This is a follow up to this question.

It appears that yesterday I incurred a loss of 25 rep because a user decided to unupvote and unaccept one of my answers for the purpose of deleting their question. Is this really an acceptable practice on SE?

I don't mind losing the 25 rep really (I have enough to do what I want to on SO), but in principle, it doesn't seem like something we would generally want people doing.

Is anyone else bothered by this (not this exact case, but more the general situation)?

I searched for a while to no avail; if there is an official answer available out there I'd appreciate a link.

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    Ethical? Sure, I don't think he clubbed any baby seals. Constructive? Nope, not one bit. – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 1:24
  • Ok so I stretched the originally posed terminology a bit. I'll fix my question. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:25
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    @sixlettervariables: Ethics isn't limited to questions of murdering helpless mammalian infants. Ethics covers the question of right and wrong. And for SE, "not constructive" generally tends towards "wrong". Indeed, we have a close reason named exactly that. – Nicol Bolas Mar 16 '12 at 1:29
  • @NicolBolas: I try not to read into the moral weight of actions by internet users; I think that user's motive was deletion due to <facepalm/>. Other user's are rage quitting because they don't understand our "forum". – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 1:30
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    @sixlettervariables: I try not to read into the moral weight of actions by internet users; I think that user's motive was deletion due to <facepalm/>. Morality doesn't necessarily have to do with motives. An action can be bad regardless of the person's intent. Other user's are rage quitting because they don't understand our 'forum'. Well, that's one way to put it, but that's neither here nor there. – Nicol Bolas Mar 16 '12 at 1:36
  • Uh oh... I forgot that we have morality experts that monitor these halls... hopefully I haven't enraged someone that reads too far into my question. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:38
  • @NicolBolas: I fail to see the ethical dilema the user entered into removing his post. (I missed a while during editing.) – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 1:43
  • Why would this deserve a downvote (even by MSO terms)? How could someone disagree with something that is actually happening? – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 2:26
  • Why would having an accepted answer prevent a question from being deleted by its owner? That is the root of the problem – prusswan Mar 16 '12 at 7:45
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    @pru: How is that a problem? If someone has taken the time to post an answer to a question and that answer has been accepted, then the question is no longer the property of the person who posted it. It now belongs the community. They shouldn't be able to delete it, and take with it all the work that went into the answer. – Cody Gray Mar 16 '12 at 7:52
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    I think this is a specific case of the more general problem that new users don't appreciate the fact that the site does not exist solely for them to get their questions answered. This causes them to assume that once they have their answer, they can delete the question. They're missing the bigger picture, that the site exists in order to build up an online repository of answers to programming problems written and tested by experts. (And no, I really don't think this should be allowed, but I'm not sure that we need to introduce the complexity of code to prevent it. Community moderation works.) – Cody Gray Mar 16 '12 at 7:55
  • @Cody Gray I am not considering the issue from a purely ownership angle, but that the right to unaccept should be no less than the right to accept in the first place. (so askers should never accept answers on questions they may potentially delete?) Besides, content is not really deleted on SO as things stand now, they just become content available only to the privileged few. – prusswan Mar 16 '12 at 7:57
  • @CodyGray - Has the question been undeleted? I'm confused... what happened? – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 12:55
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    @M.Babcock: The reasons for possible downvotes are the opposites of the reasons for possible upvotes. That's how it works. "I think this is a good question that deserves discussion", "I think this discussion is unwarranted." "I like you", "I hate your face". Etc. – user1228 Mar 16 '12 at 14:09
  • @Won't - I don't mind the downvotes (especially on MSO), but I haven't really received much negative feedback to this question so I was a bit confused. Thanks for the explanation though. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 14:14

It depends on a few things:

  • Value of the content to the community
  • Rationale for removing the content
  • Quantity of content removed

If the post is valuable in the long term, vote to undelete it or flag it for moderator attention and ask that it be reviewed and potentially be undeleted. They might be able to scrub the original user's name from the question as well, if necessary.

Sometimes users will remove their own content when they believe they asked a question in error. Sometimes they remove their own content because they cannot have their name associated with it any longer. Sometimes they remove it as a form of housekeeping (e.g. removing all 0 or negative vote questions). And sometimes they remove it because they have no idea how our community works. If the content is too localized or egregiously wrong, there is no harm in its removal, even if it garnered constructive attention. However, going back to the previous point of value to the community, if you feel long term value exists: vote to undelete or flag it.

The last thing to consider is how much content are they removing. If this is a rage quit or a requirement to dissolve their association with the content, again, a moderator should be alerted so that the appropriate action can be taken.

Ultimately the action of removing the sole upvote and unaccepting an answer in order to delete a question has to be viewed in the context of its long term value, rationale for removal, and how much the community would lose.

  • +1 - Agreed, but as the person penalized (used loosely) for the askers behavior and having less than enough rep to measure the metrics described, how could I reconcile the difference? – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 2:06
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    @M.Babcock: I think I take the 10k tools for granted, as I hadn't considered an inability to quantify the difference. Usually folks petition the peanut gallery--err MSO--and wait for the unwashed masses to chime in (I include myself, it's been a long shift). I believe you're right to feel that anytime somebody unupvotes and unaccepts an answer to delete a question that it should be investigated. – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 2:10
  • So are you suggesting that every case where this (or something related) comes up it should be deferred to MSO? I don't necessarily disagree, but I'm sure most of them will end up being closed as dupes. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 2:20
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    To be honest I think your situation is relatively rare and warrants somebody taking a peek at it. (/me waits for Kevin to come along and prove it isn't rare with an awesome graph) – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 2:22
  • The changes to the rep system are fairly new, I'm curious how rare it really will end up being (I noticed it within a couple weeks...). Unfortunately I have no way to measure. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 2:24
  • @M.Babcock how are you penalized? have you considered the possibility that you would have been worse off if your answer was never upvoted in the first place, or you would have no question to answer if it wasn't even asked? – prusswan Mar 16 '12 at 8:03
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    @prusswan - I see your point, but on SO there are always enough questions to be answered and good answers will almost always be upvoted. The penalty (still used loosely) I incurred was apparently wasting my time just so the OP would use the information provided and then delete the question. More generally I see that as a penalty to anyone that could have potentially learned from the question/answer. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 13:44
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    @M.Babcock: regarding intent, it appears this was a homework assignment that the OP likely did not want associated with their name: I also get marks for doing it server side... – user7116 Mar 16 '12 at 18:30
  • @sixlettervariables - I'd overlooked that verbiage when I answered the question so you are probably right (I probably would have been less helpful had I understood that). Good catch. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 18:40

I don't see the problem per-se. The reason for not allowing a user to just delete a question with upvoted answers is that the upvote clearly shows that someone values the answer. Well, the person who valued the answer decided that it wasn't valuable after all.

Plus, you can't take back upvotes after about 5 minutes (unless the question is edited). So it was probably fairly short-term thing. They decided it was a good answer, but then said it wasn't, took it back, and deleted the question.

The main concern would be that someone may delete a question for selfish reasons. It may be that the asker was getting downvoted or something and just wanted to clear the rep. But otherwise, the behavior seems reasonable to me.

  • I believe the question is relatively old, based on the OP's first post about this question. – user154510 Mar 16 '12 at 1:29
  • If they changed their mind about the answer then wouldn't it be more appropriate to revoke the upvote and accept, leave the question, and then provide a response that they found that may answer the question better? The fact that the question was deleted bothers me most of all. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:34
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    @M.Babcock: They may have changed their mind about the question rather than the answer. They didn't want the question around, so they did what they had to in order to remove it. – Nicol Bolas Mar 16 '12 at 1:39
  • @NicolBolas - Perhaps but I have several questions asked previously that I would sooner see removed than endure the embarrassment of letting more qualified users read. Does that mean it is appropriate for me to effectively erase my less educated questions and hide them from people who would benefit from them? We all ask seemingly stupid questions, but I'm sure we aren't the only ones with those stupid questions. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:43
  • @M.Babcock: Yes, but that's how you feel. Maybe this person doesn't feel this way. Maybe he feels he shouldn't have asked it to begin with and considers it a mistake. Who knows? This is why questions can be undeleted by community vote (if you have enough rep) or moderator action. – Nicol Bolas Mar 16 '12 at 1:49
  • @NicolBolas - I'll give you a +1 for that. You're right that no one can know why someone did it, but that isn't the question. I'm curious whether it is a generally accepted practice. Sure mods can undelete a question but one could also argue that there isn't enough warning (or possibly penalty) for doing so. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:55

If the question and answer can be of any use to others, I think this would certainly a case where the behavior is not acceptable. If good content was deleted on one of the sites I moderate I would undelete it. A user can have a post dissociated from them if they so wish, but it already doesn't really belong to them; it belongs to the community (the whole CC-WIKI thing).

Of course, the SO mods may feel differently and I can't actually see your post :P

  • Unfortunately neither can I (wish I could so I'd know whether to apathetic for it). I answered the question and even I can't tell whether it deserves to be deleted. – M.Babcock Mar 16 '12 at 1:28

I think in this case it is not OK by the question owner (I am in the lucky situation that I am everyone is now able to see the question.

The question maybe a simple one for an experienced user in that field (I am not), so I can see a reason for the asker that, after he understood the answer, he wants his "simple" question be removed from his history.


  1. It was a problem for the asker, that he was not able to solve by himself.

  2. You took the time and answered his question and explained the issue to him.

  3. I assume this helped the asker to understand and solve his issue.

  4. For me your answer looks valuable for others and deserves the rep for your effort.

So in my opinion it was not correct by that asker, he took the help and denied your reward.

My own experience
I think I am in a very similar situation than that asker, I am new to wpf and make stupid mistakes from time to time. So at least my last two questions on SO, will look quite strange in my SO history compared to my reputation. The issues turned out to be no real problems, but "simple" mistakes by myself, but each answer helped me to find them and understand a bit more about wpf and the last thing I would do is not to give rep to the people that helped me.

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    It's also worth noting that there's nothing wrong with asking simple questions. You shouldn't feel embarrassed about them being there in your profile because everyone is new to something at some point. As long as your questions are high-quality and useful to others, there's no reason to delete them or feel self-conscious about your one-time ignorance. – Cody Gray Mar 16 '12 at 7:57
  • @CodyGray I agree with you. I think "high-quality" simple questions will be difficult, but simple questions that are useful to others are definitely needed. – stema Mar 16 '12 at 8:12

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