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
bashis 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 PLACEHOLDERand 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/xpg4directory - 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