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I want to call out the dissonance between Stack Exchange favoring redundant content within one community and forbidding redundant content between multiple communities.

How can we say that duplicate pages make good content/signposts in one place, yet say that duplicate pages in multiple places is unwanted? Does Stack Exchange want to keep lesser known satellite communities invisible?

As a moderator of a niched programming-based beta community (Joomla Stack Exchange), I see people asking joomla-tagged questions on Stack Overflow almost every day. I routinely ask them to post all of their Joomla questions on JSE to reach a community with an intimate and current understanding of the CMS. Some times they comply and say that they had no idea that the community existed (a failure in the UI in promoting satellite communities when a question contains certain tags/keywords), other times they refuse and state that they prefer SO because SO has exponentially more contributors, more activity, better response times. When SO outcompetes a niched community for new activity within the respective scope, this inhibits the growth of the satellite community -- denying crossposting only fortifies the damage. This feels to me like orphan neglect where I would have expected Stack Exchange to behave in a familial way.

I must say, I am not personally against crossposting and I was very shocked when @CodyGray sent me to the earlier mentioned crossposting page. I see crossposts as opportunities to link communities together (assuming that each question explicitly refers to its other posted "sibling(s)" by offering a hypherlink). Promoting user cross-pollination is only good for Stack Exchange as a whole.

Even if you are one of those greedy corporate types, it just makes sense to attract your customers/users to more of your products.

If change is possible, I'd like to see more flexibility and clear rules on when crossposting is encouraged.

On the other hand, if the ultimate stance is "There can only be one, Highlander", then:

  1. Communities should also start consolidating their wealth of redundant signposts and
  2. SMEs and (foreign)Moderators should be encouraged to migrate content to niche sites whenever appropriate (regardless of the age / quality / on-topicness of the question on the original community).

Under the current guidelines, we give 100% authority to askers to decide which community they feel is best (despite the fact that nearly 100% of the users don't know the full breadth of the Stack Exchange Network).

Meanwhile we don't 100% trust singular users to post on-topic questions, make good edits, vote, etc. So why should communities leave 100% of the decision-making process about which community to post in to the asker?

If we are demanding that a user must only ever post a given question in a single community, then they will probably use self-serving justifications for where they post versus the most appropriate long-term resting place for community/researcher benefit.

Is it time to recalibrate the rules on crossposting/migrating so that good content eventually finds its way to its most appropriate community?

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    Sounds like the smaller site, as with a number of proposals and beta sites from the last three years or so, simply isn't necessary. There is already a large community with a scope covering most or all of the smaller site, and the scale to maintain the content better for longer, with the experts to provide it.
    – Nij
    Nov 13, 2021 at 10:04
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    There are fewer Joomla experts on SO versus JSE because they were turned off by SO's ruder earlier years. If Stack Exchange is not going to support the growth of beta communities, we should stop wasting our time and migrate everything back to SO. Nov 13, 2021 at 10:15
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    If those communities consistently can't make the growth and manage the moderation they require, then.. yeah? they shouldn't be supported. I'd like to say that early SO is a very different place from today, but then I don't know whether that's true, from their perspective at least. I also don't get the whole "consolidate redundant signposts" - the whole point of signposts is that they're not redundant, whereas keeping two totally separate destinations with identical information is.
    – Nij
    Nov 13, 2021 at 10:27
  • We don't give them 100% authority. That is where migration to other sites comes into play.
    – Luuklag
    Nov 13, 2021 at 11:26
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    Migration is to be used when the post is not on-topic where it is originally posted (or explicitly requested by the OP). I can plead to the OP to agree to migration but this usually done via a multi-comment conversation which explains the why and how to migrate. Nov 13, 2021 at 11:29
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    I think everyone will agree that StackOverflow is no longer the "colosseum of snark" that it once was -- so this is not a barrier for Joomla users in posting on SO. Actually, a fair chunk of Joomla users would never refer to themselves as "programming enthusiasts". They are way too intimidated to post in SO, in fact, some Joomlers that I've met in person are too timid to post on JSE. The question quality requirements in 2021 are far higher than they were in 2009. Most Joomla questions on SO are vulnerable to being closed for Needs Debugging Details because the users don't know what to give. Nov 16, 2021 at 0:03
  • Having JSE in the SE Network provides a gentler place where non-programming enthusiasts can exchange support in a more forgiving and gentle way than StackOverflow can provide. JSE also allows 3rd party extension recommendations and askers don't have to explain in minute detail all of the native code and database details that relate to the CMS. These are the reasons why it is a good idea to keep JSE alive and separated from SO. I am just looking for better collaboration between SE communities. We should have more Winter Hats for engaging with more communities. Nov 16, 2021 at 0:09

3 Answers 3

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TL;DR: The cross-posting rules and guidance about "tweaking" the question don't make sense any more since there are too many sites with overlapping scopes. We should either allow cross-posts or build a system to link questions from different sites.


I think the rules against cross-posting make no sense at all and are just a remnant of the days when we only had three sites and it was very hard for the same exact post to be on topic on more than one of them without adapting. Hence the old guidance about "adapting the question to the target community". That guidance is simply nonsensical given that we now have sites with almost completely overlapping scopes.

Consider an example question which is well written, well researched to the extent of the OP's abilities, and is asking how to do something in the bash shell. For example:

Can I pass an argument to an alias in bash?

This question would be on topic on at least the following sites, and probably more:

In fact, the question has already been asked on many of these sites, including: Ask Ubuntu, Unix & Linux, Ask Different, Stack Overflow and Super User.

This is a very basic and very common question that simply cannot be "tweaked" to fit any one site more than the others. It is equally on topic on all of them, which is why it exists in all of them. None of the above are cross-posts because they were asked by different users. However, any of those could be copied verbatim and posted on any of the other sites listed above. Not only would it not require "tweaking" to make it "target" the community, such tweaking wouldn't even be possible since all of those communities include bash in their scope and the answer and question would be the same for all of them.

We therefore find ourselves in the absurd situation where the question can be or has been asked on multiple sites but we are OK with it because it was asked by different people. If, on the other hand, the question had been asked by the same user, that would have been considered against the rules. How does this make any kind of sense?

What's worse, that is just a simple example. It's a basic, trivial even, question and any site where it is on scope is bound to have at least one "expert" who can answer it. But what happens if I have a more obscure, complicated question? Something that takes a proper, bona fide expert to answer. Something that is not known by your average guru but involves obscure knowledge that even most experts wouldn't have. How can I know where to ask it? How can I know which of the many sites where this is on topic is the site frequented by my elusive expert? I can't.

Since I can't, the reasonable thing would be to post on as many sites as I can, in the hopes that one of the questions would catch the eye of the one or two people who can answer me. As the question would be equally on topic on all of them, there would be no way of adapting it to the target site. Therefore, if I want to follow our rules I would have to post on one site, wait a few weeks, then delete and post on the next etc.

This is not only a huge waste of my, the asker's time, it is also depriving each community of a useful question (in this hypothetical example, my question is just one of those brilliant, wonderful questions that all sites want). Since we don't allow cross-posting, this wonderful question would have to be deleted from every site until it lands on the one place where my hypothetical expert would see it. This is to the detriment of every other site which could have benefited from a useful Q&A. Who benefits from this? What do we gain?

The arguments against cross-posting that I keep hearing tend to focus on "duplicating effort". They tend to go something like this: "if you post on many sites, that means that people will be duplicating their effort an answering on different places". As the real example I quoted above demonstrates, this argument makes no sense at all given that we do allow the same question on multiple sites as long as it wasn't asked by the same user. We still duplicate effort, so what's the point?

I see two options:

  1. We make a system where we can close questions as cross-site duplicates. That way, we would actually avoid duplicating effort and the OP would be directed to whatever site their question has been answered on. Plus, since we would have a duplicate "sign post" on the site where the question was closed, that site would also benefit from the answers of the dupe. Everybody wins.

  2. We remove the inconsistent rules about cross-posting since they just don't make sense: we already allow the same question on multiple sites if it was asked by different people so why in the world would we not allow it just because it was asked by the same person? Instead, just have a system where users (or mods, we can work out the details) can mark a question as a cross-site duplicate and then any answers posted on site A would also be shown as answers to the duplicate question on site B.

    I realize this can complicate voting, especially if different sites have different voting standards. But there are ways around that:

    • We could just show links to the answers and not have them as proper answers.
    • We could have them as proper answers and let each site vote on them independently; each answer would appear on every site as a real answer as though it had been posted there in the first place. Let the votes fall as they will.
    • other ideas I haven't come up with.

The main point is that our anti-cross-post rules just don't make sense since we still allow cross-site duplicates. I just don't see how the person asking is relevant. Either we don't want duplicates or we do, but drawing the line based on who asked is just silly. Unlike back in the day when we only had SO, SU and SF, it is now no longer always possible to adapt a question to the target site. We need to update our stance on cross-posts.

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I think there's a few elements here.

As a moderator of a niched programming-based beta community (Joomla Stack Exchange), I see people asking joomla-tagged questions on Stack Overflow almost every day. I routinely ask them to post all of their Joomla questions on JSE to reach a community with an intimate and current understanding of the CMS.

I'm a moderator on one of the old (original?) communities with a broad scope. To various extents, Unix and Linux is a complete subset of our scope. Ask Ubuntu is a subset of U&L as is the Elementary Linux Stack. We have incomplete cross overs with some aspects of security.

I would, and do probably take it somewhat poorly, consider it in bad taste when someone suggests an entirely on topic question on my site belongs somewhere else.

Some times they comply and say that they had no idea that the community existed (a failure in the IU in promoting satellite communities when a question contains certain tags/keywords),

SE's always run communities as "independent" entities, and most co-operation to that extent is informal. I do think there's value in getting similar questions from across the network (so basically this but network wide), but I don't know how well that would work practically. It's out of the scope of this answer, and a bigger feature request on its own right.

other times they refuse and state that they prefer SO because SO has exponentially more contributors, more activity, better response times. When SO outcompetes a niched community for new activity within the respective scope, this inhibits the growth of the satellite community -- denying crossposting only fortifies the damage. This feels to me like orphan neglect where I would have expected Stack Exchange to behave in a familial way.

I suspect that's a broader problem of SO simply being better known, and well, the golden child of the network.

There's nothing particularly wrong with cross posting done right, with folks aware of both sites, and tailoring the questions to the site. Where something's in the scope of your site, and not theirs, and its current - working in concert with the other site's mods to pull them over in co-operation seems like a good idea. There's lots of cases where a question's a bit of a poor fit for our site, and we moved them somewhere where it worked better. Once migrated something from Super User to writing even.

I like aspects of the current guidence with respect to crossposts - We shouldn't be crossposting identical content across sites. I also think the linked blog post here has merit

And that blog post says this

Along the same lines, don’t attempt to scavenge on-topic questions from other sites by asking the moderators there to migrate them to yours. Again, there’s no harm in leaving a comment suggesting that a question would be a better fit somewhere else. But focus on the questions that aren’t on-topic, or aren’t getting answered – snatching someone’s question (or answer) away without any forewarning is a slap in their face.

Which seems appropriate.

When dealing in issues between communities, as much as equitability, it's probably worth trying to find a solution that works for both communities. If Joomla's on topic for SO, it doesn't seem 'right' to move questions simply because there's another community of interest there. I'd be all for raising awareness, but fundamentally any solution also needs to respect the other community involved, even SO.

As for this part of your question

SMEs and (foreign)Moderators should be encouraged to migrate content to niche sites whenever appropriate (regardless of the age / quality / on-topicness of the question on the original community).

The linked blog post also suggests otherwise

Be a bit jealous of your site – don’t blithely turn askers away simply because their question could be asked somewhere else.

I'm not really going to move stuff unless the OP, and a moderator on the other site wants it and somehow it's on topic and better on the other site, and I'd probably hope/expect a heads-up if someone was doing that to SU.

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    I disagree broadly with this answer in light of terdon's; this guidance does not make sense, or at least makes much less sense, in light of questions that are 100% on topic across multiple sites with zero "tailoring" required, which isn't nearly as infrequent as it once was. That obviously isn't all cases, and we should be careful to continue to respect each community and their time, but if each community is an independent "repository of knowledge" for their subject area, then cross-pollinating relevant knowledge should be a positive thing, as it's directly in line with that goal.
    – zcoop98
    Nov 16, 2021 at 0:06
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    I'm not against crossposting - but rather doing so without tailoring questions to sites, essentially using the spaghetti method and throwing questions on sites to see what sticks. If it is a perfect fit, I think there would be less friction
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Nov 16, 2021 at 1:36
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(Note: This answer is complementary to the great answer by terdon, above.)

I have seen multiple questions on Parenting Stack Exchange that could benefit from cross-posting on Home Improvement SE. Same with Parenting SE and Medical Sciences SE.

All of these questions, too, would benefit from the system proposed by terdon in Option 2 (enable smart cross-posting).

EXAMPLES:

Parenting & Home Improvement:
How do I childproof these stairs?
How can I mount a gate at the top post of my stairs?

Parenting & Medical Sciences:
Is it safe to store and use a desktop computer for long hours next to baby's crib?
Are oak leaves safe for my baby to touch?

More: https://parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/health

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