Most of my SE experience comes from Stack Overflow, which is... somewhat unforgiving of off-topic posts. I took a look at U&L's help center before referring someone here from Super User, and was surprised to see this comment about cross-posting and potentially off-topic posts:

If you're not sure if your question is on-topic, ask on meta or just give it a try and the community will decide.

To me, this seems to imply that posting a possibly off-topic question is just as acceptable as asking about it on meta. I checked the "What topics can I ask about here?" sections of multiple other Stack Exchange sites' help centers, and didn't find any similar phrasing. It seems a bit too encouraging of the "meh, I'll just ask and let someone else fix it if it's wrong" mentality that we want to discourage on the SE network.

Is the U&L community a bit more forgiving of off-topic questions since the scopes of U&L, Ask Ubuntu, and Super User may be confusing to new users, or should it be changed? Am I just reading too much into a small phrase?

2 Answers 2


Uhm, I have to admit I'd never noticed that. While I agree with Stephen's answer, I'm guessing that text is from way back when the site first got started and we had a lower volume of questions. Personally, I'm leaning towards removing that suggestion and making the text read:

If you're not sure if your question is on-topic, ask on meta.

I don't see much benefit in urging people to post things that may be off topic. I'll take upvotes to this answer as meaning people agree that the text should be modified.

  • Yes, let's go for that, and see if we end up with more questions on meta that need migrating to the main site ;-). Dec 8, 2016 at 10:00
  • Oh damn, I hadn't even thought of that!
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 8, 2016 at 10:08

I don't spend much time on SO, so I can't really compare. We do close quite a few questions (for Unix.SE of course — the scale is rather different on SO) — over the last 30 days, we closed nearly 20% of the questions asked, and “off-topic” questions account for nearly 20% of the questions closed (so nearly 4% total).

We tend not to edit questions to make them on-topic, so I don't think this sets up the expectation in the long run that people can just ask anything and let others fix their question. At least, people who set out with that expectation will have it quickly adjusted!

I do think this is representative of two aspects of Unix.SE:

  • we like specific questions, so instead of asking on Meta whether a certain type of question is on-topic, it's easier just to ask the question — that will effectively result in a more specific Meta question (albeit not on Meta — the implied “is this question on-topic?” asked of any question on the site); if it's off-topic, we'll know exactly, and if it's on-topic, we've saved one step in the answering process;

  • we're quite a welcoming community, and I get the impression we'd rather have new users err on the side of asking rather than worrying about how their question will be received (although sometimes I think many of us would like more users to search for themselves, but that's a general problem we can't solve here).

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