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9/10 unicorns prefer account deletion for spammers/trolls and sock puppets with no real content of value. I think 4/5 dentists also have this preference.

The Problem

But there is a problem: the accounts are basically 'hard' deleted, meaning mods do not have any history, and in the rare case of a mistake, dev/manager involvement is required, and complicated by the deletion.

In some cases, mods will use a 'permanent suspension' to substitute for deletion, so that we can maintain a record about the user. For example, We have a couple trolls on Stack Overflow where we do this occasionally. Also, sock puppets are often 'accidentally' recreated by their users simply because they return with their same login, and the account is automatically recreated. Often, users do this on purpose, as well.

Once this recreation happens, I will often perma suspend for the same reason, as deletion just exposes it to be recreated again... accidentally, or on purpose.

Finally, hard deletion makes it a little more complicated for us to keep - and later find - records of previous occurrences. I spam the mod chatroom with notations of deleted accounts in order to better enable managers to search for info if a deleted account holder inquires.

Proposed Solution

Have delete and destroy work exactly as they do now, with one exception: a remnant of the account remains which can be used for the following.

  1. Continue to provide a central link to their posts.
  2. Prevent recreation of new accounts from the same login.
  3. Preserve account notations and other information useful to moderators and managers.
  4. Enable easier recreation of the account by managers/devs, if needed.

This information should only be available to diamond mods and perhaps 10k users. For others, the posts should continue to show the anonymized, unlinked user box.

Of course, any privacy issues should be observed here; if information is required to be removed from the account in any case, even from mods' view, it should still be (especially for user-requested deletions)

marked as duplicate by Andrew Barber May 20 '13 at 19:14

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    But... but... but... what's the fun in destroying accounts if they aren't really destroyed? – yannis May 20 '13 at 18:23
  • @Yannis Oh, good point. I hadn't thought of that. I withdraw my feature request! ;) – Andrew Barber May 20 '13 at 18:26
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    Even just persisting annotations beyond deletion would go a long way to solving some of the current issues. You could change the UI to encourage annotation prior to deletion too. – Flexo May 20 '13 at 18:27
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    @ben Eek! That sure is! And it's recent, and I upvoted and commented on it, too! Sheesh, me! – Andrew Barber May 20 '13 at 19:13

...Or just have 'delete' for an account mean the exact same thing as it does for questions (without voting to delete users, of course).

  • One can now delete users, then later undelete them if a mistake was made.
  • The user page would be visible to moderators only
  • Thus, all the users' content is preserved, and easily explorable.

The difference between this and your above post is that no conversion of the account data need occur. For this, a user's account would simply be 'disabled,' effectively deleted except to the view of moderators. Mods would gain the privilege of user undeletion as well.

An interesting point of note: Users deleted posts and comments would still contain a link to their profile, visble only to moderators. I see a UI design, though, where a user box name is red if they have been deleted, to keep consistent with the deletion UI, but that's a side point. Everyone else would see a grey box as usual.

  • 1
    I suspect there is a good reason for no longer publicly displaying an account's information once 'deleted'. Not 100% sure on that, though. – Andrew Barber May 20 '13 at 18:54
  • @Andrew Maybe hide the personal information, yes; but no need to delete it. – Aza May 20 '13 at 19:10
  • As mentioned here, I'd like to be able to pack up and go without much information persisting (the current hard delete is fine). I don't think that'll ever happen to me with SE, but there are other sites where I do feel the need for a good escape hatch with little footprint. I don't want them to keep my data. And many other people feel the same, if there's no way to scrub your footprint (it's OK if they keep the posts, just not the PII) off, then I won't like the company much. – Manishearth May 21 '13 at 8:26
  • SE scrubs almost all of it, and even if they don't scrape off emails it's only visible to a few: devs and possibly comm team members). I'm OK with that. But not a full, visible-to-mods soft deletion when I voluntarily decide to quit. I may have exaggerated my views here a bit: I'm not so adamant about this but I know that many people are. – Manishearth May 21 '13 at 8:28

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