We all know that Meta Stack Overflow gets a bunch of off-topic questions that should have been posted on Stack Overflow in the first place.

Whenever I ask these users how they even came here, they fail to respond. Here's just one example — couldn't find others, as they've been deleted:

enter image description here

i am doing programming in c on usb..n i mn not able to understand this code..so i thought of taking help from this side.. – priya lall 10 mins ago

So, there's obviously no way to ask them how they got here. If they don't manage to understand what we're asking them, or read what the gazillion messages (next to the forms, banner about the FAQ) say, we'll need to find another way.

Therefore my question: For all first visitors on meta.stackoverflow.com, what is the #1 referrer link?

To be more precise, I'm really talking about the referring pages that link to meta.stackoverflow.com, the front page. I guess this data should be easily available to the developers. My suspicion is that this particular link named "ask it on meta" is the culprit.

enter image description here

What do the stats say?

Obviously, visiting the site does not necessarily imply asking a question here. If it's possible to track the number of visitors that clicked the "ask it on meta" link and asked a question, that would be an awesome statistic to have.

  • 1
    alas, you are not the first (or second) to post comments asking the OP how they got here. Also, many pure off-topic questions like this tend to get deleted so you may want to insert a picture before it goes.
    – tombull89
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:38
  • 7
    You're also not the first (or second) to figure that maybe the How To Ask is to blame.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:49
  • @GraceNote Interesting. Well, all I want to know if really that link is to blame :)
    – slhck
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:58
  • 2
  • @PopularDemand I knew your first one, but I couldn't find out any information on where these people come from.
    – slhck
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:01
  • Few admit they're using MSO when they are question banned from SO: Please ask this question on stackoverflow.com. This is the meta site.Icant ask any questiion theere
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:04
  • Yeah, this is a good question. I just like keeping related posts linked together.
    – Pops
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:06
  • Some statistics for the non-clickable link used in "Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account" can be found at goo.gl/C1Kwu+ But I think we cannot conclude anything from that? Also, I have seen folks register at SO before registering at MSO, and still ending up asking on MSO. Due to following links to the FAQ indeed, I assume.
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:11
  • 1
    For example this user registered on SO proper (2011-09-30, 20:24:30Z), then 27 minutes later registered on MSO (at 20:51:39Z), and ended up asking a (deleted) question on MSO two minutes after that (at 20:53:48Z; yup, typing a question in 2 minutes does not make it great either...).
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:26
  • @Arjan It's exactly these patterns … thanks for finding. The question is, how did they get from SO → MSO? What made them think it was okay to post here?
    – slhck
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:29
  • (@slhck, in the 30 minutes before it was closed, that user did not give us any clue either. Too bad.)
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:35
  • Ah, the user from your example registered at SO today at 09:27:30Z, and at MSO almost two hours later, at 11:12:24Z, to ask that closed question at 11:13:58Z. (Maybe we need to prohibit posting within two minutes after registering, or within one minute after starting to write the question. That was one bad post indeed...!)
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:45

5 Answers 5


By far the largest is SO itself. It probably accounts for nearly 80% of all the referring traffic (60% of total), then there's Google (30%) and 10% of hardcore users like you.

The stuff people search for on Google is either (not provided) or something silly like 'Jon Skeet', 'Markdown table' or 'lmgtfy'. My guess is that people were simply looking for something on MSO through Google.

So really what you want to know is what links on SO are sending users here and what kind of users are they (regulars or newbies). Those are stats I don't really have access too though

  • > So really what you want to know is what links on SO are sending users here and what kind of users are they (regulars or newbies). – exactly. That's what I said :) Actually, just "newbies". I'm sure this is available somewhere. I'm specifically not interested in returning users, or visitors of pages other than the front page (or the "ask a question" page, for that matter).
    – slhck
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:14
  • Well 50% of the number of visits is from "New users", which is much lower than on say SU (more like 2/3rd is new there). I guess that's because of the nature of MSO though. Still those numbers probably still don't help you much
    – Ivo Flipse
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:18
  • Did you just write "something silly like 'Jon Skeet'"? ;-)
    – Arjan
    Dec 10, 2011 at 15:57
  • 3
    Good that I didn't wrote someone silly ;-) @Arjan
    – Ivo Flipse
    Dec 10, 2011 at 15:58

I suspect it's that very "ask it on meta" link as well. On SO, that How to Ask box is very prominent, so people notice it. My guess is the people who end up here merely skim it, even though it's rather short.

When skimming, you tend to use bold sections as anchor points. The bold letters in that box form

Is your question about programming? ask it on meta (instead)

which is pretty unfortunate.


That box is the same across the network, but on other sites it stands out less and in any case their meta sites don't allow participation from new users.

  • The text on my screen looks a little bit different from yours... Apr 11, 2012 at 23:14
  • 1
    That screenshot was generated using patent-pending Noob Vision™ technology (produced with 0% real evidence).
    – a cat
    Apr 11, 2012 at 23:17

As an infrequent visitor I may be able to shed some light... Almost every time I've visited meta it has been from following the link for the Convention badge from the SO Badges page. I usually do this a few times a year when I'm looking at badges.

The requirement for the badge is 10 posts on meta with a score of 2. I could see folks trying to bump their post/score count without realizing what meta is for.


I always thought it was people who missed the big "Ask Question" box at the top would scroll all the way down to the bottom and see the only thing that came close to their need was the feedback link to meta.

I believe early on we requested a "Ask your own question" link prominently placed just above the footer, but was rejected for reasons of clutter...


One way they might find this site is because they are attempting to get those meta badges (1 and 2) on stack overflow.

Another would be the "How to Ask" box, stated in another answer. This might confuse some into thinking that if their question isnt answered on stack, then ask it on meta.

I prepose that the first time users access meta, they are prompted to read a little paragraph explaining that this isn't stackoverflow and.... explain some things.

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