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I got a rep boost today when someone on Reddit linked to an answer I made 4 years ago.

Now that answer was a bit flippant and if I made it today it would definitely be a comment, but after seeing the Reddit thread a Stack Overflow moderator decided that, as a comedy answer it should be deleted.

I don't have a problem with this, it's a community site so this kind of cleanup is expected, if a bit unusual after 4 years. However now the Reddit thread is now also useless as it takes 10k reputation (I think) to see deleted answers.

My suggestion (inspired by one Reddit comment) is that deleted content should be visible to anyone (albeit still identified as deleted) if it is directly linked to, i.e. a link with the specific answer ID provided. My feeling is that because only one such answer can be linked to, the deleted answer should appear in its normal place (as if it was your answer) but I would also agree with arguments that it should be sorted to the bottom (as mods see deleted answers)

As I mentioned in a comment below, I do feel that this feature request ties in with Jeff Atwood's vision of there being a fight against pernicious and pervasive link rot all over the Internet

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I see your point, but this has been rejected with somewhat strong arguments: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/136267/138112 –  Pëkka Jul 5 '12 at 16:39
Anyone have a screencap? @Discount? –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 16:44
@Man i.stack.imgur.com/5MiwP.png –  Pëkka Jul 5 '12 at 16:45
:/ sorry about that. If the whole question was jokey, I would have gladly left it ('08 question, after all). But the question was serious, and had a serious answer. I couldn't really leave your fake answer undeleted. –  Won't Jul 5 '12 at 16:45
@Won't How about this little guy as well? For consistency (and great justice) =) –  jadarnel27 Jul 5 '12 at 16:47
@jadarnel27: Wasn't flagged, so I didn't notice it. Its gone now too. –  Won't Jul 5 '12 at 16:47
@Won't - absolutely no need to apologise! –  Gareth Jul 5 '12 at 17:08
I agree that deleted content should be more easily accessible, but I have one concern: would we need to implement Oversight in similar fashion to Wikipedia, for similar reasons? (note how Discount's linked discussion also mentions Oversight) –  Dan Burton Jul 5 '12 at 20:58
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2 Answers

Well, usually deleted answers shouldn't be linked to in the first place. In case it becomes famoush-ish, I would recommend you request it be undeleted and locked. There are two concerns about such comedy material:

  • It can skew the system by getting boatloads of upvotes (especially if it gets popular on reddit)
  • It sets a bad example

Point 1 is a non issue if locked. Point 2 is still an issue, but the orange "this post is locked" may make it not as serious. I don't know.

Of course, if it has enough upvotes, it will stay at the top of the answer list. Can't help that :\

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In this case the "linking to" happened before the deletion. I don't have a problem with it being deleted, the reputation isn't an issue and it shouldn't be visible to anyone who just comes across the question. However, as an answer it was deemed notable enough for someone to reference, and that reference is now broken. –  Gareth Jul 5 '12 at 16:57
Aside: Jeff Atwood himself is a big proponent of the fight against pernicious and pervasive linkrot all over the Internet –  Gareth Jul 5 '12 at 16:58
@Gareth I know, I'm just saying that the votes do skew its position in the list. Post a screencap on the reddit post, simple. Yes, I know about the linkrot stuff--but, just like "don't answer a question if its close worthy", "don't link to something delete worthy" –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 17:08
"the votes do skew its position in the list" - hence my feature request, that the answer should only be visible if it is specifically the target of the link. Someone linking to a website will do it because they think it's noteworthy, not because they have an opinion on how future-proof it is. Otherwise nothing would ever get linked to anywhere because nothing is future-proof! –  Gareth Jul 5 '12 at 17:21
Hmm, yeah-- for now, ask for a lock, we'll see if this goes anywhere... –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 17:24
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I also seriously dislike permanently deleting things. Rewriting history is just doubleplus unright.

For instance, this answer (with around 70-80 points as far as I remember) was my highest scored answer, and was one that I was very satisfied with. I included and linked to that answer on my careers.stackoverflow.com profile.

But sometime after I last edited that page, a moderator deleted the question it was attached to and thus link-rotted my resume. I am very pissed off by that (I am no longer looking for a new job, so it is not a critical thing. But I consider it extremely rude to permanently delete my answers like that).

Rewriting history is wrong. Please don't do it.

My suggestion to handle this: Set up a read-only deleted.stackoverflow.com.

  • For deleted questions, move the whole question there. Add a "This question was deleted by xx at xx for xx reason" header. Linking to the question or any corresponding answers at stackoverflow.com redirects to deleted.stackoverflow.com unconditionally.
  • For deleted answers on un-deleted questions, move the answer to deleted.stackoverflow.com and add a "This answer was to {this question}{question-link} but was deleted by xx at xx for xx reason" header. Make links to stackoverflow.com redirect unconditionally to deleted.stackoverflow.com.
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