I have been using various StackExchanges as reference for many questions over the past couple years but am still a novice in most areas. I am starting to break into the Linux kernel world and thus intend to spend a good amount of time here. Thus, while the comment/question I am about to state may pertain to any StackExchange community, I wish to make it here as this one will be most relevant to me.
It seems to me that the way beginners are encouraged to start participating in these communities is purely by asking questions. I understand that you wouldn't want to give inexperienced people the ability to throw around poor answers and want us to build up credibility. However, before posting a question I will always do my best to search through existing material/posts already available to avoid wasting experts' time. 99% of the time I can find what I'm looking for and have no need to duplicate questions to the community. Thus I have no need to actually post questions and gain the starting credentials I need to start contributing in other ways, such as giving up votes to express that an answer also helped me. In this way it feels to me that I'd gain credentials faster if I put in less effort searching and just blasted away questions.
That said please correct me if there is some other way that I should be trying to become a part of the community. If there isn't then I wonder if there could be some other way new members like myself could get our start. It seems like a difficult problem to me and most answers likely have inherent issues as well.
As I think on it I feel that the up voting component of StackExchange serves as a means for experts to tell us which answers are correct and helpful, but I wonder if there could not be another feature by which any member (who did not post the question) could communicate that a given answer was helpful to them or perhaps also solved the same problem for them. Like an "I found this helpful" button or something. Something like this might not be a good way of gaining credentials, as people would just spam this on posts, but it would make me feel more a part of the community earlier on.
I'm new and so I hope that I'm not way out of line trying to make suggestions, but this is the only time I can have this perspective and so I thought to share.