Official questions and answers platform


Currently, Nix Community links to Stack Overflow under “Other Platforms”.

It seems that consistently through “many” years Stack Overflow has demonstrated the usefulness of its format, specifically for tightly-scoped, well-defined questions.

Contrary to plain forum software, the Stack Overflow format features upvoting of answers, which increases their discoverability.

The format also encourages curation of questions by featuring flagging, marking as duplicate, requesting clarification, etc., so that activity on the platform results not in a stream of conversation, but rather in a curated set of questions and answers (depending on investment in moderation effort).


Have an official questions and answers platform. And recommend use of it for questions of the kind that is appropriate for such a platform.

Either officially adopt Stack Overflow, or deploy our own Stack Overflow clone.

Co-authored-by: @mightyiam


Could you say why the current link to Stack Overflow is not suitable?

I think the direction goes more into establishing a practice of asking and answering user questions on Stack Overflow instead of in this forum.

It’s not prominent enough.

As someone who suffered StackOverflow’s obnoxious limits and culture, I’d like to propose making Discourse the official Q&A platform.

Discourse does tightly scoped questions well, has categories already, is well discoverable via Google as well as category searches. Discourse also allows replying to threads via emails which is added bonus (although I’m not sure if SO also has this feature), not to mention complete lack of advertisements and much cleaner interface.

While discourse does not have explicit flagging for duplicates, IME that one gets abused far more often than otherwise. We also have fairly active Matrix channel where asking duplicate questions is not frowned upon, and quite friendly folks to guide alone (another personal experience).

Considering Discourse and Matrix are the only channels explicitly moderated and controlled by the community (SO is owned by profit-first corporation), I’d rather promote them better than third party portal that is StackOverflow.

That being said, it will be nice to keep as many avenues open as possible, if only to avoid discouraging newbies from asking questions in their accustomed way.


I think the question really amounts to how many active Nixers are around on Stack Overflow to actually post good answers. If we advertise Stack Overflow as a Q&A platform for the Nix ecosystem, but people still fail to get their problems solved there (either for lack of answers, or lack of useful answers), this doesn’t help anyone.

This is already the case, although we don’t use that exact wording to express that fact.

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To be clear, I’m not advocating for adoption of Stack Overflow itself as much as I am advocating adoption of the format, for a certain kind of question.

While I am not aware of the features of Discourse, when I look at some of the questions currently in our Discourse instance, I don’t see many of the features from the Stack Overflow format.

Perhaps we could enable some Discourse feature that is currently off or perhaps deploy some open source Stack Overflow clone, if there is such a thing?

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We already have the Solved plugin enabled for the Help category. Looks like there is also some Voting feature that we could try, that I don’t have experience with.


The voting feature sounds like a very quick win to gauge relative importance of use cases, and should also improve discoverability of existing questions. It would need some introduction in the category’s meta-thread though.

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@ryantm or anyone else with permission, perhaps we could get a sandbox category to play around with?

It would be helpful to encourage people to contribute to the documentation after their question is solved.

Maybe a wiki page or something explaining how to proceed could be useful here?

Yes, agreed. Of course one needs to have capacity to hold hands a bit if the process appears too intimidating.

I thought there was a sticky thread where that kind of information for users is prominently available, but it seems there is none. @ryantm could you set one up, please?

Ideally we’d have a community support team who scan the Help category, answer questions, refer people to what they need, encourage them to contribute, etc. and then regularly communicate with the docs and developer teams about common issues with docs and features.

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Why was I never told that discourse has a mailing list mode?!? If it also works properly…

That would definitely be better than having stack overflow as a source of documentation

Hmmm… too bad. As it is now, the mailing list feature is almost unusable. :frowning:

Why? I’m happy notmuch/emacs user with mailing list mode enabled.

Ok, it’s not quite as bad as I had originally thought. the first mail I got was one with a Github block (development) and 1-2 other things that I can’t find again. In text mode, a lot of things were missing.

I will be able to live with the missing citations, but that bothered me a lot at the beginning. But since threading seems to work, it’s not so bad.

Maybe my expectations are too high, when I hear the term mailing list. :slight_smile: But a few points could be adjusted, if possible:

  • to: should be the list address.

  • from: “via NixOS Discourse” is unnecessary. It is already in the list ID and in the subject where the mail comes from. Redundancy is not always good. :wink:

  • The text part of the mail contains Markdown, but is not marked with “markup=markdown”, like Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8; format=flowed; markup=markdown. My mail client renders MD-formatted mails (incl. syntax colouring in code blocks and mermaid). The rendered md-part is very similar to the html-part of the mail. I realise that only very few mail clients can do this, but it would be cool if this could be fixed. :slight_smile:

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The thread-jacking in this thread is an example of an anti pattern that is more easily enforceable in a Stack Overflow-like platform.

What about GitHub discussions? It has a Q&A feature with voting. Issues can be converted into discussions. We’re already using GitHub for code hosting and issues, at least. Why don’t we make GitHub discussions the official Q&A platform?

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GH discussions are a nightmare. I have problems following new posts on them.

Also they are not really discoverable.

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@mightyiam which problems would e.g. GitHub or StackOverflow solve that we would still have with Discourse when we enabled voting?

It appears like this is a social issue, nothing a tool would really help with.