15k users and moderators can "protect" questions to prevent the addition of answers from very new users, and the Community user will auto-protect questions with a lot of deleted answers. This is helpful on questions that tend to attract a lot of "me too" or spam answers.

However, a 15k+ user was recently flagged for protecting a series of highly voted questions that had one or no deleted answers on them. Is this even a problem? Should moderators remove the protection from those questions?

In general, when should we remove the protected status from questions, if ever?

  • 1
    when it's reddited
    – gnat
    Jan 14, 2014 at 17:55
  • Do those questions have borderline answers that may not be deleted yet, but are not of particularly high quality, or just lots of answers in general?
    – Servy
    Jan 14, 2014 at 17:56
  • 1
    @gnat: You want to remove the protection after it has been reddited?
    – user102937
    Jan 14, 2014 at 18:09
  • @RobertHarvey just kidding
    – gnat
    Jan 14, 2014 at 18:12
  • 5
    @RobertHarvey Sure, otherwise they reditters will have a harder time providing their valuable feedback.
    – Servy
    Jan 14, 2014 at 18:12

4 Answers 4


The usual pushback I get from "prophylactic" protection (protecting a question when you think it might be a crap magnet, rather than waiting for some crap to be posted first) is that some well-known, respected guru might wander in to the question and wish to provide some input, but he can't, because he doesn't already have 10 rep.


Jeff have written many times, they optimize for answers and not questions, and for pearls, not sand. As general rule, everyone can answer, as long as the question is not closed. The protected questions are the exception, and are designed, at least as I understand it, for the cases where new answers are unlikely to add something new, but it's very probable that the rep hunters will post, attracted by the large activity and large number of upvotes on the answers.

All protected questions I've met pass to that schema. The questions that were protected, had unusually large number of answers (typical is a few) covering various aspects, and it was in that cases quite unlikely, that the novice has something to add. It's more probable, however, that the hotness of that question (often they are featured as hot questions) will attract people who have nothing to add, but want to write something nevertheless.

As I see it, there are 3 main cases where unprotecting of the question would be required, both not very likely:

  1. The most of the answer have been deleted, for any reason.
  2. Someone has protected the question without important reason
  3. Some new user have posted a draft of potentially valuable answer as a comment, and the question was unlocked specially for him
  • 3. is possible for user new to the site, that gets the association bonus. Jan 14, 2014 at 18:20

It's a judgment call on a per-question basis.

Unless it's pretty clear the question was protected in error (or I'm confident unprotecting it won't open a floodgate of crap answers and spam because the views are low and the question isn't spambait) I tend to leave it protected.
(The bar for bypassing "protected" status is so pathetically low I don't see it as being an impediment. If an "outside guru" wants to answer the question it should be trivial for them to engage enough to get the necessary reputation.)

My personal guidelines:

If I have to delete spam from a question and (in my judgment) the question is likely to attract further spam, I protect it - that might mean one deleted post or one hundred, but I don't want to have to come back and delete more spam the next day.
I don't generally go back and un-protect those questions ever. Like I said above, the bar for bypassing "protection" is so low I don't think it matters.

If a question is getting lots of views (say it got reddited) then applying and maintaining "prophylactic protection" (as Robert Harvey calls it) is sensible in my view - it keeps us from having to nuke spam or deal with "me-too" replies and the like from folks who don't understand how Stack Exchange Q&A sites work.
Maybe in these cases removing the "protected" status after a few days (when the frenzy dies down) makes sense, but again I doubt it's much of an impediment...


I find that I rarely protect questions on Game Development (the only site where I have the ability to do so), and I don't think I've ever gone back and unprotected something later.

That said, after thinking about this specific issue for a bit, I would argue that removing the protection is the right course of action. Questions aren't protected by default, and unless there is evidence that a question deserves protection (such as existing spammy answers, extremely high views, et cetera), I don't see value in adding it to tons of questions pro-actively.

  • 4
    Not tons of questions, but there are a handful. If a question is getting lots of views and I get even the slightest grief from 1 rep users, I will generally protect it, so that I don't ever have to look at the question again for 1-rep problems.
    – user102937
    Jan 14, 2014 at 18:15
  • Yeah, I agree with that; but that isn't necessarily the case for the user the asker mentioned, who is apparently going around and protecting so many questions that other users have flagged the behavior for moderator attention.
    – user155595
    Jan 14, 2014 at 19:21

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