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So I just got a notification that someone made an edit to one of my answers. It's a minor formatting that would probably improve the quality of my answer... except for the fact that I deleted that answer a couple of years ago! (I'd begun to write an answer, submitted it because it was getting long and my connection was flaky, and then realized that the answer was incomplete and wasn't going to contribute anything new to the discussion.)

What is going on here? Can people see my deleted answers somehow? Is this a bug?

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    $\begingroup$ 10k+ users and moderators can see deleted posts: math.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/moderator-tools (If they have link or if the question is not deleted.) $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ That's quite upsetting. In the future I'll be far more reluctant to contribute anything to this site knowing that random unscreened users will be able to see any embarrassing mistakes I make, even years after I've corrected or deleted them. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ Don't worry so much about it. We all have mistaken answers from time to time. However this does bring up an interesting point.. Should deleted answers to very old questions be editable by 10k+ users? It unnaturally brings attention to an old post for no reason. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ Still, it's a real betrayal of the users to put a "delete" button there, and secretly have it mean "hide this answer from new users, only." Especially given that I've presumably got dozens of these things floating around, with no idea what they say, and no clean method for locating them. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin Do you mean deleted recent answers at the bottom of the answers tab in user profile? I think that it only show answers which was posted not too long ago. (So an answer written 1 year ago would not be shown there.) $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielMcLaury 10k is a nontrivial amount of reputation, so these users are not exactly "unscreened". Also note that everyone can see the revision history on a non-deleted post. I also would like to inform you that you consented to all this when signing up to this site. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jan 26 '15 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin It's still 60 days. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jan 26 '15 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielMcLaury To be fair, everything is explained here, and in much more detail here. To call that a "betrayal" is a bit harsh. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ Surely nobody can seriously suggest that, because this is documented somewhere, it's not misleading. Are users really expected to read every single bit of documentation for the entire site before signing up? If GMail had something buried in some "help" page somewhere saying that "GMail pro users can see the emails you have in your drafts box that you haven't sent," would that be considered reasonable because it was disclosed? $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Daniel Well, if you click "I have read and consent to maths.SE T&C" (which, among other things, state that SE can decide to republish your material if you delete it), then SE is not really the one to blame for exercising their right. You effectively called the policy reasonable when you consented. I understand that it's not nice to hear that you made an assumption that turns out to disagree with reality. But, to place things into context, less than 400 users can see your post out of hundreds of thousands of visitors to MSE. Not all is lost. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jan 26 '15 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ I always thought that the fact that I can see my deleted answers means that someone else must also be able to. But, for something that will really blow you mind, I think it is the case that moderators can also see my deleted comments even though I can't. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl: it is basically true. To be more precise, moderators can fetch deleted comments, they are not shown by default. Moreover, a moderator cannot undelete a user deleted comment. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Jan 26 '15 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin: I don't mean to suggest that StackExchange has done something illegal here, merely that they've done something extremely off-putting. Obviously nobody ever reads terms and conditions, and at any rate they're generally written in unnecessarily broad ways with the mutual understanding that nobody's going to abuse the terms of the agreement. For instance, the Bloomberg Terminal Scandal (which made international news) involved a company doing something it directly said it could do in a license agreement... $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're blowing this a bit out of proportion. There is a huge difference between trusted users being able to see something that you submitted to the public before (if you're deleting an answer, it's because you've submitted it before!) and then subsequently asked to delete, and "pro" users being able to read private drafts... And it's written at the bottom of every page of the website that "user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required". In case you don't know, you grant a licence to SE for every content you submit here. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ To give you some perspective, if that can reassure you, out of the 144k users or so on this website, only 316 are able to view your deleted answers. They're also very difficult to find (you can't search for them in any way, they're not displayed in any public list, you can only stumble on them when you view the question where it was posted). $\endgroup$ Jan 26 '15 at 13:24
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Users with 10,000 rep or more can see deleted answers (and moderators, although in practice they likely have more than 10,000 rep anyway).

One way to make deleted answers less prominent is to edit them to say "This answer was deleted by the user", or something similar. The edit history is also visible to 10,000+ rep users, but the edit hides the old content from a casual glance.

It is bad form, though, to edit someone else's deleted answer. There is no easy way to tell why someone deleted their own answer, but in general it is better to just leave those answers rest in peace.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, but with one caveat to the "bad form" part: Sometimes, comment (or meta) discussions under a deleted answer reveal why the answer was deleted. In the case that the reason for deletion is clearly "the answer was wrong and I don't know why," I have no qualms about performing a repair if it's clear to me. Example (reason for deletion was made clear on meta). $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Jan 26 '15 at 19:11

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