This is not necessarily a "specific question" discussion. It's just an example to raise the issue. I'm looking at this question: Good introduction to SubVersion for unexperienced users?

This is a tough one; deciding the scope of your site. This question is about SubVersion... which is running on Unix. The involvement regarding Unix/Linux seems somewhat accidental, but I'm not an expert on the subject. That's why I am asking you.

So, the question becomes... is this a "site about Unix and Linux" or does the scope extend to "Support for Unix/Linux and applications that run on it?"

I have no hesitation about applications where Unix is a large component of the question: i.e. "Is there a Linux Application to burn Blu-ray Discs?"

But what about: "How do I back up my bookmarks in Firefox?" (from a user who just happens to be running Linux)

Think about it and decide what's on topic and what's off topic regarding application questions. I'll leave it up to you guys. And keep an eye out for similar border-lining questions and bring up these discussions in meta early in your beta.

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    I made a proposal that would allow us to make questions like these more offtopic as there'd be a better place to go. Aug 22, 2010 at 8:10

5 Answers 5


SO has a similar concern; Subversion and other VCS questions are accepted there because they tend to be used by programmers, even though there's nothing programming-specific about the question; the procedure for updating an SVN repo doesn't change if the repo contains code versus if it contains some other non-programming-related data. Vim/Emacs questions tend to be allowed for the same reason, even if the question has nothing to do with the programming aspects of those editors.

I think a decent way to decide is to ask if the question has the same answers if you take Unix/Linux out of it:

  • Good introduction to SubVersion for unexperienced users? There are minor platform-dependent things one might care about when using Subversion, but a general "I have no idea how to use it, what are the commands to checkout a repo" question is exactly the same under another OS, so this probably belongs on SO or SU
  • Is there a Linux Application to burn Blu-ray Discs? Definitely, the answers are totally different if the question becomes "Is there a Windows application to burn Blu-ray discs?". Whether that counts as an "advanced user" question as per the FAQ ("Unix and Linux - Stack Exchange is for advanced users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems.") is another discussion, but it passes this test
  • How do I back up my bookmarks in Firefox? Apart from finding the .mozilla folder, this is exactly the same procedure on other OSes, so it probably belongs on SU
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    So an acid test might be, "If you would get the same answer with ANY operating system, it's probably off topic?" Interesting. Aug 13, 2010 at 18:26
  • TBH that subversion question probably would get the same answer with any operating system, because most answers will lead back to the official, free online, book. Aug 16, 2010 at 4:21
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    I'm active on SO, and on many questions I ask myself if the answers would be significantly different on a SO-like site for accountants. If the answer is "no", I vote to close. Sep 2, 2010 at 16:30
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    This isn't the route the site finally took — if you're using unix, the question is on-topic, and you don't need to know whether your question would also apply to other systems. Mar 22, 2014 at 20:38

The most upvoted answer here concludes that if an application also exists on Windows, then questions about it are off-topic. However, this is not the stance that the site adopted. As it says in our FAQ: being cross-platform does not disqualify.

Any question about Unix/Linux is welcome here (as long as it's answerable in the Stack Exchange format, i.e. clear, not too broad, etc.), except for programming questions (which belong on Stack Overflow.

If you're using Linux or other unix variant, and you have a question about an application, then you're welcome to post here. You don't need to care, or indeed know, whether this application is also available on Windows, Android or VMS.


I honestly felt when I saw this question that it would be better served on SO (and probably already has been). However, I can think of many VCS questions which would belong here, and I don't mind questions asking for how to links.

One question that would belong here is, "How do I track [Directory, /home, /etc] with [VCS, git, svn]. Which definitely doesn't belong on SO, and is very *nix dependant.


I am seeing the Unix & Linux SE as a very open site for Unix/Linux related questions.

For example, if you talk about Linux you mean sometimes only the Kernel or other times all the stuff a Linux distribution provides.

Or some guy has as definition of some Unix as 'the Unix' kernel plus all the applications which are standardized in POSIX.

And a Linux/Unix user probably doesn't really care, if subversion works pretty much the same on Windows. It is still ontopic here, and nobody get's confused here with some windows-cargo-cult answer to an application specific question or something like that.

Even regarding the Firefox bookmarking example - perhaps there are only ways to backup ff bookmarks which are cross-plattform - but perhaps not, perhaps there is some very clever/special way how to do it on Unix - but the author of the question can't know this a priori.

Keep in mind that a relevance discussion towards Exclusionism has the potential to scare off people, e.g. like in the German Wikipedia, where new authors fear evil deletion-request-fanatics.


I'd say that it largly depend on how tied the application is connected with Unix. I.e.

  • Part of *nix (i.e. POSIX, SUS, LSB...) or*nix specific: ls/sh/ps/hal/burning apps/... (Definitly yes)
  • Not unix specific tools but noone is practically using it outside (and those using it outside are *nix geeks anyway): vim/emacs/... (IMHO yes but overlaps with SU)
  • Not unix specific servers even if they are connected with *nix: Apache/ngnix/... (IMHO no - SF is correct place)
  • Not unix specific tools/servers and used widely outside: Definitly no

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