I know we've been down this road a few times before, but the lack of a migration path has been really bothering me, because it provides an awful experience for people asking questions who wound up in the wrong place from a search engine. We arbitrarily close their questions instead of migrating them (unless one of our moderators catches it) simply because of SE's "beta" site policy.

I'm thinking of posting something like the below to meta.stackexchange, but wanted to bring it up here first and especially to hear from those more active at expats. I have no idea if the SE overlords would even consider establishing a migration path if we keep asking, but I wanted to see if it's something people here think we should pursue.

If we had a migration path, I think we'd all need to be careful to migrate only questions of reasonable quality, so we're not dumping junk on expats, but we get plenty of answerable questions that would be good candidates for automatic migration.

Longstanding policy is to not establish automatic migration paths to sites that are in beta. In the specific case of Travel and Expatriates (a beta site), I believe this situation serves users poorly and causes more trouble than it is worth, and would like to start a discussion on the pros and cons of establishing a migration path between the sites.

Travel receives a large number of immigration-related questions from new users who find the site via search engines. When those questions are about long-term or permanent moves, they are considered off-topic and closed with the message:

"Questions about immigration or moving for extended periods of time (studies or employment, among others) are off-topic. Our sister site, Expatriates Stack Exchange might be a better place to ask. See also the meta post Is it OK to ask questions about immigration?."

This is frustrating for these new users, who are looking for answers to their questions, not SE bureaucracy. We have a site that takes those questions, but they came to the wrong place. That's not their fault, and we should get their questions to the right place. Instead of migrating directly, we just close their question, leaving them to figure out what to do (and not infrequently, we end up providing specific directions on how to ask at Expatriates, or our hardworking moderators perform the migration themselves). This also poses problems when the off-topic question has already been answered, as it will sit closed on Travel (unless caught by a moderator and migrated) instead of remaining open in its proper place.

While I understand the intended reason for the policy is to avoid sending questions to a site that might not be "a permanent fixture" and to help the beta site grow on its own terms, I believe this logic doesn't entirely apply to Travel and Expatriates. Migrating a question to a non-permanent (though 4-year-old) site is still better for the user than having it sit closed and unanswered for being off-topic. And I don't see how it improves the quality of either site to refuse to migrate questions misplaced by inexperienced users.

In the spirit of Be Nice, we should fix this avoidable bad experience for askers and setup a migration path.

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    SE won't let us migrate to expats, as it's in beta. Totally agree with you, and expats has been open for years now and has more traffic than travel did around that time (from memory) but ... good things take time? 6-12 weeks? ;) I'll re-tag your post for support – Mark Mayo Jan 23 '18 at 22:45
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    While I cannot really help out with overriding StackExchange's migration policies (at best mods can ask the admins, but it's not guaranteed to work), I'd like to point out that flagging the post for mods with "Please migrate to Expats.SE" is sufficient to move it where appropriate. – JonathanReez Jan 23 '18 at 23:24
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    Thanks. I certainly wasn't expecting anything more than "ask the admins," realizing it's a longshot, but I think Travel<->Expats is a special case compared to most beta site migration situations, where we've bifurcated a topic based on criteria not obvious to first-time visitors. Flagging for moderator attention is certainly a good option if we can't have a migration path. – Zach Lipton Jan 23 '18 at 23:28
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    @ZachLipton Nah, this split isn't nearly as confusing for new members as MathOverflow versus Mathematics, or English Language Learners vs. English Language & Usage, or Computer Science, Theoretical Computer Science, Computer Science Educators, and Computational Science – choster Jan 24 '18 at 15:35
  • I'd like to share JNat's and Shog's thought on the recent migration path issue between Anime & Manga and Science Fiction & Fantasy. In short: "Leave a comment suggesting the asker re-post their question on SF&F (and delete the one they posted here). [...] If the asker cares enough to join a new site and re-ask it, they probably also care enough to stick around and respond to clarifications, add necessary details, accept a correct answer if one arises..." – Andrew T. Jan 25 '18 at 2:05
  • Thanks @AndrewT. That's essentially what we do here now, and it leads to a lousy experience for askers (and for regulars here, who have to explain, in detail, how to go ask at Expats when people don't understand, flag questions that require moderator attention, etc...). The site has a migration path feature that's precisely intended for this use case, and the only reason we're not using it is because Expats is in beta. It's been in beta for four years. While I'd love for them to be allowed to graduate, the beta label has become arbitrary at this point and shouldn't be a reason to hold this up. – Zach Lipton Jan 25 '18 at 2:32
  • @AndrewT. Also, it seems clear from that thread that several SF&F moderators don't want a migration path to/from A&M because of concerns about poor quality questions being migrated (neither are beta sites). I posted this here rather than meta.SE precisely to get an idea of local site opinion. If community consensus at Travel or Expats is that a migration path would be harmful, then the site's beta status is irrelevant: we shouldn't do something neither site wants. – Zach Lipton Jan 25 '18 at 2:35

We already have a custom close reason for questions that should be asked on Expats instead. I don't think we have any reason not to have a migration path instead. It certainly seems like it would be more convenient for askers.

Whether Expats would want to have questions from here migrated raw instead of askers going there and having a chance to search and gauge the atmosphere before wording their question, is of course a different matter that this meta cannot decide.

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    Thanks. I'd agree that Expats take on this is obviously essential (Mark Mayo is a moderator at both sites, and he's already weighed in). I'm happy to go open the discussion over on their meta, but it's kind of pointless if we don't know whether the SE admins are at all open to considering a migration path. If we had a path, we'd have to be contentious about when we used it, still closing unsuitable questions here rather than migrating. – Zach Lipton Jan 25 '18 at 23:59
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    @Zach: Sure -- the point of the second paragraph is not to tell you anything you don't already know, but to give us something to vote on that could hopefully be presented as community consensus without sounding like we're overstepping our competence. – Henning Makholm Jan 26 '18 at 0:20
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    @ZachLipton I can ask the community managers informally what they think about this. – JoErNanO Jan 26 '18 at 21:27

After a brief chat with Shog, we decided to take another approach. Although Travel and Expats fit these two criteria for establishing a migration path:

  1. There is a clearly-defined topic that is wholly inappropriate on one site and wholly appropriate on another.
  2. That topic is asked about daily on the former site.

the SE rules are clear: we can't have a migration path to a beta site. In addition, most of the traffic on Expatriates seems to come from questions migrated from Travel, which in itself could be an indicator of an unhealthy beta.

A possible solution to these problems would be to add guidance on our ask page which points users to Expatriates if their question is about immigration / working for long periods of time. This could help us reduce the number of Expatriates questions posted on Travel. Moreover, it could increase direct traffic to Expatriates which, in turn, should help it emerge from beta.

  • Thanks for talking to Shog about this; much appreciated. Is there any justification for this rule being applied in this case or do the SE admins simply refuse to consider any exception regardless of rationale? – Zach Lipton Jan 26 '18 at 22:37
  • @ZachLipton I think SE wants to move away from migrations altogether. Quoting from the linked Meta.SE post by Shog: "Truth is, migrations are not often particularly necessary. It's usually just as easy for the asker to re-post his question on a new site as it is for 5 close-voters or a moderator to migrate." In other words the plan for the future seems to be to make closing on A and reposting on B the standard way to deal with these cases since 1) it removes the need for migration 2) creates directed traffic to B 3) creates new users on B thus helping build a community. – JoErNanO Jan 26 '18 at 23:39
  • And yet (I realize this is not your fault @JoErNanO), that's from 2015 and migrations are still around. Policy is supposed to be there to benefit the site and its users, not to satisfy arbitrary preferences. It's not just as easy for the asker to re-post, because we sometimes end up having to give more specific directions, and we make the asker feel stupid instead of just fixing their understandable mistake for them. If there's community consensus on both sides that a migration path would be useful and the sites fit the criteria, why does Expats being in perpetual beta make a difference? – Zach Lipton Jan 26 '18 at 23:59
  • Killing migration seems like a way to junk up stacks with closed questions. They're not free, they tie up resources. Maybe they need a more streamlined migration process, like if 2 voters suggest a migration, it tells OP and OP can click "Yeah do it" same as they can accept edits. I don't agree that Expats is unhealthy merely because so many questions come from here. – Harper Jan 27 '18 at 6:29
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    @Harper Expats.SE is in fact unhealthy as there aren't many good questions and answers there. Expat problems are simply a lot more complex than Travel problems (e.g. singular Schengen rules vs. individual migration rules in 26 Schengen countries) so it's impossible to keep the site popular without lots of committed and knowledgeable users posting answers. I've previously suggested that StackExchange should hire a few immigration lawyers to answers Qs 24/7, but that's not something they're interested in. – JonathanReez Feb 1 '18 at 19:55

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