Let's say I come across a recently posted question on Stack Overflow which is clearly better suited for another Stack Exchange site.

Let's also assume that the site it belongs on is not one of the automatic migration targets listed in the "close as off topic" menu (which it usually isn't — the SE network is big, and automatic migration targets are few and far between).

How should I deal with it?

  • a) Flag it for ♦ moderator attention, with a note saying "Migrate to whatever.SE."
  • b) Vote to close it as off topic, and leave a polite comment pointing the asker to the other site.
  • c) Both of the above.
  • d) Something else.

Also, should the decision depend on whether the question already has answers? Or on whether it already has an accepted (or highly upvoted and clearly correct) answer?

Ps. For some background, my usual approach in the past has been (a) — flag the question promptly for migration, so that it can be cleanly and smoothly rerouted to the appropriate site, while ensuring that anyone else finding the question on Google will also be sent to the right place.

I'm aware that, by doing so, I've been creating extra work for the ♦ mods, but nobody's explicitly complained about it so far, and past meta threads on the subject have pretty clearly implied that this is appropriate.

However, lately I've seen a few of these flags declined, and also many of them accepted as "helpful" but without the question actually being migrated. So, naturally, I'm starting to wonder if I'm handling these situations the wrong way, and whether there's some better approach (like, say, (b) above)?

I'd particularly like to get some "official" feedback from the SO mods: give that you end up making the final call anyway, what sort of questions should I and should I not send your way?

Pps. For more concrete context, here are some recent example entries (in reverse chronological order) from my flag history since Christmas:

That's 17 flags over about four (admittedly busy) days, three of them declined and not a single one actioned. That kind of suggests to me that I must be doing something wrong here.

I'm happy to also receive any critique, even harsh, on those specific flags (especially if accompanied by helpful advice on how to deal with such cases better), but what I'm mainly hoping for is more general feedback that could be useful to others as well; I only added the list to make it clear what kind of questions and flags I'm taking about.

  • 1
    Note that the destination site moderators have something to say about migrations as well. The 'local' mod may agree it's a migration candidate, but the quality of the post is such that the target site moderator declines it. Your flag is then still helpful, but the post won't be migrated. What makes a good migration candidate thus can vary by target site as much as anything. Dec 29 '12 at 18:50
  • It is possible you are seeing more declined flags because the moderators are taking a more strict approach with flags recently, where previously if they felt you were wrong but trying to be helpful, it was marked as helpful. Dec 29 '12 at 18:59
  • @psubsee2003: Actually, I'm fine with that. If I make a bad flagging decision, I'd rather see it declined (ideally with a helpful note for the future) than accepted and silently forgotten. Dec 29 '12 at 19:17
  • @IlmariKaronen I am as well for the same reasons.... I linked the post here just because I thought it might be relevant. Dec 29 '12 at 19:22
  • The first thing to do is think quality, neither of the examples you suggested should go to SF would pass my quality test for migration. Once you decide something is good enough to migrate, then consider 'fit' for the target site.
    – user147520
    Dec 29 '12 at 20:16
  • @Iain: Fair enough. I guess I was thinking that, even if they're weak, it would be better to have them be weak and on topic than weak and off topic. Admittedly, I'm not too familiar with SF quality standards (which probably means I shouldn't be flagging any more questions for migration there), but neither of them seemed so bad to me that I would've voted to close them for poor quality alone. Dec 29 '12 at 20:24

When all of the following criteria apply:

  1. The question could not be closed for any of the other reasons.

  2. The question isn't more than 60 days old (regular users and moderators can no longer vote for migration, but nothing stops users from flagging it anyways).

  3. You are familiar enough with the target site to know, with 100% certainty, that it belongs there.

If the question does not meet any one of those, just vote to close it and move on.

  • Thanks. Just to clarify, if the question is low-quality but salvageable, does that mean I should edit it before flagging, rather than waiting to see whether it will be migrated or not? Dec 29 '12 at 18:58
  • Yes, always edit to improve it if you can. They don't know you want to improve it, only that it looks bad as it is.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 29 '12 at 18:59
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    That last one, being familiar enough with the target site, is the hardest. Server Fault was removed as a migration target because people thought they knew what was on topic there and were mistaken approximately half the time. Dec 29 '12 at 19:16
  • @Michael: It would be nice if rep on the target site could factor into the process somehow. I may not be an infallible authority on what's on topic for, say, crypto.SE, but I think I might have some vague idea about it. Dec 29 '12 at 19:25
  • @IlmariKaronen At the moment, moderators do not migrate questions to beta sites, so a comment which leads people to your beta site would probably be best. Dec 29 '12 at 20:46
  • @Michael: What, really? That's definitely news to me. I'm sure I've seen migrated posts on beta sites before. (In fact, I just linked to one in another comment.) Dec 29 '12 at 20:51
  • @IlmariKaronen I said that they do not, not that they can not. My understanding is there's some sort of policy reason for not doing it now, though I don't have the specifics handy. Dec 29 '12 at 20:59
  • @Michael: According to stackoverflow.com/tools/posts/migrated/stats, in the last 90 days there were 71 questions migrated from SO to codereview.SE, 21 to dsp.SE, 15 to cs.SE, 10 to crypto.SE and 8 to other beta sites. The latest one was yesterday. I'd say that pretty conclusively suggests that the mods do, in fact, migrate questions to beta sites. Jan 1 '13 at 18:09
  • @IlmariKaronen: I've never personally heard of not migrating to beta sites, but I remember there was a lot of controversy with very old and highly upvoted questions being migrated to beta sites, since it put them clear ahead of other questions and skewed the beta statistics.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jan 1 '13 at 18:11

The majority of those questions are just way too low-quality to migrate anywhere. One or two of the following might be salvagable, but that's really the best I can say. None of them are really great questions that we should be in a hurry to migrate anywhere. I think all of these would be closed on the target site if they were migrated.

You can improve your accept rate on these types of flags if you only flag questions that are of really high quality, and that you know the community on another site will want. If you're not 100% sure it would be a great question on another site, just vote to close it where it's at.

  • Thanks. I still think the image encryption question could be made into an interesting question for crypto.SE, but I agree that the way it's written is not too great. (Crypto is a fairly quiet site, so we tend to spend more effort on salvaging weak questions than SO does, or possibly could.) And I don't think we'd close the RSA question just for poor quality, either, although we might close it as a duplicate. Dec 29 '12 at 20:09
  • I guess what most bothers me about questions like the RSA one is that they've already slipped in through the gap -- they already have a correct, well written answer on SO, so just closing them after the fact amounts to little more than slapping an "off topic" sticker on them. It does nothing to lead the user to the correct site for such questions, or to discourage other users from asking more such questions on SO. Dec 29 '12 at 20:18
  • 2
    @IlmariKaronen Downvoting and closing as off-topic does discourage other users from asking the same kinds of questions on SO. A comment might lead the user to the correct site, but I'd rather not encourage such low-quality questions on any SE site. Dec 29 '12 at 20:23

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