As far as I can tell from the FAQs, questions about:

  • unix desktop systems can be asked on SuperUser,
  • unix servers can be asked on ServerFault,
  • Android can be asked on android.stackexchange.com

So why the need for another Stack Exchange site covering these areas?

Or to put it another way, what is the problem to which this is the solution? I'm asking this in earnest, since I'm becoming increasingly confused about how to infer, before posting, which Stack Exchange site will be accepting of, or hostile to, any given question. I don't want to step on people's toes, but nor do I want my questions slapped down for reasons that seem to me to be based on extremely narrow interpretations of broad guidelines.

Does anyone else feel that the increasing ghettoisation of Stack Exchange is making it less user friendly?


This has been discussed on the main meta, so you might want to poke around there. Technically we're a subset of SU, since they're a wildly generic site that allows any hardware/software questions. So is AU, and Android, and probably some other computer-related SEs. Just because a question is on-topic on one site it doesn't mean it will be rejected from all the others -- you can ask Linux questions here, or SU, or AU as long as the question applies to Ubuntu. The first two sections of each site's FAQ are "What kind of questions can I ask here?" and "What kind of questions should I not ask here?"; those should help with determining if a question is on-topic for that site. If you're not sure, you can just post it (maybe it gets closed, but then you know), or ask on that site's meta. If you can't even decide which site to try, ask on the main meta which site would be best for your particular question

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    We're mostly a subset of SU, but we don't make an SU/SF distinction. We also accept unix questions about all kinds of devices, including mobile phones and embedded devices that are off-topic on SU. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 22 '11 at 23:21
  • ...that being said, if you do have a question about Ubuntu, you'll likely get a quicker answer on Ask Ubuntu due to its more specific nature. By the same token, you're more likely to get a quick answer here about Linux than SuperUser since the topics here are a subset of those on SuperUser. – Nathan Osman Apr 23 '11 at 0:22
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    This doesn't answer "Why the need?" nor "Isn't requiring users to make these sometimes fine-grained distinctions (or to have to go around asking questions about asking questions) rather user-unfriendly?" – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 1:59

Look at the FAQ and at Meta posts for more details, but the following rule of thumb works pretty well for this site's topic:

If it's about unix (any variant), and it's not exclusively of interest to programmers, then it's on-topic.

(Programming questions belong on Stack Overflow.)

Here, what device you're running unix on is irrelevant. The more borderline cases are systems that have unix bits and non-unix bits, such as Android, Cygwin and OSX. There, the guideline is that the unix bits are on-topic (e.g. using busybox on Android, running X applications in Cygwin, configuring a firewall on OSX), and the other bits aren't (e.g. using Android apps, Windows DLL woes, using Finder on OSX).

If you want to understand the limits of SU and SF's topic, you'll have to ask on their respective Metas.

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    This doesn't answer "Why the need?" nor "Isn't requiring users to make these sometimes fine-grained distinctions (or to have to go around asking questions about asking questions) rather user-unfriendly?" – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 1:59
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    @sampablokuper: I find it a lot easier to understand U&L's topic than SU's (why are PDA's off-topic, but home routers on-topic? Why do questions about site-specific web browser extensions get rejected by both Webapps and SU? Where does SU end and SF begin?). Also, I used to follow unix questions at SU, and gave up because it was too much work (even with windows* in my ignored tags, that left a lot of badly-tagged questions to go through). Between U&L and SU, I choose U&L. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 23 '11 at 12:18
  • @Gillies, sounds like you're saying the arbitrary nature of the ghettoisation between Webapps, SU and SF was a major problem for your enjoyment of those sites, and that you've settled here because it provides a better-defined ghetto, meaning there's less confusion about what's on-topic. Have I understood correctly? – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 15:09
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    @sampablokuper You're too hung up on the edges between sites. We could have one site that answers all questions in the universe (essentially Yahoo! Answers), and we could go the other way and have one site per application. SE tries to go somewhere in the middle and have comprehensive sites on big topics, without being so big that most of the questions a given person sees are about things they've never heard of. The site founders felt Unix/Linux was a broad topic that warranted a dedicated site. In my opinion SU is too broad; if it were proposed on Area 51 today it probably wouldn't make it – Michael Mrozek Apr 23 '11 at 15:15
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    @sampablokuper: No. I don't consider any SE 2.0 site a ghetto, that's your invective. I used to be active at SU and stopped mainly because finding the posts that interested me there was too much work. Compared with that, the fuzziness about SU's topic is merely an occasional annoyance. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 23 '11 at 15:16
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    @Michael, I wouldn't be so concerned if it weren't for repeatedly getting cut, and seeing others get cut, on those edges. – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 15:20
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    @sampablokuper I'm not sure why posting a question on the right site is so difficult, nor why getting it wrong is such a problem -- that site will just move the question to the site it should've been on. There's pretty much no way to lose here – Michael Mrozek Apr 23 '11 at 15:24
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    @Gillies, it's appropriate terminology when members of a community are told, essentially, "If you like such-and-such, then you'd better go over there. If you like so-and-so, then you can stay here. And if you can't reliably tell, or don't agree with, the claimed differences, then you'll be censured." That aside, I'm baffled by your phrase, "finding the posts that interested me [on SU] was too much work". How so? And: why restrict yourself to SU when searching for questions/answers on a given topic? Was Google not your friend? – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 15:30
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    @Michael, it's been admitted by mods elsewhere on SE meta sites that they'll sometimes just close/delete questions rather than moving them. So yes, it's possible to lose. To avoid that, I've sometimes mentioned in my questions that I'd prefer them to be migrated rather than closed if they're deemed off-topic, & I've seen them downvoted for that. Again: it's possible to lose. It's difficult because the topic guidance in the FAQs is typically worded broadly but can be interpreted very narrowly and in ways that can come as quite a shock to users with different interpretations of the guidance. – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 15:35
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    @sampablokuper Well, I'm sorry you've apparently been running into sites with lazy 3k users/mods, but if you think your question is on-topic here, just post it -- we're pretty open about scope, most questions that get closed here were for other reasons (not a real question, subjective, etc. -- things that would get it closed on any SE site). If it belongs somewhere else, we'll migrate it. Yes, having more sites means it's harder to know which site your question is best on, but I still prefer it this way, and SE 2.0 has been around for about a year now, so it's really too late to change it – Michael Mrozek Apr 23 '11 at 15:53
  • @Michael: it's harder this way, but you still prefer it this way? Maybe that's that kind of masochism I should expect on a Unix & Linux site ;) /Jk. – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 16:06
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    @sampablokuper Well, it's not without benefits; other posts on this thread explain why people like separate sites. I never followed SU because it was too broad; I rarely knew the answers to questions. Here I almost always have some idea. It's slightly harder for askers, but hopefully much better for answerers, which means askers will get better answers in the long run – Michael Mrozek Apr 23 '11 at 16:09
  • @Michael, you might be close to answering my questions to @Gillies in the comment above in which I mentioned that his assertion baffled me. Was your experience similar to his? Are you able to answer those questions from your perspective? Thanks. – user6860 Apr 24 '11 at 14:58
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    @sampablokuper: You might have missed the part that @Gilles is actually the top answerer here. What he meant is that the loves solving people's problems, and this exercise was harder for him on SU, because the job of filtering the other stuff he isn't expert at was taking a toll on him. – tshepang Apr 26 '11 at 9:52
  • @Tshepang, thanks for that clarification about @Gillies. It's still unclear to me why it would be much work, though. After all, Unix questions and Linux questions on SU do tend to end up being tagged with "Unix" and "Linux" respectively. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 11:17

These posts discuss the issue regarding splitting Ask Ubuntu from Unix & Linux:

Also, as nice as it would be to have just one place to ask these questions, there is another thing you may be forgetting that is called do I feel at home (e.g. SF is for pro server admins, AU is for Linux newbies, Android is for... Android questions)?

Consider also, for example, that Super User is known for not giving quality answers to Unix/Linux questions. I guess people felt that, for example, Windows is simply too different from Unix/Linux to have the users of both be one community. If opening another site, even if it fragments the computer-using community, helps that situation, so be it (don't you think?). That is, we want answers now, instead of waiting for some magical solution that will all-of-a-sudden increase the quality of Unix/Linux SU answers.

What's interesting is how come Stack Overflow succeeded, and other sites failed, at pooling all kinds of TOPIC to one site. Is it that there's less factionalism in programming? Was the S/N ratio so high that the users reduced their religiosity to let's cooperate levels?

  • Many of the responses to the pieces you've linked to, especially on Robert's post (Unix and Ubuntu: Why Both?) seem to validate my question. I think your last point is easily explained: Area 51 didn't exist when SO was getting of the ground, so people had to choose between co-operating or going elsewhere entirely. Area 51 opened the floodgates to SE ghettoisation, in my view. – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 7:30
  • I guess that sort of ghettoisation makes people who like ghettoisation (people who like homophily, basically) feel at home, though :) You can probably tell from my previous comment that I'm not convinced opening another site helps the problem of SU answer quality. I'm not even convinced it was a serious problem. If you believe it was a serious problem, and that forking helped, please could you provide some evidence to back that up? Thanks. – user6860 Apr 23 '11 at 8:14
  • I can't offer you evidence, but I can challenge you to ask other people who have experienced both SU and U&L. Ask on the respective chats. Also, you might wanna go onto these sites and look at some tags (e.g. [linux]), and compare the answer quality of, say, the 100 most recent questions). That's not scientific of course, but it's a start. – tshepang Apr 23 '11 at 12:29
  • And no, I'm not saying opening yet-another-site automatically helps with answer quality (I myself prefer fewer larger sites). I'm just saying, if it does, why not? – tshepang Apr 23 '11 at 12:30
  • What binds communities together is that they love the same things, and have common enemies ... plus or minus 20%. For Stack Overflow, that is great code and bad programmers respectively. Super User is for generalists who love all forms of computing and own a Mac, a PC and a Linux box. – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 9:40
  • @Jeff, I don't own a PC or a Linux box. Does that mean I'm disqualified from participating in SU? I don't think there's consensus on what bad programming is; witness the Lisp way vs the Unix way, & similar discussions. Does that mean I'm disqualified from participating in SO? I sure hope not, because I reckon I've gained more than I've lost on both sites (though the ghettoisation has certainly wasted a lot of my time), & because my gradually increasing scores suggest my efforts on them have been, overall, appreciated as intended: helpful rather than hindering. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 11:05
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    @Jeff, I also wouldn't say I love all forms of computing. Not by a long shot. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 11:19
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    @Tshepang, if the quality of Unix answers & Linux answers on SU really is lower, as you suggest, than it is on Unix_SE, and yet Unix questions & Linux questions are still being accepted on SU, then this is a user unfriendly outcome: the poor users asking Unix or Linux questions on SU are being done a disservice. Either the sites should be merged (with UI enhancements as required to make finding *nix questions easier for super-answerers like @Gilles; more powerful combinatorial filtering by tags, perhaps), or the *nix questions on SU should be migrated to Unix_SE. I favour the former. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 12:43
  • @sampablokuper: If there's going to be UI enhancements for superior filtering, why not just keep the sites separate in the first place? What's the difference? Are we now going to be asking users who are only interested in Unix to use this and that tag, instead of just asking them to use this and that site. I understand that there's a compromise here, but you would rather have that than having potential users going elsewhere. With U&L we are probably attracting people who, when facing SU wouldn't even bother being part of SE community. This is just speculation of course, for I have no data. – tshepang Apr 26 '11 at 13:02
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    @Tshepang, I've explained why: because if you're right about the relative quality of answers, then SU users (who might not be aware of U&L or of that difference in answer quality) asking questions about Linux or Unix are being done a disservice by SE: their answers are being accepted on an SE site that actually won't answer them very well. After all, isn't the SE network supposed to help users with reasonable questions get the best answers its members can offer? – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 13:17
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    @sampablokuper: Oh, now I get it. I was a bit lost. I myself would actually like Unix/Linux questions migrated here or at least have them be offtopic on SU (if it's really the case that U&L does indeed offer better quality answers). – tshepang Apr 26 '11 at 15:19

what is the problem to which this is the solution?

A deeply rooted resentment against anything just remotely resembling yahoo answers.

Note that I do not agree with that view. I myself have suggested to merge all sites together.

  • Glad to know I'm not the only one here who recognises that the knee-jerk "What you're asking for is Yahoo! Answers" response is a canard. Funnily enough, Joel Spolsky acknowledged the value of avoiding ghettoisation a couple of years ago. It's a pity the inclusive attitude he expressed in that answer seems to have fallen by the wayside. – user6860 Apr 24 '11 at 20:55
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    @sampa just because skiiers and snowboarders both go downhill very fast on snow does not mean they are the same community. – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 9:37
  • @Jeff, and..? They still share many of the same slopes, lifts, stores, chalets & other facilities, & may well take an interest in the other group's activities. By the same token, just because Pythonistas and Java junkies write computer programs does not mean they are the same community. (I've seen enough "my stack is great, your stack sucks" from users of particular Python web frameworks directed against users of other ones, let alone at Java programmers.) Ditto re: users of other programming/scripting languages. But Joel explicitly states that this isn't reason enough to separate them. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 10:22
  • @sampa but they are, because they have the same shared goals (write great code) and the same common enemies (bad programmers). It's also helpful to think of this in terms of job title. Super User = desktop support or IT tech, Server Fault = sysadmin, Android = phone gadget enthusiast. – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 10:35
  • @Jeff, I could equally say skiers and snowboarders have the same shared goals (attach slippery boards to feet, slide over snow) and the same common enemies (ice; hot weather; trees). As for the job titles you've given me here, they contradict at least one of your own FAQs! serverfault.com/faq says, "Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals," but above, you said the latter was a job title to associate instead with Super User. Really, if even you can't get straight in your mind which site to use when, I think I rest my case. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 10:52
  • @sampa shrug. If it doesn't work for you, why are you here? We believe the best communities form around specific topics, even when there is mild overlap. If you believe otherwise, well.. perhaps you should seek out happiness in other places on the internet? – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 19:48
  • @Jeff,you're repeating yourself,I'm afraid. I've addressed those points in other replies to you,& I'm sorry you've been dismissive & unappreciative of my well-intentioned feedback. But I'll expand on those answers in saying this: before the schisms and the resulting ghettoisation, SO was magnificent. The combination of inclusivity, an ergonomic UI, OpenID logins, uncluttered design, a reasonable incentive scheme, the ability to contribute to & revise old Q's & A's in the light of new information, made it a Q&A site par excellence. I want that restored, both for my benefit & the community's. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 21:44
  • @sampa we'll have to agree to disagree then. Based on our traffic data, and a broad collection of sentiment sampling on meta.so, I don't think there's any data to support your assertions. You want us to build a truck when we're building a car -- rather than yelling at the car dealer, which is pointless, go buy a truck. – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 22:29
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    @Jeff, that's ridiculously condescending. – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 22:50
  • @sampa I've had this discussion about a hundred times already, so apologies if I get a little frustrated in explaining the same thing to the same people over and over. – Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 23:17
  • @Jeff apologies accepted. Now, forgive me for stating the obvious, but if you've had this discussion with numerous others whose sentiments are similar to mine... there's your data, right there. As a lolcat might say: it's in ur conversations, supporting my assertions :) – user6860 Apr 26 '11 at 23:53
  • @sampa it's a deeply held misconception. Which is why we're successful; the "obvious" way leads to Yahoo Answers wastelands. I strongly encourage our competitors to follow this obvious strategy you're outlining. Really. It works well -- go for it! – Jeff Atwood Apr 27 '11 at 0:34
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    @Jeff, if you think all that prevents SE from becoming "Yahoo Answers wastelands" is ghettoisation, then you're bizarrely undervaluing many other properties of the SE sites. It really does strike me as very odd that you should do this, especially in the light of the comment by Joel that I linked to earlier. – user6860 Apr 27 '11 at 1:16

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