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Almost one year ago, I had posted my first question on Unix.SE. It is the only question I have to this date, since I have been resolving other questions I have on my own, by googling and/or by doing trials and errors. As such, I tend to ask questions that cannot be easily resolved by googling.

My question is now "closed as too broad". I could guess the reason: The closure is likely due to reaching this revision, which I had added "What answer is expected". My intention was to suggest someone could use one of the schemas based on my findings that I cannot clarify on my own, so that the question might be answered easier. Unfortunately, it was counter-productive.

Last month, I had revised the question to this:

For Linux distributions, which boot loader is used for live CD? If SYSLINUX is indeed most often used, why it is used instead of other boot loaders?

Then I voted once to reopen, but probably had been rejected again.

Perhaps this question falls under curiosity question or historical question that cannot be answered (kind of "It was so-and-so, then why question it?"). For the reason I ask "why", is that we can learn how the subject was being developed, changed and adapted to what we are using today (similar to "the making of" documentaries).

As today, I am giving up the question and about to delete it. But I don't feel like deleting by myself a question that has received over 100 views, 2 upvotes, 0 downvotes and some informative comments. Then again, I don't want to clutter this site with my closed yet unanswered question either.

What should I do with this question? And, if I ever thought of similar historical question that I wanted to know the reason behind it, what is a better way to ask such question?

  • I have now deleted the question for good. – clearkimura Jul 23 '16 at 16:58
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Your original question has several problems. I would recommend you just delete it or try and formalize it into something that's more technical.

Having questions like this is perfectly fine, they're just not a good fit for the primary purpose of stackexchange sites. Most SE sites are focusing on a narrow niche of questions that can be answered with 1 or a few answers.

The nature of your question will drive a lot of answers and most will likely be filled with a lot of opinions and conjecture, which is simply not the intent of the style of questions & answers that SE sites are geared towards.


To your question, often times there is no rhyme or reason as to why a specific technology was chosen, other than:

  • it was easily available
  • familiar to the developers looking to use it
  • offered all the features that the developers were looking for
  • was chosen by 1 ancient project, that future project's derive from or mimic
  • licensing reasons
  • I could go on

Also take a look at the list of Live Linux CD's. Notice that most of them are pooled together and build off of each other. The one that I'm most familiar with, Knoppix, and I believe it to be one of the first to pull live booting off, has a comment in the Wikipedia article titled: List of Live CDs.

A large number of live CDs are based on Knoppix. The list of those is in the derivatives section of the Knoppix article.

Given its lineage it's likely the reason that a predominant number of live CDs use whatever technologies were present in Knoppix.

Whatever the case....

because of these types of reasons leading to potential answers, your original question would just not be a good fit within the SE format.

  • +1 for recommending to delete. I just wanted to make sure that I am deleting something that is agreed to be deleted, not just deliberately removing it without valid reason. – clearkimura Jul 23 '16 at 16:53
  • I am accepting this answer because it has helped clearing my hesitation to delete the unanswered historical question. For one missing part of meta question, I have posted my own answer for future reference. – clearkimura Jul 31 '16 at 20:29
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The earlier answer by @slm had addressed particularly on my deleted question. Just one thing is missing: There was no apparent reply for "what is a better way to ask such question?" part. I think answering the latter part of question is necessary, in case future-me or someone else decided to ask similar questions later.

In the following text, I have included some points to help anyone to justify whether historical questions can be asked or else, as well as whether historical question can have objective answers or not.

Can I ask the question

Yes. Historical questions can be asked to clarify the known facts and usually have some amount of information that could be written into objective answers. Unfortunately, not all facts are well known or properly documented in place. This will bring to the next point.

Can I get the answer

Yes and no. Given that most information could be collected by the Five Ws, the question will likely have an answer and therefore a yes. However, given that limited access to the information due to lack of documentation and publication, the question might not have any answer and therefore a no.

Can I have the answer anyway

May be, as long as the question is not closed and answerable. When existing resources are limited, there are several ways to increase the chance to get the answer. One way is to send a direct enquiry to the developers or the members of the project; Another way is to hope that any user with real experience could explain about the subject.

The following posts on Unix & Linux SE are relevant examples:

As a result, the question may become answerable. That being said, these are not sure-successful ways to get the answer; Both ways depend on whether people are willing to provide information and put that into an appropriate answer. For serious askers, one's willpower and patience are required for finding the answer.

When to delete the question

I had waited for almost a year before I had to give up on my historical question. I had concluded that it was not answerable due to the "lost history" of SYSLINUX (or ISOLINUX to be exact).

To this answered date, this article on Wikipedia had very less information on the history of SYSLINUX. Not even the project page had mentioned anything relevant. The oldest page I found from respective sources were created in 2003 and 2006. In contrast, SYSLINUX supposedly had existed since 1994. The gap spans between 12 and 14 years, which I referred as the "lost history".

If such question had been asked and remained unanswered, one may try rewording the question in other way of relating the subject. Although, historical questions are quite straightforward that leaves very little room to rewording the question.

Then again, if such question had been asked, remained unanswered and then closed, consider to delete the question as recommended by @slm.

A better way to ask

Prior to asking historical questions on this SE site, the subject of interest must be identified and the basic information can be accessed by the public. If some basic information are already missing from beginning, it might be better not to ask here. And if such question is posted anyway, it may be closed for any reason.

So a better way to ask is perhaps, by not asking such question. Keep the question to yourself, then after some time, review and determine whether the question can be answered or else. This way, it is better than directly posting the question here, only to find later closed by the community and yet, disappointed by having no answers.

TL;DR Most historical questions could have objective answers. Lack of basic information indicates that some questions might not be answerable. Perhaps better not to ask such questions in Q&A format; Find other ways or give up instead.

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