I sometimes come across questions on SO about someone having trouble installing a piece of software (recent example here). Since installing software sounds to me like a general computing topic, not a programming topic, I usually suggest that it belongs on SU.

I've seen comments from those who don't agree saying that it's appropriate to ask such a question on SO if the software in question is directly related to programming (like an IDE). When I looked up this poll question about appropriate programming-related topics, the answer that seems closest to the issue of software installation is this one, which is comparatively pretty low on the list (#12 by votes) of what people feel is approved SO content.

I thought I would ask this question to more specifically address the issue:

Under what circumstances is it appropriate to ask questions on SO about software installation problems?

  • belongs on meta.stackoverflow.com – quack quixote Nov 1 '09 at 22:19
  • 1
    @~quack: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's where we are right now. ;) – gnostradamus Nov 1 '09 at 23:26

It depends on what is being installed. If your system ships with libfoo 3.2 and you need 3.4 but your OS has yet to package it, it may be appropriate.

If someone is having trouble installing a web server, RDBMS, etc ... that's when I'd vote to migrate the question.

In short, if its a library, part of a collection of interpreted classes, gem or egg .. I think its appropriate for SO. Someone is spending time trying to hammer a library in place instead of using it .. such a question is worth answering.

This is one of those times where the individual discretion of those who have the ability to close comes into play. Luckily, it takes more than one person to close or migrate a question :)


When the software is programming related: on Stack Overflow ;)

Honestly, if you have trouble installing your IDE, you will find more helpful answers on SO than SU. On SO are all these guys who use IDEs. For sure a lot more than on Super User.

The interesting part begins when you have to install e.g. Apache, because you want to develop a web app running on this server. Then it depends on the particular problem, where you get the best answers: SO, SF, or SU. I would post a problem like this on SO, because I assume that it is very likely that other developers had this problem before, if I am encountering it.


I would suggest the answer is posting the question should be based on how fast you'll get a answer, the quality of the answer, and the breadth of knowledge of those answering the question, for follow up.

The problem is that I am not sure where that is. I think that discovering the best place to ask the question is to search for similar questions an look at the quality of those responses. I just happened to notice the same post on SF 80227 and SO 1655932 asking about PYTHONPATH. I'll let someone else judge the quality of the two answers.

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