Just in time for the Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) release, Stack Exchange has introduced a new website, called askubuntu.com, dedicated to Q&A for Ubuntu users, developers and partners. Here's a look, and some thoughts on where the site fits into the Ubuntu ecosystem.
Made live on October 10, the same day Ubuntu 10.10 debuted, askubuntu.com describes itself as a "free, community-driven" resource. For now, it remains in public beta.
The site is similar in design and philosophy to the variety of other applications hosted by Stack Exchange, such as Server Fault and Super User. Its basic premise is that users can post questions, with or without first creating an account, and receive answers that are then subject to promotion or demotion by others who vote for or against them.
Unique Value?Any Ubuntu user or Canonical partner who's been around the block once or twice is likely familiar with at least one of several other sites offering community-driven Ubuntu support. The most obvious is the Ubuntu Forums, the oldest and probably most popular resource for users seeking help in a wide variety of categories (full disclosure: I am a moderator on the Ubuntu Forums). In addition, Canonical hosts Launchpad Answers, which has a section devoted to Ubuntu that receives quite a bit of traffic. Finally, a number of third-party sites host forums for Ubuntu users in languages other than English.
askubuntu.com, then, is only the latest arrival to a party that's been in full swing for some time now. But with features that set it apart--such as the ability to post without creating an account, and a design that makes it easy to locate the best solutions within a long and complex thread--it's a useful new resource for the Ubuntu community.
This isn't to say that other Ubuntu support sites, whether run by Canonical or third parties, are inferior. Each one of them is unique in its own way, and may be more appropriate in one situation than in another.
The advent of askubuntu.com is also a sign that the Ubuntu community continues to grow, not only through Canonical's endeavors but also independently. And for those who might worry that the distribution is poised to go the way of Slackware or Mandriva, cresting and then declining into oblivion, that's a reassuring fact.
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