101

It's well-known that we have a quality problem in the tag. Some statistics corroborate this perception (though not to the extent that I'd expected):

  • 16.4% of the questions have a negative score, compared with 3% for the site as a whole.
  • 39.6% of the questions have a score ≤ 0, compared with 27% for the site as a whole.
  • 21.9% have no answer, compared with 15.8% for the site as a whole.
  • 21.9% of non-closed question have no answer, compared with 15.6% for the site as a whole.
  • 7% are closed (excluding duplicates), compared with 3.5% for the site as a whole.
  • 2.4% are closed as duplicates, compared with 4.2% for the site as a whole.

There isn't a flood of Kali questions, mind you. About 1.3% of the recently asked questions are (that's the rate for 2017 as a whole as well as for August and for September, rounded to the nearest 0.1%), excluding deleted questions (can a mod please edit in figures that account for deleted questions?).

In chat, several regulars have said that they largely ignore Kali questions. (Personally, I don't ignore the tag, but I tend to skip the questions without reading them.) It seems that many Kali questions are a bad thing for answerers. And I suspect that they're also a bad thing for askers, because all too often, we aren't helping them.

What should we do about Kali questions?

  • 10
    I just give them this link: https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/399627/256455 - your answer here is actually a really good answer – John D Oct 22 '17 at 1:06
  • I'm not sure where you got all the statistics (SEDE?), but based on current search results, 33 [kali-linux] posts were deleted in September out of 467 posts deleted in September total (7.1%), 33 deleted in August out of 541 total (6.1%), and 417 deleted so far in 2017 out of 5412 total (7.7%) – Michael Mrozek Oct 22 '17 at 4:43
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    As a side note: why is Kali Linux so popular among the general (including the non-linux using) populace? – Tobia Tesan Oct 22 '17 at 12:52
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    So few? I'd have said that 4 in 5 kali-linux questions are massively downvoted and closed. – dr01 Oct 22 '17 at 12:52
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    @TobiaTesan We noticed a similar problem on Stack Overflow a while ago. Our best guess: publicity from Mr. Robot. – duskwuff Oct 22 '17 at 22:56
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    @TobiaTesan Yes, a large part of the Kali user base (or should I say wannabe user base) are noobs who saw Mr. Robot and want to feel like r34l h4xx0rs. So they try to install Kali, fail miserably, ask clueless questions on SE and get flamed. – dr01 Oct 23 '17 at 7:13
  • OK, so, questions like Kali rolling vs kali sana repository. Is that where we point to the new canonical question? – Mr Lister Oct 23 '17 at 7:31
  • 5
    @dr01 remember that downvoted questions eventually get deleted, and disappear from the stats — this happens to a lot of Kali questions. – Stephen Kitt Oct 23 '17 at 14:04
  • @StephenKitt, I thought 10K+ users could see deleted questions? Can we see them but not search them, or what? – Wildcard Oct 25 '17 at 0:58
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    @Wildcard 10K+ users can see deleted questions if they have a link to them, but they don’t appear in lists of questions, and they can’t be searched (you can search your own deleted posts using “deleted:1”, but that’s it AFAIK). They don’t appear in statistics either. – Stephen Kitt Oct 25 '17 at 8:08
  • @StephenKitt I thought deleted questions were still counted in the stats. Now this makes sense. – dr01 Oct 27 '17 at 7:07
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    I see oldies don't want to help others in Kali. Their most common tool - you don't know Kali so it is not for you. Learn Ubuntu etc then come here. Not everyone like to study everything before doing practical. Also, learn and practice is also a thing many enjoy. But experts here dont want to share anything but give -ve mark in case of Kali. I think, it happen when any specialization comes. People does not like to share easily in that case. – Satya Prakash Oct 29 '17 at 9:28
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    @Satya If you pay me I'll help you with what you want (but I'll still advise you not to start with Kali since you would be paying me to give you good advice). If you aren't paying me, I am entitled to ignore you. When we tell you not to start with Kali, we are helping you. If you refuse to listen, that's your problem. – Gilles Oct 29 '17 at 11:11
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    @SatyaPrakash People do share Kali answers just as much as PHP and so on. If you can't understand the answers… well, there's your problem. – Gilles Oct 30 '17 at 20:04
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    @satyaPrakash. I believe the point of this forum is to help people. Most of the questions under discussion come from new Linux users and Kali presents more problems to a new user than, say, Ubuntu. I feel that new users would learn the basics of Linux, and go on to competent use of Kali and its tools, faster if they didn't jump too far up the learning curve at the start. The most constructive advice for any wannabe "penetration testers" is probably to install the Kali tools in [Ubuntu] (askubuntu.com/questions/558679/…) – bu5hman Nov 9 '17 at 15:42
86

We've often talked in the chat about having a “reference question” telling people not to use Kali Linux. Well, here's my proposal. Edits welcome, but please keep the gist unless we decide on meta that this isn't the advice we want to give as a community.

Note that I do not propose systematically closing Kali questions! Each question should be judged on its merit. But when people are clearly in way over their head and they've asked a question with the usual novice problems (unclear because they didn't explain what they were doing, they didn't copy-paste error messages, they didn't provide relevant information about their system, etc.), we could close it as a duplicate of this advice-giving question rather than letting the question rot with zero answers and zero comments or closing it as unclear.

  • 10
    If there was a Community Service badge, you just earned it. – jasonwryan Oct 22 '17 at 2:15
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    I’m not (yet) sure that we should treat Kali questions specially. If they ask an unclear question it should be closed as unclear. They can then —themselves— decide to improve it or let it rot. IMHO closing as a dupe to “you’re in over your head” isn’t actually helpful as a solution to whatever particular problem they’re having – Jeff Schaller Oct 22 '17 at 2:43
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    @jasonwryan, Actually I think Gilles earned that Community Service Badge quite a while ago. But this certainly continues that tradition, and gives the rest of us something to aspire to. – Stephen Rauch Oct 22 '17 at 3:30
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    I saw your proposed question/answer and was tempted to down vote it as a display of why the asker was getting the help they deserved before I followed the link here. I like your idea of a having reference question but can I suggest you edit it slightly to indicate that is what it is, as currently it still looks like a legitimate whine. – Paul Smith Oct 22 '17 at 12:05
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    @JeffSchaller If we close as unclear, we aren't helping them: they just find that nobody answers what they think is a perfectly fine question. My hope is that instead of doing that, we'll convey the message: use another distribution! – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 13:07
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    I find myself in large agreement with you, until we get to the poorly-asked Kali question ("in over their head", "unclear because they didn't explain", "didn't paste error messages or relevant information") -- those are classic "VTC as unclear" for every other type of question here. I don't see a real difference in the amount of (direct, actual) help provided by VTC as a duplicate that says "don't do that" versus VTC as "we don't understand you". Is there a benefit to the site overall between VTC-duplicate and VTC-unclear? – Jeff Schaller Oct 22 '17 at 20:39
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    @JeffSchaller To the site, not really. To the asker, yes: it gives them a solution. Granted, it may be a solution that they aren't willing to accept, but it's a solution that would work in most cases. Closing as unclear doesn't give a solution. The people who ask this kind of crap question are largely incapable of reading the closure message and figuring out how to write a better question, let alone figure out that they need to read the documentation. – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 20:42
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    I think I'm on the same page; I "worry" that we'll get too many knee-jerk VTC-dupes for any/all Kali questions, based on their poor history, but I don't know that I'll be saving many Good Questions, so I'm not going to fight for them. – Jeff Schaller Oct 22 '17 at 20:45
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    @Gilles - well you certainly tricked me in thinking your question was a genuine one just after I woke up and I even gave a general answer to it from the mobile app, thinking that you were a newbie. I think - if a person wants to learn, to overcome their difficulties that is the aspect to be encouraged. Probably interest in Kali will wane as it started. No reason really to treat those as questions very different to other linux questions IMHO. It is good that you are worried about rotting questions with 0 answers though. – r0berts Oct 23 '17 at 11:32
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    I've updated the kali-linux tag with a link to Gilles' canonical answer. – Anthony Geoghegan Oct 24 '17 at 15:17
30

Listening to my fellow networking security classmates from years back, when it was still called BackTrack Linux, I can fully understand this phenomenon. It's somewhat anecdotal, but Kali Linux is seen as the "Swiss army knife" of Linux, and if you haven't installed it yet you aren't cool.

Meanwhile I had been using Debian for years, and around that time was learning how to use Arch Linux. The types of people interested in it expect it to unlock the powers of jujitsu without any rigor of actually understanding Linux. It was like the secret to becoming a nerd quickly without all the fuss.

To that end it may not be particularly useful to tell such askers not to use Kali.. because they want to (say they) use Kali. We'd be better off making "Kali - Script Kiddies Edition" with a Ubuntu installer.

I think to some degree this is the nature of this userbase and simply put fewer of those questions will get answered. I do not think there should be any special response to questions that simply aren't researched or well written. Those should be handled like any other question that isn't well written.

On the other hand there's a special place in my heart for Linux noobs and those newly interested in Linux and I tend to pick up on questions that are simply misinformed rather than poorly written. I do believe that Kali is a vector for getting people interested in Linux as a whole. So that again argues for not telling all these users "your question is irrelevant you were wrong the moment you decided to use Kali Linux."

I think a three step filter should be applied:

  1. If the question isn't well researched, close it.
  2. If Kali isn't being used for its intended purpose, refer to Gilles answer.
  3. If the user is struggling because they are in over their head, then here we need to question the purpose of this site.

If this site is to help all users of Linux and Unix do what they want to, then we should just try our best to answer those questions. If we want to be more like teachers or guides then we should point such users away from Kali and toward a more suitable Linux distribution first. The latter might be hard considering that many Kali users use it because of the name alone.

(I'm new to this site and to Meta. But I figured I'd participate since I have somewhat unique knowledge on the subject.)

  • 1
    Yes, this is exactly the perspective I was coming from when giving my answer to the original question :) (that I mistook for an actual newbie question); my poor answer - which does give a practical advice - now probably can compete for the most downvotes. If the question is if decent quality it should be answered at face value instead of telling not to use Kali. – r0berts Oct 25 '17 at 21:05
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    Kali is more the Swiss Army Chainsaw of Linux -- it provides a half-dozen ways to cut your leg off if you don't know what you're doing. – Mark Dec 29 '17 at 2:07
  • @Mark Or rather like a surgeon laser scalpel -- very good at what it does. Only, you don't use it every day, and surely not to open a bottle of wine or cut a sandwich. – dr01 Sep 28 '18 at 11:53
22

What should we do about Kali questions?

I think we should treat them just like questions for any other distribution, perhaps with extra warnings in the tag excerpt and wiki. Just a quick reminder that we voted to allow Kali questions as on-topic here (pushed over from Ask Ubuntu), given that they applied the Kali tag. I try to re-tag questions that "forget" to include the tag.

We have the occasional "good" (not close-worthy) Kali question; it could receive answers just like any other good question. The fact that the tag is ignored by high-rep users is an unfortunate side effect of the poor Kali questions.

If we (and we do!) get poor questions, then they should be downvoted and/or closed as unclear, just like any other Stack Exchange question.

I can imagine two categories of poor Kali questions:

  1. "I can't play $GAME on my fourth monitor" -- using Kali for its unintended purposes.

  2. "I tried to follow these instructions but it didn't work" -- using Kali for its intended purposes, but leaving out key details.

I see the existing answer as a possible close-target for the first type, although I still feel weird telling someone that the answer to "X" is "don't do X". A part of me would almost feel better leaving such a question unanswered (despite my desire to provide answers in general), as it's a flag to future askers that perhaps such a thing is not possible.

Certainly the second category deserves the normal VTC as unclear; and if the person comes back with elaboration to the point of being answerable, then I don't think we should close it as "don't do that" a duplicate.

I suppose what I'm talking myself into here is caution in closing every new Kali question as a duplicate of "don't use Kali"; rather, only questions that are clearly deviating from the "normal" Kali usage.

It's also my opinion that we could add some extra verbiage to the tag (in the hopes that anyone reads it) that warns askers that we expect a higher level of expertise to show through in their questions, given that they're using a special purpose-built distribution. Much of the existing answer could be extended into the tag's wiki.

  • 5
    My answer was indeed intended for type 1 questions. Most of the bad Kali questions are of this type. People who are seriously doing or learning pentesting tend to have a clue and ask decent questions. This question should not be mentioned, let alone used as a duplicate target, on questions where the asker isn't suffering due to his bad choice of distribution. – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 20:39
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    A mention in the tag wiki is not useful at all for clueless askers. Only people with a lot of SE experience read tag wikis. Tag wikis are useful to list common duplicate targets, for example — things that experienced users look for. They aren't useful to list information that novices look for. – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 20:40
13

IMO the flood of questions is not being per se about kali questions; it is just that a large number of questions about kali are badly formed, and most are a rush job from inexperienced users/people with bad work ethics.

Most are just inexperienced users not wanting to invest time in investigating the OS, and furthermore not wanting to take time writing a proper answer (or often not even wanting to lose time with requests for improving the question). They also seem to have unrealistic expectations wanting/hoping to have the maximum return/investment of time in an answer from elements of our community.

I also do not quite understand why is it that kali attracts so many users of that kind. Is it a regional thing? Without having access to the country of the OP, we cannot tell.

What it also must surely be, is people using it as a framework in security course/hacking tutorials, and not having the tools/background to further customise kali, and then wanting quick answers without investing time.

As far as I can tell, the kali/TP-Link/realtek flood of bad questions could be more of a symptom than a cause. Contrary to other forums, there is very little investment on creating new users/posting questions here, for better or for worse. For instance, I have come across forums where you have a 24h cooling off period when creating a new user.

That said, a reference question to point when needing to close kali questions for being out of topic seems a brilliant idea.

  • 2
    Similar counterpoint to Gilles’ Answer, though: the questions may be on-topic; in fact, the tag was created here, and advice given (at AU?) so that they could be asked here. I don’t see them as off-topic, but rather poorly-asked, which already has a close-reason. – Jeff Schaller Oct 22 '17 at 11:26
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    "I also do not quite understand why is it that kali attracts so many users of that kind.": From my personal experience it is often along the lines of "Because Kali is a security-focused system while Windows is insecure (and Kali has a cool logo)". Sad, I know, but this explains things... – WhiteWinterWolf Oct 22 '17 at 22:58
8

I stand ready to be flamed for this but here goes........

First of all I need to say I agree with @Gilles post Why is Kali....etc but I think something is missing.

It seems true that many of the 'poor quality' Kali questions come from new Linux users who are quite simply out of their depth. They've seen a cool movie or something about 'hacking' and think its as simple as

  1. Install Kali,
  2. Type msfconsole
  3. Take over the world.

Naive to say the least, but the thing that I get from this is that new (or current Windows) users have been motivated to try Linux by the apparent potential of the tools bundled with Kali.

What I get from some of the (on occasion slightly toxic) reactions I see posted to admittedly poor Kali questions, is that these potential Linux users are going turn away because of a frosty reception and drift back to the Windows herd.

Mooooooo.

If these people came to Linux because one of our distros has been made more 'glamorous' by virtue of the potential of the tools it contains then shouldn't we use that to draw them in to our loving community for keeps?

For what it's worth my version of @Gilles post would be short, sweet and along these lines......

If you are inexperienced with Linux and are installing Kali in order to use the tools it contains then you may find it a complex and difficult task with little support for inexperienced users among the relatively small (and mostly professional) Kali user base.

If this applies to you then you will find it easier to install another Debian distribution (such as Ubuntu) and then follow the existing posts, tutorials and queries on the appropriate forums (again, such as Ask Ubuntu) which will help you install and learn to use the main Kali tools (airmon, jtr, crunch, hashcat, nmap/zenmap, metasploit, armitage etc) in an easier to use environment.

Once you have gained experience in using Linux then you will be in a better position to perform a full Kali install, if you need to.

Put them back in their depth, in a place they will find the help they need but keep the motivation alive.

The fact of the matter is that most of these users will find that using Kali tools to 'hack' is not as easy as they think and will very quickly tire of trying to brute force a 16 random character WPA2 hash to get onto the neighbours' wi-fi.

When they do give up, old Mr & Mrs Jones next door will be safe again; the NSA can move their van from the street outside; dreams of a server with the new Silk Road site in the spare room have evaporated in the cold light of day; but they will be left with a functional Linux system and opt to stay with us.

That's what I would like to do with the people who ask poor quality Kali questions.

-5

The underlying premise of most objections to Kali questions seems to be that a user should (or must) first become adept at coping with bootup troubles from balky graphics cards on a stripped-down Debian, (i.e. Kali Linux), before they can use this dangerous power tool or maybe they'll break the internet because they can't even set up a graphics card.

But hardware graphics and computer networks are separate specialties that employ different skillsets:

  • A user who's bad at hardware graphics might have a knack for for networking, and might help fix the internet even though they can't set up a graphics card.

  • A user skilled at setting up hardware graphics might have no talent for networking, and might be botching things left and right -- and playing the role of gatekeeper to boot, locking out people who might be able to help them.

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    I don't understand what point you're trying to make or what this has to do with the question. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 17:00
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    The low quality questions rarely have any useful information nor show that the poster even tried to troubleshoot their issues themselves before posting (a camera photo of stuck boot process or compiler garbage). Regardless if they are skilled in something else or not doesn't matter, if they can not write up a question that anyone can provide an useful enough answer to. Overall, I'd say some troubleshooting skills and background knowledge are required if one tries to do something not officially supported (or something nobody has documented a working solution/guide elsewhere). – sebasth Nov 22 '17 at 17:44
  • @sebasth, Re "if they are skilled ... doesn't matter": Elvis Presley and Louis Armstrong were great musicians and made some good records, but couldn't read music. Requirements and prejudice can stifle culture. – agc Nov 22 '17 at 18:07
  • It is irrelevant if the question is completely impossible to decipher (and people here are not psychics either as far as I know) or if the poster does not show any effort of solving their issue before posting. Asking for learning material is off-topic here. The Q&A format is not good for step-by-step tech support for trying to pinpoint out what the poster's actual issue is and there are plenty of other sites which people could try to get help instead. – sebasth Nov 23 '17 at 23:07
  • (cont.) Sometimes people try to provide help in comments. If an already closed question is edited to contain clear enough problem it can be re-opened (and if it is recent question it should appear in re-open review queue automatically). – sebasth Nov 23 '17 at 23:09
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    @sebasth, Agreed that indecipherable questions are useless, and that step-by-step tutoring is a bad fit here. But video config Qs needn't be indecipherable nor must they invariably require step-by-step tutoring. It's not the topic that makes such questions bad. – agc Nov 24 '17 at 2:49

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