Today I clicked a link to a question on SO and got, 404 - This question was removed from Stack Overflow for reasons of moderation. That took me to another page, Why and how are some questions deleted?.

I am accustomed to things like GitHub. All things can change, but all things have a history. If you push your credentials into GitHub, you can hide that mistake, but you can't delete it.

I was surprised that a link I have, i.e. a direct path to something that was not hidden from me and that I did not randomly run across, brought me to a 404 - Removed!

Searching on the words "removed" and "deleted", I found things about pet vacuums, private lists with lifetimes and privileged access. In fact, there are several places that lifetimes seem to be implicit in the automation associated with "deleted" content. There is also information on features related to "deleted" content and time limitations.

Since the documentation uses the words "removed" and "deleted", and the site behaves as though the content I am trying to access has been removed/deleted, I am trying to understand why content would actually be removed/deleted.

I understand that there can be economic and physical reasons for restricting resources. Do these reasons play an important factor when choosing to delete questions or answers (really, any content)?

I also understand why things get hidden. I don't want to stop anything from being hidden. I don't want to change why things are hidden. I don't want to unhide anything that has been hidden. I believe it is in my interest that the things being hidden are hidden.

I am interested in finding a way to be more liberal in allowing any person to access a hidden thing if the person knows the path to the hidden thing.

When I say, I am interested in finding a way... I mean, I am trying to determine if there is an important system requirement that would prevent a feature change that allowed any person to access a hidden thing if the person knows the path to the hidden thing.

I think that an important aspect of my thinking is hinged on the bit, if the person knows the path to the hidden thing.

Everything I have read so far implies the idea behind hiding is to remove disruptive content from people's view. For a few people, e.g. the ones that took the time to create a bookmark, the hidden thing is not a disruptive.

Nothing said so far has persuaded me that, for the general case privilege should be required to access hidden content accessed from a link. Requiring privilege for people that don't already have the link, that still makes sense to me.


3 Answers 3


Uhm. No. A deleted or non deleted post takes up the same amount of resources since very little is actually deleted.

The posts are still there - if one of your posts is deleted, you can view them, and so can any 10ker (with a link) or moderator. The FAQ goes into detail on that bit — and is a useful starting point cause there's a lot.

It's all about helping people find relevant useful pearls of information, and sometimes that means sweeping the sand under the carpet. We want things that are no longer useful to not be visible to the average random user though if the issues with a post are fixed, you can always flag for undeletion/reopening. Especially for a new user this results in a better experience.

The folks who can see deleted posts are special. Post owners can edit and try to fix their posts if they know where they are. In some cases they let you see answers you posted to deleted questions — which can be handy in some cases. You always own your own posts.

The other class of folks who can see deleted posts are folks with moderation powers. SE in general has a fairly small group of moderators — either elected or appointed who volunteer their time, so a lot of moderation is done by higher reputation users who's given limited moderation powers with sufficient reputation.

So unless you posted it or are a 10k + user, there's no way to "I am interested in finding a way to be more liberal in who can access a hidden thing if a person knows the path to a hidden thing."

If it's a post that lasted a while, you might be able to find it in the data dumps, asking a 10ker or mod very politely or cached in some corner of the internet.

  • It is too bad the search, 'why are questions deleted' didn't take me to the detail link you provided. The results did include the FAQ -- not at the top of the results, but it is there. I used my eyes to scan the FAQ, that was my error there.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 6:57
  • Well, I knew most of this from experience - I had a deleted post I really wanted to see, and worked backwards from there. Some aspects of the SE platform are a little obtuse unless you already "get" how things work unfortunately. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 7:04
  • I very much appreciate the desire to make things easy to find, to remove noise and that not all things have the same value to all people. I did search for my own answers first, so I am aware there are caveats that let some people access some deleted content. Since I can understand why it makes sense to hide some content from the average random user and since it is called "deleted" not "hidden", I am trying to understand the reason it is hidden from such a large group of non-random users, i.e. hidden from all users that do have the link, but are not the owner or someone with 10k+ rep.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 7:30
  • ooh. Now that will need some digging. Off the top of my head - essentially 10k's the magic number where you get pretty much the full set of tools for meta moderation. You're a trusted user who has shown a commitment to a community - and are trusted with moderator tools. In packs, 10k users (while unable to strip a whole cattle to its bones) can do anything an elected or appointed mod can to a post. Even then, some stuff's click through. While there's a few of us who handle special case and flags, the community moderates itself for most par, Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 7:35
  • Sure, and I have read about the controversy of if people should have access to a list of what's deleted and the effects on rep, etc... The thing I can't figure out is, why is there a need for a trust relationship(), when showing someone, something they previously had access to and still know where to look for it? The only thing that made sense to me when I started trying to resolve this was that it must literally be getting deleted after some point. ( There are some exceptions where I do believe some data should become very hidden, e.g. the contributor has removed it.)
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 8:37
  • I have tried a number of ways to find this in a cache. I think that maybe my problem is the link I have is the long link, not the short hash. Anyway, I haven't been able to get it on my own from a cache. Thanks to your comment, I did just learn about chat, so I will be fishing for some quick help in there next. Wink, wink, in case you wanted to look in there. ;D
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 10:38
  • @Shaymin helped me get at the content. (Big thanks!!!)
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 11:30
  • I do still want to keep the discussion going on if it makes sense to limit access of deleted content to privileged users.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 11:32
  • Might make sense to split that into another question Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 11:33
  • People don't like this one for sure. :? Should I start a feature request? I don't know how many hours ago, but originally I was going to start a feature request, and then figured it has to have been something previously covered. All the old stuff I found seems to be about who/how/when to tell people something is deleted, what about rep, or when/what to delete. I wanted to know if delete was really delete... I know the answer to that now. ;)
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 11:42

Yes, in the more general sense that answerers could be considered resources. We don't want the limited pool of answerers being distracted by wasting their time looking at questions that they cannot answer.

Equally we don't want people wasting their time reading answers that don't make sense or wading through spam in order to find our pearls of wisdom. There's a drain to the world economy if they do that instead of more useful work.

If you meant the more narrow sense of computer resources then the other answers here explain why that's not the case.

  • Even as far as individual time goes, that's true Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 8:06
  • No, I am asking in the very specific sense of computer resources, because the documentation uses the words "deleted" and "removed". My experience in software is that you only delete things that you are forced to, e.g. limited resources, GDPR, I wasn't looking and the garbage collector took it. I am 100% not saying or asking anyone to not hide things or in anyway alter the intentions behind what you are calling the general sense.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 8:26

Nope. On Stack Exchange, very little is ever actually permanently deleted. Questions, answers, comments, chat messages, and many others are still kept in the database. Even redacted revisions (basically deleted revisions) are visible to Community Managers.

As Journeyman Geek mentioned, something takes the same resources when it's deleted as when it's not. Questions are generally deleted if they are extremely off-topic or very low quality, answers if they don't answer the question or are link-only, and comments if they are not relevant to the post.

Content is not deleted to save space, only to keep the site clean.

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