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This is different from the request for "someone else is answering" I've seen mentioned and rejected before: Indication if somebody has started to write an answer

This is something that happened to me twice, and it's fairly irritating. I start answering a question, but by the time I hit "Post your answer" the question's gone, the OP deleted it. On both occasions it was about perfectly reasonable questions. One was re-worded and re-posted 5 minutes later, the other one was deleted because someone suggested the question might be off-topic. It wasn't off-topic.

I have no idea how often this is happening, but I'd guess the "fix" might be within reach. Some sort of Ajax interaction is happening while the answer editor is being used, because we do get a "Question deleted" banner. Maybe the same mechanism can be used to let the OP know the question he's about to delete is being actively answered. Obviously the OP should still have the power to delete the question, regardless of the "actively being answered" flag, but give them the power to decide.

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It sucks when you spend a few minutes writing something up only to have it fall on deaf ears. But you know what? That's life. Back away and simply move on to the next opportunity to assist. –  Anthony Pegram Nov 30 '11 at 14:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 26 down vote accepted

This sounds very sensible. It happens rarely, but can be really annoying if it does - especially when the question is advanced, and you've started researching and thinking about the answer.

It would have to be a mere reminder, though, and not block the deletion. The OP needs to be able to delete the question if they want.

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I'd be curious how often it actually happens. It already happened to me twice, and I'm sure others are spending a lot more time on the site then I am. –  Cosmin Prund Nov 30 '11 at 11:32
    
@Cosmin it's rare: I can remember maybe 5 instances when I "lost" a really good answer to a deletion. –  Pëkka Nov 30 '11 at 11:33
    
@Pekka: Those 5 times have happened to me in the last month alone. But maybe that's just because I'm active in a wide range of tags... –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Nov 30 '11 at 16:22

I'd say this is an edge case, and despite being warned that there is a potential answer coming down the pipe, they'll still go ahead and delete it anyway.

There are pretty good reasons why an OP asks a question and then deletes it immediately. This is probably because the process of writing out a question has helped them structure their thoughts and then bingo a light comes on and voila problem already solved, or they realised that the question being asked is not the real problem to be solved (the X-Y problem). Or they read the FAQ and realised their question wasn't suitable.

If you're going to be committing to writing a longish and detailed answer immediately after the OP has asked their question then you're possibly becoming sucked into doing a FGITW.

Why not back off and let the question settle for 5-10 minutes. This is the window where it is probably most likely that the OP is going to delete his/her post or maybe make a substantial change to the question thus changing the context radically.

Also, don't forget that the OP could just as easily delete the question AND your answer if yours is the only answer and there are no upvotes. So it pays to be patient and wait and see for a few minutes.

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"writing out a question has helped them structure their thoughts and then bingo a light comes on and voila problem already solved". I think the preferred action in that case is to post the answer yourself for others that will have the same problem. –  Aberrant Nov 30 '11 at 14:42
    
My two events weren't in the 0-10 min window (not that I mind being FGITW). The first one happened after I personally had a conversation with the "OP" in comments. I was answering the question after I figured out what the OP needed. The second time was, again, triggered by some else's comment. Based on my personal experience I don't think this is an edge case, but might well be too rare to care. –  Cosmin Prund Nov 30 '11 at 15:05

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