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Before it's deleted, you'll note that there's an Android post one or two behind mine, but far from being my inspiration, it's yet the umpteenth incorrectly placed post that has landed on Meta.

This question is not a request to change the "signage" around town in an attempt to thwart these from landing here in the first place (as I think that has been examined to death already).

The issue at hand here is what should we tell these posters? A few good Samaritans have taken the time to tell those asking questions meant for Stack Overflow that their post is off-topic here, and that they should post on Stack Overflow, etc. Common sense would dictate that this would be a reasonable approach. However, I tried that for some time, but maybe only once ever did someone reply back and say "Oh, my mistake". Lately, I have avoided leaving any comments because no one ever replies or asks for clarification.

So, as citizens of Stack Exchange and Meta Stack Overflow, what is our burden and due diligence?

(already noted in the prior discussions was that the intent of some of these "misplacements" is to skirt a question ban on Stack Overflow by posting here and mistakenly thinking the question would be moderated to safety, so obviously, any feedback placed on these questions should, without saying, discourage these attempts)

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So, as citizens of ... Meta Stack Overflow, what is our burden... Shall I quote the Cheshire cat? –  Time Traveling Bobby Jan 11 '12 at 8:31
    
@bobby You may quote anyone that you would like. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:34
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Flag those questions as off-topic, then add a comment. If they learn, they may become valuable members. If not... they'll leave or get banned eventually. –  S.L. Barth Jan 11 '12 at 8:36
    
@S.L.Barth Believe me, I throw a close vote at them right away. The question is more of whether commenting that the OP is off-course is productive in the long run. Does it solve anything? –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:38
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The main question for the discussion is here: Where do first visitors on M.SO come from? –  tombull89 Jan 11 '12 at 8:39
    
What is our burden? Ohhh...but we're all mad here, I'm mad, you're mad...you must be, or you wouldn't have come here. –  Time Traveling Bobby Jan 11 '12 at 8:39
    
@jonsca Let's assume the question was posted in good faith. If nobody comments, the poster will never know what (s)he did wrong. So I think giving a link to SO main is what a regular user should do. –  S.L. Barth Jan 11 '12 at 8:47
    
@tombull89 An excellent Q&A about this topic, I should have linked to more questions instead of just referring to "signage". I'm assuming that to be true, but I'm also (and mainly) considering stage II, once the user has clicked. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:48
    
@S.L.Barth I'm not willing to make that assumption anymore. From what I've seen here, and with people doing the same thing on Programmers (wanting a question moved from there to SO to circumvent a ban) I'm not willing to look upon it as an innocent mistake. It's the old "I left a ding in the car of the person parked next to me" dilemma. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:52
    
@S.L.Barth I think you bring up some excellent points, so don't mistake my own slant as dismissing yours. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:58
    
@jonsca I didn't, don't worry. Thanks anyway. –  S.L. Barth Jan 11 '12 at 9:00
    
@S.L.Barth Case in point on Programmers. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 9:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Many of those questions are bad enough that I don't really want to burden SO with one more "Not a real question" that the community or the moderators have to close. Users who miss all the obvious signs that they are in the completely wrong place often ask really bad questions.

I see this as similar to the "Don't migrate crap" rule for migrations. I don't point users who ask crappy questions in the completely wrong place to StackOverflow. SO doesn't need more crappy questions, it's better of if most of the users that post programming questions on meta never find the proper site.

If there is some indication that the user might learn from his mistake and ask a reasonably clear question on SO, I'd glady point them there. But from the off-topic posts I've seen here this is usually not the case.

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I think one of the main goals which need to be solved if you see such a question is:

What brings you here?

It is this one, unanswered question hammering into my brain so that I can't sleep at night.


As you've said yourself, you can point the user to the correct site. Most of the time you won't receive any answer, though. You can also try to figure out and/or ask the user what brought it here, but that you receive a usable answer is also unlikely.

So a good thing would be if you could figure out what drives users out of Stack Overflow and into these holy halls. Some of them will only come here because they've been banned from Stack Overflow, nothing we can do here. But other lost souls stagger through the UI of Stack Overflow and take a wrong turn somewhere which leads and keeps them here. If we can figure out what leads them here, we can fix that and reduce those off-topic questions drastically. Not that they're a big problem anyway, they're few and fast closed and deleted.

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I had thought about asking that, too. Would it receive a response? I know that this problem is not an epidemic, but it is a problem, and something is leaking somewhere in the pipes. –  jonsca Jan 11 '12 at 8:44
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Also, bear in mind that even if a comment is left explaining that the question is in the wrong place the question does often get quickly deleted so that the OP may not recieve the information (maybe apart from a few words in the OP's Inbox) –  tombull89 Jan 11 '12 at 8:47

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