For those not aware of the context: One side of the community is pro editing out mentions of other OS where question asks about non-specific to OS things, such as scripting; another side, is pro-closing such questions as off-topic

Since forest has been missed for trees , I'm putting a few clarification points here for everyone to see:

  • The post proposes compromise and a method: I've said in the question introduction I seek compromise. I've noticed those who are pro-editing and pro-keeping say "question applies to Ubuntu" without formal reasoning, and those con-keeping "it requires knowing if question applies to Ubuntu" base on maximalist ideas and "this site has Ubuntu in name" phrase. So I made clear list which both parties can use and agree "yep, this can stay" or "nope, kick it out". As for site scope or policy, well that's what certain people unfortunately fixated on and keep saying, but I definitely did not say "let's change what we deal with on AU". So instead of "Yay" or "Nay" I'm saying "Here's how we can figure this out".I even put it in bold in my question the word compromise. And all the while people take the whole situation way too seriously and out of context

  • Scope of the site does not change: What is proposed is filtering out noise from questions, and admitting questions that apply to Ubuntu, making them about Ubuntu, since by virtue of common utilities and interfaces, those questions don't touch on anything specific to operating system itself. Question about bash is the same whether OP says or doesn't say they're using Ubuntu.

  • Being expert in other OS is unnecessary: Because GNU coreutils and POSIX /bin/sh, and other utilities are the same either on Ubuntu or elsewhere, you don't have to even know how other OS works - simply address the specifics of the tools about which the question asks; mention of a different OS is simply irrelevant noise in such cases. To make an example, the recent question which sparked the debate (although this has been going on for years) asked about google-drive-ocamlfuse. New post by user dessert to which answers were migrated did not in any way make it any more about Ubuntu than before - same utility, same answers. On side note, you're not even required to edit the question - feel free to ignore it, or ask for advice from someone who can tell. Again, there is no policy and nothing binding to the users being proposed.

  • Claims about harming other communities are base-less. There's no factual evidence simply to support this claim. Mostly when this comes up, Eliah Kagan is cited. And as much as I respect this user and his knowledge, his claim is based on sentiment and not facts. Additionally, if question and answer are posted here on Ask Ubuntu, they still are publicly available - they're not locked, they're not stolen, they are not hidden from members of other communities. Also, @Zanna mentioned herself in the comments, "It would be almost impossible to supply direct evidence for a negative effect of something that has not been done. We have not allowed questions about non-Ubuntu distributions, so, there is no empirical evidence that our doing so is damaging."

  • Name of the site is not a factor: While this site is in fact called Ask Ubuntu and for using and administering Ubuntu OS, what is used in the process of using and administering an OS is software. Where a question asks about software that is distributed both on Ubuntu and other distros, there is nothing OS specific to the question itself. In fact, the checklist here provides exactly that - a way to determine where a question is in fact OS specific and where it is not. Please also see Bruno Pereira's post about custom kernels on Ubuntu.

I'll leave this for now with a very good example. How can my script determine whether it's being run by bash or dash? with 7,359 views in the past 7 years, asks how to determine whether it is bash or another shell that is running the script. Accepted answer provides an answer that is bash-specific (not OS-specific) which works on both Ubuntu and Mac OS X. My answer there makes use of /proc directory, which is not used on Mac. And while OP protested "This will not work on Mac. Check $BASH_VERSION", as TheWanderer pointed out " it doesn't need to work on Mac. This is Ask Ubuntu." I hope this anecdote helps you understand: what is proposed is not to break Ask Ubuntu, just have more sane, analytical approach to admitting questions and not relying on OPs word ("Uh, um, yessir I am running Ubuntu, even though in reality I am not"), and address actual problems, not internal politics. And things will remain the same: answers are required to be only done with tools that work on Ubuntu, and just so happen to work elsewhere.

Finally, let me remind you that we are community support site, and not Canonical's official commercial tech support. We're far more flexible, and don't have to deny entry just because OP isn't running Ubuntu, where question isn't even about OS specifics.


This post aims to propose reasoning and criteria for keeping questions which happen to mention operating systems or distributions other than Ubuntu (unlike other similar questions which ask whether or not we should). Over the course of my participation on this site it has become apparent that there is a split between users who vehemently oppose mentions of other distributions, and veteran users who have experience with other OS and distributions and differentiate where a question is applicable to Ubuntu as well. The issue often comes down to heated discussions in chat and emotional outbursts, which often lead to issue not being handled in calm and respectful manner. This issue, IMHO, goes against Ubuntu Code of Conduct and StackExchange's recent policy of more welcoming behavior, along with depriving the community of potentially useful questions and depriving users of potential solutions.

Therefore, my post aims to propose a compromise between the two sides (not a hard policy), and a minimal guideline which should address how to handle the closing of such questions. While my primary focus in addressing the questions mentioning other distributions, there is a similar trend with questions which ask questions about utilities on Ubuntu and I would like to address that as well.

Note: this post has been edited from its original form to move large part of it as an answer, per suggestion in the comments. Core argument that I present here are:

  • inherently, questions which mention other distributions but in fact ask about utilities are not specific to those distribution, just as they are not specific to Ubuntu, because they are packaged and distributed by Ubuntu along with others, and they're exactly the same.
  • Keeping such questions benefits our site, since we will have solutions to issues which occur on Ubuntu just as well as elsewhere
  • A lot of fears which are related to keeping such questions are based on fallacies or not grounded in facts

Please refer to the posted answer for the extensive overview of these.


Based on everything mentioned above, we can draw a conclusion that there is far less of what is Ubuntu-specific than what is not Ubuntu-specific. Handling the questions which are non-exclusive gains this community respect from other communities. Ubuntu does not exist in a vacuum and at the end of the day it's still a distribution - a collection of utilities that also may appear elsewhere. Instead of focusing on whether or not exclusivity to Ubuntu exists in the question, let's consider whether there exists commonality and standard set of utilities which can address the questioner's concerns.

Therefore, I propose the following checklist:

  • Does the issue involve any of the utilities that are used on Ubuntu or are shipped with Ubuntu ?
  • Can the issue be solved with POSIX-compliant utilities and shell ?
  • Can the issue be solved without touching kernel specifics, filesystem tree, or foreign packaging system ?

If the answer to the above 3 points is YES, the question is very well applicable to Ubuntu. Also, I propose leaving a comment of the following form:

Dear @user. Please be aware that Ask Ubuntu handles questions specific to Ubuntu and it's official flavors. We can only provide solutions that are applicable within Ubuntu context. If you need to address an issue specific to your OS, please ask on unix.stackexchange.com

This addresses 3 things:

  • respectful communication with the user within "be nice" guideline, and aiming at providing a solution (again, which is applicable to Ubuntu; we're in no way required to provide solutions that work elsewhere, although portable scripting and common utilities allow for that)
  • Allows Ask Ubuntu integrate useful questions into its own wiki world
  • Gives user a chance to agree to move the post elsewhere if necessary and realize "Oh, SOME DISTRO PLACEHOLDER and Ubuntu might actually be different"

There are advantages to such checklist:

  • users and reviewers do not have to know in advance whether or not question can be solved with Ubuntu tools. In cases where you see something out of the ordinary, such as /usr/bin/xpg4 directory - use search engine to verify
  • Ubuntu ships with GNU coreutils and two standard shells. You do not have to rely on a senior community member to let a question stand if these are utilities involved in the question.
  • it also avoids things which are often distro-specific, such as package management

This defines a more or less narrow scope as to the criteria for what allows a question remain on open. Claims that a question is about Mint,Debian, or other often base the decision on mere mention of the distribution, and there is no scope of determining whether or not something is in fact non-Ubuntu specific. At least with such checklist, we are benefiting both our community and others. At the very least, please consider editing and keeping open questions that are related to GNU coreutils, bash, scripting, and desktop environments - they can be solved with Ubuntu tools because Ubuntu ships with these tools. There exists common interfaces and standards which allow us addressing issue rather than argue about community itself. We can remove the noise text mentioning the other distribution and integrate the question into our domain, and make it useful for both Ubuntu community and others.

Great thanks to our esteemed moderators for handling issues in the best way they can, some of whom are experienced in other distributions and sites, and understand the significance of collaboration

  • 2
    You’re proposing to change the site’s scope policy that says “you may ask tour using and administering official Ubuntu flavors” and explicitly prohibits “other Linux distributions”. Could you elaborate on how you think this is not policy making?
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 22:42
  • 1
    @dessert Policy making would alter the site policy you've cited and the tour. I propose a community compromise. Yes, both the tour and policy prohibit asking non-Ubuntu questions, which are repeatedly ignored. I propose a solution, whereby we integrate the questions useful for our community. As such, the site remains what it is, there's no changes to policy, and yet we are more welcoming to new-comers and address the issue itself instead of arguing about it. Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 22:49
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    Let’s define “policy” here: For me that’s the set of rules which we as a community act on, it is partially codified on the mentioned help pages, but meta discussions and just-the-way-we-handle-things are equal parts of it as well. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s codified on a particular webpage or not.
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 22:54
  • I merged the old question into the new. I freely admit that may not have been the best approach (and is something we can discuss here) but I'd like to point out that it wasn't an issue of lack of trust in the community. The first question had been locked because some users had started an edit war (editing, rolling back, editing again) on it yesterday. At the same time, and continuing today, there were heated discussions over this issue in chat which led to the new question being posted. I chose to merge the old into the new in a, possibly futile, attempt to diffuse the situation.
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 0:29
  • @terdon I'm well aware of the situation, and that's the goal of this post - to come to consensus instead of engaging into edit wars. Discussions in themselves are fine, but not in heated manner, nor it is OK when arguments are based more on fears and emotions rather than factual evidence, which is what I also aimed to address here. While we do agree that Ask Ubuntu is not about things 100% Ubuntu, this is exactly the argument that is being raised when close reasons are provided. And by that same token, I would like the community to use a more consistent approach to such cases Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 0:52
  • @dessert Inherently, policy is binding to users. By contrast, what is proposed here is a guideline and compromise. No user will be expected to abide by what's been mentioned: you still have your right to close vote questions, however it remember that we're community and I have my vote just as you have yours. Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 0:56
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    @SergiyKolodyazhnyy Thanks for posting this. Much appreciated. Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 7:28
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    "Based on sentiment not on fact" - can't speak for Eliah Kagan, but I think it's based on ethical principles. It would be almost impossible to supply direct evidence for a negative effect of something that has not been done. We have not allowed questions about non-Ubuntu distributions, so, there is no empirical evidence that our doing so is damaging.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 7:22
  • @Zanna Well, it can be a discussion in itself. It also could be a case of 'Post hoc ergo propter hoc'. Would there be a way to tie either damaging or beneficial effects to Ask Ubuntu in the first place ? Correlation doesn't mean causation. Also, I'll repeat: we're not talking about allowing non-Ubuntu questions. What is suggested is removing noise (editing) and keeping questions which are Ubuntu-related by virtue of common tools and interfaces, which happen to mention another distro or OS. It's very different. Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 7:46
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    I see no evidence that you proposed any kind of compromise. Rather, you proposed exactly what I fundamentally disagreed with from the beginning.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 9:03
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    Please don't quote me in a way that makes it look to the careless reader like I am disagreeing with Eliah Kagan (and making a really poor argument to do so - I mean, I've never tried eating aluminium foil, and nothing bad has happened, so maybe I should try it...)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 6:10
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    It desn't need to be "verified" be experiment - it's an ethical proposition! If I decide it is wrong to do x, should I do x to see what happens (like the US did with the atom bomb, obviously not a comparable situation, but same type of claim)? Please at least put in brackets that I agree with him or something
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 7:02
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    I said it's not comparable, but I'm using it as an example to show that the form of your argument is absurd. Until someone does it, according to you, the claim that it would be damaging is "based on sentiment"
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 7:26
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    I never said it's at all the same kind of situation - just the same kind of argument. And this is the last comment I am making on this question, because even being suspended is not letting me keep away from it. If you prefer I will delete all my comments from this one onwards. But still, really annoyed about the quote.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 8:07
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    Ok then, but still, we don't always need to do an experiment to decide if something is a good idea. And I know I will never think your idea is a good one, and you are not going to change your mind either, so, I am really actually not going to comment any more.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 8:39

5 Answers 5


Please note that although I am a mod, this doesn't mean my word is law. I am posting this not as a site moderator but as a long time user of Ask Ubuntu. This is a discussion, not a declaration.

The way I see it, we don't need to change anything. It is standard practice to tweak a question to make it on topic. If someone asks "what is the best way to foo the bar" (primarily opinion based), an edit changing it to "how can I foo the bar?" is standard operating practice on all SE sites. If you ask "how can I list samba shares on Ubuntu and on Windows?", an edit that removes mention of Windows and changes the question so it is only about Ubuntu is, again, standard. I really don't see why this needs to be any different.

If a Mint user asks a question about sed, which is in no way different in Mint and Ubuntu, an edit removing the mention of Mint to ensure the question is on topic is just another case of an edit improving a question to make it on topic. Nothing particularly special. And this really isn't new. This has been happening for years. We don't need new rules, the old ones still apply:

When you see a question posted about a different distribution, you know the question is off topic. So vote to close it! That's absolutely fine. If, however, you happen to know that the question could just as well have been asked from a Ubuntu user, then you may choose to instead edit it and make it on topic. That way, the OP gets an answer, we get a useful question and everyone is happy.

The worst case scenario is that the solution we provide might not work for the OP because they're using a different distribution. That's a shame, but that's why we have a scope. The OP shouldn't have asked here. However, the next Ubuntu user with the same issue will now find a solution here. So, again, great! The OP is only a small (and in many ways the least significant) part of why we answer. The main reason is to collect a repository of useful information and help the millions of users and visitors we have. The OP is just one person.

And I really don't understand the concept that answering a question here somehow steals it from another community. The question was posted here, after all, we didn't go out and mug the OP in an alley and steal their question. They chose to come here and we chose to edit the question so that it fits this site's scope. Not to mention that AU is one of the more visible Linux sites on the internet, which means that having solutions here helps far more people than having them on the forums of a lesser known distribution.

I have used many different distributions over the years. When I was a Mint user, I would often find my solution in Ubuntu forums. When I was an Ubuntu user, I would often find my solution in the Mint forums, or the Arch forums or wherever else. I haven't used Ubuntu or an Ubuntu-derived distribution for almost 10 years now. And yet, I still find useful solutions in the Ubuntu world. I didn't need to show a passport or any other credentials, these are open sites and the information is available to all.

I guess I am saying that our primary responsibility is to this site. If editing to make a question on topic makes the site richer by a useful question, then by extension, closing said question makes the site poorer and that can't be a good thing.

Now, I am not saying we should go around blindly editing questions and forcing them to be on topic. In fact, I can count the times I felt that was worth doing on my fingers, and without taking off my socks. In most cases, the question isn't really so stellar or the issue isn't so clear-cut, and it's simpler for everyone to just close as off topic. But on those few, rare occasions where a question is really interesting and you know it's applicable to Ubuntu, why not add some useful content to the site if all it takes is a simple edit?

I don't think we need Sergiy's checklist, and I agree that that would make things kinda complicated. There's no need to get everyone doing this, and (of course!) no need for any user to have any knowledge of non-Ubuntu systems in order to be active here. But if you do happen to know that the question would be the same on Ubuntu, then I don't see any issue with editing to fix it just like you would fix any other problem with a question. If you don't feel confident making the call, then don't. Don't edit. Don't approve an edit. Nobody's forcing anyone. But if you do happen to know, then why not?


tl;dr: No, this site is about official Ubuntu flavours exclusively and it should stay this way.

This is Ask Ubuntu, part of the StackExchange network. In this whole network, the scope of a site is what defines it. The scope, most importantly which questions you may or may not ask on the site, is the first thing which must be defined for a site during its Definition phase on Area 51, long before it goes live. AU is about “[u]sing and administering official Ubuntu flavors”, and explicitly not about using “other Linux distributions”, questions about which you may not ask here:on-topic

With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Ubuntu.tour

This is Ask Ubuntu.

1. Other distributions and even Ubuntu derivatives are not the same as Ubuntu.

They use different packages, from different software sources and typically built differently. They are configured differently. Their principles and goals overlap with but are not the same as the principles and goals of the Ubuntu project.1

This pertains to even the most basic software, let’s just take a look at the coreutils package: Currently supported Ubuntu versions ship v8.21-1, v8.25-2 and v8.28-1 whereas a current Arch Linux ships v8.30-1. How exactly do they differ? Unless you want to read hundreds of commit messages and maybe even source code diffs there’s no way to know. My bad, I forgot to copy the last part of the version numbers, actually it’s v8.21-1ubuntu5.4, v8.25-2ubuntu3~16.04, v8.28-1ubuntu1 and v8.28-1ubuntu2.
Let’s take /bin/echo as an example, that one certainly doesn’t change – or does it? On v8.21, the source file echo.c has a file size of 7630 bytes, on v8.25 it’s 7642 bytes and on v8.28 it’s 7634 bytes, whereas Arch Linux’s v8.30 echo.c has a file size of 7635 bytes. Oh wait, I totally forgot the patches Ubuntu applies to the Debian packages (see long version numbers above), of course we need to check those as well…
Another example of huge differences between software versions is the recent case of ls quoting filenames in 18.04, a behaviour which baffled Ubuntu users while Arch Linux users are long used to it.

Even most basic commands, though of course called the same, are different from system to system, unless the systems involved share the same package sources.

Ubuntu and its official derivatives (…) share package repositories, development philosophy, and substantial elements of design philosophy with Ubuntu.1

2. The policy is about operating systems, not software.

You’re trying to draw a line between software that’s Ubuntu-specific and software that’s not Ubuntu-specific. As I have shown above, that is very hard to do and gives surprising results even for basic software, it’s virtually impossible to draw this line clearly. In fact, this even pertains to the question you found poorly handled: The software in use is available both directly from github (v0.7.1) and compiled specifically for Ubuntu in a PPA (v0.7.1-0ubuntu3~ubuntu18.04.1), as the version numbers tell the Ubuntu version is different in a way again only code diffs can show. We can never be totally sure these differences are irrelevant to the question.

How do we define our scope then? Simple: We limit ourselves to questions about using Ubuntu and its official derivatives.

This site is only about Ubuntu. Yes, that is often a silly distinction since 90% of all Linux stuff is common to any distribution, but if we don't want this site to cover all Linux flavors, the only way to draw the line is "Ubuntu == on topic" and "not Ubuntu == off topic". Anything else essentially leads to chaos since the vast majority of people don't have the expertise needed to know that something would be the same on another distro.2

We aim help people install, use and develop on Ubuntu. It's that simple.3

This way any user, they may be asker, answerer, voter, reviewer or mod can easily determine whether a question is on or off topic here, just by reading the concise help page on-topic. No version number confusion, no code diffs, no uncertainty, no need for discussion. It’s a clear rule defining what we do here. Yes, a Linux Mint user might have exactly the same issue a Ubuntu user could have, and yes, the answer may be the exact same for both – it doesn’t matter. This is Ask Ubuntu.

3. Keeping off-topic questions hurts everyone

When AU receives an off-topic question, the usual course of action is to close the question as off-topic. The close notice gives a very good overview over other sites where the question may be on topic. Questions about other Linux distributions can often be migrated to Unix & Linux so that OP doesn’t even need to pose the question again.

The migration tool was created to help those unfortunate users who asked good questions on the wrong site. Do your best to remember this, whether as a user (flagging or voting to close) or as a moderator (responding to flags).4

3.1 Keeping an off-topic question hurts its OP

When asking a question, a user doesn’t really care about the site or the content they create, so let’s just concentrate on them and their issue for a moment. Whether they didn’t take the tour or just don’t care of the site’s scope, although using an unsupported OS they ask a question on AU and don’t include the OS information. Now someone answers the question – on and for Ubuntu, needless to say. Maybe this actually helps and solves OP’s problem, but because differences there’s also a notably good chance it doesn’t while on Ubuntu it would. Now in most cases OP will not let it slide, but rather post comments on the answer saying it doesn’t work, downvoting actually valuable content (“This answer is not useful”!) and in some cases even rant about getting trolled and molested by the answerer (yes, I experienced that). All that happens just because OP is asking the wrong community instead of having their question migrated to a fitting one or being pointed in the right direction. It wastes OP’s time and needlessly leads to confusion and frustration.

3.2 Keeping off-topic questions hurts our community

Writing good answers costs time, and it costs even more time when follow-up discussions with OP arise. With over 500k visits per day, AU is the third most visited site of the StackExchange network, but only two in three questions are answered, we have more than 100k unanswered questions here.5 100,000 questions which hopefully for the most part are within our scope and to this day remain unanswered. If that is the case, do we want to spend time and invest energy on off-topic questions, just for the chance that they may be applicable to Ubuntu as well? No, we hurt the community by not answering on-topic questions in this time. What we need is answers, not questions.

If we start neglecting our scope on some questions, users get the idea that we’re basically accepting everything and consequently even less care about the help pages. “[W]e’re working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Ubuntu”, remember?

Anything not about Ubuntu is clutter that gets in the way of maintaining Ask Ubuntu as a resource for information about Ubuntu.1

We already get much of this clutter, encouraging users to flood AU with even more keeps us from this goal.

3.3 Keeping off-topic questions hurts other communities

Though a remarkably big and vivid one we’re not the only Linux distribution community, there’s Ask Fedora, the Linux Mint Forum and Unix & Linux not to forget, just to name a few. If we act according to our policy when we receive an off-topic question, we hopefully point OP to other communities where their question is on topic and thus help other communities build their knowledge base. If we keep it and don’t tell OP that there’s a better place to ask that question, we impertinently keep their valuable content from them, effectively stealing traffic as well. That’s certainly not the spirit.


This is Ask Ubuntu, it has a clear scope established for multiple very good reasons. Let’s not soften our prime policy, let’s not make it Ask Ubuntu-ish.

1: Eliah Kagan on Why are questions about (specifically) Ubuntu based distros off-limits?
2: terdon ♦ in https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/48842700#48842700
3: Oli ♦ on Are non-Ubuntu-spefic questions allowed?
4: Shog9 ♦ in Respect the community – your own, and others’
5: see SE sites by traffic and SE sites by percentage of answered questions (Scroll down, keep scrolling, keep on … If you’ve seen enough, press End and scroll up a bit, AU is on the ninth to the last place.)

  • 2
    All of this is true, but doesn't seem to apply when the question has been edited to be about Ubuntu. If you make the question about Ubuntu, then it is about Ubuntu. And really, stealing from other communities? They chose to post here, we didn't force them.
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 11:21
  • 3
    @terdon That’s a related, but different thing I feel we need to discuss: I think unless OP (or anyone else) tries to accomplish the very same thing on a supported OS and only then asks their question, a question can’t be edited to magically be about Ubuntu IMO. Editing out OS information is not enough because the preliminaries on a different OS are different as well, after all that’s exactly why we have this policy. Is there any policy or community consensus on editing out OS information? If not, why does everybody take it as a presumption here?
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 11:36
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    But that's the thing: either i) you know it's 100% the same on Ubuntu, and you edit, or ii) you know it's different, so you don't edit, or iii) you're not sure, so you don't edit. All of this is only relevant to those cases where the solution is the same. And in any case, the main issue is that we don't really answer for the OP. So if it doesn't work for them because they're not on Ubuntu, but it does work for someone else on Ubuntu, then everything is fine.
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 11:38

Response to Zanna's answer1 and answer2

Since it requires addressing more than comments can contain, I am addressing Zanna's response in this answer. I will address technical aspects first, and emotional second.

  1. The post you cite by Eliah Kagan - I've already addressed within my original answer. "There's often no way to know at the outset if a question's answers will be Ubuntu-specific, Mint-specific, or otherwise." The checklist does not require knowing whether an answer is Mint-specific, but by contrast - applicable to Ubuntu and Mint (or whatever distribution is in question). When it comes down to shell scripting, POSIX utilities and shell, GNU coreutils, desktop environments, X11 questions - these all have common interface or consistent behavior on Ubuntu or elsewhere. GNU sed is GNU sed regardless whether it is on Ubuntu or Mint. Misconception is that what is proposed requires everything Mint related to be allowed. By contrast, I propose checklist for filtering what is allowed. No expertise required, and everything that is required already ships with Ubuntu

  2. Fear 4 was a direct address of another quote by Eliah that you've cited:

    Finally, I believe there is a reason pertaining to the well-being of the Mint community (and other such communities). Suppose we allowed Mint questions and some Mint users embraced Ask Ubuntu as an excellent place for them. Then the Ubuntu community would come to be seen as an authoritative source for information about Mint.

    So it would be bad if we were to absorb Mint. It would take power away from that community. Some people use Linux Mint because they want to be part of the community and governance structures set up for it and not for Ubuntu. We should respect people who choose to partake in other communities.

    Note that Eliah expressed his own personal belief and only supposes a hypothetical situation. Practically speaking, information posted on Ask Ubuntu is public and available to other communities to be linked, reposted, etc. "So it would be bad if we were to absorb Mint", however we do not absorb Mint - it still stands as its own distribution and community. Addressing questions that rely on common and portable interface does not impose a monopoly over another community. That is a non sequitur. If information were exclusive to Ubuntu users only, I could understand the sentiment, however that is not the case.

  3. It's the "everyone will copy them" part, that really concerns me. Why ? As been explained what is advocated is integrating questions into our Ask Ubuntu domain based on narrow and clear set of criteria, and educating people on what is portable or not between distributions and OS. Why is that a concern ?

  4. Your post caused me to lose a lot of sleep and I felt personally attacked by it because it was me who raised many of the points you - I feel - misrepresented! - in your question and answer. I apologize if this causes you distress, however, your feelings of being personally attacked are not grounded in a fact. I have collected common sentiments across meta.askubuntu.com and from what is being said in chat, and as I mentioned in my answer I wrote without naming names because it's important to address ideas instead of people, and I don't engage in ad hominem.

  5. pictures of vegetables on jigsaws vs anything to do with vegetables : well, first of all in this particular example that you make, it is indeed wrong scope for another stackexchange site; however in our case, scope does not change - we are still admitting questions related to Ubuntu, however with realization that Ubuntu is software distribution, which has collection of software that is packaged with Ubuntu and other OS. What proposed is to admit things that are common enough, not outright anything. So the analogy is not quite appropriate.

  • 3
    Our scope is not “questions related to Ubuntu”, but “using and administering official Ubuntu flavors”. It seems like you would like to make it about software, but it isn’t and never was, it’s about operating systems. If you want to change that, you change our very scope.
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 21:51
  • @dessert And what is used in the process of "using and administering official Ubuntu flavors" ? Software. What are operating systems and Linux distributions? Collections of software. And in case of GNU coreutils, GNOME, X11, and a few others, there are enough commonalities. In fact, GNU coreutils are exactly the same thing on either Ubuntu or elsewhere. POSIX /bin/sh syntax is same. I'm proposing editing and including questions which ask about that, not about specifics of other distros or OS, and you can see that in the checklist. Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:32
  • 2
    Of course, so why exactly is our scope not about software? Because the smallest patch could then be leading to a question being off-topic while it was perfectly on-topic before, or the other way around. Using OS and not software is the only way of drafting a scope everybody can easily understand and follow. With only the slightest deviation, and especially a huge one like you propose, you create a situation where nobody can be sure whether a post is on-topic or not. Welcome to Ask Ubuntu-ish.
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 23:09
  • I deleted one answer and merged the parts I wanted to keep into the other. Just a heads up in case you want to edit. Sorry for doing that. Normally when I make an edit that has the effect of making other people's posts inaccurate due to cross-referencing (eg when I correct a typo by OP and answer has a direct quote that copies the typo), I fix the problem by editing the other post too, but I don't feel comfortable editing your post here. If you want me to I can try to do it for you by removing the parts I think I've made obsolete - just let me know (may be slow to respond though).
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 22:23

This answer aims to present reasoning for the above mentioned checklist and keeping edited versions of questions which mention non-Ubuntu distributions, but in fact are asking about non-Ubuntu specific issues. Key points presented:

  • Restricting scope to Ubuntu only questions is very difficult, since Ubuntu userland shares the utilities with other distributions
  • Keeping such questions does not harm the site, and in fact benefits the site and community
  • Many fears related to disallowing editing and keeping such questions are based on either fallacies or wrong assumptions

Operating Systems and Distributions

Understanding where Ubuntu stands within Linux and Operating Systems ecosystem might be beneficial to understand the reasoning presented in this post. To quote Wikipedia (with my emphasis)

A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system made from a software collection, which is based upon the Linux kernel and, often, a package management system.

Ubuntu in itself is a Linux distribution and by that definition is a collection of software, and much of the software is distribution agnostic. To quote lesmana's answer:

Ubuntu is a distribution which packs a lot of software together, small and large. There are graphic drivers, the X server, and Gnome, among others. Ubuntu itself is not developing those software. Ubuntu is "just" packing the software together, making sure that the individual components work together. All that software which Ubuntu is packing together are called upstream from Ubuntu's point of view.

In particular much of the userspace utilities which Ubuntu packages and distributes can be found on other Linux distributions and operating systems:

  • GNU coreutils - can be found virtually on any Linux distribution. This includes utilities such as ls, df, du, grep and so forth.
  • bash and dash shells. Tangentially, of particular importance is the use of these two as POSIX-compliant /bin/sh. While currently dash is symlinked to /bin/sh, at one point in time Ubuntu used to have /bin/bash as POSIX compliant shell, just as CentOS or RHEL. This has been greatly covered in Gille's excellent answer.
  • GNOME desktop
  • X11 server
  • systemd init system
  • Non-shell scripting languages: Python, Perl, awk, sed.

In other words, Ubuntu's inclusion of these tools does not make use of these tools exclusive to Ubuntu, nor encountering issues with these tools outside of Ubuntu environment make the issue non-existent or non-applicable to Ubuntu. Even more so, some of these utilities are essential to Ubuntu's functionality. Booting the OS involves grub. Administering the system requires a shell, and preferably POSIX-compliant shell; this becomes significant in enterprise environment where system administrator has to support multiple operating systems or distributions.

While Ubuntu has been keen over the years to create a usable and user-friendly desktop distribution, Ubuntu is a significant player in server market. Just to quote Datanyze page, Ubuntu has 26.83% market share compared to CentOS with 19.9%. Therefore, addressing questions related to utilities which Ubuntu uses is critical.

Now, of course Linux distributions share utilities, however by virtue of POSIX standard, in order to be UNIX-like operating systems have to conform to base set of specifications. For instance macOS is POSIX compliant and provides basic set of utilities along with bash shell. Now, admittedly there are differences in flags which these utilities may use, however asking a question about bash, or ls, or du does not make it exclusive to Ubuntu or MacOS unless it touches on the specific flags.

Of course, there are overt cases where the issue touches on specifics of the OS or utilities. For instance, if a question touches on /usr/bin/xpg4 directory - this is something that is supported on Solaris, HP-UX, and a few others, but not Ubuntu. On macOS X user's home directory is located in /Users and not /home as on Ubuntu. In such cases the question does have exclusivity to the OS.

Please note that in the age of search engines, there's no requirement to be aware of these differences. If you suspect this seems to not apply to Ubuntu, one can always search and verify. Senior users who have worked with other OS or distributions know these simply by virtue of experience and research, which other users can perform as well.

Considering other software, such as GNOME desktop or X11 utilities, the key point to note is that they have common utilities and common interface. Just as a script written for /bin/dash operates on premise of writing POSIX compliant code, so do solutions to issues involving these should be addressed - by addressing common interface and common utilities.

Of course, there are exceptions. Linux kernel being a common denominator for distributions, is not always the same. Linux Insider cites case where 4.13 kernel shipped with Ubuntu 17.10 had unfinished kernel module for SPI devices which did not affect Arch Linux or openSUSE with the same kernel version. As such, the low-level software which has direct influence from Ubuntu developers and maintainers does make this case exclusive. And yet, software which does not touch low level computing , such as bash or core utilities, are well applicable to both Arch and Ubuntu, for instance.

Code of Conduct

Ask Ubuntu, despite being featured on Canonical's site and installer, is not an official tech support. We are community and not Canonical employees, although some of the Canonical employees do participate here. As such we are not bound by exclusivity. Rather, I propose to focus on inclusive treatment of good questions and answer. To cite Stack Overflow code of conduct (and to keep our community grounded in the fact that we are part of Stack Exchange network), here's the expectations:

If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming. Learning how to participate in our community can be hard. Offer support if you see someone struggling or otherwise in need of help.

Be kind and friendly. Avoid sarcasm and be careful with jokes — tone is hard to decipher online. If a situation makes it hard to be friendly, stop participating and move on

Without naming names, there have been cases where mentions of other distros got terse comments, which are unwarranted. In fact, such behavior has been detrimental to Stack Overflow, as they'e realized, and it can be detrimental to our community. Terse behavior has much more negative impact than integrating a question which mentions non-Ubuntu distro.

To quote Ubuntu Code of Conduct v2.0 (with my emphasis):

We want a productive, happy and agile community that can welcome new ideas in a complex field, improve every process every year, and foster collaboration between groups with very different needs, interests and skills.

We gain strength from diversity, and actively seek participation from those who enhance it. This code of conduct exists to ensure that diverse groups collaborate to mutual advantage and enjoyment. We will challenge prejudice that could jeopardise the participation of any person in the project.

Integrating questions that may mention but are not specific to non-Ubuntu distribution aligns with Ubuntu code of conduct. It fosters collaboration, which is beneficial to both Ask Ubuntu to gain a question and more answers, and the person and community to which they may belong. It is a win win for both, mutual advantage and enjoyment. Another quote:

Open meritocracy

We invite anybody, from any company, to participate in any aspect of the project. Our community is open, and any responsibility can be carried by any contributor who demonstrates the required capacity and competence.

Ubuntu code of conduct itself is welcoming to participation in any aspect of the project. As such, questions which may be solved with Ubuntu tools do in fact foster participation in the project: answers gained from such question will be applicable and useful within Ubuntu environment.

Let me remind you also that according to the rules for moderator elections, moderators are required to sign Ubuntu Code of Conduct. So bringing up these quotes is not something out of thin air. Our community does fall under this code of conduct by virtue of our moderators being required to follow it, and therefore enforce it.

Note, however, that what I've addressed in "Fears" section are often claims that do attack opinion of higher reputation users who do propose inclusion of questions that mention non-Ubuntu distributions, who are also under exactly the same code of conduct. It is my personal view that very valid opinions (which are based on experience) regarding such question are often met with distrust, which goes against both codes of conduct mentioned here.

Recent example of poor practice

Here's an overview of how recently asked question has been handled: a user asked Is there a way to create a key binding that would allow me to mount my googledrive? [duplicate], which has been voted to be closed, subsequently reopened (note, both actions by community vote), then subsequently another questionHow do I create a key binding that allows me to mount my google drive? has been asked and original merged and closed as duplicate of new one.

Key things to note:

  • asking a new question has not any shape or form contributed to the question being Ubuntu-specific. In fact, information is essentially the same.
  • comments which in respectful manner addressed the user and notified that we only are able to address Ubuntu side of things have been deleted.
  • community vote to reopen has been essentially ignored, showing certain degree of distrust

Additionally, if we were to use this as precedent, consider OP reaction. Your question is closed, but exactly same one appears from another user under the premise that this is specific to Ubuntu, while original question is not despite them being exactly the same. It may show favoritism to existing community members and ignoring the issue in favor of internal policy/politics. Of course, let's remember that moderators should step in when issues arise, but this particular case could have been handled with community vote and more trust to the members.


There are persistent fears within community, which often are on the verge of emotional investment rather than practical and professional view on the issue, and often base the claims on slippery slope falacy. I will address these issues without naming names, since it's we need to distinguish between the message and the messenger, many of whom I greatly respect and consider friends.

  1. It's policy making. It is not policy making as in making it official and written on Ask Ubuntu Help page. Rather, we're addressing self-moderation of the site, with opinions and discussions presented by users to have a valid reason for questions to stay on the site. These issues should not be addressed by the moderators on an on-going basis, but by the community, and the community should agree on set of practices.

  2. Only high reputation users do this. To quote theory of moderation:

    Users with 15 rep can flag posts.

    Users with 500 rep can review posts from new users.

    Users with 2,000 rep can edit any question or answer in the system.

    Users with 3,000 rep can cast close and open votes.

    Users with 10,000 rep can cast delete and undelete votes on questions, and have access to a moderation dashboard.

    Users with 15,000 rep can protect posts.

    Users with 20,000 rep can cast delete votes on negatively voted answers.

    As you can see at 500 and 2000 users already can review or edit posts. The claim that it is an exclusive view or ability of high-reputation user is not supported by the factual ability of lower rep users to participate in editing. Note also that reputation does not reflect experience in the matter itself - a system administrator with 10 years of professional experience may as well sign up for this site, and remain on low reputation. It does not diminish her knowledge in the matter, nor cognitive abilities to distinguish whether or not an issue is distro-neutral. The fact that high reputation users have been addressing this issue is that higher reputation tends to coincide with higher involvement into the community, and tangentially experience with handling questions that may require distinguishing whether or not an issue can be addressed within this community.

  3. This sets precedent for non-Ubuntu users asking questions. Let's address the elephant in the room that this most often cited reason is slippery slope fallacy. Practically speaking, existing guidelines do not in any shape or form prevent posting a question in "action-taking" sense of it. Questions are being asked already mentioning non-Ubuntu distributions. They are, however, left up to the community to moderate. It is up to us as community to determine the value of the question.

    The underlying fear is that the site will be overrun by non-Ubuntu questions. However, at the time of writing there are plenty of question which are non-Ubuntu specific simply by virtue of utilities involved being non-Ubuntu specific. At the time of writing, there are the following amount of questions with these tags:

    • command-line, 16327
    • partitioning, 9577
    • bash, 7414
    • networking, 16098
    • nvidia, 8300
    • permissions, 5355
    • ssh, 4314
    • python, 3592

    Many of these have been asked before on other sites or have similar answers, which does not imply they should be moved elsewhere. I myself have addressed How do inode numbers from ls -i relate to inodes on disk of Unix & Linux, using very much same information as in What are directories, if everything on Linux is a file? on Ask Ubuntu. Imagine if the later one started out saying "Hi, I'm using Debian". It's an irrelevant information to the core of the issue, just like emojis are: "...if something isn't adding relevant information to a post, it is noise and it is better to remove it."

  4. There are other support communities and we're robbing them away from questions. Quite the opposite: Ask Ubuntu often integrates solutions from other communities, and vice versa. Example: /r/linuxquestions makes use of askubuntu solutions. My Ask Ubuntu answer integrates a step by step solution on linuxquestions.org into a script. Solutions being publicly available provides the chance for solutions to spread, and in no way robs other communities of questions. As a matter of fact, they spread to other communities.

  5. There's often no way to know if a question's answers will be Ubuntu-specific, Mint-specific, or otherwise. Users on this site are only required to answer in Ubuntu-specific manner. Where an issue does not touch on kernel internals, package manager specifics, or OS-specific directory and filesystem issues, they are perfectly applicable to Ubuntu. Again, what is being missed quite often is that the underlying premise of a question being Ubuntu-specific is wrong - many utilities are in no shape or form Ubuntu specific.

  6. Ask Ubuntu will pose as authority for Debian and Ubuntu based distros. Sadly, it will not, simply by definition of this site being specific to Ubuntu. We have no control over Linux Mint development, package management, kernel specifics. We do, however, share utilities, and addressing issues related to that in no way exerts authority over other communities. In fact, it only helps both to find a solution to the actual problem.

  7. Letting people ask questions which mention non-Ubuntu distro detracts from quality. In cases where an issue can be handled via common interface/utility, quality of the post resides within the question and answer itself, not within mentioning or omitting of distro. Full disclosure: I have been Deepin Linux user for the past two years. In corse of this time, I have posted the following:

    and many answers which were written on my distribution. Judging by progressive increase in my reputation on recent answers, they have been found useful and relevant to Ubuntu community, simply by virtue of not being specific to Ubuntu, but using common tools. Their quality, if I may say so, does not pale compared to someone who runs exclusively Ubuntu.


The ultimate goal is to make the site and community better. While there are certain questions which do not belong here, many of questions which are otherwise closed could thrive and receive a proper answer here just as well as anyone coming and saying "Yes, yes, I run Ubuntu" - something which we can only verify by questioning the user, where as it is much better for users themselves to admit what distribution or OS.

Ultimately, we are not required to support any other distro besides Ubuntu and it is not what is being asked here. What is asked is discretion and focus on inclusion of questions for the benefit of the site, and tangentially the users who ask those questions. Fact remains that a lot of userspace is not Ubuntu specific.

It's also not a policy, but a proposal for our community to address these questions with a more practical and consistent approach, rather than mechanical parroting of "This is not about Ubuntu". Again, note that the checklist does not require anyone to be an expert in other distributions, because questions related to common interfaces and utilites are not specific to those distributions just as they are not specific to Ubuntu. Everyone retains their right to vote, everyone retains their right to edit questions, and there are no new rules that bind users. By contrast, adopting such checklist as practice should make it much easier for reviewers and editors to determine whether or not a question is off-topic: no common interface or utilities ? off-topic. Has common common interface and utilities ? On-topic.

Finally, please consider Raphael Hertzog's comment (Debian developer) on How is Ubuntu different from Debian:

Debian is the result of the work of its contributors... bring us the nice improvements and more people can eat at the Debian restaurant too. It's not the end of the Ubuntu restaurant. Together we will be stronger and maybe more people will eat sanely (and maybe the number of fast food will drop).

Ubuntu is also result of contributors - all of us, each one writing questions, editing posts, posting answers. A question solved is another contribution. Maybe a minor one, but one that is publicly available. Where we can recognize unifying factors (in the form of userland utilities at least), and where we can address issues related to those, we obtain Unity and not just as in desktop name. More importantly, we should thrive to focus on the values outlined in Ubuntu Code of Conduct and be welcoming of people.


To quote an answer by our esteemed moderator Oli on the same topic:

You can —and people have tried to— make the argument that we should only handle things that are "strictly Ubuntu". What is that though? What is Ubuntu specific? Ubuntu is a collection of other people's tools so ultimately, very, very few things are actually specific to Ubuntu.

Sidestep the madness that comes from prescribing a strict "line" around on-topic subjects. It's folly to try. We aim help people install, use and develop on Ubuntu. It's that simple.

Please don't chase questions around with pitchforks because the underlying software also exists on another platform. The same can be said for 99% of the software available in Ubuntu.

  • 3
    Is the “Code of Conduct” section anyhow related to your proposal? It sounds like you think that by closing off-topic questions as off topic we’re not welcoming and thus violate the CoC – if that’s true that’s a separate issue and should be asked separately. Note that one could easily open a discussion about embracing Windows questions on AU and use your unchanged “Code of Conduct” section as an argument how we are mobbing Windows users here: Folks, let’s really “foster collaboration between groups with very different needs, interests and skills”…
    – dessert
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:09
  • @dessert 1) CoC part relates to how recent question has been handled, view of senior members who are proponents of editing questions to keep them on site, and rare cases where comments devolve into terse arguments on such questions 2) No, we cannot embrace Windows questions because its userspace is different, directory tree is different, and no common utilities. By contrast, Linux distros have GNU coreutils and POSIX standard to rely on for commonality, and is the same within Ubuntu context. But we do have tag [windows] with 1288 posts at this time and its still within Ubuntu context :) Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:37
  • 1
    @SergiyKolodyazhnyy you aren't actually suggesting we change the site's scope, are you? (I am afraid it really is kind of hard to know what you really are suggesting with all of the various points you touch on).
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 11:23
  • @terdon Lol, no. All I'm saying is this: those who are against editing posts that are applicable to the site often say it requires being an expert in other OS. OK, so I made a checklist that doesn't require that - all you have to have is Ubuntu tools, which just happen to be those that are also used on other distros. Of course my argument is wrapped into a formal proposal, but that's the short thesis I'm making. And also addressed logical fallacies here and there, and "administering and using Ubuntu" part, which is similar in other distros. Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:34
  • 1
    Well, everyone seems to think you are suggesting we alter the site's scope...
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:43
  • @terdon Hahah, nope. I've said in the question introduction I seek compromise. I've noticed those who are pro-keeping say "question applies to Ubuntu" without formal reasoning, and those con-keeping "it requires knowing if question applies to Ubuntu" based on maximalist ideas and "this site has Ubuntu in name" phrase. So I made clear list which both parties can use and agree "yep, this can stay" or "nope, kick it out". As for site scope, well that's what certain people unfortunately fixated on and keep saying, but I definitely did not say "let's change what we deal with on AU". Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:52
  • @terdon So instead of "Yay" or "Nay" I'm saying "Here's how we can figure this out". I even put it in bold in my question the word compromise. And all the while people take the whole situation way too seriously Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:54
  • 1
    I am not disagreeing, but I have been trying to convince people that no, you are not trying to alter the scope of the site, so I am letting you know you might want to clarify. And reducing the length of this by 50% or more would be a great help.
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:56
  • @terdon I've made an edit to my question, putting key points at the top. Feel free to suggest edits or improvements or how to shortenify things. Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 19:55

We should not change our policy - our scope - in the way you propose. By policy, I mean what dessert said

Let’s define “policy” here: For me that’s the set of rules which we as a community act on, it is partially codified on the mentioned help pages, but meta discussions and just-the-way-we-handle-things are equal parts of it as well. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s codified on a particular webpage or not.

Policy is what we do when we are not acting out. You are proposing that people should handle certain things in certain ways. If you don't want to call it policy, ok, but if the community does what you suggest and cites this post, that's a contradiction of our current scope policy, which, embodied on the help page and in many meta posts and in our actions, is that a question is on topic when the user is using Ubuntu. Note that it is not, and has never been, that the question must be specific to Ubuntu.

When I explain to users that their question is off-topic because we only support Ubuntu here, I usually link to this post by Eliah Kagan. I recommend reading it to everyone, because it says so much better than I can why we have this policy, but perhaps the most relevant part here (emphasis in original) is:

There's often no way to know at the outset if a question's answers will be Ubuntu-specific, Mint-specific, or otherwise. We send people somewhere they may get better help before failing to help them instead of after. In situations where we would have succeeded, other, more suitable resources would likely also succeed.

You have proposed a checklist which we must use to determine whether a question is distro-agnostic. I have already forgotten your list, and that matters, because policy should be straightforward, but I'll scroll up and paste it here so we can all read it again.

  • Does the issue involve any of the utilities that are used on Ubuntu or are shipped with Ubuntu?
  • Can the issue be solved with POSIX-compliant utilities and shell?
  • Can the issue be solved without touching kernel specifics, filesystem tree, or foreign packaging system?

Assuming this is a complete list of all the things that could cause a question to be somehow specific to Ubuntu (which I personally doubt - for example, what about the use of sudo on Ubuntu, running as root by default on some distributions, etc), I personally would have enormous difficulties determining whether any or all of the above were true for the great majority of questions I deal with here (and this really matters, even if it's only me, because, to date, I have done 15,433 close vote reviews, and 2,208 reopen reviews, and cast probably as many again close and reopen votes outside of the queues). I think your and others' estimation of how many questions we get are distro-agnostic (at least, fully determinable as such with the given information) is exaggerated. I think this is a pretty distro-agnostic question, but few of our questions are theoretical like this one (and like many on U&L); most of them are of the form "I have this problem with my system, and I don't know how to fix it". Determining whether such questions are distro-agnostic requires knowledge that we in our roles as moderators (in the broad sense that "Ask Ubuntu is moderated by you - I mean what we are doing when we vote up, down, to close, to reopen, to delete, or comment, or edit, or review), cannot reasonably be expected to have.

Let me contest the distro-agnosticity of a couple the tags you mentioned just to underline this point.

/ - questions with these tags are often about configuration, manipulating files, root access. Answers may require a file to be in some particular place or for a shell to be configured a particular way. Here's one example where I had to enter a long discussion with a user because they weren't using Ubuntu (I did try to close the question, but there was not enough interest).

- may also be about .

- Ubuntu has a unique configuration for root, with sudo enabled for the first user by default and intended to be used for all administrative tasks. This differs from most other distributions.

- if a question about Python is truly distro-agnostic, it's likely to be at least borderline off-topic here and should be on Stack Overflow. I'd say the majority of questions about Python here are about package management and configuration which relate to the Ubuntu environment more or less. This is pretty much the rather subjective delineation of whether a programming question is on topic - can it be interpreted as an end-user issue? Or, does the issue seem to have something to do with the environment? If yes, it's on topic here, otherwise, it's probably a generic programming question and unless it's about shell scripting (the exceptional case) it's out of scope. (Just in case this comes off wrong, I am absolutely not suggesting that questions about Python should be off topic and I'd like to say that I appreciate that many answers using Python here have added value since they are applicable even on non-Linux systems.)

We have a simple policy that everyone can easily apply, and you want to make it extremely hard! I do not see any reason for doing that. There is no need for it. All questions about other distros are on topic on both Unix and Linux and Super User. Many are also on topic on other sites, such as RaspberryPi or elementaryOS. We have plenty of questions here. In fact, we have more questions than we can handle. Our answered rate is <70%. We need more answers.

To your invocations of codes of conduct, I can only say that it is definitely possible to be respectful when telling someone that their question belongs elsewhere. If not, we have bigger problems than our scope policy. In relation to collaboration and so on, here's what Eliah wrote about respecting other communities (this is Fear #4 on your list, the rest of which I will address in a separate answer)

Finally, I believe there is a reason pertaining to the well-being of the Mint community (and other such communities). Suppose we allowed Mint questions and some Mint users embraced Ask Ubuntu as an excellent place for them. Then the Ubuntu community would come to be seen as an authoritative source for information about Mint. Mint (and most other unofficial derivatives) are deliberately unofficial; most don't want to be subject to the will of the Ubuntu community or the governance structures in it.

So it would be bad if we were to absorb Mint. It would take power away from that community. Some people use Linux Mint because they want to be part of the community and governance structures set up for it and not for Ubuntu. We should respect people who choose to partake in other communities.

Efforts for greater cooperation are a good thing, and I think we do need more of them. But unless the overwhelming majority of Mint users want to be assimilated into our community (either partially, for support purposes, or all the way, by becoming an official derivative), I don't think it's a good idea to have Mint questions here.

This is the ethical case for staying in our lane, which is apparently often missed. When people argue that it's good for our site to allow questions that are not about Ubuntu as long as some conditions are met, they are ignoring these considerations.

Finally, you have not described in detail how you expect this proposal to be implemented or considered how the site would change if such a policy change were made. Here are a couple of considerations.

  • Reviewers of close and reopen votes would have to determine whether posts are distro-agnostic, which is IMHO unreasonable. In chat, Eliah Kagan said

    the idea that we should appoint close reviewers as experts on other operating systems for the purposes of adjudicating whether they are enough like Ubuntu for specific purposes is, I think, entirely unworkable.

    As a prolific reviewer, I could not agree more, and I beg you not to push this on me. You propose the use of search engines, but as I have mentioned elsewhere the differences between Linux distros are not documented comprehensively or accessibly anywhere.

  • Partly due to the above, mistakes would be made, and answers would be posted that are not applicable to Ubuntu (in fact, they already are, but usually only on much-viewed questions with many other answers), because of people trying hard to get accepts.

  • Scope would be oriented around Ubuntu-specificity. At the moment, Ubuntu-specificity has very little to do with our scope. There are borderlines where it comes into play, such as the programming one I mentioned above, but, as has been mentioned in other posts, when something is the same as Ubuntu but on a different distro, we still close it, and when something is the same as on a different distro but on Ubuntu, we still leave it open. We only need to know if the OP is using Ubuntu. We have hardly ever cared whether the issue is specific to Ubuntu, until your proposal. I don't know how people's understanding of the site's scope would change over time with this reorientation, but I think it will be harder to understand and less consistently applied by all concerned: community and visitors.

Note: in your question, you say that "[users] vehemently oppose mentions of other distros". I have taken that wording to be disingenuous, and answered as if you meant that users oppose leaving open questions in which the OP states that they are using another distro, because I think that is what you meant (and I am one of those users), and because merely mentioning another distro has never been an acceptable reason to close, though it certainly does trigger incorrect close voting at times.

Note regarding Fear #2: Only high rep users can do this
If that were true, it would not be worrying. If you are proposing (which was not clear to me) that people should edit distro information out of posts on the basis of whether or not they think the question is distro-agnostic, an action I consider to be wrong, then obviously the fact that literally anyone can suggest an edit to any unlocked post is what makes it disturbing that such an action is being advocated. In chat, I said

[L]etting things slide where there's a preexisting answer to save, ok, maybe I can live with it. But people with diamonds like @Seth and @terdon publically saying things like "yeah you can edit out the distro information if you know it's a distro-agnostic issue"... this is virtually policy-making. A bunch of high rep users might just take it upon themselves to go around doing that. And telling other users what they are doing, inevitably, and everyone will copy them.

It's the "everyone will copy them" part, that really concerns me.

Personal note:

There are persistent fears within community, which often are on the verge of emotional investment rather than practical and professional view on the issue.

My investment in Ask Ubuntu is absolutely emotional and not professional. I care deeply about the site and nobody is paying me to contribute to it, though I do get a lot out of it in validation feels, friendly chats etc.

  • Please see the response answer posted Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 18:29

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