I just had the only question I've ever asked on SO deleted. I can only assume this is because it was both reasonably old, and negatively scored.

The problem I have with this, is that until a few days ago it was not negatively scored. It got down-voted out of the blue, along with another unrelated post, apparently as a deliberate retaliation when I dared make what I felt was a helpful comment that a certain user didn't like.

It had attracted no answers, so perhaps there was really just no interest and it's best left deleted. Perhaps it was due for deletion even before getting the down-vote. However I certainly don't feel it was a bad question, and was intending getting around to posting an answer myself, or possibly expanding on the question and adding a bounty to get a bit of interest.

Now I can't even view my own question as I don't have enough rep.

It leaves a bit a of a sour taste in my mouth because it feels like it was deliberately done out of childishness, and quite possibly by a fairly high-rep'd user who knows how to game the system, but ultimately should also just know better.

I didn't pursue what I saw as an abuse of the voting system at the time because I guessed that it had been done in such a way as to not be too blatant, and there seems to be little recourse unless things are blatant. But I wasn't aware that I basically had a few days at most to save my post.

There are a few things I think might help in situations like this, though I'm not quite confident enough to suggest them as features just yet:

Firstly, is there any scope for indicating posts that are primed for deletion, to allow the author (or another user) to improve the post, get it up-voted, or at least copy the content such that it isn't lost? If the rules for deletion are consistent (which I believe they are) I can't see why it wouldn't be possible to highlight posts that will be deleted, in advance of them being so.

Secondly, could/should the auto-delete system take into account how long a post has been negative for? It seems a bit quick on the trigger to delete something that has only had a negative score for a couple of days, and even then only a single vote. The rules at the moment do not make it obvious that a post can be auto-deleted within days if someone decides to have a down-vote tantrum.

  • Can you dig up the link to your question, e.g. in your browser's history? – Rob W Mar 23 '13 at 12:12
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    This is the question - stackoverflow.com/questions/10228603/… (10k on SO required) – ChrisF Mar 23 '13 at 12:13
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    (Pasting that URL in Google gives you access to its cache.) – Arjan Mar 23 '13 at 12:20
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    Here is the markup from the question >> pastebin.com/f0803T3Y – Hogan Mar 23 '13 at 12:22
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    Related: the auto-deletion rules in Auto-deleting old, unanswered zero-score questions after a year? – Arjan Mar 23 '13 at 12:23
  • You should also be able to get it in an old data dump. All questions are CC and are published. – Hogan Mar 23 '13 at 12:27
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    It leaves a bit a of a sour taste in my mouth because it feels like it was deliberately done out of childishness, and quite possibly by a fairly high-rep'd user who knows how to game the system, but ultimately should also just know better. I'm completely sympathetic about your question, but I don't think this speculation is helpful. – David Robinson Mar 23 '13 at 13:27
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    As for your first point, we've discussed something that would cover that. Basically, rather than automatically deleting them, send them to users for review and let them make the decision: Keep It or Delete It. I'm confident that users would have kept this post around. – animuson Mar 23 '13 at 14:27
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    @DavidRobinson I understand your point. I tried to avoid specific finger pointing (and obviously, I have no proof and could be wrong), but I did want to highlight the probable cause of my post's deletion, as the ability for someone to deliberately trigger that may be of concern than natural occurrences which could be much rarer. And if indeed that happened here, it's a real issue rather than a hypothetical one. – JasonD Mar 23 '13 at 14:48

As Arjan already mentioned obliquely, your post would have been deleted soon anyway, because all posts with a score of zero, no answer, at most one comment and low views are deleted after a year.

It's unlikely that someone maliciously caused your question to be deleted. It would have been deleted soon anyway. Most likely the downvoted was someone who found your question unclear or not useful enough.

It is indeed a problem that you are no longer able to view the question. You can email Stack Exchange to get the text back. If you ask explicitly, they might undelete the question (clearly this isn't an abandoned question).

Allowing askers to view their deleted questions has been strongly refused by the site founder. There is talk of this changing (because, let's face it, it makes no sense), but don't hold your breath.

Notifying users that their posts are going to be deleted makes some sense. Usually, we don't want to notify people of deletions, because deletion is supposed to happen when a post is past salvaging or not worth salvaging. Deletion of unanswered questions is a special case though. Officially this is done because the question is presumed abandoned. If you receive a notification that your question is about to be deleted and react in some way, that shows the question isn't abandoned after all. Edits do not stop this automatic deletion though — if you edit, you would have to hope that someone does answer.

The policy could be amended to count the time since the last edit. This would make sense if the aim was truly to delete abandoned questions. But that would detract from the unofficial aim of the policy, which is to reduce the number of unanswered questions.

  • This question is trivially retrievable from Google cache, just search for the URL and click view cached version in Google: i.stack.imgur.com/BVjvj.png – Jeff Atwood Mar 24 '13 at 7:07
  • also mirrored on this scraper: techques.com/question/1-10228603/… – Jeff Atwood Mar 24 '13 at 7:10
  • @JeffAtwood I appreciate your (and everyone else's) responses. However my concern was less about my specific question, and more the potential for abuse in the system. You need to earn rep to gain the privilege of even just closing a question, and even then it cannot be done with impunity by a non-mod. However here there exists a case where any user capable of casting a down-vote can unilaterally have (a certain subset of) questions deleted, more or less immediately. And while I understand the difficulty in spotting the use of exploits like this, the effects could be mitigated. – JasonD Mar 24 '13 at 8:11
  • @JasonD they can get unanswered, negatively voted, 30+ day old questions deleted? How about adding an answer to your question, or getting folks to upvote it? Just throwing that out there. :) Self answers are absolutely encouraged on the network, see blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/… – Jeff Atwood Mar 24 '13 at 9:51
  • @JeffAtwood Actually, no, that's not right. They can get unanswered, 30+ day old questions deleted. There is no pre-requisite for the question to actually be negatively voted. It needn't even be zero voted, if the user has the ingenuity required to cast more than one down-vote. – JasonD Mar 24 '13 at 11:20
  • @JasonD if you are worried about this, I recommend publicizing your question so that it can get some upvotes, or answering it yourself with a placeholder answer within 30 days. – Jeff Atwood Mar 25 '13 at 18:52

If the issue still stands, see this as an opportunity to ask again. Attention on SO is a bit of a lottery.

It is indeed a small problem that you don't have (direct) access to the mark-up anymore. And you would of course have to update and improve it as much as possible.

If the problem was resolved somehow then there is no point in keeping this answerless question around.

So on the whole, the system seems to work properly.

Hopefully you've already seen this, but the criteria for auto-deletion have been changed, and you should be able to see your deleted answer(s) again now. I think these changes resolve your complaints.

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