I'm not suggesting that Mint is on-topic, but recently I've noticed questions getting closed as Off Topic, just because a question contains the word "Mint" or "Debian".

If you need to close them, I strongly recommend searching for a duplicate first, and before you cast your vote, please make sure that the question is a Mint problem first. If you can't be bothered to, you can always press the skip button.

For example, the question Bring Back old GRUB menu? isn't necessarily about Mint. (It may be a duplicate of How do I change the GRUB boot order?, but the idea is still the same)
Maybe Mint was the reason that the Grub menu was changed, but I strongly believe that there is an Ubuntu answer to fix that. The OP has 3 OS installed (including Ubuntu). And in their last comment, they even say that they uninstalled Mint and their problem persists.

  • loosely related: meta.askubuntu.com/questions/16268/…
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 12:27
  • 9
    I reopened the grub one. The OP is using Ubuntu and using grub to boot Ubuntu. That they also use it to boot other OSs seems irrelevant.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 12:46
  • I am a bit confused, why was my vote counted for closing as off-topic? If I remember correctly I voted for closure as a duplicate of this.
    – pomsky
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:11
  • 4
    @pomsky if more close as offtopic then close as dupe the offtopic is used as the close vote.
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:45
  • @Rinzwind I read your comment 3 times and still have no idea what you're saying Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:37
  • 2
    @Rinzwind I think you should rephrase that as "Majority of the votes decides on the close reason" Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:38
  • @Dan Yeah, I've read Eliah's answer. I was just commenting on Rinz's comment, which lacked clarity at least for me. I'm well aware of the voting quirk where majority decides the reason Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 18:41
  • We have the same problem over at EE.SE, for example electronics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5159/…
    – pipe
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


Yes. "Mint," "Debian," "Kali," etc., don't mean "stop paying attention."

You're right that it's bad to robo-close questions based on the presence of specific keyword or tags, and that this is something that sometimes happens on our site, that it happened in this particular case, and that it needs to stop happening. The question formerly titled Bring Back old GRUB menu? is clearly about Ubuntu, and this was discernible even before it was improved by editing. The original question even said:

Earlier I have GNU GRUB Version 2.02 by Ubuntu.

I want Ubuntu 14.04 at the first position, Linuxmint, and Windows after that.

It doesn't get much clearer than that. This is an on-topic question.

Another recent example, which was also on-topic and also happened to be a duplicate, was originally titled extract a specific program or script from iso, had always been clearly about extracting a file from a Kali ISO image or a device to which such an image had been written, and not about running Kali Linux. But it was still closed as off-topic for not being about Ubuntu. (We reopened it.)

I think the important question to ask when deciding if a question is on-topic is "Is this about Ubuntu?" but unfortunately people often ask themselves "Is this (also) about something that isn't Ubuntu?" instead. That's the wrong question to ask. As I said in Are half-Minty questions allowed?:

A question needs to be about Ubuntu to be on-topic. Whether or not it is also about Mint doesn't really matter.

Note that this should not be interpreted as arguing for a different way to not pay attention. Just as the presence of certain keywords or tags doesn't ensure a question will be off-topic, the word "Ubuntu" is neither necessary nor sufficient to make a question on-topic. In general, noticing specific words is no substitute for figuring out what is actually being said. Because this is about questions that are about Ubuntu but also relate to other topics, the "Respecting your own community" section of Respect the community – your own, and others’ is also relevant.

I agree with much of what Kaz Wolfe has said but I don't agree that we should usually edit "Mint" out of on-topic questions that mention it. It's potentially useful information to know that a problem happened on another installation too, whether or not it is Ubuntu. Furthermore, Mint is similar to Ubuntu in some ways and different in others, and those are both reasons that knowing something affected Mint too will sometimes confer useful information, allowing us to rule out some possible causes of a problem.

How do I close thee, let me count the ways...

I do disagree with part of what you are saying, though, at least as I understand it and as I expect other readers will understand it.

When a close reason is correct, and you have undertaken the necessary care to satisfy yourself that it is correct, you are under no obligation to go looking for another one before voting to close. That is, if an off-topic question could also be reasonably considered a duplicate, you can feel free to close it as a duplicate even though it's off-topic, but you are also free to close it as off-topic even though it's a duplicate, and there is nothing wrong with doing so.

We have no policy about the preferred order of close reasons, nor do we even appear to have any informal agreement about non-binding best practices in this area, nor do I think we really need one. I do actually believe it's better--though by no means necessary--to prefer closing questions as duplicates when multiple close reasons apply. But even that is far from an established consensus. If anything, my opinion on this is the one that is somewhat less popular. See this old conversation, my answer (and its comments) to The quality of the duplicates is so bad that I want to cry, and Braiam's answer (and its comments) to How can we encourage 3k+ users to review more Close Votes.

You said:

If you need to close them, I strongly recommend searching for a duplicate first, and before you cast your vote, please make sure that the question is a Mint problem first.

I agree with the second part--when someone is asking about a problem with Ubuntu, their question is not off-topic as a consequence of being related to Mint. However, the reason that GRUB question should never have been closed as off-topic is not that it was sufficiently similar to other questions that it could correctly be closed as a duplicate. The reason it was wrong to close as off-topic is that it was not off-topic, regardless of its similarity or lack thereof to other content on the site.

The Minority Report

When a question is on-topic and a duplicate, and it gets wrong off-topic close votes but also correct duplicate close votes, a bug in the Stack Exchange system frequently exacerbates the problem. As pomsky mentioned and Rinzwind explained, a question with three (or four) off-topic close votes and two (or one) close votes for any other reason will be shown as having been closed as off-topic and the people who voted to close it for the other reason will be falsely shown as having agreed with the off-topic closure. I really hope this behavior of the system gets changed.

If the question is later reopened and people want to close it for the right reason instead, the people who voted for that reason before can't do so again, because when you cast a close vote that is actioned--that is, the question is closed before your vote ages away--the system does not allow you to vote to close that question a second time unless you are a moderator. (That restriction is itself reasonable and generally good and I don't suggest lifting it.) Thus the system makes it very easy to close questions for totally wrong reasons that set a terrible example for us all to follow, then makes it hard to correct the problem.

  • 1
    I completely agree with everything said in this answer. I brought up the duplicate vote as a recommendation only. Because, in my opinion, it's much more useful when it can be cast.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 7:21
  • Reading the quote again, maybe I should have said it differently. Would this make more sense "If you need to close them, and before you cast your vote, please make sure that the question is a Mint problem. Also, I would strongly recommend searching for a duplicate first."
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 7:28
  • 1
    @Dan If you're asking if I would agree more with that statement, yes. But I don't think there's any need for you to change your question here. (You can do so, if you are completely sure you want to. If you did, I would add a footnote in my answer mentioning that part of it applied to an earlier version of your question, and then my answer would still make sense.) Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 7:34
  • 1
    The only part of this I disagree with is that off-topic questions could just as well be closed as duplicates. I think only on-topic questions should be closed as duplicates, because (a) if the duplicate target does not work for OP or others in their off-topic scenario, it's not helpful to anyone, and is misleading and (b) if people find off-topic questions closed as duplicates on Ask Ubuntu, they may think that off-topic questions are on-topic, and ask more of them
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 8:23

Questions that mention Mint or any other unofficial derivative should not be immediately closed, but they most likely do require additional scrutiny.

If a problem exists with only Mint (or the OP is clearly not running Ubuntu nor has any interest in doing so), we should close the question - we can't help. If OP edits "Mint" to "Ubuntu", that's on them. We'll give them Ubuntu advice; if it doesn't work, that's their fault.

However, not all questions that mention Mint fall into the above category. Take this theoretical question:

When attempting to run ffmpeg on my Linux Mint computer (also seen on Ubuntu 16.04), the last 30 seconds of video cut out.

How can I fix this?

In this case, the question should not be closed, but the part mentioning Mint should be removed as it's just pointless noise.

There are a very few (rare) edge cases where Mint is a valid part of the question, but I've only encountered a few in my tenure here.

Ideally, we will handle every question case-by-case and ensure that closures are valid and only done when necessary. Otherwise, edit Mint out or just leave it there.

  • 2
    I have no knowledge of what packages Mint has modified for their distro, I would absolutely vote to close that question. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 14:19
  • @JorgeCastro Are you saying you think it is correct to close that particular question as off-topic on the grounds that it is "not about Ubuntu"? If so, you might want to post a new answer about that, because that is very different from any of the views expressed in answers here so far. Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 19:30

It is a hard line to define IMO. If the question has an answer, IMO, answer the question and redirect to the appropriate support channel(s).

If the question is clearly specific to mint / debian / fedora / whatever, explain the question is best answered by alternate support channel and close as off topic.

It sort of depends on 2 issues:

  • How friendly do you want to seem to non Ubuntu users ?
  • How tolerate do you want to be of general linux questions that apply to any distro vs redirecting to superuser ?
  • 2
    This meta question is about on-topic questions that mention another OS. But your answer seems to be about (a) questions that may apply to Ubuntu but are about different OS instead (we close those, which I consider reasonable, but stuff gets through and cracking down too hard isn't reasonable) or (b) questions that are completely on-topic but aren't Ubuntu-specific. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 6:58
  • As @EliahKagan mentions, I'm not asking about non-Ubuntu questions. I don't mind non-Ubuntu users as long as their question is about Ubuntu. And if the question is a general Linux question and applies to Ubuntu, then why not? I wouldn't expect to send someone using Ubuntu away from Ask Ubuntu for having a question that may apply to other distros.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 7:24
  • 1
    Thanks for the links
    – Panther
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Dan The issue really ties in with both cases. Because people often don't read, only see "Mint" or "Debian" and go to close automatically, which means they don't read. And what me and Panther are saying is that people voting to close should read and use discretion. In order to notice "oh, OP is using Ubuntu, we don't want to send them away form Ask Ubuntu", they actually have to pay attention. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 21:52


Judging from the comments and votes, it appears that my answer is being misinterpreted. Let me make it easy and spell it out:

import discretion
import question

if question.OP_using_Ubuntu() and "Mint" in question.text():

else if not question.OP_using_Ubuntu:
   if question.not_specific_to_other_OS():   


The simple question that I personally ask is this: "Is the issue specific to whatever Ubuntu-based/Debian-based OS in question?" (note the "-based" part). If yes, it's a sure sign to close as off-topic. In cases such as traversing directory tree, shell scripting, renaming files, moving files, and other things which have no relation to the underlying workings of the operating system - in those cases the question is well applicable to Ubuntu, in many cases can be voted as duplicate, and as Kaz said in those cases mention of another OS can be removed altogether.

Different story arises with OS X, FreeBSD, RHEL, and CentOS - they have different package managers, OS X has different directory tree structure, and utilities/commands have options that are missing or behave differently. As such, solution that may well work for Ubuntu && Mint && Debian && Elementary, won't work for those OS.

There's really no silver bullet to this problem and it comes up over and over again, and when I had just around 1k reputation I've been hastily closing things myself. From experience, I can tell the solution is for people to start reading questions and use discretion, focus on quality over quantity, and start actually caring about proper close-voting.

  • 1
    What question is this answering? As I mentioned there, this is about questions that are about Ubuntu but mention another OS. Suppose someone uses Ubuntu and another OS, and the other OS's behavior can't happen on Ubuntu, but the question is about what to do in Ubuntu. The question is on-topic. Yet ironically the advice you've given here would actually say to close it. Since I know you don't want that, I'm pretty sure you've misinterpreted this question. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 21:20
  • I was answering exactly what is stated in the first sentence of the question: questions getting closed as Off Topic, just because a question contains the word "Mint" or "Debian". Point I was making is that closing question depends on whether it's specific to the mentioned "other" OS or not, not on the fact that's mentioned. I think you've misinterpreted my answer. My advice is simple - people should actually read the questions and use discretion instead of just seeing words "Mint" and go "close all the things!". Does that clarify ? Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 21:30
  • 1
    It seems to me that this answer is entirely about questions where an OP is not using Ubuntu. But the meta question here is about questions where the OP is using Ubuntu. In this answer, you advocate a policy that is contrary to existing strong consensus. You say we should allow questions about non-Ubuntu distros so long as we think they're are likely to apply to Ubuntu. But this question is about the problem that questions that are unambiguously on-topic under our existing consensus are being wrongly closed; this answer doesn't address that at all. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 21:36
  • @EliahKagan You say we should allow questions about non-Ubuntu distros . No, quite the contrary. If question is really Mint-specific - then close it. By contrast, "[i]n cases such as traversing directory tree, shell scripting, renaming files, moving files, and other things which have no relation to the underlying workings of the operating system". Again, point I was making is that mention of words "Mint" or "Debian" alone doesn't mean question is off-topic. And I entirely agree that question where OP is Ubuntu and only mentions Mint are on topic. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 21:48
  • @EliahKagan I made an edit to my answer. By this point I really don't understand why you can't see that I agree with your post, just look at it from slightly different perspective, but I'll take the blame that I don't communicate well. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 22:18

If the user is using Linux Mint and the question concerns a package supplied from the Ubuntu repositories (the overwhelming majority of packages on a Linux Mint system are from the Ubuntu repostory) then the question is relevant and should not be closed.

However if the question concerns a package which is installed from the Linux Mint repositories or maybe a package whose configuration settings have been changed by a /etc/linuxmint/adjustments script (which number a mere 20 and in most cases are cosmetic but grub 10_linux is one of them) then sensible discretion should be applied in closing the question as "off topic".

Obviously LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) is not Ubuntu based and questions concerning that are in general going to be off-topic.

  • Even if we agree to this, some package may be taken from the Ubuntu repositories and used as is in Mint. But we can't keep track of modified packages. Also, a problem with that package may be caused by another package that was modified for Mint.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 8:09

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