I've seen quite a few questions that ask how to do something with some software that happens to be able to run on Ubuntu, but could equally be answered on any Linux related stackoverflow site. They have nothing in particular to do with Ubuntu directly.

When are such questions off-topic? When should they be redirected to SuperUser or serverfault or such?

For instance, this one got closed: https://askubuntu.com/questions/100153/how-to-install-mac-os-x-lion-10-7-on-virtualbox-4-1

But this one is apparently ok? What is IOMMU and will it improve my VM performance?

I bring this up because I was considering flagging the following but wasn't sure: https://askubuntu.com/questions/100235/bind-9-on-ubuntu-with-special-functionalities

I figured to myself that a simple rule of thumb might be "if this question could be asked on AskSUSE with only s/Ubuntu/SUSE/g done to it, it's likely offtopic". Is that about right?

1 Answer 1


We <3 application questions.

If you have a question about Firefox, it could be answered on AskSuSE or Ask Fedora, but you're not running Fedora or SuSE, you're running Ubuntu. :) So if we enforced application-questions be specific to Ubuntu, we'd have very few questions left.

It's hard to make a definitive rule, so here are some examples

  • This is completely on-topic:

    • How do I install the latest Chrome?
    • How do I make nano/vim/emacs print spaces instead of tabs
    • Why does Bind9 keep crashing with this error?
    • How do I set up a Bind server?
    • How do I connect USB devices to MacOS X in VirtualBox?


  • This is mostly off topic:

    • Mac OS Installer crashes when Installing OSX in VirtualBox
    • TeX page margins are too large
    • How do I install the ... Plugin in Wordpress?


  • This is off topic:

    • How do I add 2 and 2 in Mathematica?
    • How do I make my web-server serve more requests per second?
    • Should I buy hard drives or use tapes for my backup?
    • I can't buy anything on the Chrome Webstore


You can use a few criteria to make an initial judgement:

  • Is there a better site on the Stack Exchange network?
  • Is the user actually running Ubuntu or any of the official derivatives?
  • Is the user not reporting a bug? (those go on launchpad)

These three will catch about 90% of off-topic questions.

I know the remaining 10% can be tough, so I hope this helps clearing it up a bit. In any case, if this question could also be asked on Unix & Linux, that does not make it off topic.

Onto your examples:

Please tell me if I've left anything very unclear. It's late. ;-)

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