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Currently the Sandbox is protected and thereby prevents users with less that 10 reputation from posting there. This is theoretically a problem because new users are the ones that need the Sandbox the most. Therefore I want to ask if someone could raise the threshold (answers from new users) so that the Sandbox won't automatically be protected.

The new Sandbox has been protected 3 times automatically since it was created. The first two times Monica unprotected it and after posting this Separatrix unprotected it the third time.

As was mentioned by Laurel in a comment to this Meta discussion about mentioning the Sandbox to first time question askers our sister site PPCG had a similar problem after lowering the limit for posting on Meta to 1 reputation.

In the linked post on PPCG the Community Manager Shog9 said that he "set the relevant thresholds (answers from new users) to 10,000".

Is there a way to do this with our Sandbox, too, so that it doesn't get protected all the time and has to be unprotected by someone manually?

It would be very frustrating to give new users with (currently) 5 reputation the hint that they can use the Sandbox only for them to discover that they are not allowed to post there. This might not be a problem for a lot of people, but in theory it's possible. And manually unprotecting the Sandbox is unnecessary work for the people that have this privilege.


Since the first discussion on this topic the Sandbox has automatically been protected 6 more times. One of these automatic protections was triggered 8 minutes after Monica Cellio unprotected the question, which lead to a second unprotection from Monica 3 more minutes later. A few days later the Sandbox has automatically been protected again and a new user replied to this post to ask if someone could unprotect it again, which HDE did.

Currently we have 9 auto-protections in roughly 1 1/2 month. In 7 of those cases a mod unprotected the question (Monica and HDE). 2 times a non-mod user with the corresponding privilege (Separatrix) unprotected the question.


Update two months later: The problem persists and we are currently at 18 auto-protections.

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    $\begingroup$ I've unprotected it again, though I don't know how long it'll last. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 19 '17 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @Separatrix. The first took more than a month. The second time it was more like three weeks and the third time was not even a week, which is why I wrote this feature-request. It probably depends on how many drafts are posted/deleted by newer users. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 19 '17 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Arguably, if the community unprotects something that was auto-protected, Community should take the hint and not do that again. I'll try to look for a feature request on MSE and post one if I don't find it, later. That said, if a CM can fix it for that question, that'd be great. (It looks like on PP&CG they turned it off for all of meta; I'm not sure how I feel about that yet, but it's probably ok here.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ I made a proposal on MSE. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 16:19
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The protection threshold has been raised on meta. The sandbox should be safe from auto-protection now.

Ok, in theory the limit still exists; it's just a very high number. So it's possible that we could face this problem again. But I suspect that we'd run into a database limit on the number of answers to a question first...

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I suggested on Meta.SE that repeated unprotections should block future auto-protections, but I suspect that idea won't go far without more (non-sandbox) cases where that would help. Our recent problems have been caused by the deletion of answers from users whose rep is temporarily low, and to that problem Shog9 made some interesting suggestions:

  1. Disable protection for the entire meta site that hosts such a sandbox (CodeGolf uses this technique)
  2. Regularly archive the sandbox and create a new one, thus resetting the criteria for auto-protection. (I do this here for the formatting sandbox, albeit in sort of a weird way)
  3. Instruct users to create their own, personal sandboxes (essentially using meta itself as the sandbox). (a handy example of this is questions)
  4. Create a few CW answers in the sandbox and then lock it to prevent anyone from creating new ones - users must then pick an unused answer to temporarily house their idea. No answers ever get created or deleted, thus making auto-protect a non-issue. (Math uses this technique).
  5. Create some special set of rules for auto-protect that only apply to the sandbox posts. This is... probably not going to happen.

I don't think #2 will help us; we've done that recently, but our issue is some users with high sandbox activity. And we want people to use the sandbox if a question might need help, instead of going straight to main, so we don't want to impede that. #3 could work; it would distribute the sandbox (a tag rather than a question), so we'd have more individual questions and helpers would have to monitor the tag. I don't know how well that would work for us. #5 isn't going to happen.

That leaves #1 -- disable protection for the entire meta site -- and #4 -- create "fixed" sandbox slots. #4 sounds like a clever solution, and also implicitly addresses the issues already raised here about abandoned posts and users with many concurrent questions. I looked over Math's sandbox guidance and it looks to be quite sane and workable.

Update: After some discussion it seems that #4 is not viable; we rely on voting, which can't be reset when the post is reused, and comments, which would need to be cleared. See this followup question about what to do with the sandbox (and also this call for requirements).

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  • $\begingroup$ #4 sounds interesting at first, but we would need to discourage people from voting on a draft as a simple edit wouldn't remove the votes and therefore votes become useless after a few revisions. People would need to comment and maybe upvote the comments. And I don't see any comments on the Math Sandbox. They seem to use their Sandbox mainly for writing a long post instead of getting feedback on a draft. If we still used comments those comments would have to be cleared regularly by a moderator. And only moderators would be able to do so. Is this really the way we want to go? $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 19 '17 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ That's a good point about comments. We'd need a way to purge obsolete ones, and probably need a culture of explicitly addressing authors. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a way other than moderators removing obsolete comments? I thought only the author themselves and moderators can do that. And as the Sandbox is especially for new users there is a chance that some won't return to the Sandbox after they posted their question. This also applies to established users, but I think the chances are higher with new users. Telling them to remove every single comment they posted might be difficult, as some don't even manage to remove their question drafts. And this means that everybody trying to help has to clean up after the OP declared his draft finished. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 19 '17 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus it's probably easier to think about a two-step process: reset the body to "this post is available" (or whatever language we choose) and flag for a mod to purge the comments. The guideline for users would be: don't use it until both the body says "available" and it has no comments. People are flagging for mod-deletion now for abandoned posts, so I don't think this will be too much of a problem. And it's way better than a piecemeal approach where people try to coordinate deleting their own comments. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '17 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ That sounds like it could work. I am still not quite sure about the voting though. At some point someone will probably vote on a draft and it will look weird, especially to new users. While I was thinking about this I realized that there is a privilege about editing community wiki posts here: "Awarded at: 100 reputation". Is that limit different on Meta? Otherwise new users could only propose an edit with their question draft, which means that the process will be longer, as people have to approve the edit suggestion $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 20 '17 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a sandbox tag actually. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jun 20 '17 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus hmm, good point -- if the rep barrier goes up that's no good. Everybody, see this followup post. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 20 '17 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ I'm more of a fan of #1, I feel #4 is overly complex and will confuse new users while votes will confuse everyone. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 3 '17 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB please consider assessing a tag against the requirements we've gathered, here. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '17 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix see this followup where we're collecting proposals. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '17 at 21:38

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