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Deleting something is usually useful in any SE pages, as they tend to produce some clutter along the way. However, some users might be deleting their own well crafted answers just because (a) they are not happy with the quality; (b) the OP wants something slightly different. If it was (b), the OP might have edited the question so the answer might seem like it is not exactly covering the question.

How should we proceed in such a situation? Should we delete our answers or leave them?

5

Leave them unless you are hijacking the question

Once a question is posted, it is not owned by OP but the community itself. As a result, answers should be aimed not to satisfy a whimsical OP, but they should be directed towards OP with the general community in mind. Therefore, if someone in the future might find the answer helpful, it should not be deleted.

Of course, improving your answer is always encouraged and there is a reputation return as well: Your answer becomes more visible again after every edit you make.

Hijacking questions

Sometimes, a well intentioned user might attempt to hijack the question by changing the focus of the question. For example, in this question, the OP clearly wants information about domesticated animals, but this answer attempts to hijack the question by introducing stray animals. Hijacked answers should be deleted and if it is a well crafted answer, the user can ask the question that they are referring to and then answer it in a Q&A style.

Low quality answers

Low quality answers should always be deleted, however, users who post a low quality answers do not usually delete their answers themselves. However, if you feel that your answer is objectively wrong, maybe due to a new conclusive research, deleting them might help with the clutter.


Just recently the official mod message templates were updated and the new template concerning self-deletes summarizes my personal opinion perfectly:

You have recently removed or defaced content from your posts. Please note that once you post a question or answer to this site, those posts become part of the collective efforts of others who have also contributed to that content. Posts that are potentially useful to others should not be removed except under extraordinary circumstances. Even if the post is no longer useful to the original author, that information is still beneficial to others who may run into similar problems in the future - this is the underlying philosophy of Stack Exchange.

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  • 1
    Ah I forgot to delete my hijacked answer :) – C.Koca Jun 22 at 5:13
4

In my personal opinion, an answer should only be deleted if:

  • it's objectively wrong, deceiving or otherwise spreads false information;,
  • it doesn't answer the question (as it were at the time of posting the answer);
  • it violates the code of conduct.

Everything else should not be deleted because it's probably useful and will eventually help someone, even if that someone is not the original poster.

As an example, let's assume:

  1. OP asks about a hairbrush for their dog who suffers from matting.
  2. UserX writes an answer explaining different styles of brushes and their uses.
  3. OP writes a dismissive answer like "That's not what I wanted to know."
  4. UserX deletes the answer.
  5. Some time later another person has the same problem and sees the question of OP, but the answers (if any exist at this point) don't address their problem because of OPs dismissive comment.
  6. The deleted answer of UserX is invisible to them, although it contains exactly the information this user needs.

Even partial or subjective answers do contain information. They might not be the best answers, but that's exactly what the voting system is there for.

2

I am sorry and I know this Q&A was partly inspired by my behaviour. I recently made a bit of a moody princess of myself and deleted a few of my answers.

I deleted these answers because I genuinely came to conclusion that they were not good enough. One deletion was inspired by the question's author telling me the answer is not what they were looking for; and the second one was an answer that I had been expanding over a period of a few days, and at some point I noticed that it got too long and was rambling too much without actually answering the question, and I deleted it.

I know both of these answers were upvoted, but I have suspicion that these were just mercy upvotes and thus I disregarded the fact of them being upvoted.

I will consider undeleting the relevant answers (only those two which were upvoted, though). Thanks for taking your concern.

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