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A little while back, Stack Exchange announced new policies related to graduation and site closure. In short, graduation is considered once a site consistently received 10 questions per day, sites get closed if they are not producing helpful content or lose their caretakers, and sites between these extremes can perpetually remain in beta until one of these things happen.

There are three considerations:

  • Linking to a beta site in another site's /help/on-topic page, a post on a site's Meta. These are considered more "authoritative" sources for users to receive guidance on a site's scope and other possible communities to receive help.
  • Moderator migrations to beta sites.
  • User-selectable migration targets.

Currently, to the best of my understanding, the policies are:

  • Only link to a beta site on an "authoritative" page after talking to their moderators and work with them to establish guidance around the text to make sure their scope is clear to readers.
  • Limit migrations to public beta sites to the best questions. Rarely, if ever, migrate to private beta sites.
  • Beta sites can not be user-selectable migration targets. Only moderators can migrate to beta sites.

Given the new policies around graduation and the possibility of perpetual beta sites, is there new guidance regarding linking and migrating questions to public beta sites? Should we treat healthy public beta sites just like other fully graduated sites? Is there a specific point that we can consider a site developed enough to treat as a mature site?

  • This would be very helpful for the issue I described on SO's Meta. – 410_Gone Jun 12 '15 at 18:55
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    @EBrown I just asked for clarification to this point from Grace Note's response. I may want to talk to the mods on sites related to Programmers (Computer Science, Software Quality Assurance, Project Management, Engineering) about maybe putting links at the bottom of our /help/on-topic page. – Thomas Owens Jun 12 '15 at 18:59
  • But they won't be beta sites any more... They'll be "sites". – Catija Jun 12 '15 at 20:17
  • Sorry, that's per Robert here. So maybe some terminology update if his answer doesn't get at what you're asking? – Catija Jun 12 '15 at 20:23
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This won't have changed too much. We're still going to look at what has been sent to a destination (mostly by mods) and look at the rejection rate before we set up a migration path. That's still pretty much data-driven. Let's look at each of the policies you brought up.

Only link to a beta site on an "authoritative" page after talking to their moderators and work with them to establish guidance around the text to make sure their scope is clear to readers.

This should really have little to do with beta sites and more to do with general site etiquette in general. If you want to point somewhere in places like your Help Center, you really want to make sure that's actually appreciated by the target, whether or not it is in beta status. You don't need their approval alongside a huge checklist to put on the page, but just an honest courtesy goes a long way. You also probably shouldn't have a giant list of sites there to begin with, but that's sort of its own kind of beast to deal with.

It being in beta status usually means there's risks that may happen if they get an influx of improper material - for example, Arduino has had to deal with an influx of less-than-ideal questions being migrated from Electrical Engineering, overwhelming their own natural content. While that specific case deals with migrations, linking follows much the same pattern - check if they're ready to even receive the stuff to begin with. But this kind of respect should be offered to non-beta sites as well.

Limit migrations to public beta sites to the best questions. Rarely, if ever, migrate to private beta sites.

This is still in effect and unlikely to change with regards to sites that are in name classified as public beta or private beta.

Beta sites can not be user-selectable migration targets. Only moderators can migrate to beta sites.

This will still be in effect as well, again with regards to sites that are denoted as public beta or private beta.


Things are still being considered with regards to the recent announcement and whether or not anything needs to change. But for now, it's pretty much unchanged.

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    Can you elaborate on your first point? I'm referring to the practice of sites like Stack Overflow and Programmers. For example, on Programmers, we linked to Stack Overflow for implementation/code fix questions and The Workplace for "general workplace issues, office politics, and job hunting" (those words came from a Workplace mod). Would it be OK for us to edit in links to sites like Computer Science, Project Management, Engineering, Software Recommendations, and Software Quality Assurance (perhaps after talking to their mods) even though they are beta sites? – Thomas Owens Jun 12 '15 at 18:45
  • Well, it took your comment for me to figure that you mean "(only link to a beta site) (on an "authoritative" page)" as opposed to "only link to (a beta site on an "authoritative" page)". So let me rewrite that. – Grace Note Jun 12 '15 at 20:05
  • Sorry about that. I'm rather against linking to sites in comments and such, but it is useful, I think, to somehow be able to point people to related sites. The idea is that they read the Help Center or whatever, say "my question doesn't fit here :(", but then see places that they can go. – Thomas Owens Jun 12 '15 at 20:07
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    Elaborated. You probably don't want to link to every single possible site that someone might want to go to when they stumble into your site, keep in mind. – Grace Note Jun 12 '15 at 20:14
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Stack Exchange's policies haven't been clear or consistent, so I'm going to describe the policy that I apply, as a user or moderator on the source or target site of a potential migration.

Obviously, migration should only be considered if the question is off-topic on the site where it is and is suitable (on-topic and good quality) on the potential target. Some allowance can be made if the question is not really off-topic on its original site but is somewhat marginal and the asker agrees to the migration. Another consideration is not to migrate questions with heavier voting than the target site normally sustains, because that makes it impossible for the target site to rate incoming answers (the problem is that migration retains votes, which doesn't make sense). Graduation doesn't affect any of these criteria.

The fundamental rule of migrations relating to a site's age is: no migration from or to a site during its very early days. Very early days is longer than the private beta. That's the period when a site's community needs to focus on kickstarting its own content, and not on curating other people's, hence no incoming migration. That's also a period during which on/off-topic needs to be considered carefully, hence no migration which might prove to have been done in error because the community decided that the question was on-topic after all (perhaps after some editing). The minimum threshold where I will consider migration is when a site has moderators. Not only does that indicate a milestone where the site is beginning to find its marks, but that also means that someone with good knowledge of the site is here to intervene if something goes wrong (e.g. needing to reject the migration).

The more established a beta, the less reluctant I am to migrate to or from it. “No migration to/from beta sites”, which SE has sometimes said, makes no sense for beta sites that have been around for several months and have a clear scope definition. Such a rule would have benefited no beta that I've ever been part of, after the initial few weeks.

On Computer Science (where I'm a moderator), incoming migrations are fine. It would entirely make sense for us to have a migration path from Theoretical Computer Science, which regularly gets questions that are off-topic there solely because they aren't research-level; what prevents us from having one is an administrative rule which benefits neither site. I'd be more reluctant to have an incoming migration path from SO or Programmers, because I don't trust either site's community to know what computer science is. Migrations validated by someone who does understand what the site is about are perfectly fine, and I encourage the migration of decent-quality computer science questions from sites such as SO, Programmers, Crypto, etc. Conversely, CS.SE migrates questions out — we get a lot of programming questions, and we do migrate some of them (but we close a lot in situ, because the kind of people who ask programming questions on CS.SE are typically not the best at asking, even if they didn't post on CS.SE just to avoid a question ban on SO).

On Software Recommendations (where I'm a moderator), incoming migrations can be fine, but if anyone suggests asking anything on SR.SE, please do make sure that you're familiar with our question quality guidelines and please link to them. SR.SE is unusual among SE sites in that it has fairly heavy-handed moderation; we close questions that don't have precise enough requirements or a statement of purpose, and we outright delete answers that just say “use this” without explaining how that fits the question. I would not want any migration path to SR.SE any time soon, because I don't trust any community to apply our quality guidelines. SR.SE gets few off-topic questions that could be asked elsewhere so outgoing migrations are not really an issue.

There are other site pairs where a migration path would be clearly warranted, which is only held off for the administrative reason that one of the sites is in beta, and not for the good of the site. Among the betas I frequent, only Crypto → Security, Crypto → SO, Security → Crypto come to mind (in addition to CSTheory → CS and maybe CS → SO), but I'm sure there are plenty of others.

  • lets add to your list rpi -> U&L, writers -> ell. – hildred Jul 1 '15 at 1:14

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