This question is whether or not it is useful to have meta questions that are (just) requests to reopen or undelete a post.

Some users seem to suggest that the answer is yes.

I find this a bit confusing. Can one answer such questions? If so, how? Who can? If it is not possible to answer such questions, how are these questions?

Let's say the post gets undeleted after such a question appeared on meta. Is the idea to then write an answer saying it was undeleted? Or what happens if it does not get undeleted within some amount of time? What is the benefit of having such posts around for many years? And if it is fine to post such requests on meta, why don't we have tons of such posts from the past?

So the question here is what the proper way of appealing the decision to delete or close a post. If it is fine to ask a question here, I'd like to ask what the the purpose of the undelete and reopen buttons is. When should one choose one way or another?

NOTE: I am not against the possibility of appealing decisions to delete or close some post. I just do not think one should use a meta question for such an appeal. To explain where I am coming from, consider this example: I'd say it is a perfectly valid meta question to ask about means to spell-check a post. A request to remove the typos from a specific post is IMHO not.

ADDENDUM: There seem to be almost religious disagreements in the opinions of users. One possible compromise could be to

  1. make sure that requests to undelete are tagged undelete-request, and to
  2. remind users about the ignore tag feature.

Note that an undelete-request is qualitatively quite different from vote-to-undelete, which, according to how I understand things, is a tag that collects meta discussions on the process of undeleting posts, and not a tag that collects posts that request to specifically undelete one post. Apparently, as of now a tag reopen-request does not even exist.

ADDENDUM 2: I firmly believe that this site is called meta because it is a meta site in the usual definition. If there is a disagreement on this, I'd kindly ask answerers to separate the topics.

  • 1
    If meta isn't the place to appeal, where is the place? The reopen button is the way in which things actually get reopened. But it simply casts a vote for that action. And since close voting can happen for the wrong reasons (we have many meta posts on this phenomenon) I see no problem with using meta to raise issues with a question you believe is wrongly closed. – Alan Munn Apr 8 '20 at 12:22
  • @AlanMunn Yes, there are abstract meta discussions on wrong reasons to do this and that. As far as I understand these discussions provide guidelines for those who eventually cast their votes. According to my understanding of meta, this is perfectly fine. There can be an abstract discussion on the way we delete posts, too, and I'd actually see a need for that. However, this is very different from using a meta post slot just to get one post undeleted. This sounds a bit like voting until the result pleases a certain OP. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 19:20

Where a more complex discussion is needed than a simple comment, meta is the right place. For a main-site question that has closed or deleted, I'd expect the question to be to arguing for the reopening, and an answer either to be a 'yes because' or a 'no because' structure.

  • 1
    But if one votes to delete or close, one has to specify a reason. And then there is a vote. I am definitely not saying that the current implementation is great, or even good. But I do not see how the decision that has, at least in principle, emerged from the votes of several can be overturned by one user writing an answer of the type yes, because. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 17:34
  • @Schrödinger'scat The site balance is supposed to be in favour of re-opening. Unless there is mod-action, that still requires multiple users to agree/vote. – Joseph Wright Apr 8 '20 at 17:48
  • 1
    OK, so the purpose of such meta questions is to urge some user(s) with that privilege to press the undelete option? Shouldn't be there a simpler way of achieving this? – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 17:53
  • @Schrödinger'scat It's exactly what meta is for: we are lucky that most of the time there are a good number of high-rep users in chat, but across the network that's not the case – Joseph Wright Apr 8 '20 at 18:00
  • 1
    Shouldn't we then review the way we decide to delete or close posts instead? It seems a bit odd to me to have the following sequence of events: (1) some post gets posted, (2) some user votes to close or delete, (3) the proposal gets reviewed and by the rules of the site the majority of voters (whatever that means) supports the proposal, so post gets deleted or closed, (4) someone thinks this is not right and posts a meta question with the sole purpose of undoing that action, (5) several users see this and decide to overturn the decision. Is there no simpler, more democratic way? – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 18:06
  • @Schrödinger'scat The network design is based around people posting, things getting closed, and re-opened if/when they are edited. For the scale of work on StackOverflow (which is what drives the design), that makes sense. In any case, it's a network-wide thing. – Joseph Wright Apr 8 '20 at 20:11
  • 1
    Sure. But how does that imply one should us a meta question slot just to undelete a post, or to reopen one? As I said, I am not at all against appealing decisions, I just do not see that "wasting" a meta question slot on such an appeal is the right way to do that. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 20:17
  • @Schrödinger'scat Like I said, that's exactly what meta is for: not just the 'big picture' stuff but anything that is about the site itself – Joseph Wright Apr 8 '20 at 20:39
  • 1
    @Schrödinger'scat: How often does this sequence of events happen? Not often here, nor will it to the effect of causing an issue with the way the system works. If you feel that posting such question goes against your premise of what Meta is for, then downvote such posts (downvotes on Meta show a disinterest or "non-support" of such posts) or cast a vote to close. That way you've cast your ballot for that particular site interaction and its left up to the community to take it from there (either support your cause or not). – Werner Apr 8 '20 at 21:39
  • 1
    @Werner Yes, "not often", and I'd like to keep it this way. I think that there is a difference between downvoting to express that you do not share the views expressed in the post and "off-topic" which expresses that such posts do not belong here. But yes, on the main meta site these requests just get downvoted like crazy, and there the downvotes cost reputation to the one who proposed to undelete so that users may be inclined to think twice before they go on to use such a prominent slot to express that they do not agree with the (sort of democratic) decision by others to delete the post. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 21:46
  • @Schrödinger'scat: And that's one reason why child metas don't have reputation associated with them. – Werner Apr 8 '20 at 21:49
  • 1
    @Werner Sure, we can flood this meta with such requests. We just need to make sure that (a) users tag these requests accordingly, and (b) that every user knows about the ignore tag option. Maybe this is a way to make everyone happy. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 21:53
  • 1
    @Schrödinger'scat The site has been operative for almost a decade and we haven't had a flood of such requests in meta despite having no policy about such questions being off topic. So why should it be a problem now? – Alan Munn Apr 8 '20 at 22:09
  • 1
    @AlanMunn I do not know the details of the history of the site but I could imagine that (a) in the past users were more inclined to use other methods like the chat, and/or (b) users were politely told not to flood this site with these requests. But strictly speaking I do not know why this wasn't a problem, my intention is only to keep it this way, i.e. allow only for meaningful question that can be answered and has a long-lasting value, i.e. does not "expire" after the post has been undeleted. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 22:16

This answer is based on my comment exchange with Schrödinger's cat below the question Request to undelete.

User requests for a specific question serve two different purposes: first to educate users by explaining why their question answer was indeed worthy of closing or deleting, usually paired with downvotes on the meta question, and second in some cases to correct a wrong decision by reviewers.

Valid answers consist of an explanation why something was closed, which can be accepted if the OP understands the reason, or by explaning (or guessing) why a review mistake has been made, which can also be accepted by the OP. Votes are used to express agreement or disagreement with the closure. It's useful to have such things on Meta, because other new users can (ideally) learn how the site works by reading previous discussions on specific questions.

So, to address the questions raised in this post:

  • Can one answer such questions, if so how?

One can answer a reopen/undelete request by explaining why a post was closed/deleted, in more detail than through an automatic close comment. If this explanation is very similar to earlier cases then you can also close the meta question as a duplicate of another specific or canonical meta post explaining the reason.

One can also answer by acknowledging that the closure/deletion was unjustified or questionable, or start/respond to a discussion if this is indeed the case for the particular question being discussed. An answer of this type can also state that a reopen/undelete process is started (or completed).

  • Who can answer such questions?

Regulars on the site can answer most of these questions. For some of them the input of the specific reviewers or moderators involved in closing/deleting may be required.

  • If an answer is not possible, how is this a question?

Meta has many different functions, for example company announcements such as the yearly summary, or discussion topics in the tag. These "questions" do not necessarily fit in the Q&A format, in terms of being answerable, how much sense it makes to accept an answer, or what the interpretation of votes on the question and answers is. For Meta that is not really a problem, as long as it serves a purpose. For the current category of specific reopen/undelete requests one of the functions is to allow people to engage with the community about their specific question or their understanding of the rules, as applied to the concrete example of their current question. Even if that is not answerable, or not useful for anybody besides themselves (which often is not the case, i.e., such a request is answerable, and useful for the community in terms of teaching by example) then such an interaction is still valuable in terms of communication and participation, or giving people a platform to discuss their question. An alternative is chat, which is indeed used for this purpose as well, but Meta has advantages over chat such as being more contained, more persistent, better presentation of information, better voting mechanisms, better visibility/discoverability.

  • Is the idea to then write an answer saying it was undeleted?


  • What happens if it does not get undeleted within some amount of time?

A request may be unresolved, with or without a meaningful discussion. Then the system has failed, in a way. This happens on main as well.

  • What is the benefit of having such posts around for many years?

It is an archive of site policies and policy discussions, applied to example questions. This is useful for regulars to think about their own interpretation of the rules. It is also useful to be able te refer new users to previous examples, as a sort of case law. And it is useful for new users to educate themselves, i.e., their question is closed, they go to meta to complain, they start writing a meta question, related questions are suggested, they read the related questions, they decide not to post their request (ideally).

  • Why don't we have tons of such posts from the past?

On TeX.SE meta is not used much for anything, many people (especially the people who would like to have their question reopened) may not know that meta exists, or that this kind of questions can be asked. That doesn't mean that it is "off-topic" or not useful on meta. Note that the meta at Stack Overflow has a specific tag for this exact purpose: with as tag guidance "A request to have a specific question reopened by the community, often resulting in explanations why it was closed and guidance on improving it". Many of those requests are downvoted. This does not mean the requests do not belong on meta, just that people disagree with reopening the question.

  • When should one use the and buttons and when to ask on meta?

Use meta for explaining why a post should be reopened or undeleted, or to answer why you agree or disagree with the arguments presented. Use the buttons to actually reopen or undelete a post if the meta discussion provides reasons of doing that.

  • 1
    How can I respond to this? This is a real question. I see really many loose ends, and I do not know how I can address them. But this answer has, like it or not, made my opinion more pronounced. If anything then this seems to show that we need to discuss the mechanisms that are in place to close or delete posts, but not make tragedy of every instance in which someone does not agree with such a decision. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 17:30
  • @Schrödinger'scat I'm not really sure what the issue is. If you don't want to get involved in the "tragedies" surrounding reopen/undelete requests, then don't read such meta posts, and let other people take care of them. The meta posts will not influence the contents of the main site (other than the occasional post that might be reopened, and such questions possibly being listed in the box with Meta questions on the top right), so you can just continue using the main site as you normally do. – Marijn Apr 10 '20 at 21:22
  • 1
    All I am caring about is consistency. There is a huge discussion on whether you can put fun competitions on meta: tex.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8332/194703. So some people seem to care about consistency. Of course, you could say: "Well, there are some posts that do not belong here, but one can just ignore them, and anyway these won't be so many." If you say this, then one should apply these standards elsewhere. However, I personally want to have a meta site which is meta in the original sense of the word meta, and want off-topic posts closed. – user194703 Apr 10 '20 at 21:27
  • 1
    BTW, closing them wouldn't even harm them because they cannot be really answered. Even if they are close the respective post can still be undeleted (but I of course would like to see a more official way of posting a request to undelete, but not an inconsistent tool). – user194703 Apr 10 '20 at 21:29
  • @Schrödinger'scat I think these questions do belong on meta, they are about the application of site policy to a specific situation. This is much more meta than a fun question (which is clearly main, 'how to do X in LaTeX?') and also more meta than 'please correct my spelling', because that doesn't have anything to do with site policy. In my answer above I tried to argue that the procedure for such questions (answering/voting/accepting) can be clearly defined and can have benefits for the asker and the community in general. However, if you are not convinced by this argument, – Marijn Apr 11 '20 at 8:21
  • then you can choose to ignore these questions with minimal disruptions to your workflow on main. – Marijn Apr 11 '20 at 8:21
  • 1
    Sure, this is what I am doing. It is just not very clean. The one whose post was deleted could also just decide to write a new post with almost the same content and an explanation why they think it was inappropriate to delete their post. This is even less effort. None of this is to the point here. The point is consistency and reserving a meta site to meta questions only. Again, I am absolutely not against given OP's the possibility to appeal decisions to close or delete their post. I am just convinced that writing a meta question with the only content "undelete this" is wrong. – user194703 Apr 11 '20 at 13:42

I largely agree with Marijn, Joseph and Werner's answers, but here are a couple of other points.

The closure system is necessarily imperfect, and there are established cases of "piling on" close votes. This means that although the "five high-enough rep users" are needed to close a question, it's not uncommon that questions get closed for the wrong reasons. Sometimes people read the comments and reopening will happen. Sometimes someone will raise the issue in chat, and since our chat typically contains very high rep users and also a mod most of the time, it's probably the best way to get things reopened quickly. But if that fails, I see no reason why using Meta to raise the issue is a problem.

The people who read Meta aren't necessarily the same as the people who are active close voters, so posting in Meta is another way to get a different set of eyes on an issue. This IMO is a good thing. There is nothing sacred about the first 5 people who initially vote to close something any more than there is about the people who might respond to a Meta post. Furthermore, Meta gives people more room to explain their actions. Voting to close relies on canned reasons most of the time.

And frankly I don't see any increase in the number of reopen meta posts, so I don't see that there's an problem to be solved in the first place. Most of the time when someone says "We need a policy for X" my response is usually "No we don't" unless a very strong case can be made for it.

  • I do agree that the closure system is imperfect. And IMHO Meta really means that we can discuss and revise the closure system. This is IMHO what Meta is for. It is also more efficient to change the reason for something than to tediously fix the symptoms. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 22:26
  • 1
    @Schrödinger'scat But we can't revise the closure system: it's network wide. So that's a non-starter. – Alan Munn Apr 8 '20 at 22:29
  • This is not what I said. There are more than enough posts on correct or incorrect reasons for closure. You can definitely discuss these things here. I would also kindly like to ask you not to use wording like "non-starter" to discredit others. – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 22:33

For me, this (requesting a discussion about a post that has been closed/deleted) relates to content on the main site and that is what the child meta is for. This falls under what is mentioned in What is "meta"? How does it work? in the Help Centre. Additionally, such questions are usually tagged "for posts that may not have a clear-cut right or wrong answer and are often subjective."

I would, however, also suggest checking in that chat room to see what other think about the situation. It's a good way to bounce ideas off of fellow site contributors.

  • Would you say that a fixing spelling errors in posts on the main site relates to the content on the main site? Probably yes. To me a valid meta question is to ask how to check the spelling in a post. Asking the community to fix the typos in a specific post is IMHO not a valid meta question, even though it "relates to the contents on the main site". – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 23:18
  • Yes, "fixing spelling errors in posts on the main site relates to the content on the main site". Fixing typos in a specific post could be a valid question, but they relate to a completely different genre of content. You're limited in terms of the edit length and incorrect edits can be rolled back. Moreover, some people have a specific post style... like @barbarebeeton, depending on whether she's representing AMS. Related When is (and isn't) it acceptable to edit?. – Werner Apr 8 '20 at 23:26
  • You seem to confuse a meta question whether one can fix typos in other posts with a (IMHO non-meta) question "Please fix the typos in this post on the main site for me". – user194703 Apr 8 '20 at 23:32

You must log in to answer this question.