First, let me say that I am a huge fan of Stack Overflow. Ever since it came on the scene it has really helped me with some challenging programming problems. It is awesome the way that question answerers donate their time, and how moderators chip in to keep things on track.

Having said that every now and then I feel that moderators are overzealous in closing off questions (for various reasons). It just happened to me overnight. Yesterday I posted a question about installing node.js with NPM on a Raspberry Pi. You can see the discussion here:

Getting NPM installed on Raspberry Pi (Wheezy Image)

From my point of view, the question was appropriate for Stack Overflow because it is about setting up some development tools on a Linux machine. I even state that I want to pull down packages to use in applications. I tagged it with the following tags:

  • node.js
  • npm
  • raspberry-pi
  • raspbian

These were the tags I used because:

  • NPM is related directly to node.js development.
  • NPM installation via apt-get was what I was trying to solve.
  • Raspberry Pi is the specific hardware that has the issue (ARM-device).
  • Raspbian is the operating system which is specific to the Raspberry Pi hardware.

After reviewing the FAQ I feel that my question was very much on topic (link to FAQ I read):

... yet it was closed by five different people. Am I wrong? Are they wrong? Does it matter because I got my answer (just in the knick of time).

So finally, with all that background I have two questions:

  1. How can we as a community ensure that Stack Overflow remains a friendly place and that people aren't put off when a question is shutdown, even when it is valid (according to the FAQ).
  2. If I have a question that is closed, but I have an answer that works, should I bother to re-open because I disagree with the reason it was closed?

With the second question, the reason I am inclined to re-open is that in a few months time I am sure that someone might chime in and say "this is fixed", you can just do npm install nodejs npm.

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Note that none of the five community members who closed your question are moderators (unless you count 10K+ users as moderators). –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '12 at 23:32
Which software product in the question you linked is actually a development tool? –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '12 at 23:35
You seem to be asking a mishmash of two questions. The first, about keeping SO friendly, is only tangentially related to the second, which is about whether a QC process has malfunctioned. I cannot stress this enough, but please believe me when I say no one means a close vote personally. Regardless of whether the question closure was right or wrong, you shouldn't feel people here are hostile towards you just for saying a question is off topic. –  Asad Dec 27 '12 at 23:36
Hi Robert. Sorry - I made an assumption that a moderator would have to close the question. But it makes sense to farm that out to the community from a scalability point of view. With regards to which is a development tool. Node.js is a runtime environment based on the Google V8 JavaScript engine. You could equate it to a JVM, or the .NET CLR, or the Ruby runtime. NPM is a package manager that developers use to pull in external dependencies. It is similar to RubyGems or NuGet. NPM specifically makes it possible to require(...) in external dependencies. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:38
Hi Asad, you are correct, there are two questions there. They are related because they both occurred to me after the question was closed as off-topic. After doing more reading I have flagged the question for moderator attention. I'll also vote to re-open, but my status isn't high enough for that to have any effect I don't think. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:43
Btw, you can use @ followed by the username of a user to notify them of your replies. Like this: @MitchDenny –  Asad Dec 27 '12 at 23:47
Thanks @Asad. You learn something new everyday. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:49
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1 Answer

The FAQ says that questions about:

software tools commonly used by programmers

are on-topic. This encompasses software such as IDE's, software libraries and source code control systems. It encompasses use as well as installation and configuration.

The problem with the question you linked is that it's not about a software development tool which is used primarily by developers, but about a package manager which anyone might use for any purpose.


The question is about               Is it on-topic?
---------------------                ---------------
Visual Studio Programming            Yes
              Configuration          Yes
              Installation           Yes

SQL Server Programming               Yes
           Configuration             Maybe
           Installation              No

Windows Installer Programming        Yes
                  Configuration      No
                  Installation       No
share|improve this answer
That specific package manager is for Node.js, which is primarily used by developers, no? –  Asad Dec 27 '12 at 23:45
Hi Robert, I respectfully disagree. Node.js and NPM installation is less like a SQL Server installation, and more like a Visual Studio installation. For example, when installing Node.js you get access to the REPL which is effectively a debugging console. And very useful for working through simple programming problems. Having said that, the table you provided is helpful in understanding why someone might have closed it. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:45
So nobody uses NPM but developers? Usually package managers are used by end-users. –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '12 at 23:46
In the context of the question I was asking - this was a development question. A great deal of questions would be closed if it failed "is used exclusively by developers" test. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:48
@MitchDenny: Yes, but you have to draw the line somewhere. If Visual Studio had a package manager for some plugins, asking a question about installing the package manager would be pretty far afield, especially if that package manager were also used for other applications besides Visual Studio. –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '12 at 23:50
@RobertHarvey, actually there are two package managers at play here. There is the Debian/Raspbian package manager (APT/apt-get) and the development tool I was trying to install (NPM). You install NPM packages so that you can use the require(...) function in JavaScript - in this case hosted in Node.js. Sounds pretty programmerish to me. –  Mitch Denny Dec 27 '12 at 23:54
@MitchDenny I have to agree with Robert here. NPM is used to install whole services, not just development tools. It's more of an OS-level issue and not a developer tool issue. I'd say that this is more of a Super User question and not a Stack Overflow question. –  casperOne Dec 28 '12 at 0:03
Hi @JollyOldSaintNicholas, I disagree but that is OK. Would you be willing to experiment a little? What if I cross posted the question to just to see what happens? It would be interesting to see whether it got closed as off-topic over there as a developer question :) –  Mitch Denny Dec 28 '12 at 0:06
No, but we can migrate it to SuperUser for you. –  Robert Harvey Dec 28 '12 at 0:08
@MitchDenny Robert and I have talked about this, and we've migrated it over to the Raspberry Pi site. That said, for future reference, we don't like exact duplicates cross posted on multiple Stack Exchange sites, as that's considered noise on the network, which we want to avoid. Also, not to be a curmudgeon, but we don't experiment much, if at all, if we do it for one, we have to do it for a few hundred thousand others and then that gets out of control. –  casperOne Dec 28 '12 at 0:13
@JollyOldSaintNicholas it looks like it was also migrated to the Raspberry Pi beta site as well (colour me confused). The funny thing about that is that the npm and node.js topics don't exist over there - and because I don't have enough reputation I can't create them either. Fail :( –  Mitch Denny Dec 28 '12 at 0:22
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