Over the past couple of months, I've seen questions asked here about Linux Mint, Arch Linux, CentOS, Windows 10, OS X, Android, iOS and something one person uses called "Lumia".

Somehow, this


and this

are not clear enough, so may I propose... *drumroll please*

𝔸𝕤𝕜 𝕌𝕓𝕦𝕟𝕥𝕦 𝓓𝓮𝓼𝓲𝓰𝓷   〜 𝕍𝟚.𝟘

The proposal suggests:

  • The overlay text always displays on the Ask Page. It takes 4 clicks to remove it (by default).

  • Every 100 questions in the Close/Off Topic queue increase the click count by 1.

  • If the Close/Off Topic queue gets to be more than 350 in length, it starts to flash. If it reaches over 500, it whizzes around the page randomly.

  • The AKA section should help people realise specifically what they can ask here.

  • And, COMING SOON: logos for Cent OS, OS X, Linux Mint and Windows with big No Entry signs over them.


In all seriousness, if anyone has any suggestions...

  • 4
    I have a suggestion: let's have a bot that blocks these questions till they are reviewed by community/high rep users/mods/whoever and check that they really belong here. Win10 may be shady area with inclusion of bash there, but we can certainly use a bot to nuke other questions Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:30
  • 1
    @Serg Yes, I had a thought that you could detect Linux Mint in a question and send them off for review. Perhaps we need the Triage that Stack Overflow has.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:33
  • I wish there was something where, if the question includes certain keywords like Mint, Windows, Android, Mac, etc, that question would be blocked and kept for review, like @Serg said. I think, though, that people are generally against this, as it would add yet another review queue that no one uses, leaving many questions just mentioning something off-topic in limbo. Maybe if the question included the keywords but also included Ubuntu and its mispellings it would be allowed through? We'd still get OT stuff, but there would be less of it. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:36
  • My suggestion (or at least the thing I like the most) is some sort of banner or confirmation dialog that pops up for new users, until a certain amount of rep has been reached. It could be a bright red pop-up on the homepage saying something like PLEASE READ THE HELP CENTER. MINT AND DEBIAN ARE NOT ON-TOPIC. ONLY UBUNTU AND ITS OFFICIAL DERIVATIVES ARE WELCOME. Or, a confirmation dialog before asking a question if the question includes the keywords, saying pretty much the same thing. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:38
  • 2
    Can we include some text below the "Title" box that says "Please make sure your question is related to Ubuntu. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux."?
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:40
  • 1
    @edwinksl That sounds good - better than the text in the title box, because that won't disappear when you type.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:41
  • @edwinksl we'd have to say something like "Only official Ubuntu derivatives are supported. READ THE HELP CENTER." Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:42
  • We can just bold the text too, which isn't too obnoxious and serves as a useful reminder of "ARE YOU SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO DO THIS?!?!?!".
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:44
  • @edwinksl WELL, ARE YOU? HUH? Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:44
  • @Zacharee1 Make everyone with only 1 rep triple-confirm they want to submit a question. ;)
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:45
  • @edwinksl yes, definitely. In all seriousness, though, I think there should be some sort of rep thing. Below a certain point, you see it. Above, it's gone. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 21:45
  • I agree with all of you. Yes this needs to be fixed.
    – fosslinux
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 7:42
  • why is this off-topic? I couldn't find any info before doing this myself. I am stating that I am targeting uniquely and solely Ubuntu, if I go to stackoverflow people will tell me Windows, Arch, OSX, any stuff. I asked about Ubuntu and Nautilus and Python. I still haven't solved how to make icons for file types show up, but I can't ask about this anymore, because you guys consider not Ubuntu. wthf??? askubuntu.com/questions/786654/…
    – eri0o
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 22:38
  • @Elric You see, the part which we support — the file association and .desktop files — were the parts you said are working perfectly. What we do not support, however, is the question of getting a Qt app to open and handle something passed as an argument.
    – user423626
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 8:17

4 Answers 4


I think running an automated script over each new question to look out for keywords like windows, mint, kali, etc. is a bad idea and would result in far too many false positives. Reviewing all of them would mean more work than just letting them appear on the main site until somebody comes by and flags it or votes to close.

On the other side, we have one great thing beside title and question body: tags!

There are already mechanisms to block specific tags so that a red speech bubble is appearing if you try to enter one and you can not submit the question - just try to ask a question tagged with :

enter image description here

What should be possible to implement and set up is to block specific off-topic tags if they are not combined with others that make them on-topic again.

For example we can block tags mentioning off-topic OSes like windows, mint, kali unless they are combined with a tag telling us in what way those systems are related to Ubuntu here, e.g. dual-boot, networking, virtualization, etc.

Of course this means somebody has to create and maintain a list of potentially off-topic tags and their on-topic-making partner tags. Therefore this suggestion will probably not work either.

But instead of blocking those tags, we could also just display this red speech-bubble with a warning, like

Please remember that this site is about Ubuntu and its official flavours only. If your problem is mainly about Windows, ask it on Super User instead, if it's about any other Linux distribution, you're welcome on Unix & Linux. If you're unsure whether your system is on-topic here, check whether it's on the list of official Ubuntu flavours.

This definitely gains the user's attention and also redirects them to the proper place to ask if they recognize their mistake themselves. It would be a great advantage if clicking a link in this bubble directly takes the user to the other site's "Ask Question" page and copies their already entered content over as well.

With this approach, you have no additional reviews and users could still post their question anyway if they think it should be on-topic here, but we can probably catch a big percentage right before they reach the main site. We also provide clear and understandable, user-friendly guidance instead of simply closing their question as off-topic later.

  • That text is too long. Try "Only Ubuntu questions here, ask other questions on Super User". Otherwise, +1
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 22:26
  • 1
    @Tim That is too short. In that case we need a link like "find the perfect site for your question" and write either an official Meta post listing all related sites, or even a help center article.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 22:37
  • But people won't read it. They're click the close and click Post.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 22:39
  • How about "Only Ubuntu questions please. For Linux distributions, try Unix & Linux; for Windows, try Super User; for Mac OS X, try Ask Different."
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 22:46
  • We have tried banners and sticky threads at the top of the page in the forum and people never read them, it is like they are totally blind to them.
    – Wild Man
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 22:53
  • @edwinksl All those are on topic on Super User. No need to list 3 sites.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 0:38
  • I listed all of them because that's what's shown in the off-topic flag: "This is not about Ubuntu. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow."
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 0:40
  • @Tim Yes, everything loosely about computers or related hardware (just not programming) is on-topic on Super User. But how do you think are your chances to get an answer if you ask a question about e.g. Kali Linux? They're mainly for Windows and hardware, all other topics have better suited sites where more experts of the specific topic come together.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 8:46
  • I proposed something vaguely similar to this idea a while back on Meta SO: Would using honeypot tags to trigger a warning be effective in raising question quality?. Folks didn't like that idea though, and I can see why. But the idea of adding more warning to certain tags is nice. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 8:50
  • @ByteCommander If they have missed the signs mentioned above, I don't care about their question going there, as long as they leave here. Getting them to one place it's allowed is much much better than them not reading the list of better places and asking here - the worst place (for everyone).
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 21:40
  • There's no Ubuntu tag, though! If people type in Ubuntu, they get Xubuntu instead and slap it on there anyhow. When I am in an editing fit and start combing over the Xubuntu tag you may see me start proposing removing that tag from a bunch of questions it isn't relevant to. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 1:58

We could do with a triage queue like Stack Overflow:

Triage is a question review queue intended to split questions into three categories: "Looks OK", "Requires Editing", and "Unsalvageable".

Nice flowchart by Shog9:

enter image description here

As can be seen, triage reduces visibility of crap in the front page, which should hopefully discourage these, and prevent people from encouraging them by posting answers.

  • Do we have enough users to do this? +1
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 11:01
  • @Tim considering the usual state of our first posts queue, I don't think so.
    – muru
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 11:02
  • @muru Don't worry. I am trying to gain as much rep as I can to get to the first posts queue.
    – fosslinux
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 7:45
  • This isn't even prime time, and some users don't even know what is off/on topic on the site, as they jump to answer those questions.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 17:46

Can we reduce the volume of off topic questions?

We already have the tools to reduce them, the problem is:


The whole system is built upon the assumption that people moderate content, but in this case they prefer not to (and is worse as they are encouraged to not). That's the main problem here. People forgets that to have a sustainable site, you need to establish standards and minimum quality barriers. So, the best way to reduce the volume of crap is to treat it like the crap it is.


Whilst blocking keywords such as Windows does stop the issue, it would also create far more. For example if someone asked a question such as How to dual boot Windows and Ubuntu? or they mention that a particular problem doesn't exist on Windows.

A notice on the page may help, but somehow I doubt it. If the clue Ask Ubuntu wasn't clear enough I highly doubt a notice will either.

Funilly enough though, I saw for the first time in my existence a question about Ubuntu on the Windows Q&A page. I can't remember what it was exactly, I think it was something about apt-get command.

  • 3
    What Windows Q&A page? If you're talking of Super User, it's not only Windows Q&A, it allows every OS.
    – muru
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 0:32

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