I am unsure of where I should ask about Linux or things like sed, awk, and grep. Is Stack Overflow not the place and should I only limit those questions to Ask Ubuntu? This question on Meta Stack Overflow is about Linux stuff as non programming questions, and it made me confused on whether or not I should use Stack Overflow for these questions.

2 Answers 2


My understanding of the scope of Stack Overflow is limited, so I hope people will comment or edit to correct me.

There is significant overlap in scope (on-topicness) between various Stack Exchange sites, including Stack Overflow and Ask Ubuntu, and this is not considered a problem. The same question may be on topic on Stack Overflow and on Ask Ubuntu.

My understanding is that on Stack Overflow, anything about writing code is on topic. The question should be actually about writing code, and not just related to writing code. See the Stack Overflow on-topic page for a detailed description.

On Ask Ubuntu, questions about shell scripting or text processing are on topic.

Other questions about/related to writing code are on topic if and only if they are somehow related to the operating system. For example "how do I write a Hello World program in Python?" is off topic on Ask Ubuntu, but questions about installing software and setting up your environment for writing code, or about problems writing code that occur because of the environment, are on topic on Ask Ubuntu (assuming you are using Ubuntu of course). Oh, also, questions about developing software for Ubuntu are always on topic.

So, you can ask questions about using sed grep and awk on either Stack Overflow or Ask Ubuntu, because text processing is a scope overlap area.

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    The flowchart doesn't really agree with the preceding text. As you say, questions "somehow related to the operating system" including those "about installing software and setting up your environment for writing code, or about problems writing code that occur because of the environment" are OK. But the flowchart, in isolation, would support closing them. And it is titled "Where can I ask my Ubuntu question?" so I think it is likely to be misunderstood that way. Also, I don't think most such questions--even tooling questions--are off-topic on Stack Overflow, but rather it's a case of overlapping scopes. Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 12:09
  • Thank you @EliahKagan - I edited my answer
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 13:17

Questions about Linux and things like sed, awk or grep are usually good candidates for the Unix & Linux site.

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    You are right that such questions can also be asked on Unix & Linux, but their being Ubuntu-specific would not make them off-topic there.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 17:16
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    I agree in general but – especially since some sites might be considered hierarchical (e.g. Superuser > Unix&Linux > Apple, Ask Ubuntu) – users should ask at the most specific one matching the characteristics of their question.
    – pong
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 17:56
  • I removed the line about not asking on U&L if the question involves things that are Ubuntu-specific, first because there's nothing Ubuntu specific in any awk, sed or grep question and second because Ubuntu is 100% on topic on U&L. Questions about other canonical products which might be on topic here are not on topic on U&L and questions about Ubuntu packages or other Ubuntu-specific things are better here (though still technically on topic on U&L), but any command line or shell scripting question will be on topic on U&L even if it is somehow about Ubuntu.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 17:56
  • @terdon The reasoning behind your edit contains some logical flaws: I didn’t say you shouldn’t ask Ubuntu-specific questions on U&L. Neither did I say that sed, awk or grep questions can be Ubuntu-specific (they might be itf or to some extent if a question mixes topics). I make careful and deliberate use of language, and a valid deduction of my statement reads like “Ubuntu-specific questions about Linux or stuff like sed/awk/grep are usually somewhat less than good candidates for U&L”. This still holds true imo and allows for some necessary flexibility and inevitable overlap.
    – pong
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 21:45
  • I'm not very sure what you mean. Stuff like sed/awk/grep are our bread and butter on U&L, they are probably the most on topic things of all. So stuff like sed/awk/grep are great candidates for U&L, and I would argue that if you have a question on those tools, then U&L is the best site to ask it on. But in any case, my edit only removed the "as long as the question at hand doesn’t imply any Ubuntu specifics" since being Ubuntu-specific doesn't make a question off topic on U&L. It might make it a better candidate for AU, yes, but still on topic on both sites.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 22:12
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    Also regarding @Zanna's comment: it is good to note that sed, awk and grep may also slightly vary between Linux OS, and I did stumble upon some differences when using them in Ubuntu flavors over the years, comparing to other OS.
    – Pizza
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 6:53
  • @terdon The part you removed didn’t say anything about Ubuntu-specific questions being off-topic at U&L. It only added that Ubuntu-specific questions are usually better suited for AU (a rather trivial conclusion admittedly and sth you just agreed with making me wonder even more why you felt the need for the edit in the first place). – My use of language and propositional logic doesn’t really make sense to you, let’s leave it at that :)
    – pong
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 12:00
  • To be more precise, the removed part excluded Ubuntu-specific questions from the answer making no statement at all about them.
    – pong
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 12:09
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    Yes, agreed: I seem to have misunderstood your intent. Feel very free to undo the edit, of course, I didn't mean to impose my view on you. I only clarified what I perceived as being unclear (it may well be perfectly clear to others). If you feel my edits make you say something you didn't mean to, undo the edit and please accept my apologies! :)
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 12:45

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