I asked a question last night, and it was received pretty well, to the point that it managed to get into the Hot Network Question (HNQ) list. But as a result of this, a moderator protected the question, with this justification:

I am routinely protecting hot network questions about hot-button issues as a preemptive measure. We made a lot of bad experience in the past with people posting inappropriate answers to HNQs and still receiving a lot of upvotes for them (like this). This gives them and everyone else a wrong impression about how this site works.

If you would like to discuss this further, please create a new question on meta. Comments on questions should be about the content of the question.

I understand that the HNQ questions are often protected, to avoid new users from other communities to post answers that the community evaluates as low quality. This is amplified by the fact that most HNQ visitors do have the ability to upvote, but not to downvote, so even low quality answers will get at least some upvotes, that won't be easily balanced out by downvotes from active contributors of this site.

With this specific question though, I feel that protecting it was not strictly necessary, in the sense that all answers posted so far are on-topic, and none have been deleted.

In addition, because the specific question deals with a political issue between countries with a very small population, I am afraid that by protecting the question, we are silencing some of the opinions of the involved parties, since it is not very likely to find a "representative" of each point of view, that has eared 10 points on politics.se.

So what does the community feel about protecting questions like this? Does the risk of having upvoted off-topic answers outweigh the possibility of losing the some of the points-of-view from the answer section?

Do consider that users with no account with more than 200 points, are totally unable to express their views, as they can't even add comments on the question and the answers.

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    to the point that it managed to get into the Hot Network Question (HNQ) list Consider your question doomed, then. It'll only attract poor answers and lots of upvotes of people who don't even understand when to upvote. (i.e. if the questio/answer shows effort at making things objectively and not when you agree subjectively)
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


While this was protected by a moderator (more privileges than a mere user), it's worth noting that normally you can't just run around protecting questions. Typically they need some low quality answers by new users to meet that threshold (and if enough of those are deleted via review, Community will step in and do the deed itself)

That having been said, I agree with the crux here

We made(sic) a lot of bad experience in the past with people posting inappropriate answers to HNQs and still receiving a lot of upvotes for them

While I understand your concern, a common problem we have is that people come here and rant about Politics. The answer that has been split opinion reads like a rant at first glance (lots of assertions, no supporting quotes or links). But imagine that you start getting lots of answers of this length and content (I'm taking a quote out of context to make a point)

Just like the Phillipines having been under USA control for so long, and once they got a leader that wanted to follow their own path, the USA was not happy about it. So its really about Big Players being bullies to the small guys.

I'm pretty sure you wouldn't read that and go "Hey, that answered my question!" But that's what Protected is designed to prevent. A lot of new posters do that without understanding that's not how SE works. Protected simply means you've earned 10 rep. That means 2 upvotes on a question OR 1 upvote on an answer (association bonuses don't count). That's not some crazy barrier, but it does stop the one-post wonders.

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    In this case though, protecting the question had the opposite effect than the desired, in the sense that the rant answer can still earn upvotes, but non-rant answers can't be posted by most people in the general SE community. I feel that the real solution for SE sites with controversial (non-technical) topics, would be to have the association bonus to be enough to enable the downvoting privilege, so it would remove the imbalance of upvotes in HNQs, which causes the problems you mention...
    – user000001
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 10:01
  • 2
    @user000001 that's an interesting idea, perhaps a new question with it as a feature request is called for.
    – user9389
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 0:01
  • @user000001 Even if you lower the threshold for downvoting, users who don't actively participate in the site will only be able to upvote in the long run. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 10:34

I've unprotected the question.

Having it protected while it was featured in the HNQ list (and was attracting poor answers) was reasonable. Now that it dropped off the list, however, there's little reason to keep it protected. I also took this opportunity to unprotect a handful of other old questions.

That said, I am not optimistic that the question will receive better answers than the ones it currently has. Its subject matter is delicate, and the question is a bit open-ended. Historically, we haven't done a great job maintaining such questions on our site.

As the OP, you'll be the first to know if the question starts accumulating poor answers again. Please let us know - with a flag - if that happens.

  • 1
    Doesn't this expose a flaw with the Hot New Question mechanism? Question from one network becomes "hot" attracting people from other networks to join and engage in Q&A, with the presumed aim to grow communities. If the questions are preemptively protected, wouldn't this dissuade people from joining to answer it? Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 22:06
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    @DrunkCynic Yes, HNQ is deeply flawed. It's a list of popular questions that heavily favours open-ended and often trivial questions. Not exactly the content we want to advertise. In theory, when a question is featured in the HNQ it already has a good enough answer and it most probably doesn't need more answers. With Politics questions, however, that rarely stops people from posting their own answers.
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 11:41
  • @yannis I think I got here via the HNQ (not the main page, but those questions featured on the right), this question specifically. The question had a few upvotes, no answers and there were not as many other questions ranking high (see formula) on the HNQ at the time. Combining that with my answer which also got up votes fast (as a new contributor) meant it rose higher on the HNQ list and attracted more answers and votes so it could maintain its high rank for a good period of time.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 2:46

I feel that protecting it was not strictly necessary, in the sense that all answers posted so far are on-topic, and none have been deleted.

This is what pro-active means, and could be taken as evidence that this policy was working.

But there is one answer by a newcomer and it has attracted significant downvotes (about 1/2 as many as upvotes at this time) and some (in my opinion valid) criticism. I don't expect it will be deleted, but I do expect it will continue to attract enough upvotes to cover any downvotes, giving the impression of being well received. At the same time criticism questioning its factualness has as many upvotes as the answer and there hasn't been any editing. I read this as a sign that the normal SE community mechanisms are not being effective, which is when a mod is expected to do something.

I can't see the history of votes so I'm not clear if this was as apparent when the question was protected, but it seems to me the protection wasn't premature. It is sad to exclude potential answers from new users, but this site is delicate because of how close to opinion even good answers often are.

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    For what it's worth, as the OP of the question, I found that answer helpful, despite the historical inaccuracies, because it presents the other side of the argument, which as presented in that answer, is based on historical lies. But now that the question is protected, the more moderate view from that country will probably not be posted. This answer doesn't consider the small populations involved in the debate of the specific question, which causes the protection of the question to effectively prevent some points of view to be represented at all in the thread.
    – user000001
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 18:47

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