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Note: I am not implying or arguing that a user should ever be restricted from deleting their post - this question is about acceptable etiquette on the part of other users after a post has been deleted.

Occasionally, a user will delete a post after it has garnered some answers. As such, the post has become useful to some degree, in that research which may be helpful to other users has been done. In the case of a meta post, useful conversation may have occurred.

One such example is Should questions about sex and other adult activities be off-topic? (Sorry, it's deleted, so it requires enough rep to see it now.). The question generated 10 answers, and a lot of discussion over our policies regarding "adult material". The OP decided to delete their question and their account. But the subject of adult material has come up again from time-to-time. It would be useful to be able to refer back to the original conversation, but we can't since it's been deleted.

Another example is this recent story identification question.

The questions were asked, research was done, Sean Duggan's answer was incorrect, but the OP found the correct answer. Instead of writing up a new answer of his own, the OP left a quick comment and then deleted the whole question.

As Sean Duggan pointed out in chat, though, doing so removes useful knowledge from the public site. We have no idea why the OP deleted the question in this instance, and we don't really need to - it's their right to delete it if they choose to.

But technically anyone with enough rep can vote to undelete a post. When is it acceptable (or unacceptable) to do so? Undeleting posts is not something we see with any sort of frequency here - in fact, I can't think of a single time I've ever seen it done.

  • I undeleted that linked meta question. Looks like a rage quit to me, unless I'm missing something. – user1027 Mar 6 '15 at 16:03
  • @Keen -- It was absolutely a rage quit. I'm glad you restored that question. – Slytherincess Mar 6 '15 at 17:22
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All content submitted to this site is submitted under the Creative Commons BY-SA licence and a perpetual and irrevocable licence to Stack Exchange, and so in essence belongs to the whole site community. In principle this means that there may be occasions where a user's desire to delete their posts will not be accepted.

If a single post is deleted and it's not of great quality, then nothing really is lost. If it's of average quality it could be potentially reposted by another user. If an important post that was well received is deleted (or an average question with amazing answers), then probably the reasons have to do with something other than the post itself. After trying to deal with the real issues, it would be very appropriate to undelete such a post.

If a user deletes all their posts, that should be considered site vandalism. I know I have read this before, but I'm having a hard time finding an appropriate post on Meta.SE. The main question for this issue has very mixed answers, most of which say such a user's wishes should be respected :/

  • If a user no longer wants to be associated with a post, the license allows them to demand that their name is removed from it. That can be a useful alternative to deletion in some circumstances. – CodesInChaos Sep 18 '15 at 12:40
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First of all, I think we need to make a clear distinction here between posts that were deleted by the user, vs. posts that were deleted by someone else (e.g. a mod or the community). If a third-party deleted the post, then see no reason a third-party should hesitate to undelete it, if necessary.

But, when a user deletes their own post, I think, we are in a much different situation. While I admit that there are certainly some cases where undeleting a post would seem to be beneficial, I have a real hard time justifying an action that clearly goes against the user's wishes.

There are tons of reasons why someone might want to delete a question they posted, and for us (mod or community) to come in and undo that would require us to understand the thought process that user went through. Perhaps they thought the question would cause them problems if someone found it while browsing or searching. Perhaps they thought it was a terrible question and didn't want to be associated with it. Perhaps they decided that Stack Exchange is not their cup of tea and want to remove themselves entirely.

Whatever their reason, if a user wants to make one of their questions go away, I am very reluctant to countermand that choice for them.


On a side note, is there a way for questions to be converted to community wiki? If we had a way to "anonymize" a question before undeleting it, much of my argument against would vanish. I still think the bar should be very high: of the two linked questions in the OP, I would say the meta question would be worth it and the other not.

  • For the record, it's possible to anonymize a question by dissociating it from the posting account, but this can only be done by the SE team. Community wiki does not anonymize questions. (Intentionally so, since that was never the intended use of CW mode.) – David Z Mar 15 '15 at 10:14

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