I know this question has been asked and answered already here:

How do we tell if a question belongs here, or rather at stackoverflow/superuser?

However this topic came up recently again in a discussion in the comments of a question about sudo, where an user claimed the question be off-topic because of its "not only Ubuntu-specific"ness being sudo also installed in other distributions.

What really suprised me is that coming back on that question I saw those comments were upvoted.

I personally flagged a question once because I thought it could have been a better fit for Unix & Linux, but I was still wrong, because despite the question being general and "not only Ubuntu-specific" that didn't make it off-topic here by any mean, and so I shouldn't have flagged it. My bad. However I never thought the question was off-topic here, just that it could have been a better fit for Unix & Linux.

How can a question about sudo, essential for the administration of an Ubuntu system be off-topic on Ask Ubuntu because of its "not only Ubuntu-specific"ness?

I'm wondering if the consensus has changed over the last five years (the time at which the question above was posted).

Nonetheless if it did:

  • Should we set questions about the kernel as off-topic because the kernel is present in all the Linux distributions and hence it's "not only Ubuntu-specific"?

  • Should we set questions about systemd as off-topic because systemd is present in other Linux distributions and hence it's "not only Ubuntu-specific"?

  • Should we set questions about the GNU tools as off-topic because the GNU tools are present in the vast majority of the Linux distributions and hence they're "not only Ubuntu-specific"?

And honestly I'm a little biased on the last questions, but to me it would be unthinkable to set off-topic things like sudo, the kernel, systemd or the GNU tools.

  • :D :D :D Can you include the link to the "discussion"? :-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 0:01
  • 6
    Sudo is part of Ubuntu, comes with Ubuntu by default, hence on-topic here. Period. At least in my book. Else, let the serverfault, superuser, StackExchange questions related to linux/unix be migrated to U&L site. That's fair right ? Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 7:36
  • Also systemd is on topic because as of 15.04 Ubuntu is using systemd Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 7:38
  • @Serg Great point. What really puzzles me are the upvotes to those comments claiming these questions be off-topic. One could have a point about a question being about Linux in general and "serving the broadest audience" on Unix & Linux, but no Ask Ubuntu user is meant to have a Unix & Linux account; nontheless is totally on-topic here and noone is forbidding the same question to be posted on Unix & Linux as well. To me it's just a nonsense. However since there seems to be some kind of agreement at least from some users, I hope a killer answer to this will set things straight.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 7:53
  • @kos Found the question you're referring to How important is the sudo password? and the guy who claims that to be off-topic is SnakeDoc. I've had an encounter with this user on What's the difference between <<, <<< and < < in bash?. In the comments he basically disregarded 3 users telling him that the question was on-topic. He either trolling or is stubborn to learn askubuntu rules. Either way, it's strange his comments got upvoted Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 8:20
  • If they ask about sudo or systemd in a non Ubuntu distro it's off topic. Otherwise it could potentially be on topic. (Bash scripting questions are similarly on topic, sometimes, because Bash is on Ubuntu...)
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 12:02
  • @ThomasW. Indeed, that's what I meant. "Questions about non Ubuntu-specific core components which could also be valid for other Linux distributions" is the general type of questions I'm referring to.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 12:11
  • sudo is much more benign than git or Slack. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 7:51

4 Answers 4


Of course they are! How could it be otherwise? If we were to only allow questions about things that exist in Ubuntu exclusively, we would have an empty site. There is very simply nothing that is 100% specific to Ubuntu. The Unity desktop environment can be installed on any system. Even the Ubuntu-modified kernel can be installed on another distribution.

It is the nature of Linux that all distributions are basically compatible. They are just a specific collection of packages and a kernel. Any software from one can be installed on another. At worst, you will have to compile from source if there is no package for the target distribution.

This site is about Ubuntu, yes. That means that the OP needs to be running Ubuntu in order to ask here and that the question needs to be about something running on Ubuntu. That doesn't exclude anything that also runs on other Linux flavors since, as I said above, anything that runs on Ubuntu can also run on other Linux flavors.

  • 5
    Now we're talking. "If we were to only allow questions about things that only exist in Ubuntu, we would have an empty site" is the finest point one could make, because it's undeniably true and highlights the paradox in stating that "only Ubuntu-specific" questions should be on topic. This is the kind of answer I wanted.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 15:27
  • 8
    Empty? Not at all! We would have lots of questions about the Ubuntu logo, several about the Ubuntu startup splash screen, as well as questions about the proper pronunciation of Ubuntu. That should be plenty of content to satisfy everyone.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 19:10
  • 3
    @Wildcard you're quite right, of course, and what a wonderfully interesting site that would be :)
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 21:19
  • 1
    One of the reasons people chose the Ubuntu distribution is the community involvement and niceness. If we can answer a sudo question here, vs another site on the network, it helps build that mentality and may convince others to join in.
    – earthmeLon
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:05

I am not surprised the comments were upvoted, because they were only upvoted once and to my knowledge there is no way a comment can ever be downvoted. I would have downvoted them when I saw them, and I'm sure many others would have as well. Only 1 person out of the 1363 viewers (at this writing) saw those comments and thought they were worth upvoting. Unlike question or answer vote counts, the "upvote" on a comment says nothing about its general acceptance by the community unless compared with (a) the vote counts of other comments on that Q&A post, and (b) the number of views that post has received.

As far as SnakeDoc's idea of renaming AU as "Beginning Linux"...he is missing the point. That would be like naming an Android Q&A forum as "Beginning users of Linux-based embedded device OSes forum".

Ubuntu is the primary "Beginning Linux" distro that most people encounter. And most people who encounter Ubuntu (and have questions about it) are beginning Linux users. Not to mention that some of them only vaguely know what "Linux" is, and because it doesn't pop up on their screen during login, they may not really know they are using Linux at all.


As members of a community, your first loyalty should be to that community. When evaluating a question, you shouldn't be looking to push it off on some other site; instead, ask if it could be appropriate and on-topic for you, the experts who the author decided to ask. Be a bit jealous of your site - don't blithely turn askers away simply because their question could be asked somewhere else. Don’t hit them over the head with your scope, help them tailor their question to fit into it - and if that means your site’s scope overlaps a bit with another site’s, so be it. —https://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/03/respect-the-community-your-own-and-others/


  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. When I asked this question I wanted to address the topic, not the user, that's why I didn't even mention the original question, but: mainly the problem is that almost all of SnakeDoc's comments were upvoted at least once, so there seems to be more agreement than how it looks from that single question; that's why I even posted the meta post; despite, I agree with the whole reasoning.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 8:26

I allow myself to comment here because I'm the one who asked the sudo related question. (It's not exacly an answer, but it was too long for comments)

I didn’t thought for a second that it could become controversial, although I kind of understand the issue here. As an none Ubuntu expert, I knew a few things about sudo, and the unix user system, but not enough the be sure exactly what's going one on my computer.

I was trying to get a clear, helpful answer for me and for some other people with no background in security using Ubuntu since a few years or discovering it.

I think the SnakeDoc vs. kos positions match the largest argument : Do we want to the Ubuntu/ ask.ubuntu community to be an expert only community or do we really want to open it to the wider public ?

On the first case, I might be of topic. On the second, I was definitely not. Because if someone using Ubuntu since 5 years (like me) ask this question, I think a lot of Ubuntu users, that might not be ready for the higher complexity level requires in other communities (like Unix & Linux), might want to know what exactly sudo is.

Anyway I got helpful and constructive answers, thank you kos, and others, for your help.

  • 3
    Well, this is better said in the lasts paragraphs of this answer. Some Ubuntu users doesn't even know that Ubuntu as something to do with Unix and it's the only distribution they know. Why would they search an answer on another community ?
    – mxdsp
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 14:07
  • Thanks for your answer. The problem here is not about experts-only / wider public, but that there are topics that (much as in other SE sites) overlap multiple sites. Normally questions should be posted in the more appropriate site, but here there's no "more appropriate" site. Questions like yours are on-topic on both sites. If someone asks for help here, they will get an Ubuntu-related solution of course. If they ask on Unix & Linux, cool.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 14:14
  • The point is whether we should direct questions to the "broader" site in case a topic overlaps. I don't think (as you may have forsaw) that this should be done, for the resons I explained under your answer and on this question.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 14:15
  • And anyway yes, you're raising another good point. An user is not supposed to know this, and actually the site's description mentions "Ubuntu-related" as opposed to "Ubuntu-specific". Until the site's description will mention "Ubuntu-related" and not "Ubuntu-specific", a sudo question will keep being on-topic here.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 14:15
  • 2
    Thanks for asking that question and for participating in the debate! I hope you do not think this debate is a bad thing, it is part AskUbuntu's democracy.
    – don.joey
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 9:13

My clear opinion is that whether the question and answers apply to other Linux distributions cannot be a deciding factor in whether the question is on-topic for Ask Ubuntu.

Based on that I have to say that a generic question about Linux or a generic question about Unix can be on-topic on this site. (It may be off-topic for other reasons, but not being Ubuntu specific isn't one of them.)

The following are the reasons for my opinion:

If the applicability of question and answers to other Linux distributions is a deciding factor in whether a question is on-topic on Ask Ubuntu, a consequence will be that the next time a new version of another distribution (such as Fedora or Suse) is released, it could potentially change the scope of Ask Ubuntu. I would consider the definition of the scope of Ask Ubuntu to be flawed, if that was the case.

Sometimes knowing the answer to the question is necessary in order to decide whether the question is Ubuntu specific or not. Defining the scope in a way that requires you to know the answer in order to know where to ask the question is not going to work. It should be perfectly acceptable to ask a question on Ask Ubuntu without knowing about the existence of other Linux distributions and to what extent they are doing things the same way as Ubuntu or differently.

Finally a single question can have multiple answers some of which apply to only a single distribution and others which apply to many. This means the set of acceptable answers can be different if the same question was asked on different sites.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. I totally agree with this.
    – kos
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 8:12
  • "a single question can have multiple answers some of which apply to only a single distribution and others which apply to many" Yes, this is a very important point. Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 22:36

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