I just joined Stack Exchange in order to answer a question. I discovered I was not allowed to because I have no reputation. Fair enough; I can understand the caution. However it creates a Catch-22.

That Catch-22 is best illustrated by the automated welcoming email I received from Stack Exchange a bit later:

The Android Enthusiasts Stack Exchange community only works because users like you generously share their knowledge to solve each other's problems.

Want to help?

Find a question you can answer.

Other users will vote up your answer if they find it helpful.

For every upvote, you earn reputation, which unlocks additional privileges on the site.

Unfortunately you need reputation BEFORE you are allowed to answer a question. But the only way to earn reputation appears to be to answer a question.???

What am I missing?

And I've just discovered I can only post once every 40 minutes. Okay, I shall wait long enough to post this but won't likely be back. If I'm going to contribute it's typically in a single session that in total may be far less than 40 minutes. I have no interest in setting a timer and returning once every 40 minutes to answer another question.

  • Answering questions is not the only way to earn reputation. Asking questions, editing and more can fetch you reputation
    – beeshyams
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately you need reputation BEFORE you are allowed to answer a question.

Usually it doesn't work like that. But a small number of questions attract a lot of non-answers by new users. Especially with questions that rank high on Google, people will create an account just to post "yeah, this problem is awful! we need an answer!" or "thanks to the other answerers!" - posts which people are used to from forum sites, but don't fit on our Q&A site at all. Those questions get specially protected. Brand new users can't answer them any more, to avoid inundating the site with non-answers.

Although it's a shame this happens, it's a tiny fraction of questions, and it only affects brand new users. You only need one upvote on an answer, or two on a question, or one answer being accepted, before you can answer a protected question, so any useful contribution at all will get you past this block. It's just to reduce the extra work caused by the 95% of people who come here only to create noise, so the rest of us can get on with helping each other.

  • Just out of curiosity, how are the discussion and stackexchange tags added? I don't think they exist on the main site.
    – iBug
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 1:17
  • Thank you for the thoughtful answers and especially noting that questions with those restrictions are exceptions. This brings a follow-on. It's mentioned above that you only need 10 reputation to answer these exceptions. I'm positive it said I needed 30 on that particular one when I tried to save my answer. Does it vary depending upon how bad the responses were before it got restricted?
    – Ken G
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 22:51
  • Could you add a link to the question? The limit for protected questions is always 10 reputation.
    – Dan Hulme
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 8:39
  • People only come here to and people come here only to are different. The former implies that "people don't go to anywhere else" while the latter implies "people come here but don't do anything else". It's the position of the word only that matters.
    – iBug
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 1:39
  • I guess native English speakers don't care so much as foreign speakers.
    – iBug
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 1:40
  • @iBug I don't think many native speakers would make that distinction in this case. "They only x to y" is much more likely to mean that y is the only reason, with different phrasing used for the other case. Foreign speakers tend to view English syntax as more logical and coherent then how natives actually speak it. All the same, I do try to be clear for everyone, so thanks for your edit.
    – Dan Hulme
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 9:50

In most cases, there's no requirement before you can ask or answer. Some questions are protected because they attract a lot of new users to add useless answers like Thank you or Me too, so they got a special handling, that they're made to require 10 reputation for the user before answering. 10 is a considerably low threshold, because 1 upvote on an answer gains you that much.

According to statictics, new users tend to generate content of a lower quality, so Stack Exchange decided to add more restrictions, especially rate-limiting to new users. It's also good that you get to learn something before asking. There's already a bunch of rare questions solved and good answers posted, which can solve your problem in most cases without you having to ask again.

Reference from Meta Stack Exchange FAQ:

1. What is a "protected" question?

What does it mean for a question to be protected?
Protected questions have the additional restriction that new users are not permitted to answer the question. Unlike locked questions, they can still be edited, commented on, and voted on. You can even vote to close them.

Why are some questions protected?
Questions are usually protected because they have attracted either spam answers or "noisy" answers such as "thank you", "this worked for me", or "I'm also having this problem" from new users who may mistake the site as a traditional forum.

2. The Complete Rate-Limiting Guide

- Users with < 125 rep, 40 minutes since their last question anywhere on the network (This applies to the user's IP address, not their account. If the user shares that IP with other users, they can be limited by the other user asking a question anywhere on the network.)

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