To allow users to delete, or not to allow users to delete?


I was chatting with one of my fave clients last week about whether or not they should allow their users to delete their posts. It was toward the end of the call, so I thought I might as well feed two birds with one scone 🕊️ and write up my thoughts and see if the community had any additional thoughts on this one.

First, what’s possible and why.

In Vanilla, if you set your roles and permissions so that a user can delete on the category level, it will allow them to delete any and all posts in that category, so this should definitely be reserved for admins and mods🙅‍♀️.

Out of the box, users (aside from those with the all encompassing category level permission) can’t delete their discussions (or questions, or ideas, or polls, basically the first post in any thread, or comments (or answers, basically replies).

There is no way to allow users (aside from admins and mods, who would then be able to delete all the things), to delete those discussions. The reason for this is the following scenario: what if I’m a user who posted an interesting discussion, that then received tons of thoughtful replies. If I then come in and delete that discussion, all those comments will go with it, which is not usually fair to the commenters and the rest of the community.

So how do we handle these requests?

If your community really wants the ability to delete their own discussions, I think the best approach is to add a ‘delete this post’ option to your reported posts options. This way, the user can still request their thread be deleted and an admin or mod can make the executive decision. If the post has a lot of replies and the user really really wants it deleted, I would suggest to use the change author functionality and switch it to staff member or generic (aka fake) user so that the comments can be retained.

If the user is asking to be totally deleted, I would delete the user but use the “blank user content’ option:

Ok, but what about comments?

You can request (via your PM or Vanilla Support) to have an option enabled so that users can delete their own content. The timeline that they could delete their comments for would be the same as the timeline that users can edit posts (governed by your posting settings, or better yet, ranks).

What do you think?

Most importantly, what do you all think? Do you allow users to delete their own comments? Or do you restrict this ability for reasons I haven’t gone into here? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!



  • stefanieb
    stefanieb Vanilla Flower

    Shauna this article is so very helpful, thank you!

    Don't mean to feed a fed horse but just wanted to check-
    If a request is made to extend the option for users to delete their own comments, does that mean that they can't delete their first post even if there aren't any additional threads on it?

    If that's the case, I think the "Reported Posts" option provides a way forward for users who want that option.

  • Rav Singh
    Rav Singh Vanilla Sundae

    We implemented the option for our users to request deletion of their own content via the Flag/Report functionality a while ago but to be honest, our users don't have too much of a demand around this (thankfully!) 😄.

    Something to consider is allowing self-deletion runs the risk of discussions becoming disjointed in the flow of comments particularly in a support-centric Community (such as ours). This is particularly relevant when members find themselves on a discussion looking for info/answers well after it initially took place and comments may not make logical sense. Mileage may vary though depending on the role and nature of the Community.

  • Shauna
    Shauna HLV Staff

    Hey @stefanieb

    If a request is made to extend the option for users to delete their own comments, does that mean that they can't delete their first post even if there aren't any additional threads on it?

    That is correct — it could be an interesting feature request but that's how it works today.

    Great points @Rav Singh — I have definitely seen conversations that make no sense due to deleted comments, especially if folks get into a heated debate! Something to consider @stefanieb