I wanted to address this question Is the electron actually a standing wave? , but as already today I wasted time and then the question was deleted, I wanted to make sure I would not waste more time , I started an answer and declared it as a place holder, implying I am working on it. The following happened:


This post is hidden. It was deleted 3 mins ago by rob♦.

This was my place holder:

How can an electron be both a standing wave and have its wave function spherically symmetric?

place holder

Maybe I should thank rob for wasting some more of my time today, because the draft I was working on has disappeared too.

Can somebody tell me how I can avoid closures while working on an answer? Note that this was a recent question, not standing there for hours.


  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13429/… $\endgroup$
    – fqq
    May 22 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Note that if you want to leave a placeholder answer that is only a content-free stub, you can delete it yourself and then undelete it when it is ready. This does not pollute the site with non-information. $\endgroup$ May 23 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty thanks for the tip. It is just that this happened within a very small time of the question appearing and my leaving the stub, I was working on it. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    May 23 at 8:53
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ ... but, that said, if you're doing that just to answer a question which you know should be closed based on the site guidelines that represent the community consensus, then obviously: don't do that. I think there's a case for doing this in isolated cases where there are pending close votes which you disagree actually reflect the guidelines, and your answer-in-the-works is part of your argument for why it should not be closed, but that's a rare beast indeed. $\endgroup$ May 23 at 8:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As for that particular thread, there no close votes have been cast on it. (You can see the current code vote count in parentheses next to the vote-to-close button if there are any.) So I don't get the need to post a placeholder. $\endgroup$ May 23 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty it was because half an hour before I had spent time answering another question and the question was deleted by the OP, (because it was getting negative votes)and the question seemed naive enough and open to negative votes, that can happen very fast. I wanted to clear a miss-conception in the question. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    May 23 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @anna If the placeholder is there to pre-empt a self deletion of the question by the OP (which does indeed happen when OPs receive a stern welcome (often justified)) then I think a self-deleted placeholder is a reasonable practice. But content-free stubs is a different matter. $\endgroup$ May 27 at 12:21

If your placeholder answer had actually answered the question, it would have stayed in place. It’s totally fine to write a partial answer and then edit it later to be longer or more detailed. But it should actually answer the question the entire time.

For example, this answer, whose first version was just the first paragraph and a sentence promising to write some more. It turned out I was called away while expanding it, so the incomplete version was displayed for longer than I intended, but what was visible was an actual answer to the question.

My advice on the subject is still the same as in this recent discussion:

In the extremely distant past, there was moderator advice about making “placeholder answers” which could be edited into proper shape even if the question was closed. However, the intent of that advice was that the “placeholder answer” would answer the question from the outset, even if the initial answer was incomplete. A number of users have interpreted that advice as license to make a content-free “stub” of an answer under an off-topic question, which they can edit into a complete answer and undelete even if the question is closed. Other users who notice new, complete answers to off-topic questions appearing long after the questions are closed tend to agree with you: it’s an abuse of the system. Don’t do that.

I think that “content-free stub” is a fair description of the first version of your answer, whose entire non-quoted text was “place holder.”

In general, an answer that has been hidden by the moderators for breaking some guideline can be restored if it’s edited into an acceptable form. In many cases, when the mods delete an answer, we’ll include advice about repairing the answer and raising a custom moderator flag for un-deletion. I didn’t include such advice when I deleted your answer, because my first two drafts sounded like I was offering to restore your answer even if the question was closed. Perhaps I should have tried a third time.

Also, it’s a shame that my interaction with your post caused your draft to disappear. I’m sure that was extra-frustrating.


The premise of this question is flawed. You seem to believe that your placeholder answer would prevent the question from being closed or deleted, and that is not generally true.

The OP of a question can choose to delete their own question (together with your answer) at any time until one of several criteria are met to block that action. (See How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?). It could be that something about the circumstances of when you posted your stub would have triggered one of those, but generally speaking one would hope that there are not a lot of answers going onto questions that are getting as heavy negative feedback as you've suggested for at least one of the questions that you references in comments nor upvotes on a stub that doesn't (yet) provide a real answer.

Moreover, if you expected the question to be closed, which can happen even if answers are already posted, then roomba could well delete the question and answer in as few as 9 days depending on how many votes are cast.

Either way, your answer stood a chance of being deleted sooner or later if the question had serious problems. (And if it didn't then the stub was unnecessary by any measure.)

Beyond the technical points, what you're doing with the stub answer is trying to circumvent both the SE software and the other users on the site. Provided the question had issues that justified your concern about deletion or closure, then it would seem that you

  1. Realized that the question had problems;
  2. Realized that other users also saw the problems are were providing feedback including downvotes and/or close votes; and
  3. Feared that the OP of the question would act on that feedback by deleting their question.

A primary purpose of downvoting a question is to induce the poster to delete it. (Related: https://stackoverflow.blog/2011/06/13/optimizing-for-pearls-not-sand/) That's why SE refunds the reputation lost on delete posts - Part of the "don't hold a grudge" approach taken by the site for users who correct their mistakes. In addition to trying to keep a question that you evidentially thought was poor on the site, if you had been successful you would also, as side effects, have:

  1. Negated what you saw as the community's overall response to the question; and
  2. Prevented the OP of the question from deleting their question, which then would expose them to more negative feedback rather than allowing them to gracefully back out, perhaps to regroup and post better later.

If you really thought the question was salvageable, then the appropriate recourse would be to fix the question first not to provide an answer to a question that even you (apparently) thought had significant issues.


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