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An idea came up in comments on my previous question about cross-site searching about cross-site asking. That is, when a user is on one Stack Exchange site (Stack Overflow, for example), it may not be immediately apparent to them that they can ask questions on other, potentially more-relevant, sites (Programmers, for example).

I see two ways to approach this:

  • Add an option to the Ask Question page to ask the question on a different site.
  • Add a global Ask Question page to the main Stack Exchange site as a kind of launch pad to ask on any site.

Ask Question Page Option

The Ask Question page is already full of useful information. How to ask, related questions, etc. But one thing it doesn't have is information about where to ask. It occurs to me that a lot of off-topic questions (especially ones which used to be on-topic in the days of yore) may be avoided by adding some guidance to this page.

enter image description here

We don't want it to get in the way, of course. So there's always going to be the remaining demographic of users who simply don't read it or don't bother. But there's not much we can do about them. (These are the same people who will move a wet floor sign that's in their way, slip and fall, and complain that the store should have done something about it.)

My annotation on the above image is just a thinking-out-loud suggestion. Admittedly, I'm not a UX expert by any means. But essentially what I'm picturing is some kind of interface that says something akin to:

Want to ask this question on a different site? Maybe this would be a better fit for another Stack Exchange community? Take a look at these related sites:

This can be anything from a simple sidebar which links to the other sites (and perhaps also their FAQs), or it can be part of the form to actually post the question to that site instead of the current site and drive the user there.

Over time we can potentially refine the usefulness of this by making the suggestion stronger based on tags used, etc. We could also include the option in the question after it's been asked whereby the owner can migrate it to another site.

Hmm... I just asked this here. But on second thought, I'm more likely to get useful information over there. I'll just ask on both, nobody will mind. But wait, what's this option? Oh, I can move my question over there myself? Cool, I'll do that. Maybe later I'll also plant a tree, because I love helping the community.


Global Ask Question Page

The main Stack Exchange site is a great place to find featured questions on a wide variety of subjects. It highlights new SE 2.0 sites, it shows hot questions on the various sites, it provides a multi-site search, etc. But one thing it doesn't do is provide a way to ask a question.

enter image description here

What I'm picturing here is an Ask Question page that's very similar to the one that the various Stack Exchange sites have, but with greater emphasis on the above suggestion of being able to choose a site. (After all, one can't ask a question on the main Stack Exchange site. It has to go somewhere. So it would be a more prominent part of the form with more information.)

The page could function much in the same way as the current Ask Question pages do. For example, the selection of sites could perhaps be between the Title and the Body form elements. Based on the title, sites can be suggested (with all sites as an expandable option beneath the suggested sites). The site currently selected (radio button, no cross-posting, and no default or that site would probably get flooded with off-topic questions) can then further expand to show "Questions with similar titles" from that site just as the Ask Question pages do today.

The main Stack Exchange site could use some work to make it more of a global entry point for the wide variety of Stack Exchange communities, and I think this would be a significant stride in that direction. We are question and answer communities, and a great way to get started is to ask a question somewhere.

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Bringing Yahoo Answers to Stack Exchange, one step at a time. –  NullUserException อ_อ Dec 29 '11 at 16:54
    
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ: Hopefully with fewer yahoos and more answers :) –  David Dec 29 '11 at 16:57
    
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ The biggest problem with sites like Yahoo Answers or Experts Exchange was (is) their bad design and usability. SO and later SE fixed that and included some nice gamification concepts that really helped gain traction quickly. But IMO they also introduced concepts that unnecessarily complicate the business of asking a question (which you, depending on the kind of questions that you like to ask, may or may not have experienced; I certainly have). –  Borek Dec 29 '11 at 17:24

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