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TL;DR: Can we do something against comments of the "ask on $othersite" kind?

Every once in a while – probably at least a couple of times a week – we get questions on Super User that were cross-posted from Stack Overflow. The main reason why this happens is:

  • New user posts off-topic question on Stack Overflow
  • Another user tells them that their question "belongs on superuser" (sic), or that they "should ask on ask ubuntu", et cetera
  • The OP doesn't know that migration votes are already trickling in, and cross-posts their question

Now, what we on Super User have to do is:

  • Be suspicious for every single question that could have been cross-posted from another site *
  • Check out the user's Stack Overflow profile, and find the original question
  • Add a comment warning others not to migrate the post since it's already been cross-posted
  • Flag the question so it gets deleted on Stack Overflow
  • Reply to the user(s) who told the OP to ask elsewhere that this is not encouraged
  • Hope that they (and others) read it

Want an example? See here: Lat -long to x-y

  • Not a programming question - better suited to Super User – brettdj Jun 27 at 7:44
  • Do not migrate this to Super User. The user has already cross posted. – slhck Jun 27 at 11:35
  • @brettdj In the future, please don't post these kinds of comments. Tell users how a question can be migrated, or just let it be and vote to close. There's really no point in telling them to ask elsewhere. This will only lead to cross-posting and confusion. Thanks. – slhck Jun 27 at 11:36
  • I am sorry, I am new to this world and hence all the confusion. I usually try reading everything up to avoid all this, but this somehow failed this time! – Maddy Jun 27 at 12:33

It should be noted that this involved a user with 11k reputation, who probably should know better than sending users around and obviously causing confusion.

Here's another example, and here's another one which involves a user with 338,811 reputation. No kidding, 338k. Here's one that went the other way round. Wait… want more?. Here's another 11k one.


If you are somewhat active on Stack Overflow or other sites where crossposted questions land, then you will know that these are not single incidents — it happens all the time, and it seems some Stack Overflow users, even the high reputation ones, do not know how much moderation overhead they cause with such a simple (and unnecessary) comment.

The main problems I have with these situations are:

  • High reputation users don't seem to know how the sites work or how much trouble they cause
  • The users who posted the question end up being sorry for their mistake – but how could they have known? They were told to, right?

So, what can we do against that?

* Although we can be thankful that some users explcitly say "A moderator on Stack Overflow told me to ask here" – yes, this really happened. More than once.

share|improve this question
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In “Belongs on” comments there's a reference to an old statement from Jeff, saying "I'm actually ok with flagging meaningless comments [...] added "noise" as reason for comment flagging". Meanwhile that flag reason is not even there anymore, so I'd love a true solution indeed. –  Arjan Jul 20 '12 at 5:58
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In my experience I've tried to avoid cross posting for a long time (e.g. "do not cross post, flag for a moderator if you agree or simply wait") they still get cross posted sometimes. The only certain way to avoid it is to not comment at all and flag/vote in silence, but that doesn't feel very "user friendly". –  Flexo Jul 20 '12 at 7:55
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@Flexo Why? If a question is migrated the OP will see anyway – how is that not "user friendly"? It's sure not as confusing as a handful of users telling you to go elsewhere. –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 12:05
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@slhck - because some posters can see the accumulating close votes without understanding what they mean and the OP ought to at least be aware of a possible migration in case of misunderstandings about the question itself. –  Flexo Jul 20 '12 at 12:14
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Sometimes a question is obviously off-topic for the current site but also on-topic for a different site, but is not a good candidate for merging. Perhaps it needs to be customized a bit for the better site. More likely, though, it's a crap question that needs substantial rewriting. If the OP is going to do it over they might as well do it on the proper site. How else are they going to know to go there? –  Al E. Jul 26 '12 at 13:26
    
I've never had a post migrated, so is there some message to the user that their post was migrated to another site? If not, that leaves the door open for the user to repost on the original site, believing their post got deleted. –  saluce Jul 26 '12 at 14:33
    
@saluce There is a message delivered to your inbox when a question gets migrated. –  slhck Jul 26 '12 at 15:02
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Part of the problem is educating regular active users, not just newcomers. I've been on SO for 2 years with 15k+ rep and had no idea it was frowned upon to inform users about other SE sites more appropriate for their question. I have, in fact, done that myself. I really didn't think that would appreciably affect moderation quantity, thought I was just doing a public service for the OP. Apparently I was wrong, but I bet the majority of active users are equally wrong because the assumptions we make are not unreasonable. –  Ben Lee Jul 26 '12 at 18:35
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@BenLee Yeah, I'll admit that I've commented with "more suited for Foo.SE". I'll probably change my comments along the lines of "Not appropriate for Bar.SE. <insert description as to why>. Candidate for migration" –  Yawus Jul 26 '12 at 18:51
    
@BenLee I understand that it might not be that apparent for Stack Overflow users, because SO gets the most traffic (and probably as many off topic questions), therefore there are more migrations (and cross posts) to other sites than the other way round. –  slhck Jul 26 '12 at 18:56

5 Answers 5

Perhaps something similar could be done to inform the user that an action is pending, in the same way that we do for VTC duplicates.

For VTC duplicates, we auto add a comment saying that the question is a possible duplicate, and so the OP and visitors can see for themselves whether the dupe is valid.

Close votes, including migration votes are (I believe) invisible to low rep users (those most likely to trigger migrations) and so there is no indication that a migration vote is underway.

My suggestion is that an auto comment is added when there is a VTC migration, "Voted to migrate to superuser.com - read more" and the "read more" is a link to a relevant FAQ entry that explains the migration process.

This will allow the OP to know

  1. That a migration vote is underway to a potentially better site
  2. Not to do anything such as cross posting

And perhaps an increased effort by everyone else to not post "Better suited to $site" type comments, and everyone else to flag such comments for deletion.

share|improve this answer
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It could say "candidate for migration to $site", keeping with the theme from dupe comments that it is "possible" this may happen –  gobernador Jul 20 '12 at 3:29
    
@gobernador Yes, that is better, I was trying to think of a way to indicate it is a possibility better than "voted" –  Paul Jul 20 '12 at 3:43
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And what about cases where migration happens due to flagging, rather than voting? Like we can't auto-migrate to Prog.SE or Gamedev.SE, but we can flag moderators to do it. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 20 '12 at 6:20
    
@NicolBolas Is that not the same as flagging to close something (for low rep users)? The flag would be invisible until someone acts on it, since flags are generally not exposed. –  Troyen Jul 20 '12 at 6:41
    
@NicolBolas Good point - do you have a suggestion? –  Paul Jul 20 '12 at 6:41
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@Paul: Maybe for >10k users when flagging there should be a "generate comment" checkbox? (I would also like the ability to flag other "should be on xyz.se" to be more structured which would help.) –  Richard Jul 20 '12 at 9:02
    
@NicolBolas see my last comment. –  Richard Jul 20 '12 at 9:02

I see two conditions adding to the problem:

  • We have to "close" a question if we want it to be migrated. I detest to press "close" for a good question that would be a better fit for some other SE site.

  • Low-rep users don't get to see what's going on. I think it's ok they don't see close votes in the making, but they should definitely see "migrate" votes. But wait - those are "close" votes on SO. Catch 22.

Basically, we need to separate the close votes ("Question is no good!") from migrate votes ("There is a better place for this good / ok question").

share|improve this answer

I like @Paul's idea, but here's an idea that could be implemented possibly along side it or depending on the context. When at least one close vote has been cast on a question, then any comment containing the name or url of any other SE site could cause a notification box to show up below the comment entry field containing copy roughly equivalent to the comments you've been posting to individual users. Something like:

Thinking about telling the question asker that this belongs on [site-mentioned]? Don't do that! Instead, vote to close it. If you feel like leaving a comment, please also tell the OP that their question can be automatically moved there if the community decides to, and that they should not re-post it.

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Building on @NicholBolas and @slhck's comments, would it be possible to just build a duplication-detection engine? That would solve this problem and many others. The key would be making it run in real-time or a fairly tight schedule (every hour or so), which means that more sophisticated algorithms would be out.

But given the amount of copy/paste that happens with a cross-post, even something like a chksum of the middle portion of the content (assuming they add a salutation and signature or something) should do it.

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This of course would only cure the symptoms, not the actual underlying cause of the problem. –  slhck Jul 26 '12 at 11:46
    
@slhck I do not mean it as an alternative to other solutions to reduce the volume of "please cross-post this" comments, only as a complement to them. Some comments will inevitably slip through an automated system, and some users will cross-post even without encouragement (a lot will actually, in my experience). –  Ari B. Friedman Jul 26 '12 at 11:54

Can we do something against comments of the "ask on $othersite" kind?

Alternatively, we could ask if this is a problem worth solving.

You mention the amount of "moderation" that needs to happen. Well, what happens if this isn't done?

The OP asks the question on the other site. Then the original question gets migrated. One will be closed as a duplicate of the other.

Is this a serious problem? It seems to me that the amount of "moderation" required to stop the migration isn't worth it for something that could just be marked as a duplicate. And that's assuming it does get migrated.

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> One will be closed as a duplicate of the other. — and how do you reckon this happens? There's no automated way to do that, so one has got to find these duplicates as well, vote to close, or flag them, and possibly even merge them if there were answers posted to both. –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 12:07
    
Thinking about it, many users don't even care to register and link their accounts, so it's near impossible to find a duplicate unless you happen to remember every question that was posted in the last, let's say, two weeks. –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 12:54
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@slhck: And worse case... the duplicates don't get closed. Oh no. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 20 '12 at 16:45
    
I'm not sure I get what you're saying. Do you mean we shouldn't close exact duplicates? Do you think it's a good idea that the same post more or less exists twice and might even accumulate answers on both instances? Or do you just think we shouldn't care, is that it? –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 16:47
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@slhck: I'm saying that the universe will not end if a duplicate or two slips by. I'm saying that it just doesn't matter that much. Duplicates slip by all the time on SO. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 20 '12 at 16:49
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Then let's agree to disagree, because I think this is a substantial problem — and I don't mean the symptoms of duplicates landing on one site, but the actual problem which is 1) regular users not understanding how the site works and 2) new users who are being pushed around. If you say that "duplicates slip by", I guess you're not referring to exact, verbatim duplicates … because that's not what I'm talking about. –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 16:52
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@slhck: What does it matter if it's verbatim or not? Again, the world will still be here tomorrow. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 20 '12 at 16:52
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Sure. The world would still be here tomorrow if Stack Exchange had no moderation at all, right? I don't see the point… with this attitude I could basically say that any kind of moderation is unnecessary. And to answer your original question of whether this is a serious problem: Yes, I think it is, and it seems that others agree with that. –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 17:08

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