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The title's a bit of a joke and this is perhaps not appropriate to meta but I'm throwing it in (shoot me).

I just spend several hours (most of the morning, actually) adding to this answer on a closed question (the addition starts with [Post OP Revision], -- make sure to scroll down because the first part is not relevant). I'm not debating the closed status (I voted that way). However, it's a particular kind of question where I'm always wishing I had some external resource to refer to,1 but have never seen anything that comes sufficiently close to what I'd like to say, and what I'd like to say is just too much to pack into an answer particularly since these kinds of questions are opinion based and should be discouraged.

So occasionally I go ahead and do it anyway on the premise that one day in the future I'm going to gather that material together (hopefully these aren't deleted, lol) and put it online and then I will have an external reference,2 and will hopefully never again have to spend hours trying to explain all this, because I have a polished, canonical version of my own thoughts on the matter.

That resource would would be, in part, an explication of the modular and heterogeneous nature of linux and linux distributions, which is something I've worked on in other questions and is a relatively concrete, objective topic. All by itself, however, I don't think that is sufficient, and the answer I've referred to here is perhaps the other half of the picture.

I'm looking for some feedback, first and foremost WRT inaccuracies (i.e., if you have time, read through and point them out). But TBH I don't think there's much of that. What I'm also looking for is opinions with regard to what is most contentious.3 The reason for that is I do NOT want to write a manifesto, meaning I don't want it to be about what I think the "linux world" should be ideally, I want it to be about what it actually is (and what it is not). Finally, I think a lot of people will be copacetic and positive feedback and suggestions/references4 from the like-minded would be terrific.

I'm asking here partially because the original question is closed and should remain so, and perhaps there is something that can come out of this providing a benefit to U&L.


1. As in, "Go read this if you want to understand what's wrong with your question."

2. I know slm already does this albeit with more technical material, which I think is great.

3. Contentious perhaps because they are not usually framed explicitly? I'm thinking of stuff like (with emphasis added):

  • "distros which parallel Redhat tend to be behind the times by a year or so [...] sort of pointless [...] in the context of a single computer owned and operated by you for you, any problems resulting from not standing back far enough from the present are probably easily rectified"

  • "Contemporary linux is what it is and two of the things I consider shining traits -- heterogeneity and transparency -- have a side effect, namely, it takes a much greater degree of technical proficiency to use effectively than say, OSX."

  • "unlike with commercial products, the authors of the software may not have much incentive to get you to use or understand it. If you have problems using it, there's no reason it should matter to them at all."

  • "it is easy to regard the system from an end user perspective as essentially the same kind of thing as a proprietary OS. This is a mistake, not because I think you need to care about FOSS ideology, but because there are some substantial pragmatic differences..."

  • "As a linux user, YOU are part of the project to a much greater extent than the average user of the big proprietary OS's [...not] because I think that a sense of community is a nice thing [...but] because the project requires work and you need to see yourself as part of that work (rather than as a consumer of it) [...] pragmatically speaking."

  • "Switching distros out of frustration is giving up; I've done it, and in the long run I don't think it accomplishes much beyond soothing the momentary anger [...] Eventually you have to sit down and accept that if you want something your way you may have to do it yourself."

4. Eric S. Raymond springs to mind, although TBH I haven't actually read the book.

  • Please don't use answers on U&L as scratchpads for a book/blog of yours. You're creating a broken window & putting it in the spotlight with all your edits. If the question is sufficiently detailed to be answered, it should be re-opened (a mod un-CW'd it after all). If you plan on releasing some of that on the U&L blog I'm sure discussing that content here would be fine too. Or post your draft somewhere and discuss it in chat. – Mat Mar 5 '14 at 18:45
  • @Mat Point taken. I'm not sure what you mean by "broken window" -- if it's the fact the answer is in two parts, the first answering the question as it was originally and the second with revisions made by the OP, that seems like a subjective call -- unless you want to request enforceable rules around this, in which case someone has to police questions which feature "revisions". Not a good practice, I agree; but I was simply responding to that in a positive way. I.e., it was not simply a "scratchpad for a book/blog", and the OP did indicate in comments s/he appreciated the additional advice... – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:28
  • ...In short: I see stuff here written in a form or style I do not like, but I respect it takes a plurality of voices. We could make up more rules to corral everyone into a more specific vision, but IMO that's the wrong way to go. So while I empathize with your opinion, I'll stand behind what I've done in the original question. However, if you think this question is inappropriate to meta, I will delete without hard feelings ;) – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:31
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    I'm talking about the Broken windows theory - by providing answers to off-topic questions, you're making it more likely people will continue asking them, and use your answers as arguments as to why they should post that sort of question here. The fact that your answers are high quality (content and form) only makes it "worse" in terms of keeping the site's (and SE's) topic/"rules" clear. – Mat Mar 6 '14 at 14:35
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    @Mat Ok. I agree in general, although WRT to the this specific topic ("What distro?") I don't believe anything will stop people asking about it, since they are usually people who aren't very familiar with S.E. I agree providing an opinion based answer ("Arch is the best!") encourages it. Part of my thesis here though, is that an answer explaining why the question is inappropriate (ala the first part) is not a bad thing. Occasionally there are people that I think really cannot see how something is opinion-based, so this seems like a zealous and arbitrary exercise of authority to them. – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:47
  • "I don't believe anything will stop people asking about it" - agreed. But the more posts of that type that we have visible on the site, the more likely people will find them and ask their own. Telling people succinctly why we don't take this sort of question takes a couple sentences in a comment (on top of the close vote). Details about the reasons belong in the help center or here, not on the main site. – Mat Mar 6 '14 at 15:12
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Although I admire your effort, IMHO the reason to put a question on hold (it is not closed as of this moment) as "primarily opinion based" is to prevent "primarily opinion based" answers.

That doesn't mean that such answers are not appreciated by the OP of the question, nor that they might or might not help the OP or other people, it just means they are not deemed appropriate for the Q&A form that was chosen for the StackOverflow/StackExchange sites¹.

¹I am seriously considering whether proposing a feature change is appropriate. One that disallows editing of answers to questions that are on hold/closed; only allows removal of answers to questions that are on hold/closed (even if selected as accepted answer); disallowing voting on answers to closed questions (maybe below a certain rep); and/or not reward points for any (up) votes

  • I think what the grey area I'm trying to elaborate is providing people with more of an explanation as to why a particular kind of opinion based question (this one falls into an obvious category vis. "What distro?") is opinion based. Most people are generally ok and get the point, but some people seem legitimately unable to understand how asking about distros is opinion-based when they are also sold the idea that there are substantial objective differences between them. – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:38
  • My specific point is that this is because those differences are actually superficial, making it difficult to claim any one it really better than another for a given purpose. – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:38
  • I agree, BTW, that closed question should have more restrictions, e.g., no more voting. Stopping edits I think may cause more problems than it solves. Clearly I abused that potential in this case (and I offer all this as an excuse), but remember: closed Q&As are not deleted Q&As and should be correctable (via edits) if necessary. I'm now thinking it might be useful to write a self-answered question addressing the topic, have it closed, then in the future use it as a duplicate. Or just have a question, "Why is such and such opinion based?" – goldilocks Mar 6 '14 at 14:54
  • I think I understand what you mean and what you are trying to do. It is just my understanding that Unix & Linux is not the right place for the questions, and therefore not for the answers. ( this is a copy of the no longer editable, and now deleted comment), that missed a crucial not). – Anthon Mar 7 '14 at 6:54

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