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When you reach 10k rep, you get to see other users deleted answers. I just think it's dishonest as a system to call a feature "delete," but show that to totally random strangers in the backroom. Due to the nature of the rep, given enough time, all of the regular users would eventually reach 10k rep, no matter how insensitive or jerk they are.

There's usually a good reason why people hit "delete" to their own work. They regret writing something totally bullshit or maybe they spoke too much about their own work that they shouldn't have.

First of all, is there really a practical reason why 10k rep user should view self-deleted answers?
Does the benefit really outweigh the creepiness? (Imagine if total strangers could see your deleted messages in Gmail?)

What suggestions could we make to change it?
Borrowing from the email metaphor, I think it makes sense for users to "empty trash" so the items gets seriously deleted. Imho, however the deletion is implemented is not important. It could be a soft delete, SQL Delete, or physical destruction of metal plates as long as the user or the 10k rep user no longer sees the deleted item.

What are the workarounds, if we can't change the behavior?
The least we could do is stop calling it "delete" if it's actually not a "delete." Call it "hide from public" or "actually not delete" or something.

Related user voice:

Edit: Recovery of a deleted-but-good answer is a practical benefit for the community, but I see that as creepy dangerous feature. IMHO, each user should have the rights to take back his or her perfectly good answer, and that the protecting privacy outweighs the benefit or creepiness.

I understand that it's all possible to find things out from Google cache or wherever, but why promote this as default behavior? As 10k rep user, I see others deleted answers by default. @codinghorror wrote:

But like any version control system, deletions are illusory.

Anything and everything that's implemented by human is more or less illusory including phone system and the medical records. Should the government start tapping into phone lines and scanning for words? Remember, this is a question of should had we given the opportunity to design a system.

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"Due to the nature of the rep, given enough time, all of the regular users would eventually reach 10k rep". Now even though that is true, I hardly think that is a problem. Unless you are very active, helpfull and knowledgeable it takes you atleast a year to get to 10k. And during that time you'll have to hide the fact that you are a jerk, because else you would get flagged more then once and might have been banned already. So you're worried somebody wants to spent that amount of time just so he can say "HA! I can still see your stupid post you tried to hide"? I dont think that happens. –  Hugo Delsing Jun 3 at 7:56
    
I just crunched the numbers. Only 406 people were able to get to 10k within 200 days. Not realy easy to get, as expected. Fastest users to get to 10k –  Hugo Delsing Jun 3 at 9:59

7 Answers 7

This is nothing like email. You are posting info to a public forum, if anything it is more like NNTP. In that regard the 'CABAL' of the NTP admins could view everything including deletes. Anyone who captured the post pre delete sees it too (one very good reason the admins have to be able to see the deletes if they need to).

It's public, deal with it or don't post.

Does SO even restrict bots like the Wayback Machine?

Responding to more of your comments:

You have no rights except attribution. Again if this is a problem for you don't post here. Designing a system that allows very easy posting of content basically requires the people running it to look at what happened after the event. Since in SO case the 'admin like' status of 10K users is made very clear (asnd is basically necessary, the sort of paid for moderation required to do it only via 'official' people is prohibitive) if you have a problem with said status of those people you just shouldn't post anything you might not want deleting.

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So what exactly is the practical benefit of 10k rep users seeing the self-deleted post? Why allow user to delete anything in the first place, if it doesn't really work? –  Eugene Yokota Jun 28 '09 at 23:24
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the deletion is to remove clutter, in many cases the action is in good faith and is sensible. Admins (and 10K plus users are effectively a sort of admin by design) can see everything that happens so that, if bad faith, poorly done deletions occur they can be dealt with. What if someone writes abusive stuff then deletes it? how about threats then deletes it. The people doing the checks on this need to be able to see this. –  ShuggyCoUk Jun 29 '09 at 10:44
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I see two issues: (1) it is about giving the user control over his own content : just as he is able to permanently add and permanently edit posts, he should be able to permanently delete posts. (2) for those with 10K+ rep, the deleted posts are mostly clutter since they are usually: bad answers, duplicate answers, and answers that the original author doesn't want others to see anymore –  Edward Tanguay Jul 19 '10 at 22:35
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i'm sorry, but that's crap. by your logic, i should never open my mouth, or get out of bed, because i might do or say something i regret. c'mon. i wrote it, i should be able to delete it, for realz. someone else editing my posts wiki-style is one thing, but digging through my skeleton closet? leave me the hell alone ! –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 3:53
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@Mark: By your logic, the fact that you regret something you've done should compel others to forget it. That's not how it works, here or anywhere else, nor is there any possible way you can make it work that way. Everyone sticks their foot in their mouth sooner or later; you just admit that you're human and move on. –  Shog9 Oct 30 '10 at 4:08
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@Shog9: Unless you wrote something incredibly offensive, yes, people do forget it. But that's not the point, it's to prevent the wrong people from reading it.. and hopefully if you delete it quick enough, it won't get into the wrong hands. It's not a matter of admitting your wrong, it could mean losing your job. That's not something you apologize for and walk away from. –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 7:42
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@Edward That's thing though - users shouldn't have control over their own content. It's not their content. It's creative commons. Once you post it, it isn't yours, it's the community's. Why should you even be able to delete what isn't yours? –  corsiKa Mar 26 '13 at 19:58

I've used it in the past to recover correct, useful answers that were deleted. IMHO, that alone is a good enough reason to leave them around for a while. Who knows why people do this... but it does happen now and then.

I suppose they could probably be purged after a few months without any major risk.

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There's a badge for deleting a post with 3 up-votes. Perhaps the answer was deleted to get the badge? –  ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 22:35
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Why on earth is there a badge for that? –  Lawrence Dol Feb 3 '10 at 0:57
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@Software Monkey: presumably to encourage folks to delete stuff that is incorrect even when doing so costs them rep points. –  Shog9 Feb 3 '10 at 3:30
    
@Shog9: Oh... well I guess that makes sense. –  Lawrence Dol Feb 3 '10 at 6:17
    
then allow the poster to see his own deleted posts but no one else. this doesn't answer the question at all –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 3:51
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@Mark: that's how the system already works, for everyone, until they reach 10K rep points. Your comment fails to indicate comprehension of my answer - I was referring to answers deleted by other people. Obviously I have many ways of retrieving what I've written myself, starting with my own memory... –  Shog9 Oct 30 '10 at 4:04

All content is licensed under CC-Wiki. That essentially means that in the moment you hit "Submit", you are given your consent to publish your content under this license.

StackOverflow is simply giving 10k users access to the information that you agreed SO may "copy, distribute and transmit".

I don't think this is unethical as you agreed already. However, of course an honest mistake can happen, or you might not be aware at the time of writing that you're just publishing your companies trade secrets. In that case, you can always contact the StackOverflow team (link at the bottom) and have them permanently delete the question/answer. I'm not aware of any cases where they did not help the user who made the mistake.

But just keep one thing in mind: The Internet never forgets. Once you post something, the Search crawlers will be all over it, caching it, preserving it for eternity. The StackOverflow team can delete THEIR version of your post and they may ask Google to delete the cached one, and maybe even get Archive.org to delete theirs, but they will certainly not be able to contact each and every person that run a local cache. And certainly not every person who downloaded the monthly data dump.

(And yes, I am aware of the "What do project managers do all day?" event. But that was a year ago and they learned from that)

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Under this license are you not permitted the ability to remove content you provided? –  Mike B Dec 16 '09 at 13:09
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How to deal with human error? I might have accidentally posted something that I can't put under cc-wiki. While there is no Internet.Undo, a proper delete may reduce the fallout. –  peterchen Dec 16 '09 at 16:05
    
Tricky Question. The license says "The author's moral rights" and also "Rights other persons may have" may not be infringed , but again: How would you bring the genie back in the bottle? So if I already downloaded your Posting (as an external user) and you decide to retract the license - wouldn't you have to somehow inform me? What if it's already remixed? As said, contact the team if you want something deleted from SO, but remember there is no way to remove it from the Internet. –  Michael Stum Dec 16 '09 at 20:32
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I've accidentally posted something I shouldn't have before... but I don't really care if one or two people downloaded my code, I care if it's easy for certain people to stumble upon... –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 3:58

I see cases where people delete whole questions they really shouldn't. Questions with good answers. I've seen this where the OP is simply criticisized, often justifiably.

Allowing certain users to see these posts is useful combined with the ability to undelete such posts.

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what if the OP is being down-voted ruthlessly? should he continue to be criticized and down-voted just so that the good answers don't get washed away too? –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 4:04

Interesting; indeed, I don't recall of many occasions when I wanted to actively do this as a regular user.

As a moderator, there are occasions when this is necessary to review prior activity - but this is rare; all I'm saying here is that even if they removed the 10k+ ability, I'd still quite like (i.e. need) to review deleted items - but I have different reasons...

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But our hiring system consists of reviewing deleted answers of all candidates to get embarrasing stuff to ask at interviews :)

Anyways I feel the soft delete is odd, but I CAN remember more useful cases than bad cases

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..such as? specifically why 10k-ers need to see other people's stuff? –  Mark Oct 30 '10 at 3:54
    
@Mark 10k-ers are moderators of the site, by design. Moderators should be able to see deleted posts. And despite the site going on its fifth year, there's less than 4,000 users with 10k rep. It's not like everyone and their cousin is browsing deleted content. –  corsiKa Mar 26 '13 at 20:01

I'm not sure how many answers are actually un-deleted - it seems of much greater benefit to restore deleted questions - since it cascade-deletes other peoples answers (which they may have worked hard on)

Perhaps one solution could be - when an answer is deleted, the edit-history is destroyed, and only the current revision is kept.

This would allow someone, if they really want, to make something go away by editing the post to say "Opps", then deleting.. It wouldn't be an advertised feature, just an potentially useful side-effect. For the most part, people would just click delete and it can be viewed and restored if needs-be..

That said, when you post anything on the internet, it's pretty much there to stay - what if Google cached the embarrassing answer? What if the data-dump (an impossible to destroy torrent) was performed while the post was visible?

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I think only moderators and the original poster can undelete answers, as of a few weeks ago. –  mmyers Jun 29 '09 at 14:58
    
Right now, 10k users can vote to undelete a question, which requires 5(?) votes. Moderators can instantly undelete naturally. Not sure if the original poster can do so. –  Michael Stum Dec 16 '09 at 7:39
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The original poster can instantly undelete - in exactly the same way they can instantly delete. –  ChrisF Dec 16 '09 at 11:24

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