Thought I'd add my PoV here - the mods kindly reached out to me about this when it first happened and I'd been talking with them about it. The ask on our end isn't as simple as Dopplegreener's answer makes it out to be. We'd have to build a dev route that doesn't currently exist to re-protect them, rather than undoing the protection. It's not a five-minute fix. It's doable but not a 5-minute change.
When I was first a mod on IPS, there actually was a user who was just protecting things that had lots of answers - not spam, just... lots of answers, some of them low-effort or low quality. So that frames a lot of my thinking about protection. I, personally, find it to be overused and I find it being permanent is more likely detrimental to a community than beneficial. We, as users with reputation can make it off as an easy task to get past protection -
Just find a different question you can answer and get one upvote - that's it!
But this ignores that many people find a post from searching their favorite search engine. Maybe they found the question and have a better solution but they can't answer because it's protected and they don't know the site yet to know how to find a new question to answer. Heck, they may assume that all questions are protected. They just want to answer that one question, and they can't. So, maybe it's idealistic but I want to remove barriers to participation as much as possible because it leaves more opportunity for new people to join a community. Yes, even if only a tiny fraction of questions are protected.
This is exacerbated when sites show up in the HNQ often and the only reason the protection is in place was to reduce activity from a short-term event. Once the HNQ spotlight has passed on, the protection becomes unneeded. Since we didn't track which posts were HNQ until January 2019, we can't compare whether that was a likely cause of protection here and the ability to kick questions off the HNQ list along with the duration on the list since that time likely means it's a reduced issue.
On mass un-protection
Y'all had an event. And... well... it didn't go the way it should have. Big things like major tag reworks or reviewing protected questions is something that should be a community effort with buy-in from everyone who's interested. You should have a decision about how to act and then act on it. That's the way a community works together.
That didn't happen in this case and that's unfortunate - an opportunity for community communication and collaboration didn't happen, instead, the community was put on the defensive due to a single user taking action. I hope the person who unprotected all of these questions learns from this experience and chooses to involve the community before making big changes.
Who uses protection?
The Community user - which acts when a post receives a lot of low quality answers or many answers from low-rep users - has only protected 136 questions (SEDE Query). Now, that doesn't mean that only those questions would have been protected, eventually. Some of them may have been manually protected by a user before they got to where Community would have acted. But the bulk of the protections, close to half of them, were protected by a single user. It'd be interesting to know what they use to decide when a question should be protected.
There's a great analysis of the data in another question already, so go read that for more details. In short, the Community user accounts for a sizeable but not the largest number and many questions that receive spam answers aren't protected. Some of the questions that were protected are likely from garnering many answers while a question is in the HNQ list
My recommendation is to have your discussion about what makes a question qualify for protection and then use the queries you already have or ones you create to determine which of these questions should be re-protected, if any. Also figure out if you want to regularly review protected questions to see if they should be unprotected - as a community.
I understand that this may be frustrating to y'all. Protection is an important tool and it is up to the community to decide when it should be used. So, have those discussions. If more than half of the questions that were unprotected don't need to be protected any more... then me getting a dev to protect them all again is actually more work unprotecting for y'all.
And, remember, coming to a community consensus on when a question should be protected or unprotected doesn't mean that the community needs to decide on each individual protection - you have the guides in place to inform people so that they can be trusted to make those decisions on their own.
- Pick 15-25 or so of the unprotected questions as examples, have a discussion based on those to decide the signals to look for. Some examples you might consider:
- deleted answers (how many?)
- answers from low-rep users (how many?)
- HNQ status
- spam answers (how many?)
- Define when it shouldn't be used, too (important but often overlooked!).
- Let your privileged curators review the remaining questions.
By telling people what to look for, they have clear things to signal risk of future spam or low-quality answers rather than relying on subjective things like "this looks like it's going to get a lot of junk answers, so I'm going to protect it". If there's edge cases people come across, discuss them and adjust your guidelines. Be open to review from time to time... maybe even start a list of questions that should be protected but just temporarily, as a reminder to unprotect later.
Yes, this is work but it's good community work and y'all will come out of it with a better understanding of how protecting works and when it should and shouldn't be used. Having a dev re-protect the questions may actually make more work for you if your rules end up meaning only a small number of the 700 should actually be protected. If you do an analysis and think that most of the questions should be protected... then let me know and I can see what we can do. I recognize that only 15 k users can protect a question but it doesn't take a ton of added effort for someone who's reviewing a question to either protect it or drop a link into a chat room that y'all are using for this project.