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I'm a moderator on one of the beta sites, and we (the moderators) wind up deleting a large number of answers from new users who don't understand the platform.

Many of them treat answers as comment fields (since users with 1 reputation cannot use actual comments on other people's questions), or post what should really be new questions as answers to questions they feel are related.

Some answers also get deleted for simply not meeting basic quality standards.

For these deleted answers, we provide a standard comment to welcome the users, and provide a little bit of guidance for getting used to the site. One of the outcomes we'd like to encourage with this stock comment is for the new user to edit their answer to improve it.

I know some other sites, such as skeptics.se, frequently delete non-answers, and request improvements through edits.

However, if the new user does follow through, and makes the edit, it is extremely easy for a moderator to miss that, unless the user is savvy enough to flag it for moderator attention. We've experimented with asking users to flag for moderator follow-up once they provide additional information, but adding that additional step to the process may further discourage a new user (our subject matter attracts a larger group of non-technically savvy users than many of the other SE sites).

If there was some sort of automatic notification when a user made an edit to a deleted answer, so that moderators could check and see if the user improved it to the point where it met community standards, it would help us to encourage and retain these new users.

My first thought would be an automatic flag for moderator attention, but I could see how that might be a problem for graduated sites that already have a high volume of flags (ours are few and far between). Perhaps automatic flagging might be something that each site can opt in to or out of. Adding this to the review queue, or perhaps a notification in the inbox of the moderator who deleted the answer, are other possible methods that might work.

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At least for the larger sites, a queue seems best. On the smaller sites (like mine), I'd prefer a notification. –  American Luke Aug 1 '13 at 14:42
    
    
@BoltClock'saUnicorn We've experimented with telling users in a comment about flagging in a variety of contexts (from closing to deletions), and it rarely works, even when you spell out the steps, so I can see why that was declined. –  Beofett Aug 1 '13 at 16:56
    
Similar motivation to my question: meta.stackexchange.com/q/187538 –  Kevin Aug 1 '13 at 17:12
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would definitely not want an automatic flag for edited deleted answers. Sure, on a small site, the volume would be manageable, but on a larger site, that would be a nightmare. A solution that doesn't scale is highly suspicious.

A review queue wouldn't work well because only a select few users can see deleted answers. Some answers are deleted for good reason and should not be exposed even if their poster edits it.

There is a far easier solution to this problem, which is to stop encouraging the edition of deleted answers. Instead, encourage the users to post a new answer. That's a lot easier to understand — just use the “Add Another Answer” button and type your new material. No need to flag or to rely on yet another bit of magic technological complexity.

Encouraging reposting rather than edited has the added bonus that it does a better job of encouraging major improvements. If you browse the reopen queues, you'll see quite a few questions that have only been edited cosmetically. If an answer has been deleted, it's because it needs a major overhaul, often it needs to be completely written anew. When users care to repost, they tend to follow the advice they were given — when they edit, not always.

Of course, sometimes users will repost identical answers. But that already happens whatever advice you give — these users are the ones who are ignoring your advice in the first place. Advising to repost does not increase the rate of “abusive” reposts. It makes a positive difference in the good cases, and no difference in the bad cases.

As a moderator, when I delete a potentially-improvable answer (e.g. completely incomprehensible but possibly only because of language problems, or link-only, so completely missed the point as to be not even wrong, …), I leave a comment and encourage the user to post a new answer (in comprehensible English, summarizing the material from the link, addressing the point of the question, …). I've never had to regret this. It's a winning scenario all around: the user (often new to the site) doesn't need to learn any complex rules, the software doesn't need any special feature, the good content keeps coming in and the bad content stays out.

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This is what I was trying to say, only better. +1! –  WendiKidd Aug 1 '13 at 16:52
    
That does make a lot of sense. I'll propose that on our site's meta, for improvement to our current standard message. –  Beofett Aug 1 '13 at 16:52
    
Thing is, normal users can't undelete posts that were deleted by a moderator. So a queue wouldn't work unless that gets changed. –  Second Rikudo Aug 1 '13 at 16:54
    
@MadaraUchiha If we were to add a new queue, that would be just one more minor thing to tack onto it. But the point of my answer here is that the whole idea is pointless. –  Gilles Aug 1 '13 at 17:15
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I see what you're getting at, but allow me to play the devil's advocate:

Another way to look at this is that, if the answer could be edited to be improved, it shouldn't have been deleted in the first place. If this is a new user who isn't necessarily aware of our quality standards, and you think that with encouragement they could improve the answer, leave your welcome comment but rather than deleting, encourage them to edit to improve. If the answer is really so terrible that it needs to be deleted, then it seems to me we shouldn't be worrying about trying to get users to improve it after the fact.

Consider if this were a question instead: when we want the user to improve the question, we close it. We only delete when we are sure that the question cannot possibly be redeemed. Now of course we can't close answers. We can add Post Notices to them though, as well as comments. (Admittedly I don't have a lot of experience using Post Notices, but it seems like they could be a good middle ground between deletion and no action at all on answers.)

When we delete posts, we send the message "This is not the kind of content we want on our site. We do not think it is redeemable. We are removing it." It seems a bit counterintuitive to then want to monitor these posts in hopes they get better. IMHO, if you had hope it could get better, deletion shouldn't have been the response.

To recap, I don't think deletion is the proper response to a question you want to monitor post-deletion. If you delete something, that should be your last interaction with it; I don't see a logical reason to come back to it. I know undeletion is an option, but I see that more as a solution to "oops, I didn't mean to do that" situations, or if a decision is made that later others decide should not have been. I think that if someone deletes (or votes to delete) a post, since this is much more serious an action than closure, you should be sure that you aren't going to want anything more to do with the post after that. So I don't see that a tool to notify anyone after changes to deleted posts is useful (I think it's a counterintuitive user pattern). But I may be in the minority on this; who knows! We'll have to see what others think.

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I disagree that deleting posts from new users who made a mistake sends the message you feel it does. Instead, I feel it sends the message of "you didn't do what we expected, so you aren't welcome here", unless we provide guidance as to how to fix it. The whole idea of my suggestion is to avoid having to monitor those answers, and instead provide a way to catch it when someone new tries to fix their mistake. –  Beofett Aug 1 '13 at 16:47
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As for not deleting answers that don't meet the standards... we've tried that, and it doesn't work. Skeptics, I believe, has tried that, and it doesn't work. What winds up happening is the answer sits there, as a broken window, garnering downvotes and negative comments from the community, which further discourages the person from fixing it, assuming they come back at all. –  Beofett Aug 1 '13 at 16:48
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