Deleting posts and redirecting loss attention

I saw loss aversion/attention be referenced in several topics about deleted posts.

I understand a design principle of Discourse is to prevent or redirect unwanted behaviour and users spending lots of time and energy over a deleted post is certainly unwanted behaviour. Telling them yes, loss attention is powerful. you can read more about it on wikipedia is not really redirecting that energy. The way deleted posts are evaporized for the user also seems to fuel a strong reaction rather than contain it.

Is there a better way to redirect this tendency that I’m not aware of? It seems to be a recognized psychological principle and it would be great to have Discourse reflect it within it’s wider approach on channeling behaviour.


This is a guess on my part, but sending users a PM to let them know why their post was deleted could help in some situations. For example, if someone replies to a documentation type of topic to say that there is an error in the documentation, our standard practice on Meta is to fix the OP and then delete the reply that pointed out the error. If the user was sent a PM letting them know that their suggestion has been incorporated into the OP, they are unlikely to feel a sense of loss about the post. If there was some way to publicly acknowledge that the deleted post’s author is now a contributor to the OP, that would be even better.

Other than posts that go against the community guidelines, the main reason I’m aware of for deleting posts is to improve the topic’s readability. There can be a real loss of information when posts are deleted though. I’ve wondered in the past if instead of deleting posts, posts that are seen as being extraneous to the topic could be hidden behind a button and still be available as search results. On a long topic with a lot of deleted posts, this could create a messy user interface, so I’m not sure that this is something that could be made to work.


Thanks for the feedback, Simon!

We have this forum going since a short time only, but I realized that when deleting a post, users dont get so upset that it’s rejected as part of the conversation/topic, but rather that their comment is kind of blasted out of existence… That’s why I referenced loss attention as well, because the strongest feedback I get so far is users somehow wanting their lost comments back.

I thought about re-categorizing posts to a dedicated, log-like (unlisted) category, where they stay for a limited time - instead of deleting. That way the user would get both notified and has some time to say goodbye… :see_no_evil:

But maybe there’s a way to reject them to their inbox, even if the conversation is generally not monitored? Or some other approach I’m not aware of?

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Anything useful should be edited into the wiki post, or edited into another post. However, if the topic is purely for entertainment or socializing, then the rules might be different.

I have seen some Discourse sites do this as well; it’s a good idea.


Thanks again for the feedback! So I’ve been trying out how to set this up on a development instance and it seems to work well.

I made a dedicated category Ignored Content where only moderators can create new topics.
I installed the plugin Suppress category from latest to mute all topics created in this category by default, so they don’t show up in latest.
The category then looks like this, which is exactly the log-like style I wanted:

We can also set further rules like all topics will close after 30 days in this category and topics that didn’t receive replies will be deleted then.

So we would use the Split topic feature to move rejected posts to this category. One thing I couldn’t figure out: How can I delete the Split this topic reminder in the original topic? I see a trash bin icon on the right edge, but I can’t use it.

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That’s weird, the trash icon should delete the post. I wonder are there CSS layer issues, because I see a weird overlap on the right there with the topic timeline. You might try resizing your browser as a workaround for now, that could remove the overlap.

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True, the timeline is overlapping! It’s actually theme related, so I’ll let the author of the graceful theme know…