In Are some off-topic questions necessary for a healthy community? there's a general discussion of how we should be handling questions that are pretty clearly not RPi-specific. I think the general idea there, that we should lead people (especially beginners) to a short summary of how the question relates to the Pi vs. other systems and where they should go for further help, is great. However, this post is old and I'm not sure to what degree it's been implemented.

In order to understand better how the community wants to handle these things, please explain to me how we should handle the specific question Error connecting to my Raspberry Pi OpenVPN server and the reasoning behind that.

NOTE: I'm actually looking for what you think the ideal action would be with this particular question mentioned above. Should I, for example, go through all the various OpenVPN questions recently asked here, create a "generic" question with an answer that covers the high points of what they asked, and then flag the question here as a duplicate of that? Should we just leave the question as it is and take no further action? Something between the two?

3 Answers 3


I think you handled the question very well. I go so far as to say that your answer is representative of a model StackExchange answer. I hadn't seen it before you linked to it here, so here's a belated +1.

When dealing with beginners, I'm trying to give them more leeway. If it's obvious that they haven't even bothered to google their question (example: How do I use ls?) then I'm more likely to close it.

That being said, I think a lot of users honestly don't know what parts of their question involve Linux, networking, programming, custom hardware, or the RPi. In those cases, I think the best thing to do is to answer the question, and simultaneously explain where to better get help in the future. That still teaches them how to get help, while not leaving such a bad initial impression.

  • Well, my answer happens to be the way it is in part because I've just recently been hacking up a PKI and test framework using OpenSSL. But while it's good for that particular question, I don't really feel I want to take it any further here, and I don't feel I provided any real guidance on where to go next. I guess I'm kinda feeling we really need a generic "OpenVPN Isn't Working" question that would cover a few basics and link to better forums for more detailed questions, and then this question could be marked as a duplicate of that. Does that make sense?
    – cjs
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 5:53

First. I am with Shog9 here: No. Off-topic questions aren't necessary for a healthy community. In a strict sense however I would apply that only to blatantly off-topic questions. Obviously there is a big overlapp of our site to general programming (e.g. many Python related questions we get might be on a Pi but are technically unrelated to the Pi), to *nix in general, and to electrical engineering. If my feeling is that a particular question will get better answers (or any at all) at another dedicated site I am more inclined to leave a comment to the OP to that end and support close votes. If it however got any helpful answers here and there is at least some relation to the Pi I say, keep it here - even if there are potential "dupes" on other sites.

As jacob's answer states it is useful to give beginners some leeway (if reasonable) but also some guidance as how to use StackExchange best... and this includes picking the best site for any given question.

  • So what would you suggest is the ideal course of action with the particular question I pointed out? (I've added a new paragraph at the end of my question to clarify.)
    – cjs
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 9:16
  • 1
    If the question is answered and helpful to the op I would not do anything about it. Keep it.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 13:58

I don't see why people think that question is off-topic. It clearly involves a Raspberry Pi, and without further analysis it's impossible to tell whether the issue is on the RPi side or PC side.

Think about the bulk of the questions we have here. Flashing an SD card with dd or disk imager. Fixing SD card corruption. Setting up network connections. Using iptables to route between two network interfaces. Python or BASH programming. None of this is unique to Raspberry Pi. Unless we want to limit ourselves to tech support of GPIO libraries and VideoCore API, we have to accept such questions, as long as Raspberry Pi is clearly involved.

  • For simple questions that are simply solved, it seems reasonable to answer them here, and I proposed exactly that. But to encourage users to ask more complex OpenVPN questions here, rather looking to forums where there are far more OpenVPN experts and where their questions may already have been answered, seems to me to be doing a disservice to them.
    – cjs
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 16:39
  • @CurtJ.Sampson The user is trying to set up a VPN connection by following a tutorial. How much simpler can a question be? Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 16:44
  • a) A lot simpler, since the question does not have a trivial answer along the lines of, say, this answer or even this one. b) My point is that the tutorial is exactly the same for a non-RPi system, and there has been much more discussion of this and better answers in other StackExchanges.
    – cjs
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 3:13
  • @CurtJ.Sampson I dare say questions which have trivial obvious answers are often poorly researched; if anything, I prefer to have harder questions here. AskUbuntu allows questions about coreutils, apt or xorg which are by no means Ubuntu-specific and often have answers on U&L. I don't see why we need a different policy. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:04
  • So you're saying we should change our policy? It currently says that off-topic questions include "Questions directly related to Linux/Unix issues. Please use the Unix & Linux Exchange."
    – cjs
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 12:08
  • @CurtJ.Sampson Perhaps. This policy is not strictly followed anyway: take cron tag for example. How many questions there are actually RPi-specific? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 12:48

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