Should we remove the "cross-posted" close reason and instead flag for mod attention as they do everywhere else on the SE network?
Cross-posting on multiple sites of the Stack Exchange network is frowned upon. The general feeling of the community seems to be that having the same question on multiple sites leads to duplicated effort and wastes everyone's time. Perhaps. However, we take it to a whole new level.
As far as I know, U&L is the only site of the SE network with a close reason specific to cross-posts:
As a result, our users tend to close cross-posted questions on sight. I have a number of problems with this approach:
- New users have no idea that cross-posting is discouraged. How could they? It's buried in the help pages and is very easy to miss even if the user in question has actually read the help.
- Consider the case of Ask Ubuntu (
http://askubuntu.com), Super User (
http://superuser.com) and U&L (
http://unix.stackexchange.com). There are many questions that can be on topic on all three. How can I, as a new user, unfamiliar with Stack Exchange, know that those three are part of a single network of sites? They all have different UI styles, completely different URLs and different titles. It is very easy to assume they are independent sites. Yes, they share some similarities but so do http://biostars.org and http://ask.debian.net/ neither of which is affiliated with SE.
- Most importantly, I don't like losing questions. If a question has been cross-posted on multiple sites, is on-topic on all of them and is a decent question, one of them should remain open. Because of this close-reason, that is almost never the one that is here!
Now, I already mentioned that other sites don't have such a close reason. Back when I first joined an SE site, I had asked what the correct way of dealing with cross-posts was. One of the mods on SU answered thusly:
It's usually enough to just say that it's been cross posted. Don't forget to include a link to the other version(s), so we can take a look ourselves.
If you want to be super helpful, tell us whether the question has already received an answer on the other site(s) it's been posted on. In that case we can usually close it or even delete it here.
If it doesn't have an answer on either site, please only flag on one site. We'll deal with contacting other sites' moderators and resolving the issue. Alerting moderators on all sites will probably lead to even more confusion. In the worst case all instances of the question would be closed.
I still think that is the best way of dealing with cross-posts. For example, this question was recently asked here, on AU and on SU. Because it was cross-posted, it received close votes and downvotes and flags on all three sites. That is messy and unhelpful to the OP and would have resulted in all three being closed. The question here had received a good answer so I contacted the mods on AU and SU, asked them to close their version of the question and then I re-opened the one here.
Granted, that is not a particularly stellar question but it is useful. It should exist on the SE network and the current system of closing cross-posts blindly would result in its loss network-wide. I feel that flagging is a much better way of dealing with cross-posts than close-voting. If the post is flagged, the mods can
- Check which of the cross-posts is most on topic on its respective site.
- Check whether any of the cross-posted questions has received an answer.
- Check whether any of the others has been closed.
- Contacts the mods of the other site(s) in question.
And decide which to close in each particular case taking into account the particular situation. With all this in mind, I suggest we remove the cross-posted close reason. Instead of immediately closing cross-posted questions, we should leave a comment like:
Then, flag the post for mod attention, giving us the link to the cross-post. We can then coordinate with the mods of the other site to choose the best home for the Q.
So, what does everyone think? Should we get rid of the close reason and flag/comment instead like everyone else? Or do we hate cross-posts so much more than anyone else on the network and really, really need this close reason on U&L?