We recently asked how you feel about questions regarding Windows 8 on ARM. After looking through the answers and comments there, and some lengthy discussion amongst the moderators, we've come up with the following possible changes to our policies on tablets.

As the nature of computing changes, so should we. Increasingly, super users like ourselves have more than just a desktop and a laptop. Furthermore, the line between "computer" and "device" is blurring. Nevertheless, with any of the options below, we will naturally continue our policy of requiring high-quality, practical, answerable questions. None of the suggested changes would allow for open-ended app recommendations, purchasing suggestions, etc.

Here are the options we have come up with:

  • Continue the status quo. No tablet questions allowed, unless it's running a desktop operating system. Windows on ARM questions would not be permitted, but Windows 8 on x86-64 hardware would be allowed.

  • Allow appropriate tablet questions, but not actively encourage iOS and Android. Basically they will be treated like Ubuntu and OS X are treated right now.

  • Allow any tablet questions. Treat tablets like any other computer.

  • Make an exception specifically for Windows 8 on ARM, to avoid confusion for users. Questions about other tablets would still be off-topic, but we would allow WOA questions since the operating system is similar enough to regular Windows 8.

If any of the options for broadening the scope is chosen, we will put the new policy into effect shortly, and give it a discrete "trial run" in advance of the Windows 8 launch. At the time of the Windows 8 launch, we expect an influx of tablet questions, so we should have determined by then whether we're OK with the changes or not.

Initially, this will be quiet. We may start allowing tablet questions of some form, but will not advertise that. Once we determine if it seems to be working, we can make an official decision and make that information available via the blog and other sources.

Please vote on the options below. If you have commentary, please leave it under the original question or one of the polling options. The purpose of this question is to serve as a poll, so we'd like to avoid adding additional answers beyond the choices given here.

Please note that this post is meant to be a means for the Super User moderators to gauge the general feelings of the community on this issue. Votes on the options here do not necessarily reflect the final decision that will be made. The moderation team reserves the right to make a decision which may not directly correspond with the options laid out or voted upon here.

  • I think this should be mention on the blog as well. – Nifle Jun 20 '12 at 8:48
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    What's the difference between Appropriate tablet questions and Exception for Windows 8 on ARM? – Daniel Beck Jun 20 '12 at 9:03
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    @DanielBeck iPad, Android, WebOS, etc. tablet questions could be allowed within reason, but we'd encourage them to ask on other sites (where they exist). – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 9:04
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    Are we only counting upvotes? Or are we using the sum as shown? – iglvzx Jun 20 '12 at 9:35
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    @iglvzx this is more of an opinion poll than a "please cast an official ballot to determine the absolute policy decision." As such, you can interpret it as you like. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 9:39
  • Super User ... is not about ... _electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer. I think this is key. Do we expect windows ARM (or insert-tablet-here) to be the computer that these other devices interface with? – Jeremy W Jun 21 '12 at 0:47
  • @JeremyW if we change our scope, we can change our FAQ to reflect that. Don't feel obligated by what's presently in the FAQ when thinking about this question. – nhinkle Jun 21 '12 at 16:16
  • @nhinkle certainly it could be changed. Many tablets don't allow electronic devices to interface directly (such as printers, headsets, portable electronic gadgets, even phones) if the ARM/x86 tablets allow such things then I think the bit about being the computer that other devices interface with is helpful for limiting our scope. – Jeremy W Jun 21 '12 at 17:48
  • What's the current status regarding mobile devices that run Linux-which-is-not-Android? e.g. Symbian? The set of questions on an uncrippled Linux device has very little to do with the CPU architecture. – Ben Voigt Jun 22 '12 at 21:43
  • @BenVoigt if it's about liniux, it's probably fine. If it's about the phone though, then we're not really equipped to answer it. – nhinkle Jun 22 '12 at 22:03
  • zynic rant: I believe that if "we" or more like you start allowing "appropriate tablet questions" while disencouraging iOS and Android the scope-reduction will become even more ridiculous. If you want to refer them to the sister-sites, We might as well split up SU into windows & linux user dot com and close down SU; and everyone will be referred to the community with their ecosystem. What the hell would be so bad about having ios, android, os-x as tags here and closing down or redirecting from the sister-sites? Macs are computers, tablets and smartphones are, it is that simple. – kluka Nov 4 '12 at 20:36
  • Should this still be Featured? – user59659 Nov 9 '12 at 5:25
  • @MatthewRead probably not. The featured tag is supposed to expire after 2 weeks, but apparently didn't. – nhinkle Nov 9 '12 at 6:25
  • @AnnaLear For Super User, any FAQ change is a feature request. – Daniel Beck Apr 24 '13 at 8:16

Allow appropriate tablet questions

Vote for this option if you believe we should allow tablet questions, but shouldn't actively encourage iOS or Android questions. We would update our FAQ to mention all the relevant sister-sites: Unix, Ubuntu, Apple and Android as great places to ask questions about their respective ecosystems, while allowing them on SU as well. Furthermore, we would mention this in the announcement blog post, to make it clear that we support our sister-sites as well.

Under this option in particular, tablet questions would be closely watched during the trial phase, to make sure that they are meeting our typical quality standards. Moderators and users would have to use discretion in determining whether particular tablet questions are appropriate, but we would in general tolerate questions pertaining to these devices.

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    For all the skeptics, I'd view this as Facebook.SO. Sure, there's some awful stuff in there, but we all understand why we need it. Given our current style of moderation, I don't see why tablets would cause any problems we can't deal with. So let's just give it a shot! – Ivo Flipse Jun 20 '12 at 8:48
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    Definitely not. A site's policy should make sense in isolation. "We no longer accept this because there's a more specific site for it" is a really bad response, and topic overlap is tolerated and actively encouraged on the SE network. Quoting here, attempting to micromanage what’s on-topic in order to avoid overlap with other sites or simply drive away users seen as undesirable is undesired behavior. If we accept a question for one device, we should accept the equivalent for a similar device. – Daniel Beck Jun 20 '12 at 9:08
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    @DanielBeck I feel like if anything, this option best satisfies your point. We'd allow iPad and Android questions if people really wanted to ask them here and if they were good questions, but we'd make sure they knew that other sites were available. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 9:10
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    I still think that the iPad questions should be shuffled to apple and the Android to android as the users questions will probably be answered quicker, recieve a larger applicable audience and probably have a higher accept rate. – HaydnWVN Jun 20 '12 at 9:25
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    @HaydnWVN Choosing a particular site is the user's right. We had this in the past with Ubuntu and OS X as well and we certainly will not make our policy to accept questions about computer hardware, unless they're from Apple, and computer software, unless they're Linux. – Daniel Beck Jun 20 '12 at 9:39
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    There is a clear distinction missing here: A tablet that "tries really hard to act like a computer", isn't a computer. While a computer that happens to have a tablet input panel, is a computer. The user can administrate/"be the superuser" of the later. The user can only use the former. To discard this distinction, I think, would make for bad policy. If this site is supposed to be about asking superuser questions to other superusers, then tablets that don't give the user superuser access are "off topic". – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 12:20
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    @killermist I strongly disagree with this notion. We're not the CS Theory of computers, so we don't only cater to questions by so called experts that have superuser access. I want SU to be a site where I can point my GF to, to get an answer, rather than having to solve each of her problems in person. – Ivo Flipse Jun 20 '12 at 12:38
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    so @killermist my question on getting something done in MS Office must be offtopic because my computer doesn't have Admin privileges? the site name doesn't signify that all computers must have superuser access to be fit for the site. I don't see how admin access makes a clear distinction – Sathyajith Bhat Jun 20 '12 at 12:38
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    We all have different opinions. I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm just stating mine, and supplying my backing logic, which you are perfectly fine to disagree with. The question is trying to gauge where the community is, and I'm just trying to be honest. – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 12:44
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    @KronoS I don't see a real need honestly, if only because we're still too small compared to SO to warrant subdomains like that – Ivo Flipse Jun 20 '12 at 17:02
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    Retracting my earlier opinion, +1. We need to accept tablet computer questions simply because these are rapidly becoming the computer for many people. Regarding my earlier doubts that this will mean that tablet computer topics will only be second class on SU: The moderators already wrote in chat that tablet computer questions will not be handled differently from today's Ubuntu or OS X questions, and that sounds reasonable, creating a consistent and easy to understand policy on what we consider on topic. – Daniel Beck Jun 21 '12 at 20:30
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    From the about page: "With your help, we can build good answers to every question a power user might have. No matter what operating system you choose, or what hardware you run it on, we can learn from each other." This statement actually goes more with "Allow any tablet questions", and I really don't see much differnce between these two answers except for attitude. I'll +1 this one because it's close enough, and the other is obviously not popular in the community. – TecBrat Jul 10 '12 at 15:30
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    @Jeff The same could be said about Linux and OSX questions belonging on their respective sites. I don't want to take away any questions from Android or Apple, I just want a policy that will be easier to explain to people and doesn't require a slew of bullet points that arbitrarily excludes things. – Ivo Flipse Jul 25 '12 at 7:30
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    @JeffAtwood I'm curious what your stance is on Windows on ARM questions. It's not Win32, and there's no real historical context for those sorts of questions. That being said, it would be mighty confusing to users if we only allow Windows 8 questions if it's on x86-64 hardware. – nhinkle Jul 25 '12 at 20:20
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    @ivo if the community wants it, you can certainly try it as an experiment. But I want to go on record saying that this is kind of a "punish the user" decision you guys are making here, in the sense that you're allowing them to ask questions that have near-zero probability of getting good answers on Super User, based on the existing audience. Woe betide the poor user that asks an iPad question here "because it is allowed"; that can only end in tears. – Jeff Atwood Jul 25 '12 at 20:52

Make an exception specifically for Windows 8 on ARM

Vote for this option if you believe we should make an exception specifically for Windows 8 on ARM. This would be done to avoid confusion for users, given the similarity between the "traditional" and "tablet-only" versions of Windows 8. Questions about other tablets would still be off-topic.

  • I'd think this might be a viable solution unless there was a windows phone SE site. I'd suggest that we'd insist these questions be tagged specifically windows8-rt perhaps, both to avoid confusion and so we can migrate these easily. – Journeyman Geek Jun 20 '12 at 8:59
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    @JourneymanGeek there is a specific Windows Phone site, but a) Windows 8 isn't Windows Phone, and b) part of the problem here is that there'll be a lot of Windows 8 questions that could apply to either type, and we want to avoid splitting them up. I agree that a windows-rt tag would be appropriate for questions that are specific to the ARM version though, if we end up allowing them in one way or another. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 9:00
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    We never cared about what other sites exist for a certain topic, and shouldn't start now. Windows 8 on ARM does not run any of today's Windows software, so it's hardly more of a "real computer" than Android, iOS and Web OS devices. – Daniel Beck Jun 20 '12 at 9:11
  • The underlying 'user' questions associated with Windows 8 on ARM will 90% apply to the x86 version of the OS. It's just what to do with those 10% of questions which may be specific to ARM, personally I think it would be silly to shuffle those off elsewhere. You'd seem to be dividing the Windows 8 tablet community. – HaydnWVN Jun 20 '12 at 9:27
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    @HaydnWVN that's basically why this whole thing came up, and you hit the nail in the head. It doesn't make sense to say "you can ask about Windows 8 Metro all you want. Unless it's running on ARM." – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 9:29
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    @nhinkle Actually, it does. We're already broadening question scope to make questions on topic. If the user only gets answers that don't apply to his particular situation, tough. – Daniel Beck Jun 20 '12 at 9:31
  • Isn't that the way it should work though? Flexible answers and solutions are easier than having flexible questions asked... As they won't be lol :) – HaydnWVN Jun 20 '12 at 9:38
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    This is a slippery slope argument (and not a good one). The user never really will get to act as a superuser on WinRT/ARM tablets because via hardware lock-in, Microsoft will be permanently seated as the absentee-landlord superuser of something the user just happens to own. My simple rule of thumb, if the user isn't able to act as a superuser, then it isn't a superuser question. And with MS the administrator/superuser of the hardware, the user can never be the superuser. – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 12:11
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    Are you a Super User within Office? There are plenty of questions left about a device without ever having to change the software – Ivo Flipse Jun 20 '12 at 12:15
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    I formulated this thought well in the previous thread, so I'm just copying: I know this will sound condescending, but there's nothing to do for it, so here goes. A user that can't distinguish between a Windows RT tablet and a Windows 8 computer is NOT acting as a superuser. That being said if THEY don't know what they have, then their questions are likely to confuse those trying to give them answers, because responders will first have to decipher what the question is in the first place. I don't advocate leaving them out in the cold. But, this isn't the right place for those questions. – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 12:25
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    @IvoFlipse Personally, I consider Office questions off-topic, I skip them immediately, both because they hold no interest for me, and because I probably wouldn't have an answer in the first place. Maybe that's prejudicial of me, but questions regarding Office just don't seem "superusery" to me, and they aren't why I'm here. I have administrated many machines over many years. I've occasionally had just-user grade questions, but often they sharpened me as an administrator. Office, doesn't sharpen anyone. (personal opinion) – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 12:37
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    @killermist However office questions are viable here, and that's the way that it's been. The fact is, that Super User is a melting pot of topics that are allowed. This was the idea from it's creation. This doesn't mean we just allow anything, but we should be ready for the fact that there is going to be addition/subtractions as technology and other SE sites progress. – James Mertz Jun 20 '12 at 16:07
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    @killermist you need to get past the name of the site and realize that at the end of the day, we're a place to ask questions about computers. The people who answer are usually "super users," but that doesn't mean we aren't a resource for everybody. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 16:38
  • @nhinkle You may be right, but I guess that part of my concern is that these tablets aren't a computer, and will probably dilute the discussion even more, maybe leading to other users like myself progressively losing interest in SU and migrate in the directions of the more specific niches like Unix/Linux, Ubuntu, etc., which I think could be detrimental to SU. But, I'm just one guy that personally thinks that tablets are unequal to computers. – killermist Jun 20 '12 at 17:13
  • @killermist in the larger scope of things, I think the dilution will be minimal. We get ~200 questions/day. If we start getting 210 questions/day, 10 of which are tablet questions, it's not going to dilute it significantly. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 17:28

Allow any tablet questions

Vote for this option if you believe we should treat tablets like other computers, and start allowing tablet questions for all platforms (within the bounds of what is considered a reasonable, on-topic question).

  • This is just ridiculous as it will create a bunch of fodder that we'll have to handle. – James Mertz Jun 20 '12 at 17:09
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    @KronoS I think this option is safely in the "not approved of" zone now. – nhinkle Jun 20 '12 at 17:27
  • It does not do any good to vote for this, but I think it is complete BS to be restricing users to such small areas, and requring people to hop all over the rest of stack exchange or the rest of the web to ask questions that do not fit into the microbe of allowances at superuser. I fint it is a lot less restricting, more freedom and more humanly personable to be on a forum where communications, and free speeches are not confined to a little bubble. While the experts and mods here are of high caliber, the freedom is the lowest of any user communications site on the web. – Psycogeek Apr 23 '13 at 21:29

Continue the status quo

Vote for this option if you believe we should continue the current state of affairs. No tablet questions allowed, unless it's running a desktop operating system. Windows on ARM questions would not be permitted, but Windows 8 on x86-64 hardware would be allowed.

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    Doing this just ignores the problems that we're going to face. A change needs to happen of some sort. – James Mertz Jun 20 '12 at 15:55
  • I would strongly consider having a tablet-specific version of superuser instead of integrating those questions here. – mikebabcock Jul 6 '12 at 13:24
  • Why allow Windows 8 on x86-64 but not Windows on ARM ? ... what is the distinction between the two ? – Kevin Fegan Oct 27 '12 at 7:03

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