This question: dogs, not cats -> why 'not' originated in EL&U, but was migrated to ELL.

I agree that the original question and the first (my) answer are probably more appropriate to ELL than EL&U. But the second answer (from @NVZ) seems to me to be more appropriate for EL&U.

Is there any way of dealing with this type of situation, and getting at least the second answer back into EL&U?

Note: I am aware of the following questions on Meta:

The first Q. cited above does seem to have some relevance to my current question, but it was closed as a duplicate of the second citation above (although I do not think it was strictly a duplicate).
I am not advocating cross-posting: I am asking whether it is possible to move one or more answers to the more appropriate site, albeit with a revised Q if necessary.

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    Answers don't matter for determining whether a question belongs here, only the question itself. – curiousdannii Jul 4 '16 at 21:54
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    @curiousdannii Then can a question be split. Or can a new Q. be created and have one of the answers moved to it? – TrevorD Jul 4 '16 at 22:25
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    @TrevorD I understand why you are asking this question, but is the question worth the time and efforts? I think it was migrated because at least three members thought it is better suited on ELL. ELU is ELL and ELL is ELU. There is almost no distinction now. But one clear line of distinction is if the question is too basic, it belongs on ELL. I think the question should be closed as general reference, but since it was migrated, it should be left there for ELL audience. There is no harm done to ELU. – user140086 Jul 5 '16 at 4:50
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    @Rathony yours was the last close vote. You saw two fine answers and you voted to close the question all the same. Visitors and users on EL&U appreciated both answers, one was concise but illustrated perfectly the meaning, the other was detailed and gave further examples of usage. Naaa, who needs those types of answers. – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '16 at 6:27
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    @Rathony The newcomer did know how to use "not", he used it perfectly in fact. When I want to clarify something and I say for example "Dogs, not cats.", I automatically want to write/say 'not' even though 'cats' is a noun, and for nouns one uses 'no'. The newcomer wanted to understand why saying "Dogs, not cats" was grammatical. His English is very good, he explained his question, he gave a solid example, and he showed a clear understanding. – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '16 at 6:38
  • @Mari-LouA Read the No. 3 definition of Oxford Online Dictionary. It is general reference. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/not. If you want to have fun, you can answer on-topic questions, not Yahoo, Quora type of questions. – user140086 Jul 5 '16 at 6:45
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    @Rathony but don't you agree that Trevor and NVZ's answers are so much clearer and better than citing a dictionary reference? The answers lifted the question! It made that seemingly "off topic" question, into an "on topic". C'mon you know as well as I do that the early years of EL&U were filled with general knowledge type of questions, but it was the answers (by linguists and real experts) to those simple questions that really exalted the site. There may have been many questions on English that were very basic, but some of the answers were splendidly written, to say the least. – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '16 at 6:53
  • I'm the second answerer. I did vote to migrate it IIRC, thinking that it's a little basic for ELU. I answered it anyway, because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. – NVZ Jul 5 '16 at 7:31
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    This discussion - and particularly the discussion below the answer - seems to have moved rather from my original question. My Q. was NOT about whether this referenced Q. should have been migrated. If you read my Q. above, I made it clear that I agree that migration to ELL was appropriate for the question. But I thought that NVZ's answer (as opposed to my answer) would be more fitting in ELU - and I wondered whether there was a way of achieving than. Now that I know that NVZ wrote the answer and voted for migration, my suggestion is rather moot. – TrevorD Jul 5 '16 at 11:29
  • @TrevorD I support the idea you've put forward. I look forward to seeing some mechanism to make that happen. But in this particular case, my answer isn't all that big a deal. It's entirely a quote from Wikipedia. As it is now, both our answers work in tandem, have upvotes. People loved it. It's good as it is now. :) – NVZ Jul 5 '16 at 15:16

I composed a response to this question several days ago but didn't post it because it seemed tangential to the question that TrevorD raises. The interesting comments (most recently Araucaria's and Dan Bron's) beneath deadrat's answer have prompted me to try again.

I see two basic weaknesses in the way this site handles closing/deleting questions and answers:

  1. By establishing "lack of research effort" as a close reason, we make a poster's failure to jump through what amounts to a pro forma hoop—one that often adds nothing to the usefulness of the question—a justification for closing a question reflexively, without considering whether the question is interesting in and of itself.

  2. Some close voters vote to close questions that are outside their areas of knowledge and interest, which means that they may be unaware of the deeper ramifications (if any) of those questions.

The first weakness is, I think, what deadrat has in mind when he refers to babies and bathwater. Every interesting question is (relative to the usual murk) a baby. I don't think it helps EL&U overall to reject worthwhile questions on the theory that someday someone will ask the same questions in a way that satisfies our "show prior research" criterion. This criterion may well have arisen as an improvised filter to help us reduce the flood of questions inundating this site. But the filter is not designed to distinguish good questions from bad questions; it's designed to automatically disqualify a large number of incoming questions regardless of their value as questions.

If, post-filter, we were left with boatloads of good questions, perhaps the crudeness of the filter wouldn't be a problem; but that's not what I see. I see a bunch of single-word and phrase requests and a sprinkling of interesting questions. Our site needs to retain all the good questions it gets.

The "show prior research" filter seems to be more effective in blocking some categories of questions than in blocking others. If you ask a question about etymology but you haven't checked Etymology Online's coverage of the word, your question is likely to be challenged as not showing prior research. But if you post a single-word request and do a reasonable job of describing the idea you're trying to find a word for, you're in. After all, what practical research is possible in that case?

So we end up on the one hand blocking at least some questions that would have yielded more- complex and more-useful answers than Etymonline has the space, time, and inclination to provide, and on the other okaying many questions that amount to miniature instant trivia contests. Because our "show prior research" requirement is far less effective as an automatic blocker in areas such as single-word requests and phrase requests than in areas such as etymology, it may contribute to the disproportionate number of SLRs and PRs among open questions on this site.

The second weakness mentioned above reflects a presumptuousness (or at least a degree of overconfidence) on the part of some close voters. Whether because they dislike certain classes of questions or because they feel duty-bound to pass judgment on every question in the Review queu—including ones that they aren't especially knowledgeable about—they vote outside their areas of interest and expertise.

I'm well aware of the temptation to pontificate on topics of grammar and usage that one is unqualified to address. There are large areas of linguistics and grammar that I should leave alone, and yet I sometimes get carried away and post an answer to a question in one of those areas—only to discover that my answer is completely wrong. I can tell myself, "No, Sven: Do not try to answer questions about parts of speech," but consistently exercising appropriate self-discipline is hard.

In their zeal to close-vote, it seems to me, some site participants must be permitting themselves to pass judgment on topics that they would do better to recuse themselves from. I hate the idea that we may be discouraging extremely knowledgeable contributors from participating on EL&U because we too often close interesting questions that we don't recognize as interesting.

Here is how I would like to see EL&U deal with the two weaknesses enumerated above:

  1. Stop using the "no prior research" reason for closing, and instead use the "I am voting to close this question because ..." reason, completing it with a brief explanation of why the question itself is bad. This will accomplish three things: (a) it will help us escape our overdependence on a close reason that doesn't distinguish between bad questions and good questions; (b) it will force us to state clearly what we think is bad about a bad question; and (c) it will give other voters a basis for voting to close on the merits (or demerits) of the question as a question rather than on what often amounts to a technicality.

  2. Vote to close a question only if you are qualified to pass judgment on questions of the type involved. And by "qualified," I mean possessed of sufficient expertise in that area to be a good judge of the question's intrinsic merits.

Junk questions are junk, and we should close them without equivocating, apologizing, or second-guessing ourselves. But what makes them junk isn't that they fail to include evidence of prior research; it's that they have no depth and complexity, or that they can have no practical value to anyone but the poster. Let's close them for the right reason, and let's not be so eager to close questions that fall outside our personal areas of competence and interest.

  • I agree with what you've said and I would suggest that if everyone that thought a question was salvageable chose to write a comment with some guidance on how it might be salvaged (because we wouldn't send unsalvageable questions to other sites, right?) as part of closing it, it would help teach posters how to write better quality questions. The problem (IMO of course) isn't that questions are closed, it's that they don't get edited and re-opened very often. – ColleenV Jul 13 '16 at 19:07
  • @ColleenV: It occurs to me that one reason people at EL&U may be trying to port some types of questions over to ELL without assessing their usefulness is that they assume that the "prior research" standard at ELL is different (that is, lower) than the one at EL&U. I don't know whether it is or not (because I don't have enough rep at ELL to vote to close—and therefore to see the vote-to-close reasons available there), but EL&U users may imagine that ELL doesn't require any evidence of prior research from its question askers. Can you summarize for us the ELL policy on prior research? Thanks! – Sven Yargs Jul 13 '16 at 19:27
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    We do have a different standard, which we discussed here: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/2985 and we do put a lot more effort into salvaging questions/education because of the language barrier. We get just as irritated by low-effort questions though. The focus is on "is this question in a form that is useful to other learners?" which is, I think, an easier standard than "Is this question of interest to serious English enthusiasts and linguists?" because the ELL standard asks you to put yourself in someone else's shoes instead of judge according to your own interest. – ColleenV Jul 13 '16 at 22:42
  • @ColleenV: That's an interesting and very sensible standard for a site geared toward language learners. I wish that ours reflected a similarly objective (or at least non-ego-centric) approach. Instead (as my answer above argues) we invite people whose expertise in a particular subcategory of grammar and usage may be quite limited to vote on whether a question in that area is or is not of interest to well-informed people. And then we offer them a way to short-circuit that assessment by concluding that the questioner didn't try hard enough to answer the question on his or her own. – Sven Yargs Jul 13 '16 at 22:58

Of course there's a way to deal with the problem, and that's to disband the CPVPV or at least change its members' absurd dedication to the supposed purity of this site. You can find this attitude exemplified by the first comment to your question:

Answers don't matter for determining whether a question belongs here, only the question itself.

Although this site is supposed to dedicated to finding answers, they don't matter.

What you've rediscovered is that some seemingly-simple and naive-sounding questions from non-fluent learners can touch upon some deep and subtle workings of English grammar.

But really this isn't about questions; it's about questioners. And as long as the untrained and unlettered are automatically unwelcome, interesting answers will find themselves in the discarded bathwater. Which is why we can't have nice things.

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    Thanks, but what's CPVPV? – TrevorD Jul 4 '16 at 23:23
  • Thank you. And, does this mean that you think a question which met the standards of its time and has an inarguably good answer should be kept open even if it does not meet the standards of today? – ab2 Jul 4 '16 at 23:54
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    @TrevorD The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. – deadrat Jul 5 '16 at 0:36
  • @ab2 We have similar tenures. Have you noticed that standards have changed? I haven't. – deadrat Jul 5 '16 at 0:42
  • I mean old questions -- 2 to 4 years old -- that resurface occasionally, because of a new answer or Community action. The new answer is often VLQ and I will happily vote to delete it if so, but I am opposed to closing old questions -- and sometimes the new answer gives rise to close votes on the old question because "it shows no research." See meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/8133/… – ab2 Jul 5 '16 at 0:52
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    @Rathony You and I tend to to be on the same team, and yes we are the CPVPV, though I tend to think of you as slightly more .. earnest .. than I am. But in re your most recent comment, I feel obliged to remind you that guidelines are exactly that -/ guidelines -- and even if they were law, you must bear in mind that they weren't handed down to us from the mountaintop. Just as you and deadrat have your votes, you also both have your voices, and it exactly through discussions like this on Meta that those guidelines are established and modified. Let's not censure our peers, please. – Dan Bron Jul 5 '16 at 17:24
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    @DanBron I think the question that was migrated to ELL could have stayed here, once two supported answers had been submitted, the need to migrate the question receded. I didn't consider it crap, the asker's command of English is good, he showed understanding, he showed he knew how to use "not" correctly, and despite it being his first question on the website, it was a well constructed and thoughtful Q. – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '16 at 18:44
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    @Mari-LouA Do you agree or disagree with the premise that "questions which are banal or dead easy from a native speaker's perspective should be asked on ELL by default"? I agree with it, and though deadrat is right that these questions can touch on some deep or subtle issues of English, and I for one would love to see those issues elaborated upon, they rarely are, hence "by default". To keep a crap (by this definition) question open on EL&U, it is not enough, by my lights, that it could attract an expert answer interesting to a native speaker, rather it must have already done so. – Dan Bron Jul 5 '16 at 18:44
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    I am of the opinion that sometimes Qs that seem banal can be revealing, and when I see them I edit them into shape. Sometimes banal questions are off topic here but appropriate on ELL. Sometimes banal questions are so sloppy they need to be deleted asap. Sometimes banal Qs are HW questions. Sometimes an excellent answer lifts a banal question, and people go "Oh, yeah. I'd never thought of it that way" and that is why they should stay where they are. And the Q should not be deleted because the answer can be found in a dictionary. And that's all I'm going to say on the topic! – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '16 at 18:50
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    @DanBron That's ELL's whole raisin d'etre. And that's why ELL is so grape. If only the migration rules were more cut and dried. – deadrat Jul 5 '16 at 20:27
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    @DanBron I respectfully disagree we are on the same team. We have a few irreconcilable differences on several issues. Those issues don't matter that much. What matters is whenever a question about crap appears on Meta, there are so many users that think ELU is not different from ELL in terms of quality of questions. That's the fundamental issue we need to deal with. Look at them. If they find learners who ask ELL questions, they don't vote to close or migrate, nor do they advise them to go to ELL. If they are migrated to ELL, they complain they belong on ELU. What the hell is going on here? – user140086 Jul 5 '16 at 20:41
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    I happen to agree with Answers don't matter for determining whether a question belongs here - answers matter, but the answer to a question shouldn't determine whether a question is off-topic or should be migrated. That an interesting question was migrated away from the site isn't a happy thing, but there's nothing preventing a follow-up question from being asked to delve into ellipsis and theoretical syntax which would be more appropriate here than on English Language Learners, which focuses more on pragmatic usage. – ColleenV Jul 7 '16 at 21:30
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    "Do you agree or disagree with the premise that "questions which are banal or dead easy from a native speaker's perspective should be asked on ELL by default":" <-- NO! Questions which are interesting from a linguistics point of view very often have nothing to offer Language Learners. I have basically given up answering here, because by the time I can get the damn question reopened, nobody's going to read it anyway. So close away. I'm also not going to get any answers about questions that I don't know about that are interesting to me. ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 7 '16 at 23:31
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    @DanBron ... I don't know if you've noticed, but JL's here less and less and more & more disparaging about EL&U when he refers to it on other SE sites for exactly this reason (of closing questions that are of interest to linguists and useful for visitors). I'm not surprised. Not very many of the people you might want to answer questions enjoy the not-friendly-to-new-users and knee-jerk-close-questions environment. I do not count you amongst the not-friendly to new users, btw. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 7 '16 at 23:38
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    @Araucaria By the time I showed up on ELU, John had already stopped answering, for the most part, but did comment now and again. I have noticed even that has waned, which is a pity. I see him on Linguistics, but I haven't seen him mention ELU, but I would not be surprised to see him lament as you describe. We are too trigger-happy here. But it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Most people who ask simple questions want simple answers, whereas I want deep and interesting linguistic answers. But no one posts any, and so simple Qs attract only throw-away answers, and I'm stuck. – Dan Bron Jul 8 '16 at 11:49

I can't see there's any problem at all. The ELL stack is quite explicitly dedicated to 'speakers of other languages learning English'. There is nothing in that description about the nature of a question (or answer), only about the nature of the clientele.

Edit: By the way, Joseph Conrad's first language was not English. Nabokov's first language was not English. Yet they are two of the greatest writers in the English language. So moving around questions and answers on the assumption that 'English Language Learners' are less capable is ignorant and--frankly--vaguely xenophobic.


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