What is (or should be) the policy on deleting questions after getting help?

This question is prompted by whuber's remark on someone's self-study question: How would this Markov chain problem be solved?

This is nearly the same problem as the one posted in your last several questions. Draw the diagram!

I remember commenting on a previous question by the asker on this same topic, but I can't seem to find it. Its comments were rather lively, too. I suppose it was deleted, presumably by the asker. I don't know whether there are more deleted questions about Markov chains like it. It sounds like there are 'several'.

It rubs me the wrong way that a self-study question would be deleted. After you've gotten help from the community, you prevent others from benefitting from the discussion. It also removes a bit of insurance against people asking, e.g., take-home exam questions: the instructors would no longer be able to find the question.

As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent someone from deleting their own question unless it has popular answers, but often self-study help happens as a series of comments. (Maybe we hope the asker will post an answer in the end, or maybe it happens too often that an 'answer' becomes the comment-magnet instead of the question itself.

When someone vandalizes a question that they've asked (instead of deleting it), it's often rolled back. Deleting doesn't put the question on the main page, so it's subtler. Still, can/should it be watched for?

My question is, unfortunately, multipart:

  1. Is it indeed a problem to delete questions after getting help, or is it just me?
  2. If it is a problem, how do/should we dissuade or prevent this deletion?
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The OP has an interesting history as someone who has earned reputation mostly through questions -- and given lots of it away through bounties. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ There are some software rules in place that discourage this. Under certain circumstances, a pattern of repeatedly deleting one's own own questions can cause a user's account to be locked out of asking questions for a period of time. It's deliberately a bit opaque, but the reasoning is that asking then deleting a question is not consistent with the goals of the site. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the information friends. IMHO when the OP wants to delete his question, it should be allowed [With a mechanism to punish abuse by being able to flag the question as suggested by @Nick]. What would be neat is an user-option so that you can choose to be notified when a question you participated in is going to be deleted, so you get a last chance to copy an interesting conversation, or archive it for yourself or somethign along those lines. $\endgroup$
    – Xilef
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @xilef Your suggestion is really at Stack Exchange level. It's hard to know how that would work (e.g. how much time warning) or even that it is overall a good idea. At one extreme, spam or very rude posts should disappear as fast as possible. In practice (a) this happens most often to people with enough reputation to see deleted questions (b) the answer is not usually especially valuable to the person who posted it. It's the irritation that is the issue. But in general if a post is valuable to the poster, saving a copy for yourself is always a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Xilef It's a bit of a chore, but we can use the Search feature to find out when our answers have been deleted. A question that has at least one answer with positive score can't be deleted except by a diamond mod, so all we have to do is search for the deleted, zero-score answers user:me score:0 deleted:yes and then sort by date to get the most recent among them. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 21:12

3 Answers 3


A poster can delete their question if there isn't an upvoted answer.

You are entitled to feel irritated, even annoyed, if you answered the question, or regarded the question as good but made extensive comments, and then the OP deleted. But this is allowed behaviour. It's happened to me -- and to many others, I imagine.

Conversely, when comments run that a question is inappropriate or poor, it is often a good thing whenever an OP deletes the question.

Tags and kinds of question are immaterial here, but empirically it seems likelier that posters of self-study questions may wish to cover their tracks. Even if a poster is not identifiable by name, they may fear vigilance and be on dangerous ground given local policies on plagiarism or collusion, or may even be thinking competitively and desire to inhibit others finding out about a good answer. However, this is speculation and doesn't affect policy.

In terms of what you can do about it, I think the short answer is not much, but

  1. As here, Meta exists as a way to express frustration. (Over the years, I have come to value that greatly. The extent to which you will hear "I agree with you, and it's antisocial, but there you go" is valuable mutual support. There are dozens of people active here who I have never met and in some cases they remain unidentifiable to me, but I have immense respect for all their work, including not only providing well-crafted answers but also voting, commenting and otherwise working to keep the site clean and tidy. That is the best of what a community means.)

  2. Sometimes, posting a comment expressing frustration directly to the OP is tempting. The result can be anything from excellent -- someone realising that they shouldn't have done what they did -- to appalling, an almighty ding-dong in which offenders fight back in all sorts of ways, making nasty remarks or counter-accusations against you, even offsite as well as onsite, and mark you down long term as a personal enemy. I do not exaggerate. Moderators tend not to like that, any way, and they are usually right.

  3. If there appears to be a pattern so that someone is identifiably behaving badly and repeatedly, a custom flag to moderators may help.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ There are dozens of people active here who I have never met and in some cases they remain unidentifiable to me, but I have immense respect for all their work I feel the same, and you are one of those people! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 21:25

OP here. I had no idea this discussion existed until I just now randomly clicked on it in the "Featured on Meta" window on the side of the website, so I'm late to the party.

The previous question was indeed based on the same problem description, but the problem itself was different. It is common knowledge that, in such a case, best practice is indeed to post a new question. As you can infer from my extensive history on stats.stackexchange (and other stackexchange websites), I'm familiar with the rules, and so I would not have deleted the question and reposted the same one again (if anything, I would have just undeleted the deleted question).

The reason I deleted the previous question (based on the same problem description) is as follows:

  1. I figured out the answer.
  2. The comments were full of various discussion but not really substantively helpful, and this discussion activity eventually died down.
  3. No one had posted an answer, and there was no indication that anyone would post an answer (see 2.).

So it seemed to me that the question was just a waste of space, since it would keep getting bumped by the system as a 'zombie question', and so the best course of action was to just delete it.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for chiming in here. For future reference, there's a better course of action open to you: post the answer that you figured out and accept it! $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ThePointer In the future, just publish your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Beginner
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Beginner I asked in the comments if what I had was correct, but no one responded; I wasn't sure if what I had was incorrect or people just weren't responding. In the end, I thought it best to just delete the entire post. If I knew at the time that what I had done was indeed correct, then I would have posted it as an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 8:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ThePointer Thank you for your ideas! You could have written that your were not sure about your answer. In general, an idea is better than no idea :) :) :) $\endgroup$
    – Beginner
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Beginner Thanks for the feedback. In similar situations in the past, when I thought I had figured out the answer to my own question, I have indeed posted it as an answer (with the disclaimer that I'm not completely sure that it's correct and would appreciate review). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the answer to just be downvoted in such a situation, with no comment or review. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ @ThePointer I understand you. I had a similar problem before. I am remembering that the solution that I found was to add my solution to the question, and not as a solution. Mentioning that I was not sure if my solution was correct. $\endgroup$
    – Beginner
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ There is a meta-Meta-problem here. The answer says "I figured out the answer" which (in my view understandably) provoked upvoted comments with the flavour of so why didn't you post it then? But later comments change the picture: you were uncertain about your answer, which makes deleting the original thread much more understandable. The problem is that people often ignore comments. The suggestion therefore is to edit your answer slightly, as I think it doesn't catch your situation sensitively. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 12:19
  1. If it is a problem, how do/should we dissuade or prevent this deletion?

One doesn't have to dissuade or prevent such (indeed unfortunate but often due to SE issues, not CV issues) deletions: one can instead simply re-post the question oneself with the proper credits, since the Stack Exchange license allows it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, with a caveat. This is possible as long as you either (a) have saved the question before it was deleted or (b) have the reputation to view deleted questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ @AryaMcCarthy (c) ping me. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ Well, there is that! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 22:29

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