This issue has been discussed in the past: http://meta.askubuntu.com/questions/5695/why-was-a-purely-programming-related-question-not-moved-closed

But I disagree with Andrea Corbellini because I believe that the question Emit signal for GIO.DBusProxy in Python? is completely on topic, because it asks something related to the Ubuntu system, specifically to the DBus service.

What I propose, is to close questions that should be on Stack Overflow. The questioners should be informed (from a comment I suppose) that programming questions unrelated with the Ubuntu System are considered off topic and be given a link to SO.

Let me give some examples on what in my opinion should be considered on topic and what should be considered off topic:

On Topic

>Bash Questions

Bash is the default shell on Ubuntu. Shell scripting is an integral part of managing a Linux system. I believe that all bash related questions are on-topic, even the ones that have to do clearly with programming tasks like how to add 1 to a variable.

However, this should be limited to users of Ubuntu or its derivatives

>Any related to the Ubuntu System

Regardless the language the questioner uses, questions related with the Ubuntu System should be considered on-topic. It is not that hard to differentiate programming questions that have a direct connection with the Ubuntu system and those that do not.

Generally, if a question can be answered by a user that only has Windows experience and he has no idea what Linux is but also has experience of the language the questioner uses, then it has to be considered off topic. I think this is a very good general rule as it proves that if a user without linux knowledge can answer a programming question without to have to do some research first, then the question has nothing to do with Ubuntu, clearly.

Let me give some examples here:

When reading a text file, how to get rid of "\n" when extracted in python | https://askubuntu.com/questions/482777/how-to-remove-a-space-from-a-string-in-python | How to block certain characters from a string in Python - Off topic. It has nothing to do with the Ubuntu System. The questioner clearly needs python knowledge in order to solve his problems.

How to convert a .glade file to a .py file | Gtk3+ keyboard shortcuts without signal matching - On topic. It has to do with Ubuntu System as it refers to Gtk.

What is the correct way to use the "scroll-event" signal (on an indicator) for Qt? - On topic. It has to do with the indicators, clearly part of the Ubuntu system.

What is the correct way to use g_signal_connect() in C++ for dynamic unity quicklists? - On topic. It has to do with Unity integration of the application.

Off Topic

>Any other programming question

Please inform me if there are questions that do not fall in either category. Personally, I believe that if we follow the "windows user rule" then there will be no frustration.

  • I'm afraid that to decide if a programming question is on topic or not, one needs to be so knowledgeable about the programmers chosen environment that the only one really entitled to close it is also capable of answering. However an ever growing laundry list like 'Gtk+ is OK, sqlite not, ...' is not helpful.
    – aquaherd
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 20:46
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    Uhm... I hope everyone realizes that GTK+ is available for the Windows platform as well, so it technically has nothing to do with Ubuntu specifically. Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 19:30
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    Programs like Firefox and most of the application on Ubuntu aren't Ubuntu specific either, and programming languages like Bash, C and Python as well - they are available for most Linux distros with some versions for other OSs. Just because it won't be specific to Ubuntu does not mean it is not about Ubuntu.
    – Wilf
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 9:49
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    AskUbuntu is a great all-in-one kind of place for beginners and experts alike. But would it discourage beginners from learning by being too restrictive on questions? Not to mention AskUbuntu might lose some well-versed individuals willing to answer technical questions. (Added) Sorry, I do agree hard-core programming isn't really the point of the site, but scripting is and always will be a big part of using the Ubuntu system effectively.
    – WxPilot
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 15:03
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    @Wilf one thing is that it's specific to Ubuntu and another is that it's relevant to Ubuntu. We can't possibly hope to answer all strictly programing questions, where Ubuntu isn't relevant.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 16:22

5 Answers 5


I don't see any harm in that question being here, but there are two things to note:

  1. It could probably be migrated to unix.se, in any case, not because it's philosophically not Ubuntu-specific, but because, in reality, it will get more exposure there, and may be easier to find for others with similar questions but without Ubuntu.

  2. People asking programming questions should probably be made aware of StackOverflow's existence. Again, not necessarily out of any philosophical reason, but they will probably get a much quicker and good quality response on SO (not that they won't get one here, but SO is entirely programmers).

Personally, if I see a question like that here, and it doesn't have a good answer or is going a long time with no answer, I'll suggest posting on SO instead (if it's specifically programming related) or unix.se (if it's more about using tools, or e.g. Unix/Linux-y things like sh scripts).

Anyways you can't really "ban" questions, per se, you can only take action on them after the fact.

One thing we shouldn't forget is why we direct certain questions to certain sites in the first place: To my understanding, the two main reasons are to get the asker a good answer quickly (by asking it to a relevant community), and to make the question easy to find for others (by placing it among like questions). So I think in general we can just keep these goals in mind and go case-by-case, and when these goals aren't met we offer helpful where-to-ask advice to the asker (who more often than not is simply unaware of the other sites).


Before this post gets downvoted to hell:

I think that programing questions about using the system calls/interface are on topic. But isn't on topic how to write a "hello world" in C.

This is already done:

This is not about Ubuntu. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow.

(highlighted the relevant part)

The problem is that not everyone agrees in what is a "generic programming questions", including some of our esteemed moderators that believes that all programing done in Ubuntu is on topic, which seems a extremely similar situation/believe to the boat meme.

While your examples are illustrative and I agree with them, notice that this problem is neither new nor easy to solve in the Stack Exchange. Unix & Linux is having a similar discussion with the Linux C API questions which they, as we, don't really know where to draw the line.

My personal take is along the line of your last statement: If I were using another OS do the question essence change? This question is relevant to a programmer or to a programmer for Ubuntu applications?

Notice, I'm ok with some programing question, but if they are easily solved with the 1-2 result of Google (which it's also Stack Overflow) seems that he asked in the wrong site.

Ah, almost forgot. If you allow all sort of programming question "in Ubuntu", people that has been baned from asking questions in Stack Overflow will start spilling here drowning us even more with low quality content.

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    My personal take is along the line of your last statement: If I were using another OS do the question essence change? You can't do that. GTK questions should be on-topic here, but the answer would probably work on Debian as well, for example.
    – Seth
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 15:07
  • @Seth but shouldn't work in Windows ;).
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 15:08
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    True enough.. Guess we'll just compare to Windows then ;)
    – Seth
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 15:14
  • I had this fight a long time ago... I lost. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 22:34
  • @hbdgaf don't feel sad, this one we will win ;)
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 23:12
  • I have to agree. We certainly have enough to do without answering questions that should be on Stack Overflow here. I've noticed programming questions that pop up both here and there (although I can't provide a specific example at this time).
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 12:57
  • Why exactly are GTK questions on-topic? By the way, note that GTK do work on Windows too. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 13:28
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    @Seth I guess that someone could argue that a configuration file for Apache is kinda like code (i.e. you can even do comments) and it's the same on Windows... I guess then you could just use your mod hammer to solve everything :D Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 22:21

I just want to react on your title

Can we please ban unrelated programming questions?

No question is 'banned' at Ask Ubuntu. Some questions can be closed, migrated, or deleted, but entire groups of questions cannot and will not be banned.

Give that your title question is a yes/no question, this should suffice. Also, in practice many programming questions that are not relevant are closed.


DBus is not Ubuntu-specific. You can find it in almost every distribution and runs on Windows as well. If you accept generic questions about programming with DBus, then you must accept generic questions about programming with Python, C++, GTK, Qt as well.

One thing is asking questions about programming with tools really specific to Ubuntu or about Ubuntu customizations. A different thing is asking purely generic questions about stuff that is in he Ubuntu archives.

"How do I communicate to Unity via DBus?" looks to my eyes as an Ubuntu-specific question. "Emit signal for GIO.DBusProxy in python?" instead seems a question similar to "How do I write 'Hello World' in Python", except that it lacks details and should be closed as too localized: how is the signal handler implemented? Are we sure the OP is sending the parameters correctly? Has anybody tried to reproduce the problem? The fact that nobody has asked these questions in the comments is a clear signal that nobody is interested.

I may seem radical, but the reason why I do not want to see such questions on AskUbuntu is that very few people (perhaps nobody) is going to answer them here. The OP will have much more luck asking on StackOverflow and Unix & Linux. My aim is to give people a faster chance to receive better answers. If you care about your users, then you should move their questions there.

  • 1
    Well, if you say DBus is not Ubuntu specific I have to agree, but the DBus calls, paths, etc. are Ubuntu specific, henceforth they are on topic.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 14:11
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    @Braiam: actually no. The DBus APIs are specific to the applications providing that APIs. And those applications may or may not be purely Ubuntu specific. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 14:29
  • DBus is a default communication system for most applications running on Ubuntu. Many programmers want to use it for their applications. How is that not Ubuntu specific?
    – hytromo
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:02
  • @hakermania: it is not Ubuntu specific because the same holds for Fedora, Gentoo, Arch and every system running Gnome. If you say that DBus is on topic just because it is used by many applications in the Ubuntu archive, then you must accept generic Python and C questions too. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:27
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    Bash is not Ubuntu specific either if you take it that way. But everything that has to do with the Ubuntu System (as DBus), should be on topic. I think it is clear. Python and C do not have to do with the Ubuntu System directly.
    – hytromo
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:36
  • @hakermania: Python and C have a very strong relationship with Ubuntu. Just look into /bin and /usr/bin to have an idea of how strong this relationship is. Not to mention C++, QML, JavaScript and OpenGL, which are the core for Ubuntu Phone. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 16:04
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    You do not understand the idea. I am a programmer myself and I understand that the kernel is written in C, the software center in Python etc etc but this is not the point. Please read again what I say about the "windows user rule". A windows user programmer even if he knows what Python is and how it works, he does not know what DBus is. Seriously I cannot get it to be more clear.
    – hytromo
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 16:09

If the question is good, but general enough to be off topic here, don't:

  • Just close it, when it could be migrated to another site where it is on topic.
  • Recommend asking on another site, unless closed, because cross-posting is not permitted.

Instead, do:

  • Flag for migration, in addition or instead of closing.
  • If you recommend another site, tell the user to delete the question here first.

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