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As you may know, the amount of questions here that actually belong on Stack Overflow is huge. If I'm allowed a guess, it probably happens a few times a day.

Why are people posting in the wrong place?

Now, what are the reasons for this? What do these users think? (Do you have a guess why this is?)

"Hey, Stack Overflow is cool, but there's a meta link, now that looks even more awesome, let's click it and ask there!"

What are – from your experience – the reasons for new users posting here?

And then there's this comment exchange that makes me wonder:

"What is meant by MSO question?"

What could be done to prevent it?

Now, obviously those people have skipped a few reminders:

  • This one here:
    the top notification bar

  • That one:
    the "Welcome!" sidebar

  • And this one:
    the "How to Ask" page

My question is: Is there anything that we can do to prevent people from asking in the wrong place? I know these people need a bit more than a gentle reminder and a passive note somewhere in a sidebar.

What about Jeff's question about a Simple method for reliably detecting code in text?. Would it be an option to apply this algorithm to meta questions?

if (post contains code) and (user is new)
  show alert ("Your question probably belongs on Stack Overflow, 
  our Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers")

What do you think?

share|improve this question
I know we could close or migrate them, but preventing them would lead to a better signal-to-noise ratio and less work for all of us. – slhck Aug 20 '11 at 10:10
Do you know how many of these get posted on MSO per day? I think that's relevant, maybe a mod can chime in? – agf Aug 20 '11 at 10:17
I don't have any numbers -- also most of them will be deleted anyway --- but it would be good to have some insight. – slhck Aug 20 '11 at 10:19
Yeah, that's why I asked for a mod (not a 10k users, a real mod), they should be able to see a list of deleted questions. – agf Aug 20 '11 at 10:21
FWIW, I asked a related question More explicit message on the "Ask Question" screen a couple weeks ago. – jonsca Aug 20 '11 at 10:23
Has anyone looked into electric shocks? Seriously, these people might be beyond help. Over 50% of them don't even get their code formatted properly when they do manage to post here. The code detection stuff isn't going to work properly anyway. And we definitely don't want to migrate these questions; they're almost always terrible questions that would not be a good fit for SO proper, either. No reason to waste people's time closing them on both sites. – Cody Gray Aug 20 '11 at 10:31
The reason I'm asking is if this is a problem that we think needs to be dealt with in a different way than what we're doing now. I guess there are two cases: 1) The question is acceptable for SO and it's migrated, 2) The question is closed with a comment such as "It will probably be closed on SO because it's too XYZ". Nevertheless, you can't stop those people from posting it there. Because all they want is an answer -- they don't care if it's closed here, or migrated for them. So you might as well tell them to ask in a different place, without the doubled effort from our side @cod – slhck Aug 20 '11 at 10:40
Well, specifically for the migration issue... Meta sites are "black holes" in the sense that nothing is generally ever migrated away from them. Regular users with close vote privileges cannot vote to migrate. Moderators can do it, I believe, but they generally won't. And my point above was that's a good thing in this case because the programming questions that do manage to get asked here are hardly ever sufficient quality enough to migrate to SO. And yeah... I don't generally tell these people to go ask on SO. I'm the one leaving the "yeah, but...your needs..." comments. :-) – Cody Gray Aug 20 '11 at 11:07
Oh -- I'm absolutely on your side there. @Cody – slhck Aug 20 '11 at 11:13

Some of the programming questions that end up here are from users that just got lost, however many of them come from users that have been banned from asking questions on Stack Overflow.

I'm not sure if the minority case of a few lost sheep is worth it, to be honest, because people circumventing a question ban obviously don't read, which is why they were banned in the first place.

Additionally, this might make it hard for people that are trying to report a bug or get help with formatting.

share|improve this answer
Valid point. I was interested in the main reasons why people ask here in the first place. Would you say it's because of banning primarily? – slhck Aug 20 '11 at 11:13
@slhck I'd say many cases were due to a ban, but it's not really something that I've been paying much attention to (beyond closing them whenever I see them). One of my first mistakes as a moderator was migrating a programming question from here over to SO, which effectively short circuited the ban. A very polite e-mail from Jeff informed me that the bulk of them are usually trying to accomplish just that. – Tim Post Aug 20 '11 at 11:21
the bulk of them are usually trying to accomplish just that — I guess that's hard to determine, @Tim. I could also imagine that folks get to Meta to read the link they're given in the "Sorry" message. And then, not realizing they're on Meta now (and not bothered by what they've just been reading), give it another try? That said: as that link is currently a URL: maybe the session could remember that that link was used, and then trigger some alarm bells when trying to post code? – Arjan Aug 20 '11 at 11:54
@Arjan - Well, like I said, I don't pay an inordinate amount of attention to it unless I need to (for instance, someone who continues to ask programming questions here despite being asked not to do that). But, every one I've cross referenced with SO does show a quality issue that would have likely triggered the ban. – Tim Post Aug 20 '11 at 12:52
@Arjan - Additionally, I'm in favor of just putting the text that is linked into the page that is displayed when someone hits the ban. Bringing them to MSO really doesn't accomplish anything, because the ban can't be lifted. – Tim Post Aug 20 '11 at 12:54
@Tim: Might I suggest posting that as an answer to this feature request? I agree that's an even better alternative than fixing the obfuscated URL. – Cody Gray Aug 20 '11 at 13:52
Hehe, @Cody, I just copied Tim's comment into another comment at that very same question. ;-) So, go, Tim! (Assuming we're both talking about Tim's comment?) – Arjan Aug 20 '11 at 13:53

Many of those misdirected questions have programming language tags.

It might be fairly easy to detect a good chunk of them just by that. If a question is tagged php, html or C#, there's a good chance it belongs on SO proper.

share|improve this answer
Are you sure? My feeling (that's anecdotal, though) all they have is usually one to four of the mandatory tags (discussion, support, feature-request, bug). – balpha Aug 20 '11 at 10:49
@balpha they have those as well (because they have to), but I think I've seen a lot of OT questions with technology tags - but that's anecdotal too. Is there a SEDE query one can run? – Pëkka Aug 20 '11 at 10:51
Users with a reputation lower than 500 cannot create tags; they can only use the existing tags. Those users cannot use c++ for their questions. – kiamlaluno Aug 20 '11 at 11:23
So perhaps there is a case to be made for cleaning out and/or blacklisting the existing language tags on Meta? php and html for starters. They don't seem particularly useful here, as they're merely implementation details of the underlying code. There are very likely more appropriate tags for these questions. – Cody Gray Aug 20 '11 at 11:30
As low reputation users cannot create new tags: maybe trying to add a new programming tag could trigger the alarm bells? – Arjan Aug 20 '11 at 11:30
I looked at some questions tagged php, and I didn't see the tag relevant for the question being asked. – kiamlaluno Aug 20 '11 at 11:47
@Cody fair point - simple burnitation might do here – Pëkka Aug 20 '11 at 12:59

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