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With my (terrible!) reputation of < 50 (new to the site), I cannot comment on posts and answers of others. However, if I wish to make an observation or give a hint as opposed to the full answer, can I do that with a new answer?

I don't want to violate site etiquette in this regard.

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    $\begingroup$ There is nothing "terrible" about being a new member of the Math.SE community. However commenting on the posts of others, with certain exceptions, is a privilege earned with 50 reputation points (not all that far from where you are). Posting in the Answer box in order to comment (and evade this requirement) is against the rules. $\endgroup$ – hardmath May 27 '17 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ Get the points -- and then do whatever you wish to do that these points will allow you to. $\endgroup$ – Did May 27 '17 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a list of most voted answers with the word hint you could consider looking at those answers as some kind of guidelines. Also a kind of guidelines to what not to post is the last page of the same query. Though if an answer is upvoted or downvoted doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good or a bad answer but the queries should give you a general picture. $\endgroup$ – kingW3 May 27 '17 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ No problem. What about hints? Do they count as answers or comments? $\endgroup$ – Sharat V Chandrasekhar May 27 '17 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Also related $\endgroup$ – kingW3 May 27 '17 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Related older post: How to make a remark when reputation is under 50 ?. (And also other questions linked there.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 27 '17 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ And now your reputation is over $50$, so commenting on the posts of others is an option! $\endgroup$ – hardmath May 27 '17 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ That has never made sense to me. Maybe it's to prevent spam? But then a lower threshold would make more sense. You can upvote with just 25 points, right? In my opinion, that would be better. It's not up to me, though, nor even the Math.SE Grand Poobahs, I think it's the same way throughout all of StackExchange. $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe May 29 '17 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ Someone famously said democracy is a bad system but not as bad as all the others. (Churchill? I don't remember.) Preventing virgins from commenting may be like that: a terrible idea but maybe not as bad as allowing inanities that some newbies would post. I said it "may be" like that; I don't know if it really is. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 29 '17 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'd replace "virgins" with newbies here too, @MichaelHardy, in your comment. "Preventing [newbies] from commenting may be like that: a terrible idea but maybe not as bad as allowing inanities that some newbies would post." $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 31 '17 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe The FAQ on reputation limit for comments has a paragraph named "Why does this limit exists?" And this is probably discussed in more details in other questions linked there. And there were also a few discussions on this local meta, such as Should we really have a reputation requirement for commenting? or Is this an answer only site for people who just started here? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 1 '17 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I see that spam is the very first reason given. And the most understandable. $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe Jun 1 '17 at 3:26
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Hints can be acceptable answers, when the hint sketches the idea of the answer but omits details. This is a particularly common approach to calculus questions that look like common homework problems and are presented without much context. For example, answering

Hint: Try doing the u-substitution $u=x^2+5$ and then integrating $\int \sqrt{u}\,du$

would be a good answer to a generic question about evaluating the integral $\int 2x\sqrt{x^2+5}\,dx$.

You can see some hint answers I have given that have been positively received here, here, here, and here.

It's worth noting that moderators can convert answers into comments that they think that they are too brief or irreverent. However, this doesn't mean that you should intentionally leave "answers" that should really be comments under the assumption that that will happen.

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    $\begingroup$ High-rep users can recommend that answers should be changed to comments, but I think only moderators can actually do the changing. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 21 '17 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Thank you for the correction, it’s been amended. $\endgroup$ – Stella Biderman Nov 22 '17 at 7:10
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As Stella says, hints can be appropriate answers.

Until you have enough reputation to comment, you should post answers that you're sure are proper answers, rather than trying to post comments as answers. Indeed, when a post is flagged as low-quality, one of the comments that can be added to the post to explain why it's being deleted says this.

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I am in the same boat as Sharat VC was, so I have no other option but to "answer" instead of comment (even though I intended the latter).

Sharat made an excellent point. Yet by ranting about this issue, he generated interest & commotion, which made his reputation shot up to 363 at present and he can now make comments -- but based on what new evidence or elements, really? It shows the system is fundamentally flawed: meta commenting does not prove anything about the genuine stature, knowledge, diligence, etc. of the person as relating to the pertinent topical area (maths, in this case).

A better and fairer system would be to start everyone off with 50, then increase or decrease according to his/her technical input, so that privileges (if they are needed at all), can be more easily lost as gained. But I guess SE would become far less popular if reputation can go down as easily as it goes up.

The fundamental problem is the excessive emphasis on posters' hierarchy, particularly as its foundation is ill-based and could have been gained outside the pertinent SE category. Earning points on simply editing someone's post, commenting on Meta, etc., how does that make one more reputable/authoritative/trustworthy/reliable on topic?

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    $\begingroup$ "Sharat made an excellent point. Yet by ranting about this issue, he generated interest & commotion, which made his reputation shot up to 363[...]" I do not think that this is quite to the point. It may be the meta post resulted in a vote here or there, but the main part of the point gain is just continued contribution. The point of preventing commenting initially has nothing much to do with expertise in the field. Instead, it is mainly a (crude) way to prevent spammers from commenting. Once you have 200 points on some said you'll get 100 points on every site and thus can comment. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 10 '17 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: if preventing spamming is the main driver, then I believe one needs a through review of how effective this is. I am reading a lot of comments to posts that do little or nothing to advance or relate to the discussion. $\endgroup$ – TeXCub Jun 10 '17 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ This is arguably true but this is not what I meant with spammers. I meant actual spammers, that is users posting comments promoting unrelated products and dubious services etc. Do you see many of those? $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 10 '17 at 16:18

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