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Recently, I've seen almost every question where the OP is having a problem caused by using an EoL version of Ubuntu being closed as a duplicate of this:

How to install software or upgrade from an old unsupported release?

Useful as this post will hopefully be to people who are using an unsupported release, I don't think we should be closing these questions as duplicates of this one unless they are actually asking something like "How can I install software or upgrade from an old unsupported release?"

As an example, this question is totally not asking how to upgrade from 17.04. It's asking how to install ubuntu-restricted-extras*. We should certainly close that question; in fact we have a whole close reason for new posts that are specific to EoL releases

This question is specific to an end of life Ubuntu release. These are no longer supported and are therefore off-topic here. To upgrade, see: How to install software or upgrade from old unsupported release?

Notice in particular that this close reason even contains a link to that useful post...

I think it would be a lot less confusing to askers and other visitors if we actually used the correct close reason for such posts and avoided closing stuff as duplicates of things they are blatantly not duplicates of.


*I now realise this is a bad example and closing that question as a duplicate was reasonable thanks in part to guntbert's answer to this question. I have been prompted to edit this post by some discussion in chat.

While I think it is fine to close questions as off topic if they ask about installing software on an old unsupported release, I do realise that it's often at least equally reasonable to close them as duplicates of How to install software or upgrade from an old unsupported release?.

What prompted me to write this question was seeing a wider variety of questions specific to EoL releases being voted to close as duplicates. In general, these were package management issues (this one might be a reasonable example), so I think it's possible to argue that they could be closed as duplicates of the canonical question. This means I have changed my position slightly from when I originally wrote this post.

Still, I prefer such questions (about general package management difficulties) to be closed as off topic, because I think it's confusing to close posts as duplicates when they aren't very similar to the target. Certainly, questions about EoL releases that are not about installing software or upgrading to a new release should be closed as off-topic rather than as duplicates.

I should also mention as I did in this other meta post that closing questions as duplicates causes them to not be deleted nearly as easily as questions closed for other reasons. If the questions are useful, that is a good thing, but if they are misleading as search results or have bad answers, it's a bad thing. This is another factor that leads me to prefer closing low quality questions as off topic rather than as duplicates if there is a choice of reasons.

  • I agree it's confusing. I would prefer the close reason of EOL just as you do, and I have seen this a number of times as well. I can understand people's confusion though in the process. Once the duplicate suggestion has been made, it's lower friction to just go that way. I'd suggest that in the case of your vote, it would be nice to display both reasons for closing once the quorum was reached. But that is of course a feature request, I would guess. – dpb Feb 17 '18 at 20:57
  • @dpb what do you mean by lower friction? If someone has chosen the wrong close reason, shouldn't I still choose the right one rather than copy them? – Zanna Feb 17 '18 at 21:06
  • Yes, agreed. But, in the review queue, it pops up with something like "is this a duplicate?" and it's easy to look at it as a reviewer and just say, yup, that looks very much like a duplicate, EOL, about repositories not working, ::check::. Not saying it's the right thing for a reviewer to do. :) – dpb Feb 17 '18 at 21:16
  • @dpb oh yes I see what you mean – Zanna Feb 17 '18 at 21:45
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Unless I am missing an essential part I have to disagree with @Zanna in this special case.

The "original" question is not only about upgrading but also about problems to install software within the EOL release. And Aditya's answer talks exactly about this.

I recently have seen several questions with the "cannot install/update" problem in EOL releases. IMO these should be closed as duplicates of the mentioned question, because it helps to get out of that unfortunate situation.

OTOH there always are questions about other problems with EOL releases - those should be closed as off topic / EOL.

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    Good point about the target post, but what about the fact that the close reason links to that post? Do you think the close reason should be reworded to not say "to upgrade"? I think the majority of questions about EoL posts are about package management. I feel like we are not using the close reason when it would be more appropriate to use the close reason. Also, posts closed as duplicates are far less likely to be automatically deleted than those closed as off-topic, so people will get lots of useless search results with randomly titled posts all linking to this seemingly irrelevant one – Zanna Feb 17 '18 at 22:14
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    The thing with this, is that then it pollutes the corpus of the target duplicated with lots (and by that I mean crapton) post that are at best, loosely related. It's more efficient anyways to use eol reason, since we 1) already link it in the close reason and 2) these questions aren't useful signpost at all. Deleting them after the user knows that they have to upgrade is the best we can do. – Braiam Feb 18 '18 at 10:51
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    @Zanna ah now I get the problem: I always read that as "How to install software in (or upgrade from) an old unsupported release?" - with perceived emphasis on the first part - maybe changing the wording of the target would help indeed. – guntbert Feb 18 '18 at 20:35

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