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A question was posted on site X, but it looks like it might be suitable on site Y. How should moderators and close-voters decide whether to migrate it to site Y? What criteria should be used?

This was a subject of a lengthy discussion among multiple site mods, and it became clear there is a broad range of opinions about this subject and apparently no definitive reference outlining an approach. So, this is an attempt to create a reference question, in hopes that it generates answers that help outline possible ways to think about this.

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Some criteria to help guide this decision:

  1. Don't migrate crap. We don't migrate low-quality questions. Migrating a low-quality question to some other site wastes your time and theirs. Also, it can make the other site feel like they're being treated as a dumping ground. If in doubt about the quality of the post, don't migrate it: just close it. Only migrate high-quality questions.

  2. If you don't know what questions are appropriate on the target site, don't migrate questions there. If you're not familiar with the target site or don't already know well what is on-topic there, don't migrate a question there. If you're not sure whether the question falls within the target site's scope, it's better not to migrate it. Alternatively, if you care, you can read the target site's FAQ (their help page on what is on-topic) and see if you can work out whether it is on-topic.

  3. Don't ping moderators in chat about each individual migration. If you're unsure about a potential migration, tou might be tempted to try to look up one of the moderators on the target site on chat, and ask them whether they want the question. Generally, it's a good idea to try to resist this temptation. Moderators' time is limited; asking before each candidate migration doesn't scale and is not a good use of their time.

    There are some exceptions to this advice: sites with particularly stringent requirements for questions, such as the recommendations sites, may benefit from being asked beforehand. (Source: HR mod here.)

    If you must ask one of the target site's moderators, it's better if you are treating it as a learning exercise: do ask a general question about the site's scope, like "Does your site accept questions about kitten pictures?"; don't ask "Do you want the following question?". But only do that if you really have a desire to learn more about the target site's scope, and have already investigated it diligently on their FAQ and help center. And even then, it's probably still a dubious use of moderator time: rather than pinging an individual moderator, those kinds of questions are probably better on meta, so that the answer can be documented for others in the future. If you're getting the impression that this is all rather tedious, that's exactly the right impression -- and the correct conclusion to draw from that is, if you don't know the target site's scope, don't migrate questions there.

  4. Don't migrate questions just because they might be a better fit elsewhere, unless the poster asks. If the question is posted on X and is on-topic on both X and Y but might be a better fit on Y, then don't forcibly migrate the question to Y. If the poster asks for it to be migrated to site Y, then it's fine to migrate it, but otherwise, don't migrate on-topic posts somewhere else just because you think it'd be an even better fit elsewhere. The original poster decided to post on site X; respect that.

  5. Don't migrate questions with many answers or many votes. Sometimes a question receives many answers, or gets many votes on the question or many votes on answers, before you get the chance to migrate it. In those cases, you usually should avoid migrating the question. Migrating a question with many votes on it to another site is disrespectful to the target site: because vote scores don't get zeroed, it means that a question gets dumped on the target site with the question or the answers already starting at some high value, and consequently vote scores don't reflect the target site's community views. If vote scores are high, it can be hard for the target site's community to accumulate enough votes of their own to override the votes the question/answers already received elsewhere -- it's not a good situation. So, to avoid this situation, it's better to simply avoid migrating such questions. If they are off-topic, close them.

  6. Don't migrate questions with accepted answers. If the question has already received an answer that the poster has accepted, that's often an indication that the poster is satisfied with that answer and is not looking for other answers. In that situation, there's little to be gained by migrating it elsewhere.

  7. Beware of special cases. There are a few sites that should almost never migrate to unless you really know what you're doing, because their requirements and expectations are sufficiently unique: e.g., Skeptics, Software Recommendations, Hardware Recommendations.

See also the answer to the FAQ on migration for some similar (but arguably slightly incomplete) advice.

  • Do you want this to be the final word for the community? If not, consider making your answer a community wiki. – 286110 Jan 25 '16 at 14:07
  • @Firelord, thanks for asking. I certainly don't claim to be able to speak on behalf of the community. I'd love for others to post an answer of their own, suggest edits, or post comments with feedback or constructive suggestions. If you have thoughts, I hope you'll contribute! – D.W. Jan 25 '16 at 17:05

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