I have a question I would like to ask that applies to mostly all Linux distributions (and maybe even BSD), but the answer will probably vary depending on what Linux distribution it is due to varying package managers, init systems, service managers, and so on. Is it in this case better to ask one question and expect multiple answers for different distributions, or ask multiple questions that ask the same thing but how to do it on a specific distribution?

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    I think you should include what the actual question is, at least at a high level, to better inform the answers to this meta-question.
    – Wildcard
    Dec 6, 2021 at 21:56
  • Unix gained its portability by rewriting hardware-independent components in C; your question may also gain portability if you can separate distro-dependent information from your core needs.
    – DannyNiu
    Dec 7, 2021 at 5:14
  • Can you please give a specific example? It seems that I am not understanding what you want here. I just cannot see how the same question can both "apply to mostly all Linux distributions" and its answers will "vary depending on what Linux distribution". It seems to me that it will always be one or the other but cannot be both.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:22

3 Answers 3


This seems contradictory. Either the question "applies to mostly all Linux distributions (and maybe even BSD)" OR "[it will] vary depending on what Linux distribution it is due to varying package managers, init systems, service managers, and so on". It can't be both. I see three options:

  1. The question's answer depends on the system used; phrase the question in terms of portability: I need to do foo, how can I ensure this will work on any *nix?

  2. The question's answer depends on the system used; choose the system you are interested in: How can I do foo in BSD? And then ask multiple questions for different systems.

  3. The question is actually applicable to multiple systems; just ask the question in its general form: How can I do foo in *nix systems.

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    I guess something like "how do I install a distribution-provided package" would make sense in mostly all Linuxes and BSDs, but would have very different answers in each...
    – ilkkachu
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:35
  • @ilkkachu exactly: so it would not be "apply to mostly all Linux distributions". I just don't see how something can be both applicable to various systems and have different answers depending on the system. Either it is applicable to all (so, one answer) or it has different answers depending on the system and therefore is not applicable to all.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:45
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    well, I mean, IMO, the question would apply on any system that distributes application software the user can install. The concepts there are the same, regardless of if the underlying system is apt/dpkg or yum/rpm or whatever. Just the answers won't apply to each distribution. (Now that I read it again, package managers are exactly what they mentioned there.)
    – ilkkachu
    Dec 9, 2021 at 15:24
  • @ilkkachu yes, so if the answers depend on the specifics of the package manager, then the question is, by definition, not applicable to most distributions. I just don't see how a question can be both applicable to all and have answers that are specific.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 9, 2021 at 15:47
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    I'm not sure if we have a different idea of a question applying in some context, then. I was thinking about if the X in "I'm trying to do X, but don't know how" makes sense in the context. It's not a question of the tools at that point. But ok, what if the party asking the question doesn't know beforehand if the same answer applies to all distributions? Ok, maybe in the case of package managers it's "well known" enough that they're different. But what about some other case? Should we expect the askers to know the exact limits of the subject beforehand?
    – ilkkachu
    Dec 9, 2021 at 17:16
  • @ilkkachu of course not, but it seems that in this case, the OP does know. Which is why I find the question confusing. They are specifically asking about something that is both "applicable to all systems" and "has different solutions depending on the system". Which is not possible. Sure, "how can I install tetris" could be asked for any operating system, but obviously the answers would be different per system so the question would have to be targeted to the system the OP has.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 9, 2021 at 17:22

I don't think it would be easy to ask a single question in this way, yet I'm also not convinced that only breaking it into multiple questions would fix the problem...

Too Broad

A question should be answerable in its entirety so deliberately asking a question that needs answering multiple times for different systems would (to my mind) be "too broad".

In particular you would be asking for answers derived from multiple separate skill sets so if you wanted answers for Linux-Debian, Linux-Redhat, OpenBSD, MacOS, ... then it's unlikely that any one individual would be able to answer for all systems.

The result of this is your question will most likely be closed as "too broad".

Too little effort

It's not strictly a rule but many users dislike seeing questions where the OP clearly didn't bother to research an answer before writing their question. Note the reference to "Search and Research" here: https://stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask

The major problem with questions similar to the one you describe in your question is that you've almost certainly put no effort in to research it for each system yourself. I say that because it would be unlikely to research each system and get stuck on exactly the same problem for each.

If you were to break your question into multiple (near identical) questions each about a different system, it would irritate other users and draw in the down votes.

What to do instead

What you should generally do in this situation is take some time to research an answer yourself first. If you get stuck on one then ask a question for that system. It may be that understanding from answers to that will help you with other systems.

It's fine if you get stuck on multiple systems, but try to space out your questions and avoid spamming near identical questions.


If you aren't sure what answers will depend on, include all the information that's potentially relevant in your question, and let people who do know what is relevant edit the title and tags to reflect what is actually relevant.

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