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The following question was asked 26 days ago:

Since then, the asker of the original question has deleted the account. An essentially identical question appeared today:

The reason given for the new question is

I am asking this question not because I doubt the Zhurong probe is on Mars, but rather so that there can be an accepted answer to this question, as the person who asked the duplicate has deleted their account which I think means that no answer can be accepted to that question.


On one hand, I sympathize with the sentiment that some askers don't use the accepted answer in good faith. They pick whatever first answer comes along, do not consider later answers, or never pick an accepted answer. The issue is worse when the user disappears.

On the other hand, re-posting a question raises many issues. Accepting an answer puts it on top of other answers, giving it a voting advantage. There is also a small reputation bonus (but not if you accept your own answer). Thus, the effect of accepting an answer is usually quite small. Also, how far would this practice of re-posting questions go? It's not always clear when a user has abandoned a question; I've had periods of hiatus from SE myself.

I have abstained from voting either way on the closure of the new question as a duplicate. OrganicMarble has expressed a similar intent to abstain.


Is the disappearance of the original asker an invalid reason to re-post a question?

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    $\begingroup$ To original the question in your title "Should old questions by a deleted user be re-asked so someone can choose the accepted answer?" I think the answer is a resounding No. I think it was an oft-asked question in the main meta in the past, but it was long-since agreed that we just leave them alone. The Accept vote belongs exclusively to the OP and OP only. It indicates something like "that solved my problem" and is only the opinion of one user. Up votes are the best indicator of a "best" or "most right" answer and when there are two good answers both can be upvoted. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 12 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ Since to disagree with that title I must down vote (and others may as well) since this is meta, I've flipped the polarity of your title so that I can now upvote your question. I think the title better-reflects the situation and might in fact better agree with your view as well, but please feel free to roll back otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 12 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: I'm fine with your change to the title; I've also inverted the emboldened restatement at the end of the question body to match it. Now, what are your thoughts on this issue? $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jun 12 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ t seems like there was a similar discussion a while back when a Mars-landing-denier (or at least a US-Mars-landing-denier) was posting a bunch of questions that got (rightfully) closed, and somebody posted a duplicate because the question was interesting. And then we said it was OK. I can't find that, though. This current situation is just bizarre. $\endgroup$ Jun 12 at 13:53
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To the question

Should old questions by a deleted user not be re-asked just so someone can choose the accepted answer?

I think the answer is a resounding:

I agree; they should not be re-asked just so someone can choose the accepted answer.

I think it was an oft-asked question in the main meta in the past, but it was long-since agreed that we just leave them alone.

  1. A question should not be duplicated within the same site for the same reason that we strongly discourage cross-posting identical questions in multiple sites: we want to avoid answer-fragmentation.
  2. The Accept vote belongs exclusively to the OP and OP only. It indicates something like "that solved my problem" and is only the opinion of one user. Up votes are the best indicator of a "best" or "most right" answer and when there are two good answers both can be upvoted.
  3. Stack Exchange is open to the whole internet and yet works incredibly well. It is so successful because it's pretty conservative and restrictive and doesn't lend itself to one-off decisions or creative problem-solving. When in doubt, just leave things the way they are, or improve them in the standard ways; edits, close votes, reopen votes, bounties, flags. Deliberate duplication or cloning a question in hopes for a different outcome is just not done, there's no mechanism for this.
  4. Where possible, try to avoid activities that require regular case-by-case judgement, or that someone could suddenly do 100 times in a row. If question duplication for the purposes of answer acceptance becomes a "thing" then hundreds of years-old questions may be subject to the same activity. Then who decides when it is okay or not to clone a question and duplicate the answers. Cloning is a rabbit hole.

Whether any particular Stack Exchange question has an accepted answer or not or not is not very important at all in the long run. Overall voting and comments provide plenty of information to future readers about the quality of an answer, and users can and occasionally do accept demonstrably wrong answers or those of low quality.


Quotes from comments there:

IMO the tour page emphasizes upvoted answers over accepted ones

[...] Accepted answers don't matter to anyone except the question asker. There is absolutely zero problem with not having an accepted answer. If you want to reward an answer, you can always post a bounty!

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with your position especially your point 1. That last quoted comment is a bit over the top though (what the commenter said, not anything you said) about it being "utterly obnoxious behaviour". $\endgroup$ Jun 12 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I'd thought about replacing that sentence with a "[...]" but was concerned about accuracy. I guess it will probably be more effective without the distracting bit so I'll go ahead and do it. Thanks for pointing that out. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 12 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Would it make sense to have some special tag you can hang onto clearly abandoned questions so they don't show up in the daily bump of random unanswered questions? On smaller sites I see the same ones pop up fairly frequently, and I always have to go "oh yeah it's that one, moving on" $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @htmlcoderexe that seems not really related to this topic (deliberate double-posting of the same question to gain control over answer acceptance). I have a hunch that has been discussed in the main meta site; you can search there, or perhaps ask a new question here in this meta about it; this sleepy meta site is a little more forgiving about proposing new features than the main site. Without substantial evidence that there is a problem that really needs fixing usually proposed new features are not well received in the main meta. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 16 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh terrifying, but thanks for the tip! $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 10:01
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Well, I am sure this will make me unpopular.

A discussion

You have nice set of rules which you are enforcing. Think it might also be worth considering how stack exchange sites are used and who their users are: human beings, most of whom like me do not have accounts until today and do not know the pretty rules. What do we human users do? I will tell you what we do: we look for upvoted answers with the big green tick.

I will also tell you that the person who posted the original question this is about had asked several actual human casual users of SE (including me) how they use the site, because he thought that it was useful to know what humans really do. And they/I told him what we do: see above.

So yes, you may choose to be pure of heart and enforce the rules you invented: that is your choice. You will make (you are making / you have made) the site less useful to its human users, but so be it. Purity of essence is more important, perhaps, than usefulness: I am mathematical physicist and I enjoy playing with pure functional languages, I can appreciate this.

And when you come across a person who believes that how most human beings use the site is more important than the invented rules, however pure they may be, you pronounce yourself baffled of course as you have long forgotten that there users who do not know or care to know the rules and do not follow them: those many silly people who like the big green tick. And so he will decide, eventually, he is more interested in wasting his time elsewhere. Well, you have now driven away someone who perhaps made occasional useful contributions. But again that is your choice to choose purity over utility.

But then, when he has decided he wants nothing to do with this any more, deleted the question (which can do no possible harm as an equivalent question and an identical answer (by him) existed elsewhere) and left the site someone will undelete the question. And then another person will mutilate the question by editing out the part of it which made it clear what he was doing and why he did it. And then this same person will write a public comment which begins:

Utterly obnoxious behaviour from the OP here [...]

I can only suppose that this person wishes to make very, very sure that the original person never, ever returns to stack exchange. That is most certainly what they have done.

A summary

Let me summarise this:

  1. the person posted the question and answer in order to help the humans who use the site and deter conspiracy theorists, after asking several of these human users what they look for when they use the site;
  2. this behaviour was baffling to some people and so he gave up, deleted the question and answer and left;
  3. the question and answer were then undeleted for no useful reason;
  4. the part of the question which explained why he was asking it was then removed by a person, resulting in a question which looks inexplicable;
  5. this same person then left a comment saying that the person who originally posted the question was being 'utterly obnoxious'.

Or even shorter: person made good-faith attempt to help based on investigation of what humans actually do, ends up having a mutilated version of his deleted question & answer complete with insulting comment sitting on the site.

(1) and (2) are just perhaps a little sad: blind following of invented rules is driving away contributors and making the site less useful to humans. Sad I think but this is your choice to do that.

(3), (4) and (5) are a different matter altogether. I think this is quite offensive and it certainly would seem to be a serious attempt to drive someone away from the site (he already had gone, but he has told me that he certainly will now never return, and in fact wishes he had never joined). If you consider this to be an acceptable thing to do you should think again.

An answer

I believe it would be good to consider what site visitors actually do when thinking about questions like this, and remembering that most site visitors neither know the rules nor care about them: they are visiting to get information only. If they like to see the big green tick a lot then perhaps it is worth considering that big green ticks are in fact a useful thing to have, even if they are not so pure. And they do like to see the big green tick: I can tell you this with some authority.

On the other hand the behaviour of whoever undeleted the question, and of the person who mutilated the question and left the comment is simply enormously and I think intentionally offensive. I do not have a recommendation for how to deal with that problem other than to start behaving like decent human beings.

Sadly I do not expect either of these things will happen: this really is the lesson of the internet is it not?


Please note that the person who posted the question is a friend of mine and he has spoken to me of this. However these are my opinions not his: I have not told him I am posting this and I am reasonably sure he will never read it. I may return to read comments but certainly do not intend to participate further here: expect it is rather obvious why.

Also apologise for perhaps unidiomatic English: this is not my first language (not even my second).

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