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A question was migrated to ServerFault that made many of the more active members scratch their heads:

What is the max bandwith of LAN and WAN network

The above question has no redeeming qualities, has no potential for being expanded upon and cannot be answered because its basic premise if flawed. It's just noise. I and others of ServerFault would like to request that more consideration of the question's merit be given before migration to ServerFault. We know the fine folks of StackExchange can spot dead ringers like this and quash them.

Some questions for discussion:

EDIT 3: Time to refocus! I think there are two things that are most consternating SF members. I've been consulting with some of them in chat and here's what it seems to boil down to in two points:

  1. We are a bit confused over the unilateral decision to move a question over to SF. This is not to point fingers at one person. We believe that if the community process of voting to migrate questions is allowed to work its course then this and many other migration dust-ups will be avoided. It is our belief that if the original question that started this discussion was put up in front of multiple community members, most would see it as technically impossible to answer. Is moderator intervention a cultural thing at SO? Is this something SF just needs to deal with?
  2. We have what we believe is a reasonable expectation that both communities know enough about the other from cultural and technical vantage points to be able to weed out a large majority of questions like these. Indeed, I think we do help each other out most of the time. Perhaps SF users were just incredulous that someone would not be able to spot this as a ridiculously open-ended, impossible-to-answer question. Maybe we're petty about that, but we still harbor a suspicion that any developer with virtually any amount of experience would be able to spot this question as subjective impossible to answer. ("subjective" was not at all the right term to use. Thanks @Xoum!) That confused us and made us suspicious that we were being used as a dumping grounds.

Original post:

  1. Regardless of anyone's technical experience with networking, why was this question considered to be worthy of migration?
  2. Furthermore, why the unilateral decision made by one person rather than letting the community decide on it? Surely at least one person in five on Stack Overflow would be able to see this as a non-question.
  3. EDIT 2: Is there a culture of moderator unilateralism at StackOverflow that does not exist on ServerFault? I think part of the frustration is that a community migrated question takes 5 votes, and out of five people, most should have seen it as an illegitimate question. Enough people voting to close it would have sent the signal up that it's not migration material. However, if there's more of an acceptance of unilateralism at SO, then we at SF need to understand that.
  4. Finally, what can we at ServerFault do to make the purpose of the site be more apparent so more and more poorly migrated questions die before being moved? We at ServerFault are trying to keep the site from being the place for SO's off-scouring (just as we ourselves are trying to keep SU from being the dumping grounds for our off-scouring)

On the flipside of this issue, we at ServerFault genuinely try to reduce the signal to noise ratio of questions migrated to SE. For example, "What are pylons and how can I get the Twitters to work on them using ADA?" will never see the light of your day (that question is the same caliber as the ServerFault question above and virtually anyone that works in IT professionally can see it as such). However, if we miss some, please tell us that we may learn better.


EDIT 1: Some have brought up the topic that many, many garbage questions get quashed and never see ServerFault or other StackExchange sites and that it's only the one or two oddball cases that make waves. I agree. All in all, I believe that ServerFault denizens are appreciative of the many StackOverflow users who accurately kill off bad questions. We thank you for that. I think, however, that we can all do even better to make the purpose of each site better known to members of sister sites. In the end, yes, we all need to understand that not being intimately familiar with each sister site means that there will be poorly migrated questions that grace must be extended to. I'm fine with that, and I think most people are too.

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Not directly related, but I really wish users could comment on migrated questions on the source site. So if a questions is migrated we would have an oportunity to help educated the people migrating. Or maybe @ replies to the voters should work on the destination. Allowing some communication between the destination and those voting to move would help a lot. –  Zoredache Mar 13 '11 at 0:19
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I sympathize with your basic point, but keep in mind that the number of new questions (and bad questions) arriving on SO is orders of magnitude larger than on any other SE site. Errors in judgement are likely to happen more often. –  Pëkka Mar 13 '11 at 0:21
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@Pekka: a crappy question is a crappy question kill kill kill –  Iain Mar 13 '11 at 0:24
    
@Iain yeah, I agree. But as just said in chat, a question like that does get killed on SO 95 out of 100 times. I like to think that this stuff getting migrated elsewhere is the exception, not the norm. –  Pëkka Mar 13 '11 at 0:25
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FWIW: my impression is that the question is poor because the author doesn't understand that "LAN" and "WAN" are abstract concepts. It's equivalent to the classic, "How long is a piece of string?" However, there may be other interpretations... The English was not very good at all, and it's possible that someone else read something more answerable into it. –  Shog9 Mar 13 '11 at 0:43
    
ServerFault is considered a newbie site so newbies are thrown there, very easy. –  stefan Mar 13 '11 at 0:48
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Oh, and see also: serverfault.com is not your trash bin! (IOW, this is not a new complaint... There are versions of this for SU and P.SE as well. The bitter truth seems to be that SO gets a lot of questions, and shares some amount of the crap just as it shares some amount of the cream...) –  Shog9 Mar 13 '11 at 0:51
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@stefan That has got to be the lamest comment I've read in a long time. Your condescension is not welcome. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 0:52
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Oh noes! A moderator can put a question into SF. Just like anyone with a series of tubes can ask a question in SF. –  Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 0:54
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@Andrew The problem isn't that sumdood came by and asked a stupid question. It's that a stupid question was looked at, and then punted over the wall for us to deal with. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 1:12
    
@Holocryptic: Wouldn't there be far more questions from sumdood than from SO? –  Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 1:16
    
@Andrew And by stupid, I mean by the standards of questions that all the sites are held to, not based on what the user was trying to ask. By all rights, it was not a real question as would be accepted on any of the sites. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 1:16
    
@Andrew, yes, and we'll deal with them there. I think the real issue is more how this was unilaterally kicked over the wall. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 1:17
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@Holocryptic: Isn't @sumdood just as unilateral as the mod? –  Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 1:20
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@Andrew No, because sumdood is just that. Some random guy who thinks that maybe he can get an answer, whether it's badly worded or not. And if he asks it on SF, we'll deal with it. But a mod should be able to determine the real value of a question, especially if it's as poorly phrased as this one is. I'm not asking that mods know every facet of what being a sysadmin entails, but surely he can see a question that would not be acceptable on any of the sites. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 1:25

5 Answers 5

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Regardless of anyone's technical experience with networking, why was this question considered to be worthy of migration?

Presumably because Robert Harvey did not know that the premise was flawed. He can't be expected to know everything remotely relating to computers, nor do we expect him to. It probably appeared to him as a legitimate SF question, so that's why he took the action he took.

Furthermore, why the unilateral decision by one person rather than letting the community decide on it? Surely at least one person in five on Stack Overflow would be able to see this as a non-question.

Because Robert Harvey is a moderator elected by the community.

Finally, what can we at ServerFault do to make the purpose of the site be more apparent so more and more poorly migrated questions die before being moved? We at ServerFault are trying to keep the site from being the place for SO's off-scouring (just as we ourselves are trying to keep SU from being the dumping grounds for our off-scouring)

Close off-topic questions. Proposals to have the accepting community (in this case, SF) vote to accept a migration have historically failed. Mostly, as far as I can tell, questions based on flawed premises are closed and not migrated, but it require the question to be recognized as having a flawed premise, which depends on the knowledge of the closer(s).

I understand that it can be frustrating to get questions migrated to you that are off-topic; however, there's only so much that can be done. SO receives many, many more questions that any other site on the SE network—not every one can be dealt with in a perfect manner.


In response to your edits:

We are a bit confused over the unilateral decision to move a question over to SF. This is not to point fingers at one person. We believe that if the community process of voting to migrate questions is allowed to work its course then this and many other migration dust-ups will be avoided. It is our belief that if the original question that started this discussion was put up in front of multiple community members, most would see it as technically impossible to answer. Is moderator intervention a cultural thing at SO? Is this something SF just needs to deal with?

No, most moderation is undertaken by the community on SO. However, with the sheer mass of questions, there are going to be some questions that are seen by a mod before the community sees them. And in this case, the question was off-topic for SO, and looked like a good fit for SF. If mods can't migrate questions because they don't know 100% that the receiving site is going to like it, we'd paralyze the system. This is the best compromise—it takes very little effort for the receiving site to close the question. Now, if this is epidemic, we'd certainly like to see a list of example questions so we can figure out what's going wrong, where it's going wrong, and how we can fix it. However, it seems like this is a one-time thing that a mod saw simply before the rest of the community did.

We have what we believe is a reasonable expectation that both communities know enough about the other from cultural and technical vantage points to be able to weed out a large majority of questions like these. Indeed, I think we do help each other out most of the time. Perhaps SF users were just incredulous that someone would not be able to spot this as a ridiculously open-ended, impossible-to-answer question. Maybe we're petty about that, but we still harbor a suspicion that any developer with virtually any amount of experience would be able to spot this question as subjective and impossible to answer. That confused us and made us suspicious that we were being used as a dumping grounds.

Trust me, many devs would not have known anything was wrong until he/she consulted Wikipedia. That's different from a layman in that the dev would understand why something was wrong—he has the ability to understand unlike a layman, but it's not his/her area of expertise. That's not to say there aren't developers who would have noticed a problem right away, but also realize that many devs work at a level where networking is abstracted to a level where they don't need to understand it.

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+1 for a helpful, concise, and correct answer. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Mar 13 '11 at 0:24
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Very well put. Thanks for your answer! –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 0:30
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@waiwai933 have you actually read the question we're talking about ? It is impossible to answer and any coder should be able to figure that out. It should have been killed here and not sent to SF to be put out of it's misery. –  Iain Mar 13 '11 at 0:33
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I like this answer, except the fact that it implies shifting the blame on Robert Harvey. But I'm pretty sure that five SO users would've made the same collective decision. And it's not a bad decision. SO can judge whether question falls into FS area by its topic, but not whether it's "too basic" or "too clueless" or "too advanced" for SF. –  Nikita Rybak Mar 13 '11 at 0:37
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@Iain Yes, and I know nothing about LAN and WAN. To me, it seems like a question that belongs on SF. Obviously, it isn't a legitimate question after reading all of this, but there was no way for me to know that before since I know nothing about networking. Perhaps Robert Harvey was in the same position? –  waiwai933 Mar 13 '11 at 0:37
    
@Nikita Edited—I didn't mean to imply that he was to blame, merely that's just what happened. –  waiwai933 Mar 13 '11 at 0:40
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@waiwai933 Understandable that some might not see it as being illegitimate. However, that's why it takes 5 votes to move a question unless a mod intervenes. Out of five people, there should be enough who see a question as illegitimate that it gets taken care of. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 0:41
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@WesleyDavid "Enough" in this case would be 3 - the majority. You can't expect the majority of SO users to be familiar with networking (as this thread clearly indicates) –  Nikita Rybak Mar 13 '11 at 0:44
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@Nikita No we don't expect that. But you should be able to recognize a bad, malformed, nebulous question. Especially if you use the sites for any length of time. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 0:56
    
@Holocryptic We're going in circles, don't you think? I've written twice already that each site decides its noob-friendliness itself. In fact, the "no question is too basic" approach is rather popular on SO and you can see lots of confused users being corrected here. –  Nikita Rybak Mar 13 '11 at 1:33
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@Nikita I think the consternation from SF is that we think that we can expect the majority of SO users to be familiar enough with basic computer topics to know that this is a silly question that should be quashed. Surely SO users with high enough rep to vote, and especially for someone elected a moderator. Just like just about any SysAdmin woth his weight will be able to spot a particularly poor programming question. Our concern seems to be that perhaps our purpose in the SE universe is not understood well enough. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 1:34
    
@Wesley as far as I can see from the SO end, I do not have the impression that SF's purpose is being misunderstood. I rarely see a proposed migration that I don't agree with (and those deal mostly with mod_rewrite or shell scripting issues). SU is much more in danger of getting sent crappy questions because they seem in some way "computer related" –  Pëkka Mar 13 '11 at 1:43
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...Again, I think this specific incident boils down to two things: 1) Why the unilateral decision (is that a SO thing more than it is at SF?) and we of SF think it was painfully obvious that it was a non-question just like we filter out painfully obvious questions about development rather than punting them to SO. We think that community votes to close would have been better because we believe that most SO users would have seen it as white noise that needed to be removed. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 2:07
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@waiwai933 Thank you! –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 3:35
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@waiwai933 As per your edits, I'm trying hard not to beat a dead horse, but I don't want to focus on the technical aspects of LANs, WANs and transfer speeds. It seemed to SF users that the very question, regardless of a person's expertise, was in a worthless form. Example: I know nothing about plumbing. If I'm at plumbing.SE.com and see a guy ask "What the most amount of water I can pump through a pipe." I would know, regardless of my experience with plumbing, that that question needs to be closed. Some on SF felt that we were being carelessly tossed scraps like red headed stepchildren. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 3:42

enter image description here

My point of course is that the close dialog clearly indicates the scope of the site the question is being migrated to.

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What point are you trying to make, George? –  Michael Petrotta Mar 13 '11 at 0:21
    
@Michael: Sorry... I posted the image and then went back to add the explanation. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Mar 13 '11 at 0:22
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@George Edison: you are missing the point a crappy question is a crappy question - kill kill kill –  Iain Mar 13 '11 at 0:23
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And I would say that the original author of the question was clearly not a professional sysadmin or desktop support. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 0:23
    
@Holocryptic: In which case it ought to have been SU complaining about being used as a dumping ground? –  Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 1:17
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@Andrew No. The "question" in question should have been nuked. End of story. –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 1:21
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@Andrew This isn't a discussion about migrations as much as it is about killing questions that obviously are not of a quality to be answered. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 1:41

It's a bad question, but it's a bad SF/SU question, not a bad SO question.

It's easier for a SF person to determine it's a bad question than for a SO person to do it. Even if the SO person spent one minute googling to work that it's a bad question, that's still too much effort.

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This raises a point: Bad questions should die where they are found, not carried across borders to be killed there. I believe that there is a class of questions that are obviously supposed to be killed on sight out of courtesy for the sister sites and their community. As for "It's easier for a SF person to determine..." that's reasonable to a point. However, "do U haz teh codes" questions, as this question seems obviously to be, should be able to be determined to be killworthy by the community. And now we're back to frustration over the unilateral decision. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 1:37
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if it is really so much effort, why not just do nothing, or just close, and not migrate. It seems like it is better to close questions and expect the person asking the question to open a new question on the correct site then migrate something when you are not certain it is appropriate. –  Zoredache Mar 13 '11 at 7:28
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I have to agree with Zoredache - if you don't know if a question is good enough to be migrated and you're not willing to invest the time checking then leave it alone rather than blindly migrate. –  RobM Mar 13 '11 at 8:58

Hmmm, do you imply that ServerFault should not accept naive or otherwise hobbyist questions?

There are plenty of noob questions with flawed premises on StackOverflow. Explaining why they are flawed is part of the Q&A game, don't you think?

[...] that any developer with virtually any amount of experience would be able to spot this question as subjective

By the way, there is no "subjectivity" in the discussed question - its "a priori" intention is to try to get some sort of fact. The OP is just ignorant about something which is utterly obvious for you (LAN/WAN concepts), and that's where you could have helped him.

In any case, whatever your attitude towards the faulty question is, I believe there is some overreaction here about its migration.

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Naive ... yes, hobbyist NO. from our faq: "Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity" –  Zypher Mar 13 '11 at 1:19
    
Absolutally. We don't do hobby questions, we do questions that apply to professionals. Most hobbiests don't have the kind of systems that are applicable to SF. –  Mark Henderson Mar 13 '11 at 1:20
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Noob questions are okay, so long as they are not duplicates, and be sure that after a year and a half many noob questions have been thoroughly answered. However, "noob questions" need to be phrased in a manner that makes at least a modest amount of sense and can be answered in a concrete way. We are here to tell people why their technical situation is not best addressed with what they are asking for, not how to construct full sentences and convey human thought in written form. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 1:39
    
@WesleyDavid: The guy basically asks what is the max bandwith / transfer rate on LAN/WAN networks. Besides some misspelled words and bad punctuation, his question, however flawed it be, is humanly parsable. –  Xoum Mar 13 '11 at 1:53
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@Xoum If you think "what is the max bandwith / transfer rate on LAN/WAN networks?" makes sense and can be given much of an answer then I don't think the conversation between us can go any farther and remain productive. I do believe that most people on SO would be able to see it for how unanswerable it is, thus the community process of voting to close/migrate it should have been relied on. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 2:01
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@Xorum How long is a piece of string? How big are my muscles? How do you use Regex? Whether or not it's parsable doesn't take away from the fact that you can't answer it in any way that brings value to the sites –  Holocryptic Mar 13 '11 at 2:03
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@Xoum, the questions would be equivalent to "How fast can I make my program go" with no other supporting information or code, do you really think that is a good question? –  Zypher Mar 13 '11 at 2:05
    
@WesleyDavid: I never implied that the question makes sense. I'm reacting to your phrase: "[we are here how to explain]..not how to construct full sentences and convey human thought in written form." As for the sense, well, what I imply is that sometimes a little bit of pedagogy will not harm. –  Xoum Mar 13 '11 at 2:09
    
@Xoum Thanks for the point about the use of the word "subjective"! You're right, that wasn't at all the right term for the situation. I edited it to reflect that. –  Wesley Mar 13 '11 at 6:17
    
@Xoum - with regards to over-reaction on our part, you have to understand that the problem isn't this question being migrated but rather low quality questions being migrated in general, with this one being both the most recent example and an example of an especially poor quality question. –  RobM Mar 13 '11 at 8:31

The "question" in question should have been nuked. End of story.

I agree -- where it was migrated is kind of irrelevant. It's simply a low-quality question not worth moving, and thus it should have been deleted or simply closed as off-topic.

The golden rule of question migration: never migrate crap!

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There's perverse incentive. If a question migrates, it's never coming back. If it merely closes, the muppets can re-open it. Thus ... –  Rosinante Mar 26 '11 at 14:13
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@rosi a fascinating theory, but not really seeing that as a problem in practice. Migrations also require one tag in common on the target site or they will be rejected and demoted to off-topic, FYI. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 27 '11 at 4:09

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