The meta question Not actually a question, just a rant! has inspired me to ask for what an answerer can do in case of self-deletion by the question asker while the answerer is typing the answer.

Since per se site is supposed to be a collection of Q&A, can one re-post the deleted question provided that it has good context?


Due to CC-BY-SA 3.0 license on SE network, once a post is published to the SE network, then it's released to the community. Therefore, everyone has the right to use the contents of every post provided that the post owner is properly attributed (through a URL).

The self-deletion action doesn't nullify the act of posting, so in principle, the previous paragraph applies to self-deleted posts as well. In practice, 10k users can view all deleted posts by their URL, so it won't be difficult to click "edit" to retrieve the Markdown source code of the self-deleted post and repost.

For other users, they may put the URL of the self-deleted question, which is viewable by 10k users, in order to properly attribute the original answerer. They may omit the original question asker's user name and the original question title since it's covered by a message like "this question has been deleted"---the URL will enable 10k users to find out the original question. Nevertheless, the re-posted question should be complete in the sense that it's answerable on its own.

Edit: Creative common licenses are irrevocable. This consolidates my arguments that the act of granting the community the right to reuse the question is irreversible.

  1. License Grant. Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, Licensor hereby grants You a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual (for the duration of the applicable copyright) license to exercise the rights in the Work as stated below:

    • to Reproduce the Work, to incorporate the Work into one or more Collections, and to Reproduce the Work as incorporated in the Collections;
    • to create and Reproduce Adaptations provided that any such Adaptation, including any translation in any medium, takes reasonable steps to clearly label, demarcate or otherwise identify that changes were made to the original Work. For example, a translation could be marked "The original work was translated from English to Spanish," or a modification could indicate "The original work has been modified.";
    • to Distribute and Publicly Perform the Work including as incorporated in Collections; and, -to Distribute and Publicly Perform Adaptations.

--- Creative Commons 3.0 legal code

  • $\begingroup$ You seem to be in contradictory to this: math.stackexchange.com/help/…. One is free to delete his question If nobody has answered yet. $\endgroup$
    – Zacky
    Mar 5 '19 at 20:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ However note that one possibility of self-deletion might be that the user realized after posting that they had not the rights to post it (maybe the question did a substantial quote from some copyrighted or confidential text). In which case no valid license has been established (because the user lacked the rights to grant it). $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Mar 9 '19 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Zacky: Those are two separate issues. If I put up a painting I made and allow you to photograph it, that doesn't imply that I no longer have the right to destroy the painting. However doing so doesn't affect the photo you made from it. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Mar 9 '19 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Zacky One can self-delete a question, but the others can repost it. I didn't see anything contradiction in between until I read celtschk's reply, which suggested that OP should had the right to post before granting such right to the public. If the confidential text is a password/API key, changing that is much better because of search bot's caching. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '19 at 22:27

Would it not be possible to add a feature that gives notice of imminent self-closure? Like a 5-minute warning? Or just require notice in a comment? I have closed quite a few of my own questions but try to indicate imminent closure in a comment in case someone is working on an answer so they have a chance to object. I think most posters would refrain from closing if asked, and they would keep a question open for the same reason they would have closed it: regard for the opinions/time of other users.

The legalistic argument leaves me cold. Deleting doesn't nullify posting...? It's surely a reflection of the poster's intent, which should be honored unless there is some compelling reason to do otherwise. I can't imagine insisting on legal ownership of a MSE question over the OP's sense that the question has no merit. There is no shortage of interesting unanswered questions on the site.

  • $\begingroup$ Why do we need such feature? For feature request, you may try posting that on Meta.SE, and get the community's feedback. By applying for an account, the user agrees with the terms of service. The system has been respecting both OP's and answer's intent by allowing self-deletion of questions with no upvoted answers. Based on my "good intention" assumption, I've assumed that self-deleted question has sufficient context. The community will downvote/close/delete questions that are unworthy to stay. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @GNUSupporter8964民主女神地下教會 I don't personally think such a feature is needed--a comment gives ample warning and an opportunity to object to deletion. My point is that when you resort to legalistic formalism over a math question something is already seriously wrong. $\endgroup$
    – daniel
    Mar 1 '19 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ Proof verification questions can contain errors. OP may delete it once he/she has found his/her own mistake. As you've said, that's OP's intent. I've appealed to the legal code so as to justify others' right to re-post it, and that's out of OP's intent. I don't see how applying the principles of the license to (the right to repost) an SE question is incorrect. There're many other circumstances of self-deletion after receiving an answer in the undeletion queue on meta. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ @GNUSupporter8964民主女神地下教會: I don't think it's incorrect. I just find it hard to imagine a situation in which a request to OP to re-post would be unreasonably refused-- but in such a case the license is clear. $\endgroup$
    – daniel
    Mar 1 '19 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ What you find hard is easy for me, and vice versa. Firstly, if OP wants to cover up the fact that he/she has got hints from comments for a HW question, he/she may self-delete the question. From SE's point of view, that's a loss of the site's content. Therefore, we've the code. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ @GNUSupporter8964民主女神地下教會: Good point. I see you are quite active in the undeletion queue and so your imagination is better informed in this matter. $\endgroup$
    – daniel
    Mar 1 '19 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ Secondly, how can we send "a request to OP"? It's impossible to do so elsewhere unless OP has another post. Due to the huge proportion of new users, that's an unreasonble assumption. To know more, you may refer to *How @pinging works? on Meta.SE. Even if such request has been sent, in case of the first point, it might be "unreasonably refused". You've understood the role of the license before I've finished typing the 2nd point with links. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 '19 at 11:12

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