Consider the following questions?

  1. How can I type accented letters, like ç, on elementary OS?
  2. How can I type accented letters?
  3. How many different keyboard layouts are there for Portuguese?
  4. Are there keyboard layouts with "dead keys" or do Portuguese keyboard layouts have extra keys for accented letters?
  5. How do Portuguese people usually type accented letters?

(This last question is similar to a question recently asked on main: Como é que vocês digitam acentos no teclado?)

These are all related to the Portuguese language. Which of these should be on-topic here? At which point is a question related to Portuguese better asked on a sister site which deals with technology (such as Super User, StackOverflow em Português, Ask Different, Ask Ubuntu, Unix & Linux, elementary OS, etc.)?


3 Answers 3


At which point is a question related to Portuguese better asked on a sister site which deals with technology?

At the point in which they are not about Portuguese Language itself, but rather exclusively about stuff that's tangential or related to it instead — this seems to be the case in these examples.

Let's put it this way: what, in those examples, makes those questions on-topic? How are those about Portuguese Language itself, as a language? The answers to those questions are nothing, and they aren't, respectively. Simply look at the answers provided to the example question, and to the way the question itself is tagged.

Those are questions related to hardware, software, computers, or whatever bucket you'd like to put them in, but they're not about a language. As such, they don't have a place here. I get that they seem to be related to the Portuguese language, but they're either asking what keys you need to press to produce a certain character on your computer, or about how many possible combinations a certain device has for a language, or other such stuff — neither of these are about the language, and all of these are about how to use your computer.

So to answer your actual question, "What should we do with questions related to computing?": send 'em to a site whose focus is computing, instead of a language.

  • 1
    So if I ask how to pronounce the letter a, it becomes a question about anatomy? The input of Portuguese text is Portuguese-specific and essential to produce written Portuguese text. I would expect that a Stack Exchange community understood the importance of computing in the production of Porutguese texts.
    – Artefacto
    Apr 23, 2016 at 16:32
  • Your first sentence is a long way from what I said above. I do get that you could widen the scope of the site, and put a line in the help centre and tour pages to say that "computing question that are specific to users using computers in the Portuguese language", or something similar, are on-topic. However, they are a much better fit on sites like Super User, and I stand by my statement that they are not about the language — that's why I feel they don't have a place here. Furthermore, it's not like they're not gonna have a place anywhere, so don't sweat it if they're somewhere else...
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:10
  • 2
    You can always compile a list of links to helpful questions that are in any way connected to the language on other sites of the network here on Meta.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:11
  • "send 'em to a site whose focus is computing, instead of a language." Which site?
    – Jorge B. Mod
    Apr 26, 2016 at 8:09
  • Depends on the nature of the question: Super User will be a good choice for most cases, I assume. If it's asking about a specific OS, Ask Different or Ask Ubuntu, for instance, may be a better fit. There's the Software Recommendations site for... well, software recommendations.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 26, 2016 at 8:30

They are all off-topic.

They're related to the Portuguese language, but not to "discussing the finer points of the Portuguese language", as per the focus of our site on the site tour:

Portuguese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, teachers, and learners wanting to discuss the finer points of the Portuguese language.

Our target audience includes learners. But our focus does not include the learning itself, or such things as:

  • Overcoming technological limitations (such as digitally writing in Portuguese) - try SuperUser;
  • Techniques for memorizing those humongous verb tables - try LanguageLearning.SE;
  • Questions asking for resources - try meta.

But notice that a question does not stop fitting here just because it fits elsewhere.
There can be overlap between sites. This is natural, and not a problem.

  • To clarify: I thought they could be on-topic. Then I found the tour's language while looking for supporting arguments, and changed my mind.
    – ANeves
    Apr 27, 2016 at 13:18
  • Meh. What is ALL writing if not technology? There are languages that have no writing; it's not strictly related to the language (for some values of strictly). Typical double standard, where whatever on a computer becomes somehow different.
    – Artefacto
    Apr 27, 2016 at 16:17
  • (If all writing is technology, I think language itself would also be technology.)
    – ANeves
    Apr 27, 2016 at 17:26
  • Why? What technological advances allowed language to exist?
    – Artefacto
    Apr 27, 2016 at 17:32
  • The ability to willingly produce sounds, and sounds of different types... but that's not techno? Then what techno advances allowed writing to exist? Fingers and coloured fluids such as blood? Sticks and soft surfaces? Pictography? Meh. You can find me in chat, to discuss this.
    – ANeves
    Apr 27, 2016 at 18:17
  • materials on which to write. The ability to produce sounds, and, more importantly, the required cognitive abilities developed naturally.
    – Artefacto
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:08
  • and even then writing only became important to the masses with the press
    – Artefacto
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:15

Just because a question touches computing (more specifically, in those, about text input), doesn't make it automatically off-topic, even if the problem only occurs in those situations. Consider the following questions:

  • What does q mean, as used in online chatting?
  • What options do I have for adding POS tags to Portuguese text?
  • How can I detect adjectival uses of a past participle (so I can search some corpus)?
  • Which corpora with spoken Portuguese are available?
  • What software is available to detect grammatical errors in a Portuguese text?
  • What are the best reference Portuguese dictionaries available online?

Some of these my violate the (IMO unjustified and downright harmful) bias that for whatever reason some Stack Exchange communities have against lists, but they're all questions that either touch actual aspects of the Portuguese language or that are of special relevance specifically to Portuguese speakers/learners.

Laterally, I would also consider on-topic the following questions:

  • Which handwriting script is taught to kids in Portuguese schools?
  • Now that the letter k is included in Portuguese alphabet, how should it be written?

As for your example questions, the first is off-topic because it's specific about an OS (note: a question like how do I configure the Compose key in Ubuntu would also be off-topic), the second is also off-topic because it's not specific about the Portuguese language (how you type accented characters depends on the language). Note that keyboard layouts are mostly not OS specific. The others are on-topic, at least as far as the computing objection is concerned.

In any case, it's best to err on the side of not closing. The risks of not closing are some speculative slippery slope, that likewise questions will be posted in the future and drown out legitimate questions. With ~1 question per day, well... The risks of closing are the very likely present frustrations of the participants.

  • Oh, I would have thought that #1 and #2 of my post would either be both on-topic or both off-topic. (Someone could have just omitted what operating system they used. Being less specific would make it a better fit for our site, then.) You say that SE is biased against certain types of questions. I think with time SE has changed a lot of their policies, but also stuck to a lot of them. I can't really tell if deviating from the norm in our case will make the site better or worse (or just different ;). Anyway, +1 for voicing your opinion clearly.
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 23, 2016 at 17:56
  • @Earthliŋ That's what I said, they're both off-topic. And yes, of course being less specific may bring the question on-topic. THe reason is the same as that for which localized questions are banned. They cover a larger audience and are therefore interesting for a larger amount of people. Asking how to input Portuguese text in general allows you to give an answer that will likewise cover more people without going into detail about OS specific mechanisms.
    – Artefacto
    Apr 23, 2016 at 19:19
  • 1
    Your first paragraph and mine don't disagree with each other, @Artefacto. I don't think a question is off-topic just because it touches computing — I said that they're off-topic if they are suddenly exclusively about something tangential to the language, even if the language was what prompted it. None of the examples given on the question seem legitimately on-topic to me — and it doesn't look like you disagree with me. Your examples all ring differently to me, maybe because almost none of them are "how do I" or "how can I" questions. There are other reasons for closing some of your questions
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:23
  • though, as one of them would produce a huge list, and would require a lot of maintenance — which usually ends up not happening, and instead you end up with several competing answers, instead of a good canonical answer. Your latest example, for instance, is completely on-topic, as it is still primarily about the language. The 2nd and 5th examples seem to me a better fit for SU or Software Recommendations, the 3rd one I'm not entirely sure, to be honest, and the fourth one falls under that "list" category I listed above, which is a bad fit for the model, not this particular site itself.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:28
  • To summarise: some of your examples seem a bit more debatable than the ones posted in the question, and I stand by my answer, which I still don't think entirely disagrees with yours. With the exception of your last paragraph, with which I completely disagree — speaking from personal experience, too.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:31

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