We've had two questions so far that have asked how to get started with Open Source, namely:

The first is a bit narrower in scope than the second one, but they essentially both boil down to: I want to start doing open source/free software work, where do I start?

I suspect that this won't be the last time someone comes to our site looking for an answer to that question. But sadly, this question is immensely broad (and I have voted to close for that exact reason).

Is there a way we could provide a general reference for people wanting to get started with Open Source/Free Software within the Stack Exchange format? And if so, how?

  • Canonical questions work very well on many sites: It would be appropriate to have some here as well.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:32

4 Answers 4


Moderators should combine these into one question, and then create the skeleton for a canonical answer in the form of a community wiki answer. As soon as it is a community wiki question/answer, everybody else can improve on it.

  • That was my thought as well. I would suggest we take the current question, close it and work with the OP to rewrite it a bit until we're happy with what we've got and then reopen and add a CW answer. (We should likely make the entire question CW)
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 6:41
  • This would be the best thing to do. (y) Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 6:43
  • @overactor, good plan. I've voted to close. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 6:57

I'm going to say a few things (fine they've been said before), they are our options:

Community Wiki

The answer should, the question is not necessarily a "community" question, as it was genuinely asked by an author. If the author agrees to a CW post, then so be it. The answer shall be made Community wiki. This way, the rep threshold to add make edit is significantly reduced.

Lock the post

The question should also be locked: If locked, it means that no new answers will be able to provided, thus enforcing the use of a single answer. This would likely be the notice:

This question's answers are a collaborative effort: if you see something that can be improved, just edit the answer to improve it! No additional answers can be added here

An example is here.

Don't vote to close, get a mod to also place a historical lock like this:

This way, you can keep the high traffic posts with high votes, but make sure that other users get a notice that this is not an exemplary question, and don't use it. The only issue with this is that you can't edit afterwards.

An example is here.

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

Protect the question

This will help stop spam from coming in, but not necessarily a bunch of new answers. These questions require 10 rep to answer, and you don't need mods to do this.

This question is protected to prevent "thanks!", "me too!", or spam answers by new users. To answer it, you must have earned at least 10 reputation on this site.

An example is here

What I recommend:

Lock the post: Doing so makes it community wiki, and ensures no answers can be added.


We need to provide a canonical answer for this type of question.

Over time, we will get many people looking for an answer to that exact question. And they will expect this site to contain that answer (And honestly, why shouldn't it?). What they don't know is that that question is a very difficult fit for the Stack Exchange format.

Which is why the approach we're currently taking, writing a Community Wiki answer is ideal. That way we can make our canonical answer and communally make it as awesome as all of our knowledge and skills combined can possibly make it.

The next time someone asks this question, we can point them to this answer. that is, we can close their question as a duplicate and have that duplicate actually contain a nice answer.

I do, however, think that this question should be protected and possibly even locked as a historically significant post at some point in the future. This is a special case and this should be clearly communicated.


I don't think we can have an on-topic, meaningful and high quality question that is essentially "give me advice on what to make my hobby." The questions should be closed, even if we do have a 'canonical' answer.

It would be the equivalent of going to the Board Games SE site and asking for advice on how to choose a new board game to play, with no information about what else you like, where your other interests are, skills, things you dislike etc. Sorry, but you'll have to figure that out on your own.

  • 1
    Funny that you would bring that up. (from rpg.SE though, not Board Games)
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 11:18
  • @overactor Just because such a question exists doesn't mean it should be open there. And even if another community decides they'll allow it doesn't mean we should. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 11:19
  • Agreed, I'm just pointing out that this is not without precedent.
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 11:21
  • @curiousdannii I should also note that the post that overactor mentioned was also answered by moderators, proving that these sorts of questions can prove very useful.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 12:01

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