Should we allow questions asking for help installing specific tools? Some of the tools that are commonly used in bionformatics are non-trivial to install. They can require other packages, environment variables etc.

On the one hand, the programs are indeed specific to bioinformatics, on the other hand, the issues faced when installing them could be applicable to pretty much any program distributed in similar ways.

So, what do we do? Is "I am trying to install GATK and get this error" a valid topic for us? Should we send them to existing tech support sites of the SE network, or do we keep them here?

  • $\begingroup$ Just a reminder that some tools don't have support sites, and the support (if any) is contacting with the authors of the tools $\endgroup$
    – llrs
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Llopis I was referring to other sites on the Stack Exchange network where software installation issues are on topic. Places like Super User, Unix & Linux, Ask Different, Ask Ubuntu etc. I edited to clarify. $\endgroup$
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


I vote yes, since I totally agree that some of these are a real nightmare to install (I'm not laying blame, I'm also responsible for this). As always, as certain amount of, "Here's what I've tried" should be expected. At least if we answer these here they'll be picked up by search engines, the same can't always be said for other random forums.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would say yes, too. $\endgroup$
    – user172818
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 21:47

As is frequently emphasized on other stacks, because something is on-topic in another stack is not a reason it has to be off-topic on this stack. In this case, on-topic here seems fine.

I'd go with on-topic for such questions, and hold them to the same standard requirements as they would be on Super User, etc. If, as originally posted, the question is of low quality, the community can help the OP refine it (perhaps using chat) so that it becomes a quality question.

Would this be the best place to ask such a question, even if on-topic? If the installation has some twist that makes it a problem unique to the field, then it's probable that users on SU, et al., might not be of much help. OTOH, if the "problem" is common to many other package installs, the needed help might be best found on the other stacks anyway.

From a community stand point, if a package is commonly utilized in the field, whether or not it's also common outside the field, and frequently has tricky issues to get it installed, the question, and eventual answer, will benefit the community, and likely increase its search engine exposure as well. The trade off is that the OP might have to wait longer to get a useful answer to the problem if asked here, rather than on a larger stack.


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