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For instance, this Puzzling sandbox has been protected and unprotected 3 times so far. And according to chat, the PPCG sandbox has also had this problem. Is there a way for a mod or a CM to prevent a question from being protected?

Since this feature does not exist, can we please add it?

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    I do hope the same mod can unprotect the same question more than once, otherwise there's going to be a bigger problem soon ... – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '16 at 19:49
  • @randal'thor I hadn't even noticed that all of the different mods had done it already. O_o – Mithical Aug 27 '16 at 19:50
  • Related request, regarding auto delete: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/207933/… (same logic can work here too, i.e. do not auto protect a question that has been unprotected once by a moderator.) – Shadow Keeps Social Distance Aug 28 '16 at 14:59
  • @randal'thor Yes, moderators and users with the protection privilege (15K on designed sites) can protect and unprotect questions as many times as necessary. – Ben N Aug 28 '16 at 15:30
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No, this is not possible. There is no magic setting that can be applied to a specific post to prevent the system doing normal things with it, and we generally don't implement features which are only of benefit in a single-digit number of situations where communities are using questions for really weird things they were never intended to be used for. If this is their solution to moderation, then users and moderators will just have to continue removing the protected status from the question.

If you can think of better guidelines for when auto-protection shouldn't be applied and why (maybe we should even look at stats on how useful auto-protection is on per-site-Metas in general, considering you already need 5 reputation to even post there), then that is something we can consider and possibly implement. But a basic "don't ever auto-protect this question" button is never gonna happen.

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    But, it is possible! – James Aug 27 '16 at 20:01
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    @DJMcMayhem That is not a per-post setting. He just turned it off for the entire Meta site. Which as I mentioned above, might be something that makes sense for all Meta sites. – animuson Aug 27 '16 at 20:01
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    Is there an existing feature-request for turning off auto-protection on per-site metas? If so, I'll go and upvote it; if not, I might post one. – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '16 at 20:03
  • @randal'thor Not that I know of. I didn't find one, or I would have linked it. – animuson Aug 27 '16 at 20:03
  • That's why this is tagged [feature-request]. :P – Mithical Aug 27 '16 at 20:07
  • "If you can think of better guidelines..." - please see this answer for a proposal. – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 16:17
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This answer from SE says it's not possible to prevent auto-protection on a specific question, and adds:

If you can think of better guidelines for when auto-protection shouldn't be applied and why

How about this: if the question has been unprotected at least N times (2? 3?), then don't auto-protect -- the community is clearly saying "leave this open to new answers from anybody".

This approach depends entirely on the post history and not some new status field (and UI). Post history also affects some other actions (can't migrate a migrated question, can't undelete a mod-deleted post, don't display post text if deleted by spam/offensive flags, maybe others), so looking at post history for protection is consistent and doesn't require schema or UI changes.

Shog pointed out in a comment that this proposal would interfere with protection for sudden popularity. So here's an alternate proposal: when considering the first case, "3 answers from new users deleted", only consider deletions that occurred soon after the post was made (within a day or two?). If an answer from a new user was allowed to stand for a month before anybody sought its deletion, how harmful was it?


We have run into a problem with auto-protection on Worldbuilding, where we (like PP&CG) have a sandbox. Ours currently has 32 deleted answers. The author of several of them had his rep drop to 1 a few days ago, and as a reult it's been auto-protected twice. (This prompted me to ask if that should happen.) We want new users -- including low-rep users whose rep can be volatile -- to be able to refine their questions in the sandbox before posting on main and having a bad experience there. These are exactly the users who are blocked by protection. Sure, we can keep playing whack-a-mole; somebody usually notices within several hours, maybe a day, that the question has been protected again. But can we remove that barrier? (I'm aware that this particular case has other factors in play, but I think the general point remains valid: deletion by itself doesn't mean the answer was bad; prompt deletion is a much stronger signal.)

I'm aware that we could turn protection off on our meta entirely, but (1) I'd rather solve the problem more locally and (2) that doesn't help with unwanted auto-protections on main sites.

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  • Your proposal would also block the time-sensitive rules. Sounds like the crux of the problem here is the rule that says n deleted new-user answers will trigger protection - without taking into account the age of those answers. This is normally a pretty good rule, but actively works against "sandbox" posts where folks are encouraged to make new answers - and where old answers frequently get deleted. It's certainly not worth hobbling rules that are beneficial on a vast majority of questions for the benefit of a few dozen; perhaps there's a better solution specific to sandboxes. – Shog9 Jun 19 '17 at 16:56
  • @Shog9 are there time-based rules for the auto-protection? I thought it triggered when sufficient answers from (currently-)low-rep users got deleted, regardless of how old they were. There's an argument to be made that an answer that has stood for weeks and then gets deleted wasn't of the type that needs to be prevented in the first place. So if an answer only counted toward auto-protection if deleted within a few days, and not if deleted later, that would make a difference. – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 17:40
  • Yup. See: stackoverflow.blog/2014/04/08/… (Trivia: that was added after a few folks on TWP kept bugging me for better tools to handle clueless users posting crap on popular questions and we did some investigation into what this actually looked like) – Shog9 Jun 19 '17 at 17:56
  • @Shog9 ah, the "sudden popularity" problem; crap is rolling in but hasn't necessarily been deleted. I forgot about that. I've updated this answer to propose that, when considering deleted answers, we consider prompt deletions, not all deletions. That would still auto-protect when the community is deleting crap, spam, etc, but not when an answer that was there for a month gets deleted. If the community let it stand for a month, how crappy was it? (Sure, I can point to examples of crap that was allowed to stand for bad reasons on small sites w/few trusted users, but that's different.) – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 20:12
  • Well, yeah, I can point to such examples too... Which raises the question: how many examples can we find of questions that shouldn't be protected but were because of benign deletions. – Shog9 Jun 19 '17 at 22:25
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The official answer says that this won't be implemented. Fortunately, your community will always be able to take care of undesirable protection. I just did some science on this SU question and found that the same user (even a non-moderator 15K user) can protect and unprotect the same question multiple times. Therefore, your moderators and high-reputation users will have the option to unprotect the question no matter how many times it's auto-protected.

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