A recent question on ogrinfo was closed as off-topic because it was considered to be a general computing question. This may have been because the answer appears to be changing the redirection character on the command. The close comment mentions that it might better fit on Super User.

I understand the desire to not clutter this site with general computing questions but I often feel this is followed too zealously. I don't do general computing. I work on GIS-related programs. Yes, many problems I have when trying to write program are "general" programming issues but I can't see that--I don't know enough. I also don't want to have to slog through Programmers or Super User to try to find an answer. Couldn't these questions be useful to other gis.SE participants who might have the same issues?

Particularly with the above question and its suggested 'better' location--gis.SE has 207 questions tagged with ogr. Super User has no ogr tag.

Edit to add a second example: Another operating system-related question was asked today (6 Aug 2013): GRASS has broken my terminal. Perhaps ironically, my first thought was that it should be closed or migrated because I knew the problem had to be with the shell's start-up script and wasn't really a GRASS issue. Sure enough, I found an answer for it on StackOverflow because I knew the right terms to search.

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    +1 I am sympathetic. It should be pointed out, though, that this question was about a shell/batch command line; that the problem concerned a misunderstanding of basic command line operations (redirection of stdout to a file); that the mod waited until a useful answer appeared before closing; and that even closed questions can be targets of searches and are visible to all users. The inferences I draw from these facts are that perhaps a quick closure was not as overzealous as it might appear and that maybe closing such peripheral questions might not really be of concern.
    – whuber
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 17:17
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    @whuber, I was just thinking about whether I was ranting or not b-> I think I was set off more by the suggestion to ask on super user.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 17:24
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    The worst they could do to you on SU would be to close your question there :-). Seriously: that suggestion looks like useful guidance to me, because it (correctly) characterizes the nature of the problem and directs the O.P. to a community that would answer quickly and correctly. As for the slog you mention, I sure am sympathetic to that too--I get to do that kind of research a lot on unfamiliar SE sites when making moderation decisions--but in this case, as there is no obvious search term, one could scarcely fault the O.P. in this case if they simply re-posted the question on SU.
    – whuber
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 17:30
  • the question had nothing to do with ogr and everything to do with > - no GIS content move along :-)
    – Ian Turton Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 19:12
  • alternatively see stackoverflow.com/questions/17946905/…? where I put a lot of effort into answering as it was about GIS not general programming
    – Ian Turton Mod
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 19:14
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    Is there a way to migrate without telling the user "ask it there instead"?
    – user3461
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 14:13
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    @GeoKevin there has been discussion on SO about migration procedures - one example is here. I'd like to see more push and pull of off-topic questions to on-topic sites through easier migration via review queue at both ends.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 23:13
  • I like that idea (push & pull thru review queue) @PolyGeo
    – user3461
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 1:18
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    @GeoKevin - thanks - it's an idea I floated as an answer at Stack Overflow Meta but which is yet to receive any votes :-(
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


The lines between GIS and SO blur occasionally, particularly when there's a programming question and the answer is general language... however I believe that GIS.Stackexchage is the best place to ask questions that have a GIS component because users of SO aren't going to readily recognize the GIS portions of the code, decide the question is too hard at a glance and not even notice the general programming problem.

There are many users that want to use GDAL_Translate but don't understand DOS, ArcGIS users who want to use ArcPY but don't have a clue about python and people experiencing general problems with GIS applications who don't necessarily have and advanced understanding of computers' hardware and software.

Similarly system configuration and environment variables may be the realm of Stack Overflow but the implications of GDAL_DATA environment variable may be either overlooked, or the question may seem to complex from a system point of view to receive any responses.

GIS.StackExchange is the most appropriate forum to ask a question that has a GIS component and there are users who also are members of Stack Overflow that can address the general code/system issues and if necessary suggest that the op posts a particular portion on another site for more in-depth explanation.

Of course if there is no GIS component it should be banished to somewhere it gets a more appropriate audience.

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