In this question this question Richard deleted an existing answer and replaced it with his own. His argument is that edits to the question made the initial answer invalid. However that's a matter of opinion, and even if it wasn't we have ways of dealing with this, such as voting. Deleting answers should be a matter of last resort, not first resort.

Worse, he replaced the answer with one of his own.

I've been an admin on Wikipedia for a long time, and one of their rules is that you don't take executive action on a dispute you are involved with. That's a rule that should be applied here. Even if it is meant innocently, it strongly smells of an abuse of power.

3 Answers 3


Lets set the record straight on a few things.

  1. 4/5 moderators on this site are involved with the discussion around this question, someone was going to have to take action on the question and the answers. Richard did it in consultation with other moderators and mentioned it in the main site chat room.

  2. Deleting answers when the question has substantially changed is not a last resort, in fact its part of the question life cycle. This is why we close questions that need to be reworked quickly, so we don't have to delete or substantially edit answers.

  3. Richard answering the question right after deleting the old answers was probably unwise. However, its not a big deal, he cleaned up the old answers that did not answer the question as it is now posed and he added one that did. There is really little in poor taste in this. He did not edit the question, he merely noticed that the answer were now invalid.

  4. Finally, and this is the most important part. Deleted answers can be edited and undeleted. If you would like to edit your answer so that it answers the question then you may flag it for undeletion and we will happily undelete it for you.

Now for some final information. Moderator actions are peer reviewed, not just by the moderators on this site, but by SE employees and moderators on other sites. If you have a problem with how we are moderating please feel free to contact the SE community team.

  • 1
    I was not aware that deleted answers could be edited. I would however strongly say that the same end result could have been achieved by a simple comment on my answer pointing out the change in the question. And the principle still applies - it's for the community to decide what is a good or bad answer, not the moderators. Nov 8, 2011 at 20:40
  • This is true on point #3. Probably not the best move. Moderators are people, too.
    – Richard
    Nov 8, 2011 at 20:41
  • 3
    @DJClayworth I'd rather not see people downvoted because the question got changed out from under them. Deleting with a comment notifying you of the change and our willingness to undelete seemed the most prudent option.
    – wax eagle
    Nov 8, 2011 at 20:42
  • Guys, I understand you mean well, but frankly the whole moderating process comes over as dictatorial, overbearing and legalistic. I've never seen this problem on any other site. Nov 9, 2011 at 14:30
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Maybe so, but your primary experience outside of here is Skeptics and SO, neither of which face the challenges we face. The rules there are much more defined than what we have here. (We're still struggling with what questions about "The Bible" actually means.)
    – Richard
    Nov 10, 2011 at 16:03

No, it is not OK for moderators to arbitrarily delete answers.

Thankfully, that's not what is happening. The very tone of your question as well as it's content is miss-representative of the situation. Quite a bit of thought and discussion went into that question and the action taken by Richard in deleting answers was not arbitrary.

Please stop trying to fight the moderators and help us in our effort to work with the community. Anybody can just ask nicely what's going on and we'd be happy to explain. Flagging and possibly deleting answers that have been invalidated by a major change to the question is standard procedure. It protects the OP from downvotes and keeps the site clean for visitors. OP's have the opportunity to fix their answers to match the new question and flag them to be un-deleted. Since they are also notified with a comment, in my experience well over half of them do come back and fix their answers and get back in the game.

Richard did not "replace" your answer with one of his own. He added an answer of his own. While the timeline might be construed as poor taste if you aren't giving people the benefit of the doubt, moderators are allowed to throw their hat in the ring when it comes to answering. That does not actually conflict with their duties as moderator.

In the future it might be in good taste to just flag the answers for another moderator to address if they are involved in some other way, but upon review of Richards actions I don't see anything inappropriate about the actions he took to delete obsoleted answers.

  • 3
    I have been active on StackOverflow and other SE sites for a long time and NEVER have I seen an answer deleted in response to a question change. Please don't protect me from downvotes - I'm quIte capable of removing my own answer if I believe it's no longer relevant, and anyway it shouldn't be the moderators job to decide this. Nov 9, 2011 at 14:26
  • @Caleb I agree, in retrospect, that my timing on answering wasn't ideal. However, "poor taste" indicates that it was intentional, which it wasn't. It was truly accidental; although I can understand that it may seem difficult to believe.
    – Richard
    Nov 10, 2011 at 16:06
  • @Richard I have no trouble at all believing that, I would likely have done the same thing without even noticing. My choice to answer a question and my action choices as moderator really are not that linked in my head. I changed my wording here to not imply you did anything on purpose.
    – Caleb
    Nov 11, 2011 at 11:27
  • @Caleb Aah, thanks. :) Nice post, by the way.
    – Richard
    Nov 11, 2011 at 13:01

A recent post of mine was deleted on the grounds that I did not include various denominational views as requested in the OP. I would not call this deletion "arbitrary" in an absolute sense, but it did seem to be overkill. When a person puts substantial work into an answer and addresses the question - but does not perfectly understand what is being asked for - is this a good reason to remove his work from view?

  • It was overkill, I needed to get context on the edits from the question. Sometimes the questions get edited in a way that invalidates the answers, that creates a bit of a tension, but if the question didn't belong to begin with, potential answerers should take that into account before doing their substantial work.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Oct 17, 2022 at 14:38

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