According to the current consensus on Meta, questions about printers are on topic, even questions concerning the hardware. Also, according to the help, it is OK to ask question concerning smartphones "insofar as they interface with your computer". The same has been said on Meta as well.

However, I've just asked (and answered) a question regarding setting up a printer so that it is correctly found on the network by smartphones, and I get instantly voted down. Firstly, if it is off topic, shouldn't it be suggested to be closed instead of being downvoted? Secondly, if it's off topic there, then where is it on topic? The problem is with the printer, not with the Android device, and if I ask the same question on Android Enthusiasts, it will be closed for sure. It doubt it will connect with an iOS device either, for that matter. So are questions which ask about setting up connection of your peripheral equipment with other devices on topic?

Honestly it's very discouraging when you take time to write down an answer to the problem that has been pestering you for weeks and immediately receive a negative reaction just because your problem with a printer happens to also involve an Android device.

1 Answer 1


Excellent question. The bottom line is that edge cases are determined by the community. If enough people think it's off-topic to vote it closed, and not enough people then think it's on-topic to reopen it, that means it's off-topic.

But I would look at it like this: the site is centered on computers. If the question is about computers or computer software, those are on topic. If it's about connecting things to computers, or about common computer peripherals, it's on topic; that's all about the things that make up the equipment complement for doing the work on the computer.

The grey area starts when you introduce off-topic platforms. Phones are off-topic, but we stretch the on-topic boundary if the question is about interfacing it with a computer, because the computer is involved. So things like syncing content, or using the phone as part of the communications link in which the computer plays a role, are usually on-topic.

But even there, if the issue is central to the phone, like trying to get an Android app working in order to facilitate the process involving the computer, that's probably better solved on the Android site.

So the printer is "once-removed" from the site's central topic, but it's allowed because of its role in using the computer. The phone is off-topic unless the question is central to, or directly involves, the computer. If the question's focus is getting a phone to work with a printer, the computer isn't involved at all.

So in this case, if the problem that needs to be solved is in the phone, I'd say that's off-topic. If the problem is in the printer, there are two possible cases. If the issue is something that is unique to connecting with a phone, it would be off-topic. If the issue is something generic that also applies to connecting it with a computer, then maybe. So take that case.

If solving that problem requires doing things, i.e., diagnostics or settings, on the phone, then solving the problem is off-topic. If the problem can be replicated on the computer and solved using the computer, or done entirely within the printer, an argument could be made for it being on-topic.

But in that case, it would probably be better to leave the phone out of the question. If the phone is relevant and important to the solution, and the computer is not, I'd consider it off-topic.

I just reread your question and answer. It turns out that the solution was in the printer, but the problem you experienced was getting the phone to see the network printer. I'm no expert on the Android site, but it just seems like that problem would be on-topic there.

However, the actual underlying problem is probably on-topic here, just tough to ask in a clearly on-topic way unless you had discovered it while trying to connect an on-topic platform. I did some wordsmithing on your question to better focus it; make it less off-topic and set it up for your answer.

  • I believe it's worded better now. Bonjour is a service for LAN device and service discovery, so I happened to need it only for Android, but it could've been required by some computers also. There is nothing Android-specific in this service, moreover, it was designed by Apple. I doubt that the problem would be on topic on Android Enthusiasts, it's specific to the particular printer, and at a quick glance in there I can only see the questions regarding how to set up a smartphone to print, but not a printer.
    – Malcolm
    Nov 26, 2016 at 9:45
  • @Malcolm, a question about setting up the printer would be off-topic there. Asking about a problem accessing a network printer from your phone would probably be on-topic. Out of curiosity, I checked the Android site, and there are a whole bunch of questions about printing from an Android device to a network printer. So it appears to be on-topic there if you approach it from the perspective of accomplishing something with the phone. On Super User, that perspective was what made your question appear off-topic, even though the problem turned out not to relate to the phone.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 26, 2016 at 10:08
  • There are many questions regarding printing from Android devices there, but they are mostly asking how to set up an Android device to print correctly (which app to download, how to use it, etc.). In my case, I've already set it up correctly, so there's nothing to ask regarding Android in particular. That website just doesn't have the right kind of experts. As for printers, I assumed that they are on topic here as they are peripherals. Maybe I misunderstood something.
    – Malcolm
    Nov 26, 2016 at 10:17
  • @Malcolm, on any site, the key is asking the question framed in a way that's on-topic for the site. The solution may turn out to be something outside of the site's core focus. On the Android site, trying to accomplish something with an Android device is generally on topic. The solution can turn out to be something non-Android, but other Android users may have run into the same situation and know how to solve it. So there, you frame the problem as needing to print from an Android device to a network printer and let the solution fall where it may. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Nov 26, 2016 at 10:55
  • Here, phones are off-topic unless the computer is involved. So framing the question as a phone problem makes it off-topic unless you show a computer connection. A printer doesn't make the phone on-topic; the phone makes the printer off-topic, because it defines the problem as not computer-related. So for your problem to be on-topic here, the phone has to be basically irrelevant, which it is in this case. The problem is about accessing a network printer from any computer, and the phone happens to fall into the same boat. To frame your question in an on-topic way, that needs to be clear.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 26, 2016 at 10:56
  • I agree with what you say, but I think that if I were asking just this question on Android Enthusiasts without self-answering, the question would most likely just be unanswered as, like I said, that site lacks the right kind of experts who know how printers interface with other devices, not necessarily Android phones. I even looked through all the 34 questions tagged "printing" there, none of them talk about setting up a printer so that it's visible on the network. At best they deal with setting up cloud printing and only from the phone side, which is completely different.
    – Malcolm
    Nov 26, 2016 at 11:09
  • @Malcolm, actually, the same thing could well have happened here. There's nothing obvious in the question that points to Bonjour. In fact, I suspect that the downvotes the question received were probably because there was no obvious answer flowing from the facts presented. If you hadn't dug into it (and maybe stumbled across the solution?), it might have gone unanswered here. Anyway, glad you posted the solution. It may save others a lot of work.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 26, 2016 at 11:21

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