I joined Stack Overflow shortly after it launched, but I didn't do anything with it. I found it in search results here and there, but I never asked any questions. I would have done more, but new users are pretty helpless. You can't vote up or down, you can't comment on answers, you can't post an answer with more than 1 link, etc. It's almost like you're not wanted. Compared to the relative freedom of Wikipedia, it was really demoralizing to me.
I decided tonight to actually try to get some reputation. Most of the interesting stuff happens around 50 reputation, so that's my goal. I answered 2 questions this evening. Suddenly, my rep is skyrocketing. I'm at 31 right now, and I bet that will continue to climb on its own. It seems that people are very willing to vote your answers up if they are relevant. As you can see, it shouldn't be hard to get to the point of actually being able to contribute.
So, if you want to get started with Stack Overflow, here are my suggestions.
- Go to the newest questions page.
- Find something that you know something about. Don't troll, and don't post to random topics about which you know nothing.
- Write an answer.