I'm not sure if this is on-topic for meta; I apologize if it isn't, but I think it's OK because it's somewhat the opposite of this.

My question is about how I can improve as a contributor, not about how math SE rules relate to a specific question someone asked, so I won't reveal the context in which someone commented on one of my (now self-deleted) answers:

It's time you start seeking out good questions, at whatever level, but to challenge yourself. You are certainly very well qualified, but you limit most of your answers to PSQs. There are two forms of reputation on this site: the points - you've accomplished; Most importantly is capital R, Reputation, which needs to be earned. Capital R reputation, is vital in any sphere of action, because without others' respect, small letter r rep means very little.

In the interest of self-improvement, I'll assume the best of that user's position: that they are correct in perceiving me as a user who hasn't earned as much respect or capital-R Reputation on math.se as I could, because whatever abilities I have should be applied to more non-PSQs. I've surely posted answers frequently enough, long enough, that the heaviest users will all have valuable perspectives of their own on my conduct. I may not have good enough self-perspective to see how to change that, but let me try to convey my understanding of the issue.

I think the problem is with how I find questions, not what I have the courage to try answering. I go to the front page (sorted by "interesting" because that's the default on all of my devices), look at a few questions, and answer anything I can, unless the content of that answer would be too similar to an existing answer to be worth including. (Ideally, if my answer isn't the first it'll provide a different approach or perspective, or give context not theretofore discussed.) In particular:

  • If I think I can answer a question, I don't skip it just because it would take a while, or because I think I can earn small-r rep faster somewhere else. I don't think people who think like that are likely to stay as long or score as much as it sounds at first like they would. In any case, they're not the "big ticket items" anyway, as my highest-scoring answers show for a few pages. I'm sure points incentivise me somewhat, but again, if I see the right questions, I try to answer them. (The main exception is on old questions.)
  • However much mathematics I learn, I frequently find questions I know I couldn't answer, which may be part of why so much of what I find I can do is PSQs. Maybe it's as simple as choosing how questions are sorted. However, as an experiment I've tried "bountied", "hot", "week" and "month", and I'm not sure the results were all that different. Or should I be filtering them by tags?
  • While I'm perhaps too generous in which questions I think "deserve" an answer, I delete poorly received answers because I defer to others' view that my answer isn't a net good for the site. That I answer what I do is probably where the PSQ charge comes from, but I don't think deliberately answering fewer questions will make me a better contributor on its own. So for the purposes of my question here, I'm looking for how to find questions I should be trying to answer. Of course, time spent on them would reduce my contributions to PSQs.

As I've said, the problem could be my settings. But maybe there's a psychological roadblock I don't have enough objectivity to discern.

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    $\begingroup$ The kinds of questions which are on-topic here tend to be questions about well-settled mathematics (calculus, the basic theory of groups, rings, and fields, elementary number theory, etc). Because these topics are pretty well-settled, most of the basic questions one could ask have been asked-and-answered on Math SE before (often, multiple times). Thus the number of genuinely new questions asked in any given day is generally fairly small, particularly if you focus on the "low-hanging fruit", e.g. those in the calculus, limits, and sequences-and-series tags. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 9, 2021 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ Thus I would advise you to temper your expectations: you may only run across one or two high quality questions which you can answer in any given day. Most of the rest of the questions you encounter are likely to be of low-quality (either engage with the asker to help them improve the question, or vote-to-close) or already answered somewhere on the site (help the asker by searching the site and directing them to an appropriate answer; vote-to-close as a duplicate). $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 9, 2021 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't read the content of your post, save for the first 3 paragraphs and the title, and Xander's comments. But I think users like you shouldn't be asking this question. That's too much. You come here to answer, but now it turns out that you'd have to look carefully to select what to answer ugh... Instead of just going straight (to some extent). Notice you wouldn't had this problem if OPs would have taken the necessary time to search before asking. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2021 at 2:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Verónica The sentiment you express is a natural one. However, who do you think should be more adept at searching, and, in the first place, knowing what questions have been handled on the site already? The new asker taking freshman calculus/number theory, or the user who has earned over 20000 points on the site already? $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2021 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ That being said. Searching here somewhat different. I also think that the tools for searching here should be modified. I know there are many ways to search, but something tells me that they should change, something is not working, otherwise there wouldn't be too much duplicate after duplicate. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2021 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Verónica You are probably right about the difficulty of searching. Yet, some veterans are reluctant to use the available (admittedly anything but perfect) search tools. When pressed on the matter they respond with a variant of Searching takes so much time that it is faster to type a new answer. Anyway, a point I want to keep bringing up is that the experienced answerers surely recognize the kind of questions the site has nearly certainly covered already - it is impossible to get to that kind of a rep score without being exposed to the site enough. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2021 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ (cont'd) I have been warned not to try and make easy guesses about the motives of such answerers, so I should not. May be I should elaborate on my thoughts in the form of an answer? Just to get more feedback and to clarify where my somewhat militant attitude comes from. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2021 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Go for questions that are well-received by using the search. Type "answers:0 score:2" for questions that are well-received and yet don't have answers. Put your foot through the ball while answering these questions. Stretch yourself. That you think you can answer only certain kinds of questions is itself a road blocked. I have downloaded and bought over 250 different books , papers and PDFs on various topics (ranging from differential Galois theory to exponential conjectures to electrical engineering manuals to convex bodies to high dimensional probability) in these searches,... $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2021 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ ... since I started answering questions that were worth my salt .I found that I was writing expansive, complete and well-received answers. Look, I don't have a problem with the whole system of answering questions similar to those you have seen before or whatever, as long as the question is good enough and not, in some arguable sense a duplicate. But the lure of reputation means that we will want to write that two line answer for three quick up votes even though the question is certain to be closed, but you want to take advantage of the gold rush that kicks off when any question is posted... $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2021 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ ... and the problem with some (not all) high reputation users is that they are unfortunately role models for new contributors (that's how reputation works!), but don't follow the rules! I'm happy that you seek to reform, you yourself will not believe how many people will see you and reform as well. A small step for you is a big step for MSE. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2021 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ My professor in C used to say : there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2021 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ While a lot of these examples of the meaning of PSQ are pretty funny, not one of them seems to fit its use in this post... $\endgroup$
    – Lee Mosher
    Apr 15, 2021 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ To expand Teresa Lisbon's comment on "Go for questions that are well-received by using the search", SE also provides a list of highly-voted unanswered questions. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Apr 17, 2021 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @LeeMosher it's PSQ: Problem Statement Questions. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Apr 17, 2021 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ I just looked over your answers and from what I saw they look fine. I say that you should continue to use this website in whatever way you think is fun. Use your own judgment about whether or not you think answering a question will help the person who asked it. We're lucky to have you helping people learn math. $\endgroup$
    – littleO
    Apr 23, 2021 at 4:11


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