In the past few weeks, I've received a few emails from users asking me why I deleted their posts. It's almost always for answers deleted after being correctly flagged as "not an answer". Typically, the user just doesn't fully understand the Stack Exchange format, and thinks they're leaving a comment or reply. After linking them to the About page and the Why was my answer deleted page, they typically understand. Now, deleted posts already show a link to the deleted answers help page, which I guess people don't click much. So, I'm suggesting that we make it more obvious by specifically telling them why their post was deleted.

I'd like to see some way for moderators to optionally select a deletion reason when removing posts. Something similar to the rejected suggested edits reasons, which would show the user why their post was deleted with relevant links.

Here are some of the reasons I'd suggest:

Your post was deleted because...

  • Comment as answer:

    it would be more appropriate as a comment. You can always comment on your own posts, and can comment everywhere once you earn 50 reputation points.

  • Question as answer:

    it appears to be asking a related question. Instead of leaving an answer, you can ask a new question. Make sure to refer back to this original question, explaining what answers you've tried and why they didn't work.

  • Me-too answer:

    it appears to be re-stating the original question. If you have the same problem as the original question, you can (if rep >= 15){up vote it to show your support} (if rep >= 50){or start a bounty} (if rep < 15){use the "was this post helpful yes/no" links to support it}.

  • Thanks answer:

    it appears to be a response to another answer. If you'd like to show appreciation for an answer, you can (if rep >= 15){vote up the answer} (if rep < 15){use the "was this post helpful yes/no" links under the answer} to support the answer that helped you.

  • Other:

    it does not fundamentally answer the question.

... For more information, see the About tour and "why and how are some answers deleted".

I think these cover all of the situations under which I would delete an answer and feel like the user deserves an explanation (albeit a canned message). If it's spam, gibberish, or otherwise obviously not genuine content, then the user shouldn't really be surprised when it's removed, or it might be appropriate to leave a comment. It's too much work to constantly be writing comments though (even with the pro forma comments script, it's kind of unofficial and inconsistent), so I think this would help a lot for making deletion more transparent to the user.

Example:

To avoid making this too difficult for the moderator should they not wish to add a reason, the deletion could still happen instantaneously, but a box could show up after the deletion occurs, asking if they'd like to select a reason. If they don't choose a reason, it would just remain with the current default.

  • 3
    And a specific message for “has been converted to a comment” would be great too! – Ry- Aug 19 '13 at 1:13
  • 1
    @minitech good point. The "better as comment one" could automatically be changed to "Your post has been automatically converted to a comment for you. You can always leave comments on your own posts, and can leave comments everywhere once you earn 50 reputation points." when conversion occurs. – nhinkle Aug 19 '13 at 1:14
  • 3
    @minitech When you convert an answer to a comment, the answerer already sees "has been converted to a comment by minitech" type of message. I recall asking to have that shown to everyone because it's a handy bit of context to have, but I don't think I ever turned it into a full feature request and it fell through the cracks. – Adam Lear Aug 19 '13 at 1:25
  • +1 great feature request A+++ would upvote again. Having a standard list of deletion reasons to choose from would be extremely low-impact for moderators, but would also lend more transparency and promote understanding of their decisions. We get a lot of Meta questions with people asking for an explanation of moderator decisions, and though they are often poorly phrased, the fact that the person took the time to come ask on Meta is still a good sign, a sign that they care. A lot of time and hurt feelings could be spared by just letting them know the problem up front. – Cody Gray Aug 19 '13 at 4:12
  • @nhinkle: how are we meant to tell new users what to do with things meant to be in comments until they reach 50 rep? Wouldn't they just spam/create bad posts until then? – Qantas 94 Heavy Aug 19 '13 at 6:23
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    The reasons would have to be configurable per-site, the typical deletion reasons on Skeptics for example are very different than on the rest of the network. – Mad Scientist Aug 19 '13 at 6:50
  • @Qantas94Heavy that's a good question. I think the party line is "tell them to deal with it, comments are a lower class of content that doesn't really matter." In reality I don't think that's always a practical approach, but I also haven't seen any suggested alternatives that fully address the problems with unlimited commenting. Myself and surely many others would be interested to hear any relevant suggestions though. – nhinkle Aug 19 '13 at 7:49
  • @Qantas94Heavy they can't just spam/create new posts endlessly though, as the automatic answer ban is enabled on all sites and would stop them if they truly created infinite comments-as-answers. – nhinkle Aug 19 '13 at 7:50

Not a complete solution, but a decent workaround:

I've been able to approximate what you're looking for using the pro-forma comments script. My canned comments include:

We're a little different from other sites. We're a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, and we reserve the answer space for answers to the question that was asked. This doesn't answer the question so I'm deleting it. Please check out our short [tour] for more about how the site works. Thanks.

On $SITENAME$, we're looking for answers with some depth that explain why and how and that are ideally backed by facts, references, and personal experiences. Please see Why and how are some answers deleted and How do I write a good answer. Thanks.

This answer does not meet the standards of professionalism expected for $SITENAME$. Please read this link for more information if you have any questions. Thanks.

You can create whatever comments you want, and then select and add a comment with just a few mouse clicks before deleting the post. That's not as easy as delete -> choose from menu -> done, but it's way better than typing (or pasting in) those comments each time.

If you don't want to (or can't) use a userscript, often you can leverage the comments built into the review queue. You mentioned that most of your deletions are because of NAA flags. This probably means they're in the review queue, which you can access from the post timeline. From there, if you complete the review and choose "delete", you can choose a canned comment.

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