It appears to be a bone of contention on many of the sites that subjectively lousy questions are being migrated/dumped on other sites rather than simply being closed as bad questions (the most recent example being https://serverfault.com/questions/276006/ ).

I would like to propose a way to downvote what the receiving site considers a "bad" migration with semantics similar to how downvoting an answer works. This would hopefully encourage the people voting to migrate bad questions to think twice before foisting their site's trash on a sister site.

Lest it seem that I'm singling out SO->SF migrations, I believe SuperUser gets the bulk of the community's trash - a lot of it from ServerFault - and hopefully something like will help keep their corner of the community cleaner as well.

Some numbers (motivated by @Shog9) -- Perhaps a data.stackexchange.com wizard can enhance this to split by close reason?

Site                 Migrated in  Migrated in then closed  % closed  % Invalid
Stack Overflow         3384               1528              45.1%
Server Fault          10275                402               3.9%
Super User            20517               1047               5.1%
Programmers            6746                399               5.9%

See Also

  • 1
    To be fair about my definition of "many" - SF & SU for sure, and I know at least one or two SO folks who have groused about it.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:34
  • for the love of god, yes.
    – MDMarra
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:39
  • 1
    Quick stats: out of 189 questions closed on SO in the last 24 hours, 71 were migrated to some other site. The "bulk" of SO's trash stays on SO.
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:55
  • 1
    And a related suggestion: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/35744/…
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:57
  • 2
    @shog9 as is the case on all the sites I assume (I haven't pulled the stats to be honest, but my impression is the community is generally good at keeping things tidy) - This is not aimed at the refrigerator-sized trash that gets closed, but rather at the cigarette wrappers that blow onto our neighbors' lawns.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:59
  • @Shog9 your suggestion on that other question is a good idea as well - the only thing it doesn't address is the disincentive for "thoughtless" migration (and I'd be willing to let that go)
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:02
  • @voretaq7: I'd hope so - because I don't think you'd see any effect even if this was implemented. Another quick observation: Of the 70 questions migrated off of SO yesterday, only 9 were closed, merged, or re-migrated on their destination sites. Nine. 12.9%. And the majority of these were closed as duplicates of questions already on the destination site! Everyone loves to complain about this, probably because it lets them blame that other site's users rather than their own for some crappy question that shows up... But I've never seen evidence that it's actually a problem.
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:13
  • 2
    Also related: Please stop using Programmers.SE as your toilet bowl. One recourse proposed there was to allow the receiving site to "vote" on whether or not to accept the migration.
    – user149432
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:17
  • 1
    <sub>(btw, I undid on SO and closed as off topic)</sub> Flag on both sites. Mods on the destination site can delete. Mods on the site from which it was migrated can remove the migration history and do whatever they believe is appropriate for the question (not including re-migrating to the original site).
    – user1228
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:19
  • 2
    And see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/84839/… and countless others. This is a recurring theme that just isn't getting dealt with.
    – Rob Moir
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:42
  • Flagging like @Won't suggested is an option but honestly I think the communities kill these faster than mods can get to 'em most of the time. Existing "clean-up" provisions work great, I'm just looking for a way to keep the mop and bucket in the closet :)
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:10
  • 1
    @Robert I think migrations work great nearly 100% of the time - and I'd even go so far as to say that the "bad" migrations are probably just a one-vote tipping point away from having been closed (cant figure out how to get those stats :-/) - this is scratching an itch from an (annoying) edge case.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:38
  • So outside of SO only 1 of 20 migrated questions gets closed? What problem are we trying to solve?
    – user7116
    Jun 1, 2011 at 21:05
  • 1
    @voretaq7: put another way the overtriage rate is ~5%. That is amazing. Humans sorting injured humans typically overtriage at a rate of 20%+ and that is using flowchart guidelines. Migrating questions to other SE sites is a topic of far less consequence but along a similar vein. The numbers appear to show that folks do a great job given subjective ratings. Unless you're saying they would close more if they had the manpower.
    – user7116
    Jun 1, 2011 at 21:32
  • 2
    @sixlettervariables agreed - SO as the flagship site gets more of the influx, which means the sister sites get more of the immigrants as they're kicked off SO. The migrate/close ratio for SO is upsetting tho as it means other sites aren't doing as well at policing our trash, and that could use some attention.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:28

3 Answers 3


I'm a moderator on SO and 10K+ user on Programmer's SE. I do, sometimes get slightly annoyed at the quality of questions that are migrated to Programmer's, but many of them can be salvaged with a bit of editorial love, or laid to rest in peace with a few close votes. We can't guarantee a facility well suited for every question under the sun, we can't guarantee a good experience for people who put no effort into their questions.

I personally don't migrate crap questions (via super vote) unless I have time to clean them up a bit. I've been known to close them as off topic to stop a bad migration, edit them, re-open them, clean up comments and then send them on their way. A month after being elected, that became nearly impossible to do because of the sharp increase in the volume of flags.

We're grateful to anyone who spends their time picking up litter, so to say. Sure, we'd like them to throw it in the appropriate bin, since not all questions are biodegradable - but we expect to have to do some sorting. I really don't think attaching a negative stigma to migration votes is going to help anything. I think it would result in a lower quality experience for everyone, while directly opposing the philosophy that's helped to make the sites successful. While we do 'punish' some behavior, we broadly prefer to reward the behavior that we want.

This sounds like a lot of complexity for a very minor problem that is easily cured on the receiving site. I do agree that it can be annoying, but I disagree with the severity that you present.

There is also a flip side to this, where even good questions are questionable (no pun intended) when it comes to migration.

Given my experiences the last few months, I really don't think much can be done to improve the mechanism, and we do have human exception handlers.

  • 4
    It's entirely possible that the consensus will be "too much work for too little gain", but if the discussion manages to generate a workable idea that the Stack Exchange team can implement we'll be coming out better than we went in. For the record I'd also be for some kind of incentive for migrating good questions (maybe +1 rep to each person who voted to migrate if it gets answered/accepted/dupe'd at the destination site, -1 if it's closed for a "bad" reason) - There should definitely be a carrot associated with the stick
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:31
  • 3
    @voretaq7 Something like Slashdot's 'meta moderation' system might apply (for the carrot) where people with over 1000 reputation points on the receiving site are randomly prompted "Was this migration appropriate?" -- but that's still a bit of complexity in something that (iirc) is quite fragile to begin with. If you search bugs for "can't migrate a question", you'll see what I mean by fragile.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:54
  • 1
    the migration system is inherently fragile in the way I believe you intend -- any solution will probably require some fiddling in dark corners of the SE codebase to make it work well. The meta-mod system seems like a good idea though. The question then is "does it make sense to apply the 'meta'-ness to normal reputation?" - The more it's discussed the more I'm on the fence...
    – voretaq7
    Jun 2, 2011 at 4:23

I have seen unwanted-but-worthy IP networking questions on StackOverflow from time to time. It is quite annoying to have a question with an accepted answer deleted without a migration. The experience of dealing with conflicting community preferences for IP Networking stuff has given me occasion to ponder solutions to this problem, which probably have general application to any question (not just IP networking stuff).

Whatever the community solution is, I think there need to be (at least) three cases considered before migration:

  1. The question has no answers, or stays in negative territory for a couple of hours.
  2. The question has an accepted answer
  3. The question has an unaccepted answer, or is in positive territory

Case 1: IMO, these situations are often questionable to migrate. The wording / premise could be awful, and the mods at the destination site could understandably object. It's reasonable to put a process in place to manage this kind of migration.

Case 2: These questions deserve migration to some site in the SE network; they got a reasonable answer from someone. While they may be duplicates at the destination site, someone in the community may have put non-trivial time / effort into solving the OP's problem and they should at least get the opportunity to share the knowledge with others and get votes.

Case 3: The question has an unaccepted answer. These are probably less risky than Case 1, but it's still reasonable to put a process in place to manage this kind of migration.


I think this is a terrible idea, unless your goal is to simply hide from users on other sites. I sure wouldn't bother migrated anything, ANYTHING, no matter how good, if the users at the destination could penalize me for it - it's easier to simply vote "off topic" and be done with it. Believe it or not, migration is a courtesy... to the user asking the question, and the site that it's going to. It's extra work, especially if done right.

Also... I dare you to provide evidence that this is actually a problem: Search for closed questions in any time period, and see how many of them come from another site... Then search for closed questions on that site in the same time period, and see how many were closed overall, and how many were migrated. Unless you can show that the first number is a significant percentage of either of the last two, I can't see how this would have any positive effects whatsoever.

  • I'm happy to take a pointer to the queries you're using to generate your stats and build on them. I will note that a longer histogram than the "24 hour" examples you've cited is required for any kind of statistical significance.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:28
  • 1
    @voretaq: Unfortunately, I'm not using queries; I'm just counting the questions by hand (hence the 24 hour restriction). It'd probably be possible to get better stats by combining data-dumps from multiple sites, but since I'm against this feature (for the reason stated in my first paragraph) I'll leave proving the existence of the problem as your responsibility... ;-)
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:30
  • 2
    OK, I was interested enough to bite: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/qe/1293 - Total migrations (=3384). data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/s/1422/… - Migrations that are subsequently closed (=1528). Just shy of 50%, assuming a 5 second SQL edit and that "ClosedDate" is a reliable indicator that a post was closed by votes or moderator action.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 19:50
  • 2
    @voretaq: Interesting... I'd never even thought to check migrations to SO, since most of the complaints are from users of other sites. FWIW, it's ~4% on SF and ~5% on SU - so clearly, if something needs to be done here, it should involve disabling the ability of you guys to send stuff to SO!
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:01
  • @voretaq: ...and ~6% for Programmers.SE. Wow. Thanks man, I'm bookmarking this - next time someone complains about SO sending them crap, they're getting a link.
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:06
  • @shog I think that query may be including "closed-as-dupes" & have other bugs as well - I need to sit with it and see if I can find a way to break it out better. I'm not surprised that SO has a lot of junk migrated to it though.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:07
  • @shog there's a similar query floating around out there that shows which site things were migrated to/from, but I'm an Oracle/Postgres guy and the MS-SQL wizardry in that query was a bit much for me.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:31
  • @voretaq: I combined your queries and added some stats to your question.
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:33
  • Yup - I added a note that the base query may be including "good" (dup) as well as "bad" closes - I still haven't found a close-reason field to use to split it out. I have a feeling SO will still have the lion's share just because the dataset is the largest in the network.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:36
  • 1
    @voretaq7: actually... fewer questions are migrated into SO than any of the other sites being discussed. Of course, all of these will exclude deleted questions, since those don't show up in the dumps - it's possible that the numbers are skewed considerably by this if a site is good about taking out the trash. If anything, this simply illustrates how much more familiar SO users are with what makes a good question. In any case... Next time you see a bad question migrated onto SF, keep in mind that it's one of just a tiny handful that slip through the cracks.
    – Shog9
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:40
  • 2
    @shog9 I agree with what you're saying there and I think we all appreciate firstly that the majority of bad questions are dealt with appropriately and that this isn't problem isn't just caused by SO. For my first point though, I'd say: sure we're doing great.. but why not see if we can do even better. For the second one, the bigger the problem turns out to be then again, the more important it is that we try and improve.
    – Rob Moir
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:52
  • I could argue from the opposite end - Fewer questions being migrated in because the other sites close them rather than migrate. Like I said in the main question though, SU is the site that gets the bulk of the migrated stuff. The stats bear that out (double the immigrants of SF, and 6x what SO gets). Most are probably valid - I'm looking for ways to address the ones that aren't so there's less community clean-up to do on the receiving sites.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:53
  • 2
    @Shog9/@voretaq7: A possible improvement would be to not automigrate if there isn't a supermajority. Sometimes I see a 3-2 split for SF/SU (or the opposite) migration. Perhaps this could be queued up for moderators to disposition? Not that I think Shog9 wants any more work :)
    – user7116
    Jun 1, 2011 at 21:50
  • @sixlettervariables - I like that idea but I'd extend the queue to Moderators and 10k+ users.
    – voretaq7
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:26
  • @voretaq7: I'm usually one of those 10k+ users participating in the split :(
    – user7116
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:27

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