Update: As MadScientist quite aptly pointed out this is also highly relevant:

I was greeted by this screen just an hour ago:

Screenshot of reputation tab showing the entry “-865: User was removed”.

After a little bit of digging and conjecturing, I worked out that the user removed was user llonesmiz.

I dearly bemoan the loss of a great SO contributor, and my (near) lone companion in [boost-spirit]. I know they had personal reasons for deleting their account, as I have tried to help/talk to them in comments over the last few months.

Now, I'll be honest. I don't like losing the reputation.

On a more principled level I'm trying to work out the following questions:

  • Is it fair/desirable that a user takes with them all the votes they had cast on account deletion?

    In my view, this was a highly respected power user with a lot of reputation in the [c++] domain. Their votes matter to me. Frequently, they taught me much better ways to do stuff, so I think it is a distinct disservice to the community to wipe their votes.

  • Should high reputation accounts be deleted instead of being destroyed?

    • see also this answer for “delete” vs. “destroy”

    I'm not sure if according to ^that^ explanation the account should have been destroyed. If it was, maybe the criterion should be tuned a bit more.

P.S. On my search across meta before posting this question I found the following things to be relevant:

  • 23
    This got me today, too. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:17
  • 102
    -865. Holy crap. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:22
  • 6
    I was going to ask you to provide link to the user's profile :|.
    – hjpotter92
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:24
  • 10
    You're misunderstanding delete vs. destroy, both remove all the votes but destroy also removes all the posts. And my feature request to stop deleting all votes for deleted users (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/125740/…) might also be of interest to you. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:25
  • 6
    -36 for me. Literally hundreds of people could lose rep. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:35
  • 6
    How often will a single user's votes make a meaningful difference in the ranking of the answers of any single question? It could happen, but I imagine not very often.
    – joran
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:38
  • 20
    User in question had "only" 1710 rep which I don't consider high (easily achieved in 1 month). He just casts relatively a lot of votes: at least 2362 upvotes of which 1716 on answers (and thus generating 17K rep). You might want to reframe the question accordingly.
    – user138231
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:43
  • 2
    @Chichiray bear in mind that's a month-old cache so numbers could be off a bit
    – JNK
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:47
  • 5
    Because sockpuppets. How do you distinguish a genuine account from a sock?
    – user102937
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:49
  • 8
    @Chichiray I don't feel the question needs reframing. The linked source clearly says "This can only be done to users with a very low reputation, unless you are a StackExchange employee". 1.7k is very clearly not very low reputation. If you think otherwise you might want to check the rep distribution statistics of SO users.
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 15:08
  • 24
    @joran It's not about losing rep, it's about losing expert opinions. You might have missed the fact that I'm asking about "in principle". I'm far from alone in thinking that legitimate votes cast should not be deleted. I don't care too much about the rep. I care about destruction of knowledge (or at least the quantitative endorsements of it)
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 15:12
  • 6
    I understood you just fine I think, but I think you didn't understand me at all. My point is that the one vote that a single user contributes to a set of answers usually won't change the impression of which answer was best. (Accepts are a different story though.) My comment had absolutely nothing to do with lost rep. At all. Read it again.
    – joran
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 15:15
  • 4
    The case of a long-standing highly respected user requesting self-deletion of their account should be handled differently from a sock puppet being destroyed. (Edit: ah. According to gnat, that was supposed to happen.)
    – Pekka
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:11
  • 9
    @sehe: If he just wanted to be gone, why did he ask to be deleted? Personally, asking to be deleted sounds more like rage-quitting to me than merely leaving. If he wanted to leave, just don't come back. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 17:10
  • 3
    @Bartek Banachewicz: Let's hope we don't receive hundreds of comments from them stating exactly how much rep they've lost. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:30

3 Answers 3


This was our screw-up, and preventing large impact deletes like this will be an addition to the code on our side sometime this week.

For now I've gone through the database and manually undone the delete action on this user's votes, which is the net impact that should have happened if they were moved to the community user...our normal process.

Your rep history (and about 1,300 other users) will no longer reflect this user's deletion.

  • 11
    This is a great reponse. Thanks for the pleasant surprise. Also, the fact that it is now on the radar for future cases is the take-away for SO.
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 21:26
  • 13
    You might want to tag this status-complete..
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 21:39
  • 3
    @Seth I will. (Why the hurry?) Note that this question was a discussion. I agree that consensus has emerged. However, also note that the implementation isn't complete ("preventing...will be...sometime this week"). \@Nick if you prefer to track the status of that over here instead, feel free to mark this as status-complete. I'm happy as long as it receives the attention :)
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 22:10
  • Was the feature actually implemented? I lost a few points with reason "user was removed", so I'd like some feedback here. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 7:56
  • It is not clear how "large impact" is defined and when this should and shouldn't happen. I lost 80 rep today (not a lot, I know) because user 2875617 was removed. He probably only had a couple hundred rep and 50 or so votes, so I understand this didn't get special treatment, but I am curious as to when such vote-preserving deletion is used. Just browsing through other [matlab] users, I see many people have lost rep, so it does not seem to be a cross-voting user or anything shady like that.
    – chappjc
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 1:30
  • Just this user? Why not other users as well?
    – nanofarad
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 13:39
  • @Blaisorblade nope, this pretty much proves the code does not prevent deleting users with thousands of votes. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 8:13
  • Nick Is there an answer to this question: stats.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5663/99274?
    – Carl
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 17:57
  • 3
    "You might want to tag this status-complete" "I will" (6 years pass) Commented May 31, 2019 at 21:31
  • 4
    @DewiMorgan To be fair, only employees can do that.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 18:48

As far as I can tell, this is not how deletion of such user accounts is supposed to happen.

The procedure has been outlined by SE developer in an answer to similar question as follows:

When we delete highly active users upon their request (i.e. they no longer wish to participate in Stack Exchange), we preserve their up/down/accepted votes by moving them to our Community User.

Unless I miss something, loss of 865 points and 2000+ votes suggest that user qualifies as "highly active".

The fact that votes weren't preserved indicates either a bug like one that has been confirmed at above post ("bug in our vote auto-invalidation task"), or, maybe, that removal somehow (how?) did not happen "upon their request".

  • It depends on how you define "highly active". His rep probably didn't qualify him as such. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:12
  • 15
    @NicolBolas if they qualify "highly active" solely by rep, they're on a road to trouble. I for one had thousands votes on Programmers and SO (and MSO, and Workplace) even before I got 2-3K. Dropping stuff I cast if I decide to leave would most certainly muddy some waters (not that it will be my headache though:)
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:16
  • 14
    "highly active" is subjective/relative. In the boost-spirit tag he was clearly active. He specialized in template metaprogramming and boost-library internals. Those are highly specialized tag and few SO users take the :effort: to answer/read/vote these questions. (In this respect, his votes constitute probably a significant 'weight' in the total vote volumes there)
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:36
  • 3
    @sehe Thank you for finally responding to what I actually wrote in my comment. If the user is active in a more marginal tag, this will dramatically increase the likelihood that their votes on any particular question will effect the ordering/perceived usefulness of specific answers. That was what I was trying to get you to expand upon, not rep loss.
    – joran
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:38
  • 2
    @joran Ok. I can see it now :) I think your point might be so essential to the discussion, it might be worth posting as an answer
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:47
  • 3
    It's a manual process - and one which was overlooked in this case. Not to go into detail, but it's probably not robust enough to make this automatic - so we can't ever promise that it will or won't happen, but in cases where the disruption will likely be high we do try to minimize it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:45
  • @Shog9 interesting. Now that you mention that, I feel like moving votes to Community User is sort of a user merge process, the one that goes through Community Team (as explained in February 2013 Moderator Newsletter)... Delicate and complicated stuff, right?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:55
  • 1
    It's a little bit different (we've fixed the most obvious/unfortunate side-effect of suddenly giving Community a crapload of votes, but there are almost certainly more subtle ones). At best, it's a hack to work around the fact that we actually do hard delete user accounts - I'm fairly sure it's not something we could do routinely without causing... Interesting problems. The primary concern when merging users is just not inadvertently exposing credentials.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 20:34
  • 3
    @Shog9 REALLY? Now that takes me by surprise. If there's no way to fix it, then I suggest a safety measure (an alert message) of some kind is order. This is certainly not the first time it happened this way: chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/5540467#5540467 just one very well recorded incident
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 20:40
  • 4
    @sehe: this case is... exceptional though, both because of the amount of votes involved, and the number of people affected. Deleting users with this much voting activity is very, very rare; as I said before, I don't think it's something we can automate at this point, but... A warning or sanity check of some sort is probably a good idea.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 3:19

In my view, this was a highly respected power user with a lot of reputation in the c++ domain. His votes matter to me. Frequently, he taught me much better ways to do stuff, so, if this user cast a vote, I think it is a distinct disservice to the community to wipe his votes.

Voting is, more or less, anonymous. Yes, you can kinda figure out who voted on what, if you really investigate or poll the database directly. But you can't tell just from looking at a question or answer who voted for it. So I don't see how wiping his votes impacts how someone looks at a question/answer he voted on.

Furthermore, the account is deleted. "The community" no longer knows he existed. He has been unpersoned. Nobody in the community can find him or his contributions, let alone his votes.

So I don't see how the community is dis-served here.

Is it fair/desirable that a user takes with him all the votes he had cast on account deletion?

Personally, I don't think that account deletion should be allowed, period. However, if they're going to allow it then yes, they should be completely unpersoned. With the exception of the text they wrote (the primary contribution of a user), the site should be as though they never were here.

And they shouldn't be allowed to have their old accounts, no matter how much they beg.

The reason for this is simple: to discourage people from deleting their accounts. If deletion were painless and/or easily reversible, then people would be doing it more often. Deletion has negative effects. You can't easily find other questions/answers from a user who posted a good question/answer you liked. You can't track a deleted account. And so forth. Even if votes aren't removed, deletion damages Stack Overflow.

So we make deletion hurt. That way, it only gets used in the most critical of circumstances.

  • 20
    Just because the user no longer has an account here does not mean the posts he/she voted on were any less helpful. I believe it is wrong to remove those votes, as the posts they voted on were helpful in the past and the deletion of the user's account does not change that.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:26
  • 1
    @sehe: I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm saying that this information is not available. You only found out because you know him well and you know his wandering habits. For "the community", he was a guy who voted a lot; nothing more. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:40
  • 3
    I don't care about what Community thinks :) I care about what SO thinks. The real community, that is
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:40
  • 1
    @sehe: Then why do you care if it's a "distinct disservice to the community" or not? Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:40
  • 7
    "So I don't see how the community is dis-served here" - he was one of the few contributors both qualified and interested in scrutinizing a niche of questions, the type that take more effort on average. Removing his votes makes it hard for community members to judge whether existing content is worth it's salt, because there is literally too little interest for any significant voting (beyond the 'thank you' votes from the OP)
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:42
  • 2
    @sehe: The C++ tag is the seventh-most-popular tag on SO. And virtually every Boost-Spirit question is tagged with it, for obvious reasons. I see no reason why his vote was somehow keeping stuff on that tag from becoming a bunch of zero vote questions and answers. Indeed, skimming through the first page of questions on that tag, I don't see any evidence of the problem you suggest at all. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:48
  • 2
    @NicolBolas also, (OT) let me take the opportunity to thank you for occasionally contributing to boost-spirit :)
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 17:01
  • 13
    So we make deletion hurt. For everyone other than the person being deleted? If someone wants their account deleted badly enough, I don't see why they would care about the impact of their deletion on others. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 18:07
  • 2
    @NicolBolas "I don't see any evidence of the problem you suggest at all." - try actively monitoring the feed for a year or two. Then we'll talk again. Seriously, this tag has too few contributors, and frequently I post an answer that goes without a single response for days. I can only conclude that all the c++ regulars just skip on it as "too much effort"/"too specific". This is certainly true of the people I know (they actively refer those questions to me, nevermind I'm subscribed :))
    – sehe
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:40
  • 1
    @sehe: The "problem you suggest" was specifically that "Removing his votes makes it hard for community members to judge whether existing content is worth it's salt, because there is literally too little interest for any significant voting (beyond the 'thank you' votes from the OP)" A new question remaining unopened for 15+ hours has nothing to do with that problem. Furthermore, don't complain to me about crap questions that say open for 15 hours until you've spent time in the OpenGL tag where many crap questions do not get closed ever. Not unless they have C++ or a popular tag on it. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 0:44
  • 1
    @sehe: Then the community member who decided to forcibly disassociate himself from the community should have considered that before forcibly disassociating himself from it. He didn't have to delete his account, you know. He could have just left it there. If someone wants to be a jerk to the community by taking their ball and going home, I'm fine with unpersoning them and all of their non-textual contributions, no matter the consequences. Let that be a lesson to anyone else who might want to delete their account because they're angry over some pointless slight. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 2:45
  • 3
    What's the lesson? "You can delete your account and not only you'll achieve your goal, you'll also take away potentially thousands of reputation points from others!"? Yeah that's seems like a grave consequence for someone who wants to remove their account Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 2:56
  • 1
    @sehe: "I was noting the harm done by removing upvotes from posts, aside from the rep potentially lost." You still haven't shown any harm. Where is your actual data from the database that says that a significant percentage of questions have become "unanswered"? Granted, it's hard to say what the "damage" would have been since it's been undone. But my point is that, besides some people losing rep, there has been no evidence showing any actual harm to the site or to the Boost.Spirit tag. And your pointing to a new question the person couldn't have voted on is a non-sequitur. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 3:23
  • 4
    "It keeps people from removing their accounts for silly, petty reasons." Why would it? They're not affected by any of this in the slightest, they just want their account removed. The reason is not really important here (SO should have a self-service "remove account" button anyway). Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 3:30
  • 7
    Because they might not want to have an account here. Why should we make it hard? Any decent site will have self-service account removal functionality. I don't know what crappy Internet forums have to do with this. I thought SO was supposed to be better than those? Account removal is something that should happen when person doesn't want to have an account here any more, and it's nobody business why (there are even laws for this sort of thing I wonder why). Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 3:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .