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Due to the apparent increase in the number of bad migrations from Stack Overflow (based on comments in chat, other child metas etc.) I think it's time to remove the option altogether.

In recent months Programmers and Server Fault have been removed and there appear to be an increasing number of bad migrations to Super User (I don't have access to the figures to verify this though).

It's becoming clear that with over 13,000 users that can vote to close we cannot rely on the ones with knowledge of the other sites being around when the question is being voted on. This results in subsequent closers following the herd and voting the same way. Even with 4 votes being required to migrate off SO it goes wrong far to often.

It also seems like people use migration to mean:

I don't want this question here, but I don't want to feel bad about closing it as off topic.

Even if the migration is correct, well meaning comments along the lines of "This should be asked on X" lead to effective cross posting and the creation of duplicates should the question actually be migrated.

With the ever increasing number of sites users often don't have accounts on the site where the question is migrated to leading to orphaned questions and potential work for moderators and the team get the question associated with the correct user again.

Given all this I think we should just remove the option.

If the poster wants the migration they can flag the question for moderator attention.

The only drawback I can see is that it will result in more flags from people who want the question migrated. If there is no migration option then people would have to use the "Other" option and type in the site they think the question should be migrated to. This might deter some people and I'm sure something could be done to make these flags less prominent in the moderator queue.

NOTE: I'm specifically thinking of Stack Overflow here, but there's probably an argument for removing the options from the other sites too. Particularly before they get so large that the same problems start appearing there.

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What percentage of the migrations are bad? If it's less than 25%, I'd consider it an acceptable number. –  Robert Harvey Jan 23 '13 at 21:03
I've wondered if migration targets could not be dynamically set up per user and their reputation on the possible target. I.e. I can only vote to migrate something to the Programmers SE if I have a certain level of reputation there. Though that might be too complicated and not all that effective. –  Bart Jan 23 '13 at 21:05
@RobertHarvey - Personally I don't think the actual number matters. It's mainly a perception thing. People remember the bad migrations rather than the good ones. –  ChrisF Jan 23 '13 at 21:05
@Yannis: The stats on SO's end say 12% rejected. What gives? –  mmyers Jan 23 '13 at 21:06
I still prefer the idea that you only need rep on SO to say "off topic" but you need rep on both SO and target site to say "belongs on target site". I think this is better than taking away migration. I know you can get a mod to migrate even if it's not a target, and I've done that as well, but it doesn't scale. –  Kate Gregory Jan 23 '13 at 21:07
SU from SO: 13% rejected of 1519 in the last 90 days. That's almost 200 bad migrations, more than comes in from all other sites combined (both good and bad). While 13% sounds like very little, in absolute numbers it's a lot to deal with for a site so much smaller than SO. For comparison, ~350 questions left SU in the same time. –  Daniel Beck Jan 23 '13 at 21:07
-1 The system works fine. –  NullUserException อ_อ Jan 23 '13 at 21:09
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ - for SO maybe, but not for the sites that get your crap. –  ChrisF Jan 23 '13 at 21:10
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ This is something the SU community should be able to decide, as it needs to deal with the result. –  Daniel Beck Jan 23 '13 at 21:10
SU, for example, has 10 moderators and over 300 users with closing privileges. I think they can deal with 2 bad questions a day. Removing the option would give mods on SO about 17 extra flags a day (if all migrated questions were to get flagged instead). And that's for SU alone. cc @DanielBeck –  NullUserException อ_อ Jan 23 '13 at 21:13
I also dislike how you started off with "due to the increasing number of bad migrations from Stack Overflow..." Really? Where are the numbers to back that up? According to the migration stats (which you should be able to see), only SF had a large amount of rejected migrations. Migrations to all of the "default" sites have rejection rates under 20% - and only 7% for SU, which IMO is perfectly acceptable. –  NullUserException อ_อ Jan 23 '13 at 21:19
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ For the first 3 months of SF complaining about "the increasing number of bad migrations" we were below 20%. Then below 25%. Then in the 30s. Remember that the migration stats we see are a 90-day window. (perhaps one of the SE folks can grab the "most current" number for the last 30 days, which would be interesting for purposes of this discussion) –  voretaq7 Jan 23 '13 at 21:22
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ Of the 32 questions migrated from SO to SU and rejected in the first 20 days of January still available in the data.SE dataset, 27 were closed by moderators. So while there are 300 users with VTC privileges, they don't use them enough to be relevant to this discussion. –  Daniel Beck Jan 23 '13 at 21:29
In our defense, you should see some of the posts that get flagged for migration that we decline! ;) –  Bill the Lizard Jan 23 '13 at 23:45
could the issue be addressed by suggested migrations review at target site? (blocking if you prefer it to be safe / non-blocking if you prefer it fast) –  gnat Jan 31 '13 at 13:10

4 Answers 4

You may like to know there is at least one site that gets good migrations from Stack Overflow. I'm a moderator on dba.se and imo we benefit a lot from the constant flow of migrations, rejecting only a tiny fraction.

I'm not sure why we are different, but I think it is because folk on SO understand what is on-topic for dba.se without having to guess: if it is about databases and off-topic on SO, then it is very likely on-topic for us. I think it may be a bit harder to judge what exactly is on-topic on SU, SF or programmers.se for the average 3k+ user on SO.

As well as benefiting from the incoming questions, migrations also raise awareness of our site, which doesn't have the visibility of the trilogy or programmers.se: we get a stream of new users following their questions over.

I hope that we at least are able to remain as a migration target for SO. Perhaps the bar should somehow be raised or lowered for migrations based on the reject rate for the target site? At any rate, the current system is helping us a lot!

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Hmm - maybe this means that the migration targets should be reviewed more regularly and as well as the actual rejection rate the perception of the process should be taken into account as well. Also, maybe the migration targets should be limited to those sites that actively want the migrations. –  ChrisF Jan 31 '13 at 11:34
+1 - We definitely get good migrations on DBA. Part of our situation is also an active chat room community with a lot of users having migration rights on SO - if we see something that belongs on our site we can collectively bring it over ourselves without having to involve the perpetually overworked SO mods. –  JNK Jan 31 '13 at 14:38
@JNK - That's the difference then. You have enough users with close rights on SO to be able to act in concert to get the right questions migrated and I assume the wrong questions blocked. The problem with other sites is that this doesn't happen. –  ChrisF Jan 31 '13 at 16:47
@ChrisF I'm not sure if it is our users blocking wrong migrations: they might be commenting or voting to close as vanilla off-topic, but the discussion never comes up in the dba chat room. –  Jack Douglas Jan 31 '13 at 16:50

If we're going to do this, I'd like to change the following part of the request:

If the poster wants the migration they can flag the question for moderator attention.

This has all the same drawbacks of community migration, plus the added drawback of many more flags for Stack Overflow moderators to handle. (We had around 2000 migrations in the last 90 days, for reference, but not all of those would be flagged if the option were removed. That would probably only be an extra 10-20 flags a day, but we've already proven that moderators are no better at migrating than everyone else.)

I'd rather the questions were simply closed, and the OPs encouraged to go search on the proposed target site to see if their questions have already been asked. If not, they can repost them manually. (If they already posted an off-topic question on SO, they should probably be encouraged to read the FAQ on the proposed new site as well.)

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I was hesitant to put that in, but did so because I knew people would flag questions to be migrated. Personally I'd like to see flags automatically suppressed so that the moderators don't see them at all. –  ChrisF Jan 24 '13 at 8:57
What's the point of flagging if they're suppressed? You lost me. –  jcolebrand Jan 31 '13 at 16:29
@jcolebrand Even if we don't encourage people to flag for migration, they'll do it anyway. Mods really shouldn't be doing these migrations (opinions may vary), so there really is no point to these flags. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 31 '13 at 16:40
Then just remove those options from the flaggable parts? Otherwise we go back to the clearinghouse TL model ;-) Which I realize Shog is totally against, and I understand why. But we can't silo the sites. Part of their strength is the "flow amongst the sites to where you need to be" and that works well. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. –  jcolebrand Jan 31 '13 at 16:45
@jcolebrand I think the argument that Chris is trying to make is that it's not working well for most sites. I do agree that we should keep doing migrations to DBA, at least until we reach a point where we're sending them mostly dupes. We probably need to keep a closer eye on rejection rates so we can close off migration paths once they've outlived their usefulness. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 31 '13 at 16:55
Well whether they are doing well or not, the answer is not "do away with them" which is the only message I take from this. –  jcolebrand Jan 31 '13 at 17:40

I think Jack Douglas has posted an extremely effective argument against removing migration paths completely. It is also an effective argument against enforcing a certain level of privileges on the target site as dasblinkenlight suggests.

With 306 questions migrated to DBA.se in the last 90 days but only 43 users on DBA.se with close privileges. It's highly unlikely that even one of these users was partially responsible for each migration. Enforcing that all 5 close votes have the same privilege on the target site would effectively stop all migration to DBA.se. I obviously don't have definitive data on this but what are the chances that 5 of 43 users have voted to close more than 2 of these questions on SO; especially when some don't have a SO account?1

Either of these two suggestions could be seriously detrimental to the smaller sites in the network.

So that this argument doesn't continue raising it's head why not let the moderators and community of each site decide for themselves? It might work something like this.

  • Each site's moderators jointly, or through a meta question (and so the community), decide which sites they want their site to be a migration target for. The arguments for and against are kept to each sites meta.
  • They can change this at any time based on migration failure rates; whatever the current "perception" is; falling numbers of new users due to lack of migrations or whatever reason they can dream up.
  • The migration list on each site becomes that site's meta plus the top 4 sites who want to be a migration target (I'm not certain how you would determine "top" but by size/number of successful migrations for example; this list would be dynamically updated and so the target sites could change according to the success of the migrations to those sites).

As a possible extra you could stop moderators from having the ability to migrate to sites that did not want to be a target but they could still migrate to sites that do. This would enable the number of successful migrations to be the sole arbiter as to what sites appear in the migration list.


Rather than messing with a system that can really help the smaller sites in the network let each site decide for themselves who they want to be able to migrate to them.

1. The question is rhetorical but if anyone has any actual numbers that'd be good.

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How would you stop there being a large number of migration targets available from SO itself - wouldn't many of the sites be a possible target for SO? –  Jon Egerton Jan 31 '13 at 13:11
No @JonEgerton; there would be 4 sites in the migration list + MSO as defined by the number of successful migrations / something else. Moderators would have the ability; as they do now to migrate to more on the condition that the target site's communities want to be a target for SO. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 31 '13 at 13:12
I like the idea of only having the sites that actively want to be migration targets on the list. When there is the feeling (and evidence) that bad migrations are happening, the site comes off the list. I do think that moderators should be able to migrate anywhere though. –  ChrisF Jan 31 '13 at 13:17
I've updated based on your comment @ChrisF. This would also raise the possibility of having more than 5 sites as a target; though I'm not certain how well that would work so I haven't included it. The potential negative is that communities become insular toward newer users but this can happen already and it would be up to the community team to police; as they do now. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 31 '13 at 13:29
You should see JNK's comment under Jack's answer... "Part of our situation is also an active chat room community with a lot of users having migration rights on SO - if we see something that belongs on our site we can collectively bring it over ourselves". This gives you some more context. Part of the reason why migration to DBA has been so effective is precisely because of what dasblinenlight suggested — users with 3k on both places (or active on both) quickly shut down crap and migrate the good ones. The only difference is that it just so happened to be the case here and not by SE design. –  Lorem Ipsum Jan 31 '13 at 16:02
@Lorem I think that only half of that is happening: I don't get the feeling we are hugely influential in the 'shut down poor questions' side of the equation. My best guess as I mention in my answer is that it is just easier for the average SO user to guess what is on-topic on dba. –  Jack Douglas Jan 31 '13 at 16:51

I think that a better alternative would be to present only the sites in which the user has earned a privilege of casting close and reopen votes as potential migration targets. The rationale is that if a user has sufficient privilege to participate in closing questions on the target side, then he or she is presumed to have enough understanding of what is appropriate on that site, and could be trusted with providing good migration suggestions.

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This has already been suggested and rejected on the grounds that it would be quite expensive to do the query and build the form at run time. –  ChrisF Jan 31 '13 at 11:48
@ChrisF Well, hardware becomes less expensive, so things that were too expensive a year or two ago may be acceptable next year. Moreover, one could optimize this by re-calculating cross-site permissions daily, store them with the user profile, and make available to the "Close question" dialog. The dialog could use this info to hide migration targets dynamically. –  dasblinkenlight Jan 31 '13 at 12:02
As I explain in my answer I think Jack Douglas' answer is an effective refutation of this idea (at least when applied universally). –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 31 '13 at 13:11

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