I'm a new user. I don't understand why I can't tell users what is wrong with their work. You can only do that when you have reached reputation=50? I also don't understand anymore what is meant by answer? I'm suppose to provide a full answer since I don't have commenting privileges? I need your definition of answer to be defined? If it is defined somewhere, I don't know where. I'm still trying to work out the navigation of this site.

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly of interest: a full listing of privileges and reputation requirements can be found here in the help center. As an aside, you should now have enough rep to comment anywhere. $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ Is this an answer only site for people who just started here ? - You seem to forget the fact that good questions also get upvotes. :-$)$ $\endgroup$
    – Lucian
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ Note that if you reach 200 reputation on any site in the Stack Exchange network, you are awarded 100 reputation on all other sites in the network, which gives you enough reputation to comment. $\endgroup$
    – senshin
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ Hey look, guess what, you've got 2k rep now! :D Stupid restrictions don't exist anymore, right? :D $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ And with all your experience, how do you feel about users with less than 50 rep now? In retrospect, they have a rough start, but in the end, we have good products. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ @simple art I still think it is a turn off to new users. It is still a gross idea as a user with some experience on this site that new users are only encouraged to give answers. I guess the reputation requirement is suppose to discourage spam, but new users with bad intentions can still spam the site in questions and in answers. $\endgroup$
    – randomgirl
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @randomgirl In my experience, I learned a lot from being under that pressure. And look at me now, currently the top user on MSE this year. I may be different, but I believe that without some kind of restriction, this site wouldn't be as is. It is meant for those who really want to do math, and formally. This is not Reddit, to contrast. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I found this counterintuitive too when I joined (about three weeks ago). The reason was that while answers are very prominent and ideally need to be right, comments are tiny and . . . just comments. So it felt as though the ability to comment ought to come before the ability to post an answer. But I understand the rationale behind the setup. $\endgroup$
    – timtfj
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 23:55

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is the idea. As long as you have not reached 50 points, you can only do posts (questions and answers). An answer should be an actual answer to the questions; it can be a partial answer too, but it should be substantive.

The reason why you cannot tell users what is wrong with their work is that, as unfriendly as this may sound, "we" first want some proof that a new user has some clue what they are talking about.

Moreover, this limit is also a form of spam and noise protection.

  • $\begingroup$ While I am sure this is a duplicate I could not find one after some small effort. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ You can tell someone in a friendly way where they have went wrong... Otherwise what is the point of them showing their work if you can't help them make changes to it. $\endgroup$
    – randomgirl
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @randomgirl yes of course, and I am convinved you would do so. But the design of the software protects (at least a little bit) against somebody invading the site with no idea at all and commenting here and there all kind of non-sense. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand why this is getting voted to be deleted. I already said I have trouble navigating this site... If you can find me a link to a this same question somewhere, please help me out and don't make my question just disappear without me getting an answer. $\endgroup$
    – randomgirl
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ To avoid a misunderstanding: my remark was meant as a completely abstract description of the design decision; I changed the wording slightly to make this more clear. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @randomgirl this is not voted to be deleted, only somebody downvoted it which is not that big a deal on meta. Does my answer not answer your question? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ Like here is an example of what I'm talking about. Say someone wants to show $a>0, \sqrt{a+1}-\sqrt{a}<\frac{1}{2 \sqrt{a}}$ And to do this someone else tells them to rationalize the numerator on the left hand side... so the asker says he gets $\frac{1}{\sqrt{a+1}-\sqrt{a}}$ So it is completely wrong for me to say you accidentally put a - instead of a + . $\endgroup$
    – randomgirl
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Like I don't see it as non-helpful. I also didn't want to give him the full solution so I "answered" with that correction. $\endgroup$
    – randomgirl
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @randomgirl yes, as long as you cannot comment, you should rather not post an answer to point out such things. This is somewhat frustrating and the idea to change this gets also voiced from time to time see meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/9203/… and meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/12228/… $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @randomgirl Look at the bright side, you already have more than twice the required reputation to comment. Getting to 50 is relatively quick. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 8:00

I think the existing answer probably makes more sense to someone who's already familiar with how the site works, so let me try to explain the policy from a more abstract perspective:

This policy is meant to deter people who know absolutely nothing about math. If you belong here (which you obviously do), you'll accumulate the required reputation threshold nearly immediately. For instance, it took me one day to hit the threshold, and I wasn't trying; if I had been, it probably would have taken about two hours from the time I created my account.

If you allow commenting for anyone, the following happens: people will Google a problem off of their homework assignment, end up here at a question that's not really related, then start asking incoherent questions in the comments to the answers.

As such, the site requires users to prove that they're serious by accumulating a few reputation points before commenting. This is annoying when you know what you're doing -- it's always a bit cringeworthy when you see a comment on MathOverflow from some legendary mathematician saying something like, "Apparently I don't have enough reputation to comment, so I've put this comment into an answer..." But it's quite easy to accumulate enough points to comment quickly: just answer a couple of basic questions and you're set.

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    $\begingroup$ It took me years to get enough reputation to comment and I was trying - I just wasn't finding questions I could answer that weren't already answered. I don't know what makes it easy for some people and interminable for others, but I see no reason to believe your assertion that "it's quite easy to accumulate enough points to comment quickly". Do you have data to support that? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ There's plenty of open high school-level math questions. You could answer two or three and get your 50 points. See math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/algebra-precalculus, math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/trigonometry, math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/calculus, ... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, just ask a good question or two, or get points on another SE site and it will carry over. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ I take that as a no, you don't have data to support your claim. Too bad; it would be good for someone to understand why the system works well in some cases and poorly in others. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean? I just demonstrated how to get 50 reputation in a couple of hours. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Polyergic you answered 1 question (+20 points) and asked 2 (+15 points) in 2012 and then disappeared until 2014. With so little activity, how did you expect to garner the required rep to comment? $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 4:58
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielMcLaury, you did not demonstrate, you described, the same hit-or-miss solution I've seen everywhere this question has been raised. I gather that approach worked well for you, but it did not work for me, and there clearly are others for whom it also does not work. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ @dustin, that was the only activity permitted, since I wasn't willing to add redundant or useless answers. Should I recommend that to new users caught in the same trap? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 5:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Polyergic adding additionally answers is not redundant if you can solve it in a new way. For example, think of integration problems. One answer could utilize special functions, series, complex analysis, unique substitutions etc. Also, there is 1597 pages of 50 post per page of unanswered questions see here $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Polyergic Every approved suggested edit is +2. One can earn the ability to comment without posting anything, just by editing 25 poorly formatted questions (of which there are many). If you don't feel like editing, don't have good questions to ask or good answers to give, then... sorry, I don't think I care about the comments you want to make. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Polyergic it was a demonstration as he actually did it; as do plenty of people day-in day-out. Just one piece of advice: either you can be quick then watch the new-queue, or you cannot then browse somewhat older unanswered (where somewhat older just means skip a couple of hours). What is not effective is monitor the top of the front-page and hesitate. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what value you see in repeating suggestions that didn't work for me or for any of the others that that have posted this question. It's nice that those things worked for you, but it's clear that they don't work for everyone. I don't know what makes the difference, which is why I think it would be good if someone had data on it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ How could we possibly have data on why you decided not to answer questions? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Polyergic I am not sure if you are talking to me, but in case: First, I explained you in what sense "demonstrate" is to be understood. Second, I thought I gave some other suggestions. Anyway sorry for the noise. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Polyergic: From your user page I see you answered 0 questions and asked 0 questions, yet have 240 rep. Dont really understand where those points came from! It doesnt seem you really tried very hard. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 11:54

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