Can the threshold for protecting questions be lowered, while we're in beta?

Just thinking that protecting questions a little earlier may help with some of the issues we're seeing when questions hit the Hot Network Questions list.

Looks like we're getting a lot of redundant and low quality answers from users who aren't familiar with the site, when questions hit the list.

To be clear I'm not asking about lowering the rep threshold, I'm asking about shifting the number of downvoted/deleted posts that make a question eligible for protection.

  • 6
    I'd recommend just flagging the questions for a moderator to protect them. Although your best bet is to just down vote and delete - IIRC, they get protected automatically once three answers are deleted.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:28
  • @Zizouz212 flags can languish for several days sometimes.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:30
  • Perhaps before our moderators were appointed, but flags should probably be resolved before 24 hours now.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:35
  • 3
    The problem described here can no longer be reproduced. Changes to the system or to the circumstances affecting the asker have rendered it obsolete. If you encounter a similar problem, please post a new question.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:35

3 Answers 3


I think this is somewhat backwards. If the community cannot handle the questions through the normal means of self moderation, then you're not ready for the question yet. That's the angle to approach this from.

Rather than lowering the bar to let more people "protect" more questions, I'd sooner see something like this implemented — A moratorium on hot network questions until we have greater control over content.

  • Wait a minute... I wasn't asking about lowering the rep threshold I was asking about shifting the number of downvoted/deleted posts that make a question eligible for protection. I'll edit the question to make that clearer.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:16
  • Sorry about that.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:19
  • @apaul34208 Okay, then maybe I'm missing something but I'm not seeing how being in beta has anything to do with the need for this. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:19
  • I'm guessing that more established sites have fewer issues with Hot Network Questions, as they've already hammered out their scope issues and have a larger more established user base.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:21
  • @apaul34208 That's not how protection works. Mods can protect a question whenever they wish and users with the required amount of reputation can do it after 24 hours if the question has at least one answer from a user with less than 10 rep. interpersonal.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/… I think you're confusing what causes automatic protection with when the users can do so.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:23
  • @Catija Sorry it appears you're correct. I misunderstood the related Meta SE post
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:28
  • @apaul34208 great :D That being said, I would hope that, considering what I've said in my answer, you will be judicious in using this privilege. :)
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:29
  • @Catija judicious? Honestly I still think we should be protecting a lot more often. Once we have more than 10-15 answers we're probably gathering a lot of noise... But I'll try to be judicious...
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:32
  • @apaul34208 Perhaps you should ask a new question about when should questions be protected and give some examples of questions you think should be (that are not) so that we can talk about it and come up with some guidelines?
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:33
  • @Catija CC: Robert I've voted to close this question Sorry about the misunderstanding.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 23:37

I'm not even sure it's technically possible but I can ask the CMs.

Personally, I don't really think we need this. The moderators get an auto flag when a question hits 10 answers or 20 comments on the same post but I've been reluctant to protect questions too much. If you feel that a question is getting a lot of bad attention, please flag it, like Zizouz212 says.

My concern, and why I've been reluctant to protect questions, is that much of the content that we've gotten from new users has been great. Not every post is bad and while we prevent bad posts, we also prevent great ones and we limit the number of users who join the site and start participating. We need to be cognizant of this and find a balance. This is why the auto protect requires three deleted answers... if the answers are bad and get deleted, then the protection makes sense (and the auto protection will kick in after three are deleted). If the answers are good, then we shouldn't protect the post.

Part of the problem is that we need our active users to be more active at flagging, commenting, and downvoting low-quality posts. And (though unrelated to answers) voting to close questions lacking in detail. Auto protection is great but it's also a bit of a crutch. We want to be active users, not rely on the system to do the work for us.

So, please flag answers you feel don't meet our minimum guidelines so that they go into the queue. Also remember that voting (downvoting) is important as is commenting. I also think we should start using post notices more to encourage users to add detail or sources, depending on the answer. I've been doing this a bit today with some reasonable success but we should probably discuss it more before we overuse it.

I haven't had any "can you please protect this question flags" and I don't think that any non-automatic flags have taken more than a day to be handled here since the mods were appointed. Before then we were dependent on the CMs for their time and attention, so it's not much of a judge of flag handling time.

  • Seems like I remember there being some adjustments made to the auto flag on Worldbuilding. I'll see if I can dig up the post.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:37
  • 2
    @apaul34208 I think it was this one.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:39
  • @HDE226868 that actually seems to be asking for the opposite. :/
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:40
  • @HDE226868 also this: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5089/7351
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:41
  • @HDE226868 I was thinking that it seemed more like an argument against changing the threshold.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:42
  • Ah, my bad, @apaul34208, I thought you were talking about autoflags, not the protecting limit.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:43
  • @HDE226868 sorta talking about both really.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:44
  • @apaul34208 a more specific request might make it easier to get some guidance from the CMs about what's possible.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:49
  • More specific as in what I think the threshold should be?
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:50
  • Apologies for the major edit but @apaul34208 I think that addresses some of your concerns better. If there's something going on that you specifically find concerning, I think making the question more specific regarding what you think - either changing the auto protect triggers or when you want the mods to definitely protect a question etc.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:58
  • 1
    Part of the problem seems to be the rush created by a Hot question. Lots of answers get posted, and lots of them get upvoted by other new users who "agree" it's hard to balance the sudden onslaught be voting and flagging alone.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 21:09
  • 1
    @apaul34208 That's why I'm asking what you actually want. Protection is something that's pretty harsh. It's a blunt tool that doesn't discriminate between good and bad content - it stops it all. If you want mods to be more active at deleting these posts, that's something else and it's something that we aren't going to do without specific guidelines about what people want. Lowering protection limits risks losing good content along with the bad and that's a choice I don't take lightly. I'd rather be more zealous with post notices or deleting than prevent good answers.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 21:12
  • I'm not sure if protection deters the sort of contributions we really want. Users who really have something meaningful to say will have little trouble earning the required rep and and coming back later to post.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 21:13
  • 4
    @apaul34208 looks like it's time to find some data. Right now we're all going on hunches and that's not of much use. Unfortunately, right now we don't really have any guidelines that the community agrees on that help us decide which answers are good and which are bad, so determining which posts from low-reputation users are beneficial and which are not can't easily be determined.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 21:20
  • True some data would be useful here. I just know anecdotally that I've taken the time to earn a little rep on a new site and then returned to an interesting protected question.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 21:25

Protection isn't The tool you want because protection doesn't discriminate between good and bad answers. Protection is a tool to use when, say, a question on a hot button topic winds up somewhere and new community members register to keep posting the same bad answer. Is that what is happening here?

What you might want to think about is establishing a back it up rule, which I describe at Why doesn't this site have a back it up rule? a back it up rule is an objective rule that sets a minimum standard for answers. Back it up rules aren't about whether an answer is right; they're about whether an answer is useful or whether it isnoise. Enforcement of a back it up rule can range from downvoted to mods deleting answers that don't meet the requirements.

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