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The purpose of protected questions is, according to the message presented on such a question, "to prevent 'thanks!', 'me too!', or spam answers by new users." The more verbose "Protected questions" privilege page agrees on the purpose. And the FAQ question says this is why protected questions exist:

Some questions are protected because they are expected to attract either spam or users -- often new users -- who may mistake the site as a traditional forum, posting "noisy" answers such as "Thank you" or "This worked for me" or "I'm also having this problem".

Considering this, shouldn't a user be able to answer protected questions if they have gained at least 10 rep on any stack exchange site? If they've already demonstrated one site that they are familiar enough with the SE Q/A format to not be a drive-by useless answerer, shouldn't that confidence in them carry over to other SE sites?

Or maybe at some level of combined SE rep this restriction should be waived. I find it silly that at 15k+ combined network rep, I'm unable to answer a protected question on a SE site I've just started using.

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Related:… – Shog9 Apr 13 '12 at 20:40
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Ol' Pops is on the right track - the original intention of the Protected status was to block non-answer answers from drive-by users:

We needed this because some of the more popular Super User questions attracted a lot of noise from random drive-by users who didn’t understand how our system works — users who helpfully provided so-called answers like “thanks, this worked for me!” or “I have this problem too, can anyone help?”

At one time, the "association bonus" made this a non-issue for folks who were already familiar enough with the system to garner 200 points on at least one site. But last year, the check was changed to ignore that bonus - you must have earned at least 10 points on the site where you wish to answer in order to post an answer to a protected question.

This actually makes some sense: even though Protect was originally intended simply to prevent the worst of the non-answers from getting posted, in practice it's often used on questions that have simply garnered a lot of answers - the implicit message being, it probably doesn't need another one. It's still considerably less drastic than locking the question.

Yes, it has the unfortunate side-effect of blocking answers on those rare occasions where someone with plenty of experience on one site jumps onto another one with a great answer to an already-popular question - but this is always the down-side of Protect; I got an email just yesterday from someone new to our network who wanted to post an answer to a Protected question, with every indication that he was an experienced expert in the subject matter and did not plan on posting a non-answer. Blocking him served no more of a purpose than blocking you would.

The real solution here is to avoid over-using Protect. Certain individuals seem to think it's needed preemptively on controversial questions, closed questions, etc... If you see it being applied to a question where it serves no purpose - or if you simply have a great answer you can't post because of it - flag for moderator attention and ask them to review.

Otherwise... Post an answer somewhere else, and one up-vote will remove the restriction. Frankly, if you can't do that, it's hard to make the argument that you should be posting on a Protected question anyway.

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Thanks for your very complete answer. I actually think that's actually exactly the problem I encountered -- a question was protected for no reason apparent to me (of course, it's possible it had previously gotten a lot of drive-by answers that have been deleted that I can't see, or a high-rep user more familiar with the site had reason to suspect it would, but maybe it was just incidentally over-protected). – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 21:14
Yeah, by all means flag the post if you don't see an obvious reason; I've seen quite a few where it's misapplied. On the rare occasions where I've used it myself, it's been on posts that are collecting a lot of spam or noise, or extremely popular questions that are collecting duplicate answers from new users unwilling to read what's already been posted. It helps a good deal in those cases, but they are quite rare. – Shog9 Apr 13 '12 at 21:20
Nice, I did not know about this change. I would also strongly encourage the same for the downvote privilege — earn 125 rep on that site in order to be able to downvote. Requiring just 25 points (current system) is easy peasy. – Lorem Ipsum Apr 13 '12 at 21:41
@ben reminder that questions are automatically switched to protected when three new user answers are deleted by a moderator on that question – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '12 at 18:00
Interesting, I hardly ever run into protected questions in the wild. – Pops Apr 14 '12 at 18:08

As the OP says, protection isn't about a site's topic. Protection is about preventing "answers" that just say



"I too have this issue any solution"

Every network site has the same policy about not using answers for content that doesn't answer their questions, so it seems reasonable to use "network rep" for this.

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I don't agree that just because they've earned 10 reputation somewhere that they're familiar enough with the network to avoid protected questions everywhere.

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No, that's not what the association bonus is for. If you have 101 rep because of it, you still can't answer protected questions. – a cat Apr 13 '12 at 20:06
@Ben: Either way, I still don't agree, and apparently they don't either if they specifically designed the bonus not to be included for that specific purpose. – animuson Apr 13 '12 at 20:07
Then maybe at some level of combined SE rep the restriction should be waived. I updated my question. – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 20:10
@animuson, how do you know it was specifically designed that way? It could be an oversight. – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 20:11
@BenLee Not likely. Jeff Atwood himself edited that into the FAQ post on protected questions. – a cat Apr 13 '12 at 20:13
@lunboks, but right at the top of that explanation for why protection exists is: "Some questions are protected because they are expected to attract either spam or users -- often new users -- who may mistake the site as a traditional forum". If someone has reached a certain level of SE rep they are certainly not going to mistake the site for a forum. – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 20:18
10K by the click of my mouse! :) – Adam Rackis Apr 13 '12 at 20:31
Related:… – Shog9 Apr 13 '12 at 20:41

Rep is a measure of a community's trust in a user, not just SE's confidence that they're not a spambot. I don't think any community should need to trust a user based on the fact that they've met the bare minimum requirement on another site.

Someone who hasn't participated in one site should have no reason to expect that site to trust them, either. A single upvote on an answer to a non-protected question is not a high bar; if they're really going to contribute productively then that should be a ridiculously easy requirement to meet.

You haven't given a reason why this should change. Yes, maybe a certain level of rep on another site is a strong indicator that you're not a spambot; I concede that point. But why is the current way things work a problem? I don't think it is.

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But if that's such a minor bar to reach, why is it used as a level of confidence/trust on any site? It seems like this is an argument for a higher bar, not for preventing the extension of the low bar to other sites. – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 20:13
The reason this should change is because I want to answer a protected question on a different SE site. I'm clearly familiar enough with the system to not give answer based on the specifically outlined purpose of protected questions (prevent spam, "Me too", "Thanks", etc...) but I'm unable to do so until I've gained some rep elsewhere on the site. – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 20:17
@BenLee I'm not against a higher bar, but experience has shown that protecting a question mostly stops crap answers dead. I don't have hard stats but I see no need for an increase. Also anecdotally, I've seen plenty of experienced users from others sites post crap on a site they're new to. Again, unless you can provide a good reason this should change and evidence that it's a problem, I don't think it should change. – Matthew Read Apr 13 '12 at 20:17
@BenLee And 10 rep is too much to ask of you before you do that? I don't see a significant problem, and I haven't seen other users having a problem with this. – Matthew Read Apr 13 '12 at 20:18

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