I am throwing out an idea here and looking for some feedback.

Lately, it seems, that older questions are getting some mostly (in my opinion), low effort, low quality answers.

Honestly, it's a subjective impression looking at the Late Answers review queue in the last couple months.

Would it be worthwhile if Ask Ubuntu auto-protected questions that were aged-out over some specified period? Say, two LTS releases? So, today, any questions pre-16.04 would be protected. Or whatever consensus considered appropriate.

I don't know if this is feasible, I am just seeing a bit of uptick in junk answers for older questions and would be interested in mitigating additional noise.

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  • +1 for posting the question, even though I don't agree with the proposal. – Zanna Nov 16 at 16:53
  • @Zanna I don't mind disagreement. I am more interested in the feedback. – Kevin Bowen Nov 16 at 20:11

Regardless of the fact that I disagree with your proposal, I'm always grateful for ideas and willingness to improve the site, so thank you very much for posting, and thank you so much for the huge amounts of reviewing you do too.

I guess I have just enough to add to post an answer, though I strongly agree with other points that have been raised.

While poor quality answers may be a problem, I see them as a less bad problem than questions having no useful answers. I firmly believe that old questions deserve just as much attention as new ones, because most of the people who are helped by this site, I assume, search for their problem and find the answer without ever posting anything (although it's likely the engaged community is helped by this site much more per person, in various ways, than those many visitors). Searching and landing on unanswered questions, or questions with only out-of-date answers, is frustrating. I think we should do our best to encourage people to answer questions, both new and old.

There's certainly a moderation overhead in allowing new users to post answers everywhere, but the only reason that overhead may be slightly higher for old questions than for new ones, in my opinion, is that new users are likely to answer old questions (perhaps as likely as they are to answer new questions), because (judging by the better quality late answer posts I see), finding a solution to some problem of their own may be what motivates them to post on the site for the first time (or first time in a while). I think that is a good thing. We need new answers, and we need new users too.

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Autoprotect, as indicated by Dan, is something that would prevent old items from getting updated regularly. The system is also not designed with autoprotect in mind, and "protect" should be used sparingly as well.

If you are going to be in the review queues, review as normal. If enough low quality posts on the 'old question' get deleted by flags, etc. the system will put a protect on the post automatically.

Auto-protecting based on date is something that is not worthwhile because it isn't really feasible.

(This said, as I see low quality posts, etc. on old items and delete items per site policy or content policy, I also protect those 'old' threads. However, that's a case-by-case basis, not automatically.)

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  • Perhaps I, personally, need to be a bit more diligent in choosing to protect questions on a case by case basis as you suggest. – Kevin Bowen Nov 16 at 20:13

In my opinion, this is a very harsh and drastic measure.

We can lose more quality feedback than we would be blocking them. It might even cause worse "junk" posts due to new users creating duplicates because they aren't able to answer other posts.

Protecting questions and answers is and should be used sparingly.

If we start auto protecting posts older than a certain date, we would be defeating the purpose of an SE website. Which is to keep Q/A posts up-to-date. Or else, this site will become like any other support forum.

A couple more viewpoints I'd like to mention are:

  1. The Late Answers queue is currently empty. First posts, however, is much more problematic. This would somewhat make my theory above even worse. As it would be moving most of the reviews from the Late Answers to the First Posts queue.
  2. If you find yourself reviewing more and more in the Late Answers queue for the last couple of months, it may also be because of fewer people reviewing than before, instead of AU getting more bad answers. I don't have enough reputation and privilege to see detailed stats of a queue, but a couple of events that I can think of and that can cause such a thing is the recent events that happened between SE and mods that caused lots of veteran users to quit. Another one is the recent mod elections. I would assume that would also mean that we may have lost* Zanna as a reviewer. Being a mod is already taxing on their time. I wouldn't think they would still have enough time to be as active in a review queue as they used to be.

* I don't particularly appreciate calling out users but I mean it in good faith, as Zanna is super active in review queues.

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  • 1
    Yes! what we need is more answers, even if some of them need to be deleted. We can handle that (late answers is always low volume, as you say). And yes, people may post questions on meta (or that belong on meta) or answers on the wrong question out of frustration at not being able to post an answer where they want. Questions are automatically protected when they receive a few answers that get deleted (details here) and this seems like more than enough. Thanks for motivating me to review! :D – Zanna Nov 16 at 15:14
  • Requiring a reputation of at least ten is "a very harsh and drastic measure"? That seems, well, just a wee bit hyperbolic. – Kevin Bowen Nov 18 at 2:57
  • @KevinBowen yeah I guess so, but if we search for questions before 2016-04-01, that's 193,668 results. Compared to 364,986 results if we search for all questions. That's a little bit more than half of the questions on the site that will end up getting protected. – Dan Nov 18 at 7:17
  • Honestly, I could imagine starting from a much more conservative point: say Qs older than '12-13, with >=10-20 votes AND either an accepted answer OR 3-5 non-zero answers. As opposed to a a blanket date as I originally stated. – Kevin Bowen Nov 18 at 18:27

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