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The Stackexchange network has become quite fragmented lately - it seems like there is a sub-site for everything. While there might be reason to discuss whether this is really a good thing (at least everybody can have his very own isolation by focusing on relevant tags), as long as this state persists or things even get worse, there must be tools to manage classification effectively.

The options to migrate off-topic questions to the appropriate sites seem not to keep up with the development. I am mainly active on serverfault, so I have no experience with other sites, but what I see there seems intrinsic to the current design:

  • questions migrated to serverfault often would be suited better for one of the newer sites like "dba", "webmasters", "unix & linux" or "security"
  • questions closed as off-topic in serverfault are not migrated to sites they belong to but end up in "superuser" or simply get closed as off-topic pissing off newcomers

Even if the site design route would not include additional fragmentation, the current implementation is dysfunctional. I understand that the current practice would include flagging an off-topic question for moderator attention if it needs to be migrated somewhere else than the 4 common site choices presented by the off-topic dialog. But it is not working out as intended. If a question does not fit the site topic everybody's urge seems to get it out of the way as soon as possible once it appears in the "vote to close" chat channel. Once it is closed, nobody cares anymore if it would fit in elsewhere.

I also strongly believe that the choice whether to migrate a question should primarily be with the original author - she has the incentive to get the question answered quickly and proficiently. Therefore, I would suggest a discussion about over-thinking the off-topic feature to

  1. show suggestions for migration similar to the "this question is a possible duplicate" feature
  2. include more relevant sites in the list for site suggestions - definitely more than 4, preferably a bunch of sites which can be grouped under a common topic (e.g. all "technology" sites)
  3. make the closure of questions as off-topic harder by defining a higher quorum for a successful migration or giving the original author a vote on this topic
  4. give the original poster the ability to migrate his question to one of the suggested sites easily
  5. extend the current "suggested tags" feature upon composing a new question to search possibly relevant tags/content from other sites in order to make suggestions for alternate, possibly better suited SE site(s).

I see that especially 2. has been discussed in the past and was dismissed as too confusing for the user to decide. As the number of SE sites increases, having just 4 choices does not work out anymore. Also, the argument that a user would not be able to make a decision out of more than 4 choices is hollow. Professional IT admins are making decisions out of dozens of choices every day - they do not dumb down just by entering Serverfault or another StackExchange site. Also, users with more than 3,000 reputation are likely to know the network well enough to make a good decision quickly without the need to study every possible site's FAQ first.

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migrated from meta.serverfault.com Dec 13 '11 at 19:31

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for system administrators and IT professionals.

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In this case I'd say "please vote for migration". It would even be funny given the context - at least a bit since there apparently is no standard migration path. –  syneticon-dj Dec 13 '11 at 14:06

4 Answers 4

allow suggestions for migration similar to the "this question is a possible duplicate" feature

Many questions that get migrated are from new users. They shouldn't be expected to make their own decisions about this.

include all current sites in the list for site suggestions with the ability to view an on-topic list to facilitate suggestion decisions

The SE team has said that only four migration targets will be shown. I think that this is too little, but showing all of them is too much. Realistically, we should never have to migrate anything to history.se or english.se for example.

make the closure of questions as off-topic harder by defining a higher quorum for a successful migration or giving the original author a mandatory vote on this topic

In my opinion, there are already too many bad questions that don't get closed. SO, for example, has many more high-rep users so their trash gets closed in the blink of an eye. Ours hangs around. Pick any random tag, sort by date, go to the back and be amazed at how much utter trash sneaked through that should have been closed. Making it harder to close bad or off topic questions isn't an answer to anything.

give the original question poster the ability to migrate his question to one of the suggested sites easily

See #1

extend the current "suggested tags" feature upon composing a new question to search tags from other sites as well and make suggestions for possible different relevant sites

There are so many subject areas in the SE network that having tags of similar names from different sites would be a Charlie-Foxtrot, in my opinion. In systems administration means something entirely different here than it would on stack exchange. That's a poor example since that tag isn't heavily used, but the premise remains. Terminology from one SE network could be completely different on another. All it does it muddy the water.

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Taking new users for lunatics is not a good approach IMO. Users posting questions to the wrong place often do so because they are not aware of other options. Changing this seems like a good idea. Questions which are "bad" due to lack of an actual answerable question could simply be downvoted. The simple closure (i.e. not migration or deletion) of a poorly written question sends out the message of "we have the power to tell you to go away and read the FAQ, you stinking weasel" to new users and seems to have no other purpose - but this is an entirely different topic. –  syneticon-dj Dec 13 '11 at 14:28
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"Users questioning in the wrong place often do so because they are not aware of other options." - So you're proposing that users that don't even know that other options exist should have the single binding vote on whether or not their question gets migrated? What about all of the people that ask for virus help because we're generally more knowledgeable than SU? –  MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 14:31
    
I am proposing that they get a prominently-displayed choice - even after the fact of posting the question. A single binding vote is probably impractical, but a strong vote should be considered. As for the list of stackexchange sites, you have a point. Probably a subset of the sites would do, but it would require some sensible grouping. While english@se might seem an unlikely site to migrate a question to, engineering@se is much more likely - although it has no IT relevance as well. –  syneticon-dj Dec 13 '11 at 14:33

I agree that there are a lot of invalid migrations occurring, particularly to SF. I see a lot of invalid flags to move there in the 10K flagged queue; I always decline them when I see them, but I'm sure a lot more slip through the cracks.

Would it make sense to put questions that have 5 move-to-SF votes into a moderator queue before moving them, so she can make a final call as to whether it gets shipped there, or to SU, or WebMasters?

I know mods are already busy, but improper migrations only create more work for others, down the road.

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One way to push-back on some of the invalid migrations is for SFians to follow the 'from' link after the bad migration is closed, and flag for 're-migrate'. It's question ping-pong, but it'll get the question to where it should go. –  sysadmin1138 Dec 13 '11 at 20:44
    
I always considered moderation activity a last resort. Something as common as a question migration does not belong moderated by default IMO. On the other hand, an opinion from the migration destination site's users might be worth considering. From the questioner perspective the right site is the one where his question gets answered, so a "potentially on topic here" queue which might attract qualified answers from other sites (similar to Usenet's crosspost feature but influenced by the community and not solely the original poster) seems a better idea to me. –  syneticon-dj Dec 14 '11 at 14:16

It's no secret that we get alot of questions that doesn't belong on SF, and often we have to either close it as off topic or migrate it to SU. Many of these questions are related to OS X or Ubuntu.

Why not let us spare SO the work of migrating it another time?

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I think you should undelete your other Question and add Unix.SE to that list. –  Chris S Dec 13 '11 at 15:39

I like idea #4

give the original question poster the ability to migrate his question to one of the suggested sites easily

Once a migration suggestion is voted by normal processes, giving the Questioner the option to shortcut the migration process seems sensible. They'll be aware of the option and it could save us some time.

The rest of the suggestions seem... bad.

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If you like #4 but consider the prerequisites bad, how does that work out? Or, asked differently, could you elaborate a bit on the "why"? –  syneticon-dj Dec 13 '11 at 15:56

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