# Of pure programming questions, migration paths, and custom close reasons

While we're on a roll lately discussing programming questions and what should or shouldn't be asked on this site, I figured we might as well go all the way and take a more definite decision about close reasons and migrations.

The issue of setting up a migration path to StackOverflow was discussed some time ago in Add stackoverflow to the "belongs on another site in the SE network" closing option, and mentioned again recently. The more general question of whether/which questions should be allowed here, and which ones are more suited for StackOverflow, was previously discussed e.g. in When and why should we close a question for being more appropriate on Stack Overflow? and more recently in Would it make sense for there to be a separate SE site for "quantum programming" or "quantum information software", versus quantum information theory?.

However, setting up migration paths, or more generally encouraging migration towards StackOverflow or elsewhere, might not be the best course of action (I'm not saying we shouldn't do it, only that the decision is not as straightforward as it might appear). Here are two ways of handling the matter that come to mind:

1. Setting up a migration path. To this end, it's worth noting that it's not a given that we can even do it. Default migration paths can only be set by Staff members, and it doesn't seem straightforward to have a request approved. See e.g. When should we consider adding a default migration path?, A proposed philosophy of question migration, and discussions therein. Quoting Shog9 from the former link:

[When should we consider adding a default migration path?] Almost never. These paths have a place when two conditions exist:

1. There is a clearly-defined topic that is wholly inappropriate on one site and wholly appropriate on another.

This is pretty rare. Especially if the first site isn't Stack Overflow

and

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. There are better tools available for those rare occasions when a new site is actually carved off of an existing one, and that's primarily what the current system was designed to handle anyway!

If we really wanted to make this work, we'd consider either folding migrations into site-specific off-topic reasons or separating it from closing entirely, as an alternative to deletion. Although there are some other ideas floating around too.

Now, the above criteria are at least partially fulfilled for pure programming questions here, though I suppose whether these are "wholly inappropriate" on this site might be subjective.

An important point to keep in mind is, however, that migrations should not be used to send away "bad" questions. Questions that probably will get closed on the target site as well, should not be migrated. This raises the issue that we should have a good idea of how questions would get received on the target site. This also means that migrations should arguably mostly be handled by people who are active on the target site, and thus have a good idea of what might be accepted or not. For a recent example, consider this question. Should this be migrated on SO? To me, it seems likely that it misses details and context, and is overspecific, and thus might get closed on SO as well. Then again, I'm not 100% positive about it. So is it better to migrate it, or to just close it here as OT, and leaving the choice to reask on SO to the OP?

2. This brings me to another possible solution. Rather than (attempting to) set up a migration path to SO, we could make a new custom close reason here. Something along the lines of (I'm shamelessly copying parts of Adam Zalcman's stub for the programming tag here):

This question appears to be a pure programming question. While programming questions are not off-topic per se, questions on this site should involve some knowledge of quantum computation or quantum information. Pure programming questions, including those concerning quantum computing software frameworks or cloud services, should be asked on StackOverflow.

This clearly tells the user what types of questions are accepted, and suggests that their question might be better received on StackOverflow, but relieves us from the burden of having to decide whether the question will get closed on SO.

We could also set up a meta post to link in there, giving examples and being more explicit about the criteria determining which questions are on-topic on this site.

One thing to keep in mind here is that there is a limited number of custom close reasons we can add. There is currently only one additional spot left, so adding this one we are using all available custom close reasons. It is possible to get more, but we'd need to ask CMs to do it, and we'd likely need to have a good reason for doing so (I don't predict this to be a problem, I just mention it as an FYI).

Just as a final remark and FYI, mods can always migrate any question to any target site. This means that for edge cases, you can always flag for mod attention arguing where and why the question should be migrated. The downside of this is that we cannot start a close vote to migrate the question: we either decide to close/migrate it, or not. In some cases the best course of action is obvious, but in other cases, it might not be, and then we might choose to act conservatively and not migrate (although obviously, this will depend on the specific case and person handling it). We can ping the moderators on the target site to ask their opinion and decide based on that, but this is only fine for sporadic occurrences.

I'm personally leaning towards the second option above. What do you think we should do?

PS: As you might or might not have noticed, I recently migrated this question to SO. The reason is that I was trying to figure out how to set up new migration paths, and because I couldn't find the option anywhere, I figured maybe there would be a checkmark to set the default migration path while migrating the question or something like that. Alas, that was not the case, sorry about that. I then realised the reason I couldn't figure it out is that it can only be done by Staff. To experiment, I chose a question that seemed like it would be better off on SO anyway, so hopefully, while not ideal, this isn't really a problem.

• I’m voting to close this question until we as a community have come to consensus on the pre-requisite question asked only 2 days ago here: quantumcomputing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/501/…. Specifically the community still hasn't decided whether or not to accept or close/migrate such questions! Sep 1 at 1:25
• @user1271772 That question is asking something different, albeit the proposals are clearly related. That one is about deciding the best wording for the tag. This one is about deciding whether we should add a migration route, a close reason, something else, or none of the above.
– glS Mod
Sep 1 at 10:18
• Except you haven't given "none of the above" or "something else" explicitly as options #3 and #4: The whole post comes across to me as "should we migrate these questions, or close these questions, because I've decided that they don't belong on our site". Sep 1 at 15:14
• @user1271772 I confide in people's ability to discern that when I ask "what we should do" a possible answer is "leave everything as is"
– glS Mod
Sep 1 at 15:16
• Where did you ask that? Sep 1 at 15:18
• @user1271772 in the post. Edit: I guess you want me to further qualify that: it's in the last sentence before the PS.
– glS Mod
Sep 2 at 6:58

Thank you for considering this so carefully!

I agree that the second option (new close reason rather than a new migration path) is better. It seems to me that some pure programming questions asked on QCSE would indeed be closed on SO (e.g. as duplicates). The stub you're proposing achieves two goals: it clarifies the scope of QCSE and it leaves the user with another, more appropriate option to try, so LGTM.

Regarding limited number of custom close reasons: When we do run out, it seems to me we could remove the "This question is missing context or other details" since it pretty much duplicates the built-in "Needs details or clarity" (though it adds a link to a nice meta post).

Suggestion on formatting: I noticed on Physics SE that it is possible to bold a phrase that summarizes the reason. I think this is a good practice since many people end up looking at these with some regularity and don't need to re-read the full text. If it is possible, then I suggest to bold "mainstream", "missing context or details", "pure programming" and "another site" in respective close reasons.

The beginning of your post references 3 Meta questions:

This therefore looked very much like a conversation between you and me, with some others chiming in with comments, until Adam chimed in now.

Now you're presenting (only) two possible "solutions" which both come from the stance (your stance, in particular!) that these questions are to be removed from QCSE (whether migrated to SO or simply closed). This seems a bit premature considering that none of the three above Meta posts were ever (though you your own post recently when you were trying to campaign to have the site name changed) and there's not been any consensus that we really do want to disallow programming questions.

I'm all for adding the StackOverflow migration path to the close vote options, (along with maybe some of Physics, Matter Modeling, Chemistry, Statistics, Mathematics, MathOverflow, CS, CS Theory, Security, Cryptography, etc.) because right now the only one is to QCSE's own Meta site. However, when should we be migrating Qiskit and Cirq programming questions to SO? This isn't yet clear to me. Have you asked the SO community what they think about that? Have we got any input on When and why should we close a question for being more appropriate on Stack Overflow? from anyone other than yourself and forky40?

About option two: I'm only seeing this Meta question: Proposal for an updated programming tag excerpt now, and it was only 2 days ago. Please give this community more time before rushing to add new close vote reasons, because it's not clear to me that this community really wants programming questions to be closed.

### programming is our largest tag.

• could you make more explicit precisely what points you are trying to make? No, I haven't asked "the SO community"; I'm not sure their opinion is that relevant for our decision to accept questions or not. "Have we got any input on When and why should we close a question for being more appropriate on Stack Overflow? from anyone other than yourself and forky40?" I assume this is a rethorical question? I'm not rushing anything, I'm simply asking what people think. Yes, I know that is our largest tag; no one is saying that it should suddenly become off-topic.
– glS Mod
Sep 1 at 10:12
• also, sure, I agree that it would be better if more people made their opinion explicit. But then again, if people don't, all we can do is try to judge from vote tallies etc. But I still don't think I have seen a single person saying we should accept pure programming questions, so at least this seems a pretty clear consensus to me. Are you arguing we should accept those? I can't quite tell right now
– glS Mod
Sep 1 at 10:17
• oh, and maybe I should further clarify the issue with migration routes. Those have to be set by CMs, and the bar to convince them to do it, judging from the wording of the post linked above, is high. The migration path to meta is there by default, we didn't add it ourselves. While we can of course make our case for it, I wouldn't expect more than one or two migration paths to be set up (if any is set up at all)
– glS Mod
Sep 1 at 14:05
• I think asking the SO community is relevant if we were to go with your option #1, because if SO doesn't want those questions there, then we can't do it. As for pure programming questions, you've given 6 examples here and the community seems to have (at least) implicitly decided that 4 of them should stay, and for the other 2, I do very much disagree with closing them (even though I was a close voter on one of them, in the past). Unless a site gets created for them. Sep 1 at 15:17
• the point is that whether some type of question is off-topic here shouldn't depend on it being on-topic somewhere else. And because we are talking here of questions that are purely about programming, well, it doesn't seem like a stretch to assume those are on-topic on SO. I'd also reject the reasoning that whether a question is closed accurately reflects whether it should be closed. People might vote to close it based on what they think the community consensus is, thus establishing that would affect the way they are or are not closed in the future.
– glS Mod
Sep 2 at 22:52
• I agree that past closing practices are not a good guide to what questions should be closed. There were many instances where I did not vote to close a pure programming question despite feeling the question was off-topic on QCSE because there was just no suitable close reason. I suppose there's something of a barrier to using "other" as the reason. Sep 4 at 16:48
• "the point is that whether some type of question is off-topic here shouldn't depend on it being on-topic somewhere else" you suggested migration, which does depend on it being on-topic at the migration destination. @AdamZalcman I think past closing practices are not a perfect guide to what questions should be closed, but they're still one of the best guides we have. At least for the 6 examples given so far, for most them our community didn't feel strongly enough to close them. The fact that 2 users out of 14000 said they feel they should be closed on Meta also doesn't seem like the best guide! Sep 4 at 17:36