The FAQ now has the following line:

15000    Protect questions to prevent answers by new users

Yet, we highly restrict new accounts and tell them that they need to go earn reputation prior to using the most convenient features of the system and (by that description) intimidate them in the process.

Yes, new users are often problematic, but I don't think classifying them as the cause of a codified repellent in our venerable FAQ is appropriate. That is hardly a welcome mat, especially given how often the FAQ on any given site is cited.

I fear that this gives the impression of "We expect low quality from you until you manage to prove otherwise" and while that might be statistically justified, it isn't very nice and might intimidate people who do bother to read the FAQ (it does happen, believe it or not!)

I suggest changing Protect questions to prevent answers by new users to Protect questions from SPAM or noise, which is what the feature does in reality.

Categorizing 'new users' as some kind of wholesale problem is (IMHO) an epic failure for us.

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    "Protect questions from SPAM or noise" --> User finds out they can't add an answer --> User is insulted by being called SPAM or noise. Honestly all you're doing is putting of the insult until later. Why not own up to the reality at the start? – Pollyanna Mar 8 '11 at 20:16

Changing to

Protect questions so only registered users with 10 rep on this site can answer

Which, by the way, is the way it is enforced now.. you must have 10 rep on this site to answer a protected question here, not just the +100 account association bonus.

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It does exactly what it says it does, and yes - it's a nasty thing to have to do, but necessary. Saying "Protect question from noise or spam" doesn't tell you what or how it protects the question - ultimately that's confusing. Wouldn't it be more insulting to tell new users that it just limits spam, but then have them find out that by spam we meant them?

IF you must change the phrasing, just use the logical operator to switch it around:

15000 Protect questions so that only experienced users can add new answers

This shouldn't be offensive to anyone, yet the meaning is still clear - new users can't add answers to protected questions.

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  • I'm thinking about it from the context of "Woah, look at the giants with huge rep who answered this .. I have no place touching that" Do we really need to codify that in the FAQ? – Tim Post Mar 8 '11 at 19:06
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    @Tim I have bad news for you: If they've already gotten to that page, then they are aware that users with more reputation than them have vastly more power. By the time they get to that page they should have a good understanding that the site bases a lot of functionality on reputation. If it's still a problem for them by the time they see this page, it's probably better that they find another forum anyway - we've had lots of users try and come to grips with the reputation system that they feel is unfair, and ultimately fail to be happy with it. Candy coating would only exacerbate the problem. – Pollyanna Mar 8 '11 at 19:11

I second Tim's suggestion of Protect questions from SPAM or noise. The protect question privilege describes exactly how the feature works.

Perhaps the privilege page could have a link to the meta question about protection?

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  • Yes a link to the meta question would be a great idea. – jzd Mar 8 '11 at 18:26

Pollyanna has a somewhat point in that it is much more accurate and illustrative in the technical than your suggestion, but I think that the current message still forgets the essence of why there's a system for protection. We certainly do block new users, but they're more of collateral damage to the intended purpose, and the current phrasing seems to advert it as the main point.

Perhaps something that meets halfway will be better. The fact that new users can't post answers should be included, but along with a very short notice of why. Be it as simple as "Protect high traffic questions" or "prevent spam and noise answers from new users", something to illustrate the desired purpose more clearly.

Yes, this does make it one of the more detailed explanations on that page. But by the basic expansion of what protection does, it already is.

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Maybe the privilege wording could be improved somehow, but I'm not a big fan of obfuscating the meaning to shield new users from being offended. If I were a new user and saw that I'd think "oh, they're worried about spam", not "how DARE they?" -- being offended by that is frankly kind of ridiculous. On the other hand, "Protect questions from SPAM or noise" is meaningless -- the system should already be doing that, all the time; is there ever a case where we don't want questions protected from spam or noise? It doesn't say how protecting a question actually works

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I suggest instead linking to the FAQ section on meta for that particular snippet. Perhaps on each of those snippets. Here's a proposal:

Protect questions to prevent answers by new users [What is a "protected" question?] (What is a “protected” question?)

^^ formatting done in just such a way on purpose. The staff and frequent meta readers all will recognize that syntax. I don't intend the FAQ to read in that manner.

Also, this should then be done to each line where appropriate.

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    That doesn't solve the problem of a big "go away" message to new users. – Tim Post Mar 8 '11 at 18:28
  • If the effect is that it actually stops new users from posting, then a change in language is just sugarcoating the permission, ya? – Kzqai Mar 8 '11 at 18:47
  • @Tim ~ Either the users will or they will not think they are being told to go away. I'm going to go with at least 90% of new users don't ever go to that page. I'm going to go with at least 60% of people over 1k have never read that page. – jcolebrand Mar 8 '11 at 21:17

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