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There are a number of questions about Linux and applications that run under Linux, that are asked by users that are not using Ubuntu.

Am I wrong to discourage it and remind the users that this is a forum for Ubuntu?

At one time I spent a lot of time trying to help a user resolve an issue with an application that is common to various Linuxes. The problem didn't exist with Ubuntu because it was already configured properly by the developers as part of the install process.

After an hour in extended chat discussion, I started to notice the provided steps weren't working because of differences in default configurations by his OS defaults.

When I learned he wasn't using Ubuntu, I finished with the support to fix the problem. But told him he was in the wrong forum.

He said he uses the AU forum because you get quicker and better support.

Personally, I believe if we focused more on filtering out time spent on threads where they users are not using Ubuntu and the issue isn't with a supported version of Ubuntu, it'd help with the focus of the objective of the AU forum and more attention given to the users of Ubuntu.

I'm asking for the consensus because I don't want to be out of place by reminding users of the forum's objective.

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    By "AS", I guess you mean Ask Ubuntu? That should be abbreviated "AU" though, if anything, IMHO. It's also not a forum but a Q&A site. - Addressing your actual question, we do normally close questions that seem to be not about official Ubuntu flavours, like Kali or Mint or just completely different things like Debian or others and remind people (explicitly or implicitly through the close reason) that they should ask e.g. on Unix & Linux instead. However, some of us also make exceptions to that end edit the other OS name out if they are sure that it would work exactly the same on Ubuntu. – Byte Commander Jul 15 '17 at 19:07
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    Thanks. I fixed the abbreviation. – L. D. James Jul 15 '17 at 19:16
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    maybe the solution to a problem a user of something other than ubuntu is having is switch to ubuntu. – Skaperen Jul 22 '17 at 7:00
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    To some degree, that's my sentiment. – L. D. James Jul 22 '17 at 8:21
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Personally, I believe if we focused more on filtering out time spent on threads where they users are not using Ubuntu and the issue isn't with a supported version of Ubuntu, it'd help with the focus of the objective of the AU forum and more attention given to the users of Ubuntu.

I agree entirely. When I see such questions I, perhaps too bluntly, vote to close as off-topic because the question is not about Ubuntu. I then move on to a better question.

Sometimes, I feel that it may be helpful to direct the poster to another more appropriate forum, https://forums.linuxmint.com/ perhaps. I have even sometimes agreed to meet the poster there to address the question.

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As Sergiy and Jacob both pointed out in their answers, strictly closing all questions that mention any non-Ubuntu Linux distribution seems too much for me as well.

I think we should have a look at the question and ask ourselves whether the problem is specific to their distribution or just the same as on Ubuntu:

  • If we are absolutely sure that there is not the slightest difference between Ubuntu and their distro in the aspect in question, my action of choice is to edit out the other distribution name and just pretend it is regular Ubuntu.

    This is e.g. often the case for simple scripting stuff involving just standard tools present on nearly any unixoid system.

  • If it is very likely that the issue is specific to the distribution the OP uses and would not happen in the same way on Ubuntu, this is a clear reason to close the question. Someone should always leave a small comment explaining that we only support official flavours here and directing them e.g. to Unix & Linux or any more suitable site though.

    Good examples for this are questions about package management (as other distributions might use different repositories or even package managers) or stuff specific to specially customized kernels of that distribution, like the Kali Linux kernel with special patches for WiFi packet injection.

  • If it is not sure whether a question could be about Ubuntu as well or not, I'd propose to leave a warning comment explaining this, but then trying to answer the question pretending it were about Ubuntu. Now if valid and working Ubuntu solutions don't work for the OP on their system, that's their problem then. We generated a potentially valuable Q&A directed at Ubuntu users though, which is exactly what we want to have.

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As a general rule, I wouldn't discourage questions that also concern Ubuntu, even if the question is asked by someone who doesn't use Ubuntu. I am pretty sure many questions with useful answers were asked and answered by people, not using Ubuntu. That is perfectly fine, as long as it is also useful to users of Ubuntu. Think of the many cli questions for example, text editing questions and so on.

Obviously, if issues are specific to other Linux distro's, or even to another OS, questions do not belong here. That is the line we should draw in my opinion.

Apart from that, if:

He said he uses the AU forum because you get quicker and better support.

we are obviously doing a good job :)

Of course once and a while we waste some time on an issue we cannot solve from an "Ubuntu perspective". I believe however that the chance people will admit the issue might be related to the fact that they are not using Ubuntu, before the attempt to help gets too exhaustive, increases if we are not too narrow-minded to begin with.

  • It's my experience that many issues that problems arise in instances such as Apache config. Many distros don't use the modular process of Ubuntu. It might not matter so much if the person is very fluent with Apache. I believe many distros add Virtualhosts to their /etc/apache2/apache.conf or /etc/apache2/httpd.conf files. They edit and modify other files instead of the convenience provided by the Ubuntu developers to just use a /etc/apache2/sites-available or /etc/apache2/modes-available then sudo a2en-mod (or site to finish the configuration. – L. D. James Jul 16 '17 at 15:38
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    Giving support to fix other distro's Apache issues can often confuse novice when its time to set up Apache in their Ubuntu environment. When they follow steps they are seeing given to users of other distros, it breaks the convenience the Apache developers have provided for this community. – L. D. James Jul 16 '17 at 15:41
  • I'll go along with the consensus of what is expected on this subject. If it's to welcome the other distros and give them support... that is what I'll do. If it's to realize they are not using Ubuntu and to recommend a more generic site, I'll do that also. There are, of course, many similarities between Unix and Windows. There are a number of common programs between the two also. But before posting this message, I used to advise the users of the ease and facility of Ubuntu and recommend it so that it would be easier to give support to them. – L. D. James Jul 16 '17 at 15:45
  • @L.D.James "I'll go along with the consensus of what is expected on this subject. If it's to welcome the other distros and give them support... that is what I'll do", that's not at all what I am saying: "Obviously, if issues are specific to other Linux distro's, or even to another OS, questions do not belong here. That is the line we should draw in my opinion.", which means that if an issue is (also) relevant on Ubuntu, I wouldn't deny the question because someone sais he is not using Ubuntu. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 16 '17 at 15:53
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    I agree with this answer. There's often an overlap between distributions that are Debian-based or Ubuntu-based, and in cases where a question is about scripting and text processing, it's 99% irrelevant as to what the distro the OP uses. The important part is to stop and think will this question be also useful to Ubuntu users? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 20 '17 at 16:51
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Stop and ask yourself "Will such question be useful to Ubuntu users? Can such question be solved with Ubuntu-specific tools/config ?"

In case where OP asks about scripting stuff, text-processing, file/directory manipulations, permissions - this is all fairly standard and basic Linux stuff, where OP's distro is irrelevant, but still nontheless useful and applicable to Ubuntu. Questions about package manager generally should be closed, since sources are typically different.

Some people are afraid that this gives "bad example" and "sends wrong message" to other users, and usually you can tell they're over-zealous about cleaning up the whole site and making it shiny and ideal. And the truth is that you can't stop the new users from coming here and saying but Ubuntu is just like < some other distro name here > !!! and the "bad examples" rarely matter to them. Not a single time in my experience a user said "hey, that question talks about Mint, why can't I". So don't be afraid to clutter the site and don't become a purist. The goal is to help people and solve problems with what we have and what we know.

In your specific case, OP happened to have one of the issues that are specific to the other distro. There's nothing much to do in such case - we can't fix it with Ubuntu specific tools, even though the issue is useful to Ubuntu users.

Also, stop using the word forum. Ask Ubuntu is not a forum, but rather a question-answer site, and that implies specific structure. It's not a place to come and post rants or questions out of boredom (although some people try to do that:) )

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...it'd help with the focus of the objective of the AU forum and more attention given to the users of Ubuntu.

I don't think AU's purpose is giving attention to Ubuntu users; as I understand it, its purpose is to be a kind of knowledge base that Ubuntu users can use to solve their problems. In that sense, and like others have pointed out, some questions asked by users of other systems may be relevant to Ubuntu users.

However, I believe it often isn't obvious how the use of a system relates to a problem and, thus, affects the questions. Just like you pointed out:

The problem didn't exist with Ubuntu because it was already configured properly by the developers as part of the install process.

I too had a couple of command line questions (relating the output of two commands) that seemed generic to me. I considered asking here but eventually I overcame that desire and asked on Linux & Unix. It turned out both of them had something to do with the system I was using, one had to do with a GDM bug not present in Ubuntu, the other had to do with /bin being a symlink to /usr/bin in CentOS. I was glad I didn't ask those here!

Personally, I believe if we focused more on filtering out time spent on threads where they users are not using Ubuntu and the issue isn't with a supported version of Ubuntu, it'd help with the focus of the objective of the AU forum and more attention given to the users of Ubuntu.

I'm unsure whether actively hunting down those kinds of questions will help at all. You would still waste time in the process.

Am I wrong to discourage it and remind the users that this is a forum for Ubuntu?

I don't think so, if you know or suspect the question was asked to solve an issue with another system and even if the question proves to also be related to Ubuntu, you may remind them that such thing is a coincidence and that other sites exist to ask their questions regarding that system. Actually, this is probably the best approach, because you don't go over the top destroying valuable information but you add to it.

On the other hand, if the question proves to be completely unrelated to Ubuntu you may propose a migration, though I'm not familiar with how those work.

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What you said in the beginning:

There are a number of questions about Linux and applications that run under Linux, that are asked by users that are not using Ubuntu.

There are many many Ubuntu-agnostic Linux questions on this site:

  • bash, sh, perl, python, fortran, basic, assembler
  • sed, awk, bc, wc, pipes (|), xargs, eval
  • grub, bios, csm, uefi, dual-boot, fsck, kernel
  • etc/fstab, mount, auto mounting, gparted, GPT
  • LibreOffice, chrome, fire-fox, vlc, pulse-audio
  • gimp, rhythmbox, vlc, sudo, nano, vi, cron

In these cases the answers are more important than the OP's distro. If the answers are great why flag the question as "off-topic"? I would probably edit the question though to remove the "offensive" distro name.

If there are no answers then flagging the question as "off-topic" is usually OK.

In between these two extremes is the gray area which would have to be approached on a case by case basis.

What if someone knows how to spell "Ubuntu" does that qualify?

There many, many Q&A's that address installing Windows without Ubuntu. Most of the duplicates point to: How to remove Ubuntu and put Windows back on?. Isn't that a Windows installation question? Apparently not because the user once used "Ubuntu" and now wants to move away.

Some of the duplicates still remain as valid questions even though they should be closed:

The saving grace for these questions not getting deleted is they mention the word "Ubuntu" to be removed and not "MS-DOS", or "Windows Vista", or "Fedora", or "Arch-Linux", or any other OS. Yet the answers to the questions benefit everyone in the world that wants to install Windows.

On the other hand if someone wanted to remove Mac OSX, Fedora, Arch-Linux or another Distro and install "Windows" it would be closed as "off-topic" even though the instructions for installing "Windows" remains the same. I guess I would point out the AU link to them via comment and then flag the question as "off-topic".

User wants to remove Windows and install Fedora

Here's a good one where the user name-drops "Ubuntu": How to remove Windows partition and install Fedora 14?. The last answer is the best I think but gets no up-votes:

If you want to keep your partitions the same size you can just use the Fedora installer and reformat the Windows partition.

Translation: Go to the Fedora website and read the instructions there.

What you said in the ending:

I'm asking for the consensus because I don't want to be out of place by reminding users of the forum's objective.

Asking for consensus here is like requesting all snowflakes be the same size and pattern.

  • "Asking for consensus here is like requesting all snowflakes be the same size and pattern." Sorry but the snow in the games I play ARE all the same size and pattern :+ – Rinzwind Jul 28 '17 at 9:04

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