This isn't a complaint about the overall migration of questions from EL&U. I think taken as a whole, the migration path is a positive thing. I have started to see a few real stinkers getting migrated though, so I want to do a little level setting.

While the proposed duplicate is closely related, this is a discussion and not something that has an answer. I'm not sure what purpose would be served by closing this as a duplicate of a far older question. Folks come and go from both sites and I think it is worthwhile to revisit the migration path every so often.

There is new information here that isn't in the previous post, and my message isn't "don't migrate garbage". I think that the folks that are migrating these questions are trying to help the author. I am trying to explain why migrating an off-topic question might not be the best way to do that.

When I wrote this post, I had just rejected migration of a question with this as entire content of that question:

is " Which cities did you go to?" a correct question?

Thank you.

Proof-reading is off-topic on ELL, just like EL&U. Migrating this question doesn't help the author of it. It just makes things more confusing because we can't put it on hold while we help the author bring it on-topic. When you see learners, feel free to send them our way with a comment, but please don't migrate one line "is this correct?" questions. They're problematic for two reasons - there isn't enough detail to understand why the author is unsure about the sentence's correctness, and they're of limited usefulness for future visitors.

The migration makes the ELL "on-boarding" process a little tricky because users don't automatically get an ELL account created. Often they end up creating a second account and then they get confused because they can't edit their question or comment on anything. It's not a good experience. If the question is OK to start with, most of the time the "on-boarding" goes a lot more smoothly.

If you're curious about which migrated questions are well-received and which aren't, here is a SEDE query that let's you examine migrated in a score range starting from a particular date. The default date of 09/22/2015 is when the migration path opened between EL&U and ELL (before that questions were migrated by moderators). Keep in mind that many of the really poor migrations won't show up in that query, because they've been rejected and roomba'ed by now.

This migrated question, for example, was well-received by the ELL community:

Does 'yield' still agree with 'the subject' in 'measures can be undertaken that yield/s positive outcomes?

It has a good amount of detail and is about something of interest to many learners. On ELL, enough context/explanation of what is confusing can make up for a lack of research. Ideally, questions would have both context and some demonstrated attempt at research (i.e. not just the statement "I googled and couldn't find anything"), but we can get by if they have one or the other. If a question has neither, please don't migrate it.

We've also started a community wiki answer on ELL's meta with links to a few questions that we think are good examples of questions with enough detail with the hope that illustrations of "good detail" will be more informative than trying to come up with a documented comprehensive guideline.

  • Noted. I must have been the last voter, so regardless of my choice, it would've been migrated anyway, and therefore chose to migrate it. Will be more careful next time.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 6:41
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    Related, possible duplicate: english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7784/…
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 7:40
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    I think that in six month’s time or so you’ll have to come back here and complain again about this same issue, as it’s been in the past. This being the case, and I really doubt anything material will change in that respect, what about asking to block this function or limit it to mods’ discretion? That would probably generate a more appropriate flow of questions from one site to the other.
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 20:30
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    @user159691 I guarantee that conversations about community guidelines (not just this particular issue) will have to happen over and over. The community evolves over time and we shouldn't be lugging around stone tablets that were carved years and years ago and pretending that they don't need interpretation or discussion to be relevant to today's reality. The migration path is a good thing and I would not want to see it closed. I'm not really complaining - I'm just giving feedback to allow folks to make informed choices about what to migrate.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 21:33
  • While I find my name on that stinker, I am pretty sure I only voted to close for "lack of research". And that brings us to another point: it only takes 3 people (out of 5) voting to migrate to move it. How do we close without migrating it in these circumstances? Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 8:31
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    What if there were three users who vote to close a question for three different reasons, (POB, lack of research and a personalized vote) would the two votes in favour of migration override each and every time?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 8:42
  • @Cascabel No democratic process is perfectly efficient. If we can convince just one of those three people that questions like that shouldn't be migrated in the future, that's all that it will take to improve the situation. Whether something is off-topic or not is always a judgement call, so there are going to be rejected migrations that folks sincerely thought were OK and some migrations that will stick that seem obviously off-topic.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 13:07
  • I pointed out elsewhere that almost 1 out of 6 rejected migrations from EL&U to ELL have occurred in the last month (16 out of 109). Of the 41 migrated questions with negative scores, 7 are from the last month. These figures are against 2765 migrations overall. This suggests to me that we have an acute flareup of a chronic problem that, while a problem, had largely been kept in check; we should investigate the cause. My theory is that more experienced users, who are concentrated in Western countries, were less active over the holidays, and so more questions were closed for the "wrong" reasons.
    – choster
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:41

4 Answers 4


I personally try to whip questions that might be well received on ELL into shape by editing the post; fixing typos, tags, and maybe even their titles. If we all did something to make an ELL candidate question at least look presentable that would help enormously.

Proofreading questions should never be migrated. Bad questions or questions whose answers can be found in a dictionary should be closed for... lack of research. Yes, sometimes that reason is the "best" reason for putting a new question on hold. They should not be dumped at ELL. If a duplicate can be found, even better.

Unfortunately, good questions that are better suited to ELL tend to attract upvotes and answers on EL&U. Which leaves me to urge the mods to migrate good learners' questions faster, but only after some makeup has been applied and a proper pair of shoes have been provided.

  • 3
    I have to upvote for suggesting that questions not get migrated until they’re properly dressed for the journey ;)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:35
  • @ColleenV Yeah, and we shall have travel bans for those questions not dressed for the occasion. ;)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:52

When I vote to migrate, I am, quite literally, posting a new question on the new site. I have a duty to meet a site's posting guidelines whenever I post to it. Therefore I vote to migrate ONLY when I am reasonably sure the question meets the new site's posting guidelines and will stay open on the new site.

To put it another way, there's no point in migrating a question that will simply be closed on the new site and get bounced back to us.

To put it still another way, I avoid using migrate votes as a substitute for guiding the user to the best site for their question.

For example, when someone asks for writing advice, I have in the past closed the question off topic and left a comment with some guidance, such as:

For writing advice, take a look at these other Stack Exchange sites, depending on the context of your question: [academia.se], [writers.se], [literature.se], [workplace.se], [interpersonal.se]. If you are learning English, take a look at [ell.se]. If you want to try another site, ask for migration, or else delete here before re-asking the question on the other site. Also check out “Where can I ask for free proofreading? – Meta”.

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    Wow, that's definitely going into my canned comments list. I'm stealing it now.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 18:56
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    -1 because who knows what ELL's "posting guidelines" are. Though things such as writing advice and historical English are mentioned as off-topic in the Help Center (or at least were when I was active over there), they are allowed and invited, and one who asked for the site to act according to its own help center was shouted down @ColleenV Second, the ELL site is for all learners (not just beginners) yet the site consistently allows questions with extremely low (to no) research effort. Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 22:19
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    @Clare Stack Exchange sites are curated by volunteers who work as time permits. The posting rules apply to every post, but the attention actually paid to individual posts varies from day to day, and the way that volunteers understand and handle each situation varies also. This system means the rules will necessarily be enforced inconsistently. But inconsistent enforcement does not relieve us of a duty to follow them. In fact one of the best things you can do in such an environment is set a good example.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:10
  • "I have in the past closed the question off topic " do you mean 'Blatantly off-topic' .. I know it's the best of a bad bunch but it sounds a bit unwelcoming; especially if they are asking a question about the English language in good faith.
    – JeffUK
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 10:53
  • @JeffUK You are saying that closing a question is unwelcoming?
    – MetaEd
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:04
  • @metaed "Blatantly Off-Topic" would be, I'm wondering how to close questions that are off topic here, and elsewhere, even though it is not blatantly obvious to the uninitiated.
    – JeffUK
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:05
  • @JeffUK Why would we say "blatantly off-topic"? It is accusatory.
    – MetaEd
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 17:33
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    @AmEspeaker If you don't know what the posting guidelines for ELL are, you shouldn't be voting to migrate any question there in the first place. That's like saying, "I have no idea if this question is appropriate for ELL—but I'm going to try to send it there anyway." Commented May 15, 2019 at 23:48

I have to say that I'm guilty of answering some of these questions, simply because I forgot about the existence of ELL.

Obviously, the people who ask these questions are learners and non-native English speakers, so could (I feel) benefit from a little more help.

Leaving comments such as

Don't anyone dare suggest migrating this question to ELL.

Sends a negative and confusing message to the asker (especially when ELL might be confused with HELL).

The high-rep users who administer this stack are by definition (I'd hope) excellent English writers. It shouldn't be too difficult to set up some form of standard text that politely and clearly communicates the existence of the ELL stack and how they should go about getting their question answered.

Or maybe including this advice into a new VTC reason might accomplish this goal.

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    Our most-commonly used close reason does include a link to ELL. Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 12:56

Part of the problem would seem to be the mere fact that migration is being treated as a flavor of closure. Why not promote migration as an option out of it's current position buried four levels down in the close tree, to a position of equal standing on the share/edit/close/flag list that appears under the question? That would go a long way to prevent the current 'fire and forget' situation of it being the final click of the task. If 'migrate' was one of the click 1 options, there would be ample opportunity to prompt the migrater to address the concerns of the target site.

Possible advantages -

  1. Scoring can be kept separate from close votes.
  2. Privilege can be separately managed. Perhaps it should be restricted to those who are registered on the target site, or else those not registered get to jump through a few more hoops. A separate reputation trigger is possible.
  3. Get rid of the built in condescension, ie., it's not good enough for us but maybe it's good enough for them. That's not the right approach, but I feel that is what is being conditioned.

Edit: This is now made a separate meta, titled "Split migration off from the closure tree?"

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    How would making migration easier cause fewer bad migrations? The only outcome I can imagine is more crap is migrated.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 18:55
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    @Laurel Because the scoring would be separated. Crap would get closed before it got migrated. As it stands, a person who votes to close a question (for lack of research, say) can inadvertently cause it to be migrated.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 19:14
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    I think this needs more explanation of how and why it would work. This answer may not be the place for that; if it really is worth adopting, please consider writing a question/answer pair which presents a problem and a solution.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 20:26
  • Real food for thought, I must say. So this deserves a separate meta rather than getting buried under this one.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 4:28
  • Message received. Busy day today but I'll do that.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 12:15

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