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See this chat conversation for intense discussion.


When I see an answer "here's how to do this in Windows", I flag it and leave a comment explaining that this is off-topic. All such flags have been marked helpful (but if I was wrong, please tell me...)

I would do the same for Mac...

And I think I should do the same for answers that say "here's how to do it in [non-Ubuntu] Linux"

Here's a post I was unsure about

My doubt is, the answer might work in Ubuntu - it depends on the topic, right? In this case I really don't know, and in the past, where I have been able to test the answer in Ubuntu myself, I just edited out the distro, but, if that isn't possible, should I flag the post regardless of whether it might work?

I asked in chat, and someone who's been around a lot longer than me left a comment on the post. I think that was a good thing to do, but I think I should flag it regardless...

I would like some advice!

  • 1
    This is an excellent question! I had the same thoughts. I skipped it as @Serg had commented on it and I assumed that if it were dangerous he would have downvoted and deleted it as it appears that that is feasible as noted here. In retrospect flagging might have been more prudent, but I hesitate to take a position I can't defend. – Elder Geek Dec 22 '16 at 18:51
  • :) thanks @ElderGeek somehow I missed your comment earlier. I guess Zacharee1's answer provides a reasonable rule of thumb, but I'm still eager to hear other opinions – Zanna Dec 27 '16 at 19:14
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I tend to follow the same mentality I use for questions. Questions about Mint, Kali or even macOS could be perfectly applicable to Ubuntu, but I don't know that, and so I flag as OT. There are specific rules about this for questions, but I use this reasoning to explain my decisions if needed.

An answer that's based off of RHEL, Kali, Debian, etc could certainly work perfectly fine on Ubuntu, but there's no way to really know unless you or the OP tests it. For most cases, I'd flag the answer if it said something like "this worked on Fedora..."

However, there are cases where an answer might be all-round Linux applicable. If it's something like:

Q: How do I copy a file from a to b in terminal?

A: I use RHEL, and this is what works: sudo cp /file /dir/

Then the RHEL is pretty much irrelevant. Something that simple, it doesn't really matter what distro the answerer uses, since it's definitely applicable to Ubuntu.

Something more complex, like VNC/RDP, should probably only get answers from Ubuntu users.

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    Yeah... As I hinted in the question, simple command line stuff like that I can test, and just edit out "I use RHEL" (and sudo too, unless necessary!) I guess if I know it's unlikely to work, I should flag, if I know it will work, I should edit, and if I am not sure, I should skip? – Zanna Dec 21 '16 at 17:47
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    @Zanna if you aren't sure, flag it. Don't leave the chance that it might cause problems. Unless there's absolute certainty, it's better that it's not there. – TheWanderer Dec 21 '16 at 21:07
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    @Zacharee1 indeed, especially for core stuff like PAM, where mistakes could easily leave you unable to login and needing recovery mode – muru Dec 21 '16 at 22:31
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    Mmh, don't flag. Flagging is not for incorrect information. Downvote and comment on incorrect information. – Tim Dec 28 '16 at 20:33
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    @Tim incorrect information should warrant a mod flag. If it's incorrect, it should be deleted, especially if it's to the point of danger. – TheWanderer Dec 28 '16 at 20:34
  • @Zacharee1 That's not what flags are for. – Tim Dec 28 '16 at 20:34
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    @Tim it's exactly what multiple mods have told me to do. – TheWanderer Dec 28 '16 at 20:35
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    @Zacharee1 Please show me where. The help center voting page clearly disagrees with what those moderators have said. - "Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect." as it says, downvotes are for dangerous information. The flagging page says this: "If you see behavior that is rude, offensive, unproductive, or otherwise inappropriate for the site, let us know." which is what flags are for. – Tim Dec 28 '16 at 20:36
  • I don't see where the Help Center says not to use flags in this context. I've been told in chat, so I don't really know how to find and link that. – TheWanderer Dec 28 '16 at 20:39
  • @Tim Apologies. I think I'm wrong. We're discussing in chat now. – TheWanderer Dec 28 '16 at 20:43
  • @Zacharee1 Does it say it is an appropriate use of the flag? No. Because it's not. The help center clearly says that downvotes are to be used on incorrect information. Which flag option would you use? And please (if you can find it) could you link to the place you've been advised this is the correct use? The FAQ also disagrees - meta.stackexchange.com/a/185074/252153 – Tim Dec 28 '16 at 20:43
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    Hang on @Tim. That post says Then cast a moderator flag using the custom option instead, and explain why you think the answer is harmful to the site, and should be removed. Rule of Thumb: If you can't determine whether or not it's an answer without looking at the question it supposedly answers, use a custom flag. Custom flags are fine according to that Q&A. Did I say NAA in my answer? If I did, I need to remove that. – TheWanderer Dec 28 '16 at 20:45
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    @tim yes, flagging is not for technical inaccuracies indeed, but I think that off-topic answers miss the point of the question and dangerous answers should be flagged for mod attention – Zanna Dec 28 '16 at 20:45
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In this case: It appeared that the question was bug related, previously squashed and the answer was not relevant. Since I felt the question should be closed and didn't perceive any immediate harm in the answer, I ignored the answer and focused on dealing with the question.

Generally speaking: Some answers are inherently non release/distro specific. The vast majority of those are tried and true CLI commands like ls -a and configuration file edits that work across many versions of Linux & Unix (for instance /etc/fstab edits for mounting). These I consider useful regardless. The question is does the answer apply to currently supported versions of Ubuntu. Testing or previous knowledge is usually a sufficient strategy for dealing with many of these. The man pages are also a good source of information.

On flagging: While the vast majority of the flags I have raised over the years have been taken as helpful, this is not always the case. The thing I find useful to remember that something that is glaringly apparent to me may be perceived completely differently by someone else (and vice versa). I don't read too much into a declined or even disputed flag. I find it interesting that if you've had a recently declined flag the system forces you to review your flag history as if there's absolutely no question that the flag was incorrectly raised. We are all entitled to our own opinions. A declined flag is IMHO declined because in the opinion of the particular moderator that received it, it shouldn't have been raised. This doesn't mean that all the moderators would necessarily agree that it was wrong to raise the flag. It seems clear that there's no vetting (voting) system for flags like there is for questions and answers. My best advice is to fix it yourself if you can and don't take it personally if the mods disagree with your assessment.

Guidelines on voting vs. flagging are here.

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So here would be how I would handle this situation. While a question is still unanswered, any answer relating to another OS would be off-topic.

But if a question is getting lots of views after it's been answered, and somebody adds a good answer for another OS, then I think that is good for the community.

The OP should get their answer which is directly related to the community, before people start adding in "extras" about doing it in another OS.

Windows will always be 100% off topic for Ask-Ubuntu. Mac is kinda hit and miss, its Unix-Like, but tends to be its own beast, but RHEL based derivatives, or say Debian, etc, that is helpful to people who are in the Linux world.

  • I shouldn't have answered from my phone were I can't type out a proper answer. I get board and surf this site from my phone, but my answer was clearly poorly written due to being on a mobile device, I updated it to be clearer as to what I mean, hope that makes more sense. – FreeSoftwareServers Dec 22 '16 at 17:10
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    The problem here is we are AskUbuntu, if we allow answer for other OS's, we would not be an Ubuntu site. Sites already exist that cover other OS use superuser.com for any OS or unix.stackexchange.com for other Linux distros. Including answers for other OS would make a mess. – Mark Kirby Jan 2 '17 at 18:58

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