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We protect a lot of questions.

We have fewer that 1000 questions on this site right now and over 134 of them are protected. That's greater than 10%. By having so many questions protected, we are limiting who can answer these questions. I think that we should be removing the protection after some period of time as this number seems very high to me.

While protecting may be useful while a question is on the HNQ list and is getting a lot of attention, once it's aged off that list and gets lower viewership, it's probably a good candidate to unprotect and open it back up to the wider audience. We can always protect it again if it becomes a spam target or begins attracting more poor quality answers.

With so many questions protected at the moment, a script would be an easy way to change the status of the bulk of them rather than needing users to manually review protected questions and decide if they were ready to be unprotected.

Such a script would be usable by anyone with the 3500 reputation required to protect a question, though I'm guessing that one of the mods would run it on a weekly/monthly basis.

Some thoughts -

If we do have a script

  • what parameters should a question need to meet to be removed from protection?
    • age of question?
    • length of protection?
    • recent activity?
    • number of answers?
  • what parameters should cause a question to remain protected?
    • having been protected more than once?
    • who protected it? (think user/mod/community)
    • question status (open/closed)

If we don't have a script

  • why not?
    • disagree with automating this?
    • disagree with unprotecting questions?
    • how should we deal with having so many protected questions?
    • if we're still going to unprotect questions, what parameters do we use?

As a note, if we want this feature, we will have to make it ourselves - so that means we'd need someone willing to develop it for us. It has the added benefit of being useful anywhere on the network, though I don't know that many sites will want to use it as few sites have such a high question protection rate.

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  • I do protect a lot. Perhaps I need to unprotect some as well. Would the script work without any user involvement just like the roomba deletion or Community user's protection? Or do I have to install it on my PC or grant it special permissions to act on my behalf just like the Charcoal team's autoflags? – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 7:46
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    I don't really know what the possibilities are but we could probably ask on [stackapps.se] to see what an avenue might be to consider this. It would all depend on how it was implemented. I don't think it could run automatically... I'm guessing that I would just use it myself, and trigger it weekly or monthly when I remembered to do so. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 16:55
  • If it's run manually, I think we could give it a shot. Having a script automatically run on my behalf would appear risky, not that that's as risky as autoflags. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 16:56
  • I would consider having a SEDE query that would list questions that deserve unprotection based on certain conditions. How about that? – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 16:58
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No scripts necessary.

We do protect a lot of questions, and for good reasons; they attract way too many or low-quality answers in record time. It's normal for the subjects we handle.

If anyone wishes to answer a protected question, the only requirement is that they get an easily attainable 10 rep on this community.

So, I generally disagree with unprotecting questions. Most have upwards of 10 answers and 10,000 views. The chances that some new user would chance upon such a protected question and have a novel idea to share are slim.

A special case would be if some particular day, a question is protected against a targeted attack by a series of spammy or low quality answers, then we may unprotect it some days later.


Those who wish to manually unprotect some can visit tools/protected-questions to see which ones have received zero answers in the last 30 days, and have very few answers. Requires certain rep and associated privileges to access the page. I'd suggest reviewing those protected by the Community user first.

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  • I'm not going to trust that users will actually take the time to do this manually. If we're trying to attract experts, prohibiting them from writing answers because a question was protected three months ago and has seen no activity since, isn't sensible. Yes, 10 rep isn't a high bar... but why have it at all if the question isn't deserving of it? – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 13:12
  • 1/2 -> I wouldn't say a script is useful or not, as I've not made my mind up about that yet. But I protected 5 questions so far, just because it happened I was around when VLQ were posted. I guess it's a good point raised here. I'll unprotect the ones the community wants to be unprotected, let me know -> # 1 - # 2 – OldPadawan Dec 5 '17 at 13:22
  • 2/2 -> # 3 - # 4 - # 5 – OldPadawan Dec 5 '17 at 13:23
  • @OldPadawan Feel free to unprotect those you think deserves it. We can always protect them again in case it attracts more VLQ. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 13:58
  • @Catija I sense that then this might be a subject applicable to the entire SE and not just IPS. Have you looked this subject up in MSE? – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 13:59
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    It's not a network wide policy because no other site has the volume of questions protected. Having a few questions protected if fine. Having nearly 15% protected is not. When we first started working on this site I was very concerned about users overusing protection rather than either letting mods or community do so but of the questions protected, only about 15 were by mods or community. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 14:33
  • If you all are going to be applying protections so liberally, we need a way to undo it. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 14:36
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    @Catija Sure, I'll take a look and unprotect some. I'll keep in mind to unprotect some from now on. I hope others would as well, since this meta is a sort of reminder about that. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 14:38
  • Done for me, we'll see if the community wants to protect them again or not ;) – OldPadawan Dec 5 '17 at 16:37
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People who can protect can also unprotect. I suspect that mostly we don't because those questions have slipped out of view -- they're no longer active and on the front page, so nobody notices.

I don't think we want to indiscriminately unprotect all the protected questions, or even all the protected questions of a certain age (or whatever other criteria we come up with). They were protected for a reason, and I'd rather see human review.

Asking people to dig through all 134 protected questions is burdensome, though. I suggest coming up with some criteria (age, number of answers, scores, whatever) that could be used in a query, and then using that query and meta to share lists of good candidates. Nobody's going to look at 134 questions all at once, but if you can come up with a top-10 list, I'll bet the community would look at those. Then after those are resolved, do the next ten. Iterate until reaching the point of diminishing returns.

A while back on The Workplace we had a "fix our broken windows" project to either fix or delete certain things. We did ours in batches of ten so that's why I suggested that number here. You want enough to be worthwhile but not so many that people's eyes glaze over.

If I recall correctly, we did six iterations in our project before interest waned.

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    This is interesting but I think that unprotecting a question is much simpler than deletion. It only requires one person and can easily be re-protected if needed. Part of the goal here is to find good metrics for when a question shouldn't be unprotected and if one of those is "has been protected more than once", I'm okay with that. But either we need to be more discriminating about protecting in the first place, we need to manually unprotect a constantly increasing list of protected questions... or we can have a script that does it. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 18:31
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    Or there's other options, I guess (chat feed for questions that have been protected for over a month?) but when there's 500 of them and 5k questions on the site, looking through them, even ten at a time seems like an impossible task. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 18:33

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