Philippe, the Vice President of Community for the Stack Exchange Network, posted a question on Meta Stack Exchange seeking input from the community regarding "ONE thing" that would help one's community.

If you had a magic wand that you could wave that would let you fix ONE thing that would help your community (not the network, not the company, but the specific site community with which you most closely identify) overnight, what would you change (and why?), and what would the result look like - how would we know it was different?

I request the Ask Ubuntu community members to share the one thing which you think would help our community. You can post your answer here and someone kind enough can repost it as an answer for Philippe's question on Meta Stack Exchange or you can directly post your answer in the aforementioned Meta Stack Exchange question.

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    If you want to do that, you're more than welcome to join that discussion. However, I'll also be happy to read and respond here. :-). Thanks, Random Person, for the post here.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 6:51
  • You're welcome @Philippe :) Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 13:08

8 Answers 8


I posted my answer there already. I will reproduce it here:

Archive feature

On Ask Ubuntu we have a lot of questions, and especially a lot of answers, which were super relevant and useful to a lot of people at the time they were posted, but which no longer have value in helping folks find out how to do x, because how to do x has changed over time. Many such posts are highly upvoted, jump up on search engines, and if they are answers show at the top of the by-default-vote-ordered pile.

We don't delete such posts, and I don't think we should delete them or even necessarily edit them to update them (often this would involve replacing all of the content, perhaps making it the same as other existing answers to the same question), because they have a social history value and perhaps can be of use to people interested in user experience and various other aspects of software development - who knows? But the mass of obsolete material is only increasing over time and gradually making it harder for visitors and reviewers to find answers that actually give accurate and current information. It's not at all the case that everything old is out-of-date, but enough of our posts are out-of-date that it's an issue.

Recently Monica from the Ubuntu community team gave me the idea of an archive feature. The way I think it could work would be different for questions and answers.

For answers, 5 users could vote to archive an answer, and it would be pushed to the bottom of the page in all views under a notice that the below answers are archived and may not work any more.

For questions, 5 users could vote to archive a question, and a notice would appear at the top of it stating that it is archived and may no longer be relevant, and optionally and preferably, linking to newer questions with current answers on the same topic.

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    Well said Zanna. This solution should satisfy everyone who has AU's best interests at heart. Personally I see little difference between old obsolete questions about old obsolete versions and new questions about old obsolete versions, (Especially those covered by ESM). The main point is to stop wasting the time of someone looking for a solution to an Ubuntu problem. Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 5:25
  • Define "archive" here Zanna. There is no "archive" function on Ask Ubuntu, you would need such an item developed first.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 1:11
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    @ThomasWard yes, I'm asking for a new feature to be developed, not for the community to start doing something different. Hence the need for a magic wand (this post is from a question inviting us to ask for whatever we want on MSE)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 4:07
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    I like this and it would be a good global feature, not just Ubuntu. Ubuntu has had a lot of changes that made older questions invalid for newer releases. Like going from unity to gnome and from upstart to systemd. I would suggest to add a custom notice stating for what releases the topic was valid (ie. "this topic was valid up to and including Ubuntu 16.04").
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 0:34

Better integration with other forms of Ubuntu documentation.

Many of the questions that we answer are already addressed in documentation.

But those answers are hard to find, hard to understand for some audiences, of varying quality, and spread among a dozen places I can think of.

So we wind up duplicating a bunch of it here. And then both the original location and the answer here slowly rot, both minimally-maintained and both hard to find.

I would use the magic wand to make the 10 minutes I spend writing an answer ALSO incrementally improve the existing documentation and make that improved documentation easier to find.

As a consequence, we would have better documentation that's updated (instead of languishing), more understandable by a wider audience, and every AskUbuntu answer becomes a more effective contribution to the Ubuntu community.

I realize that's a tall order, and I don't claim to fully see the path to get there from here. Good thing it's a magic wand.

  • Can you please let me know what do you refer by "forms of Ubuntu documentation"? Are you talking about this documentation: help.ubuntu.com? Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 17:19
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    help.ubuntu.com, wiki.ubuntu,com, tutorials.ubuntu.com, discourse.ubuntu.com, readthedocs, AskUbuntu, UbuntuForums, Launchpad, YouTube tutorials, blog posts, and others.
    – user535733
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 17:28
  • I have posted your post in MSE: meta.stackexchange.com/a/368885 Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 13:06

Obsolete Answer Flag

In many cases the answer with the most upvotes is simply the one that has been here longest. Often these high vote answers are totally obsolete and no longer work.

It was much easier to get votes in the old days, when Ask Ubuntu was new and unique. Answers did not need to be very good to get lots of upvotes.

There should be an obsolete flag so that users can flag these old and obsolete answers to drop them from the top of the list. A flagged answer does not need to be totally removed, just dropped to the bottom of the page where it won't hurt anyone. It should probably take a vote of five flags to demote an answer.

Closing a duplicate question and then linking an old question with 20 obsolete answers wastes the users time and does not give users much confidence in Ask Ubuntu.

Some people talk about historical value of these answers but people come here to get help making their Ubuntu work, not history lessons.

Lets keep Ask Ubuntu relevant and up to date.


A move-to-chat button on demand

There are certain questions which will require some back and forth to arrive at a working solution. The current system only prompts you to move to chat after some 20 comments have been posted to the question.

It will be better if we can speed up this process and allow us to move to chat at the earliest.

Link to similar feature request on meta.Stack Exchange and my answer there nearly 10 years ago: Should "move-to-chat" be provided on demand (as a button perhaps)?


According to my personal experience, I have noticed a lot of questions on Ask Ubuntu which are related to non-Ubuntu Linux distributions.

It might be difficult to find these kinda questions and sometimes, some questions which are about non-Ubuntu Linux distributions don't get closed and they remain hidden in our site.

I have a suggestion which might help us tackle this problem. It would be nice if we can have a chat bot which will a send a message in a chatroom if it notices new posts which contain words like "Fedora", "Linux Mint", etc. containing the link of the post (something similar to what Natty does).

I do acknowledge that this is not a perfect solution as there are many posts which talk about shifting from one OS to another OS (like from Linux Mint to Ubuntu).

What's your opinion about my suggestion, people?

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    Kaz Wolfe once created such a bot! See Where should WolfBot live?. I was not a fan of it myself and agree with terdon's comment that the community is already very good at closing these questions (but maybe things have changed there)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 3:12
  • @Zanna What do you exactly mean by "but maybe things have changed there"? Can you please elaborate? Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 15:34
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    I mean, maybe such questions are not getting closed promptly any more, as they were in the past, such that having a bot like that would be of great benefit
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 16:25
  • I'm not sure why a question should remain here if you can't make an argument about why it belongs here.... Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 19:10
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    @EvanCarroll what do you mean? Are you talking about the WolfBot question?
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 14:34
  • @EvanCarroll as you well know already, there is a lot of overlap between different sites. DBA as a site is more focused on DB administration and admin of the DB system, but not necessarily the pure installation or setup (or debugging of an upgrade that went awry) support. The use of DB systems on Ubuntu is also on topic if you ]read the help center](askubuntu.com/help/on-topic). To quote from the list of what's on topic: "Using and administering official Ubuntu flavors" and "Running third-party applications on Ubuntu.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 19:54
  • as I well know already this is simply not true: "but not necessarily the pure installation or setup (or debugging of an upgrade that went awry) support". That anyting regarding a DB is on topic here, is in my opinion, a mistake (regardless of what the on-topic docs say -- I don't believe it's good for the site OR StackExchange): the body of users capable of supporting database installations doesn't well overlap with an operating system that targets users new to Linux. Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 20:40
  • @ThomasWard Your comment is better suited for this answer: meta.askubuntu.com/a/19687 Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 13:41

My goal is to archive Ubuntu articles that have no technical value in a current search for help for a Ubuntu/Linux Mint content, but are readily available in a historical context.

Archiving is already being done in a sophisticated way and while tagging is limited to the individual, it is something I would do if available.

The criteria to identify these en masse are available and known, and the process currently used by Internet Archive is slow. Speeding it up is only a matter of funding.



Questions about older versions of Ubuntu still covered by ESM should be on topic on Ask Ubuntu.

There may be many valid reasons a person still needs to use 14.04 or 16.04. Where else will they go to find an answer to there questions besides AU?

If Canonical can continue support of these versions, I think AU can find space to post these questions on this site.

Nobody is forced to answer these questions or to even view them.

Yes there was a phony vote to settle this matter earlier this year, something like 40 people out of a total of 25 million Ubuntu users voted to ban EoSS questions. This is far from a quorum.

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    well 40 votes is a lot on meta imho the vote wasn't really about whether we should support ESM - just about the confusing wording of the close reason. The community's attitude towards supporting these versions wasn't captured by that vote at all in my view
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 8:11
  • This was already decided MONTHS ago - meta.askubuntu.com/questions/19543/… - and stated as such by the Canonical Community Team at wiki.ubuntu.com/supportperiod in response to your initial statements of confusion as to whether we should or shouldn't support it. The ESM/EOSS/EOL/LTS discussion is done now, you want to bring it up, you bring it up as a new policy issue, and a discussion with Rhys and Monica at Canonical, not Ask Ubuntu, as this is a long-decided now-beat-to-death discussion.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 0:53
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    Canonical have no influence on Ask Ubuntu policy. Also, no previous post has explicitly advocated supporting versions in ESM and the Policy Change Proposal post referred to has no option to vote for that.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 10:37

I for one would rather more content be moved off this site entirely when it's determined to not be unique to Ubuntu. It would be better for those projects that we're supporting and the other communities on StackExchange,

Why is Ubuntu.SE answering questions about Database installs and functionality, such as

All of those questions seem like they'd find a better home on Database Administrators than here.

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    Would this not lead to a slippery slope where people start wondering why AU is answering questions about Minecraft, VirtualBox, Firefox, Chrome, Jupiter, and a myriad of other third-party tools? Each of these pieces of software have their own support channels outside of SE 🤔
    – matigo
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 1:04
  • @matigo no, because I ultimately I don't care about networks outside of StackExchange. So working to their detriment, even if the case, doesn't bother me. But I do care about other networks in StackExchange because they all have the same technological benefits and the QA format that I'm used to and that I want to see adopted. Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 4:09
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    This goes pretty much against the philosophy of Stack Exchange. See the 'Respecting your own community' section here: stackoverflow.blog/2012/03/22/…
    – pomsky
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 12:04
  • @pomsky read the bottom: questions about "cooking fish in a dishwasher" should be closed on Home Improvement and moved to Seasoned Advice. I would argue every question about database administration that is thought to be on topic merely because the user is using Ubuntu which has pulled the package in from Debian should be off topic for the same reason. Debian packages all software that has a compatible license. Those packages are available in Ubuntu. That doesn't mean it should all be on topic on Ask Ubuntu by proxy of software being available to install. Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 14:46
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    @EvanCarroll I suggest you to create a separate meta post about this such that other users can share their views about this through answers rather than comments. Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 19:16

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