THe FAQ makes it clear that prerelease software requiring an NDA is off-topic for the site. But not all pre-release software requires an NDA. Is pre-release software that doesn't require an NDA an allowable topic?

For example, Installing Windows 8 Preview on a Mac? was closed as off topic, but at, one can download the Windows 8 preview without any NDA.

Thanks for posting this; I was just about to do it myself :) –  Nathan Greenstein Sep 17 '11 at 13:54

2 Answers 2

Here's my view on this:

The reason to disallow questions about prerelease software is not the NDA. It's not our job to enforce that. If users want to break their NDAs that's their choice.

Rather, the reason that I think we shouldn't allow these questions is that many of them are simply too localized.
Things change very quickly with prerelease software, so a question and answer that work today are likely to be broken, or not even relevant, tomorrow.

I'm in favor of updating the FAQs to block all questions about prerelease software, not just those under NDA.

I've talked with one of the other moderators, and we've updated the FAQs to reflect this view: "It is not about... pre-release or beta software" –  Nathan Greenstein Sep 17 '11 at 16:18
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Some pre-release software is transient and likely too localized a question because it will too-soon become obsolete. Other times, software languishes for years in pre-release form. (Google's perpetual betas are one example; many open-source projects also exhibit these symptoms). A question about a developer preview that will in days or months be superseded by an official release likely should be off-topic, I'd think. But I'd hate for this rule to keep us from being able to answer questions about any beta software, or stable but slowly developing solutions to real problems people might develop.

This isn't a clear bright line, which is unfortunate, but I do think it's an important distinction.

I agree that there is a fine line between betas that are buggy, incomplete, and subject to rapid change and betas that are largely stable and widely used. Part of this has to do with the industry, led by Google, to keep the "beta" label for years during which the software is feature-complete and experiencing only iterative improvements. Still, I think it's important to have the clause in the FAQ disallowing beta questions as we can simply not enforce it in situations where the "beta" is really a stable product. –  Kyle Cronin Sep 17 '11 at 16:24
To tie it in with the question in question, Windows 8 has been out for about a week - this is certainly not enough time to determine if compatibility and behavior are stable, and that's why I agree that the closure was warranted. It might be useful to revisit this particular issue in a few months to see what's developed. –  Kyle Cronin Sep 17 '11 at 16:25
I think the important distinction is stability -- not in terms of not crashing, but in terms of not changing rapidly. If something is buggy and incomplete, but it doesn't change rapidly, an answer about how to get it working in a particular context could be very helpful. –  Daniel Lawson Sep 17 '11 at 16:38
If it's abandonware then I agree, but most bugs on active software projects get fixed eventually –  Kyle Cronin Sep 17 '11 at 16:45
Yes, absolutely in terms of outright bugs. But I don't see any reason why an open source project that hasn't hit a 1.0 release should be any less on topic than one that has. I agree that Windows 8 Developer Preview questions will become obsolete too quickly to be helpful. –  Daniel Lawson Sep 17 '11 at 18:59
Towards a clear bright lineApple products: consider whether Apple provides an area for public discussion of an Apple product. –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 7:04
Third party products: an example, I expect Windows 8 to be not discussed in Ask Different until after Apple adds support for that version of Windows to Boot Camp. Without that support from Apple, Windows will be too off-topic from OS X. –  Graham Perrin Apr 10 '12 at 7:06

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