Being new to the toolbox, I can't help noticing that apparently some work is spent on raising old dust. Lately I've seen migrations of posts from 2009 (1, 2) to SuperUser despite of the apparent consensus that legacy posts are not to be migrated.

Although I am all in favor of the "rules are there so you think before you break them" philosophy, I fail to see a straight line here. From what I have read on meta so far, I understand the guiding principle to be not to touch old questions for migration if they have been answered here. Am I mistaken? Are there somewhat more concise guidelines or is it something to be decided "with the gut" and mainly done whenever one stumbles over off-topic posts?

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    One problem is when people burn through and use all their flags in 10 mins, sometimes people (ok me probably) don't notice the post date at first.
    – Zypher
    Jan 31, 2012 at 1:42
  • Also guilty - but trying to be better :)
    – voretaq7
    Jan 31, 2012 at 2:28

6 Answers 6


Generally speaking I'm against migrating anything > 90 days old, unless it's been discussed with the other site & they want it. I'm more against migrating old stuff with accepted answers -- there is little to no benefit for the receiving site here IMHO.

There are lots of off-topic questions in our history - These should probably be closed, and possibly bannered as "historical", but not necessarily migrated.

Just my $3.50

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    And yet there is at least a fair chance of an even better answer being posted if the question gets migrated to the appropriate site. Surely that's a win-win. Have we not for example seen questions migrated from SO with an accepted answer that was just plain wrong? Jan 31, 2012 at 3:52
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    DBA definitely don't want any questions more than 6 months old - I asked them some time ago when I was going to start flagging old unloved stuff for migration.
    – user9517
    Jan 31, 2012 at 7:17
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    It's as much of a win in my eyes if the question is well-answered here and we keep it. As an example, why send a question on shell scripting to U&L if it's well-answered here and will keep a newly-minted junior admin from re-asking the question (and having it sent to U&L) in a month?
    – voretaq7
    Jan 31, 2012 at 15:51

There is a bit of a disconnect between how ServerFault handles question-migration and how the rest of the SE network handles it.

We're a bunch of helpful people, and are quite aware that there is a significant amount of overlap between ServerFault and several other sites so we know we get a good number of well meaning if poorly placed questions. Expecting new users to read the FAQs of nine sites (SF, SO, SU, DBA, U&L, AU, Webmasters, Programmers, Security) to figure out which is the best fit is too much to expect. So we forward such questions to the site we believe they'll get the best answers. It's a courtesy.

Apparently how we're supposed to do it is to take questions that are not topical for us and just plain OT-close anything that we don't know for sure is both an excellent fit and a high quality question on the destination site. That's a high bar to meet since by the books it requires all five close-voters to be familiar with both topicality and quality requirements of eight other sites.

It's the 'high quality question' bit that throws us. Unless we're on the other site enough, we just don't know which questions are truly high quality over there and which are three-a-week dup-closes. This shows up in the stats.

  • SO -> SF migrations: 17% reject rate
  • SF -> SU migrations: 12% reject rate (I asked an SU mod to check this for me)
  • SU -> SF migrations: 7% reject rate

It's been long standing policy to not migrate crap to SU, and we have many users who VTC as OT rather than do that. However, even the ones we do send over there are getting closed as crap, all because we just don't have enough of us with a pulse on that community to know what should and shouldn't go.

This problem has been brought up every so often by moderators, but it remains an issue. Mods do question arbitrage in the Teachers Lounge when we get flags with dubious migration candidacy, and normal users can do the same.

Apparently I have an Issue here. Ahem.

Old questions, especially old, highly voted, with solid views questions, shouldn't migrate unless the destination site specifically wants it. Such questions should still be OT-Closed, though; just not migrated unless asked for or cleared first. Such questions should not be deleted unless there is a specific reason that question needs to be deleted.

Once in a while we'll get a flag from a mod or high-rep user on another site saying, "we want this." This is why I check the 'other accounts' tab on a user's profile when I see a 'belongs on xyz.se' flag. That makes it easy. So if you're on some other site and see something that's a better fit for us, flag/vote away.

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    Perhaps the best solution would be a change to the way things now operate. Migrated questions would go into a quarantine area, seen only by high rep users, rather than straight into the main area. From the quarantine area the questions would be voted on for acceptance or rejection. If rejected then they would simply be marked as closed on the originating site. It seems to me this would solve all our concerns. Jan 31, 2012 at 20:59
  • @JohnGardeniers I'd like that. That very idea has been raised on MSO many times and shot down. This one at least describes some of the issues: meta.stackexchange.com/q/73391/131633 Mainly, doing so effectively locks the question until the destination site can handle it.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Jan 31, 2012 at 21:08
  • Thanks for taking the time. The peek behind the curtain is insightful.
    – the-wabbit
    Jan 31, 2012 at 23:01

When something pops up on the front page that I don't believe belongs on SF now I vote accordingly. I really don't care whether or not is was ever appropriate for SF in the past. Further, although the rules have changed somewhat, many of the old posts I vote to close have not been on topic in the 2+ years I've been on SF and should have been killed off when they were posted.

If we are going to leave old posts on SF for the sole reason that they are old all we will achieve is encouraging others to post similar material. We've seen more than one example of someone arguing that something should not have been closed simply because they found another example of the same kind of thing. We therefore lose far more than we could ever hope to gain by retaining old OT or unsuitable posts.

  • Exactly my thinking too - if it doesn't belong here, get rid of it.
    – Andrew
    Jan 31, 2012 at 4:00
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    Old off-topic posts should definitely be closed (as off-topic) and even bannered with "This question is historical, if you want to ask about something similar go to $OTHER_SITE". The ones nobody is looking at should probably even be deleted. I just disagree with migrating the old stuff (at least without getting an OK from someone at the target site) -- Like @WesleyDavid said, I don't want other sites to be mocking us the way we mock the sites that send US questions we don't want :)
    – voretaq7
    Jan 31, 2012 at 15:55

Old off-topic questions should be pilloried, smeared with their own shame and then locked with a warning to future interlopers.

We don't want the term "ServerFault doesn't migrate crap" to be spoken of with bitter sarcasm like the same phrase is known to be used for a certain other member of the StackExchange family.

  • The trouble with this approach seems to be that sometimes questions which are off-topic now were on topic at the time they were asked. Also, since the questions are here and got answered, why bother?
    – the-wabbit
    Jan 31, 2012 at 2:32
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    @syneticon-dj The only thing that matters is if it's on-topic in the present, not in the past. If they got answered in the past is of no consequence to the present. Present askers have used past questions as justification for current contributions that are no longer on-topic. Cleaning up our history is important to make sure that we stay on course for the foreseeable future.
    – Wesley
    Jan 31, 2012 at 2:42
  • @syneticon-dj, a classic example would be a post about a home network, which may have been made prior to SU being born. SF gains nothing by keeping it but if it's migrated both SF and SU are likely to benefit. Jan 31, 2012 at 3:49

I'm also going to try to sum up, because there are too many different ideas here for me to pick just one other answer to agree with.

New questions with no answers

I think everyone's on the same page with these: if they're off-topic, they should get closed or migrated. Ideally, crap just gets closed (and will be auto-deleted), but there's no way to avoid individual differences in deciding which ones to migrate, so some will sneak through.

Is there a link to the FAQ on "Closed as OT" questions? Maybe there should be to give people some idea of where or how they could ask differently.

Old questions with no answers

I'm not clear if everyone's in agreement on these. (e.g. I don't know if Wesley's answer applies.) I think old, off-topic questions with no answers should be closed in place, NOT migrated, and the auto-delete allowed to get rid of them in due time.

To clarify (after John's comment and some additional thought): I'd pick either 60 days or 90 days as the definition of "old."  I think if a question is unanswered after 2 months, it's unlikely that it's ever going to be.  Then, just to be sure (and to agree with the only other suggestion that was made), I'd add another month.  So 3 months / 90 days.

My reasoning is that if there's been no follow-up and no answers, it's not worth possibly wasting another site's time on it. Maybe the asker is actually lurking around, but again, if there's a link to the FAQ that shows up for "closed as OT," they'll see that and try again on a better site.

New questions with answers

Just to be complete, I thought I'd throw this in. "New" = less than 90 days. If it's clearly on-topic for another site, it should be migrated. If in doubt, just close it.

Old questions with answers

I agree with voretaq7 that the general rule for old questions should be to close them in place. As mentioned above, 90 days seems like an acceptable age to draw the line at, anything older than that should NOT be migrated unless there's a good reason for it.

To me, "good reason" would be:

  1. it's clearly on-topic for the other site, and
  2. it either
    • has good answers that would be more accessible by being on the more on-topic site
    • has some decent answers and is likely get more and better ones on the other site

If I was going to elaborate further (and I might, although this is already too long), it might be worth breaking this down into another couple categories:

  • Old questions (3 months to, say, 1 year). These might be more likely to be migrated, with different conditions than...
  • Very old questions (anything older than 1 year). I think these would almost never make sense to migrate, probably not unless they're still getting answers, have good answers, AND the other site wants them.

Old questions with bad answers

This is a special case of the last category. I'd say these should definitely be closed in place and then deleted.

If there's an accepted wrong (or just bad) answer, it would be a waste of the other site's time to give better answers that won't be able to completely push the bad one aside. Maybe if it's a great question for the other site and there's just one bad answer that's not accepted, but even then, I'd err on the side of letting it die since the OP probably won't see the good answers.


I'll try to sum up, please feel free to comment and/or edit if I misunderstood something:

  • if a question is off-topic, it should generally be considered a candidate for migration or closure, no matter depending on the age
  • especially so if it has shown recent activity and was drawing attention unnecessarily
  • for questions which are not explicitly off-topic but might have a better fit elsewhere, we have to consider the attitude of the community of the migration destination on this topic (do we have something in writing or do we need to get into their meta and ask when in doubt?)

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