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We often get questions, usually text-parsing ones, from people working in Bioinformatics. Since I am a bioinformatician and a pro tempore moderator on Bioinformatics SE, I will often leave a comment under such questions informing the OP that there is such a site as Bioinformatics Stack Exchange. For example, here:

It looks like you might also be interested in our sister site: Bioinformatics. – terdon♦ 8 mins ago

Or here:

Your question is on topic and welcome here, but you might be interested in our new Bioinformatics site. – terdon♦ Jun 23 '17 at 9:25

The last thing I want to do is deprive this site of useful questions, but the Bioinformatics site is indeed better suited for some of these issues since it can often be helpful to be familiar with the file formats involved.

So, how does the community feel about this? Is it OK for me to do this? Does anyone object? Should I, as a mod of Unix & Linux, not leave comments advertising another site? Or does nobody really care?

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    I do not see any harm on promoting sister SE stack Exchange sites. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 5 at 13:16
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    @RuiFRibeiro I don't either, to be honest, but since I'm a mod here and I've found myself leaving many such comments, I thought I may as well ask! :) – terdon Apr 5 at 13:26
  • Shouldn't this question be on main SE meta site? – Biswapriyo Apr 5 at 15:10
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    @Biswapriyo no, why? I want to know how this community feels about one of its elected moderators leaving comments like this. I already know there's no network-wide rule against it. – terdon Apr 5 at 15:22
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    "there's no network-wide rule against it" -- that's I want to know. Thank you. – Biswapriyo Apr 5 at 15:28
  • Should the fact that bionformatics.SE is a beta site be somehow taken into consideration to avoid the suspicion that such comments were an attempt to divert potentially legitimate questions from U&L? (This may be totally irrelevant, I know almost nothing about beta sites and graduation. But I'm often inclined to play the devil's advocate). – fra-san Apr 5 at 16:33
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I see no issues with this.

I do this myself, especially if a user has asked bioinformatics-related questions in the past. This was a question about parsing and reformatting a Fastq file from a user with a number of bioinformatics-related questions on our site:

Example of comment making a user aware of bioinfo site

The question was definitely on-topic here but I wanted them to just be aware of the bioinfo site as they weren't associated with that yet. I noticed that they immediately created an account there afterwards.

That way the user has two venues for asking questions and can choose the one that they feel more closely fit their needs.

In addition to that, many over here might not know that there may exist tools for performing certain common bioinformatics tasks and will instead "cobble together" a script that may work for the specific data shown (only), but that does not properly handle "quirky real data" (biology is messy). The user leaves not knowing the limitations and are confused when trying to apply the same thing to another seemingly similar data set and fails.

Example of comment where a sub-par tool is used for bioinfo task

So from the user's perspective, it's a good thing to be made aware of the Bioinformatics SE site.

It would also, obviously, benefit the bioinfo site to have more users, and by having more users on an SE site in general, further people (colleagues, friends etc.) are made aware of the resources available.

Also, some text-processing tasks that bioinformaticians want to perform on their data are sometimes somewhat dull. It's "get these lines if that value is positive". And then there's another similar question, but on another set of data, possibly in another well known format (in bioinfo circles), but with essentially the same formulation... The solution may be interesting in the ways it performs the task, but it would not in other ways benefit a non-bioinformatician Unix user.

I would not migrate bioinformatics questions to the bioinfo site unless they were explicitly about the specific use of bioinformatics software, or asked about bioinformatics methodology etc.


I would similarly not see any issues with pointing out the existence of the Vi and Vim site, or any other SE site, to users that may benefit from having access other users with special interests/expertise (although I would honestly not think pointing out the Vi site in particular would need to happen that often).

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Yes, but not in that way.

Here is how I do it, with sites like the vi one for example, for what it is worth.

  • If the questioner is lost, and was apparently unsure where to come in the first place, then I point to the other Stack Exchange WWW site if it is a better fit.

  • If there is a question, or better yet a full question and answer, on the other WWW site, I point to those specifically, not as a wave in the general direction of the other WWW site.

  • On occasion, I will point to a tag on the other site, as a way of indicating that a whole load of questions and answers already exist on the other site.

I think that this is superior to a wishy-washy boilerplate "you might like" approach. We have that sort of thing down the right hand side of the page already, with the site advertisements, network questions, and the like.

Perhaps the best thing that you can do is write up good questions and answers on that site to be pointed to. Surely you can do better than How do I download a public dataset from the internet to linux? , for example. ☺ (As an aside: It's absurd how pointlessly difficult those people have made the task of archiving some directories into a ZIP file and then downloading it with HTTP.)

Further reading

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    I think of my comments as being like the third example you give here. Only instead of a tag, it's an entire site with a whole load of relevant content. And there's no other way of doing this. There is no link to Bioinformatics anywhere on the site. I am guessing you're referring to the Hot Network Questions list, but questions from Bioinformatics almost never make it there (there may have been one in all the time the site has existed, but maybe not even that). So when I see users here who I feel would benefit from knowing about the other site, I mention it. – terdon Apr 5 at 14:30
  • They are not like it, though, as I said. Moreover, that case only happens very rarely, with the common case being specific pointers (as I even did just today at unix.stackexchange.com/a/510705/5132). You are in contrast suggesting making general boilerplate comments most of the time. And clearly there is another way of doing this, otherwise the vi site would not regularly have appeared in an advert on the right hand side of the page over the years. – JdeBP Apr 5 at 16:04
  • Oh, no I am not suggesting any kind of boilerplate. This is very specifically about me, a local mod on both sites, leaving manual comments to inform bioinformaticians I run into here that there is a site dedicated to the field. It isn't really the same thing as the vi site since this is an entire field. So it isn't just a case of the specific question being better off on the other site, but that I want to inform the OP that the other site exists. Good point about having a community ad about this though, I'll make one. – terdon Apr 5 at 16:08
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A few points:

  • suggesting an SE network site to the user is common and acceptable: we see https://askubuntu.com, https://serverfault.com, https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com , etc Usually that comes up in case of off-topic questions, where the phrasing is "This question might be more suitable for [insert your favorite site here]"

  • Promoting non-SE network site is typically considered spam, which is not the case with Bioinformatics site since it is within SE network

  • Phrasing could be altered. "[Y]ou might also be interested in our sister site: Bioinformatics." Sister site may be unfamiliar concept to the user, who might not even be aware that there's whole network of related sites to Unix&Linux. Consider adding extra info: "[Y]ou might also be interested in our sister site: Bioinformatics, together with Unix&Linux Stackexchange it is part of StackExchange network."

  • Promoting also could be done via answers: link a question from that site and specifically mention the name of the site. "For further reading on the topic, see this post on Bioinformatics SE: [some link here] "

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