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I guess I don't understand why some obvious off-topic questions seem to be welcomed and some others that are no more off-topic are banned.

A while back, in this post (How to set a custom page to replace the default Firefox New Tab page), I asked why a question of Firefox usage was asked in askubuntu, rather than a firefox forum, and the tide seemed to go against me, with the accepted answer getting upvoted (https://meta.askubuntu.com/a/14383/39753).

OK, so I helped someone with a problem recently (https://askubuntu.com/q/751984/39753) and the answer sort of showed it to be off-topic, but the question itself seemed to fit into the on-topic guidelines of getting an app (apache) to work with Ubuntu. Yet the poor poster was downvoted a lot, and the topic was declared to be off-topic.

Why is that any more off-topic than the many questions about virtualbox, or even these, ironically, by one of the users (muru) who voted for it to be off-topic: https://askubuntu.com/a/680226/39753 or How to set a custom page to replace the default Firefox New Tab page?

The reasons given are not very helpful to a new user, and tends to discourage them from posting questions because it's not clear to them what is considered on-topic. It's apparently not really clear to anyone.

I think gray areas such as this question should be given more leeway, and should be allowed rather than disallowed if it's not clearly off-topic.

EDIT - tl;dr

The posted question I'm referring to had code in it which was 100% correct. It worked perfectly as is on my working system. But the code did not work correctly on the OP's system, because Apache was not set up correctly to recognize php code. So, Apache interpreted it as pure HTML code, and simply ignored the php. I thought I explained this, but either I didn't, or everyone saw all the code and assumed it was a programming problem.

If the OP had realized what was happening, and simply said the php code was being ignored without posting the code, I suspect the question would not have been voted off-topic.

EDIT

Due to to the continued inability of people here to even understand the actual point of my question, and can't seem to grasp the difference between a question about code, and a question about why the (100% correct) code doesn't work in an app, and who then get offended and go back to my correct answer and downvote it, insisting it is incorrect without understanding why it is correct, I deleted my answer.

Since everyone insists it's wrong, and the question is off-topic, and the original poster doesn't even care to take time to understand what happened, it should be no great loss.

To those of you who think I deleted it due to lack of rep points, you don't know me very well - I'm not a rep whore like some of you obviously are.

So, congratulations; you won. I also won, as I can now make better use of my free time than trying to help ungrateful users.

  • That PHP question is more coding than specifically related to Ubuntu , so that's the off-topic reason. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Mar 31 '16 at 21:41
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    The question was not coding, because actually the code was 100% correct, and worked perfectly when using the correct extension (.php rather than .html). I tried to say this in my 3rd paragraph. So, it was Apache configuration, not really coding. Apache can be set to recognize php file, or the file can be named .php, either of which would cause Apache to recognize the file as php. So, it's not so clear to the OP, or even to me, really. – Marty Fried Mar 31 '16 at 22:09
  • If you look at the screenshot OP is actually using the .php extension there in the address bar, so that's not the issue. But again this was coding question , about PHP. It would be the same as someone asking generic C++ question. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Mar 31 '16 at 22:19
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    "If the OP had realized what was happening, and simply said the php code was being ignored without posting the code, I suspect the question would not have been voted off-topic." This is the point exactly, they did not know, there question does not imply that, so how could anyone else know. All we have to go on is there question, if evidence comes to light after the fact, vote to reopen but you can't expect users to look at every issue deeply, it is up to the OP to explain the problem, not us to guess what they mean. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 22:26
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    In addition OP keeps saying "I guess it was the PHP" , no where do they admit yeah, I changed Apache config and everything is right. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Mar 31 '16 at 22:27
  • No, I'm sure that filename was an original file that called into the file in question. Again, read my post - the code was 100% correct and worked perfectly when configured correctly. The OP was not a native English speaker, so it was probably easier to post the example code than to try to explain what was going on. Did you consider this to be on-topic:askubuntu.com/q/746350/39753? It seems to be a general Linux coding question. – Marty Fried Mar 31 '16 at 22:32
  • "the code was 100% correct and worked perfectly when configured correctly" After you tested it and put time in to it to find the information, that is not how the question reads. "The OP was not a native English speaker, so it was probably easier to post the example code than to try to explain what was going on." Then it is there fault the question got closed, they should of taken the time to try and explain better, this is a help site not a baby sitting service, it is up to askers to ask good questions, not us to work out what they wanted, but faild, to say. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 22:38
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    Yes, my question was on topic , read Are bash/scripting questions on topic ? , in addition it falls under category of Development on Ubuntu, because I intend to redistribute my script to other Ubuntu users. As for OP being non-native english speaker, I am non-native english speaker as well , I've taken time to learn the language and communicate my questions . It's not an excuse ; in Rome do as Romans do – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Mar 31 '16 at 22:38
  • Marty, most people here are passionate about helping others just as much as you are, and while rules may have gray areas they've been working perfectly fine for tons of other users on the site here. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Mar 31 '16 at 22:47
  • What mad rush are you talking about? Questions get closed all the time. For the 5th time on this question CAST A REOPEN VOTE, if you care so much and explain why. "which are certainly more important than trying to help someone in trouble" well by this logic lets just call the site ask whatever you like, if a question is off topic then it is off topic, we help a lot of people but must stay on topic or the site will descend in to chaos. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 22:48
  • First of all, it was downvoted and closed pretty quickly. I upvoted it to balance that out a little. But I'm just a bit frustrated that you and everyone here are so sure they are right that they still don't really see that it's not a coding question, and I pointed that out before it was closed. Therefore, I wasted time helping someone, and then the topic is closed. Then I wasted time trying to find out why one app is somehow better than another for closing a topic. Now, I feel like I don't want to waste more time on topics that may close because I still don't see the distinction. – Marty Fried Mar 31 '16 at 22:55
  • "Therefore, I wasted time helping someone, and then the topic is closed. " Why did you? The issue is solved, the user is helped, who cares if it was closed after the fact? "I pointed that out before it was closed" and others disagree, sorry about that but it is there right. Yet again the counter to this is to cast a reopen vote. "I still don't see the distinction" I don't know how else to put it to you PROGRAMMING = OFF TOPIC, BASH = ON TOPIC because it is a core component of Ubuntu, APPLICATIONS = ON TOPIC. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 23:04
  • "I'm just a bit frustrated that you and everyone here are so sure they are right" and you are so sure you are right, what makes your argument more valid than anyone elses, just because you say something does not mean everyone should accept that. I think this is more about you being pissed off that a question was closed when you said it shouldn't be than helping anyone, this is just your personal grievance. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 23:07
  • @MartyFried Why did you remove your answer? You come here and say we won't let you help this user but you never took the time to get the question reopened and now you remove a perfectly good answer, why? because it can't get you more rep? – Mark Kirby Apr 1 '16 at 8:05
  • @MartyFried Really? We are immature jerks but it was you who resorted to insults. I just answered your meta question, nothing more, I did not downvote your answer, it looked fine to me. Basically you are saying, your opinion is really important and we should trust it but ours are a "side issue" and you don't have time for it? You are like a spoiled child who did not get there way, lashing out because you think your opinion is the only opinion. I am sorry your answer got downvoted but you brought it on your self, with your hostile attitude towards anyone who dose not agree with you. – Mark Kirby Apr 1 '16 at 15:38
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I think anyone who had tried at least once to run a webserver + PHP instance would agree that what's shown in OP's picture could very likely have been a sign of Apache / PHP misconfiguration (or for that matter simply PHP not running).

However indeed not everyone has the minimal degree of experience with webserver + PHP instances to understand that. If you add a wall of possibly bugged PHP code to that you'll understand why people may be scared off by that.

This and the fact that we're flooded with off-topic questions don't help in keeping a straight mind sometimes. And sometimes the stance becomes "when in doubt, close". It's not something we shoud pursue, but it inevitabily happens. And I'm sure I've made the same mistake sometimes.

But yes, that was an error. That question shouldn't have been closed without a basic debugging along the lines of "Is PHP running?".

Since the issue is fixed (OP is happy) and it's not clear what caused it, I won't vote to reopen it.


Just out of curiosity, I've tested OP's code: it works.

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    Thank you for being that guy that can see beyond the first clue and realize that it was more than "PROGRAMMING = OFF TOPIC, BASH = ON TOPIC because it is a core component of Ubuntu, APPLICATIONS = ON TOPIC." Or more simply, that Apache is as much of an app as bash. I kept saying the code worked 100%. In fact, I thought it worked better than I expected. I also won't pursue reopening it, but I had hoped for a more enlightened explanation, not a total misunderstanding of the issue I raised. I think egos got in the way too early. – Marty Fried Apr 1 '16 at 1:05
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    @MartyFried please note that there was a grand total of 5 users who thought that question was off topic. 5 people being wrong is neither hard to get nor indicative of a general trend. I quite agree that the question was on topic and have voted to reopen. I would, however, suggest that you tone down your rhetoric a little. You have a very valid point but is is being buried in the disagreement. If people don't understand what you mean, ignore them. The next person might understand. – terdon Apr 1 '16 at 15:54
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    Thanks for that. It's not that it was only 5 users, but that I had nobody (for most of the time) that could understand my question, but instead everyone was condescending and then got all defensive the more I tried to explain. I should have just left, but sometimes I don't follow what I know to be the best course of action. – Marty Fried Apr 1 '16 at 16:02
  • @terdon I'll vote to close it again: given OP's edit, it's now problem that could not be reproduced, etc. – muru Apr 1 '16 at 17:47
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    @MartyFried what did you expect when you call out a user and their posts? You don't seem to understand: a) don't get personal here, b) what's obvious to you isn't obvious to everyone, c) your own post is at odds with what actually happened (read your answer again, and read what you say you explained in your answer). – muru Apr 1 '16 at 17:51
3

Let me quote the OP. In comments:

Thank you for your answer. I already was using ".php". Now it is working, I'm not sure what was the problem, I did too many things, but I guess it was the PHP. I am really new at this. And sorry for the bad English. – MA Cardoso Interside 7 hours ago

You read it in a way that is naturally favourable to you who posted the answer. To me, it seems the only reason they thanked you was that you are the only responder. And if you look at the screenshot, you will see the URL: localhost/teste2/index.php. Note: index.php and localhost. This was not an HTML file and not a PHP file opened directly in the browser. This was a PHP file served by a web server.

That's to say, we still don't know what went wrong. Your answer is wrong. And so this once again becomes a PHP debugging problem. You then go on to assume that this was because Apache wasn't properly set up to recognise PHP. Probably, but we don't have any additional evidence for that either - OP doesn't know. Seems to me, you know a lot more about this problem than the OP tells us. Do enlighten us with how you gained this information.

By the way, thanks for notifying. I upvoted your answer since it could be a solution. Now that it's turned out to be wrong, I'm retracting that.


And since you have a personal problem with me, let me see.

2

The Firefox question is on topic because Firefox is component of Ubuntu, so usage of Firefox (and other applications too) is also usage of Ubuntu.

The PHP question is off topic because it is a generic programming question, it is not related directly to Ubuntu and would be better off on a programming site as it is not Ubuntu specific.

Yet the poor poster was downvoted a lot, and the topic was declared to be off-topic.

I would not call 2 down votes and 1 up a lot.

Why is that any more off-topic than the many questions about virtualbox

If Ubuntu is running in VB or even if VB is running on Ubuntu, then this would be on topic as it would be a question specifically about the usage of Ubuntu or using an application in Ubuntu.

To sum this up, we are not a programming site, we do technical support for Ubuntu. Programming (with the exception of system scripts) are off topic here as we need to keep the questions under control and a clear focus on what the site is doing, there are many sites that will help with different coding issues.

I think gray areas such as this question should be given more leeway, and should be allowed rather than disallowed if it's not clearly off-topic.

It is clearly off topic and the close reason states exactly why

generic programming questions on Stack Overflow

From your comment on the PHP question

I was chastised in the past for saying app-specific questions were off-topic, since the app (in this case, Apache) comes with Ubuntu and may have Ubuntu-specific issues.

To me, and others too I guess, the question is not directly about apache, it is about a specific bit of code, that is what makes it off topic.

Of course every thing is open to users interpretation, so if you think it should be reopened, cast a reopen vote and give your reasons, if others agree the question will be reopened.

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    This is another example of people all jumping to conclusions without really understanding the question. Perhaps I didn't explain well. The problem was not a programming error - the program was 100% correct, and worked perfectly on my system, which is configured correctly. The problem was getting Apache to recognize php code, which is an app setup question, I would think. – Marty Fried Mar 31 '16 at 22:14
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    That is not how it reads at all. We have to take questions at face value. If you think this question should be reopened, then do some thing about it, edit it to make the issue clear or vote to reopen with a good explanation of why. The OP even edited saying "Now it is working, I guess it was the PHP. I am really new at this." How does this not imply it is a code error? The point of closing is to give the OP chance to improve there question, yes it can be heavy handed but we get a lot of questions and can't spend 30 minuets getting to the core of every little thing. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 22:21
  • Again, if you disagree with the close reason, use your reopen votes and say why but I would vote to close that question, no doubt. – Mark Kirby Mar 31 '16 at 22:22
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    > I would not call 2 down votes and 1 up a lot. Well, I was the up vote, so it was actually 3 down votes. – Marty Fried Apr 1 '16 at 1:06
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    ? No it was not it was 2 down and one up, the question sits at -1 not -2, I don't see how you came to this conclusion. – Mark Kirby Apr 1 '16 at 7:59
  • @terdon Then vote to reopen, now three of you agree, I don't see why this is such an issue. If a question is wrongly closed, you vote to reopen. By now it would of likely been reopened and all this would of been even more pointless. – Mark Kirby Apr 1 '16 at 15:58
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From my point of view, asking for something that is directly related to Ubuntu, is allowed here.

For example, LAMP stack. I've had countless errors with PHP and Apache, in ubuntu machine. I don't think that's a problem if I asked here. Same goes with firefox. Firefox is the part of ubuntu, and if ubuntu make firefox 'different' from another firefox, I don't think it is wrong to ask here, even if the newcomer from google implement it in Firefox for Windows ._.

Asking for PHP script here isn't directly related to ubuntu. Yes, PHP is one component of the LAMP stack, but doesn't mean we should cover every script. Then, are we supposed to be firefox's bug tracker, because sometimes it simply hangs?

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    But the script had zero errors. He was asking why the app, Apache, was ignoring the php code. That is a configuration issue, not a script error. And that is the issue I tried to bring up which most of the people here continue to ignore. Pasting the code into a .php file worked perfectly as written on my proper setup. That has been pointed out a number of times, if you had read the OP. – Marty Fried Apr 2 '16 at 1:51
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    well, if this was the case, then it is right to ask here. but seriously, why? a simple google search will help him. I've met this case before. – Rinaldo Jonathan Apr 2 '16 at 17:50
  • Simple? Not really, especially for an English language challenged user such as he was. What would you search for? All he really knew was that the right angle bracket was apparently causing his php script to end. Pretty hard to search for that, in my opinion. Anyway, he's in the wind; all he cared about was getting it to work, and now he's gone, probably for good, his topic downvoted and closed. No point now in pursuing it. – Marty Fried Apr 2 '16 at 20:37
  • then learn english. We have cyber space technology called "Google Translate". – Rinaldo Jonathan Apr 15 '16 at 18:47

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