Being a good SE-citizen I looked at help/on-topic before asking my first question here, to find that this page is just about void of useful information.

A basic summary of what is and also is not on topic would be fantastic, but if that's not available yet perhaps a set of links to meta-discussions on gray areas and/or text with info from the Area51 proposal may help.

  • This site is just two weeks old! Specific guidance will come in once the main issues have settled, typically a few weeks after the site acquires moderators. Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 12:30
  • Haha, oh my, you look so mature already! That makes sense, I'll be patient then :-)
    – Jeroen
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 12:47
  • Yep, we're just in the what, first day of going public?
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


I'd like to suggest a different approach than what I've seen on most sites: rather than just having a list of topics I think it would be wise to first define the core topic which this site is about. I think it's important to state that except in the rarest of questions "open source", "free" and "libre" are considered synonymous on this site. I have used the current most highly voted site name suggestion, so if you don't like "Free & Open" please go vote! So here's my go at a first draft:

Free & Open (or alt. site name) is a question & answer site about a group of related movements which encourage people to give up some of the rights given to them by copyright law, by using licenses which give others the freedom to use and transform their creative works, and which optionally (by using copyleft/share-alike licenses) ensure that these works will always be made available with the same rights. This site is not limited to software, but also covers art, literature, hardware, databases and more.

These movements have been spearheaded by a group of organisations: FSF, OSI, Creative Commons, Free Culture. These organisations prefer a variety of different terms (free, open source, libre) and sometimes define them with slight differences. But on this site these terms should in general be considered to be synonymous, except for questions which ask directly about their differences.

You've come to the right place if you have questions about:

  • the history and philosophies of the FSF, OSI, CC etc
  • understanding, applying, and complying with Free & Open licenses
  • how communities collaborate together to produce, distribute, market and sometime monetize these projects

But there are some questions which should not be asked here:

  • if you want to know how to use some software, or how its code works
  • if you would like recommendations for Free/Open software or media

These questions may be on-topic on some of the other Stack Exchange sites, but make sure you check their specific on-topic guidelines too.

  • The bullets would've certainly clarified things for me when I was wondering about whether my own question was/wasn't on topic.
    – Jeroen
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:11
  • I retracted my +1 because of your edit.
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:12
  • 1
    @EricGärtner Why?? It would be much more helpful if you explained why rather than just saying that. Also, see this chat exchange which prompted the change: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/22684929#22684929 Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:14
  • The two terms "marketed and monetized" are to vague. What questions and answers that go beyond the trivial to you expect?
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:18
  • 1
    @EricGärtner They're just as vague as "collaborate", "produce" and "distrbute". Vague is okay in the on-topic description, it's just meant to indicate the general boundaries of what is allowed and encouraged. Specific questions will always have to be dealt with specifically. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:19
  • @curiousdannii You are correct, the terms you mention are vague. I wonder what good questions and answers for your third point (community) exist?
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:26
  • @EricGärtner Here are some good ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:33
  • That's what I call trivial.
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:37
  • 1
    @EricGärtner Well okay. I don't mind if you think so. Please do write some better questions. But none of this is constructive for making the new on-topic page. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:43
  • 1
    I've copied this into the new help center page.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:03

Basically in general...

  • Any question related to licensing libre/open source projects
  • Any question related to the marketing of libre/open source projects
  • Any question related to the organization and management of libre/open source projects ... Anything that's libre/open source.

Also, we allow:

  • Questions on the history and philosophies of the FSF and the OSI
  • Questions on Creative Commons licenses and the organization itself.

Feel free to add if I missed something.

  • Am I wrong or are there virtually no questions about the marketing and the organization aspect? Most questions are either FAQs or heavily constructed to test the boundaries of common licenses.
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:09
  • 1
    @EricGärtner just because we haven't asked many of them so far doesn't mean that we don't want to see more of them. At the moment, the problem is simply that not many of our members are involved in these aspects of Open Source.
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:18
  • True. Where will these members come from?
    – user490
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:28
  • @EricGärtner These members will be coming as the site develops.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:30

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