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This question is purely about whether or not we want to write comments when there are other sites on the network who specialize in a certain topic that is also on-topic on WorldBuilding and if so, how - the current or future guidelines for on-topicness are irrelevant to this discussion.


As of writing this post there are many topics that are on-topic on WorldBuilding, but have sites dedicated to them. An example would be questions, for which there is a ConLang.SE beta site.

These questions are on-topic on WorldBuilding as they relate to building a fictional world. At the same time there are sites that specialise in these topics and it can help users, especially new users, to point out that these resources exist if they are interested in the topic. This is similar to how you would point to Wikipedia or a Blog that relates to the topic, but is not suitable as an answer to the question that was asked, in an attempt to help the person asking the question with their current or future projects.

Poiting to other sites in comments may sound like the topic is off-topic here on WorldBuilding and encourage people to Vote to Close such questions, when in fact they can and should be answered here. If a question is on-topic on multiple sites it's up to the OP to decide where to post their question to set the focus. Still, our sister sites are valuable resources for people interested in for example Constructed Languages, RPGs, History, Philosophy, Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many, many more.


The reason I bring this up is, that I always understood, and still understand, the role of the WorldBuilding.SE being to help people solve the issues they hit when building their worlds. Thus we primarily are meant to help finding solutions to your worldbuilding stumblestones.

If you need help with for example finding resources for constructing languages or historical events that is definitely one such stumblestone. Yet sometimes it would be good to point out that other sites exist that specialise in these topics. While we can answer these questions those other sites focus on this specific topic and might therefore be more helpful for the person asking a question in the future.

It's up to the OP to decide where to post their question - and it's up to us to inform them of resources as best as we can. To give them a meaningful choice we should inform them about other resources they might be interested in. We shouldn't shut ourselves off and ignore the existence of our sister sites. They are useful sites with experts talking about specific topics.

The question therefore is:

What should be our commenting etiquette when pointing out that other Stacks exist?

  • We don't want to make it look like on-topic questions need to be asked somewhere else.
  • We want to inform everyone as best as we can of their choices to gather information.

Should we write comments pointing out other sites exist if a question is on-topic here?
If so, how?
If not, why not?

Could the following be an example of such comments? From Is there something like “Open Source Elvish”?:

If you are interested in constructed languages you might want to check out our sister site ConLang.SE, who specialise in this topic.

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    $\begingroup$ @Renan Every answer discussing alone on- or off-topicness of the specific example here should be marked as "not an answer". This meta discussion is in general about making comments that there are other sites focussing on topics and whether we should write such comments more often or not. Nothing more. The topic doesn't matter. There is nothing wrong with mentioning there are other sites on the network, be it IPS, ES, HIST, ... It can still be on-topic here and still remain here. If you disagree and think that we should never make such comments then you should write that as an answer here. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 13 '18 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus, we have a lot of junior participants that read comments like that and jump to conclusions. This Q is nothing more than a veiled attempt to circumvent the moderator's belief that real-world questions are on-topic here. "We'll answer your question because it's on-topic, but we sure wish you'd 'done your research' by asking it first at X.SE" is just a mean-spirited way of saying, "this ought to be off-topic." $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 15 '18 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ Just my 2 cents, questions can easily be on-topic on several sites - especially worldbuilding questions. Claiming that a question being on-topic on another site is a sufficient grounds for calling it is off-topic on the original site is a ridiculous stance - we'd lose the vast majority of questions ever asked on this site. $\endgroup$ – bendl Jun 15 '18 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ FOR SCOTTS SAKE I AM NOT SAYING THAT THIS QUESTION OR ANY OTHER IS OFF-TOPIC. I AM NOT SAYING THAT WE SHOULD TELL PEOPLE TO BUGGER OFF TO OTHER SITES. I WAS TRYING TO START A DISCUSSION TO RESOLVE HOW AND IF WE SHOULD MAKE USERS AWARE THAT THERE ARE ALSO OTHER SITES THAT MIGHT GET THEM BETTER RESULTS ON THAT PARTICULAR QUESTION!!! $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 15 '18 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Sadly, their brain are asleep & they haven't read the question you asked. So they're off with the fairies and answering whatever question they fantasise might have been asked but wasn't. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. Your disgruntlement is entirely understandable. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 18 '18 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android I still should not have allowed my feelings to reign that freely. @ everyone: I want to apologize for that, it was not professional or fair to you. ;; I have experienced people wanting to answer another question than asked and insisting on that other question being what I wanted to ask, while I tried my best to tell them otherwise... People! If the OP tells you it's not what they want(ed) to ask, then instead of insisting that they did - TRY FRIKKIN HELP THEM REFORM THEIR QUESTION SO YOU UNDERSTAND IT THAT WAY AS WELL $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 18 '18 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ As mentioned in the other meta question surrounding real world questions and on/off topicness: Caveat: Members are certainly welcome to suggest via comment that a post may get better answers on one of the other sites in the network. There is nothing wrong with the suggestion and its always possible someone didn't know. That said, being on-topic on another site does not make a question off-topic for Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 18 '18 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ In line with the above, there is nothing wrong with suggesting another site to users, so long as you properly frame that it is an option, not a requirement. For example, "We have xxxxx.se.com and you may consider it as an option to get an answer to your question." $\endgroup$ – James Jun 18 '18 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @James that's basically the goal of this discussion: finding a form of saying that that most users (those new to the site, as well as the trigger-happy-close-voters) understand $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 18 '18 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T A worthy discussion. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 18 '18 at 21:29
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If it's off-topic here it should be closed.

If it's off-topic here and on-topic on the other site and of acceptable quality (we don't want to be the dumping ground for others - let's not make others our dumping ground) it should be closed and flagged for moderator attention. Ideally you would have experience with the other site to show that you know that the question would be on-topic and point to relevant parts in the tour/help center of the other site to make it easier for mods to see that you know what you are talking about.

If it's on-topic here, but would likely get better answers on another site you can leave a comment, again ideally with information from the tour/help center to show that the question would indeed be acceptable on the other site. You can then tell the user to decide themselves what they want to do and they can flag for moderator attention to migrate the question.

If it's on-topic and the person asking the question decides to not post the question somewhere else, even after getting a comment about the other site accepting such question, leave the question here.

It's the decision of the person asking the question where to post and if it's not off-topic there is no reason to close the question or migrate it against the will of the person asking the question, even if your opinion is that it would get infinitely better answers somewhere else. If it's on-topic here that's not your decision to make.

Give the person asking the question the benefit of doubt that they are indeed looking for worldbuilding context. Maybe they don't need exact dates and just want a rough idea. If so, why not give them a worldbuilding answer and say "Reality says roughly this, but judging by other things it could have also started at this other point in time".

It's absolutely fine and a nice thing to do to point someone somewhere else and say "You know, those guys are specialised towards this specific topic and you seem to be looking for real-world data. Maybe you should check out that site. According to the [help center] this question would be on-topic there. If you would like to migrate it you can flag your post for moderator attention and ask them to migrate it."

But please leave it at that if it's not off-topic. And while it's fine if multiple people think that a question can be migrated it's not useful for the person asking the question if the comment section is full of "Yeah, the other half a dozen guys are right - migrate this!" One or two comments, for example one comment like "You could ask to migrate there, but I am not so familiar with the site." and another one like "@XYZ is right, I am quite active on the site and we love such questions over there.", would be perfect. If there are already such comments you can simply upvote them.

We also don't want to make our site look worse than it really is. There are many experts here and while most people have a broad area of knowledge and are therefore not specific experts of each individual field you are likely to get at least a good starting point here and quite possibly high quality answers like those you would get on other sites. Pointing everyone somewhere else saying "Those guys are far better than us." is a bit harsh towards our own regular userbase. Of course, they specialise in a specific topic, so I understand the idea, but if a new user asks a question here and only ever gets "Go there, they are better" then this is starting to look quite bad.

Ideally you would just point out that other sites exist and might be useful to the OP for future questions. A short comment like "If you are interested in this topic check out our sister site XYZ.SE, they specialize on this topic and according to their [help center] they like this sort of question." The rest is up to the OP. This leaves it as just a friendly reminder that these other sites exist for the OP and future readers, while not undermining the authority of our own users and without making it look like it's off-topic.

A simple comment informing users that other Stacks exist is the same as pointing to any other site - it can be a nice and useful thing to do, but if you start insisting that people go somewhere else when in fact they are in the right place to get answers, even if there are other places with potentially more focused answers, things are getting difficult. Simple, short and friendly comments informing of the existence of other sites on the network are perfectly fine and should be written to help users, especially new ones - commands to migrate on-topic questions should not.


Some good examples for when a question is on-topic on WorldBuilding and you want to point out that a dedicated Stack exists:

ConLang.SE:

If you are interested in constructed languages you might want to check out our sister site ConLang.SE, who specialise in this topic.

RPG.SE:

I see you have been asking a lot of questions that are related to tabletop RPG's, so I just wanted to mention that there is an RPG.SE in case you haven't come across that sister site. You might get some ideas for your current project by browsing their questions.

Writing.SE:

Welcome to WorldBuilding! This is a good question. As you are relatively new I just wanted to mention that there are lots of sites on the StackExchange network in case you didn't know about our sister sites. For example you might be interested in Writing.SE if you have some questions about how to write the story you are working on.

History.SE:

Nice question. While not about building a fictional world you might still be interested in checking out [this question](link/to/a/relevant/question) on our sister site History.SE, which seems to be related to your current worldbuilding problem.

Some bad examples for when a question is on-topic on WorldBuilding and you want to point out that a dedicated Stack exists that makes it look like the question needs to be migrated:

Astronomy.SE

This is a question for Astronomy.SE

IPS.SE

You would get better answers on IPS.SE

GameDev.SE

GameDev.SE is better for questions like this.

Islam.SE

While you might get answers here you should check out Islam.SE

Basically if you could change the link to the sister site to a link to Wikipedia or a blog article (and remove the sister site language) and you would think it's acceptable the comment is in line with the proposed comenting etiquette. Our sister sites are valuable resources, just like for example Wikipedia, and they should be treated as such in the cases where a question is on-topic on WorldBuilding.

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This is deserving of a second, more comprehensive answer.

  • To deal with the elephant in the room first, no matter how much you assert that this has nothing to do with the "real-world questions are on-topic" rule, it's involved. It always will be involved. We have trouble getting people to consistently apply VTC using the rules we have and you want to muddy the water. No matter how pure and alturistic your intentions, the regular and consistent use of redirect comments will always be intepreted (by someone) as "we don't want that question here."

  • The vast majority of people who will post such comments will not be experts on the target sites, which means they don't actually know if the question would be well received or not. At best (at best) this has a 50/50 chance of being an overall negative experience for the OP. I believe the odds of a poor experience are much higher.

  • Who is an expert at worldbuilding? It's not exactly a focus of any university or college. It is a collaboration of experts in many other fields. A policy of posting go-somewhere-else comments, no matter how well intentioned, suggests that we're not useful enough to meet the OP's needs. (I have never found that to be true, begging the question, why bother with the comments?)

  • Despite the (quite frankly and justifiably so) perfect example you use for a question deserving of a redirect comment, the vast majority of questions asked on this site are not as easily identified as deserving a comment (EVERY on-topic real-world question would end up getting a redirect comment, nothing you could ever do would stop that) and would not be well received on other sites without rewording the question to meet the cultural expectations of those sites. Many of the questions, even if reworded, would not be well received. I've tried asking worldbuilding-style questions on astronomy.SE and physics.SE with very poor results. Just because a question could be asked elsewhere with (theoretically) better results does not mean is will be answered with better results. Honestly, we're amazingly nice and accomodating people. We'll field questions from absolute beginners who understand so little about what they're asking that it makes angels weep — because we want to help them write their story, not only to help them become educated in the subject matter. The other sites do not have that accomodating focus.

  • While your example is very polite, the reality is that most people will post comments of the form, "this question would be better asked at X." To use hyperbole egregiously, you might as well put up a "no trespassing" sign.

  • It is not the purpose or obligation of any Stack Exchange site to advertise for another Stack Exchange site. Comments advising redirection should be used as a last resort to answer an otherwise unanswerable question due to their inherent "we're not useful" or "we don't want you here" nature. No such comment should appear on a question deemed otherwise on-topic for this site for at least a week just to be sure a perfectly good answer can't be found here.

  • Policies and traditions very quickly become abused. The moment we instigate an actual policy regarding the use of redirect comments it will forever be used to justify every improper downvote or VTC. It is impossible, once enacted, for a policy such as this to not be viewed as justification for off-topic on this site. People who disbelieve that last statement are obligated to prove to me how my view of human nature is in error.

What specific value does this policy bring to WB:SE? I see none.

  1. If the site's focus is too broad, we should narrow it.
  2. If the site's rules are too vague, we should clarify them.
  3. If our expertise is insufficient for our purpose, we should gain more expertise.
  4. If our purpose overlaps so greatly with other sites that it actually makes sense to regularly redirect people to those sites, then we should close this site.

I'm a fan of #2. I don't believe #1, #3, or #4.

Therefore, my recommendation is that we DO NOT have a formal policy concerning the use of redirect comments on WB:SE.

As stated earlier, they should only be used as a last resort and only after time has passed to find an answer that could not be obtained through this site.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer brings up some very valuable insights and points to the discussion, thank you for taking the time; and sorry for the ugly shouting at each other. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 18 '18 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Ugly shouting happens, I'm hardly one to cast the first stone. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 19 '18 at 0:53
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The question you asked was: "What should be our commenting etiquette when pointing out that other Stacks exist?"

The answer to that question is trivially obvious. Particularly in the light of the fact of this site has a Be Nice policy. If a WBer believes, rightly or wrongly, that a given question has better fit for another Stack Exchange, then that WBer should politely and respectfully bring this consideration to the OP.

This WBer should take note of any discussion in comments about this issue in relation to the question. If there seems to be a consensus, where a majority of opinions agreeing with this position, then this WBer or another should flag a moderator to migrate the question to the appropriate Stack Exchange.

WBers generally in their comments should avoid snark, sarcasm, derision, glib attempts at feeble witticisms, and other smart-alecky foolishness. The objective should be to assist the OP improve their question or find the most appropriate place where their question can be best answered. To that end, the most appropriate etiquette is show good behaviour by being polite and respectful, and generally abiding by the Stack Exchange's Be Nice policy.

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    $\begingroup$ Commenting to say that another SE site on the same topic as their question exists is not the same as saying their question is off topic (which is usually a condition for something to be migrated). They are two, completely different scenarios $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Jun 18 '18 at 14:48
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Now not knowing your history...

I don't feel comfortable with this mindset. We have people from different places in the world and with different education levels. If we tell people that they don't know their history, and tell them to go look somewhere else, we are sealing ourselves in an ivory tower.

And how would we measure whether people know their history, anyway? We can't apply standardized tests as a requirement to post questions.

... respectively having no clue where to find the information is definitely one such stumblestone...

With this I can agree; Not knowing history is not a problem... Not knowing how to research is another. But I think the adequate reaction to a poorly researched question is downvoting. The help text for the downvote button does say "this question does not show any research effort".

... yet again, we know of at least one community for one of these cases that is infinitely better suited to help people do research than we are.

I think each case is a different case, and questions should be judged by their individual merit.

If we are to have a knee jerk reaction to questions of a certain kind, at least it should come from the guidelines in the help section. They already define what is on topic and what is not, and we have had threads about it in the past.

About history proper, the help center says that asking about the following is off-topic:

Historical events of or historical facts about the real world, except when provided as examples or comparisons in the construction of an imaginary world (consider the History or respective subject-specific Stack Exchange sites)

So if a question just asks something like "when did Lawnchair Larry execute his historical flight" or "what historical battle served as inspiration for Iron Maiden's The Trooper song", then it is an off-topic questions. But is someone asks something along the lines of "could the romans have invented some aircraft given some special context" or "could a medieval ship have carried a ballista effectively", then they are on topic. I think the separation of both types of question is crystal clear, and we should not have to discuss this.

As always, if something is off-topic here but on topic somewhere else, guiding the OP to another stack is a courtesy. I don't think we need a canned response for such cases.

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    $\begingroup$ Please have another look at Secespitus' comments, and the title of the discussion. This discussion is not about questions being off-topic. It is about evaluating whether we should be more assertive in pointing users to other stacks if a question could be served better on another stack than here. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ We have people from different places in the world and with different education levels <- Which means helping them understand the nature of the stackexchange network and pointing them to the best places to get knowledge would be the correct thing to do, not? How can you learn something if you don't know what to look for? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T I am insisting on the off-topic thing because I believe the one single example question is not off-topic, yet you build your case on that one being off-topic. Other than that, not knowing enough about a subject has nothing to do with asking on the wrong stack. When you say that people ask wrong here because they don't know their history, you are stating that there is a minimum degree of knowledge one should have before they ask. But questions should not judged by whether they belong in a history 101 class or a PhD study. They must be judged by format and adherence to the help center. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ I am sorry, i was not aware that I was claiming it to be off-topic - please, if you'd be so gracious, could you point out where I do that so I can adjust my post to further prevent any more misunderstandings $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T sure, it' where you say "Now, while we can and do answer such questions, I always feel like they would be definitely a better fit for other SE sites". $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ I definitely was not aware that my chosen phrasing could indicate that. Do you an idea how to rephrase it to keep the meaning of there being other stackexchange sites that would be better fitted for the topic while removing the ambiguity that spawned this discussion? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T use another question that is off-topic. I see no distinction between a question being better fit for another site and being off-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ but this discussion is not about questions being off-topic - so that example won't make sense? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T all I could understand from your question could be rephrased as "there are these questions that are blatantly off-topic, except that they are not off-topic but I would like people to smart up and post them elsewhere because they are not on topic here. How can we tell people to stop posting off-topic things when there are places where they would be on topic?" $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ exactly, what can I change so you and others do not understand that? (meaning the they are not on topic here part, the rest is fine) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Do you just want people to stop asking on-topic stuff here and go ask somewhere else? $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ either you're mocking me now or we're having a serious communication block going on here. It is not about whether what people ask is on topic or off topic $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T it's the latter. If what people ask is on topic, I see no reason to ask them to ask somewhere else. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 13 '18 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting. I always try to make sure they get the best possible help for their query, otherwise there would be no point to use stackexchange in my opinion $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 13 '18 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm flagging this as not an answer as it does not address the question of "commenting etiquette when pointing out that other Stacks exist". Note, in particular, that mentioning other SE sites is not saying that the question is off topic here, so answers (to this question) about on/off-topicness have nothing to do with the question $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Jun 15 '18 at 20:04

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