It seems that recently on AskUbuntu, questions have been slipping through the Close-Wall (The wall that keeps a question from being seen by more than a few people). Until now this wall had redirected most questions to another site such as Super User,, but now it seems that instead, people are starting to answer these questions. Now yes, it is good that people are having their questions answered, but not like this. As more and more of these questions are asked, it SEEMS that they are on topic, therefore "inviting" other users to ask these questions as well. One example of this is Questions of Python. Yes, Python is an Ubuntu compatible program, but asking a question about python most times has nothing to do with Ubuntu or issues with it. So many people have asked these kinds of questions that they start to not at all be flagged as off topic. A similar question was asked here, but this relates more to just asking you all to if you see these questions about programming that may not be Ubuntu related, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, Close it, or if it is sort of related, try to redirect the user so they can recieve more support.

  • You should see the amount of EOL questions that are still open... And all sorts of other off-topic questions which people have been helping the OPs to solve, but never seemingly close voting them...
    – user364819
    Apr 19, 2016 at 14:38
  • 4
    I'd like to see some examples. My impression is that in general more questions are marked off-topic incorrectly than the other way around. Also, being marked off-topic incorrectly is a bigger issue then incidentally answering an off-topic question. Apr 19, 2016 at 14:39
  • 2
    @ParanoidPanda questions which not EOL at the moment they were asked, are not off-topic now. Apr 19, 2016 at 14:41
  • @JacobVlijm: I'm not talking about those questions, if you just run a search for 14.10 or 15.04 you'll find many open questions asked after those versions went EOL which still aren't closed and there aren't any close votes on them.
    – user364819
    Apr 19, 2016 at 15:29
  • @ParanoidPanda it depends if they should, see my answer. Apr 19, 2016 at 15:30
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    Ubuntu has always been welcoming to new users and the ubuntu community is large and diverse enough that such questions are accepted here. When in doubt, if it is in the official repositories and runs on Ubuntu (bash, python, apache, etc) it is considered on topic.The determination of off topic for outdated (EOL) versions of ubuntu or 3rd party repos are usually considered on topic here. The general policy is when in doubt leave it open. You are of course free to your opinion and to exercise your close votes which will add the question to the que. If others agree it will be closed, else move on
    – Panther
    Apr 19, 2016 at 15:30
  • When you say "people are starting to answer these questions", can you define the "people", for example, is it high rep users or new users doing this? If it is just new users, then this is nothing new, they just don't understand the site as well as us and the just want to help. If the question should be closed but someone answered it, it does not in any way impede your ability to cast a close vote yourself. If it is higher rep users, then, to repeat the other comments, provide examples because I do not see this as something that is becoming an issue here.
    – Mark Kirby
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:19
  • @MarkKirby Define high rep. users. I see users from anywhere in the 1-7000 range answering these questions, not anyone in specific, but definitely not new users. For the second part to be honest every 1 to 2 hours another question pops up on the page. Most recent example: shell script storing run time with python
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:47
  • Your example proves why you are wrong, the question is about a shell script and that is on topic. The script is actually a bash script and that measures timings on a python script, I am not a dev but to me the code presented is not python it is bash, this is on topic, if this is your level of example, then you just are not clear on is and is not off topic.
    – Mark Kirby
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:00
  • Not the best example, I admit. As soon as I find a good one I'll leave you another comment @MarkKirby
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:03
  • "Not the best example" To me it was the worst possible example you could of given, it shows it is you that does not understand the difference between a bash script and a python one, rather than some users (in the example muru a 58.7k user) are just answering off topic questions.
    – Mark Kirby
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:05
  • You know what? No. I know more about python and bash than most people here and there cannot be a more clear difference. My point is that people could say eventually that "windows controlling a script that would boot to Python which would boot Ubuntu" (Just hypothetical) would be on topic, but my god it isn't!!! @MarkKirby
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:08
  • " I know more about python and bash than most people here" I am not a dev and I could tell, that was bash right away, even the title says "shell script". As for your example, it is silly, giving a hypothetical of something extreme that may someday happen somewhere is useless, you NEED to get some good examples to back up your claims.
    – Mark Kirby
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:15
  • Stop. You're going off the example now. Now you're just plain insulting me, and I really don't appreciate it. I know I might not give the best examples, but you can't talk about bash vs. Python with me. @MarkKirby
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:16
  • I never insulted you and of course I am going off the example. You made a question and gave me an example, that example was the worst example possible and now you complain I used your example as an example. " but you can't talk about bash vs. Python with me" I just looked through your profile, if that statement is true and you , in your own words "know more about python and bash than most people here", why have you never answered one single bash question? I am done with this, you are just offended because you were wrong about the off topic question.
    – Mark Kirby
    Apr 20, 2016 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


Some examples would be useful, but I must say I don't really share your concern on this. I don't see many off-topic questions answered here.
At the same time, I do see quite some questions marked off-topic incorrectly. There seems to be a tendency to close-vote on trigger words like bug or the current +1 release, while the issue in the question has nothing to do with version-specific issues or -bugs for example.

Furthermore, I consider an unjust close vote a bigger sin than incidentally answering a question that could be marked as off-topic. In the first case, you send someone away who could (and should) get an answer here, in the latter case, the worst thing that can happen is that a good answer is given at the wrong place.

I don't see your issue that it invites people to post the wrong type of questions here at all. When people post questions that really don't belong here, it is because they are not familiar with the SE sites, not because they looked through this site's variety of questions.
On the contrary I would say, in general these people are not familiar with the site at all.

  • Adding the list of the trigger words would be nice , so that others could double-triple-quadruple check whether what they see is really a reason to close Apr 19, 2016 at 15:05
  • @Serg excellent idea! I will do that :) Apr 19, 2016 at 15:06
  • I definitely agree, but the thing is, AskUbuntu is a site where (we) specialize in Ubuntu, not necessarily Python (for example.) My point is that although some people on this site will know how to help, the user may find more help on another site where the question they are asking is more in the lines of what people there specialize in
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:00

Nope, I don't think it's as simple as that.

We have a community of people here who help Ubuntu users do stuff. Often that's highlighted as a "how do I do X" but occasionally that screws down into a language (Bash, Python, etc). This stuff is also on-topic on other sites. That doesn't make it off-topic here.

To be considered off-topic here —in my mind, at least— it should be completely detached from the environment (like "How do Python Arrays work?"). Additionally, I tend to give Bash/Sh/Sed/Awk/etc extra leeway as they're core parts of Ubuntu, and we have a lot of people here who can help.

As a moderator and Ubuntu member I do have to balance what's not just best for the site, but what benefits Ubuntu. I think borderline questions (eg pure bash) are not only often nice easy questions to get new users involved, they improve the technical comprehension of the whole site.

I don't expect everybody to agree but I think they're a net benefit to us.

But anything problem centric, like "How do I move a window to another screen in Python", is on-topic. It's as much about the environment as it is the programming language.

  • I completely agree with bash, considering it is 100% relating to Ubuntu and how to complete tasks with it, but it also seems that people are using this as a site to have people code for them nowadays.
    – David
    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:58

I felt I was a bit hard on you in comments before, so I went looking for evidence to support your claim.

What I found was that you are one of the people guilty of answering these questions.

Installing Ubuntu on school computers

Do malicious web sites ever exploit vulnerabilities in Linux clients?

This one is open as of now but is off topic as too broad by my vote


You write a big rant basically accusing every one of this

Collective “On Topic-ity”

I see users from anywhere in the 1-7000 range answering these questions

I hope this shows you that it is not so black and white with closing questions, you are just as guilty as the next user for overlooking them.

Based on this and the terrible example,that is on topic,you gave me, I don't see this as an issue with the site, more with your perception of the questions at hand, I am sure that users are not just starting to answer off topic questions just because they want too.

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