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I have frequently visited stackexchange.com/sites to look for the right site to ask a question. Yet I still make mistakes, that I think can be prevented, and thereby save time for moderators. And remember, most questions are created by inexperienced users.

I know that one may educate himself to solve this problem, by reading the On-Topic help center page for each site. Which lists which topics are on-topic, which are off-topic, and which belong to a sister-site. Still there is a lot of confusion going on, this is supported by the way the on-topic page is written, here are some quotes from the help center page:

(Note: All questions about RESIDENTIAL/HOME networking and CONSUMER-grade equipment, are explicitly OFF-topic.)

I'm confused as to where my question belongs; there are so many sites!

I know that there is also a search bar at the top to look into all sites, but it doesn't help to select the right site at all.

These ideas might help coming to a solution:

  • 'Search by tags' function on stackexchange.com/sites, where you type/select some tags with auto-completion from all sites together. And then you'll automatically find which site should fit your question.
  • Next to 'Similar questions' that avoids duplicates, perhaps also show related Stack Exchange sites when a question or its tags seems related to another site - so users may discover sister sites more easily.
  • 'Ask Question' button on stackexchange.com/sites, that will try to hint at the right site for you - or none if no match found.

These ideas would basically automate the on-topic help center page. This is only for suggestion, not automatic redirection.

Just as there are similar questions for duplicates, there can be an improvement, that will also significantly reduce off-topic questions.

  • 4
    I'm skeptical but if implementing this would mean we get less blatantly off-topic posts here on MSE I might support this. – rene Jun 7 '20 at 6:29
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    "may reduce off-topic questions by at least 80%" - where you bring those numbers from? – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Jun 7 '20 at 8:08
  • @ShadowKeepsSocialDistance From experience. It is a bold claim indeed - which I fundamentally hate to use. But it is a direct result of the answer by Robert Longson, and his upvotes, and the downvotes on my question. I feel like people are either ignorant or biased about machine learning. I feel urged to create a demo program on randomly sampled set of questions that will estimate the errors more accurately, but I just don't feel like that should be necessary. I figured people would be slightly more interested in solving the problem, apparently off-topic questions are not really a problem. – Yeti Jun 7 '20 at 8:21
  • I'm leading the development of various AI/machine learning solutions for my employer. I'm well aware of their usefulness and limitations. – Robert Longson Jun 7 '20 at 8:30
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    @Yeti more like off topic questions are problem that should be solved by the people who ask them and are expected to put more time and efforts if it's important enough for them, instead of spending expensive time and resources of Stack Exchange developers, who can instead work on other features. I think the biggest mis-understanding is that people think SE is a big company with lots of spare resources... the truth is the opposite: in its core, it's small company who fight to survive, and had to lay off employees more than once in order to survive. :/ – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Jun 7 '20 at 8:46
  • Just to be clear - the above comment come to give possible reasoning for downvoting your legit request, nothing more. Based on own personal insights, nothing personal or factual. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Jun 7 '20 at 8:50
  • @ShadowKeepsSocialDistance Thank you for elaborating. I just wanted to help. But what amazes me is that the idea is discarded so easily with -you know what- arguments like: sounds hard, just ask on meta, and people who ask questions should just put more effort in it. I mean, with responses like those, I don't even know why I would bother. – Yeti Jun 7 '20 at 9:39
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    I also have my share of downvoted requests or even bug reports. I don't take it to the bad side but rather see it as valid disagreement with my opinions - which is all good. So why bother? Because I care, and won't let others dictate to me what to ask/say/report. Even with negative score, requests can still be done, and opinions can be heard. – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Jun 7 '20 at 10:44
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    It might be more useful if you used suggest in the title and body of this question rather than hint. I also think that if this were implemented, it should only apply to meta specifically, where it would likely be easier to detect something off topic for the single site. – Jason Bassford Jun 7 '20 at 19:59
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  • 'Ask Question' button on stackexchange.com/sites, that will automatically try to select the right site for you - or none if no match found.

That sounds quite hard to do. Of course you could try to train an AI on the complete Stack Exchange data set but I've low hopes it would be very successful and we might end up automatically directing lots of questions to the wrong places.

  • 'Search by tags' function on stackexchange.com/sites, where you type/select some tags with auto-completion from all sites together. And then you'll automatically find which site should fit your question.

Tags have different meanings on different sites. Salt in cooking != salt in cryptography. Nevertheless there already is a Search all sites capability if you wish to use it.

  • Next to 'Similar questions' that avoids duplicates, perhaps also show related StackExchange sites when a question or its tags seems related to another site - so users may discover sister sites more easily.

We do show questions and answers from other sites although they aren't connected to your question. Again you wouldn't want cooking questions to appear because you're asking about salt in cryptography though would you?

If you want to know where to ask a question you can always ask a Meta question here. If you word it along the lines. I have a question about ... It would look like this. Where should I ask it. Actual human beings will try to help you.

  • I know the difficulties all too well, as I studied Artificial Intelligence. I came up with the ideas that I proposed, because I thought they are feasible to implement. – Yeti Jun 7 '20 at 6:40
  • Sorry, an answer like that unlikely improves anything. To elaborate (limited due to max chars). 1 "end up automatically directing", it was intended as an automatic suggestion, not redirection. 2 "salt": most questions on cooking with [salt] also have tags like [pasta], [seasoning], etc. 3 'Filtered Questions' is not used when your goal is to create a new question. 4 I already think 'similar questions' is poorly implemented, perhaps it can be improved upon to include the proposed feature properly. 5 Meta: Slow + People=lazy + it doesn't save time for mods + mistakes can be made unconsciously. – Yeti Jun 7 '20 at 7:22

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