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Just happened across this question, where the user edited his reasonably well-written question to say "Please delete please delete please delete" in the title and body.

By the time I'd got there the question already had 2 close votes, but it also had two answers giving potential solutions to the original question. I decided to roll back the edit so that the answerers could be voted for the solutions they provided, and I left a comment for the OP. He rolled back my roll back, then David Dorward rolled it back again. He then left a rather rude comment and rolled back again. This back-and-forth happened once more so I decided to flag for moderator attention instead (it's obviously pointless continuing to roll back).

I'm just wondering if I was right to roll back the question here. The answers were posted after the edit but by then the effort had already gone into writing them and it seems a bit unfair IMO. Maybe I should have flagged for moderator attention to begin with?

Edit: the question has now been deleted by Bill the Lizard, make sure you're 10k before following the link above. Revision history.

Related Stack Overflow Blog Entry
The Great Edit Wars

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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You should leave the question alone and flag for moderator attention. You should inform the user (via comment) something like this

@OP Please note that at StackOverflow, questions are usually left up even if they are no longer relevant to you. That way the answers can help anyone else who has the same problem you were experiencing, and it will allow us to make a stronger site for helping people.

Then a second comment.

IF you absolutely require that this be deleted, please click the "Flag" button at the bottom of the question text, and select "Requires Moderator Attention". In the box that appears explain your reasoning for requiring a deletion, and the moderator will lock and delete it for you. Please do not modify/vandalize a valid question.

IF you notice that the question has not yet passed the 'no-deletion' requirements, then you could inform them through a comment that they can delete their own question using the "delete" button. If not, you could explain why it is best to leave questions up (because of the hard work of others and such).

Try to be as accommodating as possible, especially with newer users because they do not fully understand the site, and so they do not know the proper protocols here. In this case, the user wanted the question deleted, and had it repeatedly rolled back against his will, this is bound to make anyone frustrated and angry, so it is not that surprising that they lashed out against you. It doesn't mean they were a jerk to begin with, this is a natural reaction that people have when they find themselves stifled with no explanation why.

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This is a good supplement to flagging. After all, the author will not know that you actually made the flag, so this kind of notice may at least stop the author from converting the question body to a non-question. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 12:11
    
@Grace Once I have explained why it should be left opened, I think it is appropriate to defer to the authors discretion. If they still insist on deleting it, I think it should be deleted. –  devinb Jun 24 '10 at 12:14
    
We've had this debate before, but in a condensed sense, I agree that once I've voiced my opinion on whether a question should remain, that's the end of it for my involvement. It's up to the author, and any official action if past the no-deletion-zone, to follow through. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 12:25
    
@Grace Oh yeah, we did, but you had a different name then. –  devinb Jun 24 '10 at 12:27
    
I had to change my name to something drastically different because I was missing a lot of comment replies that were supposed to be directed to me. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 12:29
    
@Grace: you mean like my comment on this answer, where I thought your name was ccornet? sorry about that, I usually have great eyesight but I must have been hung over that day ;-) –  Andy E Jun 24 '10 at 12:38
    
@devinb: thanks for a good answer. It looks like even Bill the Lizard was in two minds whether or not to delete the question, if you check the revisions. He re-opened it, made it community wiki and then 25 minutes later decided to delete it. –  Andy E Jun 24 '10 at 12:40
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@Andy That was back in early May, when my name was (incorrectly) ccornet due to some testing gone wrong shortly after registration. So when you used it then, it was correct. However, I changed my name back to the proper "ccomet", but there are a number of users who, being familiar with the original name, typed from memory instead of using my current display name. I can't blame anyone because I'm partly at fault for the original mistake, but I have to take measures so that I can get my messages properly. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 12:41
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@Grace: keming. (kěm'-ĭng). n. The result of improper kerning. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 24 '10 at 12:50
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@Andy, I'd like to think it's because I flagged and explained the situation. He made an excellent decision the first time based on the information at hand, and then he received more information and made a second decision based on it. –  devinb Jun 24 '10 at 13:09
    
@Bill You're excellent. –  devinb Jun 24 '10 at 13:09
    
@Grace, I'm not certain I've EVER recieved an "@devinb" comment. Could you test it out by commenting on a post other than mine that I've commented on with the "@" syntax. –  devinb Jun 24 '10 at 13:11
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I just looked at your profile... you apparently have no name. You aren't the only one, there were a handful pointed out in a support question a ways back. I couldn't tell you why this is, but it's probably the root of why you aren't getting messages (minimum 3 is hard to hit with a 0-length name). Since you didn't receive Jared's message, I have a feeling you didn't receive mine either. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 14:29

I went ahead and deleted that question. It was flagged multiple times and when I originally got to the question it looked like the OP got his answer and (inexplicably) wanted the question deleted. Normally I prefer to leave content in place, so I originally rolled the question back to a readable state and made it CW. After reading your question (and the other answers, and subsequent flags) I looked a little more closely at the timeline and saw that the OP requested the deletion of his post before any answers came in.

FWIW, I don't think there's a totally fair solution to this and I'm open to discussion on the decision (as usual). The OP wants it deleted, but other people did spend time answering it. No one had more than 1 upvote, so hopefully they don't mind the small loss.

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If the OP wanted it deleted then he should have deleted it - the link is right there next to the edit link. What's done is done obviously, I wouldn't undelete this specific question now, but in general I think I'd prefer for such questions to simply be locked with an explanatory comment. It's similar to editing out spam; it's important that people understand the difference between editing, flagging, and deleting, and that it is almost never okay to "delete" a post by editing it to remove all the content. –  Aarobot Jun 24 '10 at 13:36
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@Aarobot: It's a 1-rep user, member since today. I'm not even sure if the delete button is visible at that point, but he most likely didn't see it if it is. I completely agree that it's almost never okay to delete a post this way, but the user seemed adamant that he didn't want to keep the question here (see the revision history). If it had been an older question with more answers I would have very likely left it in its CW state. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 24 '10 at 13:47
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Personally, I'd have been less inclined to sympathy after he kept adding that stupid tag with his edits. I know that we need to cut newbies a little slack when they're confused about how the site works, but if they're being militantly ignorant or treating it as a game then the community (and mods) might need to gently push back. That's my take on it, anyway. –  Aarobot Jun 24 '10 at 14:00
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@Aarobot: That tag actually factored into my decision to just let him go away. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 24 '10 at 14:05

In general scenarios, the author of a question can delete her own post. However, if it attracts certain conditions, it won't be allowed. What those conditions are, we're still investigating that. A related post would be this one for closing, basically about appealing against community decision.

The reason deletion is blocked is because of the loss of answers, which means the (potential) loss of the hard work of one or more users. That said, rollback and edit wars are really to be avoided. Flagging is a very wise move, and the overseeing moderator can decide whether the question gets deleted, or locked open with the original question content. You have no way of knowing whether someone is going to fervently reverse your rollbacks ahead of time, so technically it's a safer play to flag in the first place.

Really, the author should follow the same protocol. If you want your own post deleted but are blocked from doing so, then if you really think it must be deleted then you can flag it. And let the moderator follow through.

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