Right now, moderator delete-votes are binding; any diamond moderator can insta-delete a post without having to go through the normal voting process. This is by design, important to ensure problems are dealt with quickly, and really only accelerates what can be done by any normal high-rep user.
However, moderator deletes also have a moderator-only trait attached to them: Any post deleted by a moderator can only be undeleted by a moderator.
Even if a high-rep user chose to take advantage of the recent undelete votes tool (an activity that I reckon we want to encourage), it would do zero good because for the most part undelete votes cannot even be cast: Most (if not all) posts that are deleted at this point are deleted by these binding moderator votes. Even if that vote was merely one of the three normally required, the fact that a moderator cast the final vote renders the entire post un-undeleteable except by further moderator intervention.
Right now, we only have eight users who have earned the trusted user privilege, three of whom are already diamond moderators. Even if you assume that all eight users are active, decide that an answer deserves deletion, and are capable of casting the necessary delete vote, all things being equal there's an 82% chance that a moderator will be the one to cast the final vote. For deleted questions which requires only the access to moderator tools privilege, the chance that the final vote is moderator-cast is only 39%, but that's still a greater than one in three chance of moderator involvement. And when dealing with the "recommend deletion" option in the review queues, which requires only the Edit Questions And Answers privilege and six votes (instead of three), that number goes back up to 51%.
And even that's after making some fairly generous assumptions about the willingness of other users to actually cast delete votes (rather than just flagging). In practice, these odds are much closer to 100% since moderators usually handle flags well before enough users have even had a chance to vote. In this year to date, I only recall seeing one post which was actually deleted by votes with no moderator intervention (and it totally deserved it, so is unlikely to warrant undeletion at any point ever).
In other words, at this point in the site's development, it's significantly more likely than not (pretty much a given, really) that no post can or will be deleted without a moderator's intervention, regardless of severity.
As a moderator I only really see two options, neither of which is ideal:
- Moderators only delete blatantly egregious posts. Such posts would include things that are obviously spam, offensive, plagiarism, things that are heavily flagged, etc; the typical moderator responsibilities. However, this has the downside of removing from the potential delete-vote pool three of the most active, most trusted, and generally most useful members of the site, which is a fairly large chunk (over a third) of that pool right now. It also makes it more difficult for moderators to lead by example and guide the fledgling community to maturity while they're just leaving subjectively problematic posts to fester instead of dealing with them.
- Moderators cast deletes when they feel a post needs to be deleted: This eliminates the problems from option 1, but the fact is that the community really has no direct power to undelete these posts. Not only do such actions get misconstrued as dictatorial ("I don't like this post so I delete it HAH!"), but it just introduces more moderator work as site policy (or even just the problematic post) changes and the post is deemed worthy of being on the site after all. In my experience, there are often cases where a flag for undeletion makes much more sense to be judged by the community than by any single moderator, but even as the pool of potential undelete-votes increases the moderator-delete is still binding, requiring direct moderator intervention to undelete.
Obviously, moderators would still need the ability to prevent a blatantly egregious post from being undeleted, but we can already do that by simply locking it when we delete it. There are many posts which don't cross into that territory, but which just don't meet the quality standards of the site and should still be culled. Given that such decisions not only are highly subjective, but also prone to change as site policy develops, it just doesn't make sense that these posts are inevitably struck down with the moderator touch-of-death.
I understand, and for the most part agree with, the reason for making moderator-deletes binding in the first place. But this restriction seems to only really have value for a graduated site, where moderators not only have to deal with more flags (and don't really have time or patience to manually decide which posts deserve locking), but also where the userbase is developed enough to actually and regularly handle things that don't require the diamond hammer.
For Islam.SE, being a non-graduated site with a fairly undeveloped userbase, allowing moderators to lead by example without actually restricting the ability of the community to learn and apply all the tools at their disposal (including undelete votes) seems to be far more valuable. Our ability to provide an "example" is directly related to our ability to do what the community itself can actually do (albeit accelerated); since moderators have no ability to selectively cast non-binding votes, our ability to lead by example regarding post deletion is significantly curtailed. As it stands, I reckon we're far more likely to inadvertently train the fledgling community that deletions can only be cast and countered by moderators, instead of by community intervention.
So for this site, at least while it's still in beta, I would like to propose the following feature be implemented: Allow the community to cast undelete votes like normal, even on moderator-deleted posts.