In the past when I have asked how to achieve a particular thing using a third-party application on Ubuntu, I have often come across users like here for instance that say that it has nothing to do with Ubuntu and therefore is off-topic here. Now I have asked these sorts of questions many times, and seen many other people ask these questions with no problem, and one of these questions has never been closed.

However I want to clear it up once and for all, what exactly is meant in the help center by Running third-party applications on Ubuntu.? Does this mean questions about usage of any third-party application on Ubuntu, or just ones that make very Ubuntu specific questions?


Just to fairly represent the contention, their extended argument seems to differentiate "third party questions" into one of two categories:

  • Getting things to run on Ubuntu, and
  • Problems with those things

The first would be on-topic and the last would have to go elsewhere.

I disagree with that

Ubuntu is a distribution and configuration of thousands of packages. Almost everything is third party by some definition.

You might argue that some applications are more "core" than others. Firefox is the default browser on most Ubuntu desktop variants, so if you're going to make that argument, why would we support Firefox less than we support Unity or LightDM or PulseAudio?

More than anything, it seems like an excuse to not help somebody. Our raison d'être at Ask Ubuntu is to help Ubuntu users. Our scope frays and blurs with other sites in some areas but I'd rather over-encompass something than trying to pigeon hole every question perfectly.

Otherwise we might all as well pack up our things and move to Super User.

  • "why would we support Firefox less than we support Unity or LightDM or PulseAudio?" Because those apps are integrated into Ubuntu, and don't really have alternative forums. The Firefox question could just as easily been asked on a Windows or Mac forum (and still been inappropriate). What's wrong with Mozilla's forum? – Marty Fried Sep 11 '15 at 19:18
  • Well, I think that this should be further clarified in the help center as it is currently not very clear and can be interpreted in both ways. – user364819 Sep 13 '15 at 17:36

Since you quoted my comment, I should probably give my interpretation of why I made it. Perhaps I'm wrong, but if I am, I think maybe the Help Center Topic should be made more clear.

The first sentence under "What Topics Can I Ask" says
"It's a questions and answers site for Ubuntu-related questions. It's also a place to share knowledge about Ubuntu."
To me, this implies that the question should be something unique to Ubuntu, not something general like the inner workings of Firefox, unless the poster has at least made an effort on the Firefox forum, and has some reason to think it is a question related to the Ubuntu implementation.

Otherwise, you end up diluting the forum with questions having nothing to do with Ubuntu, but a bunch of apps that many don't even use. How about questions about GMail? Google Maps? Heck, how about a Windows app that runs in Wine on Ubuntu? If there is a boundary, what is it? To me, it is whether the question could just as well be asked on a Windows or Mac forum, such as this one about Firefox inner workings.

Further down, it gets more specific, and says:
"Using and administering official Ubuntu flavors ..."
"Running third-party applications on Ubuntu."

Why doesn't it say Using third-party applications instead of Running? To me, I interpreted that as meaning things like the Ubuntu configuration, installation, etc of the apps, not the actual using. If this is incorrect, then that documentation should be made more clear.

If I want to know how to use Firefox, I go to the Mozilla forums, which has very good information about it. If I want to know specifics about how to configure VurtualBox, I go there first.

If someone has not been able to find the answer on the specific forum, and states that, I probably wouldn't object. But if this is just a catchall for all for questions on everything, then the people who really know about Ubuntu are going to avoid coming here, and it will degrade to a bunch of inexperienced people helping rank beginners who can't figure out how to use an app, and those with more complicated questions will just have to find a better place.

And by the way, it seems to me that immediately accepting the first and only answer to a discussion within hours of posting doesn't really show an interest on your part in promoting any meaningful discussion, so I feel I'm probably wasting my time even posting this.

  • I hear your point, and I think that it is valid, however I still disagree with you. – user364819 Sep 11 '15 at 19:21
  • @ParanoidPanda - I'm not surprised. It must be OK, because, as you said, you and others do it all the time. This is why I come here less and less - lots of newbie questions about apps I don't use and a few scattered Ubuntu questions. – Marty Fried Sep 11 '15 at 21:30
  • Running an using is a matter of how language is used an applied. To many people if you're running a program, you're automatically considered to be using it. I can see your argument, but it should not be taken so strictly. – RolandiXor Sep 13 '15 at 0:58
  • 2
    My first objection to your argument is that there are exactly 0 programs that are exclusive to Ubuntu. Even those few that were explicitly developed by Canonical are easily available in other distros. Therefore, there is essentially nothing at all that is unique to Ubuntu. The second issue is that often the problem is not only in the specific application in question but in how it interacts with the underlying OS. In those cases, you could not ask on a Windows forum even if your question is about firefox. – terdon Sep 13 '15 at 17:38

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