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This question was recently closed as not a real question:

It asks if the Software Center implements DRM. I think that part is clearly a question, and izx wrote an excellent answer, which aking1012 then made even better, and which currently has five upvotes.

After the question was answered, the answer got some upvotes, the answer was edited, and then the question was closed. izx, who wrote the answer, was one of the close voters. (I mention this because it is an indication of something unusual. I'm not trying to pick on izx, or even say he shouldn't have voted to close.)

Ordinarily this would seem wrong, but I do understand why this was closed. Or at least I think I do. The first sentence of the question asks if the Software Center implements DRM, but it ends asking, "pls?" By itself, that could be interpreted as a feature request rather than a question. (Or it could be interpreted as an attempt to politely request that the question be answered.) After that, it becomes much more like a feature request. It argues that DRM is important and good, and it suggests that we become more like Apple.

I can certainly imagine, just looking at the question, that I could have voted to close it. Users requesting features are not done any favors by having their questions kept open--like bugs, feature requests should be closed and their authors referred to the proper places for posting them.

But here's why I think this question shouldn't have been closed, and probably should be reopened:

In its present form, it's not a very good feature request. Without intending offense to the author, as written, it's a worse feature request than it is a question. I think that in its current form, it's better handled here as a question than on Brainstorm or Launchpad as a feature request.

A minority of people in our community think DRM is good and that there should be more of it, but this is probably a very small minority. Opposition to DRM in the Ubuntu community and in the free open source software community more generally is sometimes on technical grounds--for example, that a system that deliberately makes things not work, and that takes away a user's control of their own computer, is a broken system. But many of us--myself included--think DRM is not only technically problematic, but morally reprehensible as well. Ask Ubuntu may well not be an appropriate platform to argue about the ethics of DRM. But a feature request for DRM should address the community's widespread objections to DRM. Since this one doesn't, I think it makes sense to answer it by explaining:

  1. That the Software Center does not support DRM.
  2. That such a feature is presently unlikely because the community as a whole embraces a system of values inconsistent with DRM.
  3. That the absence of DRM in the Software Center does not actually prevent individual proprietary applications from implementing DRM to enforce license restrictions or for other purposes.
  4. That the developers themselves have considered the issue and oppose adding a DRM framework to the Software Center.

In its current form, the answer says all that. If the OP now wishes to post on Brainstorm or Launchpad to request DRM be added to the Software Center, the OP will know what the main issues are that should be addressed in such a proposal.

Another thing to consider, suggesting that this should be considered a real question, is if it would have been closed, if the answer had been "yes." It pains me to imagine a world where the Ubuntu Software Center implements DRM, but suppose it did. I would suggest that, in that case, this would never have been closed, even though it seems like a feature request. It would simply have been answered.

This extends beyond that one closed question, to the issue described in the title: If a question looks like a feature request, but it can be answered as a question, and it has been answered, and the answer is good (and itself on-topic for our site), should we still close the question?

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You had me sold by the third paragraph :) I've reopened it.

I'm not saying: Woohaa! Let's handle feature requests!

I need to be clear on that. We don't. This particular question isn't really a feature request at all, it's somebody asking if something is available and podging up the language a bit, making it sound like a request.

I've rephrased it so it's black and white: Does X exist.

There is scope for a technical question about how to best design a DRM system — but I don't think it's in this question. The user hasn't indicated that they've got any interest in building something. If you want to start a new development question, I think that's fine.

  • And I'm aware that nobody on the planet says Woohaa — it was a typo but I decided to stick with it because I'm just quirky like that. Good day to you. – Oli Aug 25 '12 at 8:24
  • I SAID GOOD DAY! – Oli Aug 25 '12 at 8:24
  • Thanks. And don't worry about the Woohaa--after all, it's part of what you're not saying, not part of what you are saying. ;-) – Eliah Kagan Aug 25 '12 at 12:02

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