Someone recently and quietly unprotected about 700 mainsite questions. (Whether or not one should do that is under discussion here.)

Should we re-protect those questions in advance of a broader meta discussion around what should be protected, what guidelines might be put forth for what makes sense to unprotect, &c. Effectively, reset the clock?

(I'm aware that "we", actually, can't really do this--there's no way to find them and it'd be an onerous task. I'm pretty sure mods would have to ping staff to get them to run some queries and other computer-stuff, so I'm putting this out on meta to gather votes as evidence that staff should do so.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ We are already talking to staff about our options here. I'll drop a more substantial update when I have more info. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2020 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I've removed my more specific comments. That said, I feel that a summary is still important so we're all on the same page. This was 700+ unprotects in a bit over 3 hours, with a median time between unprotects of 2 seconds. (Spot-checked vs the question timeline.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Jul 8, 2020 at 1:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RedOrca looks good. Though I'd add that the user said, publicly, that they'd checked each for a few markers: post-specific metas, comments on the post discussing protection status, deleted spam-answers. There's no reason that couldn't have been its own, silent project conducted during the week or two before, with the unprotections done as a last step. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jul 8, 2020 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ (Disclaimer: Not that I endorse solo sprees of this kind). But isn't it possible to reprotect a question as soon as there is any activity that would warrant that? And if there is no such activity, no harm is done by the question being unprotected? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Jul 8, 2020 at 7:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai it's absoloutely possible to just re-protect on a case-by-case basis as they bubble up to the surface and catch people's attention. I'm... a little conflicted on your second sentence =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jul 8, 2020 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Well, if a question no longer draws low quality there's no problem, is there? I know that those questions probably were rightfully protected at the time. But things could change in some cases. Now that I think about it, what you're getting at is that it is still problematic just not because of a specific question? Because the whole thing was not community-endorsed. Of course, I meant that strictly with respect to any specific question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Jul 8, 2020 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ana FWIW a proposal to have protection end over time was made and has not had any official response. That said, its highest scoring answer states: "This quality about the question (that it is a low-quality answer attractor) is unlikely to change over time." Though I personally do not know how true that is of RPG.SE \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2020 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ That one's protected because people just can NOT refrain from long jokey or pedantic comment threads on it. Hopefully not any more, but IIRC at the time after several iterations of "move to chats" and wholesale deletions on the Q and every single A we just had to shoo the flies somehow. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 10, 2020 at 20:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've featured this question now, because we have a reply from a CM which we think deserves consideration before acting on the matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Jul 14, 2020 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ can we get a list of which unprotected questions are causing problems? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2020 at 9:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user-63873687 As far as I could find this is currently (big emphasis on that "currently") the only question that has been reprotecred since July 8th and where new answers came in between July 8th and the reprotection. There's also this which is the only other question to have been reprotecred after July 8th (its unprotection happened in October 2019) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2020 at 12:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Notably the "data" I said above comes from the list of currently protected questions so if questions have been unprotected since July 8th, I don't have that data. It also doesn't include questions that have received spam since July 8th and are not currently protected \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2020 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I dont actually see any previously deleted answers on the first link, am I correct in thinking it was originally preemptively protected? Or am I missing something? Oh, I probably dont have enough rep. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2020 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user-63873687 I think you are probably understanding just fine, or at least understanding as well as the rest of us are. :) It's been a few weeks since the posts have been unprotected. We know that at least some portion of those questions likely didn't need to be protected (so don't expect problems from them). But even out of the ones we do expect problems from, a few weeks might not be long enough to see them all trigger. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2020 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Moderator team note: With a score of 23/-1 (making it a clear leader) we are taking direction for the next step from this answer and are writing a meta to discuss that next step currently. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2020 at 11:55

5 Answers 5


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.

On Protection

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

What's next?

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.

  1. 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?)
  2. Define when it shouldn't be used, too (important but often overlooked!).
  3. 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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I fully support this way forward. I think this will give the best results for our community with the least amount of work for everyone. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15, 2020 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the explainer and for clarifying where things are at. I'm surprised to learn there's a lack of tooling in the restoration too! Better us find out this can happen than an even bigger site though. I'd be okay with this given there's delays built into restoration anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2020 at 10:39

Yes, we should absolutely reprotect those questions. We didn't protect them for kicks, and having all of them become unprotected is actively harmful for us. Doing so takes no effort on our part; Rubiksmoose already stated that “[Stack Exchange staff] have the ability to identify and reverse all the questions this user unprotected” so they're just waiting on our mods to say the word.

As BESW summed up in chat, questions tend to get protected for one of three reasons: (1) a question hits HNQ and attracts nonsense, (2) a question is controversial and needs a bit of brakes applied, and (3) a spam algorithm has identified that question as a target via keywords. And of those three, the last one is far and away the most frequent primary cause. We already have users who periodically unprotect questions that were protected that no longer needed it, so the protection list we had was after frequent case-by-case culling.

Later edit: Rubiksmoose has crunched the numbers, and apparently spam-based protections don't establish the majority of our protection list just prior to the change (it's about a third?). There probably are many questions that can yet be unprotected, but I believe our prior protected list should be reinstated, rather than let a sweeping removal that never should have happened stay in place, then we can assess what kinds of questions we want to clear out of it if any.

I see folks saying here that only a handful of questions will become a problem, and that's just factually plain wrong. For those unaware: we get spammed quite a bit. It's consistently about 3–4 times a week or a dozen times a month. Most of it comes from one source (spellcaster spammers) and our spam sources are very well understood: they search keywords, every now and then one of our questions (new or old) shows up matching those keywords, and they spam there if they can. They spam the same question repeatedly if able, coming back to it every few weeks for as long as it remains unprotected.

This means nearly every single question we have that has ever received spam (which is hundreds of questions) is guaranteed to get spam again, as long as there's a text box the spammers can post to.

Over the years, by protecting every question they post spam to as they come up, we've worked to minimise our surface area to spam. It's thanks to this defensive capital that our community's built up over the years that our site gets as little spam as it does. If you think spam isn't a big problem here, that's because of this work we've done.

This mass unprotection basically wipes that slate clean and resets the defensive capital we've built up to nil. It's like waking up one day and finding all the walls to the fortress have been disassembled overnight. Of course we should be putting them back up as soon as we can.

We're discussing this because it got opened up for debate, but would we blink if the moderators said “Yeah, wiping out that much stuff without checking with anyone isn't appropriate, so we reverted it”? I venture we probably would not. Would we have a debate if it was instead all the downvotes got wiped indiscriminately, or every single closed question got reopened regardless of why it was closed? Probably not, because we understand palpably the harm that represents. This represents harm too.

Background: I've spent multiple years actively involved in Charcoal, the organisation that is SE's last line of defense against spam. I was active in events like that spam wave that occurred in 2018, and was busy hammering down nearly six hundred spam accounts over the course of that wave. I've seen spam like you wouldn't believe, dear readers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer "Leave the walls down and see if we get raided" is Quite A Take. Do we really want to start encouraging the algorithms again just to get more receipts for the people who weren't here the first time? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jul 11, 2020 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ “You know, I don't see why these walls are there, because we've never had any bandits in town. Those folks who built them say the walls are the reason there's no bandits, but who's to say if that's true? It's probably fine to leave them down, just to see if we really needed them.” Just put them back, please. We do not want to be an open ground for spam again and invite a spam wave. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 11:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Spammers don't change over time. They consistently just search keywords, find questions, and put spam into text boxes and hit submit. They aren't crossing off our questions and going “drat, I couldn't post in that one today, so I guess I never will again.” That's not how spammers operate. There is absolutely no reason to believe they will just leave all these questions alone and not start spamming them all over again now that they're unprotected. They will find those questions, because they still match the spammers' keywords, and the spammers will post to them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ The goal of minimising spam is to also make us unattractive to spammers. If we are, overall, a difficuilt place to spam, spammers will focus more of their energy elsewhere. Spam rejection is its own discouragement. If we make ourselves an easy place to spam (by, for example, dismantling an entire line of defense against psam that we spent years building up), we make ourselves a more attractive target to spammers who will spend more time and energy here. We don't want that either. Please ask the folks over at Charcoal to verify. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 11:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also: “the numbers described are honestly not that big in my experience.” That's right! They're not that big because we have those defenses. Naturally the numbers will be a lot bigger if we don't have them. We want them to stay low, so we should keep those defenses. Fortresses don't notice they have no bandits entering town and conclude they don't need the walls. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The questions have been unprotected for almost a week now, has there been a flood of spam? I'll be honest, having been a mod here for like 10 years, while there is certainly a stream of "love potion spam" we didn't use protection as a tool against it explicitly while I was modding (I mean, maybe you did, but it was never a thing for me and previous mod regimes, unless you mean some system auto-protect) and we weren't "overrun by Mongols." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 11, 2020 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Contrary to that experience, I've rarely noticed a question that had spam and wasn't already protected by someone. And the times it wasn't already protected, I protected it. So, maybe that's why they got hit once and never again? And I and others were doing this back in 2013, so regardless of whether the moderators at the time were actively doing this, the community was. And while I was moderating, I was still doing this myself, regardless if what my co-moderators were doing about spam. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, go ahead. Those ones should stay protected. But to be clear, I am saying all of them should be put back. My answer is not requesting only partial reversal. If we want to drop protection on questions that were never spammed, revert this thing that should not have happened, then talk about whether we want to do that, rather than letting this massive protection wipe that never should have happened sit around uncorrected. I don't understand why we'd just drop all the rest of the protection, but if folks actually want to go and find out why that happened for some reason then whatever. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ “It's been this way for only one week and nothing has happened yet so nothing ever will” is a fallacious argument I'm not going to bother with. Past patterns fully indicate we will see more spam again on all of these questions that had it before and there is no good reason at all to leave them unprotected in light of reasonable evidence this will happen. We have repeated concrete evidence that our spammers do repeatedly spam the same question over time while it's unprotected, it's not one-and-done. Do y'all think I'm just making this up for fun? Again, if you don't believe me, ask Charcoal. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Protected questions are harmful because they inhibit site participation. "I'm sure there will be an apocalypse" isn't super compelling when we haven't seen that before. Obviously there "could be" but there also "could be" on the rest of the questions that aren't protected as well - this is not a very solid argument. Objectively many of the unprotected questions should be unprotected, not sure why the digging in of heels here. It's an appeal to authority/history when those of us here for the history are saying "ehhhh...." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 11, 2020 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk You're flatly mischaracterising what I'm saying to straw-man attack weaker or more ridiculous versions of my arguments. You're also disowning that I've been here for very nearly as long as you have been, as though I haven't also been "here for the history". Responding like that is not okay. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Luckily, that spam wave of 606 users was anomalous and limited to a span of several months. We don't have "a year in moderation" stats for 2017 and the year in moderation stats for 2018 don't track spam posts. Charcoal has records for the spam it detected at least, which is not all of the spam. I just mean to suggest I have been here dealing with spam, consistently and regularly, including when it got bad. I am hoping to indicate I'm not just talking out of my ass here. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil The spam wave was August/September/October 2018 \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL It relies on the people with 15k+ rep knowing enough to know not to do this thing. Apparently simply nobody expected someone would actually do this, given there was no N/day limit or flags for doing anything like this... \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2020 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL They were not. We've got defensive measures in other areas, such as the anti-spam stuff built into Stack Exchange, and Smoke Detector which is basically the last line of defense. But this was one of our lines of defense we built up that specifically stops spam that might otherwise not be caught by Stack Exchange, before actual users (and Smoke Detector) had to deal with it. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2020 at 21:28

I recommend a complete reversal.

First of all, a disclaimer: I’m actually of the opinion that we had too many protected posts, and that we--as a site--should be more proactive about unprotecting things after a time.

That said, for me this issue is less about the end-state than it is about the process, and what we can learn from it. I believe we should be on the lookout for opportunities to build up the community: its coherence around principles, its sense of agency, its understanding of the state of the site. Blanket-unprotecting 700 questions and then query-driven reprotecting a hundred of them short-circuits all of that: no single site user develops any more understanding of what should and shouldn’t be protected; we feed back no wisdom to SE staff on whether autoprotection is currently working well or poorly; we don’t hash out any of the boundary areas and, in doing so, reveal guiding principles we can collectively embrace.

And, hoo-boy, do we need to. Addressing the elephant in the room: our theory of protection, generally, is vastly under-developed on meta. We currently have 4 meta posts devoted to question protection. We have more posts about (psst: we don’t do any of that) and to chat than we do about a feature that unlocks at fairly high rep and that locks the majority of users out of the site’s core activity: answering.

We can leave this batch largely unprotected, use a query to re-protect those that were protected by the community bot, and in doing so throw away literally every human’s judgment that went into that list. (Well, except the one human who decided to unprotect it all.) And we’d be right back at square 1: some posts will invariably get protected, few will ever go back to look at whether those posts should be unprotected, any who come to meta for guidance will find none but that they shouldn’t unprotect everything at once. We will have gotten a nice-and-small protected-list without learning from the curating of that list.

Or we can revert fully the recent unprotections. Ask the relevant meta questions: how do I know when to unprotect a post? These ten posts have no downvoted answers and I see no discussion of why they should be protected, can I unprotect them? The last downvoted/deleted answer on this handful of posts came in 4 years ago, shouldn’t they be unprotected? In some of those cases it’s going to clearly come down: “leave protected.” Others: “unprotect, and do it yesterday!” And some we’ll have to furrow our brows for and post competing answers and we’ll learn something about those posts and about our preferences.

We can do the actual work, as a community, that will guide future users. There’s no rush: we can take a year or so to give ourselves an education in what gets protected, whether we like how much or little that tool gets used, and how we can know whether a post should be unprotected. We don’t need to discuss every question. But in discussing some questions we’ll grow the site’s understanding of this tool.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Once we establish new guidelines for (un)protection, would you recommend that we go through all 720 questions individually and figure out which ones to unprotect? Or would we just kind of accept that changing standard and leave them as-is? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2020 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest it be a slow-rolling community project. My hope is that the Pareto principle will hold such that the first two dozen take a couple months to slowly churn through, and then (as we've developed some guidance/revealed some principles) the next hundred will take a couple months for enterprising young souls to tackle, and then the remainder we'll eventually get to. Or they'll just not have to be worried about as a separate project because by then we'll have developed some communal habits around occasionally checking in on the protection-list. Could be naive, but that's my hope =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jul 8, 2020 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Point me to the oldest 50 and I'll be happy to work through them one by one. 'Cos I'm old, that's why the oldest 50. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to toss this your way and see what you think: I think that we can actually learn so much more from seeing which posts, if any, give us trouble, and the things we learn could help us inform decisions protecting things going forward. If we reprotect all the questions we lose that opportunity. Does any of that make sense? I agree with your ideas about teaching but I wonder if that idea doesn't actually support not reprotecting more than protection. Curious what you think though! \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ pls see my comments under mxy's answer, after looking through a bunch I am not sure that the unprotection did any harm. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another bit of clarification that I would find helpful (and hopefully I'm not coming accross as too argumentative here, not my intention at all): how exactly does my proposal forclose the possibility of learning from or discussing the protected questions? We have that data, I've posted the full list in my answer, we can learn from and discuss it at any time and at our own pace. I actually propose that explicitly in my answer. Am I missing something or is that not clear enough in my answer? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose My presumption had been that the query sitting here in a comment under a meta post would make finding and considering the unprotected questions for reprotection substantially less likely/harder than if the posts that would be good to consider all sat on the 10K tools "protected questions" list. Watching chatizens ponder a couple dozen of them in a day, though, has changed my mind and I've removed the offending passage =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jul 9, 2020 at 22:44

Leave unprotected and gather data for 60 days, then decide.

This is not an endorsement of the actions taken by this user, they should have talked to the community before unprotecting virtually every question on this site. However, this is about doing the best thing for this community going forward now that we are here.

tl;dr We learn nothing by reprotecting all of the posts right now and we lose nothing by waiting to see if any of the posts have issues. Lets gather the data and be smart about it.

From everything I and other experienced users can tell, the vast majority of protected posts no longer need protecting like they did when they were first protected.1

Reprotecting all of them would require a decent amount of dev-time work and could leave as many as 600+ answers protected without any need (thus preventing new users from answering them).

Instead, I suggest we don't reprotect any of the posts for now and see if any problematic posts even come up during a 60 day test period.

And during the test period we can discuss what we want our guidelines for protection to be. And by the end, we'll have data to help back us up. And when the test period is over, we can decide which of all of the questions we want to be protected and submit that to the CMs if necessary.

This way, we can actually learn something from this incident. It is impossible for us to learn which posts protection is actually benefiting when they are protected, since the very thing you'd need to see to judge success would be answers that are prevented from being submitted. And that is obviously impossible to measure. Instead, let's let the problem posts show themselves to us over time and we can use that experience to help lead our discussion about how we want protection on this site to work going forward. (Keeping in mind that there is only confusing and vague advice given by SE about this — confused even more by the recent change to the wording of the protected feature.)2

During the test period we can track and collect data on each of the unprotected questions. And then we can report back here and revisit the issue. I suspect that <10 of the posts will even get a single post and fewer that are problematic. If we have no posts during the time that are deemed to be in need of protection or harmed by the lack thereof, I'd propose we just make it permanent. And if there are issues, we can cancel the experiment at any time and reprotect the whole bunch.3

In the end, we lose nothing by waiting for actual issues to surface and we have potentially a decent amount to gain.

1 - According to KorvinStarmast (admittedly only one user, but an experienced one):

OK, after 120 out of 720, there were 3 I'd recommend protecting so far

If that ratio holds true to the way the community also sees protection we'd end up with a total of 18 posts to protect out of 720.

2 - We also don't need to reprotect the questions in order to learn from the previously protected questions since we can refer to this list and review them as a community at any time.

3 - If any problems do arise during the experiment, those posts will be dealt with according to the best practices we have. No experiment should result in the degredation of how the site operates. So if a spammy post starts getting hammered, for example, we'll protect it like we would normally.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a small clarification but when you say "don't reprotect any of the posts" does that include a silent "unless they become problematic at which point we would reprotect them"? or would we leave problematic questions unprotected for further data collection? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 It does, and that point is worth making explicit. No experiment should interfere with the quality and smooth running of the site. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I am now at 160 of 720, and my take is "3, maybe 4" based on a question by question review and a look at how many deleted answers they had, and how likely the topics/titles are to attract a rush of attention if they pop up on the network hot questions list or a google search \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ per a discussion in chat, I have stopped going one by one on posts since you and a few others are digging more deeply. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2020 at 19:41

No, we shouldn't re-protect them

While the mass unprotection was a rash move, the fact is that almost all protects are for time limited reasons - hot network questions, squabbles, and so on. If even 5 of these 700 questions pop a problem and need to be re-protected I’d be shocked. Just leave it alone and re-protect if and as needed.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW a proposal to have protection end over time was made and has not had any official response. Its currently highest-scoring answer (not a particular high score though) states: "This quality about the question (that it is a low-quality answer attractor) is unlikely to change over time." That seems to contradict the idea of protection being time-limited, so if you'd provide evidence or explain that bit more I know I at least would greatly appreciate it. Granted all that does come with pre-existing ideas about what protection is even for \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 There's definitely a difference between how the feature is officially described and how it is actually used in practice. And recent changes has made it even more confusing (it seems even the company isn't sure how to use it). In my experience mxy is correct here that most of the time protection here has been used for things that cease being problems some short time after posting. The only bucket that doesn't really fit that is the spam honey-pots and the very rare question that attracts low quality new responses constantly. So that's some evidence, anecdotal though it is. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose I genuinely appreciate the information. Glad to know that most protected things are probably protected longer than they should be, at least on this site which is exactly the site that matters here \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, the detailed evidence that I have gleaned so far seems to support your anser. I took a look at the last 12 of over 700 and the only one that might need to be protected is the one on pregnancy and banishment; two diamond mods (at the time) put warnings in the comments under the question. The others are "uh, not likely to attract attention again" When I get to 50 I'll follow up. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, I have now reviewed the last 50 on the list of 720. Two I'd for sure recommend reprotecting, 1 maybe, and the rest; no. Your gut is likely correct on this. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, after 120 out of 720, there were 3 I'd recommend protecting so far ... this might be the better answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 17:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Upon consideration I'm actually throwing my support behind this line of reasoning. I think that we can actually learn so much more from seeing which posts, if any, give us trouble, and the things we learn could help us inform decisions protecting things going forward. If we reprotect all the questions we lose that opportunity. And we lose nothing by at least waiting to reprotect things. If problems come up, it is easy to fix. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer introduces the least noise for all processes and people involved. If an exception comes, then it should be handled at that time without wasting effort or resources on preemptive measurements that are unlikely to do actual good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jul 10, 2020 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Now that doppel has explained a bit about the great spam wars, stuff I had no idea about, I have ended my review of the list of 700 ish ... and am back on the sidelines watching. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2020 at 22:52

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