Important note: This question was based on false assumption that revision history is inaccessible for all deleted answers. It turns out that this is not true and that many apparently edited deleted answers have been changed within the 5 minute grace period.

I've seen that some (especially higher reputed) users drastically manipulating their own answers before deleting them. Likely to avoid embarrassment of some sort. Or so I think.

This is one example. Scroll to the bottom and see the deleted answer. Of course you need 10k rep to see it.

Anyway. My question is whether such drastic answer manipulation should be permitted? If one writes something stupid and subsequently wants to delete it, they should not be allowed to manipulate content to this extent so that nobody can decypher what the original answer was.

A better approach

Instead of not allowing drastic changes on answers we should keep the link to answer's revision history so one can still get to the original answer. This should prevent such drastic acts of embarrassment from happening. Or at least make it less tempting.

  • 8
    "If one writes something stupid and subsequently wants to delete it, they should not be allowed to manipulate content to this extent so that nobody can decypher what the original answer was." - why not?
    – AakashM
    Aug 20, 2012 at 11:34
  • 1
    I don't have the rep to see it, but can't such an edit still be rolled back? I don't think such behaviour is acceptable in any case.
    – Bart
    Aug 20, 2012 at 11:35
  • Also: such "history modifications" only work when they edited within the 5-minute grace period. If they don't then you can see the revision history (at least that's how I remember it working). And edits within that grace period are invisible, whether or not they delete the answer afterwards. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:35
  • @AakashM: Because all answers should be treated equally. If good answers are a sign of a clever person stupid ones should be an equal sign of a stupid (at least at times when they do that) one. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:38
  • @Bart: The answer is deleted...so this is a cornercase, we'd need to know what the answer was before it was made unreadable. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:38
  • @JoachimSauer: Could be. I should be checking other questions with deleted answers whether they have revision history attached. If it is, then everything's fine. I'm aware of the grace period and if they're manipulated within this grace period we can't do anything about it can we? Aug 20, 2012 at 11:39
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    Can you add a screenshot or tell us the exact content of the answer? And do you know what the content was before? Aug 20, 2012 at 11:40
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    @WaffelizedBobby I know the answer is deleted (that was stated). My point is that if we don't allow users to demolish their own visible content (I have rolled back many such cases), I don't see why we should make an exception for content which is subsequently deleted by the user. Delete it if you must, but leave it in tact. To me it's more a matter of principle than anything else.
    – Bart
    Aug 20, 2012 at 11:44
  • @WaffelizedBobby: That's the whole point. I can't see what the answer was originally. If it was edited within 5 minute grace period that's fine with me. The thing is that I should see some deleted answer with a link to revision history to believe that revision history is not automatically disabled for access on all deleted answers. Somebody provide a link to a deleted answer with revision history and I can say that I was wrong. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:46
  • @Bart: Ah, I see where you're coming from. The difference in this case seems to be the grace period...and that you can't rollback deleted answers. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:47
  • @RobertKoritnik: How do you know then that it was something different from a slip, mishap or test? And no, the revision history is available for deleted answers...but there's a 5-minute-period after posting which allows you to edit the answer/question without triggering a revision. Aug 20, 2012 at 11:48
  • @WaffelizedBobby: provide a link and I'll believe you. And likely delete this question because it's invalid (and not because it's stupid). :) Aug 20, 2012 at 11:49
  • @RobertKoritnik: For what, the grace period? Aug 20, 2012 at 11:51
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    "I've seen that some (especially higher reputed) users ..." my guess is that lower reputation users don't do it because they don't realise that their deleted answer is still visible!
    – assylias
    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:52
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    You are downvoted here because people think it's OK to edit answers and remove own mistakes. Aug 20, 2012 at 13:29

4 Answers 4


You are talking about grace period here - for the first five minutes after posting the user can edit as much as he wants, and there will be no trace to those edits. Only when editing after the grace period has expired will a link appear and edit history be available. (example for 10K+ users on Stack Overflow)

So what you're actually suggesting is to cancel the grace period and I don't think such a thing should be done.

  • No. I'm not suggesting to remove grace period. I though that deleted answers automatically prevent revision history view (whether within grace period or outside of it). Can you provide a link to a question that has a deleted answer that was edited after grace period so that I can see that revision history is accessible on that deleted answer? Aug 20, 2012 at 11:41
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    @Robert sure - here is one example Aug 20, 2012 at 11:56
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    Ok. Fair enough. I was apparently wrong. Aug 20, 2012 at 13:11

If someone said something stupid, why would the community even want to keep it? In my opinion, some content should be forgotten. It would be a good thing for mods to keep track of the old content in case it violated SE policies, but nothing more.

  • FYI: deleted answers are only visible to higher reputed users anyway. So they qualify with your mods Aug 20, 2012 at 11:52
  • @RobertKoritnik Then why do you care at all? Why do you think it's important to take extra steps to make bad, deleted content more visible?
    – user229044
    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:14

I am sure that we have all done it, read a question answered it only to realize that you didn't fully grasp what the user wanted...or at least I know that I have done it on a few occasions.

Unfortunately, there is no time-machine that will allow you to go back an undo your stupidity for that particular moment. So instead of leaving an embarrassing or outright bad answer out there. I don't see anything wrong with deleting the answer and editing it to remove the offending content. Especially if the revision history is available (an example of my recent idiocy).

  • 1
    @gnat thanks for the edit, see embarrassing stuff. :)
    – Taryn
    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:18

As far as the users are not removing most of their up-voted answers, I don't see anything wrong with deleting an answer given because a misunderstanding of the question.
If then users edit the answer (before deleting it) to remove something that is utterly wrong, I would think they are avoiding 10k users (who see the deleted answers) are distracted from something wrong, and irrelevant. Clearly, the edit should not add offensive words, even in a HTML comment. Imagine if somebody would write "You morons forced me to delete my answer because you don't understand it!" That would not be nice, and I would expect a rollback be in order.

It happens to everybody to write something embarrassing. I don't think we should avoid such embarrassing answers are edited out, as long as it is done respecting the other users.

On Stack Overflow there is already a limit for the answers users can delete; delete too much answers, and you will be blocked from answering more questions.

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