Imagine a highly-specific open source library whose website has disappeared, or has been abandoned. Is it on-topic to ask whether the project still lives somewhere else, maybe as a fork under another name? It can be very difficult to find even with good Google skills.

Here is such a question: Where is csharp-sqlite now maintained? (6 upvotes 2 downvotes 2 close)

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    As your question goes you might ask it on Stack Overflow because its related to a programming language. – Aditya ultra Jul 2 '15 at 9:00
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    @Adityaultra if it's a better fit here, that's of no concern. our primary concern is our site and if we're going to be eating away from the scope of any SE site, SO is definitely not the worst. – overactor Jul 2 '15 at 9:06
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    @Adityaultra: Such a question would get closed on sight at StackOverflow, as it is not about code. – Nicolas Raoul Jul 2 '15 at 9:13

It can be very difficult to find even with good Google skills.

That sentence persuaded me that these should be allowed: they're about an open source topic - the project itself, being open source - and we're here to help with open source questions. Having access to more people who might have different Google skills means it's more likely to get solved.

In essence, these are specific questions, which are allowed.

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    Your answer is irrelevant. The issue here is not whether the question is suitable for Stack Exchange, but whether it's on-topic. How difficult the question is doesn't affect whether it's on-topic or not. – Gilles Jul 2 '15 at 16:04
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    @Gilles the entire first paragraph covers that – ArtOfCode Jul 2 '15 at 16:18
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    Where? You say that “That sentence persuaded me that these should be allowed”. You then go on to claim that “they're about an open source topic”, but without any justification, which is unhelpful since this is the core of what this meta thread is about. You then come back to the original idea that difficulty to find makes them good question for one sentence and a half. Nowhere do you explain why finding where an old project have moved is somehow related to open source. – Gilles Jul 2 '15 at 16:32

On other sites these types of questions are often called resource/reference requests, and are usually considered on-topic. Note that these are distinct from resource recommendation questions, which are usually off-topic. In as far as the type of question is concerned they should be allowed. With the upcoming closure of Google Code these questions will surely become more common.

I'm not sure whether they're close enough to our site's core topic though. Others have rightly pointed out that these questions risk being off-topic because the only connection to our topic is that the projects are open source - if you could ask an identical question about a non-FLOSS project, then that's a problem sign.

So I'd like to propose some criteria:

  • Questions about finding home pages for projects are off-topic
  • Questions about finding the source code for FLOSS projects for which you only have a binary are on-topic - but expect downvotes if it's easy to find on Github or in Debian
  • Questions about finding where a project is maintained are on-topic if there's decent evidence that the original project site has been abandoned - note that these should allow unofficial maintenance forks as answers
  • Questions about finding where a project is maintained if you simply don't know are off-topic

If you have suggestions about these criteria please comment below.

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    I've been around SE quite a bit and I can't think of a site that uses the terminology “resource request” and “resource recommendation”, nor can I think of a site other than Open Data where resource requests are accepted. Can you give examples? – Gilles Jul 4 '15 at 9:25
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    @Gilles reference-request might be more common actually. It's found in at least linguistics and christianity. – curiousdannii Jul 4 '15 at 9:28
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    Ah, reference request. Not the same thing! Indeed many sites accept reference requests, and Skeptics is pretty much built on them. A reference request looks for an authoritative source of information. Information, not a specific location where an artifact is to be found. Authoritative, not something that nobody else cares about. – Gilles Jul 4 '15 at 9:34
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    @Gilles Reference requests mean different things on different sites. On the ones I frequent they're more frequently about tracking down some work you saw referenced but can't find. Anyways, whatever the most appropriate terminology might be (and I don't really care which), I think the criteria I gave is a good starting point on what should/shouldn't be allowed here. Feedback about that would be more appreciated than arguing over what other sites mean by reference requests. – curiousdannii Jul 4 '15 at 13:32
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    If you downvoted this can you please give some specific feedback? – curiousdannii Jul 4 '15 at 13:33
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    I am not sure I understand "Questions about finding where a project is maintained if you simply don't know are off-topic". What does know refer to? Thanks! – Nicolas Raoul May 18 '16 at 7:42
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    @NicolasRaoul If you don't know where they are maintained – curiousdannii May 18 '16 at 7:55
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    Does not it contradict your second bullet point? – Nicolas Raoul May 18 '16 at 7:58
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    @NicolasRaoul No because the second one can be answered with any copy of the source code. (As it turns out, I don't think I've ever seen any questions of the second category.) – curiousdannii May 18 '16 at 8:05

No, by the same principle as Are technical questions about specific software that happens to be open source on-topic?

Citing Robert Cartaino's answer:

Your example question is not about the SUBJECT of open source. The open source component of this question is only coincidental.

The fact that this project is open-source is coincidental (at most, it's relevant that the project was downloadable from a web page, which is a far cry from meaning that it's open-source). The question is unrelated to open-sourceness, or to how to work with open source.

I would say that ultimately, it's a matter of audience. This site is for questions that are relevant to people who participate in open source projects. What some old arcane project might have become is irrelevant. It's the old boat programming discussion. (The original boat programming question that sparked this actually had different issues, but that's not relevant here.) The mere fact that a programmer might happen to be programming on a boat doesn't make questions about being on a boat on-topic on a site about programming. A question has to be relevant to the audience of the site. “Where has this project gone” isn't.


The site most similar to us is probably Open Data.

At Open Data, while license-related questions are numerous, there are even more questions about particular open datasets. Those questions:

  • Are not about the concept of open data itself
  • Are about a particular dataset that happens to be open
  • Are often very interesting
  • Often have great answers

Some are about the history of a particular dataset, for instance a dataset that used to be available at URL1 bit can not be found anymore (example). Often someone has kept a copy of the dataset somewhere, or it has been merged into a larger dataset, or it is now maintained by a different organization under a different name. As you know, the exact same events happen frequently with open source code.

I can't find the URL anymore, but there was a blog post or beta advice piece that told betas how questions should not be about the concept itself, and instead should be questions that arise in the context of this concept, for instance questions on the aviation site are not about the aviation concept itself, but down-to-earth (so to say) questions about particular planes. If anyone know the URL for that please edit or comment, thanks!

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    Open Data is completely different. The scope of that site is to locate data sources. The scope of Open Source is not to locate open source projects and I don't see why it would be a worthwhile extension of our scope. – Gilles Jul 3 '15 at 7:51
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    Open Data, as to their help centre, is to look for places of data, tools, resources, formats, tips and tricks and the like. When you say licensing questions are numerous, only 40 of the 1421 questions have that tag. – Zizouz212 Jul 3 '15 at 15:17

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