I've been seeing quite a few questions in the process of being closed as unclear what you're asking, apparently because they don't specify an OS. I've also been voting to close these questions. My question, though: should we be?

  • 1
    IMO, close voting is used way too aggressively, and without specifying the reason in comments. When getting message "unclear what you're asking", and no-one comments "What OS?", it's really hard to fix that. Also, a bad thing with close voting is that after a first vote, people seem to vote for closing, even if they wouldn't start the close vote. On the other hand, there's [on hold] nowadays, which helps a lot with this. But opening anything is hard, as reviewers seem to click "leave closed" rather easily.
    – Olli
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 12:02
  • Related: Mention operating system in title Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:13
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    @Olli In my experience, people do comment. If you never start closing unclear questions, they don't get closed, and they get answers that turn out to be wrong when the asker responds to the request for clarifications, or the whole thread ends up useless because the question is never clarified. It's best to close early, and reopen if and when the question is clarified. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:14
  • Related: What is required for a question to contain “enough information”?
    – Flyk
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 20:16
  • Just to be clear - people should NOT be upvoting/downvoting this question to express an opinion yes/no. That's what the answers are for.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 0:08
  • @DVK It's fine to up/downvote this question, it's not like we get rep from Meta.
    – user46
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 0:09
  • @Undo - it's not about rep. It's about policy clarity. You can upvote the question because it's interesting, or because the question says "should we" and your answer is "yes". The former is correct, the latter is highly confusing. Basically, I don't want the votes on the question to be taken as affirmation of any policy.
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 0:10

3 Answers 3


No, if OS isn't given, we can assume that they don't care.

For two reasons:

  • A lot of people have access to multiple OSes. Its not unusual to see people (espically power users) who use Linux, windows and Mac.

  • Alot of software now, will run on all OS's, because the OS market is diverging. We've seen in the last 12-18 months Games, which used to be a big hold out for only working on windows are now becoming very common to work on linux as well. (and we can credit that to Steam and Humble Bundle).

Also it looks like the Tags are not nesc the way we refer to OS. See: Tag for OS-agnostic questions?

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    +1. But I think the OP should mention that there is no OS restriction (otherwise it might be the case that the OP just forgot to specify the required OS). --- Another reason: it may be the case that the OP is going to install the OS for which the best/recommended software is available.
    – unor
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 6:08

In my opinion, we should be closing these questions as long as they ask for non-web based software. There isn't enough information to know whether a given answer is right or wrong.

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    If there's no way to see what could be recommended, that seems the only thing to do. But give the "n00bs" a chance and leave a comment, asking them to [edit] their question and add that crucial information.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 3:24
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    @Izzy Close the question, with a comment explaining what information is missing. If and when the question is edited, reopen. With the reopen queue, this happens quite smoothly. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:15
  • Good point, @Gilles. And if re-opening takes a little longer, it contributes to the OP's learning queue :)
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 14:33
  • I'm in agreement with Undo and Gilles here, this is exactly what the close functionality is for. Perhaps one of our close reasons should clearly state "this does not provide enough information" with a link to a meta post clearly determining what "the right information" actually is?
    – Flyk
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 20:06
  • In case this becomes policy, I would ask for "Java" and "Python" to be OK too, as they can run on pretty much any OS. See softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/594/…
    – Nicolas Raoul Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 3:28

In my opinion, it is a bit overdone to aggressively close these question. Ask in a comment if the asker can edit in his preferred OS in the question, and if it is done, delete your comment (and flag the response as obsolete). This prevents potentially good questions to be overlooked, and I can not imagine that an asker will not add the necessary information after such a comment.

  • Putting content on hold never hurt anybody - and then any editing that is done to the post after it has been put on hold will result in the question being automatically placed back into the reopen queue. It's better than leaving content that does not meet our quality requirements around.
    – Flyk
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 20:07
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    @Flyk Putting question on hold scares off new users a lot in my opinion
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 20:17
  • Remember that we're allowed custom close reasons. Putting a question on hold with a "this question does not contain enough information to be answerable, please check this discussion to find out what information should be included" shouldn't be as scary.
    – Flyk
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 20:19

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