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You often have the scenario where you post an answer and you realize it's not good, other people have already posted the answer (which you find out when you post) in which case your answer is just noise or someone comes after you and posts a better answer.

Also, technically you can "abuse" the delete process if you're above 10k+ rep. You just post 15 characters, delete it, edit it and then undelete it. This way you won't get downvoted for having a placeholder answer but can still get in first (timestamp wise).

IMHO deleting something within the first 20 minutes (or pick some other arbitrary time frame) after you post it should simply permanently delete it. Less noise that way.

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I agree with this wholeheartedly, but only because my brain regularly melts and I answer a question poorly and want to hide my embarrassing answer from the 10k+ users ;-) –  Andy E Apr 26 '10 at 17:10
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It's only noisy for 10K+.. others will never see it. –  staticx Sep 7 '11 at 16:35
    
Late to the party, but support for this in any window of time. –  janaspage Jul 19 at 17:47

4 Answers 4

Too many possibilities for abuse on questions, particularly given the history of many low-quality askers who exploit this exact behavior (ask, delete, re-ask) to game the system. In fact, we had to incorporate specific logic for this later.

If you need a question fully deleted, simply flag it for moderator attention with a brief rationale. These kinds of "oops, my bad, can this whole question be deleted?" flag requests are simple and easy to satisfy at least from this moderator's perspective.

As for answers (apologies for the above digression, but you can see why deletion has some odd consequences), there is no concept of hard deletion of answers. It simply doesn't exist, and never has. Even a "permanently" deleted answer would be visible to all other 10k rep users. The only workaround I can think of is to edit the body of the now-deleted answer to say something like "oops, I don't know what I was thinking here, my apologies" so that other 10k'ers know it was just an accident.

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As an aside: specific revisions of both questions and answers can be permanently deleted by developers, right? (Like when accidentally including login credentials in there.) –  Arjan Dec 29 '11 at 10:08
    
I'm not at 10k rep, but would the overwritten, deleted material still be visible in a history? –  janaspage Jul 19 at 17:49

You don't even need 10k rep to "abuse" the system the way you describe - people can see their own deleted answers at any reputation. However, I disagree that this is an effective way to game the system - the reason for posting first is not so that you can get that first timestamp, but rather so that people that are coming to the new post can see your answer and vote it up if it's correct. If your answer is deleted, they won't see it and won't vote on it, and even if you undelete it later, you miss a lot of that initial traffic.

There are those that are concerned about others judging them by their deleted posts, usually when they failed to read or understand the question, and ended up posting an answer that makes no sense or one that the OP didn't ask for. I've even seen some users that go so far as to replace their post with a note for 10k+ users so there wouldn't be any confusion. Personally, I don't care what people say in deleted posts, but it might ease these users minds if they could permanently remove their answer within a certain window of time. I think 20 minutes is far too long - how about 5 minutes? This is the same time period in which users are allowed to make revisions that don't bump the answer or appear in the revision list, so it might make sense to allow them to permanently delete the answer within this time window as well, provided there were no comments or other revisions.

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I think as user bdonlan mentioned in his answer, permanently delete by default is a bad idea. But adding a "purge" button next to delete will be confusing and not intuitive. This is what I think should happen:

  • The user deletes his or her own post within 20 minutes
  • The user is shown the notification box that says "This post has been soft deleted but can still be seen by high reputation users. You can permanently delete it if you want."
  • In the question controls a new "permanently delete" control will be added, that shows up only for already deleted questions within 20 minutes of the posting time, and only to the OP. It should also be styled differently to attract attention:

alt text

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This answer would actually be a lot clearer if you rename your commands delete as hide and permanently delete as delete –  bobobobo Dec 23 '10 at 22:13
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@bobobobo But hide from who? Also, users might associate "hide" with the notion of being able to "unhide" as well. –  cdeszaq Sep 12 '11 at 15:38

If this is implemented, I think it would be best for it to be an option ('purge' or something) rather than the default - on occasion I've ended up answering the question, realizing I misread it, quickly deleting it to avoid confusion, then editing to something that does answer the question and undeleting it when done. Losing the answer completely the moment I hit delete would be somewhat surprising...

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Agree, but how much middle ground is there between editing your post without deleting it and deleting it completely and writing a new one? –  Kyle Cronin Aug 13 '09 at 1:52
    
Being able to reuse your old text if it's not completely off, that's how much :) –  bdonlan Aug 13 '09 at 2:02
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In my case, one recent example is stackoverflow.com/revisions/1266776/list - I had taken it to be a map of vectors, rather than a vector of maps. After deleting, I reconsidered, and decided that the basic approach was correct still, and so edited. As you can see, about half of the first paragraph was unchanged, including links. –  bdonlan Aug 13 '09 at 2:04
    
That sounds like a good argument for shortening the proposed "perma-delete" window to maybe only 5-10 minutes. –  cletus Aug 13 '09 at 4:16
    
I like the idea of a 'purge' button that appears after deletion. However, I'm not sure if this should be available on all posts at all times -- it's quite useful seeing deleted posts sometimes. I'd rather only give it to the OP within the first N minute window, and to diamond mods (but I'm afraid even then it will get abused to hide content from fair scrutiny). –  Ether Aug 29 '10 at 16:36

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