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Why does ELU keep migrating this type of question? Are they too cowardly to close them?

A recurrent issue on ELL. It's like we are the poor relation that can have the awful questions dumped on us.

See Is "to pursue indepence" correct?

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    I'm pretty sure migrations like this have always been a thing since we got the migration path, but the number of migrations has probably increased lately due to changing the "research" close reason. (I didn't expect the number of migrations to increase that much before making the change.) There are other things I would like to do to help improve question quality (e.g., better guidance when asking a question), but I didn't even have a chance to get started on them yet.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Feb 3 at 0:08
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    @Laurel you're saying the number of posts migrated to ELL has increased since January 24 because of revision of the close reason? It's been ‘live’ only one week. Don't beat yourself up, LQ questions have always slipped through the nets. I don't think this was the worst offender. The "fault" lies within the three-vote system, all you need are two users who vote to migrate a post and it's done.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 3 at 16:13
  • @Mari-LouA I feel like I want to say something to put my comment into a context where it makes more sense, but I think what actually happened is that each day in this alleged past "week" has felt more like four, and I was also looking at percentages instead of raw numbers lol
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Feb 3 at 16:43
  • @Mari-LouA - I think CVing has changed ever since Laurel even announced the change, not just since it was fully implemented. Commented Feb 3 at 16:58
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    Do you have examples of some other recently-migrated problematic questions? Commented Feb 3 at 17:06
  • @Heartspring Recently? I'm sure there have been a few but they often remain unanswered and either slip away into oblivion or get deleted by the system. I am focusing on this particularly migrated post because I disagree that it was egregious. When I first saw it, I wasn't annoyed by its presence but I have been annoyed in the past by shockingly low quality posts. So, some questions should never be migrated but this one had "something" that could have helped elevated it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 3 at 19:20
  • Basic questions asked by those learning English do not usually belong here, and should be first asked on ELL. It's entirely likely that the migration is saying "Ask this on ELL first" rather than "This is a good question for ELL". Arguably that's wrong because "Don't migrate crap", but the quality of questions on both sites is extremely variable.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 4 at 12:49
  • @AndrewLeach: The trouble with "Don't migrate crap" as a supposedly practical guideline is that it may be taken to mean either of two very different things: "Don't migrate questions that you [EL&U reviewers] think are crap" or "Don't migrate questions that we [ELL reviewers] think are crap"—neither of which is a particularly helpful parameter for most EL&U question reviewers. ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 4 at 19:34
  • 1
    ... The first interpretation makes the guideline relevant only to the few EL&U reviewers who migrate questions that they think are crap. The second instructs EL&U reviewers to exercise the level of site awareness with regard to ELL standards that ELL reviewers possess, which most EL&U reviewers can't do. It might be more helpful to replace the negative guideline with a positive one, such as "Only migrate a question to ELL if you are 100% sure that it will be a good fit there." That might reduce the number of migrations to a trickle, but it is more likely to be a welcome trickle.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 4 at 19:34
  • @SvenYargs Yes... but what that does is simply close questions on ELU, without ever alerting the askers that ELL even exists (let alone that it might be useful to them). Arguably, migrating a question there because ELL will be useful to the asker, and then rejecting it and returning it to ELU, still closed and unlikely to be reopened, is less helpful to the asker. (And yes, the answer is to improve the question, but some are simply irretrievable on ELU whereas ELL might have a better idea how to do that.)
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Feb 4 at 19:52
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    @AndrewLeach: Hence this observation, which appears about midway through my interminable answer: "There is certainly no reason that Stack Exchange couldn't get rid of the automated migrate option for question reviewers and set up in its place a note saying, 'Although reviewers have voted to close your question on this site, it might receive a better welcome at _________, another Stack Exchange site. If you are willing to risk rejection a second time, please consider posting your question there.'" If migrating EL&U questions to ELL is infuriating to ELL reviewers, maybe we should stop doing it.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 4 at 20:52
  • @SvenYargs -it's only some migrated questions that infuriate! Commented Feb 4 at 21:15
  • Related: Please don't migrate questions that are obviously off-topic Migrations from ELU are overall a good thing for ELL. It's frustrating though when sone stinkers get through.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 5 at 14:13
  • @ColleenV One man's trash is another's treasure. A diamond in the rough. A hidden gem... lots of questions, doomed for closure, have benefitted from edits on both sites. This particular question wasn't that bad, but the OP decided to deleted it themselves. Maybe they did find the answer in an online dictionary. Maybe a few comments were helpful in guiding the OP into taking that decision. We might never know. By the way, the OP is not an unregistered user but has been member of ELL for seven months.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 5 at 18:56
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    @Mari-LouA Migration complicates the process. I probably would not have closed-voted this particular question, but I wouldn't blame anyone else who did. In the current system, it is better to be conservative about migrating questions that are of questionable quality and simply encourage the author to ask on the other site with more detail. A great post to direct them to for guidance is the "Details Please" post on ELL's meta. This keeps people on ELL from getting frustrated, and helps the author have a better experience. It also gives the author a chance to bring their Q on-topic for ELU.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 5 at 19:05

4 Answers 4

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What was so bad about the question?
Why couldn't it have been useful for learners?

The author recently self-deleted their question but for the benefit of those with less than 10k rep, who cannot see deleted posts, here is the ELL version reproduced below.


I've heard the term independence usually in combination with the following words:

  • to strive for independence

  • to fight for independence

  • to struggle for...

But is it also possible to say (I know it's probably not very common)

  • to pursue independence

Why did the author delete their question?

Maybe the comment beneath their post was unfriendly?

Why does ELL keep migrating this type of question? Are they too cowardly to close them?

Or maybe it was the suggested edit left by an EL&U contributor whose ELL rep is low but who still ought to know better. Maybe that was the final straw? The bolding belongs to the editor:

I'm guessing you mean to use the term "independence, not "indepence".

The summary says: “Fix spelling.” But it didn't, the misspellings were untouched. In my opinion, the comment belittled the user's typos.

I visited the suggested edit queue and rejected the edit, as I hope any user in my place would have done, and actually fixed the two typos, one in the title and in the opening sentence.

The edit was quick and painless, and improved the legibility of the post. It's worth bearing in mind that the OP had spelt independence correctly three times.

I've seen much worse low-quality questions migrated to ELL, this was not one of them.

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  • If it was a fresh ELL question, I would downvote it without hesitation for insufficient research, considering that even a Google search for "pursue independence" (with quotes) produces stuff like 'Singapore provides a viable economic strategy to embrace if Wales wants to pursue independence.' from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, which is not some dweeb on Reddit, as well as a large number of prestigious-looking sources. Commented Feb 3 at 21:39
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    This ngram, courtesy of Andy Bonner, shows that the difference in popularity between "fight for independence" and "pursue independence" is extensive. Also, the latter phrase appears only to have gained momentum since the 1960s which might be interesting for learners to hear about.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 4 at 0:37
  • 'Interesting for learners' is a terribly difficult thing to pin down, and, in any case, to me, says (loudly) 'stay on ELU'. Commented Feb 4 at 0:44
  • I get your point here, but ELL is currently getting a flood of low quality content from "new" users with intentional misspellings and other quality issues. I don't know what the end game is exactly, but it smells like stinky socks. The problem with that post is not the typo, it's the complete lack of effort. These posts all follow the same pattern of trying to make the author look less fluent than they are...
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 5 at 14:19
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    We still haven't received an answer to the two questions Mari-Lou A asked at the beginning. Why couldn't it be useful to the learners to explain how pursue is similar to, and yet subtly different from other words that could be used in this context? What is so bad about the question? We have a disagreement about whether the question should have been migrated or closed outright, but how is this disagreement different from umpteen disagreements about closing, reopening, etc., that arise on the Stack Exchange every day and are settled by voting?
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 5 at 17:20
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    @jsw29 There's no explanation for why the author thinks pursue couldn't be used. As far as this question is concerned, we don't even know if they know what 'pursue' means. How is this not answerable by a dictionary? Also, fix the typos before migrating to give it a better chance. Having a migrated question closed is much harder on the author than if they copy and pasted their closed ELU question to ELL and had it closed. We can't easily vote to reopen a rejected migration if the author fixes it. Dealing with authors that have no ELL account is also challenging.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 5 at 18:02
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    @ColleenV, in a comment below the question you say that you 'probably would not have closed-voted this particular question, but . . . wouldn't blame anyone else who did'. Doesn't that entail that you yourself think that the disagreement we have about this question is within the range of reasonable disagreements that the contributors to Stack Exchange have every day? Some of us expressed our opinion about the question by voting to migrate it, some people on ELL expressed theirs by rejecting the migration. Isn't that exactly how such differences of opinion are supposed to be sorted out?
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 5 at 23:08
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    @jsw29 Um, yes? That doesn’t mean we never have to revisit the migration discussion or shouldn’t express frustration that ELU is sending posts over without even minimal edits to correct obvious typos. We can disagree and still be friends. Just because everyone is behaving reasonably with the information they have doesn’t mean we don’t need to share feedback. The migration system is far from perfect, so the better aligned we are, the better we can work around its flaws.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 6 at 1:36
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As Mari-lou says, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the question. It is about a central theme for English language learners: collocation.

It always sounds a bit annoying when a user asks if something which is correct is correct. For some reason it doesn't irritate at all when they are wrong, but how would they know?

Collocation is about the fact that we can say things like:

  • make a cake
  • make a mistake
  • make an effort
  • make a model
  • do a course
  • do the dinner
  • do judo

but not for some reason

  • *make a party
  • *do a party

Why not? Who knows! What we say usually is 'they don't collocate.' There may be some useful generalisations we can make here for language learners in an answer though.

So "Can we say 'X a party'?" is a good question, even if the answer is "Yes". A good answer will have a bit more to say. And lots of people who have the same question are likely to get directed to the site.


To do the Original Poster of the question under consideration due justice consider the following:

You can say:

  1. Pursue an avenue

But you cannot generally say:

  1. *Pursue a road

Go figure!

2

One reason that this is a recurring issue may be that the system itself is not (and perhaps cannot be) structured to produce results that both EL&U question reviewers and ELL question reviewers deem satisfactory. Although the ability of EL&U reviewers to determine what is and what is not a suitable question for their own site is far from perfect (as is evident from the number of questions that get reopened after initially being closed), at least EL&U reviewers have some idea—based on fairly extensive exposure to EL&U questions—about what sorts of questions are a reasonable fit at this site.

But it's one thing to think, "That question seems too basic for EL&U," and quite another to think, "That question seems like a good fit for ELL." Unless an EL&U reviewer has spent a fair amount of time on ELL, that person's notion of what is appropriate for ELL is likely to be extremely vague and subjective. I have no doubt that this shortcoming contributes to a tendency on the part of some EL&U question reviewers to migrate questions to ELL that (as it turns out) ELL reviewers don't want.

As I see it, however, this isn't evidence that EL&U reviewers are reflexively sending ELL garbage questions instead of just throwing them away on this site; after all, it's objectively no harder to close a question than to transfer it. Instead, I think that these migrations happen because (1) many EL&U reviewers do not have a clear idea of what ELL's standards are, (2) those EL&U reviewers encounter a question that they are confident is too basic to be suitable for EL&U, and yet (3) they don't want to send the question poster off to oblivion empty-handed, so (4) they either (a) vote to close the question but try to answer it in a comment or (b) vote to migrate the question to ELL, with some notion that the question may be welcome there.

If EL&U reviewers had a clearer idea of what constitutes an awful question under ELL criteria, they would probably be less prone to mistake a too-basic-for-EL&U question that ELL reviewers don't want from a too-basic-for-EL&U question that ELL reviewers might be happy to receive. But as I noted earlier, EL&U reviewers can't agree on whether a substantial number of questions posted on their own site should be open—so the idea that they would be able to apply another, less familiar site's criteria in an informed and systematic way, if only they would try harder to do so, strikes me as extremely wishful thinking.

I have spent very little time at ELL over the years that I have been a Stack Exchange participant, and I feel almost entirely unqualified to judge whether a too-basic question that is a poor fit for a site geared to English language experts and enthusiasts might nevertheless be a good fit at ELL. In part for that reason, and in part because I don't like being yelled at for throwing trash in a neighbor's yard, I almost never vote to migrate questions to ELL. Instead, when presented with a too-basic-for-EL&U question, I usually either skip the question or pursue option 4(a) above: answer the question briefly in a comment, and either vote to close or leave the determination of whether closure or migration is the more suitable action to other, better-informed reviewers.

I suspect that one major reason for establishing a migration path between Stack Exchange sites in the first place was to keep questions that might be of interest to readers in some part of the Stack Exchange network within the network, instead of having them die without further ado if asked at the wrong site. Another strong impetus may have been to help build traffic to less-established Stack Exchange sites from better-established ones. There is certainly no reason that Stack Exchange couldn't get rid of the automated migrate option for question reviewers and set up in its place a note saying, "Although reviewers have voted to close your question on this site, it might receive a better welcome at _________, another Stack Exchange site. If you are willing to risk rejection a second time, please consider posting your question there."

The fundamental question, to my mind, isn't, "How can we [reviewers at ELL] get EL&U reviewers to stop migrating to ELL questions that we consider inappropriate for our site?"—because EL&U reviewers aren't informed enough, consistent enough, or unified enough to meet that standard. Rather, the fundamental question that I suggest you ask is, "Is it worth it, on balance, to have a migration channel from EL&U to ELL, or should we get rid of it?"

Obtaining an accurate answer to that question would entail looking at the migrated questions from EL&U that you do like (assuming that there are any) and weighing the benefit of receiving those against the cost of the inevitable flow of questions that you consider awful or useless or merely a bad fit. If this assessment leads you to conclude that the migration channel from EL&U is a net negative for ELL—despite all previous efforts by ELL reviewers to get EL&U reviewers to do a better job of figuring out which ones to migrate—it would make sense to redirect your energies toward removing that channel from operation. If the assessment leads you to conclude that the channel is a net positive for ELL, you can take that positive into account in articulating your overall perspective of the relationship between ELL and EL&U.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with sending reminders to EL&U reviewers on EL&U Meta (as ELL reviewers fairly frequently do) that EL&U should not use migration to ELL as a convenient (or quasi-convenient) dispose-all. But such messages are likely to meet a better reception among EL&U question reviewers if they assume that the vast majority of those reviewers are motivated by good intentions, rather than implying that they are simply trying to dump their garbage in someone else's landfill.

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  • A good answer as always. In my opinion the fundamental question is whether we need two sites for questions about the English language. Much time and energy seems to be spent on determining where a particular question deserves to be, with concommitant Meta discussions. It seems to me that poor questions can be closed or helped to improve and questions that are considered too basic or uninteresting can be ignored.
    – Shoe
    Commented Feb 4 at 11:38
  • Re: "That question seems too basic for EL&U" vs "That question seems like a good fit for ELL." - the thing, though, is that the new closure policy means that CVers who find a grammar question too simple for EL&U now always migrate it to ELL. It seems to me that despite the new guidelines, there are still users who don't want 'easy' questions to be answered here. Crap can't be closed as general ref, because very little is considered crap anymore, policy-wise; change of policy, however, doesn't change the views of long-time users, who still dislike such questions. (My view of the problem.) Commented Feb 4 at 15:10
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    -1 Nothing wrong with the question in the first place. This is feeding the trolls. I, like Mari-Lou A am a seasoned ELL user. Questions about collocation are essential for English language learners and a good fit for that site. Commented Feb 6 at 9:37
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For those who are looking for more examples, I tweaked an SEDE query to look at questions migrated from ELU TO ELL. It's much better for looking at questions that were well-received than those which weren't, because after a while the poorly received ones are deleted. Here's the worst received migrations from the beginning of the year:

Result of the query run with a start date of 01/01/2024, max score of -2 and min score of -50. It shows three questions with scores -4, -2, and -3, one of which is closed

Half year, half years, half a year?

Good or better is right [closed]

Articles before the nouns in specific cases

I think if you fiddle around with the query a bit, you'll see that the appreciated or neutral questions far out-number the stinkers. It's easy to get frustrated when you see a question you believe is poor quality get migrated, but I honestly believe ELU close voters aren't just dumping their bad questions on ELL. It's actually slightly more work to do that than to just close it on ELU.

However, I think it would be useful for ELU reviewers to look over the migrated questions that were well-received to get a better idea of the sorts of questions that do well on ELL after they're migrated.

There are a lot of tricky bits that mean the results of the query require interpretation and shouldn’t be used as a metric. For example, it won’t show older closed questions because the migration stub gets deleted some time after the migration has been rejected. However, it’s possible for a question to survive the first close attempt and be closed later and not be returned: https://ell.stackexchange.com/posts/76180/timeline

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  • But does this include deleted questions? (Didn't check, guess I should when I have time.)
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Feb 7 at 12:14
  • @Laurel No it doesn’t, that’s why it’s mostly useful for looking at which migrations were well-received.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 7 at 12:16
  • There were only two since the start of December that are closed and deleted, which is a lot fewer than I thought. However, I did meddle with the "half year" question to prevent it from being returned to ELU.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Feb 7 at 13:11
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    @Laurel The number of low quality questions posted directly on ELL is far higher than the few that get migrated. I think sometimes the "stop migrating crap" posts happen because people get burnt out by the low quality stuff in general and a rare bad migration looks like the one part of the problem that can get solved. The reality is we're stuck in a system that doesn't allow any satisfactory solution to the problem because the normal social mechanisms for handling it look too much like bullying in online communities.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 7 at 16:53

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