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This has come up a few times now: migrating old questions causes problems.

The most popular solution to this to date has been to reset votes on migrated posts. This is do-able, but frankly it feels like treating a symptom, and doing so in a way that penalizes folks who answer what are by all appearances valid, on-topic questions.

Migration works best as a way to salvage good but off-topic questions and give them new life on a site where they can thrive. But shuffling old, answered, on-topic questions around for the hell of it is a waste of everyone's time.

Therefore, I think the real solution is much simpler: just disable the migration of old questions. They're rarely welcomed or heavily improved post-migration, often overtly disliked by folks on the destination site, and can end up causing a rather bad experience for folks who were participating in good faith on the original.

I suggest that questions older than 601 days should not be eligible for migration, either by normal user close-votes or by moderators. In extreme cases, we can perhaps provide an alternate means of moving old questions, but under normal circumstances these should be done quickly or not at all.

1 60 days is actually based on a rather unfortunate side-effect of the rep-retention changes introduced this past spring: migrated and then rejected questions older than 60 days cause the authors to suddenly gain (permanent) reputation on the destination.

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I approve this message. –  Robert Harvey Oct 18 '12 at 21:49
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In a direct counterexample that Anna may or may not have mentioned to you yet, Mathematica actually wanted specifically to migrate a number of older questions from Stack Overflow to their site. I'm sure this is an isolated case, though. –  Tim Stone Oct 18 '12 at 21:50
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I also suggest disabling migrations for any question with more than X votes combined between itself and all the answers. A popular question can easily get a few hundred votes before that 60 day period. –  Mysticial Oct 18 '12 at 21:53
    
s/old questions/questions/ –  Iain Oct 18 '12 at 21:54
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It seems like there's an issue with votes accumulated over time, not the migrations themselves. "But shuffling old, answered, on-topic questions around for the hell of it" If they're on-topic, why are they being migrated in the first place? I disapprove of this message. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 18 '12 at 21:59
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@TimStone Not mentioned yet, no. Was on the list for tomorrow. THANKS FOR SPOILING THE SURPRISE. –  Anna Lear Oct 18 '12 at 22:04
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What problem are you trying to solve? I don't think it actually solves the issue raised in "reset votes on migrated posts" request as often the excessive voting occurs within a few days. I could imagine myself getting behind "disable question migration". But 60 days seems arbitrary and the wrong way to solve the vote total problem. –  Jon Ericson Oct 18 '12 at 22:13
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I suggest you do this on an individual SE site basis, because these issues are and forever will be because of three to four large sites. We have talked about this before in TL Chat Casts, and I know which sites they are. 3/90 isn't a majority. I'm sick of decisions going one way or another because 3 large sites are feeling heat, when we have 90 Q&A sites, each with their own own community and own set of moderators. –  phwd Oct 18 '12 at 22:14
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@Jon: 60 days is actually based on a rather unfortunate side-effect of the rep-retention changes introduced this past spring: migrated and then rejected questions older than 60 days cause the authors to suddenly gain (permanent) reputation on the destination. The term originally discussed internally was 6 months (which I think is a bit too long in any case). –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:28
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@Shog9: That makes sense. Would resetting votes not solve that particular issue? By the way, the current migration scheme also allows voting twice on posts that are migrated. You don't even need to be unscrupulous, just a regular reader of the original site. (And of course, 60 days or not makes no difference. Just being able to vote on both sites is all a person needs.) –  Jon Ericson Oct 18 '12 at 22:34
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Agree with reseting votes no matter what you do. Old migrations suck too in 90%+ of cases, but I've rejected same-day questions because the source site has upvotes out the wazoo –  Ben Brocka Oct 18 '12 at 22:41
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@Jon: resetting votes solves the problem of bad migrations at the expense of those involved in good ones. Migration rejected? You keep your rep on the origin. Migration succeeds? You lose it everywhere. There's probably a way to avoid this by adding even more complicated rep-retention, but I don't think anyone has the stomach for that. (and yeah, I'm aware of that little oddity with double-voting - IIRC, there's at least one fairly old bug report floating around) –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:41
    
Tangentially Related: Provide direct feedback for rejected migrations –  voretaq7 Oct 19 '12 at 15:57
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So, I have an old, unanswered, 0 vote (not total, no votes at all) question that would be good for the other site, but I can't move it. Can we relax this to allow those questions to be migrated? They have none of the impact on the target site that you've mentioned and it just clutters up the source site. –  casperOne Oct 22 '12 at 13:59
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Here's a question that the new policy preventing from migrating. Perhaps if this rule were better known (and may I suggest there are already too many such trivialities in the system) there would have been some urgency in migrating. (Not that this is a great question. The point is there were people suggesting a move, but nobody was aware of the ticking clock at the time.) –  Jon Ericson Nov 29 '12 at 17:59
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4 Answers

I disagree with your assessment of the situation. I think you have a 10000-foot vision of migration that's very different from practice. I don't think this proposal is actively harmful to a large extent, but it is completely useless.

reset votes on migrated posts. This is do-able, but frankly it feels like treating a symptom

Migrating votes with posts is in itself a problem, not a symptom. It's also only loosely correllated with the age of the question, in that older posts have had more time to accrete votes.

penalizes folks

The current system rewards upvoted posts on migrated questions more than non-migrated questions, because they get the votes from the original site on the original site, the votes from the original site on the target site, and the votes from the target site on the target site.

who answer what are by all appearances valid, on-topic questions.

If the question was on-topic it wouldn't be migrated. If your problem is that on-topic questions are migrated, tell off the people who are migrating on-topic questions. If your problem is with questions that were once deemed on-topic but are now no longer considered so (e.g. the kind of SO questions that were once moved to Programmers), that's a different matter that should be juged on a case by case basis.

Migration works best as a way to salvage good but off-topic questions and give them new life on a site where they can thrive. But shuffling old, answered, on-topic questions around for the hell of it is a waste of everyone's time.

If there's good content in an old, off-topic question, I'd rather migrate it to a site that wants it than delete it.

Therefore, I think the real solution is much simpler: just disable the migration of old questions.

That sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Nowhere in your proposal do you mention what problem migration of old questions have (that migration of new questions doesn't have).

They're rarely welcomed or heavily improved post-migration, often overtly disliked by folks on the destination site

If the target site doesn't want the question, the question should not be migrated. That is a problem with the current migration rules. Not the age, but who decides.

and can end up causing a rather bad experience for folks who were participating in good faith on the original.

If they didn't get a bright orange bar multicollider notification, they wouldn't even notice. And how is a migration a worse experience than outright deletion anyway?


On the flip side, I don't see a major harm caused by this change: old posts that should have been migrated can just be left to die on the source side, as they would be if there was no SE site where they're on-topic. Hopefully the deletion will wait until after someone's reposted the question on the site where it's on-topic and all worthwhile answers have been reproduced as well. Preservationists are going to complain, but as long as you field these complaints, it's your problem. What I'm more concerned about is that it's yet another rule that moderators will have to explain to users when they flag for a migration of old questions.

I see two major problems with migration today: that the target site doesn't get to decide, and that votes are migrated with the posts. Your proposal doesn't solve either problem. If you're so set against migration, remove the feature altogether.

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"Migrating votes with posts is in itself a problem, not a symptom." +1 (I hope the rest of the post is good. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Oct 18 '12 at 22:14
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"If the question was on-topic it wouldn't be migrated." I'm afraid you lost all credibility there. I've personally reversed dozens of question migrations by well-meaning individuals who really should have found a better use for their time. It's not even rare. Resetting the voting would just be twisting the knife. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:15
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@Shog9 Then the problem isn't the age of the post, it's people migrating on-topic questions. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 18 '12 at 22:16
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@Shog9 As I wrote in my very next sentence: if your problem is that on-topic questions are migrated, tell off the people who are migrating on-topic questions. –  Gilles Oct 18 '12 at 22:16
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Ok, @Gilles: stop flagging old, answered questions for migration. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:18
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@Shog9 Ok. I think it's a pity since it means closing them as off-topic and eventually deleting them, but it's your site. Or wait, are you refering to on-topic or off-topic questions? If you refer to my migration requests from SO to CS, I only flag questions that I, as an SO user, consider off-topic. If you disagree that they are off-topic, that's a completely different matter, which you should raise on MSO. –  Gilles Oct 18 '12 at 22:19
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If you want to be nice about it, leave a comment noting that while off-topic on the site where it sits, it could do well on [insert site here]. Build the community, not the backlog. And BTW: the argument prior to the creation of CS.SE was that CS questions were poorly-treated on SO. It's starting to sound an awful lot like you're determined to make that a reality now that a dedicated CS site exists. And that's crap. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:22
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But we're getting fairly off-topic here, debating what was really a minor point. I'm not interested in changes that paper over symptoms at the cost of a worse experience for the folks involved - if you don't like this proposal, suggest a better one. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:25
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@Shog9 As I wrote: “I see two major problems with migration today: that the target site doesn't get to decide, and that votes are migrated with the posts.” For the first problem, there have been several proposals such as a review queue. For the second problem, the solution is obvious. –  Gilles Oct 18 '12 at 22:29
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"Invite-in" migration is a non-starter. You might as well just tell the asker to re-post - it's quicker. And resetting votes just serves to mitigate issues with bad answers being migrated at the expense of good answers being migrated - you're hurting the wrong people for the wrong reason. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:36
    
@Shog9 “Invite-in” migration is what we often practice today, with the roundabout steps of having the mods of the source site wait for a reply from the mods of the potential target site. That is indeed slow. As for resetting votes, it doesn't hurt anyone, and I have no idea what “wrong reason” you're refering to. –  Gilles Oct 18 '12 at 22:40
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It's slow because it's usually a dumb idea. For exceptional questions (such as those "OT question hit reddit" examples), it's probably worthwhile - otherwise, either migrate or don't. None of this precludes the asker from simply re-posting his question on another site if it's closed on one. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:43
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Not exactly; I want migrations reserved for situations that are beneficial to everyone involved. Or rather, I prefer to discourage bad migrations rather than making them less painful. Frankly, I think we're headed in the right direction there - but the cherry-picking / score-curve-wrecking migration complaints are legit and haven't really been addressed by previous changes. I've been urging folks - publicly and privately - to avoid migrating old questions for most of the year now, but it's clear the system itself could and should do more to make this harder. –  Shog9 Oct 18 '12 at 22:55
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@Shog9 I may have underrated the harm caused by this change. It will cause more complaints as old questions are closed and deleted instead of migrated. And even I (a known deletionist) am not comfortable with that: I strongly prefer moving good content to a better place, to deleting that content. Or should migration requests systematically be transformed into historical locks? –  Gilles Oct 18 '12 at 23:18
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@Gilles, if you come across a good, answered question that has been closed (correctly) as off-topic but would be a good fit somewhere else, post about it on Meta. We'll take care of them. –  Shog9 Oct 19 '12 at 0:06
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I generally agree with the 60 days rule (particularly given the "unfortunate side-effect of the rep-retention changes", though I think these questions should still be eligible for Moderator migration (mods from the two sites can coordinate with each other to migrate ancient questions if necessary & beneficial, and we can generally trust the mods to do so).

I also think this issue is separate from the issue of resetting votes on migrated posts -- resetting votes is still something that I feel needs to be implemented (and the overwhelming support for it on that question would seem to indicate that I'm not in the minority for once).
The problems with migrating upvotes have been clearly articulated on that question, and in the answers here, so I won't reiterate them - I'll just say that an upvote on Stack Overflow should not directly translate to an upvote on Arqade on migration, and that's what the current system does.

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+1 "I think these questions should still be eligible for Moderator migration" –  Steven Jeuris Nov 15 '12 at 10:38
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Indeed, mod migrations should work, possibly without allowing the migration to be rejected by the target site in case that causes troubles. Recently I stumbled upon a perfectly fine closed+deleted codegolf question on SO which would have been a great fit on Programming Puzzles & Code Golf, but couldn't be migrated because of that. –  ThiefMaster Nov 15 '12 at 10:44
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The Problem

Migration doesn't work well because the voting gets screwy. We are left with three not very desirable solutions:

  1. Migrate vote totals along with the posts thereby "rewarding" those posts compared to posts native to the destination.
  2. Reset vote totals thereby "punishing" good posts.
  3. Reset vote totals selectively thereby punishing (no quotes this time) moderators.

As far as I'm concerned, age of the post is pretty irrelevant to the problem of vote totals1 since posts tend to accumulate votes while the migration is being considered. [Insert hand-wavy argument that shows most votes are cast early in a question's life-cycle anyway.] At any rate, migration in general is fraught with issues. Let's imagine a world in which migration is rare or impossible. I think this is how "migration" would be handled:

  1. Off-topic question is asked.
  2. Off-topic question is closed (before or after it has been answered).
  3. A new (on-topic now) question is asked on the destination site.
  4. A link is edited into the closed question to point to the open one.

The order is a bit different, but this is starting to seem like the way duplicate questions are handled within a site. Which leads me to suggest:

Allow Cross-Site Duplicates

Cross-posting2 is discouraged and for good reason. Nobody wants to spend their time answering a question only to find it's already been asked and answered elsewhere. Let's take an example of a question that might be answered on several sites to see what I mean:

How should passwords be stored in a database?

Guess what? Stack Overflow is the number one result.3 It's also been asked on Security and Cryptography. Now I don't really know where the question actually belongs, but I certainly would be inclined to trust the folks who frequent the site to "discuss protecting assets from threats and vulnerabilities." There should also be place for people to ask about man -s 3PAM pam or DBA_USERS, of course, but when it comes to the general question it would be nice if the system could point to one, definitive answer somewhere on the network.

We shouldn't migrate all the general password questions to Security. For one thing, almost all of the questions are going to be awful since you can get plenty of decent advice from a Google search. But perhaps more importantly, the big site (Stack Overflow) will disrupt the community of the smaller site (assuming that's the direction migration normally happens). On the other hand, closing those questions down as off-topic isn't exactly the right thing either. Technically it's off-topic for that site, but if there's a site elsewhere on the network that covers the topic, it could very well be answered already. The guy struggling to solve a problem probably doesn't care where their answer comes from. Closing as a duplicate to a question on another site would be ideal since it helps get the asker an answer and it doesn't dump terrible questions on the on-topic site.

Conclusion

Rather than have an arbitrary cutoff for migration restrictions, allow users to close questions as duplicates of questions on other sites. That way, cross-posting can be allowed without duplicating effort (more than we already do). Migrating questions could then be discouraged and rarely used.4


Footnotes:

  1. Actually, I don't really have a problem with #1 or #2 since vote total is fairly meaningless anyway. I don't mean voting is meaningless, but rather than it doesn't much matter to me what the highest voted question on a site might be and answers tend to sort themselves out over time. But other people don't see things this way and good, helpful, wanted migrations become a political hot-potato because of having lots of votes.

  2. Technically SE only supports multi-posting at the moment. My suggestion is to make something like cross-posting possible, but not actually simultaneously posting the same question on multiple sites. Hopefully, this idea is better than cross-posting.

  3. That question has been closed as "Not Constructive" and there are a dozen or more linked questions.

  4. For the smaller sites I tend to frequent, I still prefer the idea of resetting votes. But if it's causing excessive pain to the big boys, I think I could make do with more effective cross-posting tools.

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I don't have any issues with encouraging a bit of cross-site duplication. Mass-posting the exact same question to multiple sites simultaneously is rude, but re-asking a question on a new site, targeted at a different audience and with a real problem to be solved (particularly one that wasn't well-addressed by the original) is fine. –  Shog9 Oct 22 '12 at 16:38
    
"thereby "punishing" good post" The main reason why I want some way to reset votes on migration is because highly voted answers on the source site don't imply good posts, due to lack of expertise. –  CodesInChaos Nov 16 '12 at 10:39
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This is do-able, but frankly it feels like treating a symptom, and doing so in a way that penalizes folks who answer what are by all appearances valid, on-topic questions.

I'd like to propose an alternate solution to this. It seems to me as if the real problem is best summed up as, "all of the sites are disconnected and serve different purposes." Now, I agree that's a problem; however, it only professes of one real solution:

> > > > > > > > Merge all of the sites together. < < < < < < < <


There. Now that that's out of the way let's discuss some of the benefits of these actions:

  • New users only have to go through the painstaking process of signing up with every site. People are normally interested in a multiple topics, why not just have them specify the topics they're interested in rather than sign up for each one?
  • Jeff can spend all of the marketing dollars pushing one site and one brand.
  • No more wasted brainpower on each site's FAQ and purpose.
  • No more wasted beta-site nonsense.
  • Area 51 is old now. It's a pretty poor idea anyway -- that goes away. The Area 51 team can do something else like clean Jeff's yacht.
  • This would more closely mirror other successful Q/A sites like Yahoo Answers!
  • A single Twitter account and Facebook account -- fan base consolidation across social media.
  • Good content won't be wasted as users ask questions for which no establish community currently exists. Think organic bottom up growth from day one. Q/A site creation here is such a burdensome process that I often wonder if the idea isn't rooted in the development process of some other Microsoft products.
  • Solidarity amongst members: why create divisions between Stack Overflow -- a male dominated community -- and other potentially female dominated professions. Note: we may still want to keep the SharePoint guys on their own server.

This model of one supremely well organized site also works well for others:

  • How many Wikipedia(s) serve based on topic differences?
  • How many Amazon(s) are there for specific products?
  • How many DuckDuckGo(s) are there for different subjects?

Originally, StackOverflow was one good idea. Then it became three-lesser ideas -- a watered down trinity of segregation. Now we're up to 90 sites, many of which aren't good at all and even more dismal is the often overlooked fact that another 464 sites are in the pipeline. One can't help but wonder if this is some George Lucas inspired strategy and the end game is to sell this franchise to Disney too.

We only have one internet. It only needs one Q/A site.

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disney.SE? sounds like fun –  prusswan Nov 2 '12 at 5:58
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"other potentially female dominated professions." - seriously, what 19th century backwater are you posting this from? –  Kev Nov 2 '12 at 17:42
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@Kev I would not be surprised if cooking.se did indeed have a much higher percentage of female users than SO. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 2 '12 at 18:37
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I'm not saying men should not cook or that it is that way for any reason. I cook too. SO is definitely male-dominated. So is IT at large. Those are both problems. So was atheism.se (I should know, I was one of the more established users). That said, some professions probably tilt the other way. On the frontpage of cooking.se right now there is a Kristina, a KatieK and a Rosa. –  Evan Carroll Nov 2 '12 at 19:11
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@EvanCarroll Most Cooking.SE high reps seem to be men. Then again, this is the internet, no one knows if you're a dog. –  Yannis Nov 3 '12 at 7:35
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"...other successful Q/A sites like Yahoo Answers..." Sorry, but you lost me on that point. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Nov 4 '12 at 22:51
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“cooking”, a “female dominated profession”? You must be new here on planet Earth. Professional cooks are almost exclusively male, and it’s one of the most chauvinist, anti-women profession. –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 5 '12 at 13:00
    
@KonradRudolph you could very well be correct, though I doubt it is as male-dominated or chauvinist as IT. Let me recant that then and say, "more gender neutral and very possibly with a substantially higher female representation than Stack Overflow." –  Evan Carroll Nov 5 '12 at 16:02
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@KonradRudolph That's true, but I wasn't aware cooking.se was to be used exclusively by professional cooks. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 20 '12 at 17:37
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@NullUserExceptionอ_อ Your point being? Evan said cooking was a “female dominated profession” and, at least in First World countries, that is demonstrably wrong. That, and only that, I pointed out. (And Evan acknowledged it.) –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 21 '12 at 0:05
    
Touché Konrad is right here. Though what I meant to say was that "cooking.SE was a female dominated StackExchange": that would have made Konrad's statement mere (potentially-)factually accurate minutia. And, had I have made that statement which I did not make either way, it may have been flawed as Kondrad again points out -- the elites on Cooking.SE are clearly more often men and the front-page at one point in time is not a good representation of the demographics of the network. –  Evan Carroll Nov 21 '12 at 0:21
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I try to be intellectually honest. –  Evan Carroll Nov 21 '12 at 0:23
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People are understandably downvoting, since this basically says throw out the design we've been successfully using from the start. But it's less disruptive than it sounds and deserves serious consideration. If we ever merge all sites, it would not be by dumping all posts/users into one mediocre cesspool. We'd first set up flexible ways of filtering and partitioning the community, so as to maintain what's useful about separate sites. We'd need more intelligent tag filtering so users can follow topics of interest, and a topic-specific rep measure to avoid letting unqualified people vote. –  Mechanical snail Nov 24 '12 at 8:55
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Basically, I contend that the sites and communities can largely maintain their distinct identities, while using a shared pool of questions as a back-end, making it easier to participate in and organize questions about diverse topics. –  Mechanical snail Nov 24 '12 at 8:56
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@Yannis According to quantcast (officially used by SE), females are over-represented in cooking.se, while being severely under-represented on the Stack Exchange network. Perhaps if SE as a whole wasn't so male-dominated, we'd see an even larger number of females on Cooking.SE –  NullUserException อ_อ Dec 5 '12 at 0:30
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