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I was recently on Stack Overflow answering a question about why someone's CSS was not working.

The question had only one tag, and may not have been top quality, however I started answering it.

Having spent about 10 minutes constructing an answer explaining the fault was elsewhere, and giving some tips to try and find it, I submitted the answer, only to find the question had been deleted whilst I was answering.

What I would have found useful is a feature that, when viewing the question, and certainly when deleting it, shows how many (if any) users are currently answering the question. Apart from the obvious effort of implementing a Stack Exchange wide real-time tracker for answerer's on both mobile and web, what would be the objections to such a system?

marked as duplicate by random, CRABOLO, Martijn Pieters, Scimonster, gnat Feb 13 '15 at 9:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • This would be a wonderful feature! – NoviceSEMetaGeek Feb 13 '15 at 0:38
  • If this were implemented, I'd imagine this scenario: Ooh, bad question... I wonder if anyone is answering it. (clicks) Oh look! Someone is answering. Quick quick! Nuke it fast before they finish. – Mysticial Feb 13 '15 at 2:11
  • Note that this has been down voted. Why? The tooltip when hovering over the upvote says "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear." I find this question meets those criteria. Are people downvoting when they disagree with the suggestion, or when the question is useful. You can disagree and yet acknowledge that the question has its place here. – tgm1024 Feb 13 '15 at 2:22
  • It might be useful if displayed only to the OP of the question, as a warning when he/she tries to delete e.g. "At least one user is now posting an answer, sure you want to delete?" – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Feb 13 '15 at 8:22
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    @tgm1024 the tooltip on meta is plain wrong and got nothing with the real function of votes here. For some odd reason, this feature request was declined but the fact is still that voting is different on meta. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Feb 13 '15 at 8:24
  • @ShadowWizard I understand that it's different. It's not clear to me that a downvote is meant to indicate "I disagree". Is it? – tgm1024 Feb 14 '15 at 22:25
  • @tgm1024 yes indeed, here on meta the main usage of downvotes is to indicate disagreement. Of course badly asked questions would still attract downvotes as well, but that's usually not the case. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Feb 14 '15 at 22:45
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I don't see the benefit of knowing if someone was going to answer a question when voting to close/delete. Usually when you've hit that stage, a (poor quality) answer isn't going to affect your opinion. It'd be a bit of extra work for the few users who would actually use it.


Usually questions are deleted for a reason. It takes a lot of work for that to happen, and if it happens shortly after a question was asked then there were some serious issues with it. The other possibility is if the author deletes the question, at which point they probably won't care about answers.

If it was closed on the other hand, that's a different issue. Questions can be closed for different reasons, quite often because they are too broad or duplicates, and usually you know ahead of time when it is going to happen. I'd familiarize yourself with the close reasons and on-topic criteria of the site you are answering on.

  • It does not take a lot of work for a question that has not been answered yet to be deleted by its author. Even if the question has answers but they have a score of 0, the author can still delete the question. I'm thinking this is the kind of situation the OP is talking about. – Louis Feb 12 '15 at 23:03
  • @Louis Fair point, I didn't think about that situation. – Kevin Brown Feb 12 '15 at 23:24
  • @Louis I think it probably was the author as it was easily within 10 minutes of being deleted (I was on mobile and I started answering it when it was about 5 on "newest questions") – Luke Moll Feb 13 '15 at 17:12
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I don't think the feature is worth the effort implementing it.

It's not fully clear from your question but I'm thinking the scenario you are describing is one in which the author of the question deletes their own question while people are answering. This seems to me to be the most likely kind of situation where you'd have a question deleted while you are answering.

I'm not unsympathetic to the issue of writing an answer only to have it go to waste. In the past few weeks, two questions I answered were deleted minutes after I answered. However, I think putting a notification that people are answering the question is only going to encourage those who post terrible questions to hold off deleting their question once they get a notification that someone is writing an answer.

If a question that was deleted was a really good one, you do have a recourse. Cut and paste your answer into an editor to preserve it. At >10k of reputation, users can undelete questions that have been deleted. In the most common scenario you'd need 3 people to vote to undelete. So you can go in a topic-appropriate chat room to make a case for undeletion. If this does not work because, for instance, the topic is not a popular one, you could flag for moderator attention and make a case for undeletion. I had to do this recently on a question in a topic that does not get much traffic.

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Questions are not deleted because nobody answers them within 10 minutes. People delete their question when they found the error themselves and realise that their question isn't going to help anyone, for example. Generally, people delete questions because they realise no answer is going to help anyone. The information that someone is writing an answer is thus irrelevant.

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