Imagine one of those collaborative drawing programs in which multiple users can make marks and the resulting drawing is the sum of all their marks. Should one of the users be able to come back later and claim that he wanted all the marks he'd made deleted, on the grounds that they were "his content?" I'd argue that someone doing that would be violating an implicit social contract with the other users.
Similarly, if someone wanted all their HN comments deleted, they'd ruin other people's comments by making them incomprehensible. And how far would deletion be expected to go? If user y quotes part of a comment by user x, is that also supposed to be deleted if x wants his comments deleted? It should be if it's "his personal data," right?
We do delete individual comments and submissions when people do something they worry will get them in trouble. That combined with the fact that accounts are anonymous and that users can wipe their profiles seems to me to strike the right balance.
I don't see why comments by [deleted] would damage the site or flow of comments.
Each HN user is, literally, their comments + their submissions. This may be an anonymous forum, but people feel a strong connection with their HN identity. When they make comments that cause them to look silly, they feel silly. Why is that?
If you let people change their identity, people may subconsciously stop trying so hard to live up to their current one.
Maybe allow each user to change their username only once.
If deletion is allowed, it would be easy to add "undelete" from a previously scraped copy, or even a page for all deleted comments with previous user details. Both of these already exist for Reddit. In a way, deleting a post would highlight and bring it to the attention of people looking for controversy or accidentally leaked information.
I don't think so - it's clearly unreasonable to expect every instance of a username to be policed like that, particularly considering cut-and-pasting quotes. I'm fine with the idea that if it's in a thread it's no longer 'yours.'
But I also think it should be possible to remove ones' own account and have the username on those posts no longer point to an active account.
I also think there should be a "post anonymously" option as well, which there practically already is in the form of throwaway accounts. Might as well just make it official.
Having read your comment, I have a better understanding of why HN does not make the account deletion option available to users. I agree that preserving the flow of public discussion is important.
At the same time, I think other users in the comments below have raised interesting ideas (making comparisons to sites such as Reddit) about how to preserve the integrity of discussions while granting users a little more freedom to manage their data.
Besides offering criticism, I should reiterate that I think HN is a uniquely valuable forum. And I appreciate how difficult it must be to manage a technological website for technological people — because every user has a million suggestions and believes he or she knows best. :)
I believe this is a 'slippery slope fallacy'. If I have the right to delete my comments, it doesn't immediately follow that I have the right to delete occasions where someone has quoted me.
The awkwardness of deleting quotes does not contribute any awkwardness to deleting comments.
Legally, this matter is simplified by acknowledging that written work is copyrightable.
The law around publishing copyrighted work is different than the law around quoting copyrighted work.
However this isn't a drawing board, this is a message board where people discuss various topics.
I think reddit handles this situation well in that the content isn't deleted but the "name" associated with the content just shows up as "[deleted]".
Reddit History Wiper
> you agree that by posting messages, uploading files, inputting data, or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, enhance, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, display, or sublicense any such communication in any medium (now in existence or hereinafter developed) and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so.
^Reddit copyright policy