Today I've earned the privilege to protect questions. I've visited the dedicated page, but I have to admit that I'm not satisfied with the reasons for protecting a question given there:

"Questions should be protected when they are garnering lots of views and newbies are adding "me too!", "thanks!" and possibly even spam non-answers.".

Could someone (with some practice) advise me, based on his experience, which are the practical reasons for doing this? (I haven't seen many protected questions; have I seen any?)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here's one: math.stackexchange.com/questions/20990/chance-of-getting-a-date/… As you can see, it can easily attract non-mathematical answers, such as from feminists and comedians. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Today I've protected two questions. One of them is this (the other one I can't find it now). I hope I didn't do something wrong. $\endgroup$
    – user26857
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ The need for protecting questions became apparent in the early days of StackOverflow and is less evident on Math.SE at the present epoch. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


Some questions, for reasons that are not always entirely clear, attract many "answers" that are not answers. Some of these could be additional questions. Some may be comments on existing answers. Some may simply say "Thanks!" Some may actually be spam (in the strict definition used by Stack Exchange).

When this happens it is often worthwhile to protect the question. Protecting makes it impossible for anyone who has not gained at least 10 reputation on the site itself to post a new answer. The underlying idea is that it is users who are unfamiliar with the site who are posting these non-answers, and to stem the tide we'll prevent them from posting new answers, but still allow the "old guard" to answer.

More information about protected questions can be found in the protected questions Meta Stack Exchange faq, and also the blog post announcing this feature. In particular, from the faq:

  • 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 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.

While there is no option to search for protected questions, there are a couple ways to find them.

  1. 10K users have access to a Protected Questions list.

  2. The SEDE can find (undeleted) protected questions. For example, this quick and dirty query gives the 100 latest questions to be protected which haven't been since unprotected (modulo the last data dump).

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    $\begingroup$ I have qualms with the second quoted directive; but I flat out disagree with the third directive. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: The second point basically says the protecting a question shouldn't be a preventative measure. There should be evidence that it is attracting the wrong kind of "answers" before excluding new users from being able to answer. The third is similar, though it's phrasing may not be great. However a week or two after appearing on reddit or even the Hot Questions list, a question is unlikely to receive as much unwanted attention. So why are we still excluding certain people from providing answers. (I wouldn't call these "directives"; more like "guidelines".) $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ Because some people have a very hard time not posting their nonsense, even in lengthy intervals. And those people will, of course, avoid registering or putting actual effort into the site. Moreover, in so many cases the questions have a considerable amount of words poured into the answers. If someone has something truly worth adding, I'm sure they can manage to post a simple answer on something else before. Obtaining those 10 points is not that difficult if you have something positive to add to the site. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 11:23

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