earn 50 reputation.

But it is precisely this that I think becomes not only confusing, but perhaps outright wrong when a large enough number of questions are already asked. Thoughts on that?

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    Related: How do I quickly gain reputation? – Byte Commander Feb 8 '17 at 20:51
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  • @ByteCommander - helpful link! – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 21:04
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    I can't get what is the problem that many questions are already asked? How does it affect the rep system? – Pilot6 Feb 8 '17 at 21:40
  • Like this: when more of the questions are answered, new questions are more and more either duplicates or very advanced and/or specific. This makes comments not just a nice-to-have but a necessity to get to an answer. – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 21:59
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    More like a horrible original question, as the update is - to me - a clarification of what I was wondering all along. But by now I need to go to sleep, so maybe I'm not seeing it clearly right now. – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 22:02
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    @ElderGeek Whoa there. I think it is very clear from the OP's original post what they meant. They're not asking how to get reputation (although that's probably still helpful). If you go back to the original question: 'As a relative beginner, I cannot do more useful stuff than a tidbit here and a tidbit there. So what do I do? Does this system really work, when a large base of already answered questions is in place? Or do we need to change something here?' (emphasis added). – Seth Feb 8 '17 at 22:10
  • obviously people were taking it for a standard, run of the mill, "I can't post comments" thread because you answered it as such and ByteCommander tried to close it as such. So the OP edited it, but the question is still the same: 'But it is precisely this that I think becomes not only confusing, but perhaps outright wrong when a large enough number of questions are already asked. Thoughts on that?' – Seth Feb 8 '17 at 22:11
  • How do you plan on contributing via comments? – muru Feb 9 '17 at 1:50
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    "But it is precisely this that I think becomes not only confusing, but perhaps outright wrong" You're new here. I guess when you've been around these sites for some months/years you'll be in a better place to make this sort of suggestion. A community can gain strength from new members but I'm not sure it'll improve much by making it easier for newcomers to have "power" (for want of a better word) which hasn't been earned the same way the existing members earned it. – user12753 Feb 10 '17 at 11:09
  • You may find the final word on the stack exchange meta here. – Elder Geek Feb 16 '17 at 22:24
  • Getting 25 edits approved will get you those 50 points. – Android Dev Feb 19 '17 at 19:55
  • @O8h7w Now that you have 41 points, you only need to get 5 edits approved. – Android Dev Feb 22 '17 at 14:04
  • @muru As discussed between Gypsy Spellweaver and Elder Geek below, I often find myself with a part of an answer. My original reason for joining was to contribute some additional but incomplete detail to an already existing, almost complete answer. Going by the answer by Zanna and the rest of the discussion here, this might be better as a half-complete edit. – O8h7w Feb 24 '17 at 15:55
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The bottom line here I think, is that if something is worth unicorn dollars1, it deserves to be an answer (or a question).

We just don't expect much value from comments; in theory, they are just a way of clarifying what is being asked, pointing out issues with a post that can't be fixed with an edit, or making temporary, peripheral remarks for the purposes of site management (for example, to help fellow reviewers).

Of course, in reality comments can be very helpful; sometimes they give the clue needed for someone to solve their own problem (so that person can then post their own answer) or provide a link to a relevant answer elsewhere on the site (generally a suggested duplicate), but those cases are more the exception than the norm, and the most helpful comments become redundant and are removed when the information is incorporated into an answer or duplicate link.

As pointed out by others, it's certainly possible to gain enough reputation to start commenting by suggesting edits (much needed and valued, I assure you), but becoming a commenter isn't a great goal to have as a contributor!

The site's maturity and vast library of questions makes no essential difference to this, I think. If you have something valuable to add to a question, old or new, then post an answer. If you don't have anything to say that is worth making an answer out of, then keep watching and be patient: I promise you, questions that you can answer will come along. It surprises me every day!

1aka shiny green reputation points

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    A good one!! +1 – Pilot6 Feb 8 '17 at 21:54
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    Indeed a good one, this might be the explanation I was looking for. I'll have to sleep on it though, see you tomorrow... :) – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 21:56
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Edit:

Find questions and answers that are poorly formatted, have spelling errors and are not tagged properly and fix them so that those with the necessary rep can find and answer them. In this way you'll see a lot of questions and answers and learn a lot in the process. Your edits will be reviewed by the community and you'll get 2 points per approved edit up to a max of 1,000 points.

Ask Ask good questions and Accept good Answers

There's a full rundown on reputation here.

There are some valid points regarding comments here. I can only answer based on conditions as they are as any answer based on conditions the way we wish them to be would be fruitless and not helpful. We all had to make contributions to the site in the form of edits, questions and answers to earn the right to comment. If we open the door wide on comments we will need to adjust how comment voting is handled as well and are likely to get overrun by spam. I have to ask myself whether all those helpful edits would have been accomplished without that requirement.

While I agree with @Zanna points on commenting I'd like to add the most helpful comments are not only redundant but actually designed to be redundant. I've long ago lost count of the number of comments I've made to encourage users to provide enough information that their question can actually be answered. I don't consider being a commenter a goal per se, but I see it as a necessary part of adding quality to both questions and answers. I have no doubt that I could find literally hundreds of examples where a comment drove an improvement to a question or an answer.

Update: All things considered I can certainly understand the frustration that a new user faces when attempting to contribute to the site as I'm sure most of us who weren't here at it's inception do. However, I also understand the reasons why the current model is in place. You might consider taking a look at the User Reputation Leagues to put things in perspective. Reputation may not be directly in correlation to years of service but there is a definite impact. The longer someone has been here, the more there work is known and appreciated. While it might seem unfair when you first walk in the door, it's eventually apparent that the system works and works well.

Answer the questions that you can. It might seem that there is a shortage of questions without answers but I assure you that that is not the case. Sometimes a bit of research will turn up new solutions to older unanswered questions.

To top it off, You may find the final word on the stack exchange meta here.

  • This is helpful, but I gather from the question that the OP is more asking about whether, after 7 years and hundreds of thousands of questions, if the reputation model is breaking down. – Seth Feb 8 '17 at 20:53
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    That is a good way to go about it, yes, but Seth is right - I can't help but question whether the reputation model is still in line with reality. Aren't comments the natural place to start? – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 20:59
  • So after I edit 500 times, I no longer earn reputation? – user595510 Feb 11 '17 at 17:34
  • @MarkYisri For editing? Based on the linked rundown on reputation, no. However after editing 500 posts I think it's likely that you'll find yourself well qualified to ask good questions and provide good answers which result in further reputation. All things considered however if you are Eager to help I've found that increasing reputation is all but unavoidable. to be honest I no longer think much about it. – Elder Geek Feb 11 '17 at 17:54
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Posting comments here and there does not add anything helpful to the site.

The less comments are posted the better.

If you have no questions and have no answers, just do not post.

You can be helpful with edits though if you want to do something useful.

Violating the rules and posting comments as answers will finally lead to an automatic ban.

  • Noted, I'll try to behave. – O8h7w Feb 8 '17 at 21:53
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    Sadly comments are a necessary evil. Without the ability to request informative edits to the posts most of the answers here would not exist due to the fact that those asking the questions (who need the help) are rarely good at articulating what the problem is. – Elder Geek Feb 8 '17 at 22:02
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    In line with the comment by @ElderGeek I have occasionally thought I might know the answer, but was unsure because of missing details, or vagueness in the Q. To either clarify the Q or get the details, I tried to post a comment to get the OP to provide same. Finding I couldn't, because of rep (no longer a problem) I posted a possible solution, including the "If this is the problem ..." type language. The answer did get to stay, but a comment to it made it plain I should have asked for detail in a comment. Oops, catch-22! I can feel for the OP, and wonded the same.. but... it does work. – Gypsy Spellweaver Feb 12 '17 at 5:44
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    @GypsySpellweaver Agreed. It is a catch-22. I have also provided answers that attempt to cover all the possibilities in leiu of enough information to be certain of which approach is required. Sometimes these are well received and sometimes not. You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time. I recall going to great lengths to defend a self-answered question in which the answer was entirely accurate but still wasn't the answer I wanted & now off-topic. – Elder Geek Feb 12 '17 at 14:41
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    @ElderGeek No system is perfect. I support the off-topic concept, and the duplicate concept myself. Still, I can't count how many times one of those was the answer I needed. Interestingly enough it was trying to fathom how "duplicate" had the answer I needed when the original didn't that got me to poking around in SE, and eventually joining. As long as the archives are kept, someone will probably benefit from the fine answers, no matter how they're marked. BTW, If I edit a Q does the OP get a notice? I don't edit cause I don't want to ask what the OP didn't mean. – Gypsy Spellweaver Feb 12 '17 at 15:14
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    Yes. The OP does get notified if their post is edited. If the edit falls outside their intent they can roll it back or even edit it further to improve upon your work. Low rep users also have their edits reviewed by the community so there's always a risk that the community may reject your edit before the OP even sees it. It takes several votes to reject or approve an edit though so the result is typically fair and impartial. – Elder Geek Feb 12 '17 at 15:36
  • @GypsySpellweaver From what I've seen when browsing (rather than joining and contributing to) at least on superuser, the problem of information spread out over duplicate questions may combated through turning one of them into a "Community wiki". Not sure how it works and what it means, but for someone searching, these do help... when one finds them. – O8h7w Feb 24 '17 at 16:04

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