How do we feel about requests for learning materials? Questions like "Where can I find a good tutorial on foo?" or "Is there a book for learning bar?" or "Can you suggest an online course on baz?" etc. I feel that such questions are not a good fit for the site because:

  1. They are not about a problem. The SE network specializes in giving specific solutions to specific problems, this type of question is either "too broad" or "opinion based".

  2. Any answers given will become obsolete very quickly as the courses change, links die, the institutions or individuals giving the courses update or change them etc etc. Answering this kind of question seems to invite link rot.

The only exception I would allow to this is requests for official documentation. Things like "Where can I find the POSIX specs for command foo?" or "Where is the official Ubutu documentation on bar?". These are canonical resources that can be hard to find and, more importantly, they are questions that have a single correct answer and do not invite discussion.

So, what do we feel about this here? If we agree that such questions are not a good fit for the site, I suggest we make that explicit in our Help Center. On Unix & Linux we have added this paragraph to the on-topic page:

Please note that requests for learning materials (tutorials, how-tos etc.) are off topic. The only exception is questions about where to find official documentation (e.g. POSIX specifications).

The link above is to the equivalent meta post on the meta.U&L, if we agree that something similar should be added here, this post could serve the same purpose. So, how do we feel about such questions and should they be mentioned in the help pages?

  • I don't think they are a good fit, because they are way to general. I agree it should be made explicit in the Help Center. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 2:17

2 Answers 2


The problem with those questions is that they tend not only to generate polls about the "most popular resource" but also "link-only answers" that we hate too much. For example:

  • What GIMP tutorials are available? (closed and in process of being deleted): the only answer that apart of not having a link, is the only which removing the link we still get a bit of information, yet without the name of the book I get no information about how to use GIMP.
  • https://askubuntu.com/q/163757/169736: The OP ask for another tutorial since the one he's following "doesn't work". Instead of focusing in diagnosing why it doesn't work, the answer instead provide a link to a translated tutorial. If we remove the request for a tutorial on the question, we get a unclear question, and the answer only value aspect is starting pulseaudio with verbose options, but wouldn't help since PA is already started.
  • How to learn vim on a high level? (closed and in process of being deleted): this is more useful than the GIMP one... but still is just many vague tips about what to do (open vim-tutor), what to see (lots of videos) or what read (ALL the links to SO and Programmers.SE are dead). The only valuable tip is vim-tutor and lots of "opinionated tips" like changing CapsLock-Esc (btw, I use caps as much as escape), etc.

There are many more, but those are exhibits that normally, questions asking "where do I start" do not fit the QA format and fair poorly in this site as they don't tend to generate quality answers (and I'm not talking about "upvotes" but face value).

  • terdon isn't talking about these kinds of question, although you make valid points.
    – Seth
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 12:43
  • @Seth he's talking about "learning material requests", and asking for tutorials fits as "learning materials".
    – Braiam
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:06
  • He's more specific than that, and your answer doesn't address that part of the question.
    – Seth
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:13
  • 1
    @Seth be my guess and tell me what he's asking about.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 21:56

What about having an FAQ that lists good sources for learning materials and then people can be directed to the FAQ if they ask for them. Personally I am new to Linux and am interested in any resource I can find. As an UBUNTU user, I think people will come to "askUbuntu" first. We might as well be able to give some direction, while freeing up the forum for actual problems. I agree that they shouldn't take up forum posts, but I do think that some direction should be provided.

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