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We spend a fair amount of time talking about question migrations between sites. These conversations happen internally, publicly and semi-publicly in the network-wide moderator chat room. In the interest of reducing the time we collectively spend discussing it, let’s see if we can formulate a clear and useful migration strategy.

Can we build a wall between sites?

My first thought was to just block migrations altogether. We already do this when questions are older than 60 days, so there’s some precedent for it. Certainly, it will only have a minimal impact on Stack Overflow1:

Migrated To site Away from site Migration % Site   
-------- ------- -------------- ----------- ----
    1498     728           770         0.20 Stack Overflow

But there are a number of sites with a fair number of migrations that represent more than 3% of questions posted on the site in the last 90 days:

     700     434           266         4.07 Super User
     541      24           517         9.52 English Language and Usage
     495     482            13        14.61 English Language Learners
     410     157           253         4.55 Statistical Analysis
     367      60           307         3.94 Server Fault
     282      49           233         4.23 Electronics and Robotics
     267     149           118         3.21 Unix and Linux
     265     207            58         0.62 Mathematics
     204     251            79         5.72 IT Security

I looked at the ELU => ELL connection in particular. Organic asking accounts for most questions on the Learner's site. However several hundred are imported quarterly from the general English site. And this occurs with minimal friction as far as I can tell. Despite my subjective impression, question migration generally works, so we ought not take it away.

When does it makes sense to migrate?

In discussions among the Community Managers, we've expressed two mutually exclusive2 ideas of when to migrate questions:

  1. Don’t migrate with a lot of history since that tends to cause problems on the target site.

  2. Don’t migrate questions without a lot of history since there's nothing to lose by asking people to reask elsewhere.

Looking at the questions migrated away from English Language and Usage (mostly to English Language Learners), it seems they are often not answered or much upvoted before migration:

Migrated away Avg score Avg answers Avg comments Avg age (days) 
------------- --------- ----------- ------------ -------------- 
          517  0.388781    0.552742     3.299168       2.865096       

On the destination site, they tend to be voted on and answered:

Migrated here Avg score Avg answers Avg comments Avg age (days) 
------------- --------- ----------- ------------ -------------- 
          482  1.192946    1.445378     3.455525       2.322613      

Obviously, we are preselecting for newish questions since we don’t allow migrations after 60 days. I’m also assuming this is healthy site interaction. Looking at recently migrated questions, it seems the pattern is to limit interaction on these questions to comments (which often point out the off-topicness). In particular, people seem to be avoiding voting on or answering questions likely to be migrated.

Proposed way to think about migrations

Most of the time when we talk about migrating questions, it’s in the context of rescuing content otherwise doomed to deletion. But we already have a ready solution to that problem: historical locks3. Now that old questions can only be migrated by employees, migration just isn’t a practical tool for preserving content. So I’d like to propose an alternate theory of migration:

Migrate questions when it saves the asker the effort to reask.

In other words, migration is a service we offer to people who misunderstand the complex structure of Stack Exchange sites. Rather than forcing them to create an account on a new site, copy and paste their question (including title and tags), and potentially get comments and answers from two different sites, we just move the whole thing to where it belongs.

This is the philosophy behind the guidance4 we wrote for moderators:

Please don't "horse trade" questions. Don't migrate crap and remember that destination sites can reject migrated questions by closing them. If you still think a question needs migrating, follow these guidelines:

  1. If the question is on-topic for the site where it was asked, and it is answered, decline immediately. (If you feel like being generous, check if the flagger is also the answerer and migrate if this is the case.)

  2. If the question is off-topic or unanswered and the flagger has a good bit of reputation on the target site, go ahead and migrate; they probably know what they're talking about.

  3. If the question is off-topic but seems reasonably well-written and you understand it well enough to believe it belongs on the target site, migrate.

Don't ping another site's mods about potential migrations unless you're honestly interested in learning more about their site's scope. Be sure to read the site's help/on-topic page.


I'd love to get your feedback on this proposed migration philosophy. But there are a few things it's probably not constructive to focus on:

  1. There are some UI concerns with migration right now. While changing the interface to match the goals of the feature is good idea, let's nail down the purpose of migration first.

  2. If you've seen an example of a bad migration, it's only helpful to bring it up if it illustrates a principle not considered above. My subjective judgment based on years of anecdotal evidence is that migration isn't working. But looking at aggregate data, I know that's bad analysis.

So what do you think?


Footnotes:

  1. The numbers from public data don't match the numbers below because the public data doesn't retain post history information about deleted posts. The numbers are also from a few weeks ago when I wrote the draft of this question. But these are representative.

  2. I sometimes get the feeling that users assume CMs have a unified view of how things should work on our sites. That's a carefully crafted illusion created by having intense arguments in private and then having the winning view written up for public consumption. Many times we've talked about recording our conversations to publish as a podcast or somesuch.

  3. Unfortunately Meta sometimes makes the internet just a little bit worse. A Google search for "historical lock" turns up: What is a historical lock, and what is it used for?

  4. If you are a moderator, please see /help/mod-tl on your site. That article also includes information on the Teachers' Lounge, which is valuable resource you might have forgotten about.

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    I'm not yet 100% clear on what changes you're proposing, or what concrete effect those images would have, but I can tell you as a 20K on EL&U, I would sorely miss the ability to migrate to ELL, and thereby show people who google has guided to the wrong site a place they can get help from experts familiar with their exact circumstances. Without it, we're going to get a lot more frustrated and angry newcomers, simply because Google's engine doesn't understand the internals of SE's structure. That said, I can't say there been no friction between the sites on the issue of migration. – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:11
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    @Catija That means that 85% of the migrations were a good thing, and helped OP, and provided more good questions and traffic to ELL, while also keeping OT questions off ELU? Seems like a all-round benefit to me. – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:24
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    @Catija: The data suggests ~12% of migrations from ELU to ELL are somehow mistaken. That's not too bad by in my opinion. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 19:25
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    And to be completely honest, 85% is only that because the voters on ELL are extremely kind and disinclined to close migrated questions because they (we) know that they'll end up in limbo. Much is done to fix them when they arrive but that shouldn't be the job of ELL... if one site was constantly sending a bunch of ill-formatted, poor quality questions to your favorite site, don't you think you'd feel a bit like a trash can? – Catija Oct 7 '16 at 19:34
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    @Catija You shouldn't think of ELU as sending bad questions, but as Google sending them. They're landing in the wrong place from the get go. That's outside our control, and it's unfair to expect us to act as a pre-filter or editing service for another site. You should treat them as if they'd been asked on ELL, the correct site, in the first place. If you accept Jen because otherwise they'd be in limbo, then you'd do that regardless if they'd been asked on ELL from the beginning. – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:36
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    @Catija the problem there is that a lot of ELU close voters don't know the scope of ELL very well. While 2k reputation might be a good threshold to decide on stuff on your own SE site you participate in that doesn't mean one knows the target site. Maybe one should only be able to vote for migration if one also has a certain amount of target site reputation. – Helmar Oct 7 '16 at 19:36
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    Can you explain what exactly you're proposing here? I can't tell if this is for changing the UI or for changing the guidance given for migrations or for a cultural change. – hichris123 Oct 7 '16 at 19:38
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    @Helmar IMO, it's unreasonable to expect one site to be familiar with the norms of the other, especially as they're likely to change. My position is that the questions should be treated as if they'd been asked on ELL in the first place, which is the whole idea of migration. That they were asked on the wrong site first is immaterial. If they are close-worthy, then the should be closed, if they need edits, then the ELL community should edit them, and so on. EL&U is just a bystander caught in the cross-fire. If a English language learner asks a question about learning English, it belongs on ELL – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:39
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    @DanBron but that's not how migrations work... We can't VTC something, wait for the OP to fix it and then reopen if it's been migrated... we have to sit on our thumbs and wait with it open or send it into limbo. – Catija Oct 7 '16 at 19:44
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    @Catija No, it doesn't make sense to VTC things which are off-topic on the origin site, because no amount of editing will make them on-topic. You migrate them, and then the target site treats them exactly as if they'd been asked directly on the site in the first place (that is, ignoring the irrelevant fact that OP chose the wrong site to ask on). If that means VTC and awaiting edits, then you should VTC and wait edits. It's unfair to try to press-gang a community into being auxilary police for a different site, simply because google, outside of their control, is misdirecting people. – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:48
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    @DanBron YOU CAN'T close a question and AWAIT EDITS because that's not what happens with migrations. If a migrated question is closed, it's forced back to the asking site where it was just deleted... so it's in limbo. You can NOT reopen these questions. – Catija Oct 7 '16 at 19:50
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    @Catija & sumelic OHHHH! I didn't know that! Now the penny finally dropped. Hmm, now I have some soul searching to do. Really there should be two options: "reject migration" (no amount of editing can rescue this question, it's about unicorns, not learning English) and "treat question as if it'd been asked here in the first place" (meaning its subject to closure because it's shitty or unclear, but the if any site can serve it, it's us). – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 19:51
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    I'd love to get your feedback - Do you guys honestly care about users feedback? – Mr. Alien Oct 7 '16 at 21:22
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    @Mr.Alien: Yes we do. Now we don't always do exactly what users ask, but the only reason I asked the question was to get feedback. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 21:41
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    I don't really understand what's new about this proposal. – curiousdannii Oct 8 '16 at 12:12

24 Answers 24

171

Yes, migration is a poorly-understood ball of sorrow and frustration right now; let's fix that. Your goal of migrate when it makes things easier for the asker is, IMO, the right goal. To that end:

Treat migration suggestions like duplicate suggestions. When somebody votes/flags to suggest a migration, present that suggestion to the OP along with the other site's on-topic summary (kind of like this suggestion, but on the receiving side instead of the close-voting side). If he agrees, create the account for him (if necessary), migrate, and create the stub on the original site. This should leave the user on his question on the new site, so he'll be right there and can further edit, tag, etc. This approach also speeds up getting the OP his answers; he can act immediately instead of waiting for a community migration or a mod to handle a flag.

That stub on the original site should be just that -- a migration stub. Don't allow reopen votes or edits; the OP has moved on.

This should be the only path to migration. No community migrations, no mod actions. "Migrate" is really "move", and it's up to the OP.1 It makes sense for the OP to control this because he can already, instead, just go ask the question there, leaving duplicates in his wake.

Further, if the OP doesn't follow through on the other site, it's not going to be useful to the other site unless it's already super-well-asked and requires no clarifications from comments. How many migrated questions do you see with no user attached to the question? I think that's the majority of migrations I see. I sometimes wonder if the answers to such questions help anybody at all. (Yes answers are for everybody, not just the OP, but when I'm answering a question I know there's at least one person who cares. Except if there isn't because there's no user.)

So instead of communities making the decision to migrate, let's help the asker move and maintain his question.

If the question is then closed on the destination site, don't send it back to the originating site. I've seen that give OPs whiplash, and I don't think I've ever seen it help. Since the only way to migrate a question will be by action of the OP, there's no point. This makes the situation equivalent to "closed and reposted on the new site", instead of leaving the user confused about where his question really is.

This approach allows SE to bake in any restrictions you like on migrations. If you don't want questions to be migrated under some circumstances, then you won't offer that option to the OP. (Ideally you'd also disable to close/flag option in that case, but we don't have that now so it's not required for an MVP. You can come back to that.)

1 I can see an argument for letting mods do migrations, but as a mod I'm not thrilled by having to evaluate requests for migration to a bunch of different sites. Mods aren't supposed to be arbiters of correctness. So I'd rather that mod migration be an unusual exception, not SOP. I've seen first-hand that community migrations don't have a good success rate.

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    @Makoto when the community suggests those migrations now, though (in comments), the OP can go re-ask, potentially cross-posting. How much that happens I don't know. This way at least we help him relocate it instead of spawning more copies. – Monica Cellio Oct 7 '16 at 19:53
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    I don't like this idea. Who cares exactly what the OP thinks? The ultimate decision should not be up to them. Sure, give them the opportunity to weigh in, but whether the question is answered or not is important to other people searching for answers to that question too. – hichris123 Oct 7 '16 at 19:55
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    It's definitely an interesting idea but I can't see restricting the decision only to the OP being a good idea. – Cai Oct 7 '16 at 20:03
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    @hichris123 the OP can go re-ask the question on the other site now, so he already has that much control. This is really just a way of helping him do that without creating the duplicate questions and stray migration stubs and whatnot that come from our current system. – Monica Cellio Oct 7 '16 at 20:07
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    @Cai the problem with letting the community migrate questions is the high failure rate due to lack of knowledge of the target site. There are lots of meta questions about ways to fix that. This would make that not happen any more. If the OP doesn't go along with the migration his question just gets closed, same as for any other problem in the question that he could fix but doesn't. – Monica Cellio Oct 7 '16 at 20:09
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    @MonicaCellio I understand that's a problem but I don't see how OP has better judgment than mods and/or the community? – Cai Oct 7 '16 at 20:10
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    @Cai his judgement might not be any better, but since he can just go ask it there now, this doesn't give him anything he can't already do -- it just makes the UX better. As a mod, I don't really want to be forced to evaluate each suggestion myself, and I've seen communities get it wrong a lot. – Monica Cellio Oct 7 '16 at 20:14
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    @MonicaCellio I agree with all that and I think in general it's a great idea I just don't see limiting the decision to OP is benefiting anyone. "As a mod, I don't really want to be forced to evaluate each suggestion" doesn't really sound like a valid argument to me. Dupes/CVs etc all need to be evaluated and just letting OP decide seems like passing the buck a bit. – Cai Oct 7 '16 at 20:33
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    I think a better solution is to treat it exactly as a dupe suggestion, with guidance for mods only to hammer the migration as an exception. There's no need for mods to review and be the binding decision in all cases but they still have the option if needed. – Cai Oct 7 '16 at 20:37
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    +9999 for not rejecting migrations by pushing back to the original. That's the worst misfeature on SE. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 7 '16 at 20:45
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    I think we mostly are on the same page here Monica :) – Jon Clements Oct 7 '16 at 22:06
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    @Cai: The thing I'm liking about this idea is that it puts the responsibility for an unwelcome question on the person who deserves it: the OP. Under the current system, the target site gets angry at the source community who is just trying to do the right thing. Under this system, it will be as if the OP had asked on the right site instead of the wrong one. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 22:08
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    I like the idea of the OP being able to migrate their question single-handedly, but not the idea of migration having to involve the OP. Going back to your analogy of dupe closures, all the OP can do is speed up the process - a mod or enough community votes can still get the job done without OP consent. I've seen questions migrated without OP consent (maybe even without the OP setting up an account on the target site) which are still valuable questions for the target site. – Rand al'Thor Oct 7 '16 at 22:21
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    Thinking about it a bit more, I'm not sure if I even agree with the OP being able to migrate their question single-handedly. Consider the following reasonably common scenario: someone else posts a comment saying "this belongs on XYZ.SE instead" when it doesn't (either because it's fine where it is, or because XYZ.SE wouldn't take it either) and the OP takes their word for it. If the OP has the power to immediately migrate the question after that, before someone more knowledgeable comes along to refute the first comment, that would be worse than the current system. – Rand al'Thor Oct 7 '16 at 22:24
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    @RobertHarvey that's fair, but remember that they could just as easily go post on the other site as soon as the suggestion is made. My ideal UI for presenting this suggestion to the user would include showing the on-topic info from the other site (kind of like this). I've added a bit about that to this answer. – Monica Cellio Oct 13 '16 at 16:04
63

Right now the problem with migration is that, on the target site, holding the question and rejecting the migration are two different decisions that are coupled. The meaning of VtCing on the target site is being overloaded to do this. Yes, there's overlap in “this should be put on hold” and “this question doesn't belong here”, but the overlap isn't 100% — I'd say it's closer to a minority of the time, even, depending on the site.

It also means that holds do not do what they say on the tin when it's an incoming migrated question — instead of a temporary hold, VtCers are actually voting for a permanent rejection, whether they know it or not.

A different philosophy needs different tool behaviour. Migration currently does not behave in a way that makes migration a desirable tool to use, except in rare circumstances.

I see two ways of decoupling VtCs and migration, both of which make migration more effective and less drama-ridden: one that is lightweight but potentially leads to a non-zero increase in “crap” on the target site's front page, and one that requires development time (and debugging and etc.) but is much more friendly and less invasive to the target site. Both would make migration decisions easier on the source site.

Both make migration more useful and likely to be tried, therefore making it easier for us to save the asker the effort of reposting manually.

1. Only reject migrations when VtC'd as Off Topic

It makes sense to reject a migration when a migrated question is closed as off topic on the target site.

What doesn't make as much sense is when potentially temporary holds for “please give us more details” (Unclear), or “please add information on the specific problem you're facing” (Too Broad), or “this question might be answered elsewhere” (Duplicate) also reject the migration. (Primarily Opinion-Based is a bit of a tossup: sometimes it means “hey, this needs work to be asking for something more objective” and sometimes it means “this doesn't have a hope of being constructively asked and answered on a Stack”.)

As a fix, make only Off Topic cause migration rejection. Leave the question on the target site for all the other close reasons, so that temporary holds can work as intended.

This wouldn't change much, except leave fewer questions in limbo due to VtCs. Questions not off topic but which for whatever reason still get and stay closed would just “live” on the target site instead of the source site.

Worth noting is that although this would still mis-fire some rejections when the target site uses a “not actually off topic” Off Topic custom close reason, it would still significantly reduce the frequency of unintended rejections.

Pros:

  • Migrations simply work better, with rejections being done only in response to a clear “this is off topic” decision.
  • Question that are on-topic but need a bit of work before answering don't get soft-locked by the “migration rejected” state.
  • Questions that seem to be on topic elsewhere but obviously need some work can be migrated without worrying about them being quickly rejected. This eliminates the “you should reask this on Site B with some edits” process that has arisen to work around the current migration system's flaws.
  • Lightweight to implement.

Cons:

2. Make migrations proposals to be reviewed on target site

Alternatively, build some intermediary infrastructure so that migration closes questions on the source site and then tosses them into a review queue on the target site, where they need to be reviewed and accepted by review-level users before they appear on their front page. Send them back if rejected, just like the current effect of migration rejection.

This would be a complete replacement for the current binding between VtCs and migration rejection. A question that passes incoming migration review that later gets closed, for any reason, would be treated like any other question on the target site.

Pros:

  • Reduced decision angst on the source site about whether something is suitable for migration to the target site. Source site migraters can make their best informed decision without feeling like they're dumping things on the target site.
  • VtCing is completely decoupled from migration logic, eliminating soft-locks due to holds that are intended to be temporary, and dodging the issue with custom close reasons all counting as Off Topic even when that's not what they mean.
  • All questions on a site are first-class citizens.

Cons:

  • Aforementioned development hours, which are probably not negligible.
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    One slight issue with point 1 - "off topic" is the only place for custom close reasons and many sites have custom close reasons that aren't actually off topic.. – Catija Oct 8 '16 at 0:08
  • @Catija That's a good point. It would still reduce the number of false positive rejections compared to now… But personally, #2 is my preference for lots of reasons. :) – SevenSidedDie Oct 8 '16 at 0:10
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    Perhaps there should be an explicit "this should not have been migrated" close reason for migrated questions. That way, all the other close reasons (including the custom ones under "off-topic") could be made to not reject the migration. – Ilmari Karonen Oct 8 '16 at 0:23
  • As @Catija said, "Off-Topic" doesn't necessarily mean "off-topic", and for the ELU-ELL migration path mentioned in the OP, we get a lot of questions that we have to close as Details Please (which is really Unclear), and there is simply no reason to lock those. But Too Broad? Primarily Opinion-Based? Yeah, those can be locked more readily. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 8 '16 at 1:11
  • This is an awesome suggestion. I expect #2 will be implemented. It's the only one that makes sense. I also predict, further down the road: (a) Feature request to allow a question to be added to the incoming migration queue on multiple sites at once, if different close-voters voted for different target migration sites; and (b) If a question can be in multiple incoming migration queue at once, complains about the time overhead this adds. – Wildcard Oct 8 '16 at 4:32
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    Option 3: just don't reject migrations. If a question gets migrated and then closed, why not just leave it closed where it landed -- unless someone thinks it should migrate again to some other site? – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '16 at 1:58
  • "As a fix, make only Off Topic cause migration rejection. Leave the question on the target site for all the other close reasons, so that temporary holds can work as intended." ← I think this would be perfect for ELL. We often close questions with our 'Details, please!' close reason, hoping to reopen them once the asker adds the additional details or context we're asking for. We do something similar with 'Unclear what you're asking'. But that doesn't work when the question's been migrated – it gets rejected and can never be re-opened (without moderator intervention, at least). – snailcar Oct 9 '16 at 5:38
  • @snailplane But isn’t your “Details, please!” close reason to be found under Off Topic (like “Does not show research effort” is on ELU)? That would mean that close reason rejects migrations. Option #2 here is really how migrations should have been implemented to begin with. Migrations are a completely separate and distinct feature to closing, and the two should never have had any kind of direct contact in the system. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 9 '16 at 11:49
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes, you're right. My personal opinion is that this is a misuse of the off-topic close reason (they aren't really off-topic!) and these should be closed instead as 'unclear what you're asking'. We would need to switch over the 'unclear' reason to make this proposal work for us. – snailcar Oct 9 '16 at 11:55
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    I agree with option 1; rejecting migrations when the question is closed but on-topic and sending it back to a site where it's definitely off-topic is bad. I don't agree with option 2, though; I used to also think a review queue for migrations would be good, but since we don't review directly-posted new questions (except via New Posts), that places more burden for migrations than for direct posts. We're already delaying helping the OP with the migration in the first place; let's not add even more. (Also, let's make sure migrations from new users hit the New Posts review queue.) – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '16 at 17:14
  • s/New Posts/First Posts. I meant the review queue, sorry. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '16 at 22:50
  • I particularly agree with not rejecting duplicates. Since duplicates are kept around after closing to act as signposts for people who search for a similar wording, there might even be an argument for deliberately migrating a question that you know will be a duplicate on the target site. – trichoplax Oct 10 '16 at 20:11
  • I was about to post this suggestion and saw you beat me to it. Migrations should go into a review queue on the destination site as "proposed migrations" and the people on that site who understand their site's scope would then be able to accept or reject the migration. So anyone with enough privs could suggest a migration ... but then it's down to the community on the destination site to accept or reject it. – Tim B Oct 11 '16 at 15:16
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    @trichoplax: Far as I know, duplicates are already not rejected. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 12 '16 at 20:50
27

I've come to the conclusion that migration usually isn't worth the effort expended to facilitate it. There are several reasons for this.

  1. Some people use it as a proxy for closing poor quality questions. They know that the question is off topic (or just plain bad) but propose migration as a way of getting rid of the question without being seen as the "nasty person who closed my question".

  2. People don't understand the scope of the site(s) they propose as the migration target. They've either got an outdated view (Programmers) or simple misunderstanding. Thus, if the question is migrated all the OP still get's the question closed but has to go elsewhere to find that out.

  3. Misguided attempts to help by posting "this question belongs on X" just leads to cross posting and then wails of "but I was told to post here" when either the cross posting is pointed out or the question is closed as it was off topic on X anyway.

  4. People don't follow their question anyway. I can't count the number of times I've seen a question migrated where the user remains stubbornly greyed out. This doesn't help anyone. The OP isn't reading the answers and/or comments and the people trying to help aren't getting any feedback.

Removing migration as a thing users can do would help all the above issues (apart from the "belongs on X" comments, but there's not a lot we can do about that). All off topic questions would simply get closed and eventually deleted so having a question temporarily existing on multiple sites wouldn't be an issue.

There may be a case for the migration of the few stellar but off topic questions all sites get from time to time, but even that could be the source of extra flags for moderators. We'd have to judge whether it was on topic on the target site and that's not something we can reliably do.

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    I think #4 is the strongest point you could make on this. My biggest concern when suggesting that a question be migrated is that the user will not follow their question, or forget about it in some context. However, I do wonder if there's some kind of notification that could be sent or some kind of mechanical process to inform them that their question has been moved to this site and that they should create a new account ASAP, although even that I'd fear would get ignored too. – Makoto Oct 7 '16 at 19:46
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    I'd push back on the idea that when the OP doesn't follow the question, it doesn't help anyone. If the question is answered (and many migrated questions are answered) it helps everyone who finds the content via Google. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 19:47
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    @JonEricson: Could we get some stats on that aspect? I'm genuinely curious to see if what I suspect and what ChrisF is alluding to is some sort of sampling bias due to Stack Overflow. – Makoto Oct 7 '16 at 19:48
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    @JonEricson - if it was a good question I'd agree wholeheartedly, but if there's anything that needs discussion of any kind the benefit to the internet at large is somewhat diluted. – ChrisF Oct 7 '16 at 19:49
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    @Makoto: I put a couple of queries in my question. There are plenty of other stats that could be added if you fork my queries. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 19:52
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    The "users who remain stubbornly greyed out on the target site" are exactly the same users who would never have re-engaged with the question on the origin site. The drive-by users who ask fire-and-forget questions. That population will never change, and has no bearing on the question of migration philosophy. – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 20:12
  • @DanBron: But it does. Migration requires extra work and hassle (even above and beyond the normal hassle the source site already endured) for the users of the target site, which goes to waste on a user that's not going to respond. Worse, of course, is the inter-site interactions that are soured by the extra wasted effort being foisted off that way. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 7 '16 at 20:47
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    @NathanTuggy How does it create extra work for the target site, above-and-beyond the normal work created by a lazy/shitty question being asked on the target site directly? If you mean it creates more work for the source site, how? They're VTC either way: only the reason changes. I'm personally beginning to reach the conclusion that the target site should have two options: "this question is no different from 90% of questions asked here directly [including questions which are closed as unclear, lacking research, needing clarification, etc]" and "this question can never be on topic, ever". – Dan Bron Oct 7 '16 at 20:49
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    Point #3 is unrelated to the issue of migration: even if migration was abolished altogether, this would still be a problem, as people could still say "you should post this on X instead" rather than "this should be migrated to X". Point #4 isn't a problem, IMO: since part of the point of SE is to build up a repository of useful content for others, a good question is still a net benefit to the target site even if the OP never comes to accept an answer etc. (yeah, what @Jon said in his first comment, which I only just saw :-P ) – Rand al'Thor Oct 7 '16 at 22:31
  • @NathanTuggy The question will be a redirect after the migration, thus if the OP comes back, he will be able to find it. If he remains unresponsive, it isn't a more worse problem as the unresponsive OPs in any other questions. | Note: 3k+ users (of the target site) are theoretically considered capable to decide about topicality questions, why they can't simply vote about that a migration offer is accepted or not? – user259412 Oct 7 '16 at 22:39
  • 1
    @DanBron: Migration requires all the work of closing a question, all the work of handling a new question (possibly with answers) asked for a different site and pushed by 4 migration voters there, and all the work of making sure a user is paying attention to the move. So what I'm saying is that it accomplishes nothing and is, if anything, somewhat worse off than simply closing the question and having the user re-ask it with the inline help that SE provides at the right site. If migration does no more than make it any harder for the sites, then that clearly is a failed and useless feature. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 8 '16 at 1:00
  • This rings true for me personally. I follow the systemd tag across the network. These questions are probably best suited for Unix and Linux, but sometimes Serverfault or Superuser. They are not supposed to be strictly in-scope for StackExchange, but most of the questions get posted there. I used to spend energy trying to the questions perfectly filed, but I'm mostly given up on that now and just answer the "systemd" questions on whichever site people ask them on. – Mark Stosberg Oct 10 '16 at 14:34
  • "All off topic questions would simply get closed and eventually deleted" is plain wrong: many closed questions are not eligible for automatic deletion. And potential migration material is the primary offender here since it has some value to warrant upvotes and/or ticks. – ivan_pozdeev Oct 13 '16 at 9:59
  • Even if migration in the current form may be more of a problem than the problem it is trying to solve, I think that abandoning migration altogether is like putting your head in the sand for the original problem: questions getting asked at the wrong site. We should try to find a scheme that works, and the haphazard current scheme is not a good indicator that migration cannot work. – Maarten Bodewes 2 days ago
21

A few loosely related thoughts:

Migration also serves the answerers

For example, if a question is borderline on-topic in its current place, a per-case decision has to be made, either by a moderator or by the close voters. Naturally it is impossible to predict this decision (otherwise the question would not be borderline). Now, if I have a good answer to such a question, I usually want to answer it right now. I do not want to wait whether the question gets closed, migrated, cross-posted, re-posted, or completely abandoned. I just want to answer it, help somebody, and possibly get some flattering feedback – be it via comments, acceptance, or upvotes.

Even with blatantly off-topic questions, there is some uncertainty: I cannot predict whether they will be migrated, re-posted, or abandoned.

As an answerer, I want that my answer is read by the people whom it concerns. A good migration system should ensure this without requiring me to keep track of a question.

UI is crucial

While changing the interface to match the goals of the feature is good idea, let's nail down the purpose of migration first.

A big problem with the current situation is that users do not know what to do with a question that they consider misplaced:

  • Should they leave a comment encouraging the asker to re-ask on the appropriate site?
  • Should they leave a comment encouraging the asker to ask for migration?
  • Should they flag it?
  • Should they vote to close it?

On top, many comments concerning migration are just horribly misinformed – be it about the scope of the current site or the scope of the target site.

No amount of Meta posts will satisfyingly solve the above problems (though they may alleviate them). A good UI may solve some of these problems by taking the opinion of regular users and turn them into an appropriate response, e.g., a moderator flag, a dialogue for the asker (like for duplicates), or possibly even an actual migrations. Moreover it may handle misinformed suggestions by having them be rejected by moderators or a majority of voters/flaggers/whatever.

In addition, one problem with migrations right now is that it may take a while till they happen. This is partially because it takes some time for a moderator to notice and partially because of the following:

Clarify when moderators may use the “migration hammer”

A considerable amount of migration candidates is borderline on-topic on their current site. As a moderator, I have the following dilemma:

  • Should I instantly migrate such a question? If I make a good choice here, this will quickly clarify the situation and arguably provide the best experience for the asker and potential answerers. However, I bypass my community’s decision on the on-topicness of the question.

  • Should I wait till the community closes the question? This way, I make sure that the question is really not on-topic on my site and there is little to lose when migrating. However, it may take considerably long and leads to more confusion and a worse experience for the asker and potential answerers (see above).

I would appreciate some official guidance on that manner, and be it just to wave it in front of those people who complain that I did not choose the correct option of the two above.

  • 2
    In my opinion, this whole thing should by easy and simple. The users of the sites could solve this whole problem between eachother by fair votings(*) and mod intervention would be needed only in exceptional cases. | *: for example, 2 3k+ vote could initiate a migration on the source site, and a normal close/reopen vote could decide on the target site, is it accepted or not. – user259412 Oct 7 '16 at 22:56
  • For your last point, these are the difficult decisions moderators are called on to make. ;-) Besides the guidance I posted in the question, you might also read Respect the community—your own, and others’. If I'm pretty sure the asker will have a better time of it on another site (and the question isn't junk), I would not wait to migrate. If I'm not sure, I'd probably leave the question where it is and try to improve it with a combination of edits and comments. (It helps to know both sites, of course.) – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 23:04
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    I think I disagree that migration serves answerers. I certainly agree it affects them, but I tend to think migrations are more likely to harm answerers than otherwise. If nothing else, you miss out on the reputation you might have earned on the original site. (Obviously, some users will have accounts on both sites, but I imagine most people have "home sites" they'd prefer reputation on.) This is why the guidance I posted above suggested declining migration flags for answered questions. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 23:11
  • 1
    @JonEricson: If I'm pretty sure the asker will have a better time of it on another site (and the question isn't junk), I would not wait to migrate. – Write this into the moderation guidelines for everybody to see and I am happy. It’s not that I cannot make a quick (and likely “correct”) decision; it’s that there will be complaints about either decision, unless I can point to an official policy. – Wrzlprmft Oct 8 '16 at 6:02
  • @JonEricson: If nothing else, you miss out on the reputation you might have earned on the original site. – This assumes that the alternative to migration is leaving the question as it is. But right now, it’s mostly closure, deletion, or downvoting (at least as far as I can tell). In all cases, the question attracts considerably fewer views. – Wrzlprmft Oct 8 '16 at 6:09
17

As a moderator on two sites with similar topics (Music SE and Music Fans SE), I see migration as a big topic that needs to be addressed. Making it easier to move questions as needed would be a big help, but how it's done needs to be thought out carefully. Pointing to the other site is something I commonly see when users of one site know it is off-topic there. While in good faith typically, this is not always true and can lead to the question being not fit for the target site.

For example, I've seen a user post a question on Music SE that was off-topic, but also way too opinion based. Another user then suggested it would be better fit for the Music Fans SE. The user then cross posted on Music Fans SE and both questions ended up closed. I've also seen a case where a question was worded poorly and migrated to Music Fans too quickly, but it was actually on-topic on Music SE and off-topic on Music Fans SE.

In a different example, a question was accidentally migrated to the Music Fans SE instead of the Music SE from the Sound SE. It was obviously off-topic on the Music Fans SE and it was taken care of quickly, but having a double check would have prevented the mis-migration from happening.

These issues along with other similar events encountered leads me to suggest a check on both sides

Add a queue on both the incoming and outgoing site to facilitate the exchange.

The idea behind this is the site where it's posted needs to acknowledge that it is off-topic there and the incoming site needs to acknowledge that it is on-topic. It's kind of a different take on the close & and reopen queue respectively.

This allows the outgoing site to:

  • Make sure the question is actually off-topic on the current site.
  • Improve the post before it goes to the destination site

This allows the incoming site to:

  • Make sure the question is actually on-topic.
  • Make sure there is no other issues with the question (too broad, duplicate, primary opinion based, ect).
  • Clean up tags and the question itself as needed.

This will also (hopefully) expose users on one site to the other site and vise versa. The only downside I can see is the process would obviously be slower due to both sides needing to take part in the migration, but hopefully it will lead to a better experience overall in migrations.

15

This is basically a variation of WGroleau's suggestion.

Allow users with sufficient reputation on the target site to suggest migrations, including when no previously set up migration path to that site exists

Migrating questions involves two parts: Telling that the question is off topic where it has been asked, and that the same question (or a very similar question) will be on topic on some other site in the network.

The current process puts all focus on the off topic where it is part. There is (insofar as I know) no requirement for being even the least bit familiar with the target site's scope.

If migrations remain a thing, then there needs to be some focus on whether the question would be on topic on the proposed migration target site as well.

A low bar might be to set a minimum reputation threshold on the target site (100-200 on betas, 500-1000 on established sites, maybe? The exact value would have to be tuned to ensure we don't limit the set of users who can do this too much.) to ensure that the user proposing the migration is at least somewhat familiar with the target site's scope. An alternative could be some count of net upvoted, separate posts (possibly restricted to questions). If the user doesn't meet that bar, they can still propose migrations for review, but the proposals don't themselves carry any weight (like flags from low-rep users do already).

With this, it would also be possible to open up to non-diamond-moderators to migrate to sites in the network which do not have an established migration path from the source site, because there will be a check to ensure that the user casting the actual vote has some familiarity with the subject scope of the target site.

I suspect that such a relatively small change could cut down dramatically on rejected migrations, while also taking diamond moderators out of the loop in many cases.

Established migration paths could then be used as a means to allow users that do not meet that criteria to migrate anyway, if that ability is desirable.

  • This is nearly exactly the same what I tried to suggest, unfortunately I was too angry to focus to the suggestion :-) (In my version, even migration paths wouldn't exist, the target site could be simply selected from a list, but it is only a nuance.) I am simply shocked, how can the technically so good SE so hardly ignore this obvious, logical solution. Of course you have my support. – user259412 Oct 11 '16 at 20:05
  • 2
    I made a similar suggestion as part of a 30k user privilege suggestion: Expedited capability for migration to your site – Werner Oct 12 '16 at 18:59
15

The process should be

  1. closed as off-topic, the close voter may choose other stackexchange sites where he has enough reputation as sites where it is on topic
  2. the closed as offtopic lists the sites where it might be ontopic
  3. the user that asked the question has the ability to reask the question on one of the recommended sites(if there are any) with one click
  4. the closed as offtopic removes the sites where it might be ontopic and instead links to the reasked question
  5. the user that answered the question has the ability to reanswer the question on the other site in one click

This solves following problems:

  1. Question is only migrated if it is off topic
  2. The user that asked the question is informed about the sites where it is ontopic
  3. Doesn't punish the user if the question was just asked on the wrong site(only one extra click)
  4. The responsibility of a bad migrated question is shifted from the community of the migrated from site to the question asker and the user of the migrated to community that invited the question.

when in process stage 2 it looks like:

{question}

This question is off topic on this site.

It may be on topic on one of the following sites:

  • stackoverflow
  • ...

when in process stage 4 it looks like:

{question}

This question is off topic on this site.
It has been moved to {link}

  • 1
    Your procedure 1 through 5 is actually brilliant. Beautifully done. It's so sensible and simple SO will never do it. – Fattie Oct 9 '16 at 11:33
  • I didn't quite understand 4) - does it do cross-posting? – ivan_pozdeev Oct 14 '16 at 3:36
13

In other words, migration is a service we offer to people who misunderstand the complex structure of Stack Exchange sites. Rather than forcing them to create an account on a new site, copy and paste their question (including title and tags), and potentially get comments and answers from two different sites, we just move the whole thing to where it belong

I always thought about migration exactly that way. I'm a bit confused how this is new.

Here's what I see on the network:

  • On some sites, the question gets closed or downvoted quicker than it could be migrated.

  • On other sites migration works flawlessly, because users are going through the effort of saving the question and might be active on both sites.

  • On other other sites, scopes of two sites overlap and migration is merely suggested via comments, in order to point the asker to the community that most likely has the experts to deliver the best answer.

I would go even further with the philosophy of migration than your proposed one:

make migration a mature moderation tool

So far, migration paths are limited to avoid abuse of the feature. Instead, allow a voting process similar to the closing vote process that requires a certain amount of votes. Users can suggest a migration target (not necessarily every user, see below) and/or vote on existing ones.

When reaching a certain threshold, the question is migrated. At every time in the process is the asker allowed to simply hit "yes, I want to migrate there", to fully automatically migrate the question to the suggested place. just like a suggested duplicates can be accepted.

understand migration as a cross site moderation task

A cross site moderation task requires cross site knowledge. Suggesting migration of a question or denying it should be based on reputation. A user that has high reputation on a site has proven that he understands the scope of the site (hopefully) and that he can estimate that if a question would be a good fit for a particular site (or not).

At the moment, migration is a pushing action, from the site that wants to get rid of a question. Allowing experienced users to start the process helps with only migrating questions that are valid on the target site. However, there could (should?) be a mechanism in place to let the receiving site accept or deny the migration "request". To do this, create a migration review queue at every site, which lists questions from other sites that got at least voted to be migrated to the site. This queue is basically about "Hey, one of our own reputable members who's active on another site suggested to migrate this question to us, do you agree?" allow reviewers of this queue to join the migration vote process, even if they are not users of the site that the question was originally asked on.


It remains to be debated what the reputation threshold should be to allow migration suggestions to a site and how many votes it takes for migration.

  • If a question is ontopic, theoretically it can be decided already by the 3k+ users of the target site. In my opinion, the only reason, why should it be elevated to an inter-site mod level, is the incompleteness of the SE software. – user259412 Oct 7 '16 at 22:35
  • 1
    I think your answer aligns with one that I posted on a related Q&A: meta.stackexchange.com/a/186461/215590 That answer was awarded a bounty and advocates a push/pull model for migration. – PolyGeo Oct 8 '16 at 23:43
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    @PolyGeo point in case, over at Photography we get a few photogrammetry questions which is a topic that's explicitly on topic on your site (but not (very) offtopic on photography either). I would love to have somebody from Geographic Information Systems with the expert knowledge (and reputation) to guide askers to the right site, as in "Hey there, this site is about taking pretty pictures and the technologies behind it, if you want to crunch the numbers, we can show you the math and tools for that". I would even upvote a good migration suggestion. – Display name Oct 9 '16 at 0:11
  • "To do this, create a migration review queue at every site, which lists questions from other sites that got at least voted to be migrated to the site." +1 for this – called2voyage Oct 14 '16 at 17:37
10

The best system is the one that works. I'm one of those mods who routinely checks with other mods when unsure. The problem isn't really that migrations themselves are bad, but that there's things we could do better.

I don't want to migrate crap. That said "crap" is relative, and I sometimes consult with other mods to see if it meets standards. I might not be a subject matter expert in the target site.

There's no real visibility for migrations, and the destination site has no control over what gets migrated. To me, this is the main weakness with migrations. We don't need a wall, we need a simple border checkpoint to keep the riffraff out.

To me the solution seems pretty simple. Any migration goes into a queue. Let the destination site triage it. Any edits that are needed are done before the migration is accepted, and have a mod or X users with sufficient experience look it over just like the other review queues. That way I know if a migration is bad, no foul, it gets kicked back before migration is completed, and there's eyes on it from the destination site.

Once a migration's done, if its a new user, sending them a message pointing at a explaination of the migration process would be handy.

  • First you say "the best is the one that works" (what is nearly the opposite of the reality, imho). Then you suggest a totally different system, what is to me not so bad. I really don't know I should give an up or a down :-) – user259412 Oct 8 '16 at 21:00
  • So one integrates the things we do behind the scenes and tries to mitigate the problems. Getting someone on another site to take a look or a mod asking a mod on another site about migration works. Letting a community triage questions just lets the things we do scale anyway – Journeyman Geek Oct 9 '16 at 2:09
  • A given site "X" receives plenty of crap questions. It's just the nature of SO. These crap questions have to be dealt with. What possible difference does it make if the question was organic or migrated? The whole discussion is a bit bizarre. – Fattie Oct 9 '16 at 11:42
  • I didn't even mention SO. And really it means a potential for the quality of migrated questions to be improved. We'll handle our own crap, without having more shoveled over our wall, TYVM – Journeyman Geek Oct 9 '16 at 13:53
  • 1
    I like your idea of a border checkpoint. My main issue with migrations on ELL isn't so much that we have to deal with low quality questions but that a process that is supposed to help the user is actually really confusing for some of our learners who are trying to operate in a language that they aren't fluent in. It's fairly common that a migrated question is a duplicate. Having their question closed on one site to be migrated to another site then closed as a duplicate makes a lot of users believe that they asked a "bad" question and they get discouraged. That isn't helping them. – ColleenV Oct 9 '16 at 14:38
  • Hmm. Feedback organic to edits and rejections would be nice too actually. – Journeyman Geek Oct 9 '16 at 23:54
  • I think this aligns with an answer I gave to another related question: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/90118/… – PolyGeo Oct 13 '16 at 6:54
10

Migration is the result of a failure to communicate.

Migrate a question and there will be someone who thinks it should have stayed where it was, someone who thinks it should have been closed, someone who thinks it's fine. So it comes down to who among those people has the most power. With our rep system you'd think it's the most experienced user who has the most power. It's not. It's the one with the least experience. It's the OP.

The OP can delete with one click. The OP can migrate anywhere. The OP will be confused when misfiled questions automagically end up in the right place sometimes and sometimes don't.

I used to think there was a magical bot that fixed code I posted. Only later did I realize that it was a human editing in the indentation I didn't know I needed.

Migrating a question is failing to communicate with the one person with the power to correct both this mistake and to stop making it again and again and again.

I'm not just all talk here. I've been doing this on Programmers. (Soon, root willing, to be named Software Engineering). We have almost the same situation ELL has with ELU. We have it so badly that we have a bot that notifies us on our whiteboard the moment anyone on Stack Overflow even mentions Programmers. Why? So we can jump in an stop the OP and the close voters from thinking of sending content our way without first understanding what we're about.

But even with this, we get questions that have nothing to do with our topic (which is Questions directly related to the Systems Development Life Cycle, except for code troubleshooting and requests for written code, by the way). So I've been following gnats lead and leaving comments when I close. gnat has a wonderful habit of commenting when he closes and not simply using the close messages to communicate.

I'm trying to do one better. I don't just tell the OP what's wrong. I tell the OP what to do about it.

When I vote to close a question that's not suited for Programmers but seems like it might work better on another you'll likely see a message like this:

Welcome to Software Engineering. We only support good, on-topic questions. Other sites have different topics. Feel free to take your topic to an appropriate site. Search existing answers first. Please don't cross post by failing to delete your question here. Please see the tour and help links below.

The welcome is because the user is new so being friendly and tolerant is the right tone to set.

The good and on-topic links cover most all reasons we ever close. Keeping a positive tone keeps hostility to a minimum.

Presenting the other sites followed by the different topics both acknowledges and assists with how easy it is to get lost and end up on the wrong site. I absolutely love the different rules page.

The line about taking your TOPIC (not question) to an appropriate site, is the money maker. I don't advise anyone to simply move a question, as is, somewhere else. I want the OP to think about what they've learned, where they're going, and reword their question appropriately.

I also want them to search existing answers before they just barge into a different site. They may have been smart enough to search ours before but now we're headed somewhere different.

The coup de grâce is to teach them about the evils of cross posting and invite them to delete their own question. This works surprisingly often.

It ends with a gesture to the tour and help links at the bottom of the page that could have prevented this mess in the first place.


I remember the frustration of seeing a carefully crafted question voted down and closed. In that moment you're watching your baby die. You'll listen to anything to figure out how to make it stop. This is when to communicate.

Now we get people sending stuff to Programmers from Stack Overflow all the time. Sometimes those people are right. Sometimes they're wrong. But what I wish they all did was point out the REASON to go to a different site. Because this is a teaching moment. Haven't we all had enough of seeing questions starting with "I was told to post here so don't blame me".

Please, send more questions to Programmers. We like good questions. But when you send people please understand what we are, explain what we are, and if you don't have that kind of time please at least use this link:

[Programmers](https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask).

It does a better job of teaching everything we care about than any other single page.

Every one of our sites has one. It's the page I use when sending people to yours.

And if you must vote to migrate, please read it first.

  • 1
    No, I think my changes would do what I said: remove the impression that other sites allow bad or off-topic Qs. The rest of your messag is fine as is, and seems a good step toward your aim. – msh210 Oct 12 '16 at 23:05
  • 1
    I think your message, incorporating my changes, would still say what you intend, but also reduce the possibility of understanding that other SE sites allow off-topic or bad questions. – msh210 Oct 13 '16 at 7:58
7

Migration needs to be (both) much easier to pull the trigger, and more precise to execute.

As some of you already know, the problem of bad migrations to Programmers is so acute that we actually have a bot that picks up on migration suggestions in comments, so that we can get some early warning and have a chance to provide some clear guidance before a migration occurs. The most common misconception about Programmers is that it is the place to ask "softer" questions that don't belong on Stack Overflow.

Programmers doesn't have enough people actively moderating the site to make migrating away effective. We generally can't muster enough close/migration votes, and when we do, it occurs hours later. So migration is a blunt instrument for us; in those rare cases where I feel that Stack Overflow could benefit from a Programmers migration, I flag for moderator attention instead of voting to migrate.

We get many people asking their "fix my broken code" questions on Programmers; the rare individuals who ask a good Stack Overflow question on Programmers would benefit from some of us having a golden hammer that would immediately migrate those questions.

But the number of off-topic questions asked on Programmers that actually qualify for migration is very small, on the order of 1 to 2 percent.

I am thrilled that migration works for ELL, but I suspect that the reason it works is because the dividing line between E.SE and ELL.SE is very clear and unambiguous. Historically, programmers has had a patchy site scope; difficult to understand site scopes make migration dicey, because people often get it wrong.

Users already get a lot of help with automatic account creation and association. The only real benefit of migration that I see is the elimination of crossposting.

Cross-Posting problems could potentially get a big boost if the SE software detected cross-site dupes and asked the OP "You can't post the same question to two sites. Which site do you want your question to be on?"

  • I believe you that Programmers has problems with people misunderstanding scope. On the sites where I have access to the moderation tools, the vast majority of our outbound migrations are successful. But they're also smaller sites with correspondingly fewer migrations, so maybe that's relevant. – Monica Cellio Oct 13 '16 at 17:42
  • The bot is either a) working brilliantly or b) a waste of time. In the past 90 days 8 questions have been migrated from SO => Programmers. Only one was rejected. (Compare that to 87 to Stats and 60 to Meta.) – Jon Ericson Oct 13 '16 at 21:27
  • @JonEricson your answer is "a)" - just check my history of helpful comments flags - few hundreds idiotic suggestions were cut before these could do intended harm. And we plan to make it even more efficient by requesting a feature of single flag deletion after Programmers name change – gnat Oct 14 '16 at 6:36
  • ...and my flags are only a part of what bot does. Quite often I find that comment referred by bot is already removed along with the question when I arrive to flag it. I suspect that Robert is to blame for this, he frequents Whiteboard and probably uses SO mod power at the garbage stuff discovered by bot. Those interested in fuller picture can find it out analyzing Duga's Playground archive of comments reported by bot – gnat Oct 14 '16 at 6:48
  • 1
    @gnat: You got me thinking about the history of question migration on Programmers. We don't have an easy way to track cross-posting (the cost of separate databases for each site), but we do know that Programmers has been a net exporter of migrated questions since 2012. (However, as Robert points out, migrations have a rather small impact right now.) Now y'all are still running a deficit because of ~12,000 questions imported from the start of the site through 2011. I can share the numbers on meta.Programmers, if you are interested. – Jon Ericson Oct 14 '16 at 18:04
  • 1
    @JonEricson history of question migration on Programmers? Numbers based on data available to SE staff? I am definitely interested, would much appreciate if you share this over there – gnat Oct 14 '16 at 19:07
  • the dividing line between E.SE and ELL.SE- BS. I had a question that was clearly useless to ESL which was forcible migrated from ELL. Naturally it got no answers there because it was about teaching to ESL and speaking. It was not about learning English as a Second Language. – user2617804 Oct 26 '17 at 0:12
6

Keeping the possibility for migrations open is important, and I agree that this is a good motive:

Migrate questions when it saves the asker the effort to reask.

As long as it is mitigated by a serious concern concern with this:

Please don't "horse trade" questions. Don't migrate crap and remember that destination sites can reject migrated questions by closing them.

Experienced users are more likely to be familiar with criteria common to the network in general ("too broad", "unclear", "opinion based", etc.) than new users, and they are also far more likely to be aware that they have choices about where to post. This implies migratable questions tend to come from new, inexperienced users. In that context migrating relatively innocent questions that are destined for rejection because of other criteria is one way to split the difference between:

  • "Okay, they have rules, standards, best practices -- fine and fair!" and

  • "This is a just an absurd, out-of-control bureaucracy..." with a literal pass the buck button.

My own policy, as a moderator, is (for the most part) to be a little extra stringent about quality related criteria with migrated questions1, and if they do not pass, instead close them as too broad/unclear/etc., then take a minute to explain the issue more specifically if necessary and include a link to a site I think is more appropriate.

Because of that attitude while we (Rasberry Pi) have a lot of crossover with larger sites including S.O., I rarely actually migrate but I very regularly close as just described, using cookie cutter comments ala "more appropriate to our parent/big sibling ________".

I think this benefits cases where the question is from new/naive users because it avoids the appearance of a bureaucratic swamp, and gives them something concrete to chew on. On very rare occasions someone will say, "Couldn't you just move this?" in which case either I do, or, more likely, I don't, and explain a little further why I feel this question needs more work put into it first.

Not migrating under those circumstances provides people the opportunity to think about this, if they have been given some hint in the right direction. They can still always just open another account and cut n' paste, but in that case the question has at least not really gotten any worse, and if it does not pass muster elsewhere, instead of having the migration rejected, the otherwise passed back and forth buck is (hopefully) firmly stopped with an unequivocal "You need to think about and work on your question".


1. Although I admit as a human being to occasionally throwing people to the lions because hey, isn't that what the lions are for?

  • Your own policy, as a mod, that you don't migrate, only close. Your reason is that you want to avoid conflicts with the other sites and mods. For that, rather you expel new users of the SE network, instead helping them to find the better sites if they've started on a false one. The system of the SE currently encourages your this behavior, but don't forget: so it is not okay. Don't support a bad system, if it could be fixed. Unfortunately, @JonEricsson's proposal further worsens it, but maybe it won't be forever so. – user259412 Oct 8 '16 at 18:29
  • 3
    @peterh You've put a lot of words into my mouth, I'll presume inadvertently because of some wider dialogue. First, I do migrate and that's clear. Nowhere do I say anything like my reason not to is that I "want to avoid conflicts with the other sites and mods" -- I could care less, TBH. My concern is everything to do with helping new users find other sites, because when a migrated question is closed at the other side, it gets bounced, which I think is confusing and unhelpful, hence I would prefer to close locally instead and provide a link to the other site (if someone is too – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:25
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    lazy to cut n' paste BTW, I do not think that is a valid excuse for "helping" them by migrating). ...It might help if I clarified the above policy to mean that I treat "unclear", "too broad", etc. as priorities and I think they should be, i.e., bluntly don't migrate crap in the name of being useful, because it isn't. – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:26
  • 1
    One network policy change I do think would mitigate against this problem is if the receiving site had the option of bouncing a migration because the question is considered off-topic, but also as closing for unrelated reasons and keeping the question as if it had been posted there. Now this is not the case. I receive a certain amount of migrated crap that I cannot, to be fair to the standards imposed on everyone else leave open. This bounces the migration not because it is off-topic but for other reasons, which I think creates the impression of pointless bureaucracy described in the answer. – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:26
  • If you at least provide a link, I think it is better, but in my opinion, there is no real reason against an easy and automatic migration system handled simply by user-level votes. I don't think that migrations should be rare or exceptional; instead I think the communities of the source side should decide about the offer (because it is an offer, and not a request), and the voters of the target side should decide about they accept it. I think it is so clear and simple as the Sun, and that not this is the normal way since years, it is only an irrational taboo. – user259412 Oct 9 '16 at 15:30
  • I am sorry if you think I gave things into your mouth, but alhough I am not a mod, I am thinking, asking and investigating since years in this matter and thus I know, for example, that migration issues lead many times to territorial conflicts between the sites and the mods. I also know very well that a mods important goal is to avoid any conflict cases; this is perfectly understable in their (your) role, but unfortunately it leads to the closure (and later, deletion) of many good content, although they could have got a fair treatment on alternative SE sites. – user259412 Oct 9 '16 at 15:34
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    A serious issue for me, as a mod on one of the smaller sites, is that if I wait to leave certain blatantly off-topic or low quality questions to be closed by 5 user votes, this can easily take a week because we simply do not have sufficient users with sufficient reputation to get the job done because of the "one size fits all" policy applied to all sites.This is just a waste of everyone's time and again plays into creating the impression of pointless bureaucracy. It is an important part of my role, and the purpose of the hammer, to deal with those quickly and efficiently for everyone's good. – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:34
  • @peterh "migration issues lead many times to territorial conflicts between the sites and the mods." -> I believe this is sometimes true but in almost two years I've never had any memorable problems with other mods, so I have no idea how serious an issue it is generally. – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:39
  • Also I know that small sites tend to be much more friendly, particularly with new accounts, as the large ones. Thus, my bitter feelings about this matter are mainly not on your deeds, although I feel often quite sad as I see a site being more and more hostile as it grows. I think, the mods of small sites could cooperate more closely, they could learn eachothers scope enough well to make a "migration alliance", which would result the advertising and to the growth of your site, while you wouldn't have to hesitate about a quick intervention in the case of a good, but offtopic question. – user259412 Oct 9 '16 at 15:40
  • "Also I know that small sites tend to be much more friendly" -> I like to think of it this way, and while I think it may be contentious, I see us and the crossover we have with larger sites as providing the opportunity to give people a gentle introduction to the larger S.E. family, which is why I'm happy to provide links but hesitant to, as I semi-joke above, throw people to the lions on, e.g., S.O. "I see a site being more and more hostile as it grows" -> Could be; it is probably easier to be tight knit but friendly when there are only a dozen or so questions a day to deal with. – goldilocks Oct 9 '16 at 15:47
  • If you don't have problems in this case, it means that you are doing your intra-mod cooperation tasks well, and you are good to avoid or prevent conflicts. But, to do that, you have to close questions which could get a much better treatment as a fast closure on sites with a similar topic. – user259412 Oct 9 '16 at 15:47
  • I think the problem that there is not enough reviewer and thus mods have to intervent to accelerate the review process, even in non-exceptional cases, is quite unfortunate. I don't know what could be done with it. I think the SE, ignoring this problem, says essentially: make your site bigger and the problem will solve itself, and, starting a migration cooperation with other mods of small sites, could lead to this direction. – user259412 Oct 9 '16 at 15:59
6

Much of this discussion frames migration as an end-to-end process that must deal with every conceivable impact on both sites and all players. It includes complicated rules, special conditions, review and approval of the destinating site, different standards for questions depending on how they arrive, etc. If we reframe it as simply "reposting assistance", almost all of that disappears.

Migration doesn't need to be any more complicated than the process without it.

  • If there was no migration, off-topic questions would get closed.
  • If we know the subject matter is covered on another site, we advise the person to ask there.
  • If they ask on the other site and it isn't in scope, it gets closed there.

That's the baseline. The only reason to introduce migration is to make SE a little friendlier to the user. Migration's entire picture can be viewed as just saving the OP the work of reposting. Everything else remains the same as the baseline.

  • The idea of migrating only those questions the OP agrees on solves a lot of problems.

  • Migration (or lack thereof), can filter out obvious crap. But it isn't the job of users or moderators at one site to be experts on the scope of every other site. If we're going to help route questions to a potentially better site, our role should be just helping the user minimize the work of reposting.

    It's up to the destinating site to do their own housekeeping, regardless of how the question gets there. They would be doing it anyway if the user knew to post there in the first place, or did so because it was suggested. The question's route of arrival should be irrelevant to how it's handled.

  • There will be a certain amount of misuse, like people migrating crap rather than closing it. That's the cost of doing business. Much of that crap would have ended up on the other site, anyway, via reposting. We don't need a whole infrastructure to prevent it. Just ignore where the question arrived from and deal with it normally.

  • The moderators have enough to do. One site's moderator shouldn't need to talk to the other site's moderator about whether they want the question. The SE sites are community moderated. We rely on the judgement of experienced users. If those users are going to close an off-topic question and believe they can do the OP a solid by migrating it to a better site, that should be the extent of it. The destinating site should handle it the same way they would if the OP posted it.

5

If a question better matches a different site, why it can't be moved simply, easily there?

I am really sorry for hitting one of your hardest taboos, but note: I also risk a little bit with this post.

Actually, you simply don't answer this question in your whole post.

"Can we build a wall between sites"?

No, you shouldn't, but you do. It is one of the perfectly meaningless, irrational taboos of the SE network.

What is your real problem with the migrations?

Yes, I know they can be a source of territorial conflicts between the sites. We all know - although I am sure, you won't ever admit it - the only real reason to continuously avoiding, hardening, narrowing the question migrations is that they create territorial conflicts. There is simply no other rational reason. But you know, this reason should be handled in better ways (for example, letting vote the target site if they accept the question).

Even in your long post, you don't name a single reason why the migrations should be forbidden.

You say, "it would have a minimal impact", and yes, it is true. Because the question migrations are essentially forbidden already. On a healthy system, migrating questions would be so simple, so common as, for example, the closures.


In my opinion, having such a "Berlin Wall" between your sites only harms the quality of your site network. I think you know Adam Smith's inivisible hand theory very well, it is a base concept of the economical theory of your home country.

Well, you can destruct your own system if you wish - it is yours - but eventually the SE alternatives will take your place away.

  • 13
    This is a pretty useless rant from someone without any actual experience moderating sites. You don't see any of the migration requests as you are not a moderator anywhere. – Martijn Pieters Oct 10 '16 at 0:53
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    @MartijnPieters 1) I can see most of them on the sites where I am active 3k+... 2) I never ever heard this site would be only for the mods 3) Migration is not the matter of the mods, it should be the matter of the reviewers, it should be either a 10k+ or a 3k+ thing on the target site, and it should be much more easy, fast and simple 4) I can't see a clear argument against it, unfortunately argumenting by authority isn't a strong argument. | You were a vehement anti-migration user soon before your diamond, you didn't have a clear argument behind that even that time (at time time it wasn't – user259412 Oct 10 '16 at 5:55
  • 1
    @MartijnPieters yet 100% clear that the SE (Inc) wants that big monolithic mess named currently SO in its network. It is possible that the migration taboo was a political wish from the power users / mods of the SO of the time to avoid its "division". But now that the SE (Inc) choosed the worst possible solution, as it does since years consequently, and the SO isn't in "danger" any more in this sense, I don't think you should still cling to that political urge. If the migrations would be easy and common, the SO wouldn't be in "danger" even in this case, it is sure.) – user259412 Oct 10 '16 at 6:00
  • Note, dear @MartijnPieters , also you don't have any clear argument against the post, except that it is an "useless rant"... – user259412 Oct 11 '16 at 16:23
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    @peterh I feel like you've completely misunderstood the point of this (or, I guess, maybe I have). They're asking for feedback on how to improve migrations - including their own thoughts on what the options are - and your response is to basically just say "The current system sucks and you suck for not fixing it." even though, you know, that's what they're trying to do. – Anthony Grist Oct 12 '16 at 12:15
  • @AnthonyGrist No, it is a "proposal" to further narrow, essentially forbid the question migrations. Can you say any point in which is would broaden them, or you live in a different dimension? Furthermore, my opinion is in the answer, although I admit I couldn't focus into that from the anger. I support mainly this and this views (although the second is maybe too strict, I think if 3k+ users can decide in ontopic/offtopic matters, they should be allowed to do the same also in migrations). – user259412 Oct 12 '16 at 19:14
  • @AnthonyGrist And yes, this is the case, so or so this is my opinion, although I think the SE is technically overwhelmingly wonderful compared to any other global site, but this migration-denial is like a piece of asphalt on a wedding cake. I am simply shocked from their perfect inability to solve such a trivial thing. My main problem with your comment that you seem focusing more to the style as to the content. Well I can't really complain on that after such an angry post, but maybe you should focus your attention also to the content. Check the links I wrote, they are really good proposals. – user259412 Oct 12 '16 at 19:27
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    @peterh Except it's not. I feel like you only read as far as "Can we build a wall between sites?" then wrote up an angry response. It even says at the end of that section "Despite my subjective impression, question migration generally works, so we ought not take it away." This isn't a proposal to do anything, it's a starting point for thinking about how best to improve migration. – Anthony Grist Oct 13 '16 at 8:47
  • @AnthonyGrist The primary focus of the proposal is to decrease the possibilities of the question migrations, and not to broaden it. Of course you can say that the Sun is green. You can even downvote me if I say, yes it is yellow. I don't think this talk is usable in any sense. – user259412 Oct 14 '16 at 12:30
  • @peterh From my point of view, it feels much more like you're the one saying the sun is green. Agreed that this is pointless, though, since we've clearly interpreted this entire thing in vastly different ways. – Anthony Grist Oct 14 '16 at 12:34
4

I'd like to give a perspective based on my experience as a user of both the Stack Overflow r tag and Cross Validated, who on Stack Overflow can vote to close as off-topic and migrate. We have a fair number of migrations between these sites. Some crap is migrated, but generally migration works well because the user base of these sites sufficiently overlaps and we've come to a general understanding [1, 2] regarding migration. In principle, your proposed guidelines should work well although I'm not sure what's new about them.

However, what needs to be addressed are some technical issues:

Quite frequently, the following happens: (i) A (new) user asks a question that is off-topic, but would fit well on the sister site. (ii) The user gets advised that the question would fit better on the other site. (iii) The user cross-posts (sometimes he had done so anyway). (iv) The question gets migrated. Now, there are two identical questions on the sister site. (v) The cross-post needs to be closed.

Thus, you should prevent this scenario using technical measures and also mention cross-posts in your guidelines.

I've also never understood what the rules regarding comments are. Sometimes I've seen valuable comments be deleted during migration, sometimes irrelevant comments are migrated with the question. Your guidelines should address this too.

3

This isn't a direct discussion of the proposed philosophy, but I find problems with migration that don't necessarily fit into the "help the asker" mold, so I offer some insight not covered by that philosophy in effort to expand it.

My biggest issue with migrations is as an answerer. An answer appropriate for the original site is not always appropriate for the target site. A legacy answer can thus cause needless discussion in it's new home. This discussion is carried out in a group that the answerer may never have signed on for, and might not care to have a defenseless answer out there in a group he doesn't care to participate in.

For this reason, I suggest that the migrated questions be stripped of answers from users without membership in the target group.

The flip side is that answerers who have decided to support the community with their answer might be offended by a migration they disagree with. I suggest that an answer in good standing would thus lock out migration. If the site of origin thinks the question is off topic, the remaining option is to close, or for users to downvote answers to questions that are inappropriate to a site, making the question eligible for migration. I think the end result of this process would be to shift some of the decision process from the mods to the user community.

Other than the details I add here, I rather like @Monicacellio 's approach.

  • 1
    This is a good point. Answers that were appropriate on the original site might not be appropriate on the target site (consider migrations among the religion sites, for example). An answerer shouldn't have to police migrations (which are silent!) or get bunches of downvotes on a site he never posted on. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '16 at 2:02
  • Wow - I actually just got an "answer migrated" message – Scott Seidman Oct 10 '16 at 1:08
  • 2
    Scott, wow, that's nice to hear! No longer silent, then -- much better. Migrating answers can still cause trouble (or extra work), but at least now you know about it. – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '16 at 1:54
2

Suppose the moderators of group X think question A is off-topic. They think it fits better in group Y.

Let them say so to the moderators of group Y, and let those moderators decide. If the answer is no, try another group or close or delete.

  • And, considering that 3k+ users are also allowed to take part in ontopic/offtopic decisions, maybe even the mods shouldn't be overloaded by handling the migration requests. This whole thing could be made very easy and quick. – user259412 Oct 7 '16 at 22:15
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    So part of my frustration with migrations is this is exactly what happens in the moderator chat room. "Is this a good fit for your site?" followed by some back and forth among the mods of various sites. It's not a terrible system, but it doesn't scale. – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 22:17
  • Well, that's better than a moderator of one site just transferring the question. But a queue that the receiving mods can look at (or not) might be a little more efficient than chat. – WGroleau Oct 7 '16 at 22:18
  • @JonEricson Any idea, why the migrated questions doesn't start in a "deleted" state in the target site, and then a vote (on the target site) could decide if they are allowed to appear? It would require only a minimal patching to the SE software, and the whole system would scale very well. It is already long laughing that the mods have to talk about a single migration request. – user259412 Oct 7 '16 at 22:28
  • @JonEricson assigning the moderation tasks involved when migrating a question to the community and not only the moderators as it currently is the case for pretty much everything except migration could potentially solve exactly that problem. – Display name Oct 7 '16 at 23:08
  • @Jon - what about making migrations go to a pending state on the target site for that site's mods to approve/reject. Invisible to the average user, just a mod action to approve/reject. Maybe a link to the mod user on the first site so they can start a room to discuss. – Robotnik Oct 10 '16 at 23:07
  • @JonEricson I actually like the idea proposed in the comment below yours, which I don't think was adequately described in the answer itself... It's a middle-ground between "let's ping the target site mods in the TL" and "let's just migrate it and see if they toss it back or not" (the second one drives me crazy!). A queue on the target site containing suggested migrations, which moderators or high-rep users could moderate, sounds like an excellent happy medium. Then I can accept the good migrations, and reject the bad ones before they show up and use up users' time! – WendiKidd Oct 16 '16 at 4:47
1

I'd like to expand on my other answer with a few more thoughts that are more far (further?) fetched and very controversial, to be voted on separately.

make migration an act of expansion, not movement

Yes, his is pretty much asking to blur the clear line of site scopes, which on its own is somewhat problematic. But a question that's a candidate for migration is either in the wrong scope or part of many scopes. This does not necessarily mean that the question is too broad.

However, there are a lot of sites that overlap in scope. Migrating a question should not move the question to the target site, but add it. The migration process should keep the migrated question at the site it was originally asked on. If it's off-topic there (and should be removed for that reason) then close voting is the right tool for the job.

The migration process allows questions to span across the network, reaching more experts and allowing them to answer questions in the context of their site. On the other hand, closing a question still stops it from living on a specific site if the users of that site decide so.

Think Conway's Game of Life here. One can vote to make a question live on another cell of the network or vote to make it die on a part of the network. The benefit is that in the process the question organically finds its "right" place in the network, if there is one. The current migration process is strictly yes or no which might not suit every question.

  • If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting cross-posted. This has been suggested and shot down before. – G-Man Oct 8 '16 at 4:26
  • It also spreads the information out, making it more difficult to find. I cannot see what the advantage of "expansion" over "movement" is. "Reaching more experts?" No, inherent in the process of asking a question is deciding what experts you want to target, and therefore which site you want to ask the question on. We don't want to model the Game of Life with questions. They're not alive. – Cody Gray Oct 8 '16 at 11:00
  • 1
    @Cody Gray I understand your concerns. Note that the information is held together by the question. Showing a combined list of all answers given from all sites on all sites with identification of their origin could be another strategy to keep information in one place. "No, inherent in the process of asking a question is deciding what experts you want to target" sadly, this decision is not as trivially made as you make it sound, because it requires knowledge about the internals of sites. Software Engineering. My concept is mostly for questions that span multiple site scopes legitimately, though. – Display name Oct 8 '16 at 11:17
  • 1
    Well, Programmers is a uniquely terrible example. No one really understands what the scope of that site is. It has changed many times since it was launched. The community there is (again) hard at work on refining their scope and rebranding their site to reflect that change. The reason cross-posting has been repeatedly "shot down", as G-Man says, is because doing it correctly takes work. A question must be tailored to the site you're asking it on. A Linux programming question might be on-topic for both Stack Overflow and Unix/Linux, but it very likely cannot read exactly the same on both. – Cody Gray Oct 10 '16 at 10:32
0

Why not implement cross-posting (i.e. questions being able to appear on multiple sites)? That way you never have to migrate, all you do is add or remove sites the question appears on. Of course the question and answers would need to be on-topic for all of these sites.

  • 8
    That's not a bad idea in theory, but it gets messy fast in practice. On which site would the asker earn reputation when the question is upvoted? – Jon Ericson Oct 7 '16 at 22:30
  • 2
    While an interesting idea, and worth considering because it's a radical solution, I see implementation problems regarding tag creation, and people (mods included) taking privileged actions on the question/answers/comments on Site A that they don't have privileges for on Site B. And then there's the ability for someone on Site B to leave comments that would appear on Site A — which site's local culture gets to moderate the comments? If a post or comment is flagged, which mods are notified? – SevenSidedDie Oct 7 '16 at 22:32
  • Perhaps tagging, flagging and scores should remain site-specific? – reinierpost Oct 7 '16 at 22:33
  • It's not an easy solution, but has it been considered? – reinierpost Oct 7 '16 at 22:35
  • I would not look on this as cross posting (which is a form of duplication, however implemented). I would look on it as a question occurring on as many sites as it is relevant to. Imposing hierarchical organization on an information set this large is inherently limiting and simply invites disputes. Rather that sites pushing questions away, why not let them adopt questions originating on other sites? Many interesting questions cross the arbitrary boundaries of sites. Sites are just a classification system for questions, and many questions belong to more than one class. Don't migrate, classify. – user341668 Oct 7 '16 at 22:51
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    @JonEricson the reputation is gained on the site on which the vote is received. If no account exists, no reputation is gained. When migrating a question, invite the asker to join the target site if he's not a user already. Explain that this eases communication with answerers (allow comments, votes, etc.) – Display name Oct 7 '16 at 23:12
  • 1
    See this other feature request for info on how this might work. There are some pretty interesting plans there, but nothing has come of them so far. – Ben N Oct 8 '16 at 1:15
  • It is a pretty good solution, and it was probably considered. Unfortunately, it would require that the SE changes its software and they didn't do it long ago. I suspect a central decision behind that, over the CMs. But you have my vote - I think you're right, it would be the ideal solution. My idea (making the migration offers easy on the source site, and letting the 3k+ users of the target site vote about the accept/rejection) was intentionally tuned for that it should require only a minimal patch to the SE software. Unfortunately, probably both ideas have only a minimal chance. :-( – user259412 Oct 8 '16 at 18:31
  • Somebody answering a question shouldn't have to figure out whether his answer is also suitable on sites he doesn't participate on. And there are combinations of sites where one might cross-post a question where it's impossible for an answer to be suitable on all of them. Each site should be allowed to operate by its own standards of validity. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 '16 at 2:04
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    I proposed something like this. So far, concerns over implementation details have prevented even discussion about how one could do this. – Raphael Oct 9 '16 at 13:08
  • I can see the concern about answers not being on topic for one of the sites, but I'm not sure that will really arise in practice. I rarely if ever see answers dismissed as not being on topic for the site the question is on. – reinierpost Oct 12 '16 at 9:14
0

My suggestion is to divide the greater stack exchange into groups and subgroups. Migration between different communities in the same subgroup would be relatively simple. An illustration of this is provided by the English language, and English language learners sites. With both of these in the same subgroup, migration could be simple, and relatively uncomplicated. Similarly, the "Ask Ubuntu" and "Unix and Linux" communities might be in the same sub group, allowing simple and uncomplicated migration. On the other hand, the Bicycle community and the board game community might be placed in different subgroups, with the consequence that migration between those two groups is more difficult, and convoluted.

The current categories for stack exchange communities is a good starting point, and further subordinate subgroups could be created within these.

Additionally, it might be valuable to create virtual bridges, where there are two groups in different subgroups where migration is more valuable.

-1

My opinion is probably biased or influenced because I spend most of my time on Stack Overflow.

I don't think the site should be migrating to one another. I don't think its within the originating site's purview to decide what's on-topic and off-topic for the destination site. I also don't feel its within the originating site's purview to decide what is "quality enough" to migrate and what is "quality deficient" to deny migration. Those questions are answered by the destination site, not the originating site.

I posit User Initiated Migrations is the preferred tool. If the users of the originating site suggest it, then allow the poster to move the question on their own. It avoids the cross-governance problems, and also places control back in the hands of the poster. If the poster does not heed the advice of the originating site by performing the migration, then close the question as off-topic. I find most new users who wander into off-topic only need to be pointed in the right direction.

ELU => ELL seems to be an outlier. I can envision the tight coupling, and I imagine there are folks who ask "what is the difference between the sites" and "should the sites merge", ... Maybe ELU.SE and ELL.SE should be the exception and not follow network-wide procdures.

  • 2
    Indeed, ELU/ELL is an outlier; it's nutty to not recognize that. – Fattie Oct 9 '16 at 11:43
  • 2
    ELU/ELL may be an outlier, but they have a surprisingly similar relationship to SO and Programmers in some respects. In particular, ELL is not ELU's trash can. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 12 '16 at 20:52
-1

The below is just my opinion:

  • See if you can improve the question first:

    If the core of the question fits the on-topic policy for the SE site it has been posted on, then ideally it should be edited and improved first.

    However, if the core of the question is not on-topic for the SE site it was posted on, then maybe it could be migrated.

  • Does the question really need migration?

    If a question can be answered easily or quickly, and you know a valid answer, try to help out the OP.

    If the OP would indeed benefit from more experienced people at another SE site, try helping out the OP if you can, suggest that "X/Y/Z" SE site could be a better place to ask the question, and only then inform the OP that you're proposing to migrate the question.

  • Always ask the OP for clarification:

    Never assume things. If you think the OP should clarify his question more, then request him or her to do so, in a polite manner of course.

    Do not even think about migration until and unless you've asked the OP for clarification and are 99% sure it may not be on-topic for the SE site in question, even if it is improved.

  • Is the question really ontopic for the SE site you're proposing to migrate it to?

    Imagine there's a question you're proposing to migrate to the computer science SE. Have you checked and are sure the question is on-topic there? You're not done yet.

    Maybe the question is more suitable for the theoretical computer science SE, rather than the normal computer science site. Always check carefully!

    Maybe there's no SE site yet suitable for that question, in which case you can either help the OP out yourself if you have a valid solution and the answer is short/easy, or if the question's topic is interesting enough, and fits the Area51 criteria, then consider proposing an Area51 site for it.

Maybe the question might not fit on SE in general, perhaps. Even if you're super extra 99% sure about this, consider making a question on Meta. Edge cases, in my opinion, should be handled on a one-by-one basis.

  • Does the question possibly fit on multiple SE sites?

Ask on the relevant Metas before you try to do anything.

  • Is there something not covered by the above points, or you're just unsure of something?

Always ask on the relevant Metas, even if you think you could be right.

-2

If there's a lot of migration going on between two sites, possibly the sites' objectives are very close or partially overlap, which could be an indication that the sites may need/want to be merged.

Given the low incidence of migrations elsewhere, it clearly serves its purpose to move things that are clearly off topic on some site to another one where they are more at home. Helps everyone I think.
What we should guard against is people just firing questions at one site and relying on the migration system to distribute them to where they belong. Seeing the actual numbers, that apparently isn't a problem (though you'd have to look at not just the number of questions but the users posting them to make sure of that, if e.g. the 700 migrated questions away from so come from only 10 users there's something going on there and a quiet chat between a moderator and those 10 users could be in order, or some filter that deletes rather than migrates their specific questions).

-2

I agree with a lot that has been said here, and disagree with about as much. Here's my idea of how migrations should work:

  • When a question is VtC'd as off-topic, the VtCer is asked if there is another SE site where it would be on topic. If so, it becomes a VtM (Vote to Migrate).
  • At that point the user gets the same prompt as if it were marked as a duplicate, as suggested by Monica Cellio.
  • If the prompt gets accepted or it gets a total of 5 VtMs, it gets put on hold on the originating site and the target site gets a proposal.

I don't have enough rep to do anything that high level on any sites, so I don't know exactly how things like that work now, but essentially at this point it should be approved or rejected by the target site. It should only be rejected if it is off-topic for the target site. If it's a bad question, it should be accepted but immediately closed for the appropriate reason. My logic for this is twofold:

  1. It teaches the asker two things: The asker now knows where they should post questions of that topic (i.e. SO vs Programmers, ELU vs ELL), and why it was a bad question. I have almost had personal experience in this: My question Hyper-V Style Hypervisor for Ubuntu at first was closed as off-topic because they thought it wasn't an enterprise setup. Had it not been for a business, I would never have learned that asking for a Linux equivalent of a Windows program was undesirable. However, with my idea in that situation, it would have been migrated to either SU or Unix/Linux and then closed, telling me where I should ask similar questions and telling me why it was a bad question.

  2. Even bad questions may mean something to somebody. My way sorts the trash cans appropriately, so to speak.

Also to guard against people not caring which site a question should be posted on, we should implement some sort of question ban and/or reputation loss system for people who have questions migrated too often.

  • Could the downvoters please explain your position? – Duncan X Simpson Oct 13 '16 at 21:34
  • downvoters possibly don't want that VtCers like this one have any power to migrate to Programmers. And that guy isn't just a single case, see eg Please stop using Programmers.SE as your toilet bowl and New SE Chat Bot feature for identifying when Programmers is mentioned on Stack Overflow – gnat Oct 13 '16 at 22:28
  • @gnat That's the purpose of the target site either accepting or rejecting. – Duncan X Simpson Oct 13 '16 at 22:51
  • that sorta indicates that you don't know how it feels like when site regulars are overwhelmed with rejecting hordes of senseless migrations, instead of enjoying on-topic questions and answers – gnat Oct 13 '16 at 23:05
  • @gnat You are correct. I've never had any experience with that. Perhaps use the edit review queue, so the burden is spread among many people? – Duncan X Simpson Oct 13 '16 at 23:20
  • 1
    when source site like Stack Overflow is 200x larger than target site like Programmers (8K questions a day vs 40), no spreading can help – gnat Oct 13 '16 at 23:22

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