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Problem

There are some questions about differences between MSO* and MSE**. However, this information is confusing and not instantly processable. Some of the questions/answers are pretty detailed, partly with details that are no longer relevant.

Things would be more obvious if stackoverflow.com was named stackoverflow.stackexchange.com. Making it clear that Stack Exchange is the broader term that applies to all sites and Stackoverflow is just one of many sites on Stack Exchange. I am not even sure if this is entirely true.

But, because the distinction is not being made by domainname (which would in fact be the better solution), extra care should be taken to avoid confusion and redirect users to the right place.

(This actually applies both to meta and to the sites themselves)

Examples

Questions that were top ranked on Google for a search on difference between the two meta sites:

Information in help centers:

MSE help center excerpt MSO help center excerpt

Suggestion

My suggestion is to clarify the distinction between the meta sites and provide this information more prominently:

  • In the help centers "What is 'meta'"?
  • In the question sections of all meta sites: When I ask a question on Meta Stack Overflow there should at least be some hint that general questions about answering, asking questions, flagging, voting, reputations etc. should be asked on MSE (if this is true, which I am not sure at this point).
  • others ...

This, I consider to be helpful:


*MSO = Meta Stack Overflow
**MSE = Meta Stack Exchange

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    You should be aware that MSO is significantly broader than most child metas. I agree that the help center text could be improved but, for example, questions about Jobs, Channels, Documentation (before being sunset) etc, go on MSO, not MSE. These SO, inc "products" are SO-centric, so questions about them go there. – Catija Dec 1 '17 at 13:41
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    I admit there is overlap and confusion but in general users in a specific site/community should only know about their own meta, not about the overall Meta. – rene Dec 1 '17 at 13:57
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When I ask a question on Meta Stack Overflow there should at least be some hint that general questions about answering, asking questions, flagging, voting, reputations etc. should be asked on MSE

That isn't the case. It is absolutely fine to post anything that would be on-topic here on a per-site meta. See Which meta am I supposed to post on?.

The opposite, however, isn't true and questions that only affect a specific site shouldn't be asked here (there's an off-topic close reason specifically for it). So redirecting users here is only increasing the chances of newer users posting questions in the wrong place (which is bad UX all round–for both new users being confused as to where they should be posting and regulars here being annoyed by off-topic questions).

With that in mind, I don't think redirecting users here is needed, or a good idea.

  • That is a good explanation. I didn't see it. I was searching for the wrong questions. – Sybille Peters Dec 1 '17 at 15:07
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So... first off, that text is on every site's "What is meta" page. Here's the one for a site I moderate, Interpersonal Skills.

Here's the text:

What is "meta"? How does it work?

Meta Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange is the part of the site where users discuss the workings and policies of Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange rather than discussing interpersonal skills itself. It is separated from the main Q&A to reduce noise there while providing a legitimate space for people to ask how and why this site works the way it does. Meta is for...

  • ...Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange users to communicate with each other about Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange (asking questions about how the websites work, or about policies and community decisions)
  • ...Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange users to communicate with Stack Overflow the company (posting bugs, suggesting improvements, or proposing new features), and
  • ...Stack Overflow the company to communicate with the community (soliciting feedback on new ideas or features, or discussing policies that affect the whole network)

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before, and avoid asking questions that have nothing to do with Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange or the Stack Exchange network. This is not a random discussion area; rather, it's a place for improving our community and website, together.

Could the text use a little clarification - probably. But you have to remember that we want users to post to meta on any site... it doesn't have to be on MSE, particularly when the issues relate to that site alone.

So, let's look at the four things you've underlined:

Posting Bugs

Example:

There's a bug in the site design for Movies & TV.

This specifically doesn't belong on MSE. It's related to M&TV only, so it belongs on their child meta. We even have a close reason on MSE for "Only pertains to one site."

This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated.

Suggesting Improvements

Example:

I think a custom close reason on English Language Learners isn't specific enough. I want to suggest rewriting the text to be clearer.

This is identical to the bug example - it only relates to one site, ELL... and posting it here would be odd. The people who need to address this issue are the users and moderators of ELL, not the general users of the entire network. It would be closed using the same close reason above.

Posting New Features

Example:

I really want YouTube Video embeds to work on-site for Arts & Crafts.

As with the prior two examples, this relates to one site alone. That site and its users need to decide whether this is a good feature for their site or not. If it is, the moderators can find a CM and ask them to implement the feature. If asked on MSE, this would be closed.

... affect the whole network

There have definitely been cases in the past where an idea was proposed on one site that became network-wide policy... or at least that became implemented on more than one site. That's perfectly fine! Many users don't necessarily know about MSE or know that their proposal/bug would be useful for the network. We shouldn't punish them for asking in the wrong place.

If it becomes clear that such is the case, moderators can either migrate that question to MSE, or encourage the user to post it anew here.


In your question you say:

  • In the question sections of all meta sites: When I ask a question on Meta Stack Overflow there should at least be some hint that general questions about answering, asking questions, flagging, voting, reputations etc. should be asked on MSE (if this is true, which I am not sure at this point).

This is not true. Many of these questions have been answered here but many sites have site-specific guidance on how to do these things. What one site flags or closes may not be network-wide policy. Each site, while connected and guided by the same system policy, is allowed some leeway in deciding what they allow and do not allow.

It doesn't hurt anything to have someone ask "What reputation do I need to close vote something?" on every single site meta - and to have the answer answer the question and link to the MSE FAQ about privileges. Having the information locally is valuable, as the help pages can be somewhat difficult to find and read through.

Meta Stack Exchange, as much as I love spending time here... can be a bit scary. Duplicate questions are often heavily downvoted for "lack of research" - though it's not as if Stack Exchange's search function is flawless. Child meta sites are more contained. The users (often) know each other and tend to be more kind. Additionally, there are no reputation losses for downvotes on child metas, making them more welcoming and lower-risk.


Meta Stack Overflow

To add to all of this, there are things about MSO that are special.

Some products that Stack Overflow, Inc make, are SO specific. Questions about those products - bugs, feature requests, support requests - belong on Meta Stack Overflow.

For example, just last night, this question about Jobs was migrated there.

So, in this sense, MSO has even more subjects that are specifically off topic here and would be migrated or closed. This includes, Jobs, Developer Story, Documentation (sunset), Stack Overflow UI... and probably others that I'm forgetting.

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As explained in other answers, it's perfectly fine to ask questions about network-wide features and behaviors on per-site metas. People who only participate on one site, who maybe just learned about meta at all, don't need the extra confusion of that other, bigger meta. Let 'em ask their questions locally. If something has broader impact it'll probably make it here eventually (unless it came from MSO, sometimes).

The other direction is sometimes a problem, though. People find Meta.SE and ask either site-specific questions or non-meta questions (usually programming questions). Maybe we need to give first-time askers on Meta.SE some extra guidance on the "ask question" page, something like: "This site is for questions about the behavior of the whole Stack Exchange network. If your question is about one site, ask it on that site's meta site instead. If your question isn't about the Stack Exchange network, ask it on one of our other sites (link to all-sites page)."

I tried to see what new users experience before posting this answer, but on Meta.SE you need to be logged in, which means I would have to first create another account somewhere, so I didn't.

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