I'm hunting for the right place to ask questions about open-source project organisations and their processes (not their products). For example the organisation Debian. I first asked on Unix & Linux here but it seems the mod's view is that it wouldn't be on-topic there because its not about using the software.

After reading here What topics can I ask here:

Open Source Stack Exchange is a question & answers site about Free and Open movements

I'm not totally sure if distributors fall under the definition of "movements" or are otherwise acceptable.

Offering an example question:

"Are developers with no prior experience as a package maintainer allowed to publish their own software through Debian?"

I'm looking for the right place to post organisational questions about open source projects that rely on volunteers such as Open Community. There's an obvious line to be drawn where software is developed entirely by corporate employees and happens to be published as open-source for commercial reasons.

3 Answers 3


I'm not speaking as a mod, here, just as a user. It seems to me that some such questions can be on-topic, but a bright-line test is hard to come by, and it seems likely that a case-by-case approach will be needed.

I agree that questions about wholly-commercial enterprises would be automatically off-topic.

Questions about big community projects and their policies (eg, Debian) might well be on-topic, but we expect people to have done their own research before posting here, so questions about the formal policies are less likely to be on-topic than questions about the practical application thereof. Something like "I've written a parser for Q-based widgets and I'd like to get it into Debian. I've put myself forward as a maintainer (link to application) as per (policy link), and waited the required X weeks, but I've not had any response. Have I misunderstood any important element of the procedure? If not, is it common to need to agitate harder to get approved as a maintainer, and if so, how best to do that?" might well, it seems to me, be on-topic.

Small community projects we're unlikely to be able to shed much light on. I'd've named a few, but I don't want to offend, and I think we all have a favourite project run by a single principal author, with a small coterie of regular participants; questions like "Why won't John P. Author accept my patch?" are unlikely to get good answers, and so are likely off-topic.

Questions about commercial-led enterprises with a formal community participation route, such as Fedora development, might well be on-topic.

In all cases, factors I'd weigh when making an on/off-topic call include the nature of the project, the likelihood of any good answer here, and the amount and quality of prior research done by the OP. Write a question with those points in mind and I'd be surprised if it got closed perfunctorily.


I haven’t participated here in a while, but I would say yes; it seems to me that this is a variant of

how communities collaborate together to produce, distribute, market and sometimes monetize these projects

which is listed in the topics that people can ask about here.


I'll add my 2 cent's worth as an outsider.

I'd certainly like it if there were a place on Stack Exchange for this type of question. I'm not 100% sure it should definitively be here on this SE site, but on balance this feels like the best place for such questions.

Some open source organisations are either a business or operate like one; they hire people into roles and in that onboarding process ensure they have what they need to navigate the organisations processes. OpenSource SE would see little value in many questions for such organisations.

Others, especially open knowledge projects like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap require volunteers to self-onboard. It's this "self-onboarding" element that would be most useful to discuss here on OpenSoruce SE. Potential volunteers, particularly new ones, can easily be left with questions and nowhere to direct them to.

My own view is that Open Source SE would be a good fit because it is quite likely to attract individuals already working on these projects. Also the Q&As are likely to be of interest to anyone setting up or running their own open source project.

So my view is that "How-To" for open contribution projects are likely to be usefully on-topic with a reasonable chance of getting meaningful response. They fit with SE's general design as a knowledge base.

Clearly off topic questions would be second guessing the adjudication of an organisation "My PR got rejected, was that really within the rules?"... obviously those are off topic every time.

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