Based on my question Please put more thought into migrating questions to other stack exchange sites and the linked question Please don't migrate low-quality questions to other sites, It was suggested in the comments that I propose solutions instead of merely complain.

So I wonder, would it be possible to implement a feature request so that questions that are migrated to another stack exchange site and then promptly (a day? a week?) closed as Offtopic (and possibly, subjective & argumentative) should cost the people who voted to move reputation.

This should have the effect, hopefully of penalising people who migrate to another site without fully understanding the target site, without imposing penalties on people who move questions which do belong on the target site.

It should hopefully mean more bad questions are closed rather than moved, and also that any borderline questions aren't moved so quickly, so the person asking them can clarify them and then get their question either answered or moved as a good question.

As per Ben and Bill's comments below, the penalty should be just a couple of points per bad question and should be 'saved up' and applied only to people who have made a series of bad migrations. I hope to discourage bad question migrations, not penalise people for making the occasional honest mistake.

I appreciate similar questions have been asked/proposed before but all the ones I've seen have talked about moving questions always costing reputation, whereas I'm proposing a feedback loop: only bad migrations, as voted by the target site, will cost reputation

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    We were discussing this in chat, and also came up with a slightly different method of after your 5th bad migration, lose 10 rep as opposed to lose 2 rep for every bad migration. I guess the "bad migration count" could age away after a while similar to close votes. I do appreciate nobody is perfect and everybody makes a bum decision once in a while, so the ageing of votes might go some way towards appeasing the odd bad migration. Mar 26, 2011 at 13:51
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    +1 - I'd love to see people get a small bonus in reputation if they successfully migrate a question, but that would be tricky. What do you think the penalty for this should be? 1 or 2 points seems reasonable to me. Mar 26, 2011 at 13:52
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    @Bill that's a pretty good idea. Maybe cap it at a certain value, like suggested edits. Mar 26, 2011 at 13:54
  • @Bill, good point, a bad migrate should cost just a few points, same as the votedown on a question. I think Ben makes a good point too about maybe running it against a pattern of bad voting - penalise a pattern of bad voting, not put someone in the stocks over the occasional bad day or slip.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 13:55
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    Maybe even just after 5 bad migrations, you are banned from migrating questions for a week would make people think about what they're doing? Mar 26, 2011 at 13:58
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    @Bill maybe your idea of bonus reputation could apply to their rep on the target site too (or even just instead), by way of building a bridge between sites and getting people interested in the target site's aims -- a positive feedback loop to go along with the negative one for bad migrations?
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:02
  • @Robert: Yeah, I really like the idea of giving a point or two on both sites for a successful migration. The tricky part is applying the points after a time delay to make sure the migrations sticks. Mar 26, 2011 at 14:11
  • Award points after an answer gets some upvotes? Or is accepted?
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:14
  • I've come up with another possible solution: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/84846/…
    – Gabe
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:48
  • What's wrong with this? Some issues need to be decided by the experts at that site. That's why they're still allowed to close a question, even after it has been migrated. Obviously some questions don't deserve to be migrated at all, but others are a hard call. Is it really so bad we need to intervene? It seems to me that the system is working just fine as is. Mar 27, 2011 at 3:33
  • are you aware that successful migrations now require at least one tag in common with the target site? If the migration fails that check, it is converted to a regular "off topic" and does not migrate. Mar 27, 2011 at 8:40
  • @Jeff @Cody serverfault.com/questions/252129/… is an example of a question on programming languages that was migrated from SO to SF the other day. Now that's an example of both "what's wrong with this" and an example of how tags aren't the answer.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 27, 2011 at 8:51
  • @robert well, that should be filed under "don't migrate crap". But yes if there's a high tag overlap between sites, then the one-tag-in-common rule won't protect you as much. (ps just mod flag such bad questions for deletion) Mar 27, 2011 at 8:53
  • @Jeff - yes, it's clearly a case for "don't migrate crap". But crap still gets migrated between sites (lets be clear here, I'm not claiming never to have made this mistake myself, or that SF is the only 'victim') which is why I made the suggestion above for a feedback loop to hopefully train people not to migrate blatantly wrong questions. With Bill the lizard and Ben's suggested improvements I think it could work, though I appreciate there's a cost in implementing it.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 27, 2011 at 9:00

5 Answers 5


It's unreasonable to expect users of stackoverflow to be fully-educated as to the community nuances of the other sites. If migration really moves too many bad questions, then I think that the team needs to reconsider the whole idea of migration.

What I know on stackoverflow is that 'It doesn't belong here'. Perhaps all I should be able to do is vote to close. Perhaps denizens of crochetoverflow.com should need to vote to pick up a question voted offtopic somewhere else.

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    Moving questions is a good thing if the question is a good fit on the target site, as it improves both the target site and the asker's quest for knowledge and help. I also agree that its unreasonable to expect all users of stack overflow (or whatever) to understand all the other SE sites, my point is not that everyone should understand all the other sites, but that if you don't have at least a reasonable basis for thinking a question is acceptable somewhere else then you should vote to close rather than migrate.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:17
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    If you know that it doesn't belong then just vote as simply "off topic". A question doesn't have a right to exist.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Apr 17, 2011 at 13:16

It seems like the core problem here is that heavy users of one site may not understand what fits on another. They do, however, clearly recognize what doesn't fit on their site. I know I've had a hard time trying to figure out where to move things, like whether a question asking about how to troubleshoot iTunes when syncing an iPhone belongs on Super User or the new Apple site. Similarly, I've struggled with what is appropriate on Programmers.

If you only penalize users for making the wrong decision as to where to move things, without a matching reward for getting it right, people will simply stop voting to move entirely and just close things as offtopic. This will prevent good questions asked in the wrong place from finding a home, and could frustrate visitors to the Stack Exchange sites as the number of subject areas grows.

I wonder if a better solution might be to have a sort of Stack Exchange question "limbo", where off topic closed questions go. Moderators and 10k users from the various sites could see this limbo, like they can flagged posts now. They could choose to accept or reject specific questions from this list, at which point they either transfer over to the site or no longer show on the list for that site. Ones rejected by all sites would simply be listed as off topic in their original location.

Questions would be sorted on the list by how many close votes they had received that targeted moving the question to the current site, making it apparent what site people thought it belonged on. This would not be a binding decision, like it is now, but it would help guide the moderators and 10k users on the various sites as to what others thought fit them.

This could also address the lack of slots in the closing popup for all of the new sites (Drupal, Android, etc.) that are missing out on relevant questions unless we flag to move them somewhere. They'd be able to pick up offtopic questions that fit their subject matter.

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    I understand Brad, its difficult to understand where to migrate questions. Would the "limbo" work though? How often would it have to be policed to ensure questions didn't "just disappear" from the point of view of the person asking them.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:55

To summarise the idea that I think would work based on the suggestions from @ben pilbrow and @bill the lizard:

A pattern of bad migrations should cost you rep - the reason I say 'a pattern' is to avoid penalising someone who makes an honest mistake or is just having a bad day. If a pattern (say 5 questions) of bad migrations is seen within a short length of time then you might see a small drop in reputation on both sites (and/or a block on using the migration function for a while). This count of bad questions should 'age'.

A pattern of good migrations should gain you rep on the target site as well as the current site, which might help raise interest in the other sites and gives people an incentive to use the migration tool and to use it well (and I think that all IT Pros occasionally need to cross over into another area of IT and need help, so I think this might be a fair incentive).

Now of course the question is who sets the criteria for a "good" or "bad" migration.

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    A bad migration is one that the target site closes.
    – user147520
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:17
  • I'm comfortable with that Iain, just saying it would have to be defined (even if the definition is obvious) if it was used this way... just look at all the "Why was my question/closed/deleted/migrated" complaints that flood MSO on occasion
    – Rob Moir
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:21
  • What if it was closed as a duplicate on the target site?
    – user7116
    Jun 1, 2011 at 21:37
  • @sixlettervariables - fair question. I wouldn't say that was a 'bad' migration in that case.
    – Rob Moir
    Jun 2, 2011 at 5:11

Should moving “offtopic” questions to other Stack Exchange sites cost reputation?

No. It could lead people not to vote to migrate.

hopefully of penalising people who migrate to another site without fully understanding the target site,

Why people need to fully understand all other target sites?

Its enough that people understand it is off-topic in current site. There is some chances that the user could get answers on other site, thats why they are migrating the question.

If the question is off-topic or something at migrated site, just closing it enough.

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    Yes, it could cause people not to vote to migrated That's not a bad thing if the question is of poor quality. As per Jeff's answer to one of the linked questions: "Never Migrate Crap". (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/82941/…). So it seems reasonable to me not to migrate unless you have at least fair expectation of it being welcome on the other site.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:09
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    If you don't understand the target sites, you shouldn't be migrating questions to them. How would you feel if we migrated clearly off-topic stuff to Stack Overflow because we couldn't be bothered to understand what Stack Overflow was about? It's 3 or 4 sites, and their summary is shown in the close dialog. It's not really difficult. Mar 26, 2011 at 14:12
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    "Its enough that people understand it is off-topic in current site." - that's enough to close a question. It's not enough to migrate it. If you don't have at least some grounds for thinking a question is on topic on the target site then you're not trying to get the question an answer, you're just asking a bunch of other people to take out the trash for you. That's disrespectful to the other site, and also imho to the person asking the question. Seeing their question get migrated then promptly closed as offtopic isn't going to make newcomers feel welcome on stack exchange, is it?
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 14:13

With so many SE sites springing up perhaps we need a half-way house where questions can be migrated to before their onward journey - a kind of SO Purgatory.

Some questions in purgatory would be happily migrated across to p.se or wherever; but some would have no real home and would stay in purgatory forever unless a new SE sprang up to offer an obvious migration route.

I think it is enough that people feel a question is offtopic and should be moved somewhere else. To force the decision of where the question should go to at the same time - and now threatening the migrators with rep loss is too much for many people and would stop the migration of many offtopic questions.

Allow for easier migration for offtopic questions by removing the dependence of a stated destination by using purgatory.se.

  • If questions stay in purgatory "forever" then won't that really be off-putting for the person who asked them? In a way, a quick "close" on the site they were asked on is better than sending questions to purgatory (which would make the migration feature an "ugh! get that off MY screen" button, which I think some people currently use it as. And lets be clear about this, there are plenty of questions migrated from site to site that are migrated correctly, warmly received at the other end and answered decently. It would be a shame to disrupt that for the sake of the bad migrations.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 16:31
  • @Robert if a question is migrated it must be off-putting for the OP regardless of destination. But a migration at least suggests that the question has worth - a close must feel like a real slap in the face as it is basically saying 'this question has no worth, anywhere'. Migrated questions may or may not be warmly received, but SO is asking a lot to have people decide the destination as well as decide it is currently offtopic in one movement.
    – amelvin
    Mar 26, 2011 at 16:42
  • I agree, closing a question does seem harsh to the asker (so i'm not advocating turning off migrations completely and just closing stuff!), but at least they can find it again, and maybe there will be a comment explaining what to do next time to improve the question and ask it in the right place. Whereas with a "purgatory" their question will just disappear and might appear somewhere else, maybe. That seems worse as it gives them much less chance for feedback on improving their question.
    – Rob Moir
    Mar 26, 2011 at 16:52

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