I ran into this question on StackOverflow that was offtopic there, How can I obtain feedback from external developers?

By the time I saw it, it was less than 2 minutes old but already received 3 migration votes to Programmers which I found utterly astounding. I tried to write a quick comment telling people that it was offtopic for Programmers as well and I intended to flag a moderator for them to close the question on their side. Before I could even finish my one sentence comment it had already migrated over by non-moderator intervention.

Clearly anybody that took 5 minutes to read the Programmers FAQ would realize that this could be offtopic here as well and maybe wouldn't have been so quick to migrate the question. I would hope that the moderators on StackOverflow would know better than this, but then this isn't a moderator problem, these are users with reasonably high reputation on StackOverflow who are allowed to make close votes.

Do you feel that something can be done differently to prevent Programmers from getting dumped on with questions that are clearly not fit for our site? Here is one suggestion off the top of my head: Do not automatically migrate a question to the selected site unless the vote is unanimous or a moderator voted for migration. If the vote is for majority migration then automatically flag a moderator.

Let me know what you think or if you think I am 110% off the mark.

  • 8
    This is why I suggested to rename the site to match the FAQ, or rewrite the FAQ to match the site name
    – Rachel
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 18:02
  • I think it would be great if we could contact those who erroneously voted for migration to educate them about what was wrong in their decision: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/120951/…
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 13:45
  • @gnat It actually isn't a bad question, however in it's original form it wasn't suitable for P.SE. I made some edits to it to try and make match the P.SE guidelines, and have voted to re-open it.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 15:12
  • @Rachel I appreciate your effort, however to me it still looks like even diffs you made didn't move it out of fake-specific questions so clearly described by maple_shaft: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2971/…
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 15:17
  • @gnat I disagree, because the answer to that question would be something that only a programmer/developer can provide (see accepted answer), and not something you would ask a general contractor. That's just my point of view though :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 15:27
  • 2
    @Rachel sure only a programmer/developer can answer - that's the whole point of fake-specific smoke screen. "What is the best bagel spread for programmers?" The problem is, there's nothing specific besides that useless only there. No programmer-specific problem to address, no programmer-specific requirements/limitations to apply, no programmer-specific details on particular case - nothing at all.
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 16:08
  • @gnat Would you ask the guys who clean your business a different set of questions then the guys who build your website? Yes. This is not a "whats the best bagel spread for programmers" type of question because the answer is not something that applies to everyone, it applies specifically to programmers.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 16:14
  • 2
    @Rachel the question as it is worded now gives no clue to answerer whether it applies to guys who build your website or did some other (any other) software development. As such, it allows infinite number of equally valid answers from different type programmers. Now, re-check definition of "not constructive": ...this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion sounds pretty close doesn't it
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 16:23

4 Answers 4


This has been a recurring problem since the site's inception: in reality, Programmers.SE was originally conceived to be the dumping ground for Stack Overflow, and even though that purpose was dropped a couple of weeks after the site went into private beta, old habits die hard.

In the past year, there have been a few things that have been done to combat the problem:

  • Migrations used to only require a first-past-the-post method of resolving: for example, if 2 people voted to migrate to Programmers, 1 voted to close as off-topic, 1 voted as not-constructive, and 1 voted as too-localized, it'd be migrated. Now, migrations require 4 people to agree to the migration before it happens. Otherwise, it gets closed as off-topic.

  • We Programmers mods, much to the annoyance of them I'm sure, have worked with/conditioned the Stack Overflow mods to not migrate anything to us without checking with us first. So, any mod-led migration from Stack Overflow was likely approved by us and you can blame us if the question's bad.

Of course, we can't prevent 4 people agreeing to use the migration path to us as their dumping ground, and our rejection rate from Stack Overflow hovers around 32%.

There have been a number of requests to remove us as the migration path, or to provide some mechanism to "approve" or "reject" migrations:

But to date, only small changes to the requirements for community migration (like the 4-person agreement, and having tags in common on the destination site) have been made. I have heard rumors that SE is planning to tackle migrations in a big way this year, though.

So in lieu of some fundamental change in how migrations work, I think education and proactive moderation is the best strategy:

  • If you have 10k+ rep on Stack Overflow, check the Review queue for questions getting "off topic; belongs on Programmers" votes. It only takes two people to short circuit a migration.

  • Check Meta Stack Overflow often. Every once in a while, someone gets the idea that the best way to clean up Stack Overflow is to migrate everything in a tag (usually [career-development]) to Programmers: we've been able to put a stop to a couple of those projects by voicing our displeasure there and explaining what is and isn't on-topic here.

  • Thank you, this was insightful.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 13:37

I just thought of something novel and decided to provide a competing answer to my own question.

What if we restricted the ability of an SO user to vote for migration to Programmers to only those that:

  • Have an account on Programmers

  • Have 300 reputation or more on Programmers?

This way the person voting for migration may be significantly more likely to be aware of the FAQ and better able to make that judgment call?

  • 2
    I like the idea, but maybe more than 300, since I have more than 300, have only been around a month, and am still iffy on the edge cases. :)
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:47
  • @jcmeloni I just came up with 300 because that is the minimum to be elected as a moderator. It does seem awfully small though :)
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:01
  • 2
    this idea looks worth a dedicated feature-request at MSO: "discard migration votes from users having insufficient reputation at target site"
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:08
  • 4
    This has been raised before. Though I think it is a good idea, it's currently [status-declined].
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:20
  • @ChrisF It seems the Boss Dogg Atwood himself commented on it and it is declined, obviously with the specious reasoning that it will confuse new users to migrate a question after answers have been received as opposed to immediately.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:38
  • @ChrisF thanks! I need some time to chew Jeff's reasoning; at the first glance it seems to deserve a downvote and the question deserves bounty. Don't quote me on this yet though since I didn't yet made up my mind
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 15:55
  • 1
    I thought it wasn't a bad idea at first, but now that I think about it I don't like it. I can usually see if a question belongs on something like ServerFault or SuperUser right away and I seriously doubt I'll bother getting rep on those sites just so I can vote to migrate. The problem with our site is our name doesn't match our FAQ.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 19:24
  • on a further thought I feel that lenient leakage approach currently does less harm than good - by making inter-site communication easier and by giving chance to raise mutual awareness. Time to build Berlin wall has not come (yet)
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 12:54


We are no longer a migration target on Stack Overflow, and the difference is already showing, last time we rejected a Stack Overflow question was May 22. Of course we get a lot less migrations now than before, but the ones we get are definitely on topic and of good/high quality.

SOpedians can still suggest migrating to Programmers, either by flagging for moderation attention or through comments, and the latter is still a problem ("my question was closed on Stack Overflow, let's copy paste it verbatim on that other site the helpful commenter pointed me to"), but it's a far lesser problem.

  • 2
    [status-probably-as-good-as-its-gonna-get] ;)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 1:15
  • @AnnaLear Well if you can make comments pointing to Programmers go away with a single flag and without moderator intervention, that'd be awesome! (too greedy?)
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 1:24
  • Sorry, not my department. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 1:32
  • 1
    I have suggested and agree that the "better fit on programmers.se" comments should get auto-nuked from orbit. With or without human intervention, if I had my way. I saw one such comment today, 7 upvotes. Terrible question. And to no surprise, the user posted the question here and it was promptly closed. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 4:13

Personally, I think that this continues to show something that I've said multiple times since the migration paths were set up: letting users vote to move a question is a bad idea. Having a migration path requires users to understand, in detail, what other communities are about and what types of questions they accept at present. There are people on Stack Overflow that don't know what we are about, and I'm sure some think of us as the dumping ground that we were a year and a half ago. Expecting people to keep up-to-date on communities that they aren't actively involved in of is a flawed concepts.

I've (and others, in various posts on MSO) said time and time again that users should only be able to vote as off-topic and say "this doesn't belong here" and somehow let moderators find and move questions to the appropriate sites (if they are actually good questions), either via push or pull. But so far, nothing has ever come from this.

In terms of this specific question, it's a rather vague question and doesn't show any explicit ties to software developers, but I don't think an exit interview question is always off-topic here. If we accept questions about interviews (presently 439 tagged, 345 open), there's no reason why we can't accept good questions about how to best gather relevant and useful information from software developers in an exit interview. I don't know what such a question would look like, as every exit interview I've done has only been done with HR and not a technical person, but I would presume that there might be some questions out there.

  • Concerning the specific question, I felt it was too general as worded and I mentioned that in the comments that based on the little information given it was likely not salvageable. I voted to close, but after careful thought, not based on a split second decision to migrate.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 13:41
  • 5
    As far as "expecting people to keep up to date", I think we pretty statically have had the concept that questions like, "What is the best bagel spread for programmers?" or "As a programmer, what can I do about erectile dysfunction?" are completely and irrevocably offtopic. Simply adding for programmers or as a programmer to a completely general or offtopic question does not make it about programmers. Anybody who even spent a couple minutes skimming over the FAQ should know this. What we have are people migrating to Programmers who know nothing about Programmers.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 13:46
  • @maple_shaft You're right about the original question - it was too general and not salvageable (except maybe by the original asker). I voted to close (the 5th vote) as "not a real question" since it's too ambiguous. The nature of the topic is very much on-topic, and I'd like to see it made more specific and reopened, but it's not likely that will happen.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:19
  • 1
    @maple_shaft The original Programmers proposal was for those "as a programmer" and "for programmers" questions. They very quickly became off-topic (mainly because they weren't a good fit for the Stack Exchange format), but I don't know if you can hold people who never visit Programmers accountable for keeping up-to-date on what we accept as on-topic here and that our definition has changed in the past year or two, when the very early discussion and idea was to give those questions a home.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:19
  • 1
    The definition fundamentally changed within the first few weeks of it piloting and hasn't changed much since for the years since. I feel it is less likely for the average contributing SO user to be aware of the original short lived intent of the site years ago than it is for them to at least be vaguely aware of what this site is about. Which goes back to the fundamental problem that your average SO user has no business voting for migration.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:30
  • 1
    @maple_shaft It changed very quickly, but there was a lot of publicity, on MSO and the SO blog, about Programmers. That memory of what used to be probably remains. But ultimately, I agree, no average user of any site has any business migrating a question to another site, especially one that they don't use. Migration paths should just go away entirely.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:38

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