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I'm a little surprised my question is off topic here. I'm stuck with a point on how to correctly setup a raspberry pi specific distribution (of alpine). I'm happy to take the question over to U&L if you feel that's more appropriate.

It just seems very odd to me that setup of distributions specific to r-pi is not on topic here.

Are questions on r-pi specific distributions supposed to be here or U&L?

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  • If you had asked an answerable question someone may have answered. Questions which boil down to "I followed instructions" are futile. The instructions may be wrong OR you may not have followed them. Explain what YOU did and how you tried to diagnose your problem. See Tour
    – Milliways
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 6:14
  • @Milliways thanks that's useful feedback. I was rather terse on what I did to get there and overly focussed on the product of the research rather than mentioning the research itself. Over on. U&L the question was answered in a way that was useful enough. I found it tricky in this instance to know if I should ask "after repeating I still can't find my mistake, can anyone see what I missed", "does this look like a bug?" And ultimately settled on as factoring a question to raspberry pi users "how should this work?" (for raspberry pi install). Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 8:41

2 Answers 2

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I'll be plain about the fact that I'm frustrated by this closure. I'm frustrated because this looks like the moderator decision is very out of alignment with the community decision on scope.

I can only go on what I find on existing meta questions here, so I cannot rule out that there have been previous community decisions I'm unaware of. I'll happily take votes either way as evidence in favour / against this opinion.

I'm not interested in re-opening my origonal question. I've already posted elsewhere.

What really concerns me enough to spend an hour or three drafting this is that I'm concerned repeated similar behaviour is driving away users. This decision, if really accepted by the community, makes the site's rules impossible to understand to outsiders.

It's not the first time I've seen really weird out-of-scope votes on this site and not the first time I've heard frustration voiced at them on this meta site.

The moderator decision was out of step with the scope of this site

R-Pi specific OS builds are in scope

What topics can I ask about here?

  • Operating Systems built for the Raspberry Pi.

Surely that must include problems in initial setup of a Raspberry pi specific OS build following instructions explicitly for setup on raspberry pi.

The moderator's justification for thinking otherwise:

Based on that, I don't see anything in the question that implies the specific hardware context should matter.

You could look at this as a matter of ruling out the more general context, but to do that you need to start there.

and then

In what sense would this be true specifically and only on a Raspberry Pi?

That's not the stated scope of this site. There's no mention at all that issues must be seen only on the raspberry pi OS and never anywhere else. Almost all raspberry pi specific builds are builds of more generic OS with very few real features of their own. So what question could ever be specific only to the raspberry pi on that basis?! This interpretation appears to be plainly against the community's decision to include "Operating Systems built for the Raspberry Pi"

Granted there is a fine line. Just because Raspberry Pi Os might distribute thunderbird doesn't put email setup on-topic. But basic setup of the OS, following instructions dedicated to the OS? Surely that cannot require me to go prove the issue is impossible to reproduce elsewhere!

If moderators really believe that interpretation is correct then please point to meta question here where the community has agreed that change in scope. Please follow up with appropriate changes to the site's stated scope in it's help pages.

This is not a professionals only site

Hence, my reading of your question turns a bit on the fact that you do not claim to have much experience with the problem domain. If you came here and said you'd been an Alpine user since the beginning and applied diskless mode countless times and never had this problem, it might be different

This appears to require me to be an expert in the domain, I'm not. I'm a raspberry pi user trying to install a raspberry pi packaged OS from a raspberry pi specific instruction page.

The stated scope of this site is NOT professionals only. And worse, this requirement even expects the OP to actually know the answer to their question before they ask it so they can demonstrate it was caused by the raspberry pi and nothing else.

If this community want's to be professional's only, then that is for the community to decide, not the moderators. If the community does decide that then updating the page to inform new users would be gratefully received.

However I rather feel it would be inappropriate for this site to become professionals only.

The moderator's behaviour was a little out of step with SE at large

Closing questions is known to drive away users. That's not to say we shouldn't close questions, but closing without comment as "off-topic" needs to stop. No excuses.

Such behaviour brings us right back to the points discussed in Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change. Particularly the blog post discusses that users are not given enough hints on what to include in their question, and that's not the questioner's fault.

Please reconsider the general approach here.

  • If a question lacks enough "Raspberry pi flavour" then please prompt the user to add it in. Outsiders cannot be expected to know that this site requires users to explain "why here and not elsewhere" in every question. No other site on SE I'm aware of has that requirement.
  • If a question is so obviously off topic, right from the face of it (eg: how to check my email in thunderbird) then a polite comment to that effect really doesn't go unnoticed.

Closing has a very final effect and even if the OP was asking about a specific R-Pi issue, you'll just have driven them away.

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  • "This is not a professionals only site" -> You've misinterpreted me. What I meant was that if it seemed that you were already experienced with Alpine diskless and were making the case that the problem was Pi specific, I'd be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt. You do not actually claim either thing in the original question, which is fine, but this is why it reads like a general question about Alpine diskless, and hence belongs on a more general site.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 20:17
  • WRT generalism, overlap, and our on/off topic policy here, the community (meaning, 5 non-mod members) closes things as off-topic more often than I do, and we reserve the right to do so based on the off-topic page, which you look to have intentionally misread. Alpine diskless was NOT built specifically for the Raspberry Pi.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 20:17
  • @goldilocks I am NOT experienced in alpine. I came here because I hoped there may be some user in this community who has tried this raspberry pi specific build and followed this same raspberry pi specific install instructions and experienced the same problem. that should be enough. I can't be sure "diskless" is the exact problem. By demanding users stake a claim that they know it doesn't happen on other platforms expects them to have major knowledge outside the scope of raspberry pis. You them to have knowledge outside raspberry pis to be able to post on this raspberry pi QA site. Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 23:52
  • @goldilocks You say that alpine diskless was not built specifically for raspberry pi. No I know it wasn't. There are extremely few parts of any OS that are built only for raspberry pi. You leave me questioning (still) what does the info page say? You do understand that, based on your requirement, you will not have any valid questions under the heading "Operating Systems built for the Raspberry Pi."? This question is literally an initial setup question right after following the raspberry pi install instructions for the raspberry pi build. Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 0:14
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, or in Raspberry Pi Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 16:05
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distributions specific to r-pi is not on topic here.

It's important to consider what "specific" means here and whether it really applies to the question.

To the extent that a Pi compatible distro requires a custom kernel and image filesystem structure (with first partition = boot, and the things in it), any and all distros which work on a Pi can be considered "Pi specific".

However, it is possible to create such a "Pi specific" distro from a more generic one by only meeting the criteria in the last paragraph.1 It might be missing some Pi specific functionality, but it would still boot and probably could be used to do anything the more generic distro it is derived from can do.

In this case, if someone wants to ask "How do I add two integers together and assign the value to an environment variable using the bash shell on Pi specific distro _____", the last clause is irrelevant. You might as well replace it with "on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Europe". It doesn't matter at all.

This is in fact why an important goal in the design of programming and OS interfaces is to encapsulate them in such a manner that they function much the same from one machine to another. Are there differences between the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac OS? I'm sure there are, but for the most part the experience of using them, the behaviour they exhibit, etc. are going to be the same.

Likewise, python is not a totally different language depending on what brand of hardware and OS you are using. This doesn't mean there are no differences at all, but that such differences are exceptions, not the rule and a conscious and dedicated effort has been made by the people responsible to minimize such differences.

WRT to users seeking help with a problem where the relevance of the Pi context is unclear to them, you have two choices:

  1. Assume that it is not relevant and pursue your investigation solely in the context of the related OS/software.

  2. Presume that since you don't know for sure, it might be relevant, therefore you should start in the most specialized, least general context you can, even if this context is mostly a product of your own paranoia.

Complicating this is that if you are wrong, in the first case you may end up wasting a lot of time before you start to uncover real facts that imply there is something special about your situation, whereas in the second, someone may just give you the general answer if it exists anyway so it doesn't matter, even if this takes a bit longer (during which time you can do other things besides research your problem).

Treating a resource where live, individual people must answer questions like a search engine, however, is not an effective plan looking at the big picture. I've written here already at length about some realities of the Q&A economy; please at least glance at that and consider what I mean by the "billionaire in a restaurant" analogy in the first few paragraphs.

This is why we try to deflect people into the more general and larger, resource and community wise, context. This often requires making judgement calls, but the Stack Exchange system of quantifying reputation in relation to specialization and granting privileges/responsibilities helps to ensure that the people in a position to make those calls do so from/with an appropriate perspective.

These aren't always right, and what's more, they aren't always consistent, because we have a lot of "gray area" overlap with sites like U&L and EE. That's the nature of the beast.

Hence, my reading of your question turns a bit on the fact that you do not claim to have much experience with the problem domain. If you came here and said you'd been an Alpine user since the beginning and applied diskless mode countless times and never had this problem, it might be different -- this would produce the "real facts that imply there is something special about your situation" mentioned earlier.

I have never used Alpine diskless, or Alpine much at all, but I do have an educated and experienced feel for the basic principles of software architecture, and the knowledge that Alpine was not created in some parallel universe where these principles and logic generally don't hold true the same way they do here. Based on that, I don't see anything in the question that implies the specific hardware context should matter.

You could look at this as a matter of ruling out the more general context, but to do that you need to start there.


  1. There may be a few other odds and ends with the core C library and linker required, but never mind that.
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  • 1
    In cannot express how frustrating it is that you say I have to declare myself an Alpine expert to ask this question. And I am a Linux expert. I'll be blunt and say that is out of sync with the rest of the SE community. In this case I downloaded a raspberry pi specific packaging of of the OS which has adjustments made just for the RPi and followed the R-Pi specific instructions for installing it. I strongly suspect these adjustments are to blame. The logic you have presented here expects users to know the answer to their question before they ask! Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 20:48
  • You admit not using alpine much. So is it fair to say that you closed the question with zero knowledge of the scope of raspberry pi peculiarities On alpine? Across SE I see a lot of questions closed by people who simply don't know the answer. I find it sad that mods are falling into that same trap. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:00
  • Let's look at the core concrete question in your post: "..how I'm supposed to install packages so they are there ready when the system boots". In what sense would this be true specifically and only on a Raspberry Pi? You also say, "Some of the packages I want (including avahi) have daemons which are supposed to be initiated through scripts in /etc/init.d". Avahi is not pi-specific. Do you have reason to believe there is some Pi specific detail in the Alpine configuration of such that creates this problem? If so, why is that not in the question?
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:18
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    Yes!!!! The way that this is all installed and setup as in memory only has been done for the raspberry pi distribution but not seemingly for other packaged versions of alpine. I have no idea if the raspberry pi Alpine boot sequence is to blame but I need a raspberry li user to help explain that!!!!! That's why I'm asking here about a raspberry pi wiki page regarding a raspberry pi setup. this is the danger of closing questions you don't unserstand. You are just going to keep closing because you don't definitively know it is about the r-pi and that's only because you don't know the answer. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:34
  • Please please please try to prompt users to offer the raspberry pi angle if you feel it's missing. Closing without comment is just driving users away from SE in general and making it a very unfriendly place. Again I am saddened when this is perpetuated by mods. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:49
  • Hmm... Yet here it says, "This means the entire operating system with all applications are first loaded into RAM and then only run from there" and there is no mention of the Raspberry Pi. Are you saying that what you mean by "this is all installed and setup as in memory only" means something completely unrelated, that is specially and intentionally done only for Pis? Do you have ANY reference for that at all? I do make an effort to spend a few minutes searching and reading online before I close questions like this.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:50
  • try making the effort to comment instead. It takes less time and helps the users more. No I cannot verify that this is only ever on the raspberry pi. But if I could then I would know the answer to my question. All I know is that the raspberry pi edition seems customised enough that, speaking as very experienced Linux user, I suspect the answer to this might be specific to the raspberry pi distribution. Again your interpretation of how to limit scope seems out of step with SE. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:57
  • TBH I do leave a comment 99%+ (very literally) of the time. The reason I did not in this case is because you seemed cogent but the question very clearly seemed entirely about Alpine diskless. You've still done nothing to convince me it isn't. Your insistence that you want to ask about this here is also a refusal to try asking about it somewhere more appropriate (taking the general SE stricture about cross-posting into account). That is just sticking your head in sand. We currently have 4 questions tagged alpine, U&L has almost 300 (but now I notice your's is there too, hooray).
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 22:08
  • Your insistence that you want to ask about this here is also a refusal to try asking about it somewhere more appropriate... no it isn't (timestamps) My persistence is out of genuine frustration that was triggered by complete confusion at the closure followed the red flag of seeing 4 recently active meta questions on "off topic" closure without comment... then reading your answer and discovering you are moderating based on the possible answers not moderating the question! Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 22:14
  • To be clear I'm not trying to convince you your decision was wrong. But your logic to come to that decision is what was flawed. You could correct your logic and still come to the same decision and that would be just fine with me. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 22:23

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