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I'm new, but have already seen where a "possible answer" I posted, which started with a clarification question, got me a "down vote" for making a "not useful" post. So today I saw a question where I thought I might have a solution, but it was not clear what the poster was trying to accomplish (he said "control" some motors... but control as in 'speed', 'direction', or simply 'on/off' was not specified. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I tried to click on the "comment" link, to ask for this clarification, before venturing a possibly "not useful" answer. But I wasn't allowed to comment. Does this make sense? Or did I simply miss a better way to ask for a clarification?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, the system is working as it should. 50 rep is a really low bar. That's only 5 upvotes on answers, for example. I see you have already accumulated more than that, with your rep being 58 at the time I am writing this. There is no problem here. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Oct 14 '14 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK... I suppose I didn't realize how quickly I'd get to 50, just answering more straightforward things. \$\endgroup\$ – Randy Oct 15 '14 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just another note now that you have 200+ rep here on any Stack Exchange site in the future you'll get a 100 association bonus (so 101 total) and be able to comment straight away. \$\endgroup\$ – PeterJ Oct 21 '14 at 10:24
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Yes, clarification questions should be asked as comments, and the commenting privilege comes at 50 rep. Don't worry though, you'll accumulate the needed 50 rep soon enough.

In theory, it's also possible to talk to the asker in the EE.SE chat. But that means that they should sit in the chat room for you to talk with them.

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It's a way to prevent spam. It's also a fairly low barrier.

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It's understandable why this exists, but it also has a fairly negative consequence: A new visitor who wants to ask for clarification on an existing answer has no choice but to break the rules, either by:

1) Posting as a new question, which will probably be closed as a duplicate

2) Posting a question as an answer, which will be downvoted and flagged as improper.

There really isn't any "proper" path available to them. And please don't say they should hang around for a few days trying to accumulate points first - we don't require that for other questions. As it is there's almost a disincentive to research before asking, because someone who does not and just posts blindly can at least claim ignorance of the duplicate.

Note that recognizing that a problem exists with the current mechanism is not the same as saying it has no benefit.

(There is one other escape - for someone established on another SE site, linking a new account here will instantly get them over the barrier)

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a bit of a review queue for first answers, but none for early comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 15 '14 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Chris on this. While reviewing posts on the various queues, we often have to reject useful comments posted as edits or flag answers that are (useful) comments "as not an answer". If we lowered the bar for comments, that wouldn't happen as often. But the real problem is whether we then would let a bunch of trash in without no real control. Maybe a solution could be a review queue for early comments, like @Scott hinted at. I don't know. That's probably something for the SE folks to decide on. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Oct 19 '14 at 23:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know that its worth a review queue. The status quo seems fine. Hanging around gets you privilege. That's the model. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 19 '14 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ But isn't it rather arbitrary that some questions require "privilege" while others do not? And counterproductive that one can go ahead and jump in blindly, while knowing that there is previous coverage of a topic is effectively a (temporary) ban on asking about it? You may consider the status quo "fine" - but my point is that it essentially encourages rule-breaking, by denying any legitimate alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Oct 20 '14 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think so, for either counterproductive or arbitrary. The new user has a third choice that isn't on your list -- which is do nothing until you've participated in simplest form for a day or two. I'm speaking as one who improperly used a question as a comment on my first post. I had no problem being told the rules, and felt a tad sheepish about it. The world kept turning. The system is set up such that any established user on any SE site essentially has full participation immediately. I think the alternative will be higher rep users removing a ton of spam. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 20 '14 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ScottSeidman - no, waiting was already is covered in my post, and rejected as we do not require it for other questions. Note that you started out by violating the rules - exactly what the current policy leaves as the likely outcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Oct 20 '14 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ But as I said, there's a review queue for first questions and first answers, so damage and vandalism can be undone. Adding a review queue for comments just seems a bit over the top. And yes, I violated the rule, and it was dealt with through the existing review queue, just as the system was designed. I see nothing wrong with enhanced participation through more participation, and was actually impressed with how the model worked, including the polite response to my own infraction. If it ain't broke .... \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 20 '14 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is the occurrence of starting out with an infraction not "broke"? Just because they learn and conform by the time they have the points to doesn't mean the original situation isn't a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Oct 20 '14 at 17:07

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