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We can do searches for content by user with the syntax user:xxx where xxx equals the user number. However, this does not work with deleted users.

This could be useful for the same reasons the user-based search is useful in general, of course. In the case of deleted users, this can sometimes be especially useful, though; for 10k and diamond users doing moderation duties, in particular.

In fact, this would also be a great thing to simply link directly to on the moderator's page for deleted users (perhaps in conjunction with showing deleted posts)

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    Probably better be mod-only feature, mortal users can't even see deleted posts on "live" users profiles so such ability will give them (us :)) power that currently does not exist. – Shadow Aug 5 '13 at 14:21
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    @ShaWizDowArd For a large part of it, this would be useful for mods looking for deleted posts, yes. But sometimes users are deleted and some of their posts still remain. A particularly diligent 10k'er might want to poke around at that quickly to see if there are other 'bad' things lurking from the same user. But I do think this would be of relatively limited use for non-diamonds, definitely. – Andrew Barber Aug 5 '13 at 14:23
  • Yep. We have Google Cache and the Web Archive to find such things, but of course anything built into the site itself would save time, efforts and lots of tears. – Shadow Aug 5 '13 at 14:25
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    We don't have the data for this, we actually delete users - they are not soft deleted. – Nick Craver Aug 5 '13 at 14:26
  • @NickCraver Ahh, okay; makes sense. Thanks for the info! – Andrew Barber Aug 5 '13 at 14:27
  • @NickCraver - Doesn't the user id remain on any non-deleted posts? Or is the "Userxxxx" got from somewhere else? – ChrisF Aug 5 '13 at 14:50
  • @ChrisF I think the Userxxxx is whatever the username was when the account got deleted. Which if they never changed it just happens to be the user id. – FDinoff Aug 5 '13 at 15:02
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    @FDinoff - the user name gets anonymised when the account is deleted and is "User" + "Id". I was asking why that information couldn't be used to find the post. – ChrisF Aug 5 '13 at 15:12
  • @ChrisF none of that is pulled into the search index, and even that is partial string searching, not an efficient int match. – Nick Craver Aug 5 '13 at 19:15
  • @NickCraver Ah. I was afraid of that. – ChrisF Aug 5 '13 at 19:51
  • Andrew, wait... @Nick isn't there a plan to have soft deletion of user accounts? When this will come to life, will this feature have chance of being done? – Shadow Mar 26 '14 at 15:34
  • @ShadowWizard there is no such plan, that's a colossal change with very little benefit and a huge performance downside – Nick Craver Mar 26 '14 at 15:35
  • @Nick oh, was sure Anna said something about it. Oh well, thanks anyway! :) – Shadow Mar 26 '14 at 15:39
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    @Nick also if that is a final decision, better reject this, not letting it hang out in the air. (in my opinion) – Shadow Mar 26 '14 at 15:41
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    @AndrewBarber lol, you can start new career as Nick's spokesman! ;) – Shadow Mar 26 '14 at 15:56
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One can get the list of all (non-deleted) posts by a deleted user using Data Explorer; here is a simple query. The posts are identified by OwnerDisplayName instead of OwnerUserId. The fact that Data Explorer data is up to a week old is not an issue for dealing with accounts that no longer have new content.

Pushing this further, one can make a list of all deleted users and (sort of) "restore" their accounts for content-browsing purposes; this has been done for Mathematics.SE in rudimentary form.

One can even have a ranking of deleted users by total score of their posts. However, I'm pretty sure that the top one, "anon", conflates a number of users into one. (The deleted accounts with display names other than userNNNNN were deleted way back when the original user names were preserved with deletion. In a way, using userNNNNN makes deleted users less anonymous since such identifiers are unique.)

  • Very interesting! – Andrew Barber Feb 8 '14 at 2:47
  • "anon" is also the display name that will turn up on posts that were disassociated from (potentially) active accounts, so you're right - they can't be mapped to a single user. – Adam Lear Feb 8 '14 at 2:59
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    @AnnaLear Thanks for the information. It seems that disassociation confers more privacy than account deletion. The past usernames (which are often real names) of deleted users can be usually discovered by looking through the comments threads in which they participated -- some of them will have replies directed at the user. If deleted users were all renamed "anon", this attack at their anonymity would not be possible. – How About a Nice Big Cup of Feb 8 '14 at 3:28
  • @user Sort of , but not quite. Aside from really old deletion that actually preserved display names, the display names of deleted users are of the userXXXXX form, so unless you're super familiar with user ids, you can't really identify the deleted user. – Adam Lear Feb 8 '14 at 3:30
  • @AnnaLear But the comment-replies directed at the user have their username preserved. E.g., if you delete your account right now (fat chance :), people will know from this comment of mine who you were. My point was, userNNNN leads to all comments in the database, which lead to real name via comment-replies. – How About a Nice Big Cup of Feb 8 '14 at 3:31
  • That's legit, but reasonably unlikely. And even then, we don't want to fully anonymize our posts on account deletion due to our content license. Giving up ownership of content isn't the same as deleting an account and we shouldn't conflate the two. – Adam Lear Feb 8 '14 at 3:33
  • (With all this said, I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV.) – Adam Lear Feb 8 '14 at 3:34
0

I recently tried to search for a deleted user's posts and it did not work. I found this post when searching the issue. Reading the comments from Nick Craver, it might not even be possible because of how a user is deleted from the system. I'm posting to bump this to the front page and would like a full response from SE. At least a status-declined tag would be fine, if that's what the answer is.


On who this would be useful to, I think that is beside the point. If it is actually simple to implement then why not do it. I'm not a mod and not even 10K, yet I recently found the desire to look up a deleted user's posts. I understand though if it is functionally impossible. For now, I can google search site:site.stackexchange.com userxxx but that also yield results for comments and other things too.

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    Two things: 1) such a feature would almost certainly only be for mods or 10k, and 2) Nick explained that it's not easy to do. – Andrew Barber Feb 7 '14 at 23:41
  • @AndrewBarber I don't see what it has to be only for mods. A deleted user does not necessarily imply poor content, though that is common. Further, I'll be 10K eventually on an SE site or two, so that's not really an issue anyway. – user212646 Feb 8 '14 at 0:01
  • Granted, that's perhaps arguable... but my opinion would actually be diamonds, only. It's a moot point, really, but I wouldn't cry if it was made for whoever. – Andrew Barber Feb 8 '14 at 1:04

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