Askers can delete their own question if it has no answer, or if it has a single answer with no upvote. The first case is generally fine: deleting an unanswered question rarely causes collateral damage. It can happen that someone was in the process of writing an answer, but if they feel that their answer-to-be is valuable enough, they can re-ask the question and answer it themselves. Deleting an answered question is more problematic. Common cases include:

  • The answer says “it was a typo” or “you misread the directions” or something similar which won't ever help anyone else. In this case, deleting the thread is the right thing.
  • The asker is new to Stack Exchange and thinks that solved questions should be deleted. We shouldn't let that happen.
  • The asker wants to hide their tracks: they don't want their professor/boss/… to find out that they got help from Stack Exchange, and they delete their question as soon as they get an answer.

Deletion of an answered question by the asker happens with very little opportunity for review.

  • The answerer won't notice anything unless they bookmarked the question and check back on it later, or they go and check the unemphasized section of their profile that lists their recently deleted posts.
  • Users with the “moderator tools” privilege can check recent deletions but that list omits self-deletions (thanks Behaviour). Even if they were included, they'd be lost in the noise.
  • Moderators have access to a list of self-deleted posts. It's yet another tool for mods to check and contains a lot of things that don't need review (unanswered questions, answers that turned out to be wrong or duplicates), so I'd like something better.

I'd like to have better oversight on answers indirectly deleted by the asker: prevent or at least flag the bad cases, without requiring too much busywork in the good cases.

I propose to raise an automatic flag when a user deletes their question after it has been answered. This seems fine to me as a moderator on a small site, but I have no idea whether that means 1 or 100 extra flags per day on SO.

An alternative solution would be to remove the ability to single-handedly delete answered questions altogether. The right solution depends on how many self-deleted answered questions fall into each category, which I don't have statistics for.

  • 1
    I like the flag option. But I feel that for sites like Stack Overflow this would make the flag queue shoot fireworks. – Madara's Ghost Dec 8 '14 at 14:30
  • 1
    Don't forget that as soon as an answer gets an upvote the question can't be self deleted. So if the answer has merit then this situation can't occur. – ChrisF Dec 8 '14 at 14:34
  • 1
    @JanDvorak Exactly the "I cheated and cover my tracks" questions tend to accumlate no votes; nobody likes homework dumps. (At least on Computer Science.) – Raphael Dec 8 '14 at 14:34
  • 15
    @ChrisF On small sites, the asker may be faster than readers. Especially in problematic cases. Maybe a cooldown is the answer: every answer adds 24 hours to a "deletion lock" during which the asker can not delete the new answer (i.e. not the question). If there are no upvotes after that, go for it. – Raphael Dec 8 '14 at 14:34
  • 9
    I think that simply disallowing deletion if a zero score answer is present would be enough to avoid most of the misuse, and I don't think it would prevent all that many valid self-deletions. I've proposed this and similar ideas in the past. – Mad Scientist Dec 8 '14 at 14:35
  • 1
    @Raphael - good point & I like your suggestion of a cool down period. – ChrisF Dec 8 '14 at 14:40
  • 1
    Users with 10K tools cannot see self-deletions: they are excluded from the list of recently deleted posts. – user259867 Dec 8 '14 at 14:44
  • 1
    Another case (my own experience): I asked quite an unpopular question. Then I (of course!) started a bounty on it. One has prepared a good answer and answered the question. I awarded the bounty and? was able to delete the question. Either it shouldn't be allowed or should be tracked (I decided to undelete my question some time later). Btw, maybe I should create a feature-request about not allowing to delete questions with bountied answers? – nicael Dec 8 '14 at 15:36
  • 5
    On Stack Overflow, 11504 questions with answers were deleted by their authors during the past 90 days. Therefore, this would generate on average ~128 flags per day. Excluding Stack Overflow and meta sites, 2200 questions with answers were deleted by their authors network-wide during the past 90 days. – Shog9 Dec 8 '14 at 16:34
  • 2
    I don't like the idea of moderators having to judge what's worth keeping and what not, possibly in areas way out of their expertise. It would be better to give answerers better tools for tracking the fate of their answers deleted in this particular way. An inbox notification, perhaps? – user259867 Dec 8 '14 at 17:01
  • 1
    @Behaviour But that's what we (and other reviewers) do every day. – Raphael Dec 8 '14 at 17:52
  • 1
    @MadScientist: No problem, I'll just downvote the answer before I delete my question! – jscs Dec 8 '14 at 20:12
  • 3
    @Raphael Also, on smaller (i.e., almost all) sites an answer to a boring question is quite likely not to pick up votes so is vulnerable to deletion for quite a long time. This can definitely be a problem: on Computer Science at the moment, we're having a couple of homework questions turn up repeatedly, almost word-for-word duplicates. If zero-score answers get deleted with the questions, people spend time again and again answering the same question. – David Richerby Dec 10 '14 at 13:28
  • 2
    @Shog9 So what alternative methods of oversight can you offer? People posting homework questions and deleting as soon as they've had an answer is a recurring problem on Computer Science. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 1 '17 at 19:07
  • 1
    2018, this spring has seen an apparent uptick in the self-deleted questions after answer. I suspect this is more homework/delete to prevent it from being later found. The minimum rep for self-delete does have merit. If it takes 100 rep to comment, then it should take 100 rep to immediately self-delete. (a self-delete with rep less-than 100 should set a moderator review flag to determine if it is just a crappy question that needs deleting, or if it is a good question/answer that is attempted to be hidden). – David C. Rankin Mar 18 '18 at 4:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .