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According to the deleted answer FAQ, if you delete your own answer, and that answer was upvoted, you lose the rep you gained from that answer.

However, you don't gain the rep you lost from a downvote.

My question is, is that a good thing? As you've probably already guess, this happened to me today! I posted an answer which had a logic error. Someone downvoted it, left a comment about why, and I said "oh snap! They're right!" and deleted my answer.

So now I have this quandary. I made an honest mistake, and someone told me about it, and, and, I deleted my answer like a decent person!

So the question is: on the one hand, one could post a wrong answer (or an answer which demonstrates a user is untrustworthy), the user could catch their mistake, delete it, but still be stuck with the penalty. In this light, it seems kind of unfair, the user should get their rep back.

On the other hand, giving the rep back would really get diminish an incentive not to post bad answers.

On the flipside, if a post that people liked was deleted, why should that user be penalized (in a sense) by having that reputation lost - since prior to deletion, their post had earned the trust of another user?

So my question is: is it worth reconsidering the way reputation is handled when deleting questions? I kinda want to say (because of my traumatizing experience today) that it might be worth trying giving reputation back to deleted answers - if we feel that answers are usually deleted because the poster wanted to clarify a mistake. Is this a bad idea?

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6 Answers 6

As I understand it, the next time reputation is recalculated it's as if the deleted item never existed. So you would get back rep lost due to a downvote.

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Seems like a bit of a bummer to sit and have to wait for a rep recalc to get back the rep (or to have to ask for one). –  TheTXI Jul 6 '09 at 5:04
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This is the correct statement of how the system works - you can in fact regain your lost reputation. Note that now users can initiate their own reputation recalcs via the /reputation audit page, so it's even easier to gain back the losses from a bad answer that you've deleted. –  Grace Note Jan 25 '11 at 14:30

I agree that it's not ideal to permanently punish your logic error. Could you instead have fixed the error? You'd probably get at least one upvote which would more than counter a downvote.

I don't think it's a good idea to give back rep lost that way, for exactly the reason you give:

giving the rep back would really get diminish an incentive not to post bad answers

I don't see how it would be possible to implement without that negative side-effect.

Also, regarding this:

On the flipside, if a post that people liked was deleted, why should that user be penalized (in a sense) by having that reputation lost - since prior to deletion, their post had earned the trust of another user?

Deleting good posts should certainly be discouraged! If it's not deleted, even more people can benefit from it.

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I do not agree that deleting a question should regain the negative votes. I also believe that deleting a question should delete the rep gained from it as well. This is why:

When you delete an answer, you are making a conscious decision that the answer is not worth it's current place in StackOverflow. To me this counts as a forfeiture of your reputation in both losing the upvotes and keeping the downvotes.

Even if the answer you are deleting happens to be a mistake, I believe you should live with the consequences that mistake brought. Either keep it there and let it get downvoted, or delete it and live with the minor repercussions early on.

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If reputation wouldn't hurt by simply deleting the answer, what's stopping the trolls from typing asdfasdfasdf or insulting someone and deleting it?

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Note that you get a badge ("Peer Pressure") for deleting a downvoted answer, which may be some consolation.

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Equally, you should get Disciplined for deleting an up answer, but this isn't working afaics. –  bananakata Jul 6 '09 at 11:34

I would go for the middle ground. If you delete a bad answer your loss is only -1 instead of -2.

You get some encouragement in deleting a bad answer but you still made it so you still get some penalty.

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