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When newbies ask a question that belongs to a different site, the question gets unceremoniously migrated to a site the OP may not know about at all. They usually don't have an account there, and many migrated questions end up as orphans.

I would suggest that the first migration vote auto-generate a comment. That comment would describe the issue in a few words, like

This question has been deemed off-topic for this site by 2 users. If 3 more agree, it will be automatically migrated to serverfault.com. You will automatically be redirected there, and will need to create an account in order to vote, comment, or accept an answer.

Why?

For a new user not knowing about the migration mechanism, and not seeing the number of migrate votes, this will create a period of uncertainty about what to do.

In my experience, the good newbies (those who actually care about asking a good question) will then either

  • apologize and sometimes take off to the other site to ask their question there - with the original question probably often getting auto-migrated later, creating a duplicate

  • not know what to do and not dare react on follow-up comments related to their question

Related requent question: Make the migrated question link on the original page more obvious

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The only problem I see with this is that the OP might get the wrong impression in the event that the person who voted to migrate was wrong about the need to actually do so, and wouldn't have left a comment manually (I've seen some cases of this when someone wants to migrate a question to SF). That doesn't outweigh the need to make sure the OP understands the potential migration process though, but I do wish there was a good way to handle it. –  Tim Stone Sep 12 '10 at 10:12
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Another advantage of such auto-comments: it might teach folks who cannot vote (or do not vote) about the preferred commenting behaviour a bit, when seeing many extended comments like that! –  Arjan Sep 12 '10 at 15:17
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@Arjan yeah, good point. Re your first comment, that's true - maybe the comment needs to be shown only after the 2nd vote? I don't know –  Pëkka Sep 12 '10 at 15:42
    
@Arjan - Yeah, that's a good point. The way I personally respond right now is (if I'm voting to migrate) to suggest that next time they have this kind of question to consider asking on x, then let the migration process take care of the current question where appropriate. I'm not sure how effective this is, or if it's really any different than the "Belongs on" comments though. –  Tim Stone Sep 14 '10 at 18:35
    
Nice one. Should get a status-completed tag. –  abel Jan 21 '11 at 10:18
    
I'm waveringly neutral on this. It's redundant and blunt to a degree - at least whereever I look, migration always comes packed with handfuls of comments ranging from simple "belongs on" to full explanations of the reason. That said, one could say that "possible duplicate" is pretty much the same degree of redundant and blunt... –  Grace Note Jan 31 '11 at 15:16
    
I strongly agree that there needs to be some sort of indication that migration will occur without the user's assistance if it needs to, and the user should not manually re-post the question to another forum. I am said user and I can't remember for sure, but I think I've screwed this up more than once due to the lack of clarity here! My most recent offense is at stackoverflow.com/questions/11265864/… –  BlueMonkMN Jun 30 '12 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

A problem I sometimes see though is that someone will comment "belongs on meta" or whatever.

The user will then go and type up a new question on meta. When eventually it amasses enough votes to get migrated it then becomes a duplicate.

If three votes have already been cast already for the migration there is no way of closing the question without migrating it. Maybe once a "belongs on" vote has been cast the question asker should have an easy way to migrate it themselves to the more suitable site without having to wait for the 5 migration votes.

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@Martin the duplicate situation you describe is exactly what I mean to prevent by automatically creating a more verbose comment (that hopefully keeps OPs from going and typing up a new question). –  Pëkka Sep 12 '10 at 15:41
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Hmmm, what about bolding that Maybe once a "belongs on" vote has been cast the question asker should have an easy way to migrate it themselves? Sounds good to me! It doesn't even have to visible to the whole audience then (though I hope that making it publicly visible might eventually get rid of those plain "belongs on xx" comments). –  Arjan Sep 12 '10 at 15:45
    
@Pekka - Actually "belongs on meta" questions do tend to get migrated pretty quickly. I notice some SQL Server "belongs on server fault" questions can hang around waiting to amass the necessary votes for quite a long time though. Particularly at weekends. –  Martin Smith Sep 12 '10 at 15:46
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@Arjan interesting idea! Would need additional discussion. Maybe worth a feature request on its own? –  Pëkka Sep 12 '10 at 17:28
    
You're giving me far too much credit today, @Pekka. ;-) But indeed, Martin, why not make this a feature request on its own? –  Arjan Sep 12 '10 at 17:59
    
@Arjan sorry, I don't know why I misread the author names so badly today :) –  Pëkka Sep 12 '10 at 18:01
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+1 for Maybe once a "belongs on" vote has been cast the question asker should have an easy way to migrate it themselves to the more suitable site. That's worth it's own feature-request IMHO –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 13 '10 at 9:04
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@Arjan thanks, supported :) –  Tobias Kienzler Jan 16 '11 at 9:10

I would suggest perhaps the public comment but also some form of user notification along the lines of:

A user has voted to move your question to {site} because they think your question is a better fit there and more likely to get the sort of answer you need. Did you know about {site} [link]? If not, don't worry, if 5 users agree, your question will be migrated there automatically! See, easy.

Sometimes, people do get it wrong and vote to move when questions shouldn't be moved. Don't worry if this has happened - it takes 5 users with 3000 or more reputation to move your question, so it'll only happen if experienced users think it should happen.

If your question really is about {subject}, consider editing [link] it to provide some extra information - more information is always good!

Just a rough sketch of the essentials.

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The last sentence might be troublesome. Like what if a {subject} is "How do I administer 10,000 computers" on Stack Overflow? –  Arjan Sep 12 '10 at 15:03
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Arjan "subject" would be "programming" in that case, not the question title. I like this suggestion! –  Pëkka Sep 12 '10 at 15:41

migrate and merge in one go would solve that. At the point of migrate you can search the relevant site for a duplicate by the same user and merge it together painlessly.

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I sometimes feel that automating too much won't tell folks that they actually were wrong. But: indeed, maybe when things are automated so much, and hence wrong posts do not create any clutter on the sites, it is less of an "error" to post on the wrong site. (And many of the duplicates are created by drive-by users anyhow, I guess, so maybe teaching them has no effect at all.) Not too sure how easily this is implemented of course! –  Arjan Jan 21 '11 at 10:48

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