I noticed that I can't answer protected questions. I don't want to actually, but it says:

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It was FAQ for Stack Exchange sites, but I also didn't have an ability to answer other protected questions.

I earned 270 reputation points + 100 reputation point bonus. Then I offered 350 reputation points as a bounty. Then I earned 59 reputation points. Today I started another bounty (50 reputation points), etc – I offered 4 bounties with total 500 rep. Despite the fact I started from the association bonus, I must have an ability to answer protected questions, as I earned reputation points here. But offered them as bounties.

I now have enough reputation points, but I would like it to be fixed, because I like offering bounties very much.

I would like system to check for my bounties when it checks if I can answer protected question.

  • 18
    The association bonus does not count towards the 10 that is needed. I don't know how they check for that, but it seems that you bountied yourself below 101.
    – Mysticial
    May 12, 2014 at 17:39
  • 11
    Too bad the bounty doesn't spend the association bonus rep first. May 12, 2014 at 17:46
  • 1
    @MartijnPieters It is not
    – nicael
    May 12, 2014 at 18:46
  • 2
    @nicael: Sorta-kinda, but I won't wrestle you on it. You don't even have full amount of the association bonus anymore. May 12, 2014 at 18:49
  • 3
    @Mystical: Isn't that more like he bountied himself into the negative zone? May 15, 2014 at 18:04
  • 2
    Why downvotes??
    – nicael
    May 30, 2014 at 18:40
  • @nicael, I asked a couple questions in my answer below. You keep putting bounties on this post, but a response to those questions might help articulate the scope and implications of what you're asking for
    – mhlester
    Jun 4, 2014 at 17:49
  • @mhlester Ok. I agree with first comment on your post. Thats all. P.S. Don't worry, if my question won't receive any more response, this bounty is yours. But I am "looking for an answer drawing from credible and/or official sources."
    – nicael
    Jun 4, 2014 at 17:58
  • The questions I'm referring to are in the post, not in the comments: after posting bounties, do you think you should get to keep corresponding privileges even though your reputation drops? If so, what sacrifice does a bounty have if there is no privilege cost? If not, why should answering protected questions be any different from other privileges?
    – mhlester
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:00
  • 1
    @mhlester Because answering protected questions is about earning 10 reputation, and other privileges about reaching some reputation.
    – nicael
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:04
  • Ok, I understand your argument. But considering they're all on the same privileges page, they also have the same requirements. In this case I think earning is just shorthand for having.
    – mhlester
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:12
  • 1
    Consider a different example where instead of losing reputation through bounty, you lost it through a bunch of downvotes. Do you think you should still be able to answer protected questions after downvotes brought you below the threshold?
    – mhlester
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:13
  • 3
    @mhlester if you are loosing rep because of down votes, you are really loosing it. But bounty is your rep, you didn't lost it, you just gave part of rep to someone. I earned 2,856 reps there. And I am having 456 reps not because I was down voted, but because I gave my rep to users.
    – nicael
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:22

5 Answers 5


I assume that the check for answering protected questions is simply implemented as something like this pseudo-Python code:

threshold = 10
if user.has_assoc_bonus:
    threshold += 100
if user.rep < threshold:
    raise NotEnoughRepError("Sorry, you need more rep to answer protected questions.")

By receiving the association bonus, and then lowering your rep below 110 with your bounty, you caused this check to fail.

Is this a bug? Technically, this behavior does contradict the text of the protection notice, which says (emphasis mine):

"This question is protected to prevent "thanks!", "me too!", or spam answers by new users. To answer it, you must have earned at least 10 reputation on this site."

Strictly speaking, it doesn't say you have to have at least 10 rep at the moment, just that you need to have earned that much rep on the site at some point in the past. So, to exactly match this literal wording, bounties, downvotes and any other mechanisms of rep loss should also be discounted.

Of course, this is almost certainly not really what was intended. Indeed, the FAQ post "What is a “protected” question?" is a bit more specific:

"Users with 10 or more reputation can answer a protected question. However, the +100 account association bonus is ignored for this check, so you must have earned 10 or more reputation on that specific site to answer a protected question."

This description does match the way the implementation seems to work: you need to have at least 10 rep on the site, excluding the association bonus, if any. As a corollary, this means that you need to have earned at least that much rep on the site (and possibly more, if you've also lost some).

(Actually, if the threshold is indeed 10+ rep, then it seems like you'd only need to earn 9 rep to be allowed to answer protected questions, since rep starts at 1. That should be doable with one question upvote and two accepts / approved edits. I'm not sure if anyone's actually tested this, though.)

I suppose, if this really mattered enough, the protection notice could be changed to say something like:

"This question is protected to prevent "thanks!", "me too!", or spam answers by new users. To answer it, you must have at least 10 reputation (not counting the association bonus) on this site."

However, this doesn't really seem worthwhile just to fix a minor discrepancy in an obscure corner case, especially as it would probably make the message a lot less clear to many new users, who may not immediately recognize the term "association bonus".

Anyway, on a more practical level, I see basically two obvious ways to avoid this problem:

  1. If you don't want to lose privileges when you give away most of your rep as a bounty, then, as the old doctor joke goes, don't do that. Losing privileges if you give away too much of your rep as bounties is a deliberate feature of the bounty system; bounties are meant to be rare and significant, which they wouldn't be if they didn't have a cost.

  2. If you've already started the bounty and lost the privileges, the only thing you can do to regain them is to earn more rep. Fortunately, the bounty system doesn't allow you to go into negative rep, and earning (up to) 110 rep isn't really that difficult — a few decent questions or answers will do it easily.

  • Below 111, not 110. ))
    – nicael
    May 19, 2014 at 15:37
  • 2
    @nicael: No, "below 110" is correct. I just tested this, and I can indeed answer protected questions at exactly 110 rep. May 19, 2014 at 15:56
  • But starting at 1 rep. +100 rep bonus. +10 rep to answer protected. Total - 111 rep.
    – nicael
    May 19, 2014 at 16:03
  • 2
    @nicael: Yes, that was the point of the parenthetical remark ("Actually, if the threshold is indeed 10+ rep, ...") above: apparently, you really only need to earn 9 rep to answer protected questions, since you start with 1. Earning just 9 rep is kind of difficult, though, even if it is doable. May 19, 2014 at 16:21
  • this reasoning looks fairly compelling. Probably, more accurate wording for protected questions would require balance of the rep earned and lost at the site to be no less than 10
    – gnat
    May 21, 2014 at 9:11
  • Heh, 9,999 rep.
    – nicael
    May 22, 2014 at 17:31
  • Need place to start a new bounty (have 3 active bounties), so these 150 reps are yours too. A good day today, isn't it?
    – nicael
    May 23, 2014 at 17:48
  • "Is this a bug? Technically, this behavior does contradict the text of the protection notice..." - Haha! good luck getting the site to agree or fix it.... Their solution seems to be to call bugs feature requests....
    – user173448
    May 12, 2015 at 22:41

This is without question . As with all privileges, reputation loss leads to privilege loss. Answering protected questions is no different.

From the protection notice:

... To answer it, you must have earned at least 10 reputation on this site.

If you've gained 100 reputation, and then lost 100 reputation, you don't have the 10 reputation on this site, irrespective of the association bonus.

From the privileges page:

Note that one needs to earn 10 rep on the site to be able to answer a protected question. The association bonus does not count.

I suppose that could be reworded to explicitly discount reputation losses, but I think the semantics of it are pretty clear, and match the requirements for the site.

Putting this into a real world example:

If you want to open a bank account with a minimum balance of $1000, you have to currently have $1000 to put in the account, regardless of how much you've earned and spent and earned and spent throughout your life.

Edit after changed to :

Now that you've made this a feature request, I think it's important to look at the request in the context of all other privileges. Would you also request that you should be able to vote down (125), create tags (500), see vote counts (1000), etc even after bountying your reputation below those thresholds?

If so, what sacrifice does a bounty have if there is no privilege cost?

If not, why should answering protected questions be any different from other privileges?

  • 5
    The point of the question is that answering protected questions requires you to have earned 10 rep on the site. Association bonus doesn't count. OK. Say a person has 101 after assoc, earns 10 reputation and offers 100 as a bounty. They now have 11 rep, which is above the privilege requirement of 10 rep and they have earned 10 rep on the site. OK? Having had the association bonus shouldn't matter at that point. This is also the only privilege that has special rules with assoc bonus, so the same doesn't apply to other privileges IMO.
    – 3ventic
    May 23, 2014 at 17:36
  • 3
    I would argue they've earned a net -90 on the site, plus the 100 association bonus
    – mhlester
    May 23, 2014 at 17:38
  • Be glad. Oh. And no response from mods.
    – nicael
    Jun 6, 2014 at 20:02
  • Thanks @nicael. Sorry you didn't get the response you were hoping for
    – mhlester
    Jun 6, 2014 at 20:32
  • 4
    Why should it be different? Because they've already made it different. Bounties come from our total points, while this particular restriction checks only for points earned. They're already using a different metric than all those other things you mention. Only protected questions use the criteria "points you have earned." Since I can give out all of my bonus points, clearly I am not drawing from the "earned points" stash. Why am I being forced to give up my most valuable points first?
    – trlkly
    Jul 16, 2014 at 1:34
  • If they give away all their reputation as a bounty and end up at 1 reputation and then they earn 10 reputation from upvotes, they did earn 10 reputation on the site, which is what is required. I don't see any reason for them needing to earn 100 more reputation while earning 10 reputation would be enough for a completely new user. Jan 27, 2018 at 20:23

I'm sympathetic here; unlike most other means of losing reputation, offering bounties does not in any way suggest that you might not be qualified to answer.

However, determining that your reputation is insufficient due to bounty offerings is an expensive task to perform on the fly; much more onerous than just grabbing your reputation and subtracting the association bonus. Until such a time as we're able to quickly know the cost of your bounties, this must remain consistent: your reputation must cross the threshold in order for you to answer protected questions.

  • Isn't this a case where you can keep off the expensive calculations for only the cases that need it? Keep a binary flag that says whether the user has ever offered any bounties. Perform the checks just as you're doing them now, and if the test fails and the offered-bounties flag is positive then you do launch into that full calculation of bounty amounts.
    – E.P.
    Jan 7, 2019 at 16:57
  • 1
    It's not an intractable problem, @e.p. - but it would require some design changes to achieve. Hence, the current behavior is by-design.
    – Shog9
    Jan 8, 2019 at 5:25
  • 1
    is an expensive task to perform on the fly doesn't have to be on the fly. Just create a new column with gross rep (i.e. current rep + rep donated as bounties), recalculate that value whenever a user places a bounty, and use it in place of current rep to perform the check. Easy :)
    – stevec
    May 3, 2021 at 2:24

The idea consider bounties when calculating earned points is against the original design https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/129223/163139.

The idea of protecting by having at least 10 points is to ensure that the user is familiar with the particular site. If user earned 50 points, it proves that user is familiar with the site rules. Spending them on bounty should not be considered when determine eligibility for answering protected questions.


The amount of rep spent on bounties should not affect a user's ability to answer a question, since bounties are themselves a sign of useful participation.

If anything, a history of placing bounties should have no bearing (or even a slightly positive bearing) on whether a user ought to be able to answer a question.


Allow the >=10 rep check to be performed on gross rep, not net rep. Keep a column of gross rep in the database, and only change it when a user places a bounty (so gross rep will always be a users rep + any rep spent on bounties)


User with an association bonus, gets 10 upvotes on an answer for a total of 201 rep, then places a 200 rep bounty. Their rep is 1, but their gross rep is 101, well above the 10 rep threshold for answering a highly active question.

Is it worth it?

The only remaining question is the effort worth it to cater to a relative small number of potential answerers. That's a question I can't answer.

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