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This site is extremely difficult to use for people who need the answer to a question.

Perhaps it would be best to describe my experience as a first time user. I originally asked my question anonymously, because I wasn't aware of how important it is to have an account. The question received two answers, one of which was off-topic in that it did not answer the question, but re-derived an example that was given in the question (apparently through carelessness). The second answer is correct and useful, but I need to ask a follow up question to get the answer I need. The useless answer was voted up twice, the useful answer has not been voted up.

So, naturally, I needed: 1) To comment (to ask my follow up question, and to point out that the answer that was voted up is not an answer at all). 2) To vote (to help correct the careless voting that had occurred). 3) To mark the question as answered, because there was a useful answer.

And here is the problem. All of these are impossible for a first time user.

I created an account, and (luckily) found a question that I could answer. (I have a background in artificial intelligence, and I found a machine learning question that I could answer in a useful way.) This gave me the 15 points I needed to be able to do anything at this site. I still don't have the 50 I need to correct the mistakes made at my question. I suppose I will have to wait until I find another two or three questions that relate in some way to AI -- which may never happen and at best will require me to visit this site every day for the foreseeable future. It seems that there is no easy way to get a useful answer to my question.

My experience has led me to conclude that this site is only truly useable by those who contribute to it, and does not effectively serve the larger community that needs its help. The site is self-serving and needs to reconsider its responsibility to the people it should be serving.

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    $\begingroup$ The question asker can comment on answers to their own question, but that works only if you use the same account, registered or unregistered (cookie based). If you have cleared your cookies in between, I'm afraid you need to get 50 rep before you can comment. An approved edit suggestion gives you 2 points, so you can work your way to the comment privilege by suggesting good edits. Improve formatting ($\LaTeX$ and other), correct typos, think of more informative titles ... Or ask good questions that get upvoted. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ The second part of your comment proves my larger point; you are asking me to contribute (in clever, non-obvious and trivial ways) in order to get the answer to a question. $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ Well. If you hadn't lost your (unregistered, if I understand correctly) account from which you posted the question, no contribution would be necessary to be able to comment there. But yes, generally the site usability is better when you have contributed some things. It's intentional. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, and by the way, another possibility is to earn 200 rep on another site, then you get 100 association bonus for all linked accounts on the network. So if you're good at programming, cooking, knowing English ..., you could get around the commenting difficulty from that side too. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it's true that my experience was made much worse by whatever deleted my access to my "unregistered account". You are right about this. $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ But I'm also glad that you confess "usability is better when you have contributed some things. It's intentional." $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ Not much of a confession. It's pretty immediate from the rep-based privilege model. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ I was surprised that a crowd-sourced site such as this would deliberately "bite the newbies" (as they say over at Wikipedia). I, for one, seriously question the value of intentionally making the site more difficult to use for anyone. $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ You have the basic functionality from the beginning, you can even ask and answer questions without a registered account. If you contribute things that are deemed valuable by the other users, you are rewarded with the ability to do more things (like commenting everywhere). In part it's an incentive for people to become contributors, as I understand it, in part it's a spam-defence. If everybody could comment everywhere from the beginning, there'd probably be a significant amount of spam comments (not from ordinary newbies, but give the bots the ability, and they will use it. Plenty). $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ @CharlesGillingham The SE sites tend to attract some obsessive types, and maybe even some high conflict personalities. I think the requirements are there to prevent any single user from wreaking too much havoc, or at least making it a little more difficult for them. I can't imagine what this site would be like if voting/commenting could be done anonymously and without limits. $\endgroup$ – Scott H. Aug 13 '14 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ @CharlesGillingham The value of "intentionally making the site more difficult to use for anyone" is allow it to survive. This is not the first site that attempt to be a community for math or other scientific topics accessible to non-professionals. Most of them simply get decayed into chaos and there are more spammers and crackpots than ordinary users. For a good example, consider what the unmoderated usenet newsgroup "sci.math" has become.... $\endgroup$ – achille hui Aug 14 '14 at 13:03
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Your problem stems from split accounts. If you kept control of the original "unregistered" account with which you asked the question (which means not erasing the browser cookie with account information), you would be able to comment on the answers to your question. The account you are posting from now has no questions on the main site.

You can use this form to request your user profiles to be merged.

Once this is done, you will be able to comment on the answers to your question, and to mark an answer as accepted if you wish.

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  • $\begingroup$ But I still can't vote, correct? $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @CharlesGillingham With 15 reputation points, you can vote up. Voting down requires 125 points. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Aug 13 '14 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ But, @CharlesGillingham, regardless of reputation, voting requires a registered account. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Aug 13 '14 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I am fixing things. $\endgroup$ – Charles Gillingham Aug 13 '14 at 22:35

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