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Consider the following scenario:

  1. A high-reputation user schedules their account for deletion – which has 24 hours time.
  2. 23 hours and fifty minutes later, the user engages in vandalic activity.
  3. This may trigger auto-flags and similar, but before anybody can react, the account is deleted.
  4. It is impossible or at least difficult for moderators to undo this mess because they only have access to a list of the user’s posts but not to their recent actions like comments, deleted comments, edits, etc.
  5. While staff can probably still access the information after deletion, they may lack the subject knowledge to decide which actions should be undone.

While I get that we do not want to hit quitting users with the hammer of suspension and also give them the opportunity to do an honest clean-up, it does seem a good trade-off to me to have any (or at least most, see below) actions delay the deletion (by resetting the timer). This gives the community and moderators time to notice rage quitters and react and particularly avoids the above scenario. Also it may at least somewhat disincentivise vandalism.

The easiest way is probably to make all actions reset the timer, but it would suffice to limit this to all potentially vandalising or community-disturbing ones that do not leave a track (at all or after deletion):

  • posting comments
  • deleting comments
  • editing posts (in particular those of others)
  • downvoting, unaccepting,
  • reviewing
  • flagging
  • setting bounties

This would at least have the same disincentivising effect as this feature request.

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    I think the easier solution would be to just suspend any account while it's scheduled for deletion. If they want to change something, they can cancel and restart... but that's at least clear to them what the impact is. – Catija Apr 23 at 13:50
  • How is deleting comments "potentially vandalising or community-disturbing"? Even if they were useful, e. g. asking an OP for clarification, someone else could write such a comment. – Anne Daunted Apr 23 at 14:00
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    @AnneDaunted: There are occasional comments that cannot easily be reproduced from scratch, such as the comment explaining a non-trivial flaw in an answer. Also, there are cases such as comments that actually should have been edited into answers/questions or actually interesting discussions. Sure, these cases only make up for a small portion of all comments, but given that comment deletion is much less restricted than post deletion, this can still be pretty annoying. – Wrzlprmft Apr 23 at 14:15
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    Something like resetting the timer is just not technically feasible. Aside from the work it'd take to build an extra thing into all these functions, there is no way to "reset the timer" because it's not a timer. It's just a date when the user scheduled the deletion, stored in their user history, with 24 hours added to it for the banner display. "Resetting" it would require cancelling and rescheduling, which would flood the user's history if they were active during that time. Plus, there's Meta to consider. – animuson Apr 23 at 14:22
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    @animuson How about Catija's proposed solution above? Prevent the account from taking any actions while the deletion timer is active, and require the user to cancel it in order to take any actions. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Apr 23 at 14:38
  • @animuson: Technically, I suppose, you could also implement a check for recent activities before performing he deletion scheduling it for a new date. (No idea, whether that’s actually feasible though.) – Wrzlprmft Apr 23 at 15:15
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As animuson says, the specific request here isn't possible but you have recognized a situation that I'd already identified to be a concern - that of users rage quitting and taking some of their content with them. I actually have a plan for this but I'll get to it a bit further down.

I don't think that your general idea is a bad one - doing something to disincentivize users from taking their ball and going home, so to speak. If it's feasible, it might make sense to just prohibit any actions by a profile while it's in the deletion queue and we could make that clear to them before they schedule it.

You are scheduling your profile for deletion. If you begin this process, your profile will be suspended/locked/frozen until it is deleted, preventing you from taking any action on this site or the associated meta site. You will be able to cancel the deletion at any time before deletion occurs. This will release the suspension/lock/freeze on your profile.

We can encourage users to do any cleanup before the 24 hours starts and let them know that their profile will essentially be in stasis while waiting. This seems like a reasonable middle ground that allows users to have ownership of their profile deletion and a countdown to deletion but also not letting them do damage immediately before they leave.

We do have an auto flag that gets raised if a user goes on a deletion spree but that only catches so much... as the trigger point is pretty high. For users who aren't deleting their accounts, this may get caught later but with deleting users, it's unlikely to get caught in the future.

One of the things I'd love to do is to set up an automatic flag as part of the account deletion process that notifies moderators whenever a user has deleted some of their posts within the last week before and points them at the deleted user's posts page that you can generally find on their deleted profile stub. When I've reviewed these sorts of events in the past, this page was the most valuable resource for reviewing deleted posts by the user to see if anything needed to be undeleted.

JNat actually put in some time doing research on this and we have some targets for this trigger. The idea is that there will be a flag for any user whose account is deleted if, within seven days of deleting their profile, they delete a post with a score higher than a number we set. This will probably be set at a different number depending on the site and different for a question vs an answer.

I don't know if/when we'll be getting this rolling out but it's definitely something we've been thinking about.

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    Showing deletion date in that table linked from the stub and allowing the table to be sorted on any column would allow for a good deal of auditing. That would show everything. – Monica Cellio Apr 23 at 19:09
  • Yep. Agreed. We have useful tables everywhere that aren't quite as useful as they could be. That change would definitely be a good one to make. – Catija Apr 23 at 20:53
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Let's just block actions from accounts awaiting deletion, and provide clear messaging:

  • On the page with the "delete" button, say something like: "After you request deletion your account will be locked and you won't be able to take further actions on the site. You can revoke the deletion request and unlock your account at any time by..." So they're told up front what the consequences will be. (For bonus points, update the help on deleting accounts and link to it.)

  • On the profile page where it says "this account is scheduled for deletion", add something like "and cannot take further actions on the site", so that somebody who blew past that first notice gets a reminder about why he can't edit or vote or whatever.

  • Don't say anything publicly about the status of the account. This isn't a suspension and shouldn't carry that badge (banner) of shame. It's just an administrative detail.

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