This case (and other similar recent ones) makes me think something must be done about users systematically both deleting their questions after they've received a satisfactory answer, and deleting and re-posting questions to gain more attention.

This practice

  • makes it impossible for potential answerers to check the asker's history - is this their first "write my code for me" type question, or the 25th?

  • allows people to try and get entire projects co-written by Stack Overflow (as in the case linked above - every step in the project, a new question is bound to pop up)

  • denies answerers the recognition they deserve for their contributions (in the form of votes and accept marks)

  • allows users to "polish" their profiles by making "stupid" questions disappear

  • Is virtually undetectable except if by accident (if you saw the same question an hour ago)

While not actively damaging the community as such, and probably occurring relatively rarely, this is really, really low behaviour, and extremely unfair towards those who take the time to answer.

Does this need to be addressed somehow?

Is a limit on the number of questions that a new user can delete necessary? I hate the idea really, but in light of this kind of abuse...

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4 Answers

up vote 24 down vote accepted

This already happens, though -- if a question has sufficient answers and/or votes, the question owner is prevented from deleting it.

Originally based on

Edit: I've tightened up the requirements here based on recent abuse by a specific user. You can only one-click delete when

  • your question has zero answers
  • your question has only one answer with zero score

Anything else, you must vote to delete and/or flag for mod attention, and attempting to delete will tell you that.

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Yup, but in this case, not enough upvotes were gained on any of the answers to block the deletion (probably partly due to it being the weekend). What @Gamecat suggests, if I understand it correctly, would effectively mean removing that 2-upvote minimum - although I like @Jim's idea of leaving a trace of the deletion in the user's history (while still allowing the deletion) too –  Pëkka Jan 9 '11 at 21:14
@pekka I tightened up the rules, see above –  Jeff Atwood Jan 11 '11 at 1:12
that sounds sensible. –  Pëkka Jan 11 '11 at 1:13
any chance there can/should be some time limitation too, to allow for answers being upvoted? (Like maybe see this question, based on comments here.) –  Arjan Apr 16 '11 at 7:05
Since I just was bitten by this (delete very shortly after answering see…) wouldn't even know who it was -- had an old window open luckily. A time limitation after the last activity would be a good fix since a answer needs some time to acquire upvotes –  Peer Stritzinger Aug 27 '11 at 16:21
@Jim: Do you have a link/citation for that third condition you added? –  Josh Caswell Apr 23 '12 at 18:12
I've tried to do it. Will try to get screenshot –  Jim Apr 23 '12 at 18:32
@IuliusCæsar Here is a screenshot, based on this question –  Jim Apr 23 '12 at 22:41
Can you vote to delete your own question as an under 10k user? –  puretppc Feb 6 at 22:05
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I think, the moment a question has an answer, its not entirely the property of the owner. So the single vote delete should be disabled.

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This sounds like a fine suggestion. –  Pëkka Jan 9 '11 at 20:59
The current system is a compromise - two votes on an answer or more than two answers, and the question can't be easily deleted. If a single answer triggered this, then a single bad answer - perhaps itself an indication of just how ill-advised the question was - would keep the question around, more trash for moderators or other users to clean up. –  Shog9 Jan 9 '11 at 22:05
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I've seen similar behavior a few times, except with questioners editing gibberish into the question instead of outright deleting it. I consider this vandalism, and roll back such edits when I see them, but geez -- WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! I really don't get it!

The outright deletions could be considered even more pernicious, since they're less obvious. Maybe the fact that a question was deleted (if not the actual deleted content) should remain visible in the user's publicly viewable activity, as a deterrent to the rude behavior Pekka is describing, while still permitting a way to save face if a user suddenly experiences "poster's remorse" and wants to retract a poor question.

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Good idea as well: If this were a viewable activity, people could see something is up –  Pëkka Jan 9 '11 at 21:15
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As Jeff notes, the system already prevents easy deletion of questions with valuable answers. There's an argument to be made that users should be able to delete their own poor questions if they so desire, even if answers have been posted - there are plenty of examples of users who ask a question only to realize shortly afterward that their problem was caused by a simple mistake elsewhere (thus invalidating both the question and its answers).

Your title (and previous question) highlight the one area where it becomes a serious problem: users who so badly misunderstand the system (perhaps willfully...) that they abuse the feature to continually bump their questions (by re-posting them) or remove them once satisfactorily answered (rather than accepting an answer). Like most other cases of abusive behavior, this should be dealt with via a warning and moderator intervention, though as you note, it...

Is virtually undetectable except if by accident (if you saw the same question an hour ago)

This, as Jim notes, could be fixed: let other users (perhaps 10K+ users) see recently-deleted posts in other users' profiles. Moderators, able to see all deleted posts, could then check for a history of this behavior and take the proper action.

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I think in the rare case when the user has discovered the invalidity (stupidity, profanity etc.) of his question, he can somehow call for moderator's assistance in deleting the question. This is not a big problem. And even then the answerers' work should be valued somehow (if the answer was applicable to the question). In other words, "automatic" deletion by is not a good solution in this case. –  Eugene Mayevski 'EldoS Corp Jan 9 '11 at 21:30
@Eugene: answerer's work is valued - all it takes is a couple up-votes and the asker can no longer delete his question. Of course, an answerer who posts a bad answer can delete it easily... I understand the frustration - I've had my answers deleted in this fashion before as well... However, I'm reluctant to support a solution that both makes more work for moderators and further restricts the ability of users to clean up their own messes (and yes, they can edit - d'you like it when you answer a question and come back later to find that the question has completely changed?) –  Shog9 Jan 9 '11 at 21:59
regarding "d'you like it when you answer a question and come back later to find that the question has completely changed?" -- this is exactly what I see all the time. Possibility to edit questions after answers were given makes many answers irrelevant and just not understandable if you read the /new/ question. –  Eugene Mayevski 'EldoS Corp Jan 9 '11 at 22:04
@Eugene: exactly. I don't think it's wise to encourage this behavior... –  Shog9 Jan 9 '11 at 22:06
Would this be a feature to add to /review somehow? –  jcolebrand Jan 10 '11 at 14:28
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