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I recently arrived at the rep of 15Ki (where i stands for imaginary, per Dan Bron), and so I am allowed to protect questions. (Chortle!)

My rule of thumb has been to protect an old question that popped up on the front page if a new, unregistered user answered it with an answer that I considered VLQ or Not an Answer and if it already had good answers. I haven't gone looking for them.

When I started to ask this question, I saw a similar earlier question, When is a member expected to protect a question? with this answer:

1.Questions that are receiving a lot of poor answers from low reputation (less than 10 reps) users should be protected.

Point of clarification: Why should we wait for a lot of poor answers? Why isn't one poor answer enough to protect? Poor answers might attract more poor answers. Nip them in the bud.

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    +1i for the first sentence. For the rest: use your judgement, we trust it, that is the fundamental concept underpinning privileges. You earn then, so we trust you to use them. Also any of the rest of we i-members can unprotect at will. So no harm, no foul, even if you end up stepping on someone's toes. – Dan Bron Jun 20 '17 at 22:22
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What Dan Bron said, as always:

Use your judgement, we trust it, that is the fundamental concept underpinning privileges. You earn them, so we trust you to use them. Also any of the [15k rep] members can unprotect at will. So no harm, no foul, even if you end up stepping on someone's toes.

Plus, if we protect everything in the bud, we discourage new members from joining our community. Remember, asking and answering questions are supposed to be free for all, regardless of rep, or anything really.

Technically, we don't have to wait for a lot of poor answers, just one or two will activate the "protect" option for us guardians (and I am Groot). Also, iirc, the question has to be at least 2-3 days old.

What I mostly do is protect questions to which I'm reviewing late answers, especially when the question is too old and has already attracted a gazillion views.

Some questions that end up on the Hot Network Questions will be automatically protected by the Community user, or manually by the elected moderators, to prevent thoughtless and pathetic answers from aliens (I mean good people from other worlds who are unfamiliar with the culture of ELU, but have free association rep to vote up other pathetic answers)

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    +1i I like your point about not nipping too early in the bud. It is more covfefetial. I will wait until more than one new VLQ answer to an old question has been posted. – ab2 Jun 21 '17 at 0:24

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