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'Vets' will probably know where this is leading to as most of us have experienced it at some point (it's not my first time!)

Yesterday a new contributor posed a well-formed question (about a steady-state heat conduction problem). Some members and myself made some decent comments. We got no reply.

I then decided to answer the question in full. I didn't get an immediate acknowledgement of my effort.

And much to my annoyance the contributor had deleted his question when I checked in this morning.

This is both frustrating and ineffective: the question (and answer) had received no down-votes or votes to close and could have been informative for other members or searchers.

So it appears that some new contributors simply lose interest in their own question and delete it, together with someone else's work! 'Newbies' are of course not quite as invested in P.SE as regular contributors.

I wonder if some moderator oversight would be useful here?

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    $\begingroup$ While "lost interest" is a possible explanation for this behaviour - as is misunderstanding what the "delete" action is for, especially for new users - there is also a more malign interpretation: The question is e.g. a question in an exam and they delete it after having received an answer because they don't want to leave the evidence visible. I have no data on how common this is but it certainly has happened several times. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 6 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that a question with upvoted answers can't be deleted by itsauthor, but I don't know the vote threshold. $\endgroup$ – rob Jul 6 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ @rob Any upvotes on an answer at all keep the question from being deleted. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jul 6 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ OPs deleting their possible homework or exam question shortly after receiving a valid answer is fairly common on other sites, like Mathematics & SO. I suspect it's less common on Physics, due to our strong policy regarding homework-like questions. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Jul 7 at 2:45
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So... what exactly are you proposing that we do about it?

I mean, I agree that this is undesirable behavior; while we do generally want to allow people to delete their own questions within reason, they shouldn't be able to do so when it takes away content contributed by others that may add value. SE has taken some action on this in the past, but it probably doesn't go quite far enough, and I still see complaints about this come up from time to time. Ideally, we'd have some technical restriction like, say, disallowing self-deletion of a question less than $X$ hours old that has received an answer within the last $Y$ hours (e.g. $X=48$, $Y=24$). But only SE can make those changes. The mods can certainly try to bump up the importance of this feature in SE's view, but realistically it's going to take a long time for them to deal with it.

In the short term, all we can do is undelete the question and answer, and to do that we have to be notified about it. I don't remember offhand if you can flag the deleted question or your deleted answer, but if you're able to do so, I would definitely encourage you to cast a flag asking for it to be undeleted. (Readers should note that I'm specifically talking about the case where an answer was posted and the asker of the question deleted it before the answer got a reasonable chance to be voted on; I'm not suggesting flagging things for undeletion any more generally than that.) If you're not able to flag the post, you can flag another of your own posts and cast a custom mod flag explaining the situation; or you can ask one of the mods if you happen to see us in chat.


Now that the question/answer has been identified, I've undeleted it.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not really proposing anything right now, rather I'll listen to people like yourself (and hopefully others) on this subject. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 6 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ High-rep users (20k+ IIRC?) can also vote to undelete things, so if you can get a few other high-reputation users together to undelete the question, Are you referring to 'votes to reopen' for questions that were previously closed, then edited and put up for reopen votes? I would try and flag the question for 'undelete' but cannot see it anywhere. Not in my profile's list of answers either. $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 6 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, apparently I was mistaken. I found the page I was thinking of but I didn't realize that the undeletion privileges for non-mods are restricted. I'll remove that part. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 6 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ What baffles me a bit is that the Q&A seems to have fallen off the edge of the earth. Vanished completely, not even visible with my $>20k$ rep. $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 6 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ Under some circumstances, links to deleted posts are hidden to all non-moderators. Was it this one by any chance? $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 6 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's the question and answer. Thank you. Hidden by its own OP... $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 6 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ The question now appears to have been undeleted. Not sure why. $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 8 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Gert Look at DavidZ's edited answer here. DavidZ undeleted it :) $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Jul 8 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist Yes, must learnt to read, one fine day! $\endgroup$ – Gert Jul 8 at 17:51

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