I recently asked this question on Super User, and a big discussion arose on appropriate questions. The issue came down to the new verbiage in the FAQ:

I had figured that the websites line was just about social networking software (which a case could be made for closing the question I asked), but Diago said that they were shutting down ALL website application questions. So I can ask a question about Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.org, but I can't ask a question about Google Apps. He confirmed this, and after I pointed out that 34 pages (x50) of hits when you did a Super User search on "google", he said that they would all be closed as they came up on the home page. Notice that with other website type questions, you're probably looking at 20% of Super User.

In Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood has blogged about Web Applications and has stated what we all know, that they are pervasive and replacing normal software. His most relevant quote is

for an increasingly large percentage of users, the desktop application is already dead.

So why is the new Super User moderator policy to marginalize these questions, and is it a good decision?

I think it will only hurt them in the long run, as they fight a software trend that is only growing more and more. I've asked a few website related questions on Super User, and have always been pleased with the quick answers that have come forth. I think website application questions are very relevant and should be allowed. The only difference between web applications and desktop applications is what's running the interface. They're both software that has to be used, and therefore the same type of questions come up for both.

We don't need to be fighting the future in our quest to clean up Super User.

EDIT: I just had to ask a question about the Opera Mini browser, but I wasn't sure whether questions about browsers would be allowed, so I had to ask it on another site.

EDIT2: Podcast #76 has a conversation between Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood about this topic, from appox. 25:00 to 30:50.

EDIT3: I've just received the email from Jeff that states that the moderators are doing what he wants. He can edit this post if he'd like to post more information on his point of view.

End of Bounty EDIT: I don't completely agree with any of these answers, but I will pick Diago's since I feel it is the most complete, though I do think the percentage of web-application questions is higher than 1%. Time will tell on all these things.

  • 2
    I think the problem is that there's no platform for asking question on webbased products, not that SU should be the platform for it.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 20:54
  • 15
    I think it's problematic to make distinctions between applications based on how they're served up: desktop or thin client or browser. Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 20:59
  • 2
    It's not that I have a personal dislike of these questions. I would love to ask questions on Android applications, Gmail tweaks or Wordpress desktop apps, but I agree that SU is not the place for them. However, that shouldn't stop us from wanting a site where we CAN ask these questions.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 21:03
  • If Opera Mini was running on a PC, SU would be the right place. If not then no it would not have been. Commented Feb 17, 2010 at 17:09
  • 3
    @Diago, it's on a smartphone, but the wording on smartphones, combined with the wording on internet stuff is vague enough in the FAQ that I have no idea if it'd be ok to ask. Commented Feb 17, 2010 at 17:11
  • I will bring up the point with Jeff. However if it involves a problem with the a smartphone connecting to a computer or synchronising to a computer it will be allowed. Commented Feb 17, 2010 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Lance. Could you please clarify the bounty. I can't figure out why there is one. Do you want something specific to happen which is indicated somewhere? Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 18:46
  • @Diago, I was just hoping for more attention to this topic, and more discussion. I will pick the answer I favor when it gets near the end. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 18:48
  • @Diago, As you know this is very important to me, since the current policy is really limiting the usefulness of SuperUser to me (and I believe to many other people). I want SuperUser to succeed and have always tried to do my part to move it forward. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 18:50
  • 1
    As much as I admire your passion I am almost 99% sure we are not going to change the policy on SU, as it has been driven by the site. However good luck. I for one am not supporting this move, since I am one of 3 moderators that have to deal with the behind the scenes issues with these questions, and it was something highlighted by the majority of the community. Jeff and Joel also extensively discussed it in a podcast and the end result was the implementation of the new policy. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 19:01
  • @Diago, I wish I could listen to all the podcasts, I'll try and track that one down and listen to it. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 19:06
  • 2
    @Lance: Given the quantity of questions that can be asked on web-apps alone, I think the request for a new-SE site is certainly justified. SUs current (restricted) scope already gives it more questions than are being answered (superuser.com/search?q=answers:0). Also based on the amount of forums related to Windows, OSX or Linux problems, I think we have more than enough challenges ahead of us without those kind of questions.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 20:45
  • 1
    @Ivo Thanks. Finally someone undestands what I have been butting my head against. The issue at the moment is not arround interpreting the FAQ, the problem is dealing what is on the site, and a lot of the questions end up falling away due to the big influx of website questions. Unlike SO, we don't have users taht can cover the questions we miss. I still see questions from 3 months ago popping up and the OP has already lost interest and left the site. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 21:17
  • 2
    Diago is evil =]
    – Luiscencio
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 0:06
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Super User website applications policy
    – V15I0N
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 18:25

14 Answers 14


I definitely think that questions about web apps are off-topic on Super User.

But I agree with you that those web apps are getting more and more important.

Maybe it's time to extend the trilogy with yet another Q&A site specifically aimed at web apps? That way those off-topic question which are already on Super User could be migrated in stead of just closed (and maybe deleted in the future). I think this would really be the best option as a lot of those questions and answers have actual value!

OTOH, if Jeff and Joel don't want to consider that, there's nobody stopping you (or anybody else) to start your own wep app centric Q&A site using the StackExchange platform.

I just checked the List of StackExchange Sites, and there doesn't seem to be something like that yet. I think there is potential there.

  • 3
    I second the new site idea, if we would allow these questions we would be flooded with Facebook and Wordpress questions...
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 20:48
  • 3
    @Ivo, we could say NO to social networking, blog and forum apps. We can draw a line somewhere, but right now the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 21:00
  • 2
    Given the amount of questions that are asked every day that do not involve web apps, I'm inclined to disagree.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 21:05
  • 4
    @Ivo I guess I don't understand how "I'd like to install this WordPress plugin" is any less legitimate a SU question than "I'd like to edit my Outlook signature". It's on the web, sure, but things like Google Docs and Microsoft Office are becoming more similar to each other.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 19:34
  • 1
    There are no .exe's on the web, so if WordPress goes amish you need some web development skills or knowledge to solve the problem. With software, there's often other software to fix it. On the web, there's Greasemonkey and that requires programming skills! So in my opinion web-related questions are stretching the knowledge domain of SU too far.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 20:34
  • 2
    How are the PHP files that make up Wordpress in ANY WAY different than an .exe? In fact in this specific case they are even better than .exes because you get the full source code!
    – OverloadUT
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 2:43
  • 2
    such a site would be ridiculously broad -- "ask questions here about .. uh .. any website on the internet!!" So I hope you can see why we don't want this for SU which is already quite broad in scope. Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 9:06
  • 2
    @Jeff: In my opinion, a site to "ask questions about any website on the internet" wouldn't be more ridiculously broad than a site to "ask questions about any software or hardware".
    – fretje
    Commented Feb 22, 2010 at 8:21
  • @fretje: Having one site that's doing both is ;-)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 24, 2010 at 19:51
  • @Ivo: True, but I'm quite sure Jeff was talking about only "questions about any website".
    – fretje
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 11:34
  • Thanks @fretje I think there aren't enough links to that list of StackExchange sites there! :D
    – cregox
    Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 21:20
  • There you go: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6023/…
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented May 5, 2010 at 15:14

Unfortunately with this debate having gone on for some time now, and I am not sure what the answer should be I do feel I need to make a few points clear. Super User has grown with regards to visits at a considerable rate, and even on the number of questions it is 500 questions away from overtaking Server Fault and is heading towards reaching Stack Overflow proportions most likely within the next year. The site is popular due to it's wide audience, and is starting to stand on it's own. This was all achieved in just over 6 months of the site existing.

To have a look at the actual numbers

[Total Questions] 28,373
[Total Unanswered] 3,845
[Total Closed] 2,280

Drilling down further and looking at the [WordPress], [GMail], [PS3], [iPhone], [Google] and [X-Box] tags as a sample:

[Total WordPress] 125
[Total GMail] 284
[Total PS3] 27
[Total X-Box] 3
[Total iPhone] 477
[Total Google] 206
[Total Closed] 350+

Totals as at the time of posting this answer

Please Note I only looked at the tags on Super User since this is what we use to analyse the data with, not Google search results. Without adding every tag, if I do a look at anything starting with Google, you could possibly add another 200 questions to the count above, therefore the figure is still less then 1% of all Super User questions.

Arguably I am not looking at every tag but these are the major once. Therefore we are splitting hairs over less then 1% of the questions asked on Super User, for which there is now a policy to disallow them. Therefore it is safe to assume that at least 90% of the questions asked on SuperUser does not involve a Web Application or Website.

The debate about what should be allowed has come up many times, and to be fair before I became a moderator on Super User, I provided answers to the web applications and console questions. It is extremely rare that I would close a question without one of three things happening:

  • The question is moderator flagged by someone with less then 3K reputation
  • The question is flagged to be closed and on the moderator tools close page
  • Jeff explicitly closes similar questions or makes a change to the policy in this regard.

The types of questions being flagged are reviewed and discussed, either on Meta (90% of the time) or otherwise between the moderators themselves. Not every flagged question is closed however this is rare, but I can say right now there is 3 questions on the close list I won't close because I don't agree that they should be. A feature I would love is for moderators to be able to clear close flags completely, but that's a different topic.

The gaming, web applications and iPhone question policy was put in place because the majority of moderator flags and close votes we have received in the past was for these questions. The problem on Meta is that the responses are slightly off since only around 1% of the registered Super Users actually participate or are even aware of Meta.

At the end of the day, based on the figures, it doesn't make difference to the Super Users on the site whether we allow them or not. However for the moderators that have to keep the site clean, eliminating these reduces the amount of flags and questions we have to deal with regularly.

Lastly as pointed out by Jeff in a response to Lance via e-mail.

The moderators are following the policies set out by him, and doing what he wants

We are the bad guys because our names end up on the closed questions, but we do our best to follow the guidelines and policies set out by management. In this case management is Jeff and the developer team.

Please keep in mind that the diamond moderators are elected by you, however we do not receive any compensation to do this, and participate freely. We sacrifice our time, and at times our own reputation whoring, to do this. We are human and make mistakes, and I have often re-opened questions when proven wrong. I have also got no objection to the community re-opening questions closed by a diamond moderator, since it is the best indication of what they want, unless the question directly violates the policy of the site.

  • tend to agree with your stance of "it's on the close list but i won't close it". that's reasonable and responsible. i'm not sure about clearing close flags tho -- there are certain times when that's desirable (they don't seem to be cleared properly on question close/reopen) -- but if mods had that ability the community might not be able to override your decision not to close a question, which i think is a good thing. (you can always reopen once closed, of course.)
    – quack quixote
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 11:03
  • I think this is a reasonable answer, though I believe your numbers are off, instead of doing a tag search, do a word search on "google", since almost anything to do with google is now off limits. I think your stats just show us that things aren't getting tagged correctly. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 19:18
  • Part of the problem is that it's still hard to determine whether "the question directly violates the policy of the site". It'd be nice to have a more deterministic algorithm. If you can update the stats to something more realistic I might accept this answer, since it covers it all well. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 19:23
  • @Lance. I will add the stats for Google but to be fair it still just splitting hairs further. Just because the word Google appears in a post doesn't mean it is about google. Are you 100% convinced if everything was tagged correctly we would have 1000s of web applications questions? Also as mentioned I was looking at what specifically is listed in the FAQ, and Jeff only looks at the tags, not Google results. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 19:32
  • @Lance. I updated it just with the Google tag but did post a note. If I look at anything related to just Google including calender I can't add more then another 200 questions to the list. The point of my answer is this however in summary. We are splitting hairs over 1% of Super User questions at this stage. Therefore as much as I respect your opinion on this, the figures speak for themselves whether we like to or not. I did this exercise to confirm this for myself as much as for you and the others. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 19:39
  • 1
    @Lance. It is also hard to determine what you consider more realistic? The data is available and your free to research yourself. The algorithm however has been determined and is clear. If it runs inside a browser and the support is related to a function of the site, and not the browser, it won't be allowed. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 20:40
  • @Diago, I can't say I'm 100% convinced, I'd have to do a lot more research on it (I'll try to do some this next week). I do think it's a lot more than 1%, but am willing to admit that my research wasn't deep enough to be sure of my 20% number. What I'll do when I have extra SU time from now on is go through all the "google" questions and tag them appropriately (since I have the rep to change tags), then after I get through all of them we can revisit the numbers. Thanks for your effort to meet me halfway (and farther). Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 1:49
  • @Lance Your welcome. For the record, to get 20% you will need to find 6000 questions related to Web Applications. All I can say is good luck, I will be very surprised if there really is that many. Also to be fair those have to be questions that exclude social networks, since that's what I looked at as well all though I didn't include Facebook and Twitter in this list. Out of interest a quick look at just the [windows], [windows-7] and [snow-leopard] tags reveals that they combined are just over 6000+ questions excluding [macosx] and those tagged wrong. Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 1:53
  • @Diago: at present there are exactly 0 [macosx] tagged questions. (there is one [macos] but it actually deserves it.) :)
    – quack quixote
    Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 3:16
  • 3
    I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. I should not post on the Trilogy after 22:00 at night. Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 10:02
  • 4
    We are the bad guys because our names end up on the closed questions As a moderator another forum I so feel this.
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 16:33
  • 1
    The relevant question counts to display would be Gmail/Gcal (341) vs Outlook (319), Google Maps (23) vs Microsoft Streets & Trips (0), Google Docs/Apps/Spreadsheets (106) vs Excel/Word (513). The community on this site to date shows comparable interest in web apps versus their offline equivalents. Commented Feb 28, 2010 at 17:25
  • @Herb. However that still only makes up aother 1% of the total questions on the site. So we are looking at 2% of Super User questions. Compared to each other the figures look great, compared to the overall question count, it is a small minority. Commented Feb 28, 2010 at 18:45
  • 1
    @Diago I still don't get the bottom line. Making a stackexchange site wide open for any subject is a problem with organization or bandwidth cost?
    – cregox
    Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 21:18
  • 2
    I would like to point out that claiming web app related questions only account for 1% of tagged questions is hard to support when the current policy prevents those very same questions. Basic reasoning should show this is a fallacious statistic. Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 17:54

This is a very shortsighted policy, and it's not one that's going to age well. Web apps are computer software. The only difference between Excel and Google Spreadsheets is the delivery mechanism. With online versions of Office apps starting to appear, are you now going to try to find out whether the user is referring to the online version or the shrink-wrapped version? The apps themselves are quite different now, but it's just a matter of time until they're identical.


I think that if mods on Super User are going to be extremely aggressive about this, then Super User is not going to be the first place I go to ask any reasonable question.

I believe that if someone is willing to answer your question, it should be legit. If they want to move it to another website, that's OK too, as long as you get an answer and don't have to deal with legal positivism.

  • It is not what the mods think, or how aggressive/passive they are. What someone thinks is irrelevant. The site has rules and that's where authority to take action derives from.
    – jww
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 20:59
  • FWIW, it's almost entirely useless to tell me this 8 years after I wrote this. But I don't mind taking the time to tell you that you in fact are wrong. This is where we make the rules, so what we think here is very important. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:14
  • ... it's almost entirely useless to tell me this 8 years after I wrote this" - It seems relevant today, too. The site rules are codified in the Help pages. If it is not codified in the site rules, then it is merely a temporal opinion. And to date, I've never seen an opinion gather enough votes to claim consensus for any reasonable definition of the word.
    – jww
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:36

The "closed as not computer related" text should really be changed to reference the appropriate section of the policy. I logged in to SU for the first time today and saw a couple things closed with that message, and my first thought was "WTF?".

Having read this discussion, I can understand why they were closed, but that message has got to be infuriating for people. WordPress/Gmail/whatever are not computer-related? Good luck using them without one.

  • You can use a computer fine without having a WordPress account. Your last sentence is muddled.
    – random Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 9:29
  • How is Wordpress or G-Mail problems related to your computer. These are services running inside a browser but hosted on a remote server sending data up and down. Configuring your Wordpress installation has no impact on your computer at all. It only impacts your hosting providers server? Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 10:42
  • 1
    @Diago Is the use of windows live writer a SU applicable topic? Is the use of wordpress offline an applicable SU topic? Is logging in as SuperUser to add themes and extensions to Wordpress an applicable SU topic? Isn't is possible to have WordPress running on your own computer for your own personal benefit? Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:13
  • Windows Live Writer is installed on the computer, fits SU. WordPress theming and questions about WordPress blogs don't fit SU. Coding something in SU goes to SO. Point out where they mention explicitly they're running WordPress locally on SU. @pet
    – random Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:33
  • @random why does it matter that they run it locally if it's possible to run it locally? Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:38
  • 2
    @Peter. If you run Wordpress locally, the way in which you apply themes has little or nothing to do with it running locally. Live Writer is an application. Allowed. How to maintain Wordpress? SF. How to do something on Wordpress like a change a theme? The Wordpress Support Forum. If you have a problem while installing Wordpress, SF or SU is the right place. The issue is with what your question requires, not where your running it. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:44
  • @Diago, if I asked, how do I install a wordpress theme on my server and you thought the answer was to do something in the browser, but the I thought the answer was wget httpd://something.org/awesometheme.tar.gz tar -xvf awesometheme.tar.gz and you closed my legit question because you were under the impression that installing themes had something to do with a browser, then you'd be quite wrong, right? Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:51
  • Depends on where the server is and how you actually ask the question. If you leave out vital parts to your question, don't expect people to know right off the bat what you're thinking to yourself. But WordPress is on the no go list all the same. @pet
    – random Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Peter. If Wordpress did not provide a user interface for this you would be 100% correct. However it does and it takes no more then 2 mintues to find this out on the Wordpress Support Forum. However as @random pointed out already, Wordpress is a no go either way. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 15:18

The blurring line between web applications and desktop applications presents a major problem here.

As the policy currently stands, a question of "how do I set my signature in Microsoft Outlook" will be acceptable, but "how do I set my signature in Gmail" would not be. Both involve a simple "click here, then here, then type, then save" answer. There's zero functional difference between them.

Things get even more muddled if I'm running Gmail in an app that wraps Gmail as a desktop application with Google Gears offline support enabled.

How do we handle this? What happens when Microsoft Office gets an on-the-web version? What happens if Facebook gets a desktop client, or if someone asks about Facebook chat support in a Jabber client?

  • To be fair I am not aware of us having closed any questions on Google Apps like the spreadsheet app, however I may be wrong. If Facebook had a desktop client like Twitter does the client will be supported as it runs locally. I do recall a question on Facebook chat support in a client but can't recall if had been closed or not. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 23:10
  • @Diago - to be fair i don't think i've noticed any distinction between Google Apps and the rest of Google (Gmail, Google Wave, etc). we may not have had a question that would count in this way. but if we close Wolfram Alpha q's because WA's a web app, i don't see why we shouldn't close Google Apps q's, for the same reasons: it may do the same as MS Excel, but it's via web app, so it's not running locally.
    – quack quixote
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 3:24
  • @~quack Why does running locally make a difference from the user perspective? If I'm running Excel on a Citrix session, does my question get closed?
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 4:41
  • @ceejayoz: not saying it does make a diff, that's just the policy. in fact this is one area i disagree with the policy, but if the policy is set i'll try to help keep it consistent. re: Excel via Citrix, no, not closed (even if you're running it on a remote machine it's still a "local application" in this context), though it could be eligible for migration or closed-as-duplicate.
    – quack quixote
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 5:29

This new policy is completely and totally ridiculous. Where do we draw a line at where a webapp starts and ends?

  • Is asking a question about MySQL not allowed, because it's most often used by web servers?
  • If a piece of hardware or software allows you to access it via a webpage (such as uTorrent, or any home router) is that not allowed because it serves a webpage?
  • If a piece of software runs on a webserver, but is not accessed via a browser, such as a stat tracker, is that allowed?
  • If an application runs via command line and outputs html log files, and then you must open those log files in your browser to see the information, is that not allowed? How is that ANY different?

The line gets blurrier and blurrier as I think of more examples.

  • 1
    MySQL would be allowed if you're setting up on localhost. Moved to SF if you're deploying across servers/sites. ~ HW/SW tapped via webpage would be SU. ~ Stat tracker needs more info, otherwise, not a real question. ~ Logfiles in HTML from local app would be SU.
    – random Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 2:05
  • What makes accessing uTorrent via a webpage any different than running my own forum software? For the log files, what if the log files were generated on a computer that is in a datacenter that primarily hosts webpages? I access them via a browser because it's easier than downloading the files via FTP?
    – OverloadUT
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 2:14
  • 6
    You're splitting hairs even more than the FAQ does.
    – alex
    Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 9:36
  • Although I do not agree with your points in this answer, I do agree the question should not have been closed and I do apologise. From my side I was reviewing the list at around 1 in the morning and I therefore made a bad judgement call. Something I am infamous for. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 10:22
  • What is the policy? I just went through the Help pages, and I cannot find a treatment anywhere. Also see Can the webapp policy please be codified in the site rules?
    – jww
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 20:58

I think most people want a term to describe:

  • Single user applications, including configuration of (Excel, PowerPoint).
  • Multi-user applications where the administration or configuration is not in question (Google Apps, Facebook)

This seems perfectly fine, because it matches quite well a mental grouping of kids, grandmas, and Software enthusiasts, and businessmen. These are all subsets of Users that we have no reason to assume any technical knowledge of.

I find this to be the least awkward way to distinguish what I would like Super User to be. However, I can see splitting off entertainment software out of necessity.

I'd take it one step further and say stuff that comes in a box (hardware) probably doesn't belong on the site all. Price-hunting on discount net-books seems totally uninteresting and out of place.

  • 1
    I like your concept of single-user vs multi-user, would just need some refinement. I definitely want hardware to stay, though I also don't care about the price of netbooks. Commented Feb 18, 2010 at 18:45

Another problem is that if a video game console is even mentioned it will get closed, that is: not if it is related to video gaming, but instead appears to be... For example, How do I set up Windows 7 to stream media to my PS3?

In this question, he could be streaming to a regular media server as opposed to a PS3, it isn't here nor there. But it gets closed by over zealous mods anyway, yet I could have benefited from further answers/follow-up. Did anyone else except that mod want to close the question? It is a pretty valid question.

  • 1
    Actually, that mod, in this case me, remembers the question well due to the uproar it created. The reason for it being closed: When another question was closed regarding a PS3, the OP's first reaction was to point out that the mentioned question wasn't closed either. There is a few other streaming questions to consoles that has been closed. The problem is not related to the question in this case, however with the perception. When these slip, others use them as argument as to why their question shouldn't be closed. That particular question survived a while. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 22:23
  • @diago that PS3 -> Windows 7 PC question was definitely valid, as it involved a computer -- so I am reopening it. Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 9:10
  • @Jeff - Thanks Jeff, fair enough. As long as you understand my reasons for closing it at the time I have no objections. Commented Feb 21, 2010 at 9:41

This isn't "new," per se -- it's been the case for a long time. (Later on I'll go dig up the earliest reference I've seen to web sites not being covered by SU.)

I see your argument. After all, I made essentially the same argument about the iPad. Splitting hairs over the definition of a computer, or of software, is going to cause friction, especially as everything converges in this modern era of computing.

However, from the team's perspective, it's pretty apparent that they're trying to gear SU towards "locally-run" software and "traditional form-factor" (laptop or keyboard/monitor/case factor) computers. Based on how they're trying to steer the community, they're in the right to shut that down -- as they are when they close iPad questions.

  • Another point I forgot to make is that a lot of Iphone apps will be web-based also. Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 17:19
  • There are other iPhone StackExchange sites for those
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 16, 2010 at 20:49
  • 1
    if? nonono. there are already 8 ipad-tagged questions: superuser.com/questions/tagged/ipad ... one survived 2 days; most don't survive 2 hours.
    – quack quixote
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 20:59
  • ~quack: Updated.
    – John Rudy
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 21:45

Sometimes I feel like the moderators have not read their own verbiage in a while, particular pertaining to Super User being a site for "computer enthusiasts and power users." To take it one step further, I think there are logical fallacies within the first answer of the SU FAQ.

As I consider myself a computer enthusiast, I have many questions about the internet, which is a network exclusively made for, and accessible by, computers. In fact I cannot think of many other devices capable of accessing the internet without also having the capability of computing and interpreting the data to output media.

Under these considerations, I think I am making a logical connection between web applications run exclusively on the internet, and client-side applications run offline. Both are well within the scope of "computer software" and, I can only assume, are used on a daily basis by "computer enthusiasts."

To address what Super User "is not about" (i.e. game consoles, social websites, mobile devices, and other electronic devices), I would certainly say the moderators have contradicted themselves by arbitrarily eliminating these topics from discussion. As soon as game consoles run off the brainpower of tiny hamsters, or Twitter devolves to telegraph (or ceases to exist - I can only hope), I believe all of these items are within the defined scope of "computer hardware" and "computer software" as stated.

Perhaps before moderating potentially valuable questions from enthusiasts and super users, a certain amount of moderation should be enforced upon those who dictate the moderation. The question at hand is not why particular posts are closed, but under which part are they closed according to the FAQ stipulations - the top half of the answer, or the bottom half of the same answer?

  • 3
    While I don't agree with all of their policies, I don't think they were arbitrary. You can't have one site do everything. I have no problem keeping gaming questions and social networking questions out. You have to draw the line somewhere. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 8:12
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    I review the statistics after reading your answer, and as I mentioned in my answer, the questions and topics we are not allowing makes up 1% of the questions asked on Super User. More specifically around 800 out of 30000+ questions. I am not sure based on those figures I can agree with your answer. Commented Feb 20, 2010 at 10:24
  • @Lance, yes I agree you have to draw the line somewhere, but I believe the line they have drawn is under-defined and there are inherent contradictions within the current stated acceptability of SU discussions. I don't have any problem with moderating in the way that the moderators do, insofar as they clearly define their purpose and limitations. However, right now their definition of what is acceptable and unacceptable is very nebulous. That point alone is proven by the popularity and controversy started by this thread. Commented Feb 22, 2010 at 2:04
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    @Diago, I think you may have missed my point. My answer pertains to the definition of your website's purpose and acceptability of content. I do not contend that a large number of posts are accepted - clearly 800 out of 30,000 is a pretty good acceptance rate - but that there is a degree of ambiguity in the quoted acceptance policy (how else has this thread become so popular so quickly if not for a good amount of us being confused enough to post here?). Do you disagree that some inconsistencies could be derived from the acceptance policy quoted above? Commented Feb 22, 2010 at 2:18
  • Firstly let's just say it's no my website. It's Jeff site, I am simply a moderator. Secondly the policy is in no way ambiguous. You can't ask question regarding the use of websites, games, smart-phones or non computer equipment. I do not which to repeat my answer I have posted on this, however the point is that we defined this based on the wants of the Super User community and Jeff, the former is not well represented on MSO. Furthermore with exception to web applications, there are already Stack Exchange sites handling the other topics, which means there is no need for them to be on SU. Commented Feb 22, 2010 at 4:13

Web applications with offline modes (like those enabled by Google Gears) should be allowed to be asked on Super User because they have code that executes from your PC and perform the same functions as other offline programs.

Also, RESTful applications that interact with websites should be allowed. I'd be annoyed if anyone closed a question related to TweetDeck, but not surprised if someone closed a question related to changing your picture on Twitter.

  • 2
    Actually we do allow questions on TweetDeck. There is two I can think of offhand. I have yet to use Google Reader or GMail offline, I have a very handy e-mail client and RSS reader for that exact purpose on both my Mac and Windows. Both interact seamlessly with Gmail and Google Reader. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:48
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    Show a Tweetdeck question closed on SU. If the question relies on how a website works, it doesn't belong on SU. If it interacts with it using an installed program on the computer, it's SU material. It does matter if they can run a program locally or not.
    – random Mod
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 14:48
  • Here's where I'm having a hard time getting your sense of a cut off for what is considered a desktop app and maybe I'm splitting hairs but this is my conundrum. If I do something RESTFul in my address bar it's not OK but if I do something RESTFul with something that relies on curl, then it's OK. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 22:58
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    Personally I think this whole discussion is splitting hairs, and we will be here debating it for another 10 years, or for as long as we still run application locally. The US and UK may not be far off from running everything in the cloud, but I doubt the rest of the world can handle the bandwith capacities required. Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 23:12

I think this is a more general policy across the Stack Overflow family of sites (even if it's not official on any except Super User). I had a community wiki question closed on Stack Overflow, because it dealt specifically with a website UI and asked for examples that web developers ought to learn from (in the vein of the book Beautiful Code). Yet the same question specifically for application UI is perfectly acceptable. (And probably necessary, since the general thread on this has a lot of websites.)

Right now web applications are in that "awkward phase" - they're not accepted as "real programs" by a lot of smart people, programmers and non-programmers alike. Most people now in the field are probably too young to remember it, but personal computers went through the same phase. ("Real programs" ran on mainframes and, later, minicomputers - someone who specialized in microcomputer programming was... well, no one was sure what, but certainly not a programmer.) I don't think the policy will change until this does.

  • One of the issues is that SO "only" has to deal with all programming languages available. We, however, have to deal with everything that is programmed in every language. Therefore the scope is far too broad if we would allow web-apps, iPhone apps and every other "new" platform. They all require specific knowledge to solve the problem, which the current user base of SU doesn't cover
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 19, 2010 at 5:41
  • What is the policy? I just went through the Help pages, and I cannot find a treatment anywhere. Also see Can the webapp policy please be codified in the site rules?
    – jww
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:02

I not only agree that banning questions on Web Apps or Web Services is short sighted but the description for smartphones is lacking as well. My android phones are mini-computers that have an OS, a Keyboard, a Screen, memory and storage. Questions about software running on those should be valid whether they are connecting to a PC or not.

These two branches of exclusion really are blocking of a large field of view of related technical questions that could be filled by superuser.

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    Yes, and gaming consoles are basically computers too, for the same reasons that you give. My calculator has a keyboard, a screen, memory, and I can program on it. Where do you stop? You have to put a limit somewhere, and there it is. Because no matter how much all these things can be seen as "computers", you won't install the same things as on a desktop/laptop, you won't have the same issues as on a "classic" computer. So yes, we are aware that it's blocking a large field. That's the point. You have to put a limit somewhere, to keep a scope. Super User is not the "anything goes" site.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Apr 20, 2010 at 7:35
  • Such questions would be better treated on dedicated sites. Because not every "regular" computer user is using an iPhone. Not every user is a gamer as well. There are StackExchange sites already for these topics, no need to add to Super User, there is a large enough field of questions to ask on it.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Apr 20, 2010 at 7:38
  • i promise to use an iphone if someone else will buy it for me... (tho i won't promise to use it for anything in particular...)
    – quack quixote
    Commented Apr 20, 2010 at 10:10

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