I would like to know how to handle questions that primarily ask if someone exists who knows the answer to some secondary question, or questions that primarily ask for who could answer a secondary question.


  • Does anyone know how to install xyz under Labamba X.Y?
  • Who knows how to install xyz under Labamba X.Y

Since I know how to install xyz on my Labamba X.Y system, the answer to the first question is "Yes" and the to the second "I do". That doesn't result in a good Q&A pair for this site, as it doesn't help other people much.

I often assume that the OP is more interested in the answer to the question "How can I install xyz under Labamba X.Y?", but that is not what is being asked. The OP of course might be genuinely interested in whether knowledgeable people exists or even looking for the names of people to hire as consultants. Both of which would make the question off topic for this site. And sometimes there is so little context to tip the balance that I am not comfortable to just change the meaning of the question.

Should we educate our users not to ask these kind of questions? And if so, what is the best way to do so? Edit them to make the secondary question the primary? Voting to close the question as off-topic (and hoping the OP gets the hint)? Commenting on the questions that the OP should improve the question with a link to an answer¹ to this question? Extending the help and point to that in a comment? Extend the list of close options? Write a comment "Yes there are such people" (a sarcastic comment, some might not understand as criticism).

¹ Maybe some answers can be formulated in away that reading it provides help for "offenders", automatically assuming agreement that this is a problem that should be addressed. I would then suggest to use the answer with most upvotes as a link in the comment.

  • 1
    IMHO teaching people to use exact language is off-topic here. Most people on the site understand what question the OP intended to ask and answer it. If it does bother you, edit the question, but please don't flood the comments with meta discussions.
    – Philippos
    Jul 3, 2017 at 14:59
  • I enjoy it when a customer will ask me, "Is it possible to do such-n-such?" and my answer (under my breath) is, "YES, of course it's possible -- how much are you willing to PAY?"
    – UncaAlby
    Oct 10, 2017 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


Questions like:

Does anyone know how to install xyz` under Labamba X.Y?

are about the capabilities of certain people and are off-topic on this site. So are questions, asking for names of people being able to help:

Who knows how to install xyz under Labamba X.Y?

Such questions are inappropriate for this site as they are not about Unix&Linux administration directly. They can be answered by "Yes" or "No", resp. by giving someone’s name, not very helpful for U&L administration. Such questions should be closed or moved to the U&L meta site.

If you want to know about how to "install xyz under Labamba X.Y" then just ask:

How do I install xyz under Labamba X.Y?

along with specifying what you tried; why you think that should have worked; what went wrong; and which error messages you received.

  • 1
    I think this should go to the FAQ or any other location which is likely to be read by a first-time poster.
    – lgeorget
    Jul 30, 2014 at 9:38
  • 1
    @lgeorget that is certainly a good idea as well, but from reviews I got the impression there are quite a few first-timers who look at other posts as an example and never bother with reading the FAQ.
    – Anthon
    Jul 30, 2014 at 11:11
  • 1
    hmm, that's true. Then, let's go the good old way: editing questions and leaving a comment pointing to this answer. :-)
    – lgeorget
    Jul 30, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    Well, for a moment, I thought that all the wordings are identical. But in fact they weren't. The "Who knows..." and "Does anyone..." questions usually have research effort equal to zero. The only post content you will read in these "questions" will be "I have tried in vain, and it doesn't work. Can you help?". But only in the "How do I..." questions, you will find out about what the asker actually tried to do and what the results (albeit negative) were like. Aug 26, 2014 at 10:41
  • The example question in the site Tour asks "Is there a different way to proceed?". Does this not fall into a similar category too? Should we not just edit the new questions and remove / alter the question phrase? Oct 27, 2014 at 10:16
  • 1
    @geedoubleya That is similar, although asking "Can someone" might actually be an investigation for hiring experts. I often just edit the question, but sometimes (when I haven't had enough coffee yet), I try to point out the problematic phrasing of the question and hope it might educate the OP. I am still waiting for "Is there anyone who can tell me if there is a different way to ..." ;-)
    – Anthon
    Oct 27, 2014 at 10:25
  • Agreed, especially if they have > 100 rep... Oct 27, 2014 at 10:28

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