Today I saw a question, noticed it was a problem that I and other people have been having in Ubuntu for years, and wrote an answer. I also checked on my machine that the answer was correct. I would describe what I did as reproducing the problem. A few minutes after I posted my answer, the question was closed as off-topic. In comments, it was suggested that the reason was that the problem could not be reproduced.
This is the subcategory of off-topic that seems to have been intended, though I've gleaned this from comments and this is not what is actually displayed on the question page:
This describes a problem that can't be reproduced that seemingly went away on its own or was only relevant to a very specific period of time. It's off-topic as it's unlikely to help future readers.
The OP wanted to edit
I am attempting to automount my backup drive on Ubuntu studio 16.04.1.
gksu gedit /etc/fstabin terminal and enter my password, but I cannot see the editor.
Can anyone please help?
The OP tried to run the
gedit command with
gksu and -- as that comment clarifies -- this failed silently. No Gedit window appeared.
I then noticed that the OP had found that Gedit was actually not installed. Immediately I remembered the times I've tried to run nonexistent commands with
gksu and got no error message. So I wrote an answer about how
gksu doesn't (or at least doesn't always) show any error in this situation. I did mention that the solution in this case was to install Gedit.
I had considered commenting to suggest the OP write their own answer, but because I'm familiar with this problem -- having produced and seen it multiple times over the years -- I went ahead and answered. I also checked that
gksu still behaves this way on my machine.
Another dimension of the question is the issue of how root-owned configuration files are best edited. There were comments posted on the question that in effect gave solutions; something like them could have been posted as an answer, but hadn't been. So I also covered an alternative to
gksu in my answer. To me, this question is clearly about how to edit files as root (in general) and about
gksu (specifically), and was on both counts objectively answerable.
It seems to me that this question is about a problem that gets reproduced all the time -- someone runs a command with
gksu, it fails silently, and they don't know what this means or what to do. I believe this question, and my answer (so long as I have managed to write it clearly!), are useful.
Any arguments I can think of for why this question should be closed as off-topic -- including the explanations that I have seen in this upvoted comment and others on the question -- seem to apply just as well to most answered questions on the site about solvable problems, or at least to problems where the OP was able to find a solution. I don't know whether I have failed to understand the reasons people have given for why that question should be closed, or if it is simply that I vehemently disagree.
I also don't know what most people on our site think. I've been largely inactive on the site lately, until pretty recently. So I admit that the existing community consensus on what's on topic may have changed, though I haven't found anything here on meta or in the help to suggest that.
Therefore I am putting this question to all of you. What do we mean when we say a problem cannot be reproduced? Is that why this particular question was closed? Should it be reopened?