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A main source of reasonable closed questions that we have are questions that are just below research-level: maybe they're really advanced undergraduate questions, or intro grad-level questions that are straightforward.

Our policy has been to close these questions (maybe with hints in the comments) and recommend that the user ask them on math.SE if appropriate.

I'm not proposing a change in scope to allow such questions. What I'm proposing is that we suggest that these questions be posted on our chat system.

This idea is actually due to Artem Kaznatcheev in an answer to this question. I think it's an interesting suggestion for three reasons:

  1. It allows us to keep such questions 'in-house' without watering down the quality of questions on the main site. This would encourage people who might not otherwise be able to be on the site to participate, and over time they might be able to "graduate" to questions on the main site.
  2. It allows us to use the chat feature, which has been left unused thus far. Since many of the questions of this nature that people post have quick answers, the chat system enables that quick back-and-forth
  3. Participation is 'opt-in': since the chat system isn't front and center, there's no danger that people uninterested in answering such questions might be forced to wade through pages and pages to get to the 'research-level' questions.

One fear that we've had in the past with allowing lower-level questions is that we'd get swamped with such questions and that things like reputation counts and question scores would get biased towards answering such questions. Keeping them in the chat system ensures that questions get answered, but this doesn't happen.

Thoughts ?

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not objecting to the suggestion, but how do you move a question to chat? Is it one of the awesome moderator powers? $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 12 '12 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ Sadly no. I was hoping it would be :). The best we can do is make a suggestion to move to chat. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 12 '12 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ As Artem said, users need 20 reputation points to post in chat. When you suggest a poster to post it in chat, please make sure that he/she has enough points because otherwise it will be very confusing. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 12 '12 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ field test initiated! $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 21 '12 at 17:23
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I really like this suggestion. It is also useful for helping flesh out parts of a real question one might ask on the site, but maybe one is unsure about parts of it.

An extra bonus, is that it requires 20 reputation to post in chat, so this should prevent most of the spam associated with easier questions.

The downside I see, is that the idea doesn't seem to scale too well. I haven't used chat much, but the few times I looked at it, I don't remember seeing any threading features. This could result in confusion if a lot of people start asking questions in chat. Thus, I would suggest we first create a second chat-room, separate from the one that already exists. This will at least allow us to keep the chat-questions separate from standard chat that happens occasionally.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't have an opinion on this, but if you want threading in chat there is a user-script for that IIRC. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 11 '12 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh is that the same script that's used for threading in the regular site ? $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jan 11 '12 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Suresh, not sure, I don't remember, I can't find it. But my guess is it should not be hard to modify the one for the main site for chat use if it does not work in chat. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 11 '12 at 18:12
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Chat can be a place to provide hints, but not answers. Just because a question is not research-level doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve a proper answer. It's just that this particular site is not the proper site for it.

Questions that are too elementary for this site, and mathematical in nature, can be migrated to Mathematics Stack Exchange. Questions that are too elementary or too applied for this site, and that are sufficiently close to development, can be migrated to Stack Overflow, but that's hit-and-miss, as part of the SO the community is keen to close questions that don't contain actual code, even though “software algorithm” questions are explicitly allowed by its FAQ.

There is, at long last, a computer science site proposal on Area 51, the staging zone for new Stack Exchange sites. Please point out that proposal to askers who might be interested in it.

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    $\begingroup$ I see your point, but please note that our moderators are not big fan of migration (see this), because we were ourselves frustrated by migrations from other sites (usually Stack Overflow) by moderators who do not understand the scope of cstheory. I am afraid that not many high-rep users of cstheory are currently active on math.stackexchange.com. The best we can do is to encourage the askers to consider reposting to math as their own decision. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 29 '12 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ Also see 1, 2. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jan 30 '12 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ @TsuyoshiIto Our mods can always make sure they understand the scope of site they want to migrate to. Based on the number of typical candidates, my guess would be that we could have one "migration expert" per target without any mod having to know more than one or maybe two sites well. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 16 '12 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: If the moderators are happy to do that, I have no objection. But if not, I do not think that it is something we should demand our moderators to do. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 16 '12 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TsuyoshiIto: For me (personally), migration between sites is the feature that makes StackExchange (as a network of sites) interesting. In order to get maximum use out of it, the community has to be able to use it, which in this case means that moderators have to know where and when to migrate. So yes, I would expect moderators to be competent in that regard. Additionally (alternatively?) moderators could network across site border to discuss grey-area cases. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 16 '12 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ That said, we can not force our mods to actually promote migration. I think that a feature to accept and/or undo migrations target-side could remove many of the issues involved and allow (new) mods to learn the adjacent scopes over time. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 16 '12 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael There's a social process around migrations (the sending moderator can ask the receiving moderators in the common moderator chat room), and a migration can be cancelled through moderator action on both sides. With the upcoming CS site, I expect migrations from CSTheory will become more common. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 16 '12 at 18:49

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