There's one answer that got some downvotes, but no spam or egregious answers. You may want to reconsider your policy of protecting every question that hits HNQ. It's discouraging to put effort into composing an answer that I can't post.

How to make clear to people I don't want to answer their "Where are you from?" question?

Edit: I was probably a little curt with the initial question because I was understandably annoyed that I lost my work. I think the point is that there's a balance between attracting new users and avoiding moderation headaches. I often read questions I see show up in the HNQ, but there's a lot of inertia to overcome when transitioning from a lurker to an active participant in any site. I would think that a site in Beta would want to err on the side of attracting new users.

  • That's a frustrating edge case. If a question gets closed while you're answering there's a grace period in which you can post anyway. I expected protection to work similarly, especially since protection is less severe than closure. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


Ah, bad timing. We're sorry!

You can't see it, but that question already has three other low-quality, deleted answers as well. And a fourth (the one you mentioned, the downvoted one) that's about to be if it isn't edited, as it doesn't meet our citation guidelines.

The moderator team chose to protect the question after a flag was raised asking for that. Our community is still small and handling 4 answers like that is still a lot of work for them. Especially if new ones like it just keep coming in: The question and it's answers were fine (it had two, both meeting citation guidelines, before going on HNQ) for 8 hours.

Within the first 1.5 hours into HNQ, the community had to scramble to moderate three answers, and a bunch of comments, all are now deleted. Then a fourth one was posted.

If anything, that shows how hard it is for our site to communicate about those aforementioned citation guidelines to new users. At that point though, it's either protect the question, to lessen the load for the community, avoid disappointed new users and making sure we're showing the best of IPS to HNQ (answers that meet the citation expectations), or pulling the question from HNQ in its entirety. The team chose to do the first.

I recommend hanging out a bit on the site instead, there's an 8-hour delay before anything hits HNQ, so plenty of time to write a good answer before the floodgates open and questions have to be protected! Our chat room is also mostly filled with amazing people AND it has a feed that posts new questions shortly after they're posted on main, so hanging out there means you get live updates and you can get also get some advice on what's a good question to put effort towards answering (to avoid answering anything that comes with a risk of being closed, for example).

  • 2
    It leaves an interesting conundrum. I did compose an answer and was ready to post it, but I saw the comments on another answer about the citation policy. If I had submitted my answer I would have had the time to make the changes required later. Instead I took time to add some personal experiences and missed my window. I guess I'll go with the ready, fire, aim strategy next time. :/ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 21:15
  • 3
    @NathanL just realize that by doing so, you might end up writing one of the answers that counts towards protecting a question, potentially saddling other users with the same problem you're facing now. And depending on how long it takes you to add the experience, your post might end up with a few downvotes too... It's up to you whether you actually can live with that, I'd really recommend just being there before HNQ ;)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 21:19
  • 1
    That may be true, but it will also take a much more compelling question to push me to make a second attempt given my experience with the first attempt. Bad luck, but it is what it is. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 21:28
  • @NathanL The requirement to answer a protected question is only 10 rep earned on the site - you should be able to reach that pretty easily by either writing a good answer to another question, or just editing 5 posts. It's not intended to be super difficult to overcome, just enough to make sure people have a very minimal investment in the site and hopefully understand a little bit about how it works before firing off an answer.
    – Em C
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 22:38
  • 3
    @EmC I am familiar with what protecting a question means and how to earn rep. That doesn’t mean I’m inclined to invest more time editing and answering elsewhere in the hope of recouping lost time. The sunk cost fallacy applies. As noted above, I may return and try again if there is another question that resonates enough with me. The inertia barrier is now higher as a result of this experience. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 23:16

Unfortunately you are correct to be reluctant to contribute to IPS.SE in the future. Most especially, when your approach vector is Hot Network Questions (HNQ).

Moderation policies on SE at large

The SE format is tried-and-tested on answers which have fairly definitive right-and-wrong answers (Perl notwithstanding). "How do I hook 12/3 to a 30A breaker" [frame challenge: you don't]. "How best to pack electronic-device power for a 14-day hiking trip". Those forums ruthlessly excise open-ended, subjective or opinion questions like "should I start with gliders or powered airplanes?" or "should I consider putting solar on my roof?" When someone flags or DVs one of these questions, it's fairly clear why.

Further, valid questions inherently invite only those with subject expertise. Nobody needs to tell me not to attempt to answer questions on .NET or hydronic systems.

The moderation policies there follow from that.

This is so consistent on most SE sites that you get in the habit of seeing a question on HNQ, going "I can answer that!" and step over there. I've gotten 100 upvotes on "drive-by" answers in retrocomputing, movies and even aviation. The internal consistency of clear, answerable questions and self-selecting subject experts makes this easy/safe to do.

IPS is different

Enter IPS. This is a stack where questions are inherently open-ended, subjective and opinion based, and if criteria here were comparable to other stacks, there'd be precious few valid questions. Further, "expert self-selection" fails because everybody has some expertise. We are talking about the art of living.

Remember the part where I said "the moderation policy follows from that"? Here that creates a very challenging moderation environment to be manageable.

The problem is, the terms/conditions are extremely inconsistent with other SE sites. The requirement for citations is analogous to, say, Skeptics... but it's difficult to cite basic wisdom and life experience. So they've had to concede exceptions for personal experience, creating the oddity that you must disclaim that you do in fact have life experience.

Note that this differs from other SE sites, where you don't need credentials to answer a Perl question or an extremely complex aerodynamic questions for a person who's designing an airplane -- the upvote/downvote system takes care of credentials. That's another part of the SE model that doesn't work on IPS, in a domain where everyone has some expertise.

This is one of the most challenging stacks to write a good answer. Nothing prepares you for this.

Now in a perfect world, yes. You should click the HNQ, spend 10 minutes taking the tour, learn the moderation policy, read other Q&A, join the chat... but on almost all other stacks, this is pointless since they are so similar, so as a practical matter, people do not, and "getting them to do so" is not gonna happen.

The problem of Hot Network Question presence

Anyway, back to your question, yes -- this ends up being a whiplash-inducing culture shock for people who step in from other stacks. And yes, I agree; that is a flaw in IPS's presence on HNQ.

I have enough rep to see deletes. Every HNQ question is a sea of red. I've seen questions with ten deleted questions, 2 sharply downvoted with 2 "delete" votes, and 3 highly upvoted, and they were also the first 3 posted. (i.e. before it hit HNQ. In other words: by IPS regulars).

In fact, IPS's presence on HNQ has been problematic in the past; again simply because of the dis-similiarty between IPS and other StackExchange family sites. Some infrastructure was laid and now IPS is tiptoeing back onto HNQ.

Believe me, I was on prior to the HNQ drop, and indeed, IPS questions which rose to HNQ were a madhouse. A sea of answers, some drive-by cheapies, but many earnest, well-meaning answers. The moderation then isn't want it is now, and resulted in a sea of answers. Disregarding bad answers, it was so much "signal" that it became noise. It wasn't a pretty sight, though by admitting that, I'm not endorsing draconian moderation either.

What can you do?

This is not a happy situation, and for you dear asker, your "once bitten, twice shy" is probably as good as you're going to get, for now.

As far as IPS, I would say this situation is inherently badly set up. HNQ invites new-users in, and I've seen the most heartfelt, honest, human answers written anywhere on SE. Then the moderation scheme chews them up, spits them out, wastes hours of their work, and very often acts like they're the bad guy. I've seen people horribly mistreated here, and I'm only seeing the ones who speak up.

In my long experience in volunteer organizations, for every 1 who speaks his mind, there's 30 or 40 who clenches his fist and leaves in the same anger, or worse, since he is not even trying to reach out. This is untenable; any such volunteer organization will not last.

The options, in order of severity,

  • questions should be protected the moment they hit HNQ, to protect newusers from the culture shock. Of course they can browse around if they're interested, learn the ropes and answer unprotected questions where there won't be such an urgency about housecleaning.
  • There should be upfront and clear warnings about IPS's unusual citation and reference policy, and other policies that differ from other stacks "What those need to be" should be based on feedback from newusers.
  • Don't be on HNQ at all, since it is inherently incompatible with the notion of "visit new stacks and lend narrow expertise when one has it". You have to admit, things were more peaceful here in 2018.
  • Stop even making an effort to make its moderation policies and content quality resemble other StackExchange sites, since it is at its heart an opinion forum, and opinion forums should be open about allowing opinions. Early HNQ was a mess, but it was less harsh on newbies.
  • Depart the StackExchange platform altogether, since it is a misfit for SE's basic model.
  • Just wanted to say that I totally agree with your two first advice.
    – Ael
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:06
  • 1
    @Ælis Thank you. I gather most people won't favor 2016 tier moderation or departure from SE, but I wanted to put the full spectrum on the table. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:08
  • Were you part of the private beta @Harper? Because AFAIK, IPS only launched in 2017... or am I wrong?
    – avazula
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:10
  • I started on SE at the start of 2016 and I thought I started using IPS within my first year. Pardon me, I'll edit. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:11
  • 3
    You might want to raise that first one in a separate question, so people can discuss whether they actually want that. We do get some good posts in through HNQ, if you look at the timeline of the latest HNQ post you mention in your question it only had 1 answer before hitting HNQ, and the following two answers that were posted weren't the ones that are still left undeleted (it has 3 deleted answers before the answers you say are still there were posted).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:18
  • My apologies for the unfortunate remark I made in my comment above, I removed it (and the following tangential discussion).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 20:26
  • Nathan there's nothing rogue about Tink, she is a moderate. @Tinkeringbell In all fairness to you, you may have seen an "IPS doesn't fit the SE mold" vibe, because the entire point of my answer is that IPS is different enough (necessarily) that IPS doesn't fit the SE mold :) The thesis of the mod community seems to be "We can fix this with moderation" which at least acknowledges the problem. I am saying "more work needs doing" ... and ultimately "it is a large challenge and may not be fixable". Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 20:26
  • @Harper you have a very interesting analysis of the unique issues faced by this stack. Answers to questions on Meta isn't the best platform for sharing an analysis that goes far beyond the scope of the question. Perhaps it would be better to reformulate your observations into a meta discussion of your own.
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 13:33

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