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What is "on-topic"?

We seem to have a lot of new users, probably the Zero will increase this. Lots have little or no Linux experience. As a consequence they ask beginner (or even more advanced) Linux questions.

Questions about Raspbian, even if they are general Linux questions should be OK as they are about "Operating Systems built for the Raspberry Pi".

Many get referred to https://unix.stackexchange.com/ - this can be intimidating to such users. Maybe we should answer more of these on site and actually use the "Linux" tag.

  • Can you provide a couple of examples? – Steve Robillard Dec 3 '15 at 0:09
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One could always argue that U&L's user base is significantly larger and more relevant answers might therefore be given in a timely manner over there.

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    When I migrate questions directly, regardless of where it is, I do check to see how it went later and this (getting more relevant answers more quickly) is noticeable for the most part. There are always exceptions which I feel bad about, but OTOH, those are questions which may not have gotten quick answers anywhere. – goldilocks Dec 3 '15 at 2:38
  • Just this past weekend I answered a couple of questions that by the letter of the law been migrated (apache/php permissions). However, I answered them rather than migrate them because they were missing pertinent details . After a few rounds of back and forth comments. It was just easier to answer than migrate, On the second I did explain that he should ask over on stackexchange or U&L. I try not migrate junk and the rule of thumb is if it has an answer don't migrate it. – Steve Robillard Dec 3 '15 at 17:09
  • @SteveRobillard, Mr Robillard ;) of course junk should not be migrated. Answered question need no migration too, I agree. If you can answer them, fair enough. I typically can't which is why I tend to believe that more proficient users at U&L could give better answers. – Ghanima Dec 3 '15 at 20:25
  • I think the value of this SE is that there are significant swathes of Raspbian that are quirky and specific to the Pi, as well as the specific challenges of running Linux in what many would consider a moderately resource-constrained computer. If it's clearly a "how do I do this obvious Linux thing on my Pi", I agree that it crufts up the SE to answer them, but when it is decidedly platform-specific features of Raspbian, I can see the value of answering it here over tossing it yo U&L. The down side is that the mods need to be able to sift through the questions and separate them successfully. – WineSoaked Dec 4 '15 at 3:59
  • I am keenly aware that somewhere near the root of the problem is that people can't search for answers effectively. – WineSoaked Dec 4 '15 at 4:01
  • @WineSoaked, it's the same issue with "how do I do this obvious electronics thing on my Pi". Some are Pi specific, others are not. But many could get better answers at electrical engineering.SE - with a user base twice as large and users being more proficient in the matter. Of 9500 questions, we have 1800 "unanswered" (including not upvoted/accepted), which imho is a very strong sign that we indeed do not refer questions too often to other branches but keep 'em around here to no avail (no answer - no help to the OP). – Ghanima Dec 4 '15 at 8:00
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My most serious issue with this is I'm not sure who the "we" in "we should answer these" is.

In practice, currently most questions which should by letter of that law be closed are left open. I do most of the closing, and I'm aware that this may appear inconsistent. I see the purpose of the rules as allowing us the discretion of closing questions as off-topic. By analogy, cops at speed traps generally do not pull over everyone exceeding the speed limit by two miles an hour.

If we remove the rule, on the surface things are easier. A lot of questions can just go ignored, or -- to be frank -- get blind leading the blind type answers. However, it is not doing anyone a favor to spare them the "intimidation" they may suffer at U&L in place of allowing them to be misled or ignored.

I realize that U&L is not a perfect place either and that in addition to being intimidated, people are regularly ignored and misled there. None-the-less, we cannot pretend that we can be providing the level of help that can be provided there for questions that are on-topic there. While the raspberry pi has been very successful and perhaps introduced millions of people to linux (whether they like it or not, lol), it's an operating system likely used on 30-50%+ of the world's internet servers...95%+ of the supercomputers...etc. What's more, there's a U in U&L that covers another large swath of people with relevant expertise.

Another issue is that in opening the floodgates to stuff that would be better of somewhere else we stand to swamp the kind of stuff which is best off here.

  • In fact the "we" I was referring to was "me". I have been guilty of flagging questions, when I could just as easily answer them. I have no problem flagging questions about OS X and Mac, when I could easily answer, because they clearly don't belong here. Steve Robillard asked for examples, and I really can't find any at the moment. This is just a vague feeling of guilt I have felt a few times. Many of the naive users obviously don't understand why their Linux question is off-topic. (I might add I have little sympathy with some who have a little knowledge, then fiddle with config files.) – Milliways Dec 3 '15 at 3:26
  • I get you. But there are more questions than any one person can answer, and there are considerably fewer people on the "A" half of "Q&A", which is why the "Q" has to be rate limited somehow. This is part of why I see the rules as discretionary (and enforced, or not, by people with a lot of "A"). It would be great if everyone with a problem could be paired up with someone who can sit down and sort them out. Short of that, we should try to make clear to people why such an such a question is off-topic, too broad, unclear, etc... – goldilocks Dec 3 '15 at 4:14
  • ...This is helping them learn how helping should work, from people who do most of the helping. Which, as I've said above, is ultimately better than ignoring them. I feel bad about it regularly, lol, and I am sure many people have walked away feeling I'm a jerk. That's unfortunate, but while the system here isn't perfect, I think it goes a long way in trying to create a fair and effective environment. – goldilocks Dec 3 '15 at 4:14
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    BTW, something I hate (in places I'm not a mod) is sitting down to answer something I know stands a chance of being closed, but I have a decent answer I can peel off, then halfway through writing it the Q is closed. If that happens to you, don't delete it (I sometimes keep them clipboard saved) and ping me in chat. That kind of thing goes on a lot on other sites and it's a primary purpose for the chat -- so we can discuss what's going on. – goldilocks Dec 3 '15 at 4:21
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Many get referred to https://unix.stackexchange.com/ - this can be intimidating to such users. Maybe we should answer more of these on site and actually use the "Linux" tag.

I completely agree with this.
For most people getting a RPi it is their first experience with Linux, but they see it as something belonging/integral to the RPi. Therefor a referral to another site (even though it is part of stackexchange) will likely been seen as dismissive. To put it in inappropriate language: "Fuck off with your question that should be asked somewhere else, but not here."
How likely do you think (s)he will come here back again?

I also think that a lot of people here can actually answer those linux beginners questions and getting a good/proper/helpful response fast will make it far more likely that they'll come back and/or stick around.

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    Excessive hand-holding creates more problems than it solves. While this may ease someone's anxiety at asking a technical question online, that is an anxiety people need to get over, rather than having other people coddle them. I remember being intimidated by programming forums when I first used them. It is better to learn that "curt" or "frank" != "mean" or "rude" than for everyone to have to start padding comments with, "I hope I am not hurting your feelings, but..." . In this example, it also leads someone down a garden path. They bought an rpi and have never used linux before... – goldilocks Dec 13 '15 at 15:38
  • -- great, but the most important thing they can learn about that is it is not fundamentally different than versions of linux used on desktops, internet servers, supercomputers, etc., that there are many, many sources of information available about it, and that they are cutting off an arm by pretending otherwise. Although being polite and reasonably friendly should always be a priority, it should not compromise the quality of answers. Python programming questions are better off on Stack Overflow. Tackling them all here would not be doing anyone a favour. – goldilocks Dec 13 '15 at 15:38
  • However, as I pointed out in my answer, not all the python or linux questions that could be strictly closed are closed. I am sensitive to the fact that "a lot of people here can actually answer those linux beginners questions" and that having some of them helps to develop the community. But we still need a policy in place to give us the option of drawing a line. – goldilocks Dec 13 '15 at 15:43
  • "it is not fundamentally different than versions of linux used on desktops" very true, but for a lot of ppl, it's their first experience with linux, period. Alerting ppl that replacing 'raspberry pi' with 'debian' would likely result in more/better search results, would be a good thing imo. What do you mean by 'excessive hand-holding'? I'm not advocating for using sugar-coated responses and it wasn't my intention to imply that. – Diederik de Haas Dec 14 '15 at 14:48
  • You might as well start off approaching something the right way. WRT searches, that is very true, and a (not so?) subtle side effect of search engines like google is that the more you search for "raspberry pi" the more likely you will get results involving the pi even when you don't include that. By excessive hand-holding, I meant indulging people's desire to have something explained as if you were a tutor. Sort of like the difference between giving someone directions and actually taking them there. It's nice to be able to take the time to do that, but it should not be expected. – goldilocks Dec 14 '15 at 16:01
  • Then I'm not in favor of hand holding. I prefer learning ppl how to fish than giving them a fish – Diederik de Haas Dec 14 '15 at 16:10
  • Yes, that is exactly it. Steve and I have talked about that principle a lot. – goldilocks Dec 14 '15 at 16:27

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