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This query had occurred to me when I read of an OP-deleted question being undeleted by 3 voters a few days back, but this happened again to another Q just a few hours ago:

what is the difference between Creole and Mulatto?

This meta Q has nothing to do with that undeleted-and-then-closed question but I was wondering, if an OP posted a question and then decided to delete it for some reason (maybe because it created confusion, was poorly received or maybe because it was going to be closed) -- once 3 voters have taken the decision to undelete it, for whatever reason, can OP delete it again and choose to keep it deleted?

Or will the community decision to undelete be binding?

If an OP clearly wishes to keep the Q deleted, would members of the community insist on undeleting?

Note: I could not find the answer to my specific query on these help pages:

https://english.stackexchange.com/help/deleted-questions

How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?

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    I would think that, if the OP deleted it again, the community would see that the OP wishes for it stay deleted and not vote to undelete. – Hank Sep 20 '17 at 14:44
  • Thanks @ Hank -- can you think of any exceptional circumstances where 3 voters or a moderator would override OP's preference? (I am aware that even OP can delete a Q only until it collects an upvoted answer.) – English Student Sep 20 '17 at 14:47
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    All Stack Exchange posts are considered to belong to the community rather than the poster, so closing, reopening, deleting, undeleting, etc should be based on community sentiments. – Lawrence Sep 20 '17 at 15:17
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    I agree with @Lawrence but I do think there could be an exception where a post that does nothing but gather downvotes might want to be deleted by the poster. I think it would be unfair to force a post to stay undeleted if the OP is not willing to edit the post to be on topic. It's like forcing a user to lose rep against their will... – Hank Sep 20 '17 at 15:18
  • @Hank True, but it would be unlikely for the community (multiple high-rep users or one mod) to undelete a poorly-regarded post, unless there was something particularly good about it. This might open SE up to abuse, but I think that's the philosophical trade-off that SE intentionally accepted to have a cooperatively curated repository. – Lawrence Sep 20 '17 at 15:27
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    As one of the undeleters and also one of the VTCers, if the OP decides to delete his question again, I will defer to his wishes. I voted to undelete because of a principle: that no one should feel obliged to delete a civil question because of excessively tender feelings from a user, who, I gather made a rude comment about what he thought was a racist question. We can't cave in to such bullying. The question was civil, but of poor quality (no research), so I VTCed. – ab2 Sep 20 '17 at 18:12
  • I agree with @ab2. The question was undeleted on the premise that the OP was persuaded to delete by bad feedback. Thus, if he chose to delete again, I feel that most would let it stay deleted as it does not fully benefit the community without further edits. – Hank Sep 20 '17 at 18:35
  • Thanks for the feedback about what happened with that Q, @ab2. "if the OP decides to delete his question again, I will defer to his wishes" makes your position very clear regarding my question. – English Student Sep 20 '17 at 21:40
  • I'd certainly go with ab2 on the first delation… no surrender. If it was deleted a second time and I still thought it was an interesting question, I'd repost it over my own name… – Robbie Goodwin Sep 24 '17 at 22:39
  • I suppose you are talking about 'saving' the question if it was repeatedly deleted for misinderstood reasons by other members, @Robbie Goodwin. Reposting under your own name with attribution to OP is a bold strategy but it might still attract the same type of user voting, depending on the content of the question. – English Student Sep 25 '17 at 7:32
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Without positive trials, a definitive answer is difficult (I've even asked mods on other sites), but from previous experiences I believe the answer is...

Undeletion is not binding. An undeleted post can be deleted with sufficient votes:

  • One vote by the OP
  • One vote by a moderator
  • Three votes of other users

Deletion is not binding either, unless a moderator has deleted a post. If a post is deleted by other votes, it can be undeleted.

A deleted post can be undeleted by

  • One vote by a moderator
  • One vote by the OP*, if the deletion was not by a moderator
  • Three votes by other users, if the deletion was not by a moderator

If a poster wishes his question to be deleted even though the community thinks it's valid, then there is nothing stopping him deleting it while it has no upvoted answers. Alternatively, he could make it a community-wiki post, which will go some way to dissociating the question from his account, or he could request dissociation (both via a flag on the post). CW can be done by moderators, but complete dissociation — assigning a question to the Community user — can only be carried out by SE staff. Both will require good reasons. This may mean that it takes a little while, and it may be that the poster will be engaged in a private chat to discuss it.

*Yes, a post may be undeleted by the OP even if three votes from the community deleted it.

  • Thank you for the detailed information @Andrew Leach. That confirms my understanding that OP retains control over 'delete' and 'undelete' of the Q until it receives an upvoted/ accepted answer and then that control passes to the community through delete and undelete voting. I suppose moderators are empowered to intervene in the very rare case that members of the community repeatedly undelete a question that is repeatedly deleted by OP? OP could even edit the undeleted question into a totally new Q: only a theoretical possibility and exists only as long as the Q has no upvoted/accepted answer. – English Student Sep 20 '17 at 16:13
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    Moderators can do nothing about a question which is repeatedly deleted by the OP. We cannot force it to remain. We can only force a question to remain deleted (by deleting it). – Andrew Leach Sep 20 '17 at 16:14
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    Moderators can lock questions and could suspend a user that is acting in bad faith until whatever issue is causing the churn is resolved. If the community undeletes a question, it probably shouldn't be deleted again (or vandalized by editing) without discussion. Locking prevents the author from editing. I don't know if it prevents deletion. – ColleenV Sep 20 '17 at 16:48
  • Yes, it prevents anything happening, including votes up or down, and answering. – Andrew Leach Sep 20 '17 at 16:48
  • "Locking prevents the author from editing. I don't know if it prevents deletion. – ColleenV [...] Yes, it prevents anything happening, including votes up or down, and answering. – Andrew Leach♦" That really answers my sub-question about how moderators would deal with repeated deleting and undeleting, @ Andrew Leach; and also shows the unique value of the rarely-used "lock a question" option: thanks @ColleenV. – English Student Sep 20 '17 at 21:51
  • Also, you may want to clarify that a delete/undelete vote can only be cast once. IIRC this applies to OP too, so if they delete their question and it's undeleted, they can't redelete. – Riker Oct 1 '17 at 20:24

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