Sometimes, I encounter genuinely interesting questions that get deleted, either because the OP figured it out right after posting, or because it was receiving downvotes and close votes for any number of (valid) reasons, and answers that get deleted out of doubt or to be reposted as comments but turn out to be the correct answers.

In the case of questions, while they may have been downvoted and closed for perfectly valid reasons, I believe I can improve them to be on-topic or otherwise acceptable. Except in this case, the questions were deleted by the owner by choice.

Since it takes more than one community vote to undelete posts anyway, can a user with the right privileges cast undelete votes for those reasons? Specifically for deleted answers, is there anything else one can do like somehow asking the author to undelete their answer because it turns out to be correct? (I did it once for this answer by posting a comment under my question, but only because there was a good chance this particular author would be refreshing it anyway.)

3 Answers 3


If a user is ragequitting and deleting all of their old posts, that might be a reason (although you should probably flag as well to let a mod know).

Otherwise, it's probably best to ask politely to undelete.

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    How can we ask to undelete, though? You can't comment on deleted questions, and there's no other way to contact the poster.
    – bdonlan
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 0:29
  • 1
    Generally, I would find another post of the author's and ask them there. If the discussion gets lengthy, it can be moved to meta/chat.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 0:34
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    @bdonlan - As a mod, I'll superping the user from a private chat room. We have other ways of contacting users; you can probably flag for mod attention and they'll take care of it. Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 13:47

Personally, the only time I delete something from a Stack Exchange site is when I asked myself, does this make the Internet better? and concluded no. Things like:

  • read the OP's question wrong, leading to a silly (or plain "off-topic") answer
  • was mistaken, misinformed, or just up too late, leading to a technically incorrect answer
  • someone else posted an answer that covered everything my short answer did, but covered it far better, and expanded upon it. My answer is now just redundant.
  • question was a silly mistake and is unlikely to be of any use to anyone else (e.g., left out a semicolon) (should be closed as "too localized", if not deleted)
  • asked question on the wrong site, noticed before any answers (delete and post on correct site)

In every case, if the community disagrees with my assessment of value, my question or answer should be undeleted. When I posted it, I gave a license under CC-BY-SA, which is non-revocable, so legally its OK to undelete it. When I posted it, I published it. Not only did I publish it, I published it in a venue where I know that others may edit, answer, review, comment on, etc. it; I have given up control over it. Morally, I have no qualms.

The name Creative Commons is not a mistake. My published content is now part of the commons, and the community may (within the terms of CC-BY-SA) do with it as it pleases.

I feel this should be the normal, everyday handling of deleted questions. There are a few things, a very small minority, which need special handling such as when Stack Exchange receives DMCA notice, court order, or a notice under CC-BY §4(a). But those are exceptions. We have diamond mods and Stack Exchange employees to handle exceptions. The general policy should not be based on exceptions.

[Actually, if there were an easy way to give a CC-BY §4(a) notice, that is, request something no longer be attributed to you, I think that'd handle a lot of the objections to community undeletes.]


Questions are different from answers.

If an author deletes their own answer, the most you should do is ask them politely to undelete or flag it for a moderator and let the moderator ask the author whether they'd be willing to undelete. If the author declines the request and prefers that it remain deleted, you should leave things be (you should not forcibly undelete their answer). You can flag it for moderator attention. However, in my view, moderators should be very reluctant to forcibly override an author's deletion of their own answer, if the author objects. Overriding the author's wishes to have their own answer deleted is an extreme act, and one that should only be done in correspondingly extreme circumstances.

(Allowing people to delete their own answer is a safeguard that helps make it "safe" to post answers. It may not be the first thing people think of, but it is one more safeguard: if you later regret posting your answer, as a last fallback you can always delete it and know that it won't come back. We want people to be comfortable posting answers and to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility in their own work. Giving people this kind of ownership over their own answers is good for the community in the long run.)

Questions raise a different set of issues, because deleting a question also deletes all associated answers, even though the answers may come from others. If an author deletes their own question, and you think this is inappropriate, it is best to flag this for a moderator's attention. The moderator might choose to undelete the question, or to leave it as is, depending upon community norms. Moderators have tools to handle this case, like sending the author a super-ping to chat with them.

These are just my views; others may or may not agree.

See also: Allow 25k+ community moderators to undelete self-deleted questions.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong but you can't delete your own Q once there are answers can you? So the impact on others is minimal in that regard
    – Basic
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 16:51
  • @Basic, that is roughly right. However, you can generally delete your own question if it has not received any answers or if it got only one answer with no upvotes yet. For the full spec, see How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean?. (You can also flag a moderator to ask them to delete your own question for you, if they agree that it is appropriate.)
    – D.W.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 16:59
  • If you feel a deleted answer is valuable do you feel it would be appropriate to re-post it as CW?
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:11
  • @Servy, it is not clear what you are asking. Who is the "you"? Who would be re-posting? Here is one possible scenario, with my view on it: Suppose a 10K reader Rich sees something they like in a self-deleted answer by some other author. Would it be OK for Rich to post a new answer and copy the contents of the deleted answer into his own answer? Answer: No, that is inappropriate, regardless of whether the new answer is marked CW or not. Copying text wholesale is plagiarism and morally wrong. (Only 10K users and mods can see deleted answers, so hopefully they should know not to do this.)
    – D.W.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:16
  • P.S. More on my personal view: Copying ideas is usually OK, but blatantly copying text is wrong. Don't plagiarize; it is not reasonable behavior.
    – D.W.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:17
  • @D.W. It's only plagiarism if you claim the words as your own (e.g., fail to attribute them properly). That said, I agree with your conclusion, that 10K users ought not "resurrect" deleted answers via copy & paste.
    – derobert
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:31
  • @derobert, good point. I agree. You are right, it would not be plagiarism in that case, though I agree with your bottom line.
    – D.W.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:35
  • @Servy It's ok to repost a deleted answer as long as you do not claim it as your own. The license explicitly allows reusing content posted on Stack Exchange, with attributions. The question is, should you attribute it to the author, or just state that it is not your own? Authors have the right to demand that their name be deassociated from the content, and that may have been their motivation in deleting the answer. Ideally, contact the author (in chat). If in doubt, I would state that the content is from “a deleted answer on the same page”. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:00
  • That was indeed part of what concerned me. I realized that taking another answer and claiming it as yours doesn't seem right, but you couldn't reference the original text as it's deleted, and being deleted it would appear that the user doesn't want that content associated with them. So would saying, "This was in a self-deleted post, but I'm posting it here because I think it's valuable [...]" be appropriate?
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:03
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    @Gilles, I understand that, legally speaking, the copyright license may allow it, but not everything that is legal is desirable. Personally, I tend to think copy-paste of someone else's self-deleted answer as a way to circumvent the original author's wishes is... distasteful and not something to encourage or be proud of. Of course, this is a matter of personal values (what kind of a community do we want to be a part of?), and others may legitimately disagree on this point.
    – D.W.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:27
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    @Servy If there is going to be a delete feature—with voting to delete (and undelete), no less—it doesn't seem right go around that process via copy and paste. The community seems to have a consensus that it should take either a diamond mod or multiple people to undelete. (Now, quoting a line or two, not the entire post, I don't see a problem with, personally)
    – derobert
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:27
  • @derobert This is discussing the issue of someone self-deleting their post, not content deleted by the community or a diamond mod. I agree entirely that reposting content deleted for either of those cases would be abusive.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:29
  • @Servy Currently, a diamond mod can undelete a self-deleted post. If you think the community ought to be able to as well, via voting, post that as a different answer... But copy & paste goes around either process.
    – derobert
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 18:31
  • Just as a side note: we (♦ mods) only undelete answers that were self-deleted if they were done in a destructive or abusive manner. For example, when a user is attempting to mass-delete their answers as a way of rage-quitting the site (the system prevents too many deletions in a single day and auto-flags the next attempted deletion for our review). Otherwise we usually just leave them alone unless there's a very good reason to resurrect it. At the time I posted the question, though, I wasn't a mod yet, but the question still stands :) Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 19:12

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