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Currently, everyone can delete their own question

  • Which has zero answers
  • Which has only one answer, and that answer has received no upvote

I ask for a modification of the second clause to prevent the OP from deleting an answered question for 24 hours after the last (not yet deleted) answer was posted.

It happened to me, and to others as well, that a relevant question of reasonable quality was asked, some time consuming research went into creating an answer, and as soon as that answer was posted, the OP deleted the question and thus also the answer.

This behavior is hard to provide feedback on, or to moderate for multiple reasons.

  • The community loses content (the question and the answer) without having a realistic time zone independent chance to notice or vote on it.
  • The author of the answer immediately loses access to his work
  • There is no natural way to contact the OP without spamming unrelated questions.
  • There is no way to flag the behavior as deleted questions are not flaggable by ordinary mortals
  • The current UI does not discourage this behavior in any way, so it may not even be intentional.

I believe that even a relatively short protection period is sufficient to ensure an upvote on any high quality answer; but, more importantly, habitual or intentional answer snatching will become less practical; and honest question posters will better understand the public purpose of the site.

(While this does make it a little harder to delete an own question after the OP genuinely changed their mind, there is a plenty of better ways of stopping to make a fool of oneself: improving one's question through edits, self-answering it, asking the answer owner for cooperation on deletion, waiting a day before deletion, or flagging the question for closure.)

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I have not experienced this "answer snatching" you speak of. In my experience, this kind of behavior occurs when the OP realized a silly mistake he has made. –  Lix Jun 11 '12 at 17:37
    
Sounds good to me, though maybe I'd prefer answers with negative scores to be excluded. But then that would imply: with negative score from votes not cast by the question asker, making things just more complicated. –  Arjan Jun 11 '12 at 17:43
    
@Lix, the deletion rules were changed to handle systematic self-deleting. But even with those rules, there's a few reports. But also: a recent one that was simply flagged for deletion by the OP, as self-deletion was not possible... –  Arjan Jun 11 '12 at 17:56
    
While I'm strongly in favor of being able to easily see your deleted content regardless of rep, its more important that users be able to get rid of bad content, even if it allows for moderate abuse. Remember deleting posts can result in a question ban so it can't be used to continually abuse the community. –  Some Helpful Commenter Jun 11 '12 at 21:38
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I not only posted an answer, but did at least two additional substantial iterations of the answer as the user added additional constraints (as the question evolved from "how do I draw semi-circles" to "how do I do that in drawRect" to "how do I do that with CoreGraphics"). You've been bitten by a help vampire. Some of them do delete their questions when they're satisfied. Use garlic and stop providing assistance after the first iteration. –  Frédéric Hamidi Nov 17 '13 at 23:38
    
(For your reference: help vampire and help vampire) –  Emrakul Nov 17 '13 at 23:46
    
@FrédéricHamidi lol. But isn't the way to kill vampires with the light of day? Why let the vampire delete their questions that let them hide in the inky shadows? (ok, I've taken the metaphor too far.) My question is less about this vampire, than our ability to let good answers be deleted if they do it quickly. –  Robert Ryan Nov 17 '13 at 23:52
    
If one answer has at least 1 upvote, the question can no longer be deleted. It's unfortunate that this didn't apply in this case (and the queston is on its way to undeletion) –  Pëkka Nov 17 '13 at 23:58
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+1 –  Mac Nov 17 '13 at 23:58
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And it's back... –  Jon Clements Nov 18 '13 at 0:02
    
@Mac I was surprised when I didn't find that when I searched before posting, but I appreciate your reference to that link! Good to know this already has a little inertia behind it. –  Robert Ryan Nov 18 '13 at 0:19

2 Answers 2

Analysis

The problem here is that not everyone has the super-cow powers to see deleted posts. As a result, I recommend that you don't trust SO as the sole repository of your posts.

My Personal Solution

I edit all responses in Tomboy, and paste them into SO when I'm ready. That means I often lose out to "fastest gun in the west" responders, but it also means that I ultimately don't have to care what SO does with the data I post because I always have my own copy.

Answer Your Own Questions

If someone deletes a question to which you have a truly unique answer, there's nothing stopping you from asking (and answering) your own question. Just make sure that both the question and answer aren't duplicated elsewhere, or your posts will probably be flagged and/or deleted.

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I think asking your own question to re-post the answer after it was deleted is a great idea, but I don't believe the OP has their post, and a lot of people type their answers directly in the site. –  animuson Jun 11 '12 at 18:00
    
So you you save the question too, or would you just try to re-write the question based on the answer. (I don't know about you, but I suck at Jepordy.) –  Servy Jun 11 '12 at 18:16
    
Maybe it would be useful to allow user's access to answers they have posted on deleted content? It might be complicated to do, relatively, but this shows a good use case. –  Lattyware Jun 12 '12 at 0:13

If a question is truly valuable, there is a very limited window where it can be deleted. The current system is designed to allow for rubber duck instances, where the exercise of writing the question alone leads you to an epiphany that obviates the question. Some examples would be:

  • Duh, I missed a (brace, semicolon, chance to have my morning coffee)
  • I am totally solving the wrong problem here
  • Wait, this code actually works, the problem has to be somewhere else

... or other scenarios where someone would like to avoid wasting other people's time needlessly. And that's what it boils down to, wasting other people's time. If it was an honest mistake, and there's really no value in keeping the question and possibly one answer around, then we chalk it up to things happen from time to time.

We also strongly encourage self-answers in lieu of closing or deleting if there's even a chance that the post could be beneficial to someone in the future. Many users opt for this, even in oh, duh! instances.

On the flip side of this, we will not tolerate someone asking a perfectly valid question, getting a great answer, then trying to remove all traces of it. It's understandable that some folks work under rather draconian policies either at work or school, but it's up to them to work around those suitably. Should this happen to you again, here is what you do:

  • Flag it for moderator attention, select 'other' and let them know what happened
  • Moderators will contact the community team and request that we disassociate the post from the original author's account
  • The community team will do this, and restore the post, and possibly have a private chat with the question author if the moderators haven't.

We don't put up with toxic behavior anywhere, and this is no different.

I think that the real answer to this is making the disassociation of content a more self-service sort of feature, but there are numerous obstacles in front of making that a reality.

Tightening up deletions as proposed solves the narrower / rarer 'hit and run' problem, but could lead to a bit more wasted time in the benign cases where there really wasn't a problem to begin with, or it's nowhere in the scope of the original question.

I'm not declining this because I want to chew on it a bit more, but I think the key here is making it much easier for users to get their name off of certain contributions in a hurry, which seems to be the impetus for the rapid deletion. That just gets a little complicated.

The goal of course being minimizing wasted time as a whole.

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I get it. But I still can't help getting caught up in the weird cognitive dissonance of "you cannot delete a question for which there is an up-voted answer, but its ok if you do it so quickly that no one has a chance to vote." And the proposed remedy process suffers a bit of a cognitive dissonance of its own, whereby "if a question is deleted there is a process for remedying this, but we won't tell you it was deleted and we'll make it almost impossible for you to find the deleted question later." Don't get me wrong, I hear you, but it seems internally inconsistent. –  Robert Ryan Nov 18 '13 at 4:58
    
It seems quite logical to provide "delete" button that says "there is answer, so you have to wait 24 hours." Or perhaps in the first 24 hours, users cannot delete outright, but can only "vote" to delete their own question if there are any answers and add their reason to delete in the comments (so future reviewers have basis for affirming or rejecting delete vote). –  Robert Ryan Nov 18 '13 at 4:58
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I appreciate a new answer to an old open question. As it stands now, your advice to "flag it" isn't an action I am allowed to take. I can't even see it anymore! There are many alternative approaches to fix this problem, like cutting a small and natural hole into the 10K restrictions. (As a minimum: give everyone notification, profile listing, read only access for 30 days, and the ability to flag, as long as they are a co-author of the deleted thread - meaning, they answered or edited (etc.) a question before it was deleted. The same privilege already exists for the question owner.) –  Jirka Hanika Nov 18 '13 at 13:14

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