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The new notice for protected questions looks like this:

Protected question notice

Earn 10 reputation in order to answer this question. The reputation requirement helps protect this question from spam and non-answer activity.

The phrasing of this notice leaves out a lot of info, and is incorrect in many cases:

  • In the case where the user has just created their account on the site (whether or not they have the association bonus of +100), the default 1 for signing up does count toward the required 10. The message implies that the user has to earn 10 more reputation for a total of 11 (or 111), while the actual requirement is 10 (or 110).

  • If the user just registered and started off with the association bonus, then later lost part of it (e.g. through bounties or making a downvoted post), earning 10 reputation is not enough to answer protected questions. According to the literal wording of the notice, earning 10 reputation is enough regardless of previous rep loss, but this is not the case.

The easiest fix that can be made, to at least fix part of the problem, would be to explicitly indicate that the association bonus does not count. This was implemented in the prior protected question notice in response to this feature request, but was omitted from the new notice. This omission continues to create confusion, and adding this back would remove that.

Can we please fix this notice?

  • "If the user just registered and started off with the association bonus, then later lost part of it (e.g. through bounties or making a downvoted post), earning 10 reputation is not enough to answer protected questions." - Oh, wow, I didn't know this! So, if I give away all my bonus in a 100 rep bounty, then I'll have to earn 110 rep, and not 10 rep, in order to answer a protected question, unlike a "new user". :O – user313042 Jun 18 '20 at 5:40
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    @Brahadeesh I don't believe that is actually the case. I still have to be convinced. If you lost all the 100 bonus reputation , which you can't because rep doesn't fall below 1 rep, so in actual fact the maximum you lose will 99 rep, your rep is identical to any newcomer to the site. You both have to earn 10 reputation points, this is how I have always interpreted the protected question scenario. – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '20 at 7:58
  • @Brahadeesh Mari is correct, you got the wrong impression. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Jun 18 '20 at 11:56
  • I'm glad this happened to be the top question as I was just confused as to why I couldn't post bugs about the 'follow' feature on the relevant question. I hadn't spotted that association bonus only awarded second-class reputation points that came with less privileges than regular reputation. – David Buck Jul 2 '20 at 23:44
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    @DavidBuck Yeah, with that question being an official announcement, I don't believe protection is appropriate for it. I've gone ahead and unprotected the question so you can answer it. – Sonic the Curiouser Hedgehog Jul 2 '20 at 23:58
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    Interesting, though, that older protected questions labels did show the disqualification of the association bonus: i.stack.imgur.com/rlmt3.png – Ollie Sep 27 '20 at 13:15
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This answer is an alternate proposal from the one in the question, posted separately so it can be independently voted on.

I think the ideal way to fix this notice would be to make it "smart", and indicate exactly how much more reputation the user needs to earn before they can answer a protected question.

For example, if a user has 3 reputation and has no bonus (an approved suggested edit, or accepting an answer):

You need 7 more reputation to answer this question. A total of 10 reputation is required to answer this question, to protect this question from spam and non-answer activity.

Or, if a user has earned the association bonus and has 71 reputation (they put up a 50-rep bounty and received two upvotes):

You need 39 more reputation to answer this question. A total of 10 reputation is required to answer this question, to protect this question from spam and non-answer activity (the association bonus does not count).

This would fix both ambiguities in the question.

  • 3
    If a user "earns" 10 reputation points, regardless if part or all of the association bonus has been lost or given away, would that matter? I have never heard of anyone telling an "associate" that they had to earn back the missing points plus the 10 points. For example, the user who has 71 rep left over from the association bonus has not earned any new reputation points. Once their answer or question receives an upvote, they will be able to answer a protected question. – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '20 at 7:40
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    Where is this piece of information that a new associated user has to earn back the rep they donated or lost in downvotes before they can answer a protected question? – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '20 at 7:41
  • @Mari-LouA That's exactly right. If everyone understood everyone perfectly, it'd work like that. Sadly, though, it's not like that, and it ends up being a routine source of confusion. There are questions about it here, and someone even commented on this question about it. – Sonic the Curiouser Hedgehog Jun 18 '20 at 7:42
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  • Thanks for the link, it's become clearer to me the situation you described in your question. But "earning" 10 rep still applies to any user, regardless if they were awarded the bonus or lost their entire "patrimony" by giving away bounties. For example, a user on EL&U donates all their reputation in bounties, let's say this user joined three years ago, and has earned over 5,000 rep, but by giving away bounties they end up with less than 10 rep. Despite their being a experienced user, they will not be able to answer a protected answer. The AI looks at stats not the history of a user. – Mari-Lou A Jun 18 '20 at 7:54
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    If we make the notice smart by showing how much more points the user needs, then the minimum reputation should also be made smart (110 for users with association bonus, 10 otherwise). Currently, the math in your second example doesn't add up (I need 10, I have 71, why do I need 39 more?). – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jun 18 '20 at 11:13
  • "A total of 10 reputation is required to answer this question, to protect this question from spam and non-answer activity." That would just make it confusing again. I agree the current wording is shoddy, but replacing it with that isn't better. – Mast Jun 18 '20 at 19:28
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This is also a detailed reply to the OP's answer

The post linked in the comments: Stack Exchange doesn't allow me to answer protected questions because I gave away earned rep in bounties was posted in 2014, and the protected message was the following

[emphasis in bold mine]

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

The OP in the older post offered 350 reputation points (henceforth ‘rep’) in a bounty after earning 270 points which added to their bonus made a total of 370. Therefore, the OP was left with 20 rep, which they believed was sufficient to answer a protected question but the system determined that those points had not been earned. Remember, the OP's earned rep was 270 but their bounty was 350 which meant 80 rep came from their bonus.

I don't know anything about AI but I imagine that it looked at the user's profile, saw the user had been awarded 100 bonus and had 20 rep remaining. To AI (I guess) it meant the user hadn't earned the necessary 10 reputation points to answer a protected question.

Nevertheless, the older message was indeed ambiguous. It suggested that users only needed 10 rep, when in actual fact users with the 100 bonus had to "win" or "earn" 10 rep on the site by receiving upvotes on their contributions or by having their suggested edits approved (2 rep).

Personally, I find the new notice clearer and correct. If a user has not earned at least 10 rep, they cannot answer a protected question. An avid user with the association bonus should understand what the following means: “Earn 10 reputation in order to answer this question.”

However, inexplicably, there is no mention of the association bonus in the notice. And there is no mention of the association bonus in the privileges page, which I do not understand.

What are protected questions?
[…]
Once you’ve earned 10 reputation points from participating on this site, you’ll be able to answer a protected question.

What does the MSE FAQ post say about this issue?

The FAQ post What is a “protected” or "highly active" question? is very specific:

"Users with 10 or more reputation can answer a protected question. However, the +100 account association bonus is ignored for this check2, so users with the association bonus require 110 reputation to answer protected questions. In other words, all users must have earned 10 or more reputation on that specific site to answer a protected question."

2 On per-site metas, this restriction does not apply; if you have the association bonus, you can answer protected questions on per-site metas without needing to earn 10 rep on the main site first (provided your reputation on the main site hasn't dropped below 10).

No mention whatsoever that a user has to earn back the rep lost from the association bonus, so when @Sonic's answer suggests the wording in the notice be modified to

Or, if a user has earned the association bonus and has 71 reputation (they put up a 50-rep bounty and received two upvotes):

[emphasis in bold mine]

You need 39 more reputation to answer this question. A total of 10 reputation is required to answer this question, to protect this question from spam and non-answer activity (the association bonus does not count).

I still retain that a user needs only 10 rep before they can answer a protected question.

I am a member of SO, I have the association bonus but in all these years I have only increased my reputation by seven points, I need an extra 3 rep to answer a protected question. As a result, when I visit a protected question on Stack Overflow I am greeted by the following notice.

enter image description here

Weirdly there is no mention of my association bonus, but the notice makes it clear that I am not allowed to answer unless I have earned 10 reputation. The fact only 3 more rep is necessary for me is inconsequential.

Related:

Improve "Protected Question" message with regard to rep gained through Association Bonus

Make reputation message when answering protected questions less ambiguous

Stack Exchange doesn't allow me to answer protected questions because I gave away earned rep in bounties

Why is the Association Bonus ignored when trying to answer a protected question?

  • 2
    I'd suggest reading this paragraph of the top answer to the question I linked in the comments: 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. That's where the ambiguity is. – Sonic the Curiouser Hedgehog Jun 18 '20 at 18:42

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