This question is more to let StackExchange know my concern but if someone has any recommendations without StackExchange changing the way the site works I'd really like to hear them.

I'm getting frustrated with how the StackExchange mechanism does not allow a moderator to deal appropriately (IMO) with people who leave comments as answers, comments like "Yes! I need that too! Has anyone solved this?", and others.

Currently the only thing that I can do as a moderator is either delete their answer or leave a comment asking them to delete it. As I understand it, if I delete they cannot see any comments on their answer after it's deleted. And if I don't delete it but "resolve" the mod flag that means I don't take action to clean up the site. Neither is good for the site IMO.

Ideally it would be great to be able to send the user a message using site messaging explaining why we deleted it and what they can do next time. It would be even better if they could just see their own deleted questions so they can still see any comments associated with their question letting them know why it was deleted.

As is, there is no good option. StackExchange, Help?

2 Answers 2


After some internal discussion we decided to change a few things to improve this.

First, we made the 404 page explicitly tell you about deletions, owner deletions, and moderator deletions at the top -- this refers users to the faq.

Add message saying "Question was deleted" instead of the generic Page Not Found

Second, I added some explanatory text to deleted answers for answer owners -- which are visible to the user, if they hold the URL to the question page.

Why was your post deleted? see the faq.

I continue to believe that showing deleted posts on a user's profile would lead to nothing but pain and angst, so I respectfully decline that.. again.

  • If a moderator comments on a post and then deletes it, will this trigger a notification in the global inbox with a link to the deleted-but-still-accessible post? And will the comment still be there? This would probably solve most of the problem Mike states.
    – Jan Fabry
    Apr 4, 2011 at 7:25
  • @jan like I said, I simply don't believe users so clueless will be able to figure out the global inbox. (And the answer to your question is NO.) However, they WILL be able to see their deleted answer with any comments and the /faq link, and the revised 404 pages will tell them their now-deleted question was moderated away with a link to the /faq. That should suffice for now, and it is substantially better than what we had. Apr 4, 2011 at 7:32
  • Ah, I thought I had seen notifications in my own inbox for comments that were gone once I clicked on them (it's not the deletion that should trigger the notification, but the comment). I understand you clump all of these people together under the flag "clueless", but I see many people who are just used to "classic" forum systems and still need to learn the differences. I have explained many things about the SE system here on this Meta to users who hadn't participated in SO since the beginning, and many of those users are now productive participants here - some even moderators.
    – Jan Fabry
    Apr 4, 2011 at 7:47
  • @jan clueful users are going to know how to get back to the question they answered and see what happened with it, even if it is deleted. It's always visible to them as the answer owner. Nothing else needs to be done. Apr 4, 2011 at 7:50
  • Big thanks for considering my issue and taking an action. It helps. Apr 5, 2011 at 5:26

I don't have any sympathy for these kinds of users, and I don't believe in mollycoddling or babying them.

The types of users who post "answers" of the form

Yes I need this too!


Has anyone solved this?

Are highly likely to be drive-by users who don't invest even the minimum of time to understand why it isn't appropriate to type that into an input area with a giant can't-miss-it-<h2> of YOUR ANSWER, before clicking Post Your Answer.

These users aren't looking for education, they're looking for a quick fix. Immediate post deletion is the appropriate action, unless there are extraordinary extenuating circumstances.

Now, if it is a partial answer that at least offers some insight into possible solutions, then that's certainly worthy of a comment. But then I rarely delete answers that have at least a glimmer of a (non-dupe) solution anyway.

edit: as far as an automated solution for blocking non-answers, the following is enabled on our top ~6 sites by traffic: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/01/how-to-say-thanks-in-an-answer/ ; see details on the heuristic at Heuristics for detecting a bad answer?

  • 2
    @Jeff - With all due respect... :) I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm looking for recognition of Jakob's Law and How Users Read on the Web. With a billion+ sites on the web many people who might become excellent community members won't recognize the value of this site the first time they are here, and if they have a bad experience they may never come back. I'm simply saying it would be good to let them know what they did wrong. Apr 3, 2011 at 4:40
  • 1
    @Jeff - Further, while you may be taking what you view a principled stance, your stance burdens the moderator when it could easily empower the moderator. But maybe I just don't understand; can you tell me why it would hurt for users to be able to see their own posts and any associated comments that have been deleted? (I've been told they cannot; if I was told wrong and they can, then never mind as that would render my concerns moot.) Apr 3, 2011 at 4:42
  • 1
    @Jeff - One more thing. I have had some people who you say are not worthy of attention start really participating when I have explained to them how the site works. They'd said things like "Oh, I didn't realize that. Yes, I'll remember to return and select best answers and vote up." And in at least a few cases, they have. Apr 3, 2011 at 4:52
  • @mike the whining from "why was my post deleted" would be epic. If content is deleted, it needs to be put down definitively in a way that it won't get back up. Of course, 10k rep users can see deleted answers and deleted questions, provided they have a link to them. Apr 3, 2011 at 6:27
  • @mike I'm just not convinced, even a little, that new users who can't figure out that they're not answering will be able to see and understand a global inbox notification. We also don't require a valid email (and the idea of randomly emailing random new users totally skeeves me out), so how do you propose we notify these users? Book a flight to their home? Apr 3, 2011 at 6:36
  • 1
    @Jeff Atwood - I was proposing notification through the existing StackExchange notification system, nothing more. If they never revisit the site they wouldn't get notified, of course. Apr 3, 2011 at 7:23
  • @Mike: I think you will like this new notification for new users. Especially the line "This seemed really, really dumb to me when I thought of it 2 days ago." :-)
    – Jan Fabry
    Apr 8, 2011 at 13:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .