This meta is prompted by a specific Q & A, but I'm curious how the community feels about un-deleting useful answers that OP themselves deleted for whatever reason. I think it will be easiest to explain the exact situation that prompts me to write this and then ask for general guidance on this and similar issues.

There was recently a very good answer posted on a question of mine. Part of it was in error and there was much discussion around it in the comments. Things got a bit heated and OP deleted his entire answer. I feel that this answer shouldn't have been deleted, because it deprives the world the benefit of the most useful answer I received on my question. If OP would have been willing to edit out the erroneous part of his answer, I would have given it the checkmark. In the spirit of collecting a knowledge-base of Qs & As, I think this should be edited and un-deleted. Once the answer was posted here, it wasn't really OP's to withhold from the world anymore. It belongs to the community and Stack Exchange as well as OP, per the CC-By-SA license.

However, like I said, things had gotten pretty heated and it feels rude to undelete an answer that OP deleted themselves. It could certainly result in yet another touchy and heated situation which I would rather avoid personally, and would not want to cause any more trouble for the mods. (They already intervened once already.)

  1. Is it right to undelete a useful answer, if OP self-deleted?
  2. Is it right to edit out the erroneous part of that answer in the process?

I'm a bit hesitant to link to the particular answer, but since only Trusted Users will be able to see it, here it is.

It seems that there's some early agreement that undeleting the question is unethical, but there's still some very important information in there. Would it be better to extract the important parts into a community wiki answer? I really hate to lose somewhat rare insight over a misunderstanding.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Based on what Legato said, why not just cut and paste the helpful parts and write an answer yourself, bowdlerized as needed? YOu can even treat it as one of those "Put the answer in your own words" grammar-school exercises :) \$\endgroup\$
    – neuronet
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that's what I may end up doing, but I'm going to hold up for a few days to let the community weigh in on the ethics. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


Once the answer was posted here, it wasn't really OP's to withhold from the world anymore. It belongs to the community and Stack Exchange as well as OP, per the CC-By-SA license.

This bit right here...while it may be officially the case, for whatever reason (I doubt it has to do with why you ask this question), it's not something I would go out of my way to mention given the opportunity.

Ultimately, this is a site that's based on user content, said OP is another content creator and should be respected as such. Unless a post is elevated to community wiki status, that should include a right to delete a post, whatever the reason.

The alternative is a can of worms I'd be content never to see opened. Rather not dissuade other posts with the "This doesn't belong to you" point -- most people realize this. I'm not a fan of reminding them the extent of that to the point that they aren't at liberty to delete something they aren't proud of.

This actually deals with many factors that are difficult to accurately define, albeit elusively so.

Is it right to undelete a useful answer, if OP self-deleted?

Hard to say, it would best depend on their reason for the deletion, and ultimately how they plan on proceeding. Which we can't really derive other than from the OP themselves.

I'd say, for simplicity's sake, there are two cases:

  1. OP has deleted it forever:

    If there is content that the community agrees is generally useful, why not simply port over those parts in a new answer? This also encompasses your second question since you don't technically have to edit anything erroneous , just adjust to be an entirely new answer that incorporates the positives of the deleted one.

    Please be sure to follow the CC-by-SA rules and provide proper attribution to the original author.

  2. OP plans on editing and restoring the answer behind the scenes, but for whatever reason is deleting it for now

    The complexity of the situation starts here, there's no way to possibly know this, so I would default to #1's course of action while also admonishing against deleting out of frustration/for the sake of a planned edit, and proceed from there. If they decide to edit back and now you have two answers that are very similar, well that happens all the time anyway so it shouldn't be a problem, and their answer was technically gone so it's fair game, imo, but there definitely could be an entire meta question on the protocol for this specific case.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The being proud part here isn't relevant. This may be because you cannot see that answer yet, but you are somewhat right, too theres an ethical conflict \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 1:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually can see it. I know it's not the part in this instance, but I'm answering generally because it's a broad spectrum question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Legato
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612, Legato I updated my question a bit. I'm curious your thoughts on it if you're still interested. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RubberDuck, added edit on your edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Legato
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 2:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I intended to post an answer to this, but I think I'm on the same page as Legato. \$\endgroup\$
    – nhgrif
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 10:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've decided that this is a very good answer. The right thing to do is to extract the relevant and useful information into an answer and give proper attribution to the original author. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:41

I have requested that an answer be undeleted, but that was because I was the Question Asker and I thought that the answer had really useful information in it that I wanted to use in my code, and I thought that it deserved up voting and the like.

It is really a case by case thing, depending on the circumstances of the deletion and the quality of the post, and whether or not undeletion would break copyrights, etc., etc.


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