I have some concerns about a recent commit I saw on ALE's repo, encouraging users to ask their "tech support" questions about ALE here.

I'm not 100% up-to-date on our consensus about plugin questions, though I cite the help page below.

  • Is this something vi.stackexchange wants?
  • Does it fit our model/draw the kinds of questions we are looking for/stay on-topic?
  • Has this been done successfully with other plugins?
  • Has this been discussed?
    • If so, where can I find the results?
    • If not, should we? (Hence this post...)

Follow-up on Meta for an issue posted on ALE's Github (reproduced here for posterity):

In reference to: 146769c61671ebfb25cc7efd7acdc35a6a1d33da

Has the ALE community discussed with the vi.stackexchange community (of which I am also a member) this type of recommendation? Are there meta posts that can be linked to describe the decision surrounding this recommendation, what's on & off topic specifically with regards to ALE, etc.? (A quick search reveals, alas, the answer is no.)

The commit came as a surprise to me, though I monitor vi.stackexchange pretty closely. It seems like we should be more intentional with how we interact with that community, especially since we already get a number of questions there that are more easily answerable by plugin maintainers and communities (and we often redirect them to the Issues tracker of Github repos).

Also see this help center article about on-topic-ness, from where I draw the following quote:

Questions about Vim plugins are on topic but be aware that bug reports and feature requests for a plugin would be better off in that plugin's issue tracker. Most of the plugins available on Github use the built-in issue tracker. (The "Issues" tab in the top menu.)

Part of the diff:

Are you having trouble configuring ALE? You should ask tech support style
questions for ALE on [https://vi.stackexchange.com/](Stack Overflow) or perhaps
on [Reddit](https://www.reddit.com/r/vim/) instead. GitHub issues are for
reporting problems with software, not for tech support.

In fact, I would argue that vi.stackexchange (and just about every other vim plugin on github that I know of) encourages and expects GitHub issues to be used for engaging with the dev community to ask questions about the software: if ALE maintainers would feel better with an FAQ/Wiki, a dedicated Q&A site, or some other mechanism, I recommend they take the time to create one, rather than shunt their problem onto others.

I at vi.stackexchange am also not for tech support.

  • Someone with more Meta presence and better understanding of the tags in use, please feel free to fix my tags.
    – D. Ben Knoble Mod
    Dec 4, 2018 at 2:14
  • 3
    In the past I've noticed that a lot of ALE issues are just basic Vim-usage kind of questions, and not bug reports or feature requests. Those kind of "how do I do X?" or "I tried it and it doesn't work" kind of questions seem basically on-topic to me (the last one may be a bug, but more often than not it's not). Dec 4, 2018 at 5:11
  • 3
    A bit related meta FAQ on Stack Overflow: Why we're not customer support for 'your favorite company'. Might be better to clarify with them what kind of questions are on-topic on Vi and Vim and some guidance. And also fix the markdown link (Vi and Vim is not Stack Overflow...)
    – Andrew T.
    Dec 4, 2018 at 8:10
  • 2
    As w0rp said in the comment to the github issue, they decided this by themselves without contacting our community (which might not be the best way to do it). I think that with this kind of suggestions we will need to pay a lot of attention to the duplicate questions, otherwise the risk is to see this site flooded by the same basic questions about installation which don't create a lot of value.
    – statox
    Dec 4, 2018 at 13:00
  • 2
    I'm asking the wider community to talk to each other and help each other, rather than putting the responsibility entirely on me and a small number of regular contributors. I'm frustrated because I can't handle the volume of emails. The people posting questions will be frustrated because they aren't getting answers.
    – w0rp
    Dec 4, 2018 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


Personally — speaking as a member of the community, and not a moderator — I don't really see a problem with this.

This site is an appropriate platform for asking technical questions, including questions on how to use a plugin. We already have a few questions about ALE, and at a glance most of them seem okay.

This is a fairly small site with a low influx of questions every day; we can always re-evaluate if it becomes a problem (I don't expect it will).

A lot of the problems that happened on Stack Overflow are because companies/projects that were redirecting to Stack Overflow were either completely off-topic (e.g. hosting providers), or communicated it in such a way that implied that all support questions could be asked there, including non-programming ones. I don't really see these problems here.

Some people have since taken this as a "never redirect to Stack Overflow", but in general it's not an issue. Sure, people following a "ask tech questions here" links can ask bad questions, but so do other people. I'm not sure if there is a strong correlation.

I'd also like to add some background to the above: in my experience maintaining a popular Vim plugin can be a frustrating experience, even more so than maintaining open source projects in general.

A lot of issues on the bug tracker are very unclear and posted by people who, frankly put, have no idea what they're doing. They don't know Vim; they don't know the language they're working with; they don't know Unix/Linux basics. You really have to take them by the hand and guide them.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I mind helping people out who are new to Vim and confused — I think my contributions here are proof enough of that — but there's a time and place for everything, and while I don't mind in general to guide new people along, I don't want to spend my entire waking life doing so. Sometimes I just want to talk to people who know what they're doing. When I contribute to open source I am, for the most part, just DIY-ing. Back when I was more active in maintaining vim-go half the time I was helping people make sense of basics such as GOPATH, and it wasn't fun.

You typically don't get a whole lot of long-term help with maintaining software projects. Sure, there are people who drop by and contribute a few patches, but people who consistently do the "gruntwork" over a long period of time are rare. In the specific example of ALE it's mostly just w0rp (I planned to do a lot more work on ALE, but stuff happened that made me end up in New Zealand, and now I don't have a lot of time, I still hope to work on it Soon™).

So if "offloading" some of the maintenance burden to this site makes life easier for w0rp, then I don't see why not? I know some people have a rather purist view of what Stack Exchange should and shouldn't be, but I am not one of them. There are limits, but as mentioned, general questions about Vim usage (including plugins) have always been on-topic since this site was started, and as long as the questions are useful, answerable, and not wildly off-topic I don't see what the problem is with a plugin linking to us.

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