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I have no idea what to do about this answer I came across while reviewing.

How do I fix the APT error "The following packages have unmet dependencies"?.

Editor's note: The post in question has since had contact data edited out of it. Please see the revision history (specifically revision 2) for the message that originally brought up this discussion.

They gave an answer and then a phone number. How should this be handled?

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    Normally having users contact you off-site is a big no no, however since this seems to be an official System76 representative, I'm not sure. – Seth May 31 '17 at 0:26
  • System76 has a dedicated corner on Ubuntu Forums, where known employees respond to posts, so probably not that unusual for them. – muru May 31 '17 at 5:36
  • It's a nice message and I guess kind of helpful (surely one could search online to find the contact details though), but how are users supposed to tell whether such posts are genuine? And I'm not sure "go here to get some help" is an answer – Zanna May 31 '17 at 6:17
  • Thanks. So if I saw that again, would I flag, comment...? – fosslinux May 31 '17 at 6:20
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    I'm not sure. I would say yes but I think it merits discussion at least so mods & reviewers know what to do too – Zanna May 31 '17 at 10:06
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    I would say this is only OK if we can verify that the person is who they say they are, for example with a profile link to the company they work for, with some confirmation. Right now, this should be flagged for a mod to the investigate, if we just let it be, without any conformation, it will cause others, perhaps with bad intent, to try and do the same. – Mark Kirby May 31 '17 at 13:21
  • I think without an established identity, this sort of answer may introduce problems. I'd like moderators deal with specific users to fill some sort of form as an identity or atleast the profile page. – Anwar May 31 '17 at 18:36
  • I just did some research (Google Emma Marshall system76) and in this case it does seem like it is legitimate. But in future cases I will continue to be wary. – fosslinux May 31 '17 at 20:45
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    As far as the phone number, it's System 79's official phone number, no problem there. Googling for a person isn't the best idea. Let the moderators investigate, and contact the System 79 via email or just call. Being wary is OK, though there's plenty of official employees from System 79 or Canonical around. It's not like there's a rule preventing people with official affiliation from joining the site – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy May 31 '17 at 20:51
  • @SergiyKolodyazhnyy it's System 76. :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 1 '17 at 12:40
  • Obviously, I haven't been around for a while. Since when do we accept "call our helpdesk" -messages. Personally, I find this horrifying. – Jacob Vlijm Jun 1 '17 at 20:39
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    It's an interesting case indeed. On SE sites we want the actual answer here, which is why we don't go for link-only answers in general. But we also want answers found, and sometimes that answer is "contact support". I wonder if thought has been given in the broader SE community to having "verified accounts" for official reps of companies with products that might have questions asked about them here. If that was ever to be the case it would have to be done with the expectation that, as much as absolutely possible, the answers be given on this site and people not be routed elsewhere. – music2myear Jun 7 '17 at 16:10
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My own two cents is that support should never be pushed off-site by anyone, no matter if they're an official representative or a Canonical employee.

Part of the function of Ask Ubuntu is to build a repository of knowledge for the future, as opposed to the solve-each-problem-as-it-comes-up method of working with a support desk. If the site permits users to move support off-site, the site could end up losing valuable content that may or may not be relevant to solve an issue. We can't assume that the OP or the answerer will go back and edit their respective post, so it's better to keep it on-site.

Imagine that the support call led to a discovery of some other problem that wasn't solved by the command in the answer. It would be valuable to document what the problem was, and how it was resolved so future people can find it in a search.

This compounds in cases of company-backed support, like System76. What if a user with a Dell laptop has the problem? They can't be expected to call System76's support number, and System76 is definitely not expected to offer support just because a computer is Ubuntu. We then have a problem where nobody except System76 users are getting the answer. Furthermore, System76 now has to take up the excess workload of answering the same question 𝑛 times. While I can't speak for them particularly, I can't imagine they'd be too happy about that.

Answers like this should be treated the same as any link-only answer. We can't guarantee the link/phone number/whatever will work for everyone.

Furthermore, as mentioned by @David in the comments, the answer might be an otherwise complete/valid answer with the phone number/support link added in at the end within the context of "if this doesn't work or you need help with this, contact us." In this case, the support link isn't adding anything useful to the site. Instructions should be presented clearly on-site (assuming general competence -- e.g. people know how to open a terminal and use sudo). Similarly, we run into the same issues as additional steps required may be discovered, or we're otherwise losing valuable information because it didn't seem relevant at the time the answer was written.


This doesn't even begin to touch of the issues of people claiming to be System76 or Canonical support. Without a good way to verify these users' claims, we're stuck with the issue of any phone number or external link potentially resulting in a scam or other dangerous advice being given.

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    A very good point, however I feel like sometimes, there may be further issues, and the user did give a a suggested command to run that would help, along with a phone number for if anyone still needed help afterwards. It would be different if they just dropped in their phone number. – David Jun 1 '17 at 11:51
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    @David the day we start accepting messages like that, clarity has gone. Be aware of the fact we do not run a personal helpdesk, but we create and maintain a quality database. Phone numbers to add information that is of no use to others (even if it works for the person in question) are a disgrace to the goals of the site. – Jacob Vlijm Jun 1 '17 at 20:48
  • The only thing I would push to Canonical and offsite is 12.04 ESM questions - those belong at Canonical support and not here. Otherwise I agree here in principle about not pushing people or support off-site. – Thomas Ward Jun 2 '17 at 18:39
  • @ThomasWard That's a different case, I think. We'd normally close here as off-topic and redirect to canonical on an official scope as opposed to users "pulling" support off themselves. – Kaz Wolfe Jun 2 '17 at 18:41
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    Don't blow this out of proportion, guys. David pointed out properly that the answer does provide a solution and the contact info is provided as additional material. OP also purchased a laptop from them, so it's perfectly fine to say "Hey, contact your seller, here's the phone number". Nothing is being "pushed off-site", there's still a working answer on the side. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jun 3 '17 at 15:09

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