Require users to have Student (First question with score of 1 or more) or Teacher (Answer with score of 1 or more) on the site to be able to answer or comment on protected questions instead of the current reputation-based requirement.


Moderators and Trusted Users currently have the ability to protect questions. This prevents answers from users who have earned less than 10 reputation on the site, which prevents lots of spammy and noisy answers.

However, this does not prevent users with the association bonus from commenting on the question, and often these are drive-by comments with no value, which generates more flags for moderators to handle, or more review items for the community to handle.

Additionally, users who have the association bonus are prevented from answering protected questions if they have offered bounties if their reputation is less than 110 (and less than 10 for users without the association bonus).

Requiring users to have either the Student or Teacher badges on the site in order to either comment or answer will have the effect of:

  1. Reducing the number of noisy comments on protected questions or answers
  2. Reducing the number of flags that moderators will need to handle and the number of items in the review queue
  3. Allowing those users who have contributed positively to the site but who have given away reputation through bounties to contribute on protected questions

In my view, these are all beneficial effects.

  • Instead of, or in addition to? (Say, user with 1 upvoted post, and one heavily downvoted post.) – muru Nov 15 '15 at 23:38
  • @muru this is already possible - users can't have less than 1 reputation, so the current situation is that a user with an answer with +1/-100 can still answer a protected question if all of those downvotes happened before the upvote. This improves on that, as their answer/question must have a score of 1 or more, and is possibly a slightly higher barrier. Protection is only intended as a minimal barrier to participation, not as a guarantee of peace and quiet :) – jimsug Nov 15 '15 at 23:46
  • Are you aware that the conditions to get the teacher badge and answering protected questions are the same? – Braiam Nov 15 '15 at 23:51
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    @Braiam Yep. That's the situation as it is at the moment as long as the user is upvoted, but the change would mean a user will have had to ask or answer a non-protected question and have it have a positive score to be able to answer a protected question. Also, this will prevent comments by users without one of those badges. – jimsug Nov 15 '15 at 23:52
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    Arguably, the real bug is that you can give away your association bonus through bounties. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 16 '15 at 0:25
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    This seems like two very different requests to me: 1. Use badge instead of site reputation as the criterion. 2. Restrict comments. – chirlu Nov 16 '15 at 3:59
  • @chirlu It's possible to cut the cake a few different ways. Personally I see it as one feature request to change the way that protection works in general, but your division is also valid. – jimsug Nov 16 '15 at 4:03

Difficulty in revoking badges is a real showstopper here. This would be very problematic on certain sites that depend heavily on Protect for popular questions.

If you find the rules for Protected questions too onerous, then unprotect them.

See also: https://blog.stackoverflow.com/2014/04/changes-and-guidelines-for-the-protected-question-status/


I'm looking at this from that first-time user point of view.

'Protecting' a question is designed to head off a rush of quick, unfit answers when a post attracts a lot of fly-by users not familiar with the Stack Exchange network. Adding a minimal reputation requirement takes care of that (i.e., "must have SE experience").

Your solution would certainly work, too; but is it really worth complicating that first-time user experience to that degree for the (arguably) negligible improvements this adds?

Saying you need {x} reputation to post an answer is such a simple concept. But if you have to start explaining badges and and sifting through what it means to earn [this] badge (requirements) or [that] badge (requirements) just to answer a question, that is not a good first-time-user experience.

Stack Exchange already has a reputation for being entirely too complicated and restrictive in all the wrong ways. We know why those requirements exist… but you have to be really cautious about adding lines and lines of complexity where it adds very little benefit.

For me, keep it simple; the added complexity is just not worth it.

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    I considered this first-time user experience, though I may not have mentioned it in the proposal - but why do you think earning a badge is more complicated than 10 reputation on the site? Not really attacking this premise per se, but you've said this but I don't really agree. These badges can't be revoked, afaik; a new user can have their 10 reputation revoked very easily - a badge less so. In fact, afaik the badges are permanent assignments, and the reputation more easily revoked. From a programming POV, I don't think this is more complicated, nor from a first-time user POV. ... – jimsug Dec 31 '15 at 16:34
  • ... I think having any question/answer that was at some point received positively overall is a lower threshold than earning the reputation. – jimsug Dec 31 '15 at 16:36
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    Not seeing how the inability to revoke this privileges is an advantage here, @jimsug... If I post one OK answer followed by 2 awful ones does that really make me better equipped to answer a protected question than someone who has done... Nothing? If I ask a good question, does that really indicate... Anything? – Shog9 Dec 31 '15 at 16:56
  • @Shog9 Although perhaps I'm being too charitable, I'll just note that the current reputation-based threshold doesn't really stop people from asking one or two moderately good questions (or one minimally good answer) after a string of poor questions (or answers) and answering a protected questions. Sure, there are other mechanisms to prevent that, but the current system doesn't really address the issue you've raised. – jimsug Jan 1 '16 at 0:17
  • A sufficient number of downvotes will counteract anything gained from one or two nominally-good posts, @jimsug. A valid spam or offensive flag will blow away a lot more rep. But nothing short of dev intervention counteracts these badges... – Shog9 Jan 4 '16 at 19:53

EDIT: I wrote this whole answer before realizing you are only referring to protected questions. However, I think it still stands as written—doesn't change my opinions of the solution—so I will leave it as-is.

I think the current requirement is fine, but I have seen occasional issues on a few sites (actually all stemming from the same user across multiple sites who shall remain unnamed) where a person abused his association bonus by repeatedly posting comments which were unhelpful and highly inflammatory.

It is true that "familiarity with the stackexchange interface" and thus being trusted to know how it works, is not the same as "familiarity with the subject of a specific stackexchange site". For instance, a high reputation user on Skeptics stackexchange might have personal prejudices which kept his comments on Christianity stackexchange from reaching any high level of helpfulness or contribution. (This is a fictitious but very plausible example.)

In fact, given that the 100 rep association bonus doesn't count toward the ability to answer protected questions, there is already some precedent for de-coupling the privileges granted to users who earned the rep on that site from users who merely have a certain amount of rep because of the association bonus.

What I would recommend is this:

Keep the requirements as they are; HOWEVER, if a network user (by which I mean one who has earned no rep on that site, i.e. he has 101 rep but can't answer a protected question) has a comment flagged and removed, automatically prevent that user from posting any further comments on that site unless he earns 10 rep on that site.

I think the prevention of further comments on that site until he's earned some rep there would accomplish the goals (1) and (2) that you list, and also wouldn't give such a user much to squawk about. (And I think that point 3 could be addressed separately.)

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