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Consider the following set of circumstances.

  • A question is posted on one SE site (call it site A) and closed. It could be closed for a variety of reasons - from off-topic to simply not meeting site A's quality standards. (Let's assume it's not closed as duplicate - there's no issue of it adding value to A by increasing searchability.) It also gets downvoted, so that after a certain time it will be auto-deleted from A by the roomba.

  • Another SE site (call it site B) would welcome this question: on B, it would be not only on-topic but also considered good quality, at least enough to receive a few upvotes. (In the case it was simply off-topic on A, this is easily explained simply by the scope difference between A and B. If it was closed for another reason, this just means B has less exacting standards than A for that type of question.) B regularly takes questions very similar to this one, which don't get closed there.

Of course there's a possibility that the question might be edited to be reopenable on A. But the same is true of most closed questions, including many which get migrated every day without anyone waiting around to see if their OPs come back to edit them.

Given that the community of B would welcome these questions, should the moderators of A migrate them over? Of course there are plenty of invalid migration flags every day - I've declined many of these myself as a mod - so let's assume that the moderators of B, or someone else who can be trusted implicitly to know B's scope, confirm that they want the question.

Given all of this, is there any reason not to migrate the question from A to B?

I know it's necessary for a question to be off-topic for source site, on-topic for target, and good quality (for target site) in order to be migrated. So I guess my question is, is this also sufficient? Or is it up to the mods/community of A to decide whether or not to migrate a question that B would definitely like?

The alternative to getting it migrated, upvoted, and answered on B would be leaving it on A to rot away and be auto-deleted, which is no use to anyone, neither site nor the OP.

Or is this something that should be decided on a site-by-site basis, e.g. by a meta question on A's meta for whether the site should be willing to consider migrating questions to B?


The sites this would likely be most relevant to are English Language & Usage and English Language Learners, as many ELU questions which would be closed for not meeting their quality standards get migrated to ELL and welcomed there. But it could be relevant to many other pairs of sites too - including those where no migration path is set up and all migrations have to be done by moderators - so I'm posting this to main meta instead of a per-site meta.

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    Isn't this already how mods are expected to migrate things? I.e., don't migrate bad stuff, migrate good stuff, use judgement to decide, avoid horse-trading and just do it? The situation above doesn't seem to need any further inputs before saying, yes, migrate that thing. – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 2:08
  • @Seven Well, that's what I think, but some others disagree, so I've taken it to meta to get a general consensus. – Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '17 at 2:10
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    Ah! Mentioning that might help put the question in context. What's the counter-argument, why this isn't a resolved issue, etc. helps describe the actual problem more fully. – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 2:12
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    @Seven I wanted to discuss the general issue without being distracted by details about the specifics. As for what the counter-argument is, I have to say I'm not really sure. I've tried to address various possible counter-arguments in the OP (such as "it might conceivably be edited to be reopenable on A", which one person did use as a counter-argument, or "it might not be welcome on B after all", since I'm familiar with invalid migration flags). – Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '17 at 2:16
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    Perhaps I share your stance too much. :) This question seems like its answer is clear and obvious, leaving me wondering what the actual problem is, but perhaps that is just me then. – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 2:24
  • Do the close-voters and moderators on A know that it's welcome on B? That is the only issue, the system already handles confirmed migration requests pretty well. A has already decided they don't want it and it will go away regardless of whether its Roomba or a migration. So just flag it for moderator attention and link them to the discussion on B-meta. There is a discussion on B-meta, right? – Nij Jan 11 '17 at 2:48
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    @Nij Yes, assume no issue of unclear communication from the B mods/users, and no dispute over the question's welcomeness on B. – Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '17 at 2:50
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    So it's just as simple as flagging for moderator attention on A, explain/demonstrate the migration is approved, and request that it be completed. – Nij Jan 11 '17 at 2:54
  • @Nij I agree it should be that simple. My question is if A can simply refuse to migrate closed questions which B wants. I.e. does A get 'first refusal', the right to keep questions on their site and let them get deleted even if other sites want them? – Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '17 at 10:47
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    Also, it would be great if someone posted an answer to be voted on as well as just comments :-) – Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '17 at 11:53
8

To thine own self be true

There's a bit of a subtle twist to the scenario you describe here...

A question is posted on one SE site (call it site A) and closed. It could be closed for a variety of reasons - from off-topic to simply not meeting site A's quality standards. [...] It also gets downvoted [...]

Another SE site (call it site B) would welcome this question: on B, it would be not only on-topic but also considered good quality [...]

Critically, the question in this scenario has not been well-received on the site where it was asked. Now, you can (and do) argue that it would be well-received on another site, but this is speculation - unless the question already exists there (and thus would be a duplicate if migrated), you're assuming that whatever problems afflict it on the site where it was posted wouldn't apply or would be easily mitigated elsewhere.

This is a totally understandable assumption, the sort of prediction I've personally made plenty of times myself and watched others make over the years... It has proven to be a routinely dangerous assumption and one that has personally cost me a tremendous amount of time and energy.

See, some folks really, really hate it when it looks like you're dumping trash on their site. Even if it's your site too. Even if your trash is attractive garbage art and you're simultaneously helping to pick up tons of litter every day. Something about the mindfulness of migrating a somewhat-problematic question is infuriating in a way that dozens of thoughtlessly-posted problematic questions are not.

Now, I generally recommend migration in cases where the voters or moderators have a good-faith reason to believe that the question will be successful. This can include questions that are poorly-received, as long as their only fault is that they were asked on the wrong site - for example, questions about the use of web applications asked on Super User, or remodeling a kitchen asked on Seasoned Advice.

But it can be difficult - not to mention time consuming - to defend a migration in cases where the folks migrating it feel that it is inherently problematic; that is to say, it stops being a "good faith" migration if the only reason you believe it'll do well elsewhere is that you hold a dim view of the ability of the folks "elsewhere" to moderate their own site. Ultimately then, this is a judgement call: as a voter or moderator, you are first and foremost accountable to your own conscience; if you can't look yourself in the mirror and defend an action, you have little hope of defending it to anyone else.

A Practical Approach

I skipped over a pretty big part of your question to get to the answer above, because I think understanding the often-complicated nature of how different sites relate to each other (and to themselves) is critical to understanding what comes next... But I tend to agree with this:

The alternative to getting it migrated, upvoted, and answered on B would be leaving it on A to rot away and be auto-deleted, which is no use to anyone, neither site nor the OP.

That's generally my philosophy as well, not just for migrations but also for editing: if you can salvage a question where the alternative is deletion, then you should try to do so when you see something of value - potentially going to more extreme lengths than would be prudent under other circumstances.

The critical factor there is that you see something of value, and are thus moved to expose the proverbial diamond in the rough. If you're just going through the motion to salvage a question you don't really see value in, then you're in danger of acting in bad faith, creating more work for others for no good reason.

So, what can you do in the scenario you describe?

  • Edit. This is almost always my first recommendation, and for good reason: you can easily waste days trying to explain the worth of a question to someone else when with a few minutes worth of editing you could just show them.

    Note that if you're able to correct all of the defects in a given question it might end up being fine on the site where it was asked, your request for migration denied anyway - and that's still a success. But even if the edited question remains off-topic, you may at least render it attractive enough to allow others to champion it in good faith.

  • Answer. Obviously, this is impossible if the question is already closed, but if that's merely a likely outcome then posting an answer can help to establish your credentials as an expert on the topic, as well as someone with a vested interest in the fate of the question. Obviously, your answer needs to actually be good in order for this to matter; posting a downvoted answer on a downvoted question doesn't do anyone any favors.

  • Re-ask the question yourself. This is one of those techniques that's so obvious and boring, folks seem to easily forget about it: if you can't convince someone else to accept changes to their post, or ask it in the right place, or even return to the site... Then do it yourself.

    There's a certain "put your money where your mouth is" aspect to this technique; obviously, you would never do this if you didn't believe there was some inherent value in the post, lest you sully your own reputation... But, we went over the whole "good faith" thing above already. Regardless, if you're sufficiently moved to put a question under your own name, you're taking a bit of a gamble: if you were correct and the value becomes apparent in the right light with the right cut, then you get to collect the rewards; if you were wrong, you earn the inevitable payment for that as well.

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