Stack Exchange is unfair

I used to complain about Stack Exchange because I found that the quality and accuracy of the answers given was low, questions often turned into flamewars without getting answered, and hackish coding was encouraged simply because the community members did not have enough programming experience to recognise what is and isn’t hackish.

However, I have observed that the quality of the community has improved somewhat and as of late I have found many useful solutions and some very elegant hacks on the site, and I almost always find a neat solution to my problems rather than just another opinion argument. And I have also tried to participate in the community – after all, I might as well give something back in the areas where I am knowledgeable – and while the few questions that I have asked have been answered very promptly and I am impressed with the overall knowledge of most users and their patience at helping the co-operating newbie, it is when I came to answer questions that my problems began.

So every now and then I see an interesting question and I feel that I have something to add. Often will write an answer and maybe one or two people will comment on it. Sometimes though I don’t really know the answer, or the question has already been answered, but I observe something that has been said which I feel needs further clarification or there is a pitfall that has so far been missed by the other users.

I know that such things are supposed to be posted as comments on the question or on other users’ answers, but there’s a problem: commenting on other users’ posts (depending on the site) usually requires a ridiculous amount of “reputation”, which is a points-based system whereby users are rated depending on how helpful they’ve been and the more points you have the more functions of the site are made available to you. And because I’m still quite new to the site, I don’t have such exorbitant amounts of “reputation” such as to allow me to comment, thus I am forced to attempt to bend my comments into the guise of an answer and post it as such.

Sometimes they get left like that (usually with a note from a more senior member about posting comments as such, to which I normally reply with a reasonably polite comment – you can always comment on your own posts – highlighting the fact that I am unable to post comments), but more often they get deleted. And the latest one was the worst, in fact: my “answer” was moved to a comment on the question. And then someone replied to it. And the person who replied had misunderstood my comment. And now I want to clarify my point. And I can’t. Because I don’t have enough “reputation”. And I bet the guy who moved it didn’t even think that perhaps I was unable to post comments.

So that is why I say that Stack Exchnage is unfair. Just because I don’t have the time and energy to write good answers to unanswered questions (writing is really not my strong point) in order to earn “reputation” doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything worthwhile to add to the community – or that I should be made unable to clarify my own comments.

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