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Responding to that invitation, I revised this question:

Hi I'm new to ubuntu world. I have few questions about the software installation in ubuntu:

  1. What's the difference between installing a software in ubuntu software center and command line?
  2. Why some software I installed with command line can't be searched in software center (press the window key)?
  3. What are the correct commands to install a software from command line so that I can search them?
  4. I backed and restored up my system once but some commands worked before (like "subl") don't work after restoring the system.

I think these questions are about $PATH somehow but I can't find some material about this. Any extra material would be appreciated. :)

This question has been viewed more than 3,000 times. Like many other viewers, no doubt, I arrived at it through a Google search. It seemed to be asking a good question.

The question was closed on the grounds that it "needs to be more focused." The linked page explains that this criticism applies "if your question has many valid answers (but no way to determine which - if any - are correct)."

A person could read the question that way. I just don't know why they would want to.

The idea seems to be that the original poster (OP) approached Ask Ubuntu in a rather scatterbrained state of mind, and needed to be properly schooled. That demeaning undertone would predictably discourage the newcomer from participating further.

It seems to have done so for the OP. He said he was a newbie. This was his one and only question on any Stack Exchange forum. He hasn't been back in four years. Ironically, Ask Ubuntu gave him a "Popular Question" badge for it two years ago.

And to think that there are people who just don't understand why newcomers mostly retreat to Windows or Mac after dipping a toe in the Linux pool.

For reasons I am about to present, Ask Ubuntu's debilitating response does not appear to have done justice to the OP and his question.

First, the criticism just quoted does not seem to apply. It is surely not true that there is "no way to determine" which answers would be correct. Even the OP's relatively bemused point 4 could be addressed with a simple indication that what he reports could not have happened, or could only have happened for specific reasons. As we see in many other Ask Ubuntu discussions, OPs can and do submit additional detail if needed. The website would be vastly less helpful if the response were, consistently, to close their questions until they felt like standing up for another round of criticism.

As indicated above, the claim that the post "needs to be more focused" links to a page elaborating what "focus" means. That linked page says, "This can often be fixed by ... focusing on a specific part of the problem." This suggests that the OP could have rescued the question by explaining how his enumerated points related to a single, central question.

In response to the website's invitation, I submitted a revision that did exactly that. My revision read as follows:

My question: for purposes of software installation, what is the relationship between the command line and the Ubuntu Software Center? This question arises from several observations and uncertainties:

  • A search of the Software Center fails to produce some of the packages that I have installed via command line. So it appears that these two methods have somewhat different purposes or functionality.
  • I noticed that a system backup and restore seemed to break some software installed via command line (e.g., subl). I wondered whether maybe that was because the Software Center does a better job than CLI installation, for purposes of registering or preserving the relevant $PATH information.
  • Since listing in the Software Center seems to have some advantages (e.g., for searching, for surviving a restore), I would like to know whether it is possible to write the installation command so that my installed software will be so listed.

That edit was rejected on grounds that "This edit deviates from the original intent of the post. Even edits that must make drastic changes should strive to preserve the goals of the post's owner."

That seems illogical. If the OP's intent was clear, then his question should not have been closed in the first place. If his intent was not clear, then it would be difficult to be certain that my revision departed from it.

It does not seem to have done so. Note that my revision reflects the focus of the OP's numbered points: they all convey his impression of installation inconsistencies involving the Software Center and the command line.

One would not expect constructive participants in Ask Ubuntu to reject an edit that actually improves the original question while sharpening the focus on the OP's primary concern.

It is odd in any event that third parties would be deciding what the OP intended. The more sensible response would be to ask him.

Since the closing seems to have deterred the OP from any further participation in Ask Ubuntu, he might not respond to a request for approval of my edit.

Yet his question lives on, and continues to draw a large number of visits. In that case, it does not seem practical to tell people like me that we are silly to look for answers to the OP's question. The practical response would be to let that popular question be clarified and reopened, so that Ask Ubuntu can function as intended -- as a forum for good questions to be asked and answered.

My experience in this case suggests that Ask Ubuntu is falsely inviting revisions that cannot meet its criteria, because those criteria are applied arbitrarily. As a relative newcomer myself, I must ask: do the established members of this forum pride themselves on discouraging newcomers?

I would not think so. I haven't been in Ask Ubuntu very long, but that has not been my impression so far. But I cannot reasonably be expected to feel good about investing time in a revision that was rejected for reasons that don't add up, by people who do not even seem to have tried to understand the original question. Plainly, it would be foolish for me to devote that kind of effort again.

Maybe that's why a popular question remains closed after four years, continuing to rack up visits long after the chastised OP has left the scene. Are we in Never-Never Land -- are we waiting for some magical character to render the perfect rephrasing of that question? In the real world, the evidence says that Ask Ubuntu is behaving as if it does not want that question to be fixed.

Clearly, the people responsible for the original closing, and for rejecting my revision, are not striving to encourage our participation; nor are they intent upon producing a helpful outcome in this specific case.

The problem may be that participants accrue points, in Ask Ubuntu, through displays of technical expertise. As this case illustrates, such expertise is not always relevant -- it may be counterproductive -- for purposes of applying the forum's criteria.

Specifically, as already pointed out, the closers and rejecters said that they did not understand the OP's goals and intent. Those are exactly the things the criteria depend upon. They admitted that they were not qualified to judge my revision. That was their choice. It's not my fault.

Newcomers, almost by definition, will fail to express themselves in ideal terms. When thousands of them seek an answer to a question that the technical experts want to shut down, the practical response would be to encourage them to ask their question, help them shape their phrasing as they improve their understanding -- and dial back this toxic tendency to drive outsiders away.

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  • 5
    "Since the closing seems to have deterred the OP from any further participation in Ask Ubuntu" ... Uh, the question was closed three days after the answer was accepted, and three people had (politely) commented on the post asking for improvements to the question. I'd wager that OP never came back once they got their answer, and so never even knew (or cared) that their question was closed.
    – muru
    Sep 13 at 2:47
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    FYI, the close reasons and the banners displayed on them have been rewritten since that question was closed. Also, reviewers of Suggested Edits aren't shown that the question is closed. Anyway, I approved your good edit suggestion and reopened the question. Thanks a lot for improving it. No need to be so cynical about folks' intentions though.
    – Zanna Mod
    Sep 13 at 6:08
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I am not from this community, but I’m active enough on stack exchange in general that I believe I can answer this correctly.

Addressing the question and why it was closed.

The question:

Hi I'm new to ubuntu world. I have few questions about the software installation in ubuntu:

  1. What's the difference between installing a software in ubuntu software center and command line?
  2. Why some software I installed with command line can't be searched in software center (press the window key)?
  3. What are the correct commands to install a software from command line so that I can search them?
  4. I backed and restored up my system once but some commands worked before (like "subl") don't work after restoring the system.

I think these questions are about $PATH somehow but I can't find some material about this. Any extra material would be appreciated. :)

You said this question was closed as needs more focus, and I completely agree with the closers. This question fundamentally asks multiple different questions (this can be showed by the different points in the list), in addition, at the end the OP asks for a list of stuff, which on its own is enough to get the question closed as needs more focus.

As for the article you linked too, that article is a bit misleading. Needs more focus means it asks multiple questions, not that there is no way to determine the best answer. There’s probably a feature request asking to change it somewhere on the main meta, and if you really can’t find one you can post your own.

In addition, later in the post you mention

That seems illogical. If the OP's intent was clear, then his question should not have been closed in the first place.

However, having clear intent does not mean a post shouldn’t be closed. To provide a drastic example of this, if I asked

What is your favorite ice cream flavor

On here, I would sure hope that question gets closed.

Addressing the fact that you think we are attacking the user

You say

The idea seems to be that the original poster (OP) approached Ask Ubuntu in a rather scatterbrained state of mind, and needed to be properly schooled. That demeaning undertone would predictably discourage the newcomer from participating further.

There are plenty of discussions on the main meta trying to find ways to make the site more welcoming, feel free to upvote and pitch in on those questions.

I recognize that this wasn’t your post, but for your own posts (in the future) please keep in mind that this isn’t a personal attack or insult, but rather a content rating mechanism.

The suggested edit

Honestly, I know too little about Ubuntu to comment on whether that asks something completely different or is just a slight verbiage change. So, I’ll refrain from commenting on that and leave that to other people.

your insults

One would not expect constructive participants in Ask Ubuntu to reject an edit that actually improves the original question while sharpening the focus on the OP's primary concern.

I must ask: do the established members of this forum pride themselves on discouraging newcomers?

When thousands of them seek an answer to a question that the technical experts want to shut down, the practical response would be to encourage them to ask their question, help them shape their phrasing as they improve their understanding -- and dial back this toxic tendency to drive outsiders away.

Calling people toxic, making rhetorical questions, and calling people not constructive rarely gets anywhere.

Some other stuff

Specifically, as already pointed out, the closers and rejecters said that they did not understand the OP's goals and intent.

They never said that. The closers said the OP asks too many questions, and the rejectors said your edit deviates from the intent of the post.

Are we in Never-Never Land -- are we waiting for some magical character to render the perfect rephrasing of that question?

You seem to imply that fixing the question isn’t possible. I agree, kinda. You could ask each of the parts of the question on the numbered list separately (assuming they stand as good questions on their own), link to them all in the comments, and problem solved.

The practical response would be to let that popular question be clarified and reopened, so that Ask Ubuntu can function as intended -- as a forum for good questions to be asked and answered.

You seem to think we’re a forum. we’re not.

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    If you think this is a little unwelcoming, I’m sorry, that was not my intention. Also, if there is anything I didn’t reply to that you think I should, feel free to comment and tell me. Sep 13 at 3:12
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As one of the reviewers that rejected your edit, I want to clarify the following:

  1. As muru commented, the OP was kindly asked to improve their question so it wouldn't be closed as it eventually did. This clearly shows that people tried to help OP improve their question.

  2. In my opinion, the question indeed needed more focus. However, in this particular case, it got multiple answers and even an accepted one that addressed the multiple questions, so it could have been left open in the first place.

  3. This edit indeed deviates from the original intent of the question. I mean it's a complete rewrite of the question, that also alters the intention of it. Take for example this part of the original question:

    1. I backed and restored up my system once but some commands worked before (like "subl") don't work after restoring the system.

    I think these questions are about $PATH somehow but I can't find some material about this. Any extra material would be appreciated. :)

    Your edit changed it to this:

    I noticed that a system backup and restore seemed to break some software installed via command line (e.g., subl). I wondered whether maybe that was because the Software Center does a better job than CLI installation, for purposes of registering or preserving the relevant $PATH information.

    That's not what the OP asked about! They just speculated about a relation of the Software Center and the $PATH variable, they didn't ask if "Software Center does a better job than CLI installation, for purposes of registering or preserving the relevant $PATH information." That's a totally new question! So the best thing would have been to actually ask a new question.

  4. The answers to the question contained quotes from it. Having accepted the edit, the quotes would be out of context (as they are now). So the existing answers don't exactly answer the edited question anymore and they should be rewritten. However, I doubt that any of the OPs of the answers would/will do this.

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