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First of all, I agree with Users should not be able to undelete answers deleted by a moderator. However, when you leave the edit link and the undelete link in place, it encourages the author to edit and try harder.

I spent more than an hour editing my answer to How can you change the GNU screen status line based on hostname? only to find that clicking the undelete link only displays a message stating it can't be undeleted because is a moderator.

I don't find the time to come on here very often anymore because I maintain a lot of code on github and spend a lot of time in freenode channels. It's very discouraging to have an evening of "me time" wasted due to a UX failure.

UPDATE: I took @Cody Gray's advice and "flagged" it with a positive message and got my answer undeleted within minutes. To me that seems counterintuitive. Like using git blame to find who to thank for adding a great line of code. (That's why they created the alias git praise.)

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I don't know how to alert @michael-mrozek that he is mentioned in this question. Maybe a comment will do it? – Bruno Bronosky Aug 10 '11 at 6:21
If you want to discuss that specific post, then the Unix Meta site is probably a more appropriate place. If you want to ask about that feature/bug, then you're in the right place here. – Joachim Sauer Aug 10 '11 at 6:29
In an unrelated note: couldn't you just post your recently edited answer as a new answer? – Joachim Sauer Aug 10 '11 at 6:29
that question has a lot of deleted answers, FYI, so something is up with it; this is not specific to your answer FWIW – Jeff Atwood Aug 10 '11 at 6:54
The worst feature Stack Overflow implemented was the recent change that you can't undelete a post that a moderator deletes. It means that the community really doesn't guide anything, whereas before you could edit that post and then undelete it. You could also do it on another's post, and three votes would undelete it. – Lance Roberts Aug 10 '11 at 7:14
My reason for not wanting to post it as a new answer is [a] I find it disrespectful to the moderator to repost it [b] my answer has more up votes than the accepted answer and I'd hate to lose them. It did cross my mind though. I just don't want to make a unilateral decision. I'm a community-guy. – Bruno Bronosky Aug 11 '11 at 5:11
Hmm, regarding your edit, I see where you're coming from, but I disagree. The word "flag" shouldn't have an inherently bad connotation. You can raise flags or get people's attention for all sorts of things, good or bad. Moderators aren't just to handle bad things. I guess it's kind of a symptom of operant conditioning and the way flags are used on other sites that we tend to associate them with something negative. – Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 11:21
True on all points. I flag my email with many meanings. I flag files on my Mac with different colors. I flag tickets in our ticketing system at work. All for positive meanings. But, in the belligerent cesspool that is the internet every time I flag a piece of UGC, it is for negative reasons. – Bruno Bronosky Aug 12 '11 at 4:07
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You say that you agree regular users shouldn't be able to vote to undelete posts that have been deleted by a moderator. That's good, because agreeing on that makes things much simpler.

Your quibble is that users shouldn't be allowed to edit something if it can never be undeleted. But that's not entirely true. It can still be undeleted by a moderator, you just need a way of getting that moderator's attention.

We've implemented that feature in terms of flags. To flag a post for moderator attention, click the flag link at the bottom, next to the edit link. In this case, you'll need to select the Other option to explain what has happened and what you'd like the moderator to do. For example:

I've made substantial improvements to this answer, and I think it should now be undeleted.

If your edits were sufficient, any of the moderators can process the flag and undelete the post. This prevents abuse because it limits the decision to undelete only to other moderators, but it still gives you a way out. Flags are an important check on the system in many different places. This is an ideal case to make use of your moderator flags.

As far as the UX, I'm not sure how to improve it. We don't want to make the "undelete" link active for regular users, and we don't necessarily want the "undelete" link to automatically flag for moderator attention, either. Users need to have a good reason for wanting the post undeleted, and need to be able to explain why the post is now useful when it was not previously. That kind of information can't simply be assumed or auto-filled. Not to mention this feature is probably somewhat undiscoverable for a reason. Most of the time, answers that are so bad they need to be deleted outright aren't going to be improved by a few trivial edits.

It makes sense to me that if something was deleted by a moderator (and you get an error message telling you that you can't therefore undelete it yourself), you would need to get a moderator to come back and undelete it. And the consistent way of doing that across the site is using your flags. So I'm not sure that this behavior is completely unintuitive, but if you have another suggestion, it might be worth posting.

share|improve this answer
Maybe mentioning the ability to flag the answer in the "Thou shall not undelete!"-message would be an idea? While flags are an important part of an SE site, not everyone will know about them (or know that they can be used for other things than "this is spam"). – Joachim Sauer Aug 10 '11 at 6:31
@Joachim: Maybe, but I find it awful hard to believe that people who find the "edit" and "undelete" links (and even try to make proper use of them) would be unable to find and use the "flag" link. – Cody Gray Aug 10 '11 at 6:37
Cody, except that that is apparently exactly what happened to @Joachim – Benjol Aug 10 '11 at 7:46
It didn't happen to me, but I guess it can easily happen. – Joachim Sauer Aug 10 '11 at 8:26
@Cody Gray, that (what you find hard to believe) is exactly what happened to the OP. I've never used "flag" before. I had no idea that clicking it would give be options and that I could leave a positive flag. Flagging generally has a negative connotation. I flagged it after seeing this though. Thanks. – Bruno Bronosky Aug 11 '11 at 5:00
Also, I agree that the OP shouldn't be able to undelete a post deleted by a moderator. I do think that you should be able to vote to undelete. But, I guess that is what I did by flagging. I think @Joachim Sauer's suggestion is spot-on. – Bruno Bronosky Aug 11 '11 at 5:04

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