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Main question: Are there some (reasonably easy to use) tools to follow deletions on site?

In particular, are there some ways to find self-deleted questions? Are there some ways to see deleted content which was posted by users other than me?

Background. It is quite apparent from some of the recent discussions that there are some users who are closer to deletionism and some users that are closer to inclusionism (if I may borrow terminology from Wikipedia). There are several discussion in chat and on meta which show disagreement about deleting some posts. (I will not try to list examples, but anybody who follows meta very likely saw some posts related to this issue.) Some users even mentioned that they try at least to follow recent deletions using the tools that are available to them (see below).

Part of the reason why I specifically mentioned content posted by others is that sometimes in such discussions, the user who brought up some deleted post(s) was accused that they do this solely because they care about their own reputation. While this might be among the reasons why somebody asks about the deletion of a specific post, it seems to me that another possible explanation might be that it is much easier to notice if your own post was deleted, especially if it had some upvotes. And it is possible that the same user would disagree with deletions of some posts which do not benefit them reputation-wise, if they were aware of them. So I am curious which ways are there to see deletions of stuff where I did not contribute anything.

Another problem are self-deleted questions. Many of self-deletions might be completely honest - the OP might have noticed that the question does not make sense or they might delete it for some other legitimate reason. But in some instances the self-deletion can be considered cheating (the OP does not want other to see where they get the answer from) or at least detrimental to the site (the OP is satisfied with the answer, but does not leave it here despite it would be a good contribution to the site content.) There were several posts related to this issue: For example: Why do some users delete their questions after receiving an answer?, People who ask homework questions and then remove them, Is there need to patrol for deleted questions?

Limitation of some tools I am aware of. I am aware of a few ways in which it is possible to check for deleted content, but they have some limitations.

  • It is possible to find your own deleted content - users with less that 10k reputation can only find posts that are not too old. Some details about this can be found here: Is there any way to see my deleted questions or answers? However, this is only limited to your own posts.
  • Deletions/undeletions which influence your reputation are shown on your reputation tab if you check the "show removed posts" checkbox. See, for example: Where reputation disappears. But this is is again only limited to my own posts and in this case only to posts which caused non-zero reputation change.
  • Moderator tools that are available to 10k+ users show both recent delete votes and recently deleted questions. But here it is only possible to see a few most recently deleted posts. (Only as many as fits in the space available there. For example, if you look there soon after the daily script for removal of abandoned questions, you only see deletions coming from this script.) And another important limitation is that self-deletions are not included here. See also this feature request on Meta Stack Exchange: Why are self-deleted posts not shown in the 10k Tools?
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    $\begingroup$ (+1 for the q&a) One poor man's tool, which I have in fact used a few times to track down some delete-and-repost flagrants, is google site:math.stackexchange.com ... then choose the cached option for the hit (if found). There is a narrow window of time during which this may work, maybe in the hours' range. $\endgroup$ – dxiv Apr 27 '18 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ Just want to point out that everything I have contributed to this site which was remotely popular (including both of my "nice" answers and a question with 900 upvotes) has been deleted by moderators. I feel unwelcome on your site! $\endgroup$ – Flounderer May 4 '18 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Flounderer This seems a bit tangential to this post. (In any case if you wish to, you can raise your concerns in a separate meta post.) Just to correct your statement about deletion of the two posts with the nice answer badge. One of them was actually converted to a comment by a mod (revisions/timeline). $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 5 '18 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ In the other case the action was not specifically related to your answer and it had nothing to do with moderators. The question was deleted by regular users - of course, that deleted also all answers - revisions/timeline. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 5 '18 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ If somebody is interested in questions which were popular before deletion, maybe a reasonable way to find some of them might be badges. For example, if I view questions that god Famous Question badge without being logged in, I see "post deleted or otherwise unavailable" for questions that were deleted. If I look at the same page after logging in, I can find the deleted question. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 19 '18 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Some suggestions can be found also in the Meta Stack Exchange post: How do you view deleted questions? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 30 at 9:53
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Data explorer includes also the PostsWithDeleted table. See: Database schema documentation for the public data dump and SEDE and also the corresponding feature request Can some metadata about deleted posts be included in Data.SE?

Clearly, there are some limitations to this. The data in SEDE are updated only once a week, so very recent deletions will be missing there. The table PostsWithDeleted omits some information which is available in SEDE for questions which are not deleted (for example, title or ownerid are omitted).

As far as I know, there is now possibility to distinguish between self deletions and other types of deletions. You are also presented with bunch of links without seeing titles - you'll have to click on each one of them to judge whether the deleted post is interesting. (Probably the only thing that is identifiable quite easily is posts deleted by roomba, since all of them are deleted nearly simultaneously, so you can recognize them form the time of deletion.)

Still, at least to some extent this might be useful. Which is why I started a community wiki where we could collect various queries which list deleted posts.


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