I recently answered https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/1721/263 with an admittedly too short answer. I received a couple of downvotes and some comments asking me to improve on the answer.

So I did. Then I wrote a somewhat lengthy reply to the comments, and was planning to proceed to edit my answer a second time. I did not get that far however. In fact, I was not even able to post my comment reply. Gilles had deleted my answer, 28 minutes after me posting it, 1 minute after my first edit as well as 1 minute after their own comment asking me to improve on the answer.

Had I been given the extra 60 seconds needed for me to participate in the discussion, I am sure we could have ended up with a reasonably well-formed answer despite the glaring shortcomings of the question.

What is the rationale behind deleting answers without giving users any time at all to improve on them?

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Oftentimes, we can do a better job explaining how and why this site works the way it does, and what specifically can be done to correct these missteps which, frankly, we fully expect users to fall into.

Deletions are "soft" on this this site, and this community tends to err towards removing stuff from view that doesn't quite meet the requirements of a "qualified" answer. This is largely to abate a lot of the vaguely supported answers, guessing, and spammy content that will lessen the effectiveness of this site. But that means…

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Or more specifically — with such a strict editorial policy, this community has an even greater responsibility to do so with big doses of thoughtful and meticulous guidance.

We need a community that understands (and accepts) that many newcomers are likely NOT going to get this site the first time they post. Don't make that a bad experience. The way we, as a community, demonstrate good faith in our actions is by telling the user exactly why their post was withdrawn, how to improve their post… and how to restore their post if and when they add the missing information.

For example:

Thank you for your answer. While your recommendation may be a good solution, we ask that answers include sufficient detail to show how it solves the requirements of the question, and describe how this is the best choice for the author specifically. If you feel this post can be improved, please feel free to edit your answer and 'flag' it for moderator attention. Thanks, and good luck!

Rubber-stamping posts with over-repeated catch phrases like "does not meet out quality standards" is going to make us look like a bunch of persnickety control freaks. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but we have to remember that we're the odd man out here — that this is a strange place with somewhat unfathomable rules (even by Stack Exchange standards) that seem almost designed to intentionally trip up the unwary.

The best way to formulate your guidance is to pretend these rules are all new and fresh and just invented yesterday (because to most folks, they have been). Try not to get too comfortable and expect everyone just to "know" what is going on here. Refrain from sniping at users irritably. Don't assume every new user has read your faq and poured through the reams of meta discussions. Because they haven't.

Assume, instead, that every day is the first day of school for everyone. It will help mitigate a lot of these misunderstandings… and justify the maze rules you are creating here; all to help everyone have a better experience the next time around.

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    Clap clap clap Now can we get custom comments that notify the poster even if the post ends up deleted in the VLQ queue? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 27 '14 at 22:44
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    @Gilles I seem to recall something like that possibly being considered (or in the works). In the meantime, we're going to have to rely on a bit more direct hand-holding and actually talking to the users directly... with the comment tools we have. – Robert Cartaino Feb 27 '14 at 22:47

I was alerted to your answer by a flag. While I was reading your answer, I was notified that you'd edited it. I read your updated answer, and it still fell well short of the guidelines (largely in that it was a short, generic description of the software). So I left a comment to let you know that your answer was not suitable in its present form and suggesting how you could improve it.

You have all the time you want to improve your answer. You can edit your deleted answer at any time and flag it for undeletion. Or, if you prefer, you can post a new answer.

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  • Thanks for the reply. I have to admit, I didn't even realize I was supposed to react to a deletion by editing the answer and asking for it to be undeleted. Mainly because I was so stumped at not being able to engage in the discussion and post the comment I had spent some time writing. – lime Feb 26 '14 at 20:18
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    I still feel that too quick a deletion only sends the wrong signals to new users. Once burnt, twice shy - I was actually here composing a question of my own when I noticed the new question and thought I'd contribute with a quick answer. Now I find myself rephrasing the question for SuperUser or some other SE where contribution and moderation activity are more in balance... – lime Feb 26 '14 at 20:26
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    I hope I don't come off sounding too much like a martyr. I really do appreciate the efforts of the moderators here. It is just that I had high hopes for SoftwareRecs and would be saddened to see it fail because of a too high barrier of entry for new users. If somewhat active SE users find it hard to participate, then I can only imagine what it's like for complete newcomers. – lime Feb 26 '14 at 20:32
  • @lime One of our big worries about this site is that it becomes a dumping ground for questions that SU/SO/… reject, which is why we're deliberately setting the bar for quality higher. I apologize for the lack of guidelines, I do try to say something like “please <improve> and repost” or “please edit <missing stuff> and flag” when I delete an answer that can be improved, but forgot in your case. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 27 '14 at 1:16
  • Can we rename delete to "hidden, while being improved?" or maybe even "On Hold"? Delete does sound rather strong, when we are using it more like the Close for a question than the Delete for a question. – Lyndon White Feb 28 '14 at 0:48
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    @Oxinabox The only effect of “on hold” was to confuse people further (“what's the difference with closed?”), so I doubt you can achieve anything by calling something that quacks and walks on padded feet a cucumber. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 28 '14 at 0:53
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    This is true, but you see what I am getting at, right? Having an answer deleted after 30 minutes, doesn't send the message: "We think you might be onto something good, but we're going to let you polish it up a bit before the general public get to it." It sends a message more like "This is useless spam." (Which as I read your answer here, is not the intent.) – Lyndon White Feb 28 '14 at 0:56

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