A great many questions on this site are regularly closed for being off-topic. Usually, it's a new user asking for broader creative ideas or something deemed too subjective to be specifically answerable. But summarily closing the question with only a link to the help center page seems very discouraging to new users just engaging with the platform, and it's especially a disservice when Stack Exchange offers other areas for just that kind of interaction. For example, questions that are high quality and "good subjective" could be migrated to another Exchange such as the Writing Stack Exchange, and broader discussion could be moved to a chat room. Of course, some content will continue to be inappropriate anywhere on the platform. But the answer to this Meta question seems to indicate that migration should be a norm. I think making question migration a standard moderator action would drive user engagement as well as clean up a front page littered with closed questions.

This meta question shows a similar initiative over at the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Exchange.

My question is: Can we make migration the first-line moderator response for off-topic questions? And if so, how could we encourage moderators and users to take advantage of that feature?


4 Answers 4


Being the receiver and rejector of countless migrations to Worldbuilding because "we don't answer this here, but Worldbuilding does", I oppose this.

As a moderator here I know what is on topic or not here, and might have a clue of what other communities do, but as a standard I am not in depth into their fine writings.

Migrating based on that superficial clue feels like throwing work onto someone else's desk, and then leaving them the burden of deciding.

Moderators have tried establishing an etiquette of consulting before migrating, but that is neither mandatory nor widely done. Therefore I prefer avoiding migrations unless I have the time to align beforehand with a receiving moderator.


First, a few issues with your post:

  • Writing only answers questions about how to write, not what to write. I've seen one, maybe two questions properly migrated to Writing over the 7+ years I've been here. 99.999% of all the questions you think should be migrated there are actually off-topic there. There is no stack for "help me write my story" questions.

  • To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to "migrate" a question to the Chat room. I could be wrong about this. If so, one of the Mods will correct me, but I believe the only path for migrating a question to chat is to either close or delete the question and invite the OP to ask in Chat. That's primarily an action taken by the OP, not the moderators.

  • The meta question you linked to (and the question for which it was closed as a duplicate) has a standing score of -9. No answer to the question has value as the question itself has no support in a community that, when there is strong support (or strong rejection), has scores in the hundreds. A -9 is Meta.StackExchange-ese for "meh."

  • That link to Meta.Worldbuilding, curiously, is a question I answered. The question it links to is NOT an effort to convince Science Fiction & Fantasy mods to migrate. It was an effort to better understand OUR requirements so THEY could refine when they could migrate. This reflects @L.Dutch's answer to your question.

Now my answer

I appreciate your effort, but please understand that what you're really saying is that in the name of a kinder, more inviting space it shouldn't be the responsibility of new users to read the help center or the tour and follow the rules of this Stack.

It's a bit like saying the frustration and embarrassment of speeding tickets should be avoided even if the driver didn't read the driver's handbook or the sign indicating the limit.

It's certainly true that our increasingly angry and vociferous world is in need of compassion, kindness, and love. But the world is also in need of discipline, honor, and duty. Every society (real or online) has rules that are necessary for a variety of reasons. Here those reasons include the quality of the service we provide, fair and orderly processing of requests, and the hope that new users eventually become senior users who help moderate the site.

From that point of view, finding ways to avoid closing questions that require closing per the rules...:

  • Is not a service to Stack Exchange, which wants to be the purveyor of quality answers to quality questions.
  • Is not a service to our Stack, which wants questions that are on-topic.
  • Is not a service to the OP, who needs to learn how to use the Stack.

VTCs, like C, D, and F grades in school, are a fact of life the OP must learn from. The choice to not understand who we are and how we work has (and should have) consequences. We try not to be mean-spirited about it (though the frustration sometimes peaks...) and speaking for my own part, if you click on those Help Center links I provide, they take you to the specific pages where the violated rule is explained. Which is better than a speeding ticket that will only tell you the violated ordinance number with the expectation that you, the ticket recipient, will take the time to look it up and understand it.

Most don't. They just pay the ticket and go on being bad drivers.


Stack Exchange is not and should not be a place where any old question can be answered. There are already services out there (quora, reddit, countless forums...) that embrace that madness. Stack Exchange was specifically designed (and here's the kicker) for educated people who have exhausted their research abilities to query experts for help with specific, well-focused, well-defined problems.

That makes a lot of sense when talking about the great-granddaddy Stack, Stack Overflow, which focuses on software. College-educated programmers can explain a specific problem they're having and experts with decades of experience can help them find a solution.

It's a bit more complex here at Worldbuilding where we regularly find high-school and early-college students who want to write Hard Science genre stories — but haven't yet gained the education to know how to even ask the question. And yet, like new 16-year-old drivers here in the U.S., are still expected to follow the rules.

So, no. Migration is not a good choice for the moderator's (or, by extension, the users who participate in site self-moderation) default action. @L.Dutch explained the basics of why it wouldn't work. I've explained why most questions you think could be migrated actually can't.

In the end, the best possible solution is and always will be for new users to acquaint themselves with the rules before using the site. And if that can't be expected, to learn quickly when they get their speeding ticket.


Understanding the issues of migration

Normally I'd agree with you, but we have to see the context surrounding these questions first and understand why it would not work towards your goal.

A good chunk of the time, questions which are not aiming at the right S.E. site have others problems at hand. Indeed, if the querent didn't checked the help-center or just what kind of questions is there, they might have made other mistakes. It could be anything like trying to create a discussion (opinion-based closure), asking too many things at once, or just be unclear. Note those issues are pretty much applicable on every S.E. site. And well the wheel, off-topic questions are often crossing boundaries with these closure reasons, too.

This brings the main issue of migrating questions : Is it actually better to send someone on a stack-exchange they know even less about, with a high-risk of having them closed again? Beyond the feeling of being "excluded" from two communities, it is also about understanding what is happening. Nothing is more confusing and frustrating in games when you are presented with a lot of rules, players and stuff without having the time to understand them1. The same happens here; Migrating a question is actually presenting to someone all of these "mechanics" :

  • There are other communities, other sites :
    • These communities have different rules, topics and users.
    • You need to open a new account on the migrated site to interact with it. Yes, even if your question has been migrated there.
    • Your reputation score is not the same from site to site.
  • Your question can be migrated to a new site :
    • A migrated question still exists in the old site, but directly links to the post on the new site.
    • Migrated questions have different scores on each site.
    • Your question can still be closed on the destination site, or worse rejected with lots of consequences regarding links and so much (This still confuses me nowadays).
    • Efforts made on the old site might not be as effective on the destination site, as community expectations are different from site-to-site.

That's an awful lot of advanced topics when people are still getting the ropes of what voting does and how to think about their question 😊. Let's add that questions are often lying in a grey area where both old and destination site will find it as off-topic2 and the "quit moment" becomes extremely likely.

So migration should stay an exception, 'specially for new users. Let us tell them what can be improved starting from the basics, and point out potential alternative sites if their question looks relatively nice. Migration is for when the question is objectively really good... But just asked at the wrong place.

1 : Here's a video teaching what makes a good or bad game tutorial. Though it needs translation, a lot of it is applicable to any new user experience.
2 : For instance, I've seen a few questions on Physics.SE getting closed as off-topic just because someone told "I'm writing a story" or "I'm making a world". It's sufficient for them to try migration, but not enough for us to be considered as worldbuilding. We need actual intents of building worlds, just saying you do is a proof you do it is a weak proof.


My Penny Hapenny

Since I answered one of your linked meta queries, I would actually offer conditioned support for your position. Conditioned because a) migration is a very useful tool that I think is not used enough; and b) it's extremely easy to overuse this tool. That is, if one in a hundred queries are good candidates for migration, it's most likely true that two in a hundred is one too many.

Essentially, migration is a complex dance between the rules of our community and the rules of another. The process is moderator mediated, although anyone can suggest migration. I have the feeling that, simply because WB.SE is seen as the entire platform's dumping ground, other forums are going to be much less likely to take a question from here, simply because it's "tainted" with fantasy.

You do bring up a valid point with SF&F, and there is indeed a (I believe unwritten) policy on both sides that would happily seek mutual migration of questions under certain circumstances. For example, WB are not constituted to answer questions about fictional worlds that do not belong to the querent. SF&F are not constituted to handle questions about an individual's fictional world or game project.

The two communities see it as beneficial to swap questions that are inappropriate in the other community. This helps us by removing all the SW light sabre questions, and it helps them by removing all the "I have light sabres in my fictional world..." questions.

I don't know how many queries we actually migrate to SF&F, or how many get migrated here, but I think this is a pretty robust exchange system for our two communities, and I think ought to be more of a front line strategy --- given that questions are appropriate for one or the other forum.

I am not in favour of making migration a needlessly widespread practice. We would make ourselves pariahs if we just pushed questions we don't handle onto other forums without any kind of understanding of their rules or contact between mods.

We do often get dumped on here, which is a sign of disrespect from other forums. I'd rather we take the moral high ground and simply deal with a problematic query here in house rather than thoughtlessly migrating it out. So, no to a policy of general or commonplace migration.


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