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In addition to protecting questions to avoid spam or "thanks!" answers, we often protect questions that attract negative, irrelevant, or otherwise low-quality answers.

I also tend to start removing comments-that-are-answers once there are a large number of them, particularly if they're descending into negative tone. This is pretty clearly covered in the Help page about commenting (excerpts below):

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

But when a passionate new user feels they have good information to share encounters a protected question, what's the solution?

Should comments be moderated more permissively than usual on protected questions, in order to allow users to "answer" even though they don't have sufficient reputation to Answer?

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No, I don't believe they should. I think this is an issue likely related to hot network questions, troll offerings, or trigger-type questions, the handling of which reflects on our community as a whole.

Having highly emotional and negative comments - which are likely on the above type questions - gives this site an "anything goes" atmosphere, not one of respect, reflection, or helpfulness.

Thought it relates to answers, not comments, this Meta answer gives a reason I agree with:

For protected questions, you are expected to have experience on the target site itself. Experience at other sites is not enough. ...[J]ust because you know how to code in JavaScript doesn't mean you know how to answer a protected question on the Islam site.

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Comments are not the place for answers. Encouraging answers in the comments in any setting is just teaching people (especially new users in this case) that it is ok. It also shows that when we are protecting a question it really doesn't do much. It just forces new users to answer in comments instead of the answer box. It's not much of a moderation tool if we encourage people to just work around it.

I understand that sometimes people have something they really want to share and I applaud their desire to help. But let's encourage them to spread it around. They only need 10 rep to answer on a protected question. That's 1 answer upvote, 2 question upvotes, or 5 approved suggested edits. It's hardly an insurmountable obstacle. I would much rather encourage new users to familiarize themselves with the site through such activities (which won't take more than a day tops if they are trying) rather than say "well, I know you shouldn't do this, but I'm going to turn a blind eye anyway".

Also, comments are ephemeral and could disappear at a moments notice with little to no history of their existence. I'd rather not have valuable information left in such a volatile place.

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  • "It also shows that when we are protecting a question it really doesn't do much." Good point! All good points, actually. – anongoodnurse Nov 10 '15 at 22:25
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The question being protected has no bearing on how it should be moderated as far as 'answer comments' go. If it's protected, it's to make it easier for you and us to moderate it - by not attracting garbage, basically.

If someone has something useful to say, well, they'll have that in a few days, right? Protection shouldn't last forever - we should probably automatically unprotect questions a week or less after they are protected, unless there's a reason not to (like it's an older, spam-bot-attractor question like "What stroller is best..." and whatnot).

That's the tradeoff on protecting questions, after all: we gain from having fewer garbage answers from non-members of our community (trolls, people who don't understand parenting, spam, etc.), but we lose from having fewer good answers from non-members of our community (and possibly fewer members).

Part of it, in fact, is that we don't want people who are unfamiliar with our community doing things that are inconsistent with our community's way of doing things, right? So we really don't want to be permitting answers in comments on questions that are protected: that's just training people the wrong way.

I think if you're really asking that question, the question might be more apt: should we protect our questions less frequently?

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  • I asked in meta because it was asked by a new user who wanted to answer in comments ;) should we protect our questions less frequently is not a bad question at all, but definitely separate. – Acire Nov 10 '15 at 19:16
  • Joe - on your point about unprotecting questions once they drop of the HNQ list etc. I totally agree, and sometimes we remember to... I'd suggest that is a good reason to use a flag>other to make the mods aware and we can remove the protection. – Rory Alsop Nov 13 '15 at 12:58

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