Goal for this discussion
Following a recent event, it became clear that RPG.SE lacks sufficient guidance and community consensus on how the protection system should be used here. The moderation team has created this meta to facilitate a discussion that we hope will result in establishing what best practices we want to have around protecting, unprotecting, and leaving questions protected. Our hope is that this will result in a better community understanding of this tool, which will result in more consistent, beneficial application of it.
Note again that we don’t necessarily need hard rules or hard numbers here. Also, we don’t need to work out every single edge case here and now; with a good set of guidelines, we can address corner cases as they come up. The goal here is to construct guidelines that will allow the community to apply their wisdom to use this tool consistently and to the greatest benefit to the site.
Background for protection discussions
Question protection is one of the tools provided by Stack Exchange to maintain the quality of questions on the network. Protecting questions is a privilege granted to users with 15k+ rep, and the links question on Meta Stack Exchange provides the following advice on how and when to use it:
When should I protect or unprotect a question?
- Do protect questions that are attracting a lot of non-answers or very poor answers (spam, etc.) from new users.
- Don't protect questions just because they're linked to on Hot Network Questions or a high-traffic news site.
- Do unprotect questions that aren't currently attracting a lot of attention and don’t have a long history of unproductive answers.
See also: Changes and guidelines for the Protected Question status
Here at RPG.SE, we have historically used protected questions as a defense against spam and for questions which attract low-quality answers (for any of a number of reasons) by 1-rep users. Rubiksmoose gathered some detailed data as a background to this conversation. A summary of this information can be viewed in this meta: How has RPG.se used protection? (crunching the numbers on spam and protection)
Automated Community protection
There is a community bot that will automatically protect questions that meet certain criteria. The criteria (as sourced from the same Meta.SE answer quoted above) is:
The number of deleted answers from users with <10 rep, plus the number of answers with helpful spam flags, is at least 3. (Note that spam answers from new users are counted twice.)
- Generally, this means that three deleted answers from new users will cause auto-protection, but if at least one of those answers is spam, only two answers will trigger it.
Five answers from users with <10 rep were posted in the last 24 hours. [...]
The system will never unprotect a question automatically, even if the deleted answers are later undeleted or the spam flags are cleared.
The goal for us is not to be human versions of this bot. Abiding by hard and fast rules based on the number of deleted posts and traffic patterns is something the bot is already very good at. We want this discussion to guide the community on how to handle the questions where these criteria fail to meet our needs.
Example discussion points
Some points a good answer might consider (but it is not required to do so):
When should protection be used?
- Spam and low-quality answers are two already-in-place use cases.
- How do we best identify questions that have attracted spam answers that could benefit from protection?
- Does it make a difference what the content of the spam is (e.g. "spellcaster" spam, versus some actual human spamming a link to their RPG on DMsGuild)?
- Under what conditions should we protect a question due to low-quality deleted answers?
- Does HNQ (Hot Network Questions) status have any effect?
- Are there any other types of issues that protection should be used to prevent?
When should protection not be used?
- Are there any specific circumstances that we should define in which it isn't beneficial to protect a question?
- If a question has been protected in the past, should that have an impact on whether or not it should be protected again?
Under what conditions should we unprotect questions?
- When should we unprotect questions that have been automatically protected?
- When should manually protected questions be reassessed?
- Would some kind of regularly scheduled community check-in be beneficial? Or some sort of automated script?
(You may recognize a lot of these as suggestions left by Catija, one of the community managers working at Stack Exchange Inc., in one of the discussions on the community's response to the unprotected-questions issue.)
Once we establish some initial guidelines, we can work through some examples from our list of recently unprotected questions and start getting things reprotected. Please refrain from taking any major actions to re-protect questions until some community guidance has been established.
Related older meta from 2017: When should I NOT protect questions?