When we close questions that appear to be about programming, a message appears that links to Open Data or to a CV Meta post about software support.

Not mentioning Stack Overflow seems like a gigantic oversight. Why don’t we mention Stack Overflow in that closure message?


1 Answer 1


This is a good & reasonable question to ask because the observed behavior is counter-intuitive, and it gives occasion to lay out some of the subtle practices around closure and migration which, by their nature, can't be exposed in a radio button-style user interface.

Omitting Stack Overflow from the closure reason text is a deliberate choice, not an oversight. Stack Overflow has a number of requirements for a good, on-topic question, and almost all of the programming questions we see here are deficient in that regard. Here is a summary from Stack Overflow's help center: https://stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask

The default closure reasons are intended to address the most common closure reasons. We don’t mention Stack Overflow because the vast majority of posts closed as programming questions would not be a good fit on Stack Overflow. Recommending users go to a different site means that, in most cases, these users will simply copy/paste a poor question to the other site; then the question is closed. This doesn't help anyone.

Instead, the better alternative is for users to learn on their own how to determine which site is a good fit for their questions, as well as the standards for asking on their chosen sites. This is what the Help Centers are for, and why new users of a site are prompted to take the Tour.

If you really want to recommend an alternative site, you can do so using a custom closure reason, but there are some risks:

  • The question may not be on-topic at the destination site.
  • The question may not fit the quality, reproducibility, or other standards on the destination site.
  • The question actually has statistical content, but that content is buried under a pile of code, distracting content, or poor explanation.
  • Users may be confused because to their understanding the question is about statistics, but the comment leads them to believe that their statistics question is not on-topic on Cross Validated. This is confusing, at best. For example, "I'm using Keras! You have a Keras tag! Why is a machine learning question about Keras off-topic?"

It's challenging to know all of the details of all of the various SE sites and their various scopes and practices. As an example, I was surprised when I first learned that quant.SE only considers questions from people who are either (1) currently employed in quantitative finance or (2) pursuing graduate study in quantitative finance. In other words, hobbyists and other laypersons are not welcome.

It's perfectly fine to not know where a question can go, if anywhere. Not every question has a home where it is on-topic for some Stack Exchange site; the Stack Exchange Q&A model is oriented to answering only certain kinds of questions.

If you truly feel a question should be moved to a different site, and you are confident that it would be on-topic and well-received there, use the migration option instead. But if you're not sure whether the question is a good fit for the destination, or the question is poor in quality overall, then it's best to simply close.

A long-standing principle of migrations is “Don’t migrate crap.” https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/91446/320588

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    $\begingroup$ For that matter SO explains itself as "Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it." but it's unclear how far that fends off many people who don't have code at all or any real idea about coding. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Feb 28, 2022 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ I like that "Don't migrate crap" denotes Only migrate good stuff, but also connotes Be hesitant to migrate anything. Also, thank you for this thoughtful answer: changed my mind. $\endgroup$
    – Alexis
    Mar 1, 2022 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Also, not all programming related topics are on-topic on SO. Code review, for example, is sometimes a better destination when the question, as the name implies, asks about how to make something that already works work better or more efficiently. $\endgroup$
    – Firebug
    Mar 3, 2022 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Firebug Yes, that's what I'm trying to get at in the second & third paragraphs; it's rare that a good SO question is posted to CV. The point about Code Review is a good one; I recall a while back there was a meta post somewhere where Code Review users were exhorting SO to not mention Code Review when closing questions, because the exact problem I outline here was happening for the SO $\to$ CR questions: it was closed as off-topic, someone mentioned Code Review, the asker copy/pasted the question there, and then it was closed on Code Review, also. $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax Mod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ +1 Typically, if a user doesn't undertake to make a post that's on topic here, they also won't undertake to make a post that's on topic elsewhere; there's a small level of effort required to locate the necessary information (i.e. to locate the (?) menu at the top in the menu bar or the "Help" link at the bottom). Many programming-related questions that are closed here would strictly be off topic on all the other SE sites. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Mar 9, 2022 at 2:22

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