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With reference to What is the closest airport to the center of the city it serves?, but also to other formulations of the same idea (biggest sausage in Germany, loudest annual city festival, biggest hole in the ground, etc), are these suitable questions or should they be closed or deleted?

The problem:

  • Finding extremes of things in an area or the world is difficult
  • People posting answers cannot know if they have the ultimate answer, they only know an answer which satisfies the criteria.
  • Finding the best answer requires evaluating the many answers which have been posted
  • This necessarily generates a lot of answers. In this case the question was very quickly protected and people with additional relevant answers, resorted to posting them in comments.
  • Those comments were then moved to chat.

The result:

  • A bunch of answers many with early votes favouring the lead even when they were obviously not the best answers.
  • People don't really read through piles of answers to find the best ones
  • The question sprawls and devolves

In my mind, this question cannot generate the best answer without generating a lot of answers. In this case evaluating the answer at least has some objective parameters, but this isn't always the case. Protecting a question is a useful tool to stem the tide of cruft when quality answers already exist, but in this case the question remains effectively un-answered.

I see two possibilities - the first that this question is just generating noise, is a poor question, and should simply be deleted. It doesn't have the best answer, as yet, and the protected status of the question is just frustrating that resolution. In fact, some of the better answers here were late answers, specifically because you can usually keep digging to find an even more [whatever] thing when the object is to locate extreme examples of something.

If the question is not a bad question, though, and its only crime is generating a lot of (good and relevant) answers, then it should probably not be protected. The existing answers are not noise, not "me too" cruft, and not simply repeating existing answers, but are unique and completely on topic.

So which is it? Unprotect and let it continue to develop, or throw it into the dustbin?

-1

With reference to this question, but also to other formulations of the same idea, are these suitable questions or should they be closed or deleted?

The tag has been here since the beginning of Travel.SE and is generally well-accepted by the community. While it be a purely theorethical question for the vast majority of readers, it is also a practical travel question for some of our users. As an example, What is the deepest nesting of autonomous areas within other autonomous areas in China? Are there areas that are three deep? Deeper? might look like a random factoid, but there's plenty of folks who would be interested in traveling to Danangou Uzbek Ethnic Township after reading the answers.

Finding extremes of things in an area or the world is difficult

No question is too difficult for our users :-) As a proof, let me present you my favorite example of a user solving a seemingly-impossible question: Where this picture was taken ~100 years ago?

People posting answers cannot know if they have the ultimate answer, they only know an answer which satisfies the criteria.

For a lot of factoid question there is indeed an objective, ultimate answer. E.g. it is objectively known that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth.

Finding the best answer requires evaluating the many answers which have been posted

We don't always need the 'best' answer. Sometimes there are 2 or more answers that are equally good.

This necessarily generates a lot of answers. In this case the question was very quickly protected and people with additional relevant answers, resorted to posting them in comments.

That's a consequence of the question being added to StackExchange's hot network questions list. The community has enough tools to handle this sudden flow of traffic gracefully, including the option to protect the question if it gets too many answers in a short period of time.

Those comments were then moved to chat.

Comments are second-class citizens on StackExchange and are generally supposed to serve for clarifying the question or other relevant discussions. They are not meant to be permanent and can be removed from the site at any time. On the other hand chat rooms can be used for endless discussions, for as long as the users please :-)

Protecting a question is a useful tool to stem the tide of cruft when quality answers already exist, but in this case the question remains effectively un-answered.

Protecting a question merely serves to prevent low-rep users from answering it. It does not prevent any of the thousands of Travel.SE users with at least 10 rep from answering it. And while I'm personally supportive of unregistered/low-rep users participating on our site, I don't believe that a factoid question with 17 answers requires any additional input from new users.

I see two possibilities - the first that this question is just generating noise, is a poor question, and should simply be deleted.

Questions are only deleted from StackExchange if they contain spam or otherwise break one of the core rules of StackExchange. "Bad" questions are instead closed by a community vote. In this particular scenario the question was first closed and then reopened via the review queue, so the community has decided that it should stay open.

So which is it? Unprotect and let it continue to develop, or throw it into the dustbin?

Neither. Protect it given the large number of existing answers and let Travel.SE users with 10+ rep provide additional input if a better answer is found. Update: I've unprotected this exact question given the request, but generally the current policy is to lock questions which get too many answers.

  • So we agree the question is good and should not be deleted. I don't see a reasonable defense for protecting the question here, though, particulaly in the face of it being demonstrably counterproductive (ie: protection did stop new answers, but it stopped good answers that emerged, consequently, in comments which were then destroyed - I see no evidence of bad answers or protection having stopped bad answers, HNQ effects or otherwise). I'm not convinced that this is in the interest of generating quality content. – J... May 3 at 20:52
  • @J... this essentially boils down to what questions should be protected. I know I've already asked this once, but I advise you to open a separate question on Meta dedicated to the criteria for protecting a question. I am open to changing the policy, if the community deems it required. – JonathanReez May 3 at 21:30
  • You advised a question on meta, not specifically about criteria for protecting a question. I think the criteria are fine - to stop floods of spam, "me too", repeat/duplicate, or low quality non-answers. I didn't see any of that here. I just saw a lot of answers, all reasonable and on topic. I don't recall "too many answers" in and of itself as a reason for protecting a question. – J... May 3 at 21:42
  • @J... I have unprotected that exact question, as you present a convincing argument. But I still encourage you to open a separate question about what criteria should be used for protecting one, so that we can come up with a clear policy. – JonathanReez May 3 at 23:03
  • Thanks. To be honest, in this instance I probably wouldn't have even cared if it was protected if network rep or association bonus counted. Another comment was left on the post just moments before you unprotected it by a user with a good answer who couldn't post due to rep. That's three people now, myself included, with 30k+ network rep and good answers to post, who couldn't. I can see being particularly defensive with an HNQ question, but maybe the discussion should be more whether association bonus or network rep could be considered when deciding who can answer protected questions. – J... May 4 at 0:29

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