What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

Historically this site, meta.stackoverflow, has been the place to ask questions about not just Stack Overflow, but the functioning of the entire Stack Exchange (2.0) network, including Area 51 and stackexchange.com and careers.

(Yes, there was a meta.stackexchange, but that dealt with the old legacy Stack Exchange 1.0 sites. It was deprecated a while ago, and currently redirects here.)

Now that we've gotten many, many months under our belt from the SE 1.0 days, I think it's time that we gave Stack Overflow its own, true per-site meta, and moved the higher level network meta discussions to meta.stackexchange.com.

Over time, it's begun to bug me more and more that requests for Stack Overflow, the site, kind of get buried here on meta.stackoverflow under the avalanche of network issues. Retag requests, synonym requests, things truly specific to Stack Overflow, the site, not the network. This is unfair to our vastly largest and flagship Q&A site, and it's unfair to the Stack Overflow users to mix their requests in with network level concerns.

It's also odd that Stack Overflow is the only network site without a proper, dedicated per-site meta, where its meta has its own reputation system not tied to the parent site in any way.

This is mostly a quirk of history more than anything else, and I believe it is now an appropriate time to split into two sites:

  1. meta.stackoverflow, a proper per-site meta for Stack Overflow with integrated rep

  2. meta.stackexchange, a global network meta with its own reputation system

Yes, this will be painful. But I believe it is a good, necessary, and healthy step both for the future of the network and the future of Stack Overflow.

Some things to discuss:

  • which questions should be migrated from here to meta.so? Obviously site-specific things like the retag-requests, and perhaps questions with the tag. Anything that is 100% wholly specific to Stack Overflow and not generalizable to the rest of the network should be moved over. This may be a pretty small, narrow list of questions, and that's OK.

  • Should we do some meta spring cleaning in our transition? Which questions / tags should be blown away as no longer relevant, referring to ancient versions of Stack Overflow or issues that have long since ceased to exist and aren't instructive for any future visitors?

  • Your meta reps will generally be unaffected, except insofar as we delete for spring cleaning, or move site-specific things to meta.so. We still plan to have a distinct reputation system for the new meta.se site, just like here.

I do not have a timeline for this change, that is up to Jarrod and David to decide. It may be months away. However, we feel pretty strongly that this is something that we need to do to clean things up and pave the way for the future -- so I expect it will happen in the next few months, giving us lots of time to decide how we want to do it, per the above.

Update

This will be proceeding in January 2014.

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About time Stack Overflow got its own Meta where users can rant about not being able to ask anymore questions... –  Ivo Flipse Feb 29 '12 at 21:11
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How is rep going to work with this? Current MSO rep to the new site and SO rep takes over on the new meta (like other sites)? –  Kevin Feb 29 '12 at 21:12
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@Kevin - I would expect it to follow the same rules as all the other per site metas. Your rep would inherit from the main site. –  ChrisF Feb 29 '12 at 21:13
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So... Basically you're going to make the current meta into meta.SE and then transfer SO-specific things back to meta.SO? That seems like a very logical way to go, but I didn't quite understand the process you're going to use. –  animuson Feb 29 '12 at 21:14
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Who will the mods be? I preemptively cast my first vote for Tim Stone!!!!!!! Who's with me? –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 21:18
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Perhaps any SE mod be a mod on Meta.StackExchange and then only the SO mods would be a mod here. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Feb 29 '12 at 21:20
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I nominate @GeorgeEdison's suggestion. –  jcolebrand Feb 29 '12 at 21:21
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@GeorgeEdison That sounds logical, but is also 260-ish people, which is slightly high –  Michael Mrozek Feb 29 '12 at 21:21
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@MichaelMrozek: It works in chat though... –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Feb 29 '12 at 21:22
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Maybe a compromise between @GeorgeEdison's suggestion of all mods are mods on MSE would be to have mods from other sites be denoted in some way (maybe with a hollow diamond [nhinkle◊] as suggested here). Hovering would tell you what site they're a mod on. These users would not have full mod powers on MSE, but could have default access to 10k tools perhaps. –  nhinkle Mar 1 '12 at 5:47
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This is a conspiracy to get our sweet Meta repz so Jeff can retire with them. Over our dead accounts! –  Pëkka Mar 1 '12 at 8:52
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You forgot the most important question: Which site gets to keep the quirky culture? :) –  Benjol Mar 1 '12 at 9:02
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Can we have one of the hand-drawn Meta logos when the split happens? That would be so cool. @Shog –  Pëkka Mar 7 '12 at 22:31
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@Shog9, could you give us an idea where this is going? Is it now status-planned? Is the discussion sufficiently advanced for you to go forward? Do you need more input from us? Should we start going forth and tagging? I am looking forward to having a senate... :) –  Benjol Mar 22 '12 at 6:50
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So it's been over a year, now. Is this still planned or has the idea been abandoned? –  fredsbend Jun 26 '13 at 19:52

7 Answers 7

This is excellent news and I've been waiting for this to happen for quite some time. However, I do see one huge problem that will need to be addressed in some way:

Dead links.

Google has indexed millions (well, hundreds of thousands anyway) of pages here on Meta that have been around for years. Suddenly switching this site with Stack Overflow's new Meta will result in a lot of invalid links in addition to dead ones. I realize there are ways to deal with this, but it is still a concern.

A lot of per-site Metas (and Stack Exchange sites themselves) link to policies here on Meta. They will all need to be updated. That could be a job for the API or the Data Explorer. But it won't happen overnight either.

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It sounds like they're planning on manually migrating questions, so there will be automatic redirects. No problems. If they do it differently that could spell trouble though ... the merge of Guitars into Music was very messy and the links took months to sort out, for example, and those sites were tiny. Edit: Never mind, the migration is reversed ... from the new domain to the current domain. I see the messiness, +1 to you and @DavidFullerton. –  Matthew Read Feb 29 '12 at 21:23
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Just think of the unicorn and waffle pictures which will lose their Google ranking! –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 21:23
    
If everything is just "migrated" to the new site, all those dead links will be redirected appropriately? No? –  Mysticial Feb 29 '12 at 21:23
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We're thinking that posts on the new MSO will be indexed starting above the current number (e.g. 150000). Any link to meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/{id} with an id less than 150000 will redirect to meta.stackexchange.com. Any link to a post with an id greater than 150000 will stay on meta.stackoverflow.com. So all links and redirects will still work, at least for posts. –  David Fullerton Feb 29 '12 at 21:24
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Great plan @DavidFullerton –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 21:26
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There's an easy way to solve the dead link issue: create an empty MSE, migrate posts there from MSO. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 21:26
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@Gilles But then you're migrating way more posts, I would think. –  Matthew Read Feb 29 '12 at 21:26
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@DavidFullerton: What about the old posts that will be migrated to meta.SO? They will have IDs below 150000, but we don't want to redirect those. Though this can be fixed by only redirecting if the ID is not found on meta.SO. –  hammar Feb 29 '12 at 21:29
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@hammar migrating from meta.SE to meta.SO really just creates a new question on meta.SO. So it'll get an id > 150000. –  David Fullerton Feb 29 '12 at 21:30
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@hammar I see what you're asking. Yes, in that case there would be two redirects, since it was basically migrated twice. This isn't ideal, but it's much simpler than the alternative. –  David Fullerton Feb 29 '12 at 21:35
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I think @Gilles's solution is the best, the SE engine already handles redirects for migrated posts. All that's needed is to just migrate over everything that belongs on Meta.SE, and leave the stuff that belongs on Meta.SO –  Kyle Cronin Feb 29 '12 at 21:40
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@MatthewRead Considering the number of duplicates, old issues, etc, I doubt it. There's also the matter that a lot of posts that should be migrated need editing. If MSE was created organically, we could edit questions as we migrate them. If we rename MSO, we've lost the battle before starting. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 21:41
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@KyleCronin - migrations lose post history, which is especially valuable here, so that's really not an attractive option (also the other direction is a lot less work). –  Nick Craver Feb 29 '12 at 22:27
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@NickCraver Then shouldn't the solution be for migrations to... not lose history? :) –  Lorem Ipsum Mar 1 '12 at 11:56
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@yoda - no, that's by-design that we drop history, to give things a fresh start on the site they should be on...but that's not what we want in this specific case, it's just not the same scenario. –  Nick Craver Mar 1 '12 at 15:07

Yes, finally a site where network issues won't be buried in SO-specific considerations!

You're proposing to rename meta.SO into meta.SE, then re-create meta.SO. I don't think that's going to work. Meta.SO is currently very much dominated by Stack Overflow. If it's renamed to meta.SE, there'll be a lot of cleaning up to do, and we'll end up with a meta.SO that's missing a lot of specific material and with a meta.SE full of SO-specific crap. It won't work that way.

Instead, we should create a meta.SE and follow the organic growth process used for Stack Exchange sites, with a few modifications. Start Meta.SE in read-only beta, but instead of writing posts from scratch, migrate them from meta.SO and edit them as necessary.

Choose the read-only beta participants based on participation on sites other than SO. “Anyone with a diamond anywhere” might be a good start; if that's not enough, bring in people with enough both MSO rep and non-SO-or-MSO rep.

After the read-only beta, make Meta.SE a migration target on Meta.SO.

Since all Meta.SO posts will either remain in place or have migration stubs left behind, all existing links to MSO will remain valid, thus not repeating the link carnage when Meta.SE-1.0 was moved out of the way.

Since MSO has reputation for historical reasons, I propose that reputation for any post that's migrated to MSE is retained on MSO.


I took a sample of MSO posts to see what we're up against. I only looked at 4, not a statistically significant sample but that's all I'll spend the time on (feel free to contribute). The sampling method was to draw a random integer uniformly between 1 and 124015 and visit http://meta.stackexchange.com/q/$n (try again if the post is deleted).

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See my comment about how we'll maintain the links –  David Fullerton Feb 29 '12 at 21:29
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No offense, but I really dislike this idea Gilles. I think "renaming" MSO to MSE and migrating posts to the new MSO is far better. –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 21:30
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@DavidFullerton I've seen it. Maintaining the link is not my primary concern with Jeff's proposal. My concern is wasting a good opportunity to make the main meta usable to people from the other 83 sites. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 21:31
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@Gilles the majority of content on MSO is about the network and not specific to SO, which is why we've decided to go this route. Otherwise we'll still be constantly sending people to MSO to learn about the network. –  David Fullerton Feb 29 '12 at 21:34
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In order for a balanced healthy overall SE community that shares the views equally from all 83 sites meta.SE must get a clean slate. –  phwd Feb 29 '12 at 21:39
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I understand the concern, as SO is many orders of magnitude larger than other sites, so its meta will have considerable.. "gravity", perhaps, is the right word. But when this meta has area 51, careers, se.com, network issues and SO issues mixed in.. it's just too much now to bear. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 29 '12 at 21:42
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@TheUnhandledException Exactly: MSO has all this lovely history and memes and stuff. Which the people who came to SE from outside SO don't know and don't care about. MSO is for geeks. MSE should be for humans. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 21:42
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I disagree again. We're talking about a Meta-Meta. Stack Exchange Sites should be for humans. Per-Site metas should be for community enthusiasts for that site, geeks of that community if you will. Meta Stack Exchange should be for Stack Exchange enthusiasts, who will by definition pretty much be geeks. We're talking about the people who want to have discussions about how the Stack Exchange network works. I hardly think that's all humans or even all users. –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 21:45
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I agree with Gilles here. Leave this place in place. Migrate what doesn't belong over to Meta.SE. If that turns out to be the majority of content, so be it. Certainly don't bury some magic migration number somewhere. –  Anthony Pegram Feb 29 '12 at 21:51
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@AnthonyPegram Why is the content staying with the current name better than the name changing to reflect the content? It's like picking the name "Julia" and sticking with it after the child is born and the doctors were wrong about its sex. –  Matthew Read Feb 29 '12 at 21:56
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@TheUnhandledException No, MSO is not for humans. MSE could be, if we play it right. There are people who participate on multiple SE sites and who don't know by which end to hold a program at. I would not refer them to MSO, even though it would be the logical thing for cross-network issues (why would someone who participate on English Language & Usage and French Language and Spanish Language and Linguistics and History and Photography not post on the main meta?). If we start MSE with MSO's baggage, it will remain off-limits to these people. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 21:59
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@Gilles I still don't see how it will be off limits to those people. MSO right now has an entire history of the Stack Exchange network; I guess that's the "baggage" you're referring to? Because I think that's extremely useful to those wanting to understand why Stack Exchange works the way it does. There's a ton of question on here about how the voting system works, why it works, how it has changed and why. The editing system, same thing. Community wiki and it's sordid history. Tags, their usage, and their wikis. All this stuff is universal and is good information about SE –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 29 '12 at 22:10
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@TheUnhandledException I don't know why you're assuming everyone that comes to meta is interested in the complete history of Stack Exchange. Most of them have a specific question, and couldn't care less about anything that happened before right now –  Michael Mrozek Feb 29 '12 at 22:15
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@TheUnhandledException No, MSO has a long history of being written by programmers for programmers. Try to interact with non-programmers sometimes. –  Gilles Feb 29 '12 at 22:15
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@TheUnhandledException Well of course you have to be a tech geek where tech here applies to skill of using the SE engine efficiently (not necessarily programming or fixing your TI). Those who are not technically inclined are in the minority here or it is very hard for them to post on meta.**SO** came first so the majority of this community are in this technical mindset and it forces that bias when it comes to questions from smaller communities within the SE network. Yes there is a lot of good content here but with it comes unhealthy behaviours that should not be transferred to the new meta.SE –  phwd Feb 29 '12 at 22:20

Using to determine which questions should go to which site after the split is a good idea, but I'm afraid the tag is applied too inconsistently for that to work out in practice.


This is especially true for MSO's oldest questions: the ones that were asked on SO before MSO existed, using the tags or . Back then, questions about the network and questions about SO were basically the same thing (which, of course, is why we're in this situation to begin with).


More recent questions are also affected. Those that are specific to SO, perhaps because they're about particular questions or users, often don't get tagged with . This is most likely because infrequent MSO users don't even know the tag exists. The reverse is also true. Many meta questions (both SO-specific and network-specific) get asked on SO and migrated here. Sometimes they bring along the tag; sometimes, the tag; sometimes both; sometimes neither. It may also be helpful to consider the tags and when deciding where to send questions.


I'm not against "spring cleaning," but I can't think of a good way to automate it, and I doubt it would have enough value to justify the effort. As for which questions should be "spring cleaned," maybe we could start with the ones that ask why SO doesn't have a per-site meta and the ones that ask why MSO also does the job of MSE.

Edit:
Just had a new idea: set up a special, one-time-only review queue to prepare for this split. Every existing MSO question would go into the queue. The queue prompt would be "Which site will this question belong on after the split?" Options would be "MSE" for questions applicable to the whole network, "MSO" for SO-only questions and "Neither" for questions that just ought to be deleted (plus, of course, "Skip").

I think there are few enough questions on MSO that the existing bloc of too-involved MSO users would be able to knock out such a queue in a few days, even if we required multiple agreeing reviewers. Or maybe this only seems like a good idea because it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep.

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we'll have time to clean up these tags beforehand, hopefully, to make this transition easier. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 29 '12 at 21:34
    
Now that I've said all that, I should be clear: I fully support this change! I do understand how we got to where we are -- I've even posted MSO answers explaining it to others -- but mixing SO's meta and the network meta always seemed semantically wrong to me. –  Pops Feb 29 '12 at 21:34
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Dang @Jeff, you read all that and posted a comment in the time it took me to write my comment? You're really going all-out on your last official day, huh? –  Pops Feb 29 '12 at 21:35
    
the problem is how many of these early days questions still apply to the SO or SE of today's? –  badp Feb 29 '12 at 23:29
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@badp I am almost proposing a bulk deletion of meta questions older than {date} with less than {votes} and {answers} –  Jeff Atwood Mar 1 '12 at 0:11
    
I totally agree. We sure don't want to end up on a Java situation where we drag dead weight behind us for compatibility reasons. A clear split like the Python folks did is the best thing to do in my opinion. –  Octavian Damiean Mar 1 '12 at 8:43
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@TheUnicornWhisperer could you elaborate for those of us who don't know what Java did or what Python did differently? –  Pops Mar 1 '12 at 15:08
    
Java got quite a few important concepts wrong but didn't decide to make a clear cut and let those bad decisions behind but drags them through every new version. Python on the other hand made that cut which is one of the reasons we have Python 2 and Python 3. –  Octavian Damiean Mar 1 '12 at 19:26
    
Hah! See, I thought you were talking about the [java] and [python] communities on SO. @TheUnicornWhisperer –  Pops Mar 1 '12 at 19:27
    
Right, sorry. I posted that comment from my smartphone which is the reason why I didn't fully explain what I meant. –  Octavian Damiean Mar 1 '12 at 19:37
    
@TheUnicornWhisperer, I don't think that really applies. The equivalent of what Jeff is proposing is removing all the design decision discussions for previous Python versions from the internet... –  Benjol Mar 13 '12 at 9:45

If meta.SO becomes a regular meta, for Stack Overflow issues only, then what'll happen to bounties?

Unless I'm blind, I don't see a place to open a bounty on an old question in meta.literature (where I have > 700 rep). I assume this is the way SE metas usually are?

Starting bounties with worthless meta rep is a cherished tradition on the current meta.StackOverflow, and I'd really hate to see that go.


And I just have to ask: are SO-specific posts like tag synonyms really buried under SE-generic clutter? Just yesterday the fantastic moderators around here handled my burnination request with extreme expediency and extreme prejudice. I fear this might be a solution in search of a problem.


Would a less intrusive, more convenient way to handle this transition be to leverage the "child site" facility currently used by Facebook.Stackoverflow? Why not do some DNS trickery and get meta.SE to redirect right here, and then change meta.StackOverflow to be a child site showing SO-specific content. Then the work would "just" be a matter of re-tagging so-specific stuff to have the appropriate tag.

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For what it's worth, meta.stackexchange.com already redirects to MSO. –  Pops Feb 29 '12 at 22:37
    
@PopularDemand - here here! This would be a trivially simple implementation. –  Adam Rackis Feb 29 '12 at 22:38
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This whole post assumes the problem is SO users are overwhelmed by all the network-wide stuff (which is fair, since it's how Jeff made it sound too). Don't forget about the other direction -- lots of people want to come to MSE from other SE sites, and they couldn't care less about SO or its retag requests/question bans/etc.. So there'd need to be two child sites: one for SO posts and one for non-SO posts. At which point I'm not sure why you wouldn't just split them up –  Michael Mrozek Feb 29 '12 at 23:41
    
@MichaelMrozek - ahh, you're right. I hadn't considered that. –  Adam Rackis Feb 29 '12 at 23:47

Here's my main concern with this change:

This sets up a situation where many (most?) network-wide changes are proposed and discussed on the new MSO anyway because they'd be allowed (since they'd naturally affect Stack Overflow) and they'd get the most attention (due to Stack Overflow's disproportionately high traffic compared to the rest of the network).

So, in effect, the only functional change is that people who are active on Stack Overflow get higher reputation on the de facto network-wide meta discussion site and everyone else gets relegated to second-class meta citizens (since they're visitors to Stack Overflow's child meta, even though what's being discussed would affect all sites). Meanwhile, the de jure network-wide meta discussion site (MSE) would be the place newbies who aren't in the know go to have their issues and suggestions ignored.

To help mitigate this, I'd like to see an exception be made for the new Meta Stack Overflow, where any network-wide change is aggressively migrated to Meta Stack Exchange; possibly even including a community migration path (normally not done for child metas) from Meta Stack Overflow to Meta Stack Exchange.

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You assume that people on SO visit meta. That's been shown to be wrong. The people who have historically been really involved with this meta would be over on meta.se and would rarely come to meta.so. I mean, unless everyone decides that they need to hang out on both sites regularly. But nobody comes to my meta, so why would they goto meta.so needlessly? –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 2:13
    
@jcolebrand Anecdotes about 1 of 60 small sites are nice, but are not indicative of the network or a predictor of future results. SO's traffic is larger then the rest of the network combined: its meta traffic is going to be larger than all other sites' meta traffic combined. Hence MSO now, the place SE routinely positions as SO's meta, but where everyone discusses the network because SO is largest site on the network. My point is we should nip this in the bud. –  user149432 Mar 2 '12 at 15:17
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Wait, what? We already know that meta.SO is visited by less than a fraction of the people who use the site, and most of the current metaheads are going to goto meta.se when this transition happens (and it will happen, mark these words). So what will be left in this ghost-town will be the handful of hangers-on who desperately want to have a voice, and who will be modded just as any pesky user would be. It's not going to get a tremendous influx of users just because it exists. –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 16:30
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@jcolebrand To quote you, "[Meta Stack Exchange] is not going to get a tremendous influx of users just because it exists." Do you not realize we're on Meta Stack Overflow right now? Everyone's here already. Why would they leave without heavy mod prodding (something we're explicitly told not to do on child metas). All I'm saying is that the rule and the nagging about how we're not supposed to migrate network wide issues from child metas be ignored or relaxed on Meta Stack Overflow so people are coaxed into moving to MSE. –  user149432 Mar 2 '12 at 16:53
    
you, sir, do not ever need to normalize databases. –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 16:56
    
I do indeed. I also know what it means for users to move wholesale with the comments. You're the one fascinated with the idea that the users will stay here when the content moves elsewhere. I'm totally lost as to what you're trying to convey, because it's not logical. –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 19:13
    
@jcolebrand In the real, non-fantasy world, things don't happen because you wish them to be so. Moving old content doesn't entail people would stop using MSO as the place to get their issues heard and discussed (oh my God, logic!). In fact, it's more likely—if Meta Stack Overflow still exists and SE continues to treat SO with "more gravity"—that people will not move at all, despite your willing them to do so. –  user149432 Mar 2 '12 at 19:26
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All I'd like to do is go beyond willing people to move and actually enforce the change by relaxing the restrictions on the new MSO about not migrating network-wide issues from child metas. It's like you're arguing against puppies. –  user149432 Mar 2 '12 at 19:29
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no, they will go, because the new posts will be migrated. They won't get conversation if they post it on meta.so, they'll have to goto meta.se. I expect the SO mods to police that, just as I would if you started a unicorn Q on my meta. –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 20:40
    
child meta Q would not get migrated to MSO, they would get migrated to MSE. It's like you expect that they're going to keep letting all the Q goto MSO, instead of forcing them to MSE as they should. –  jcolebrand Mar 2 '12 at 20:41
    
I generally agree with the thrust of this and can support this request -- but I'd also note that we have a large existing "network" meta community here and a highly educated (in the ways of SE) community that understands the distinction between meta.so and meta.se. I'd be really surprised if this was a big problem in practice. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 27 '12 at 9:51

                                                                                                                    "we all'd love to see the plan"

This is going to be quite a challenging "fork", would be very interesting to see how it finally works out.

For a start, I would probably move everything from here to network-wide meta (meta.stackexchange), thus leaving SO-specific meta essentially empty. Of two sites, SO-specific meta sounds like a new site to me - that's why I expect it will be less shocking for visitors to see little content there in the beginning.

This sounds simple, but besides such a bold move, one would have to decide on what to do with moved content that actually belongs to SO-specific meta and how to handle outside links pointing to content that is currently here.


There seem to be quite a lot of stuff worth being at SO-specific meta rather than on network wide one. If we start by moving everything to SE meta, this content would better be "moved back" somehow. I think that relatively painless way to accomplish this is by using well known, tried and true process. This would spread needed effort more or less smoothly between community members and allow to do the change in a gradual, controlled manner.

To easier "move back" substantial amount of posts like suggested above, most likely off-topic flag/close screens would have to get SO-specific meta as a new dedicated target option. Currently, these screens do not have such an option and per my observations this makes a process of migration from here to somewhat cumbersome. This is likely OK now while this happens infrequently, but if there will be a lot of stuff to handle, it will become a pain in the neck.

enter image description here


Straightforward moving of the content from meta.stackoverflow to meta.stackexchange would leave quite a lot of outside links to current content invalid. To work around this, I would consider introducing cut-off IDs. 1

  • All the content on the site - posts, users, tags - is identified by numeric IDs in the URLs, like http://meta.stackoverflow.com/users/165773. Older content has smaller ID values, newer - larger ones.

All the after-fork content at the SO-specific meta could have IDs starting from one that is guaranteed to be larger than any content that is currently here. This way, any 404 Not found URL pointing to meta.stackoverflow and having ID smaller than cut-off, could be automatically assumed as pre-fork one and re-directed to respective URL starting with meta.stackexchange.

With cut-off approach like above, pre-fork posts moved back from network wide meta to SO-specific one, could keep their "historic" IDs, thus again keeping older outside links from becoming invalid.

This won't be totally painless but changes like that probably can't be done without some pain anyway.

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I mentioned this when I was asked about it, but I'll reiterate my message here:

The "official" update on this is that the Meta.StackExchange project is currently on hold while we focus on other priorities. The earlier-stated reasons of limitations based on technology and current know-how still apply. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you all continue to be patient with us as we work towards making this project idea a reality.

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7  
THE PROGRESS OF HATS WAIT FOR NO MAN!!! :) –  Jeff Atwood Dec 14 '12 at 0:36
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@JeffAtwood I AM NO MAN. –  Aarthi Dec 14 '12 at 5:09
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When does the 6-8 weeks count-down start? –  Caleb Jul 26 '13 at 17:11
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@Caleb In 6-8 weeks. Obviously. –  Cam Jackson Oct 13 '13 at 6:34

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