When a question begins by saying "This question appeared earlier on math.stackexchange.com" and links to that earlier posting, how does it make sense to migrate it to math.stackexchange.com (thereby creating a duplicate question on that site)?


closed as off-topic by Andrés E. Caicedo, David White, Felipe Voloch, Ben Webster Aug 7 '13 at 1:19

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about MathOverflow or the software that powers the Stack Exchange network within the scope defined in the help center." – Andrés E. Caicedo, David White, Felipe Voloch, Ben Webster
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I see that at math.stackexchange.com/questions/459198/… you used the word "imbecile" to describe the people who migrated your question. Given what you seem to think of the people who migrated your question, it's not clear what the point of this question is. $\endgroup$ – S. Carnahan Aug 4 '13 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, the dollar sign trick in the title there actually annoyed me. The title renders in lots of places without MathJax, and if you can't be bothered crafting a descriptive title, I doubt I'm interested in the rest. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Aug 4 '13 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry that my haste caused me to choose the word "imbecile". I should have said: This instance of migration looks as if whoever did it was paying no attention to what they were doing, since it is absurd to move a post to m.s.e. when it's already there, and it actually began with a statement saying it's already there. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 4 '13 at 20:02

Here is one way it makes sense: Migration makes it possible to close the question as a duplicate.

Of course, I don't really see why that would be necessary when "off-topic" or "unclear" are often good alternatives.

Edit: Okay, the reason I constructed was a little far-fetched. Here's another way such an event might reasonably take place. Someone might click on the wrong option when choosing a reason for closing.

Here's a third way it might make sense. Some of the people voting to close a question might not read every sentence thoroughly, especially if a given sentence doesn't look very mathematical or looks like pointless noise. Instead, they may decide only on the basis of the mathematical content of the question that while not appropriate for MathOverflow, it may find a good home at math.stackexchange.com.

  • $\begingroup$ To be more precise than the word "imbecile": it appeared that whoever migrated it was not attentive to what he or she was doing, since it makes no sense to move it back there when it's already there. If it ought to be closed, is there some reason why closing it as a duplicate on m.s.e. is preferable to closing it on m.o.? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 4 '13 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ I find the first reason you gave reasonable, by contrast the clicked wrong-option seems very unlikely to me, as while this certainly happened for some reasons, for migration there is the additional step of choosing a target site, so at least at that point one should note the error. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 13:17

This is one comment on the question

I gave a partial answer on MSE, and I think the question should remain there. Voting to close here. – Todd Trimble

Now I do not know if Todd Trimble specifically voted to migrate or something else, but in any case it seems clear that at least some (and I see not reason to assume why not all) were aware of the situation.

IIRC, it was mentioned some time ago by a moderator here that they agreeed with a/the moderator(s) there (I believe it was Scott Morrison who said it and the m.SE mod that got mentioned was Willie Wong, but I might misremeber) that for "bad" cross-posts a reasonable procedure could be to migrate and then close as duplicate.

This question does not fall directly in the "bad" cross-post vategory as you provided a link youself, still I think by extrapolation it makes sense to proceed like this or at least to assume it makes sense to proceed like this.

Also, if the question is not on-topic here but is on math.SE then it should be migrated (or at least can be), whether it is a duplicate there is a priori not relevant. If one would start to take this consideration into account things would get complicated (what if I knew something will be a duplicate on m.SE, but not in such an obvious form?).

Finally, there are practical considerations: like

  • a migration-stub gets always auto-deleted for closed questions auto-deletion only happens under certain circumstances;

  • it makes a difference for latter (semi-)automatic maintance if something is actually closed as a duplicated or just closed differently and the text explains it.

  • closure as off-topic casts a downvote, migration does not (AFAIK, except it gets rejected on target site, but dup closure is not rejection). So, migration saved you from a down-vote.


I have a suggestion, which could serve to alleviate the concerns described here.

  1. When there has been a vote to migrate, the OP is informed of the decision, and is asked to give consent. If consent is not given, the question automatically goes "on hold" as "off topic".

  2. Once the OP has given consent, the question is moved to the review queue of the site being migrated to. If users there agree for the question to be migrated, it is migrated. Otherwise, it remains in MO as "off topic".

Given the concerns raised above, what do others make of this feature request?

  • $\begingroup$ In this case just some explanation would have helped. It looked as if someone was putting the question where it already was and ignoring the opening statement that it was already there. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 6 '13 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ re 2: This seems almost as it is now. People on the target site can close the question (as any other question). If it is closed on target site (except for duplicate-closure), it becomes off-topic closed on source site. Depending on what you mean precisely by 'move to the review queue' it is still closer. (What I mean for allmost all the review queues the post is anyway already on the site while being "under review"; an exception, and I think the only one is 'approved edits'). So, this seems like a complication for little gain. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ re 1: I can imagine why somebody thinks this would be better, I however feel that first this does not warrant the complication (and I am yet to await a moderately convincing argument why there is that much issue with the "repost" [I think meanwhile we have agreement one can see it like this] for which we have permssion [also here it seems in the end there was agreement with this], albeit not explicit approval; both the wallet and the journal analogy given are non-analogies). Second, did anybody actually complain based on reasons somewhat along the 'ethical problems' line (M.H. not, it seems) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Third, it sends the completely wrong message. In my opinion, people already think way to much in terms of their questions and their answers. It would be more in line, in my opinion, with the spirit of the site, if people would think more of post they contributed (as opposed to their posts). While I am not active on Wikipedia, I still think it could be helpful to think of making a contribution there as the closer analogous activity to posting something here (as opposed to writing a paper; although this is really not the only problem with the journal analogy). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy What was not sufficient about the comment I quoted? Clearly the person making it was aware of the question already being on math.SE. (It is reasonable you might have missed it, but still it was made.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ Daniel's suggestion is very good! @quid: As usual too many letters and symbols like "[,]"in your answer prevents me from reading it to the end. Can you try being more laconic? What's your point? $\endgroup$ – Mark Sapir Aug 6 '13 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkSapir: then don't. you can then reask it to get the same information from somebody else. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 7:21

I have expressed my opinion before and I reiterate here. Migrating to math SE (or anywhere else) is not ethically correct. We can only decide that the question is bad for MO, not that it is "more appropriate" for another site. As for math SE, from what I heard, it is populated by undergraduate students trying to cheat by posting their homework questions, and by mathematicians helping the cheating. Perhaps I am wrong, but if I am correct, migrating a question there would be even more wrong.

Edit For those who still do not understand why it is wrong: suppose that you submit a paper to Annals of Mathematics, and the editorial board there send it to Mathematische Annalen - without your approval and without even notifying you.

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    $\begingroup$ First, perhaps you could elaborate on why, in your opinion, it is not ethically correct instead of just repeating it. Second, perhaps you could have a look yourself to form an opinion instead of just going by hearsay. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, since in this particular, and the abstract situation to be discussed here, the question was/is already on math.SE it is completely unclear to me how there could be any ethical problem in sending a second copy there; whether or not this is reasonable seems like a purely practical/adminsitrative question. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ re 1: why can't "we be sure" I can see why some feel uncomfortable to decide something is good for math.SE when they do not know that site, but others know that site very well so I do not see why those cannot decide this. re 2: via posting here everybody licenses the content under CC; this even constitutes agreeing to the content being reproduced wherever and without the need for consent provided the source is mentioned. By contrast I never agreed to anything like this regarding my wallet (in addition to my wallet not being reproduced here, but I would loose it, which is not true here). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ But if you'd want to create a "copy" of my wallet, I might agree to this. [Except you'd engage in ethically problematic activity in the process like 'copying' money :-)] Furthermore, there are even some journals that ask the referees in addition to accept/reject to possibly suggest a more appropriate journal (by the same publisher). So it is not that unusual that competent people voice their opinion regarding more appropriate venues for dissemination. Sure in this case the authors then needs to agree, but again here auth. would loose possibility to publish elsewhere, not the case here. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ One cannot know if the people making decisions are competent. But neither can one really know this for any other decision; I can vote to close on each question on MO but not for all am I competent to do so; this does not mean that every vote I cast is ethically problematic (while I would consider it as problematic if I would vote on certain questions were I am incompetent). if I do/did not feel competent for a given question than I did not vote; same for migration. But if there should be many problems with "wrong" migrations then the migration path could and likely will be closed. [cont.] $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ And then only mods (possibly after consultation with the other sites mods) can migrate. But so far the rate of error is low, more than 95% of questions were not rejected on math.SE (which they could via closing them) then we'd get it back. In addition, 'migration' means closing it here (technically it is locked but this is not so very different) and posting a copy there. Why should somebody not be allowed to decide to post a copy of somebodies question elsewhere, when they in fact got explicit permission to do so from OP (they agreed in advance via posting here). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: You still do not understand the difference between closing (the community thinks that the question is not appropriate in that community) and migrating (the community think that the question should belong to some other community). The former can be done without OP's approval because the OP submitted the question to that community, and the latter cannot be done without OP's approval (because the OP did not submit the question to the other site). I do not think it is worth continuing the discussion until you realize the difference. $\endgroup$ – Mark Sapir Aug 4 '13 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, we can stop the discussion, but I will allow myself to reiterate this point: The OP in fact always has given permission (in advance) to the content being reproduced elsewhere (via publishing their content under a CC license, CC-BY-SA 3.0, I think, to be precise; see the bottom of the page for details). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkSapir : Your statement that "it is populated by undergraduate students trying to cheat by posting their homework questions, and by mathematicians helping the cheating." shows you are not exprerienced with m.s.e. That probably happens, but that is not most of what is posted. Some questions are obviously from graduate students or from mathematicians. How about this question or..... $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 4 '13 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ ...or this one or this one or this one? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 4 '13 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ ....and if you want to see mathematicians complicit in academic cheating, look at those who design a system and a curriculum that predictably has the effect of encouraging millions of students to take calculus without knowing the prerequisite material. It brings in tuition money and it helps sell textbooks to a captive audience for $200 apiece, which drives up the price of all math books. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 4 '13 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Most is certainly an overstatement. I'd guesstimate around 20% of the questions on the site are homework questions. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Aug 4 '13 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ @NoahSnyder: Which one is an overstatement? 20% of questions homework, which is tolerated (or even encouraged?) by the community is very bad. $\endgroup$ – Mark Sapir Aug 4 '13 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ Various discussions are happening there how to handle homework problems properly; with varying opinions but I think it is fair to say that the mainstream-view is not at all oblivious regarding problems related to this. (In addition just that 20% of the questions are HW does not mean the all get an answer, roughly, the guidleine is for HW hints only.) And, it is not that different than here. It is not like nobody ever got a solution to a HW problem on MO. (Besides personally I do not even consider it as that relevant, but this is besides the point.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 4 '13 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkSapir: you say "Asking MO, m.s.e., etc. for help, is cheating for obvious reasons" this is obviously false in this generality. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Aug 6 '13 at 7:55
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    $\begingroup$ The principal form of cheating in math courses is treating the learning of material as a price paid to get a grade, rather than as the thing they're there for. The obvious solution is to make grades in courses at most an off-the-record private communication from the teacher to the student. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Aug 6 '13 at 14:07

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