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With the significant spread of the Raspberry Pi over the last few years to a broader base the traditional Linux / Markers, and the increase in Linux style questions from new users (signified with 1 point / 100 points - my point of view i.e. no stats) I'm seeing a lot of questions closed with no explanation but often pointing to the dreaded 'its not a Pi issue'.

I find my self voting close but explaining the fine line between Linux and the Pi or 'sneaking an answer' in the comments - maybe 'breaking' the rules of the exchange :-)

I have read this meta 'question' and this one but I find the Linux forum very intimidating and find it more technical / deep than the questions deserve and dare not touch the electronics one... (I'm still at the - oh look more magic black smoke stage).

Yes - teaching a person to research is still vital but in some cases knowing what to research needs a little help rather than a close (also known in my head - bugger off and read this before daring to tread on these hallowed grounds)...

Think of it from a beginner (esp as Christmas is soon upon us) - you are sat a the Pi (possibly bits all over the table) and stuck with an issue. To you its a PI problem and not an esoteric Linux command or hardware issue - the darn thing is not working and its on a Pi and that's the only computer involved so I (i.e. the poor stuck person) cannot see how Questions where the Raspberry Pi is not a significant factor will likely be closed applies.

So can I ask is it time to re-evaluate answering Linux and Pi questions here and maybe remove the hard 'off-topic' to a reserve the right to ask the user to ask in another forum?

I think that this would make the exchange more friendly to beginners and encourage those starting out (esp without access to clubs / groups at the moment).

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  • Hi, thanks for starting the discussion... the stage is all yours ;-)
    – Ghanima Mod
    Nov 8 '20 at 21:29
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    To argue against self - Linux forum has more detailed and in depth skills in just the software side across multiple repositories. So why do beginners not see the Pi as a Linux computer? Maybe it's not seen as a Linux box but a general computer and the OS is seen as secondary to its use or the programs that run on it.
    – user115418
    Nov 8 '20 at 23:30
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    To argue for answering Linux - the version of Linux is only found on the Pi - its quirks / builds are not seen on other boards so having the knowledge in one place (with hardware / use / expansion) makes sense for the new users. One place to go.
    – user115418
    Nov 9 '20 at 14:12
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    An interesting thought for you - Why have a Pi exchange at all? If the hardware (GPIO) is passed to electronics and the software to Linux / Android etc then what makes the Pi 'deserving' of its own board??? Orange Pi etc questions are passed to the Linux board - is the Pi that different from these boards?
    – user115418
    Nov 9 '20 at 14:15
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    Although I left it out of my answer, one of the purposes I think this site does serve is that of the gateway drug. A lot of our users haven't made any or much use of other SE sites and aren't necessarily aware that we are even part of such a network. This plays to the point that a closed question is quite different than a deleted one. WRT Orange vs. Raspberry, this begs the question that there is no Orange Pi SE because we or some other group of people have said there can't be one, yet "we" think Rpi.SE is okay. That's not the case. We've just said this isn't Orange Pi SE.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Nov 9 '20 at 19:34
  • Personally, I think the Linux SE site is fine... it's true they generally don't suffer poorly-considered questions there as we do, but that seems right to me given their specialization. I feel it's a mistake to close a question just because it's "Linux" - or "Hardware" for that matter. I feel @goldilocks got it right in his answer - RPi is at the crossroads of hardware, software and the Linux OS. That strikes me as a good place to be. I do wish the quality of questions were a bit higher; perhaps that is the bargain for being "jack of all trades, master of none"? :)
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 7:38
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the increase in Linux style questions from new users

Things have not changed here at all in this regard in the ~7 years I have been a daily user, most of that as a moderator.

That said, it has always been a valid topic for discussion, and, like other content issues (for example), is not carved in stone and always open for re-visiting.

I'll regurgitate again my opinion, which I think is a well informed and reasonable one. We have three significant realms of cross-over here:

  • Linux, with "Unix & Linux".
  • Electronics, with "Electrical Engineering".
  • Programming, with "Stack Overflow".

Our policy is that questions more appropriate to those sites belong there, not here, because these are much larger sites with a larger body of expertise. However, there's also an understanding that if we were very strict with this, there would not be much of a site left.

Which is why, as I've referred to them often in the past, these are grey areas. The decision to close such questions is not automated; it is always a decision made by one person or a number of people, with sufficient experience on the site to grant them the privilege.

By the time they earn that privilege, I think most of those people are familiar with what that amounts to: We can close these at our discretion. For me, that possibility exists when it is clear that the question does not require any knowledge of the Raspberry Pi to answer. That's not sufficient in itself, eg. if it is something I can answer easily enough and I have a few minutes, I'll do that -- which of course doesn't mean that someone(s) else (and sometimes even myself, which may seem strange) can't close it, of course.

However, I almost never close a question which has an upvoted and/or accepted answer if I consider the question and the answer of decent quality. Sometimes I will wait to see what happens, but not indefinitely.

Anyway, I've prattled on about those kinds of considerations before and will spare the reader now. The question here is essentially (I know this is not quite what you asked, but1):

Should we unequivocally accept any linux question which mentions a Raspberry Pi?

No, we should not. That would not be doing anyone a service. My belief that most of these questions will get better help somewhere else more quickly is not one that has waned over time. That does not mean they will instantly have all their problems solved, or solved at all.

It also does not mean all you have to do is explain that to someone and they will accept it. By analogy, if you ask me what is wrong with your car and I make a guess as a non-expert, adding that I think you should go ask Phil the mechanic if you are serious, you objecting that you don't like the way Phil smells or it is too far a walk does not make these good reasons and you would be doing yourself a disservice to let them govern your behaviour. Further, anyone else who encouraged you to not bother with Phil because hey, he does small bad, would not be doing you a favour.

but I find the Linux forum very intimidating

I find all of SE and much of the internet generally intimidating, to be frank. I hate asking questions at Electrical Engineering, they are completely horrible. I don't really like asking them at Stack Overflow, either, but I do have to face the reality that it is my best (or only) bet in many cases.2

I think the reason for that is the tension that sometimes exists between making something a friendly experience, and making it an effective one. A major part of that problem is that the nature of the economy places most of the responsibly on the shoulders of the people who answer most of the questions, who are in fact a (very) small minority of total users, but without whom a place like this would be a waste of time.

I'm seeing a lot of questions closed with no explanation

Setting aside the fact that a closed question always includes an explanation in the form of the stock blurb (because it is not clear, because it is off-topic, etc), this is a phenomenon that is part and parcel of the system we do not control. I would happily support a change such that the first close vote cast, at least, require a comment from the caster. However, this has been debated at Meta.SE repeatedly and the clear majority of users who participate in such debates are against it. As with this, anyone is of course welcome to try again and see how much support they can drum up for it.


  1. "is it time to re-evaluate answering Linux and Pi questions here and maybe remove the hard 'off-topic' to a reserve the right to ask the user to ask in another forum?" Is really a non-question: For starters, it is already the case that closing a question as off-topic should usually be accompanied by a recommendation to another site. That it isn't always is because the system doesn't force people to leave a comment when they vote to close and there is nothing we can do about that (discussed above briefly).

  2. Worth mentioning at that point that our specific community is often not considered a particularly friendly one by people coming here with experience elsewhere on SE, and it is not simply because we close some questions as off-topic. I do think we need to work on that (niceness), and although I am currently at a loss as to how to help effect it, I do not believe promising to do more for more people is an appropriate step in that direction.

    If we had a friendly, more helpful site, I think that the people who close the gray area questions would be less inclined to do so. Right now, the idea that letting them fester or gather bad answers and RTFM comments instead would be better does not make sense.

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  • Hear, hear! And just a brief comment on what you said: I hate asking questions at Electrical Engineering..., and the general sentiment wrt some of the other SE sites. I've felt for a while now that RPi SE is a very comfortable place for me personally. I think we have our moderators, and perhaps previous moderators, to thank for that. I'm of the opinion that in the case you've mentioned, the root cause of its horrible-ness is the fact that it seems to be a complete autocracy. And for whatever reason, the truly horrible personalities don't thrive here. Chemistry is a hard thing to define.
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 7:06
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There is no obligation on any user to vote or even to comment on a close vote.

Frankly, there is little reason to vote for a close, as so few people review the close queue Questions are rarely closed (unless one of the mods uses his/her sledgehammer).

My approach is slightly different.

If the Question is clear and well stated AND I can answer it off the top of me head I am inclined to Answer, even if strictly not Pi specific.

I often answer Electronics questions, sometimes Linux or Programming questions.

Any Question which is incomplete (such as Programming questions which asks about a code fragment) or show NO research effort (especially one which could be answered by a simple site search) doesn't deserve a detailed explanation.

Others may differ, and are quite free to offer an answer, and many do. If you can answer a question in less time than it takes to explain why it is off-topic this would be preferable.

PS My impression is that since the COVID crisis the standard of questions has declined.

PPS Offering a negative Comment, rather than helping someone ask a better question often just elicits an argument.

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  • Interesting note there My impression is that since the COVID crisis the standard of questions has declined. It was about that time I joined so maybe I'm seeing a simpler / weaker set of questions than those being here longer? How do you define standard - level of technical difficulty, poor idea of what to actually ask or lack of 'google first'?
    – user115418
    Nov 10 '20 at 15:43
  • @Andyroo: I've learned it's dangerous to attempt humor online, and so I'll apologize up front in case this bombs, or is misunderstood - but I can't resist responding to your comment re the timing of COVID & your arrival here: Something along the lines of "There goes the neighborhood" :) LOL
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 6:37
  • But in all seriousness :) Yes - I've noticed the decline in question quality @Milliways mentioned in his PS. But it makes sense... imagine all of the millions of bored, newly-minted work-from-homers spawned by COVID. Maybe the vaccine will reduce that soon?
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 6:45
  • And yes - in case you're wondering - humor helps me cope - even bad humor :)
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 6:46
  • @Seamus There goes the neighborhood I'll take the hint.
    – user115418
    Jan 3 at 16:19
  • @Andyroo: OK - please tell me you know I was joking.
    – Seamus
    Jan 3 at 23:51

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