Currently, there is a 40% (updated Nov 9, 2012) rejection rate on migrations from Stack Overflow to Server Fault.

Here are some samples of rejected questions from the last few days:

The first example is from 2009 and already had an accepted answer (in addition to being bad and off-topic on SF). There was no reason to migrate it. The second two, while seemingly on-topic for SF based on the title, are borderline unintelligible in regards to the content. They contained no details, no relevant information, and amount to "Halp! Halp! Itz broked!"

I realize that there is a much larger number of users on Stack Overflow that are capable of voting to migrate and as a result, it takes 4/5 votes to migrate, while every other site is 3/5. This, unfortunately, does not appear to be an effective solution.

Questions should not be migrated based on their title, they should be judged on their content and topicality on the target site. This, obviously, is not happening as there is a 40% rejection rate on Server Fault.

What can we do to further educate Stack Overflow users about what is and is not on-topic elsewhere? Should SO have a higher reputation threshold than the other sites for vote-to-migrate privs? Should a migration require 5/5 votes instead of the current 4/5?

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Doesn't 20% rejection mean 80% acceptance? :P Seems evidence that for the most part, people are getting it right... –  cHao Oct 12 '12 at 14:43
I think SU often has the same problem. When in doubt, I really wish people would realise, its fine to close questions and leave them in site. not everything needs to be migrated. –  Journeyman Geek Oct 12 '12 at 14:44
<shameless plug> Related to your first point on the question from 2009:… </shameless plug> –  ben is uǝq backwards Oct 12 '12 at 14:45
If we leave them on SO, though, they will get deleted. Some of them, i'm fine with that...but a question i think deserves answering, i'll migrate. –  cHao Oct 12 '12 at 14:45
@cHao Almost all other sites migrating in to SF are in the single digits. Over a 90 day period, there have been 733 questions migrated in, of which about 147 have been rejected. If it takes a minimum of 4 votes to migrate off of SO, this means that there were a minimum of 588 bad migrate votes. That's not very good to me. Just because you think that a question deserves answering doesn't mean that you should vote to migrate. It should be a well thought out and properly detailed question that is also on topic for the site you're voting to migrate it to. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 14:45
I'm not saying that you specifically are a problem, I have no idea what your voting history is. I'm just making a blanket statement. "If we leave them on SO, though, they will get deleted." - And if you migrate them and they don't belong, they'll still get deleted, except you've just created more work for a 2nd site. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 14:47
@MDMarra: If it weren't a well thought out and properly detailed question, it wouldn't be worth answering. I vote to close those as NARQ all the time. :) But there are good ones that are just off topic for SO. I know SO, and have some vague idea about the others. Though, maybe that's part of the problem... –  cHao Oct 12 '12 at 14:52
@cHao It's really difficult to deal with topics like this in the abstract. If it's a well thought out question and it is on topic on another site, then that's fine. Migrate away. I'm talking specifically about questions like the ones that I linked to. Do you really think that any of them deserve to live? A large number of rejected migrations from SO are of a similar quality. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 14:56
@MDMarra 20%? Weak! There was a time Programmers rejected 45% of migrations from SO... –  Yannis Oct 12 '12 at 17:37
It's network-wide. Android Enthusiasts consistently rejects about 20% of the Migrations from Super User, although it seems like it has gotten worse lately. –  Al E. Oct 18 '12 at 17:11
@AlEverett What is the total number of migrations in question. Not to minimize your point, but in this question, I'm talking about ~800 migrations with a 25% rejection rate. I do agree that bad migrations are a problem everywhere though and hopefully any solution to this is a solution to everyone's issues. –  MDMarra Oct 18 '12 at 17:15
@MDMarra: Oh, it's an order of magnitude smaller, to be sure. But look at the scale: there are orders of magnitude more people on SF and SO. –  Al E. Oct 18 '12 at 17:20
@AlEverett 10% rejected of 46 topics in 90 days. And I know one of them was migrated by me and deleted by the asker afterwards (I asked android mods in chat about the rejection) even though it was on topic. Still counts as a rejected migration. So it's not that bad, at least SU->Android right now. –  Daniel Beck Oct 25 '12 at 16:29
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9 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Update: The % of rejected migrations has been getting steadily higher for quite a while now. Coupled with the small number of migrations that actually result in good (defined as up-voted) answers, keeping this path seems increasingly pointless. ServerFault has been removed as a default migration target on Stack Overflow, replaced with Share Point.

Moderators can still migrate to SF on request, for those rare high-quality questions that are simply asked on the wrong site.

First off, just a sanity check: out of 824 migrations from Stack Overflow in the last 90 days, that 31% rejection rate means ~ 255 were inappropriate. During that same time period, over 12 thousand questions were closed as off-topic on Stack Overflow.

IMHO, 31% isn't insanely high period - but when you consider that those bad migrations constitute a paltry 2% of all off-topic questions on SO, you're a long way from being seen as a trash bin.

Also keep in mind: with the introduction of the /review system, the number of questions closed every day has more than doubled in the last few months - on Stack Overflow and Server Fault. This'll tend to drive up both the number of migrations and the number of rejections. It's also likely to be temporary: there's a gigantic backlog of questions on Stack Overflow with pending close votes, and as those are either closed or aged away, the number of closures should even out a bit.

Over all, I kinda feel like the system is working as intended here. That doesn't mean we can't do better, but I'm not inclined to look at this and think the sky is falling.

What can we do to further educate Stack Overflow users about what is and is not on-topic elsewhere?

That's a good attitude. IMHO, the best place to start educating is right there on the close dialog:

belongs on, Q&A for system administrators and desktop support professionals

"Q&A for system administrators and desktop support professionals" may be accurate enough, but time and time again I hear complaints about questions that, while possibly server- or desktop-related in some fashion, don't really fall into the domain of questions you'd ask a sysadmin or help desk for assistance with. In other words, they're probably just fine where they sit (or if not, should be closed and improved on SO rather than shuffled off elsewhere).

The Server Fault FAQ begins with:

Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity.

(emphasis mine)

How about switching to that for the subtitle as well?

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+1, subtitle should probably read: Q&A for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity. –  HopelessN00b Oct 25 '12 at 20:59
+1 - I'm all for the subtitle change, maybe it will intercept some of the real junk. –  voretaq7 Oct 25 '12 at 20:59
I have to note however that the "paltry 2%" is a much larger percentage of Server Fault's questions overall -- Stack Overflow is a huge community, even relative to the other trilogy sites. A drop of water from Paul Bunyan's faucet would still drown the rest of the logging camp... –  voretaq7 Oct 25 '12 at 21:01
Unfortunately (or fortunately) this isn't an apples to apples comparison because of the size difference between SO and everyone else. You were in SF chat this morning and you saw that every regular member in there saw this as a problem and some of our mods were even in favor of completely removing SF as a migration target from SO. A paltry 2% from something enormous looks an awful lot bigger to someone that's orders of magnitude smaller than you. As someone that's visted SF for 400+ days in a row and almost 1200 days overall, I can tell you that the bad migrations are very noticeable there. –  MDMarra Oct 25 '12 at 21:06
I think that revising the text is a good start, but until the attitude that it's "working as intended" changes, it will likely continue to be a problem. –  MDMarra Oct 25 '12 at 21:08
I'm not 100% on this number, because it doesn't correspond exactly to what's being rejected - but those 255 are about 8% of the total closed questions on SF during the period. That's significant, but not quite Paul Bunyan scale. –  Shog9 Oct 25 '12 at 21:22
I have opened up discussion about changing the SF subtitle on mSF –  Iain Oct 27 '12 at 10:51
I find Sharepoint utterly useless as a target. Feels like the close link is broken. Well, even more broken than it was already. This isn't helping quality of migrations, just preventing migrations to SF and making the site a little less useful for me. –  Erwin Brandstetter Dec 2 '12 at 2:19
How is it less useful because you can't migrate to SF? You can still close off-topic content al "Off Topic" with no migration target. With 1000 migrations from SO to SF in the last 90 days and ~500 of them being rejected, clearly plenty of people weren't understanding the scope of SF. –  MDMarra Dec 2 '12 at 12:37
@ErwinBrandstetter - simple. Don't migrate them, just close them. For the record, I don't know if Sharepoint "asked" to be on the migartion list or not. –  tombull89 Dec 3 '12 at 10:40
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What about putting migrations in a review queue of some kind for that site's users to review and approve/reject instead of moving them instantly?

The people who know the site best are the site's users, so let them be the deciding factor on if the site gets a question or not.

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+1 I 100% back this idea. –  MDMarra Oct 18 '12 at 16:13
Clever, but I think that before we implement this, we'd have to wait until we solve the "many reviewers are really, really bad at their jobs" problem that's being discussed extensively elsewhere on Meta lately. –  Pops Oct 18 '12 at 16:22
@PopularDemand That's easy, don't incentive the migration queue and the only people who will bother checking it out and reviewing things are the ones that actually care about the content and moving good questions to their site :) –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 16:25
Unfortunately, this has been suggested--and rejected--in the past. –  Al E. Oct 18 '12 at 17:12
@AlEverett Do you have a link to the meta question, or know why it was denied? It seems like a good idea too me.... can't think of why it would have been denied, particularly with the new review system in place. –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 18:23
It's been mentioned a bunch of different times, especially when these Migration tempest-in-a-teapot questions come up. Mostly they're buried in comments or answers. Here's what I found that seem to address the issue directly: Show mods all network posts with pending migration votes to their site Require migrated questions to be accepted by the destination site's moderators Add review queue for recent migrations –  Al E. Oct 18 '12 at 18:35
The main counter argument to your proposal is that it hurts good migrations by placing them in limbo... Good migrations should happen instantly, there's no reason at all to have the asker wait (even more) while a committee is examining his/her question. –  Yannis Oct 18 '12 at 18:37
@YannisRizos So leave them on the site they originated at until they get approved by the site they're moving too. They're already on that site in the first place, so no harm will come of them sticking around for a few extra hours or days until they get approved :) –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 18:39
@Rachel Hm? I don't think closing a question and telling the asker to wait for a few hours until we find a better home for it is such a good idea... Think about it in terms of closure (in general): Hey, I closed this because it's a duplicate, give me a couple of hours to find the actual duplicate. –  Yannis Oct 18 '12 at 18:41
@YannisRizos Who said anything about closure?? Just leave it alone, or perhaps tack a [Pending Migration] status to it. Who knows, the OP might even get an answer while they're waiting –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 18:52
@Rachel Who knows, the OP might even get an answer while they're waiting And we don't want that. We close questions that have little chance (if any) at getting expert answers at the site, if the question is answerable and fits the scope and expertise of the site, why migrate it at all? –  Yannis Oct 18 '12 at 18:54
@YannisRizos I have no idea what you're trying to say here :) Users vote to migrate. Question shows up in target site's migration queue. Users from target site review question, approve it, and it gets moved to their site. During this time, the question still exists on source site, and nothing changes on the question except possibly display something to signify it is pending migration to a new site. If it gets a good answer, so be it. The question can still be migrated if users think it's a good reference question for their site, or can stay on target site and get closed as off-topic. –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 19:01
@Rachel Voting to migrate is a two step process: 1) Vote to close as off topic, 2) Select an alternative site. The fact that there might be a good alternative site doesn't mean the question should generate answers on the site it was originally asked on, this isn't Yahoo! Answers. If five people vote to migrate, they've also voted the question as off topic for their site and it should be closed. –  Yannis Oct 18 '12 at 19:06
@YannisRizos Ahhh I forgot you have to vote to close as off-topic before you can vote to migrate :) Still shouldn't matter though. If users hadn't selected another SE site, the question would be closed and no new answers accepted anyways. If the question is on-topic, then users shouldn't be closing it in the first place. –  Rachel Oct 18 '12 at 19:17
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While writing the comments above, I had an idea. Perhaps if one had to have a certain amount of reputation on the destination site in order to vote to migrate questions there?

Someone with (say) 1000 rep on Server Fault would have a pretty good idea of what the site's about. More so than people who've never been there, anyway.

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+1 I like this idea a lot, but it's been shot down in other mSO posts. Even 500 rep is plenty. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 14:57
500 might be a bit low, IMO. I have like 300 rep on SF and 430 on SU almost by accident (from migrated posts, mostly). –  cHao Oct 12 '12 at 14:58
The idea about needing more than x rep on a target site has been bandied about for a while, and this is what I personally would like to see, however I don't think the SE team would go for this. Maybe the user should have 201 rep (which is 100 more than you get with a account association bonus). –  tombull89 Oct 12 '12 at 15:00
@cHao If you've managed to rack up 500 rep from migrated posts that means the posts were decent enough to live, and your answers good enough to earn you upvotes. I'd say that (plus at least a cursory read of the SF FAQ) qualifies you to migrate questions. –  voretaq7 Oct 12 '12 at 15:01
there is a feature request for this: Require minimum reputation on the target site for migration –  gnat Oct 12 '12 at 15:05
@gnat - which is status declined... –  tombull89 Oct 12 '12 at 16:51
I disagree - I have a very low rep on SF/SU, but I'm still smart enough to know when a question belongs there. –  slugster Oct 13 '12 at 0:29
@slugster with all due respect, how can you prove that - or, more precisely, how can you help the system differentiate you from a typical ignorant passer-by on SF/SU? Not only you have low rep, but your amount of votes there is pretty small (less than handful) and you don't have analytical badge –  gnat Oct 14 '12 at 5:59
@gnat Precisely my point. Just because I choose to effectively spend zero time there doesn't mean I don't know what belongs there. As for the system - maybe it should take into account rep on the source site, potentially combined with meta participation stats. –  slugster Oct 14 '12 at 6:27
Just because I choose to effectively spend zero time there doesn't mean I don't know what belongs there. - but it certainly increases the chances that you don't. There's a difference between what we think belongs on a particular site and what actually does belong. –  RobM Oct 27 '12 at 13:24
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I can take responsibility for about 15 of recent migrations that (should) have been rejected.

There was a user who decided to flag all Amazon S3 questions as Offtopic - Migrate to Server Fault, and there were a number of them that I didn't pay attention to the age of the question or whether it had an accepted answer. After about 15 or so I realized what was going on and started to decline the ones that didn't belong.

All in all I think that user flagged upwards of 50 posts to be moved to Server Fault that should not have been.

However, it looks like this user is still doing it; and another moderator accepted the flags. I'll make sure to spread the word among the SO moderators (again) about this user.

I just looked through the FAQ, and realized we don't have any guidelines for Migration. Or if we do,they don't have their own FAQ post and they don't show up on search. So at the risk of posting a duplicate, I posted a Q & A that spells out the guidelines for migration. Feel free to add to it or to add your own.

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I believe all of these migrations are well-intentioned -- we want the askers to get answers to their questions.

The problem here seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of:
(a) What makes a good, answerable question on SF ; and
(b) What is actually on-topic on SF

Item (b) is easy to fix: We spent a LOT of time revising our FAQ to address this.
I implore anyone migrating questions to read at least the first section of the FAQ to determine if the question is on-topic. If you haven't read the FAQ in a while you may be due for a refresher - it does change.

If you feel the question is on-topic based on the FAQ, item (a) merits some thought.
General guidance: If the question would be a good, answerable question on SO, it will probably be OK on SF (or other SE sites). If it's a lousy question we're going to kick it back and wonder aloud how 4 out of 5 people thought it was migration-worthy.
ProTip: If the question is deleted less than an hour after we rejected the migration it was probably too lousy to migrate :-)

Specific guidance: We have a meta post about what it takes to write a good question.
(Much like the FAQ this can't be comprehensive - in fact it's based on the assumption that you have a specific type of problem, and not all good questions fit that mold - but it's a good starting point.)

When in doubt I suggest closing the question and leaving a comment for the OP pointing them at Server Fault (and the links above to the FAQ and Guidance for asking good questions). They can post a good question, or dreck, and we'll deal with it appropriately without all the angst of it being "Yet Another Bad Migration".

Note that I'm assuming the migrations being made are happening in good faith. If instead there's simply a subset of Stack Overflow users who are hitting the migrate button to make the question go away the only viable solution may be those shocky collar gizmos and 30kV shocks every time someone votes to migrate...

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"I believe all of these migrations are well-intentioned" - In the same vein as a Boyscout 'helping grandma across the street' by picking her up and caring her to some random other street corner and abandoning her there. –  Chris S Oct 25 '12 at 16:44
@ChrisS yes, but the solution is for the soutmaster or denmother to scold the wayward scout and deny them the helping-old-ladies merit badge. That scolding is either not happening, or not effective in this case (I spend approximately ZERO time on Stack Overflow so I can't say which...) –  voretaq7 Oct 25 '12 at 17:18
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To make a suggestion on my own question:

What if voting to migrate requires that you have the Analytical badge on the target site. That way, you have to have at least seen the FAQ. It won't be a panacea, but it could be a step in the right direction and it will guarantee that users know that you should only migrate topical things.

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Unfortunately the Analytical badge is really the "I was bored and had nothing else to do so I expanded every section of the FAQ without reading it" badge -- I think the minimum rep requirement is a tad more sensible (though admittedly not without its own problems) –  voretaq7 Oct 12 '12 at 15:30
@voretaq7 I agree, but then at least users will know that there is a requirement to migration other than that they think it should get an answer. This will, at a minimum, force them to realize that they should also consider the other site's faq. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 15:31
Meh you don't have to read the FAQ to get the badge. Require people to have rep on he site they want to migrate to. I recently did a quick survey of inbound migrations to SF and on the 10 questions I looked at, 40 people voted, 32 had no account or association bonus only (== no account) 6 had between 200 and 1k and 2 had >3k. –  Iain Oct 18 '12 at 21:07
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I think there's two elements to this, one is social and one is technical.

Between SU and SF, we occasionally have mods pop in to check if moving a question is ok. We have communication and we try to not move stuff the other site doesn't want. This is a GOOD thing - migration without thinking whether the other site wants the question is bad.

While its tempting to dump questions that 'don't belong here, and but I feel bad about taking them out back and shooting them' to other sites, its very likely it will happen. Think before you hit that vote to migrate button. When in doubt, it doesn't hurt to ask someone who is active on the site you are migrating to. And please, don't move really old questions with inactive users. If its unanswered, and unlikely to be answered, we're better off having someone re-ask the question.

On the Technical side I'd love to have a 'migration review queue'. Have users on the other site check through migrated posts before they get integrated into the site they are migrated to. We should know what belongs to our own site, don't we?

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I do see mods from other SEs pop in and out of chat asking about migration and I think that's great. Unfortunately (or fortunately actually), most of the bad migrations are from users. –  MDMarra Oct 12 '12 at 15:06
+1 But as MDMara points out, the people who are communicating are definitively not the problem. It's seemingly random users, the same type that don't read FAQs, who generally don't know what's on-topic for the site they're voting to migrate to. –  Chris S Oct 12 '12 at 15:15
Thats what i meant. clarified, I hope –  Journeyman Geek Oct 12 '12 at 15:18
Think before you hit that vote to migrate - this likely became more an issue recently, with Bandwagon effect in close votes in new review system - "...There's no way two different people would think it belonged on Server Fault; clearly what happened is that the first person hit the wrong choice (they're adjacent) and the second followed. If I hadn't noticed this it would have been migrated to the wrong site." –  gnat Oct 12 '12 at 21:01
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Since there hasn't really been an official response to this and we're over 40% rejected and still rising, I've suggested that Server Fault be removed from Stack Overflow's migration list.

I don't know if anything will come of it, but it seems that our most active mods are on board, as well as many of the high-rep users that are the ones vetting these migrations.

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Shog's response not official enough for you? Or do you consider only favourable responses as official? –  Lorem Ipsum Nov 8 '12 at 3:56
@yoda Shog's response suggests switching subtitle in the off-topic menu - as far as I can tell, this hasn't been done - which essentially makes it anything but "official" to me –  gnat Nov 8 '12 at 5:46
@yoda His response is like saying "Oh your arm is broken? Have a bandaid." Almost every SF regular that participates in meta/chat thinks that it's probably a good idea to do, but isn't going to help solve the problem. We're quickly approaching 50% rejection, after all. Also, if you follow the link through, you'll see where he's said "If SO migrations are truly a problem, then you get removed as a migration target completely. No user migrations, period." He's the one that brought this possible solution up. Things have gotten much worse very fast. –  MDMarra Nov 8 '12 at 8:23
MDMarra and @gnat: I know that wasn't what you asked for, but sometimes, that's all you get :) All I'm saying is that official responses can be curt and not really addressing the problem immediately, instead opting for a milder/wait and watch approach... You should see some of Jeff's official non-answers/insults in his hey day =) –  Lorem Ipsum Nov 8 '12 at 15:53
@yoda Oh, I completely agree. I'm well aware that the "official" response is usually "go away" veiled in a smile, but Shog actually brought this solution up in chat himself after he replied to this question. I don't know how serious he was, but it's certainly gained some traction. –  MDMarra Nov 8 '12 at 16:02
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I think that we need to change SO so that it loses the marketing blurbs when it asks where to migrate, and replaces that with a list of site names and a short (two lines or three of text) description of what questions should and shouldn't go there. Actually with the capabilities of today's browser GUIs, you could hover over a potential migration site and see a much larger overlay with more info about what belongs and what doesn't.

Alternately, don't show a list of sites, instead ask a list of key questions about the topic of the post and automatically choose a site based on which questions are answered YES and which are answered NO. The question material is already there in the various site FAQs. Of course you can't just stick the FAQs up as they are, but the material in the FAQ can be used to craft some specific content questions. In this alternative, there would be no mention of destination sites, just yes/no questions about content and a backend decision table that sends the posts to another site. The same amount of screen space could hold a dozen questions and they could be crafted so that they all have a default "no" answer which means "discard this post". The user would click a few radio buttons to indicate "yes".

And the list of migration targets needs to be longer, i.e. there are other sites that should be in the list.

And lastly, the UI needs to make it clear that it is OK to simply vote for migration without specifying a destination.

The root of this problem is that the migration voter cannot be expected to have memorized all the current site FAQs and remember all that info when they vote. We need something that provides a reminder and these content questions would do that. They are like the questions used to key out a botanical taxonomy or to do medical diagnoses.

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