Edit, due to the low meta activity: Everyone involved with this site, please take the five minutes and fill out the form at the bottom of this post and state what you consider on- or off-topic.


Edit 2, don't forget to vote up (or down) the answers you prefer most (or least)! We need to find consensus on this for future reference.


I think it's time to draw a line between what is clearly within the site's scope and what should be considered off-topic. With a constant flow of more than 10 questions per day, we do not need to reconsider to broaden our site's topic and it turns out it was a good idea to launch an Ethereum Stack Exchange test balloon.

Usually, it's of a better style to ask multiple questions in multiple threads. However, I want to make a rare exception for this discussion because I want all information in one place for future reference.

First of all, I want to list items where I think is consensus about that they are clearly on-topic for this site. If you want to dispute this, go ahead.

Ethereum Core Infrastructure

  • Ethereum (The Blockchain Protocol)
  • Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)
  • Solidity Programming Language
  • Serpent Programming Language
  • Whisper (The Communication Protocol)
  • Swarm (The Storage Protocol)
  • Native Smart Contracts (Ethereum)
  • Native Decentralized Applications (Ethereum)

Now, below starts the actual question part. On top of the items above, what should be considered off-topic and what is still on-topic for this site?

Stand-alone Ethereum Forks

Any Ethereum forks based on the Olympic, Frontier or Homestead versions: They maintain their own public Blockchain, using the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) in any form and most Ethereum tools are compatible with their implementations. For example: ShiftNrg (SHF), Expanse (EXP), SoilCoin (SOIL), Krypton (KR). Are Ethereum forks on-topic?

Projects that implement the EVM

Blockchain solutions that support the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) but are either not related to Ethereum directly, e.g., offering own solutions or only deploy private chains for customers. For example Eris Industries or Tendermint. Are Projects that support the EVM on-topic?

Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent

Blockchain solutions or Toolkits that support Solidity and / or Smart Contract development but that are not related to Ethereum in any way. I don't have any use cases handy, but there used to be a question about when not to ask solidity questions here.

Smart Contracts and Frameworks

Blockchain solutions that fully support Smart Contracts but neither implement the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) or offer Solidity programming language, e.g., Hyperledger, OpenBlockChain, Lisk. Are misc smart contract frameworks on topic?

Distributed Applications and Storage

Are questions about distributed applications or storage which are not related to Ethereum or Swarm on topic? For instance, IPFS used for storage in many cases.

If you answer, please include all points from above, maybe use a template, and try to draw a line somewhere.

Copy & paste template:

- Ethereum Core Infrastructure: on/off-topic, because ...
- Stand-alone Ethereum Forks: on/off-topic, because ...
- Projects that implement the EVM: on/off-topic, because ...
- Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent: on/off-topic, because ...
- Smart Contracts and Frameworks: on/off-topic, because ...
- Distributed Applications and Storage: on/off-topic, because ...

Everyone involved with this site, please take the five minutes and fill out the form above.

  • Perhaps you should add something about general OOP problems. I recently encountered a question that was mostly "What an interface is used for?" and I think that it should be rejected. – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 11:28
  • @NicolasMassart It's always welcome to create such threads for a specific question. Here I'm rather to find a general answer to where to draw the line for this site's topic. – Afri Jun 10 '16 at 22:03
  • What about things like legal and market dynamics behind Ethereum? Is this better asked on Quora (I noticed there's an Ethereum topic as well?) Are we saying questions here should be strictly technical in nature? – Matthias Jun 14 '16 at 13:35
  • @Matthias as in this thread? – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 13:56
  • I don't mean anything that is largely subjective, such as speculations about ETH price development, but I think there are a few interesting / open questions around how Ethereum as a concept or solution interfaces with the general public, and what this means for its relevance and development over time. These questions aren't necessarily technical in nature, but might affect technical decision making for DApp development. For instance, questions about the interdependencies between cost of computations, gas prices and ETH value might affect technical decision making. – Matthias Jun 14 '16 at 14:45
  • @Matthias this site is not limited to technical questions, but due to the nature of the project, a majority of the question will be like that. – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 17:16
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I consider all proposals on topic as soon as there's a link with Ethereum.

  • Ethereum Core Infrastructure: on of course, otherwise nothing could be on topic
  • Stand-alone Ethereum Forks: on until questions are related to it's Ethereum legacy and not to specific aspects of the fork
  • Projects that implement the EVM: on, this is OUR EVM and we care for it even if other uses it ! We owe them support as if they use EVM they will improve it in a way or another... even if I still don't understand why people just don't use Ethereum.
  • Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent: on topic as it's a base Ethereum technology. Yeh it could be used for something else, so if not related with ethereum at all how it could be, then it's off topic.
  • Smart Contracts and Frameworks: on topic when it's related to Ethereum, even if the question is something like "Why smart contract feature [feature name] in system [any name of a fork or other SC system] gives me a different result than Ethereum smart contract ?". If it's about rootstock, then off topic until it's to explain why Ethereum is better...😛
  • Distributed Applications and Storage: on topic. Swarm or IPFS are on topic (see comments), but asking if a new unknown filesystem will be able to work with Ethereum should be on topic too even if it's not the case when the user asks.
  • So "how to do x in IPFS" is off topic? – Roland Kofler Jun 10 '16 at 9:16
  • 1
    Yes IMO, if the question is not clearly asking "how to do x in IPFS with Ethereum", it's off-topic. IPFS is not an ethereum technology nor a fork as far as I know (however I admit I don't know much about IPFS) but once linked to Ethereum it's on topic. – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 9:20
  • The technology behind IPFS is vital to the DApp vision. Since Swarm will come only sometimes in 2017 I pledge for accepting IPFS questions. It is handy to have them here, so people can learn more about writing true DApps now. I see it like this: it is handy to have them here. – Roland Kofler Jun 10 '16 at 9:42
  • Unless it's related to a problem of using IPFS in an ethereum Dapp, I vote no. Otherwise, you'll have many thing helpfull to create a Dapp, so why not accepting any JS question ? JS is vital to create a Dapp too. – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 9:53
  • Well, I don't want to make it a dogma, it was just an idea. JS is well covered on Stackoverflow, it would outright not make any sense including them. I've looked into Stackoverflow, there are 48 Q or A's about IPFS, here are 52. – Roland Kofler Jun 10 '16 at 10:54
  • 1
    I think arguing about on or off is not very important as in the end most IPFS questions will relate to Ethereum. So let's include them and if ever one of them is problematic, well, we'll see... – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 11:26
  • Exactly! great. – Roland Kofler Jun 10 '16 at 11:31
  • 1
    Thanks, it's my middle name ;) – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 11:33
  • IPFS, Exactly, Great or Thanks. Which is your middle name? You've got me confused now :-) – The Officious BokkyPooBah Jun 10 '16 at 14:04
  • 2
    to be humble, I will say Great :D – Nicolas Massart Jun 10 '16 at 14:46
  • can you please revise your answer, of course if it's related to ethereum, it's on topic. I thought that was clear. I was asking for that specific case where it is not. sorry. – Afri Jun 10 '16 at 22:23
  • 1
    Updated my answer. – Nicolas Massart Jun 11 '16 at 6:00
  • 1
    @RolandKofler FYI, there is a separate discussion on IPFS here on meta, if you could review it, too. – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 7:34
  • Ethereum Core Infrastructure: on-topic, because the adoption would need to be orders of magnitudes higher to justify own StackExchanges
  • Stand-alone Ethereum Forks: on-topic, because not much questions anyway, we can tolerate them until one has a share of >10%
  • Projects that implement the EVM: on-topic, because same argument
  • Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent: on-topic, because same argument
  • Smart Contracts and Frameworks: off-topic, because what's the point if they don't even touch Ethereum?
  • Distributed Applications and Storage: on-topic, because vital to the DApp vision. Poor questioner would be lost in Stackoverflow, here are the experts.
  • I think we can also tolerate them if they have a bigger share. As long as there is no better stack exchange site to ask these questions anyways. Thanks for your opinion. – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 7:26

What a difficult question to answer.

  • Ethereum Core Infrastructure
  • Stand-alone Ethereum Forks
  • Projects that implement the EVM
  • Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent
  • Smart Contracts and Frameworks
  • Distributed Applications and Storage

All of the above when NOT related to usage with Ethereum - on-topic unless they have a better technical forum to go to. We don't want to go the way of r/bitcoin.

The voting process should downvote these really off-topic questions anyway, but it would affect ESE's site statistics in the number of unanswered questions. How about closing off the really off-topic questions if they have been downvoted enough, e.g. -2 or -5.

  • There are already mechanics to close / remove very low quality content, so down voting and flagging is always a good idea. Thanks for your opinion. – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 7:27

I vote on-topic for all of the above, as default (assuming they qualify for a good question on other quality criteria). If at some point in the future, 2-6 consistently account for more than 25% (aggregate) of the Eth SE traffic then we may need to re-consider. For 5 and 6 I'd assume that it is understood there would need to be a link to Ethereum (rather than say entirely specific to Hyperledger) for the question to be on-topic).

The issue is that nearly any blockchain-related system can be hooked into Ethereum somehow. Potentially one day there'd be some giant crypto-everything stack exchange, but for the moment this one is specifically for Ethereum.

I'd say any topic here has to have some reasonable relationship to Ethereum.

  • Ethereum Core Infrastructure: on topic, obviously.
  • Stand-alone Ethereum Forks: on topic if the question is "What difference does this project have with Ethereum." Potentially off topic if the question has to do with some feature of the fork which does not directly impact Ethereum. If there was massive inter-fork interactions, this might be different.
  • Projects that implement the EVM: on topic. I'm foreseeing questions about weird corner cases between one EVM implementation and another, and help on weird corner cases is 90% of what I look at the main stack overflow for anyway.
  • Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent: on topic if it's about the language or a framework. Off topic if it's a dapp, unless it's an actual protocol discussion. A detail about implementing a prediction market is on-topic, Augur in general is not.
  • Smart Contracts and Frameworks: off topic except for interoperability. I'm not set on this, though, because presumably other web 3.0-ish projects will want some sort of stack exchange, and this would be the most logical place to ask that kind of question.
  • Distributed Applications and Storage: on topic when used in conjunction with some sort of Ethereum-related thing. Off topic just in general.

I'll offer a generally off-topic section, IMHO:

  • Current economic status, prices and trading. I think these kinds of questions are a poor fit for this medium. It's really not a technical issue whether the price is $5, $15, $500 or $0.34. But theoretical issues such as "Why are gas step costs fixed?" or "How do seniorage shares work?" are reasonable.

I will update my answer as further thoughts are developed.

I think legal questions like this are off-topics for this SE, similar to how trading questions are off-topic.

Answering the questions, the main guiding principle is the connection to Ethereum.

Stand-alone Ethereum Forks

Any Ethereum forks based on the Olympic, Frontier or Homestead versions: They maintain their own public Blockchain, using the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) in any form and most Ethereum tools are compatible with their implementations. For example: ShiftNrg (SHF), Expanse (EXP), SoilCoin (SOIL), Krypton (KR). Are Ethereum forks on-topic? No. Questions that are connected to the EVM and Ethereum tools are on-topic, but details about these forks could be asked on bitcoin.stackexchange.com which welcomes them: "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies is a question and answer site for cryptocurrency enthusiasts. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Cryptocurrencies such as e.g. Bitcoin, Namecoin, Litecoin, Ripple, Zerocoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, and NXT."

Projects that implement the EVM

Blockchain solutions that support the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) but are either not related to Ethereum directly, e.g., offering own solutions or only deploy private chains for customers. For example Eris Industries or Tendermint. Are Projects that support the EVM on-topic? On-topic if the question has relevance to the EVM and Ethereum. Otherwise it is off-topic, for example if there were questions about mining with these projects.

Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent

Blockchain solutions or Toolkits that support Solidity and / or Smart Contract development but that are not related to Ethereum in any way. I don't have any use cases handy, but there used to be a question about when not to ask solidity questions here. On-topic if it's tools about Solidity. Off-topic about smart contract development tools Z unrelated to Ethereum in any way, but could be made on-topic if the question was like: in Z I can do X, how can I do X in Ethereum tool Y?

Smart Contracts and Frameworks

Blockchain solutions that fully support Smart Contracts but neither implement the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) or offer Solidity programming language, e.g., Hyperledger, OpenBlockChain, Lisk. Are misc smart contract frameworks on topic? Off-topic unless it connects with Ethereum, for example: does Ethereum have X which is in project Y?

Distributed Applications and Storage

Are questions about distributed applications or storage which are not related to Ethereum or Swarm on topic? For instance, IPFS used for storage in many cases. Off-topic unless it connects with Ethereum. For example: how to set up an IPFS node would be off-topic. How does Swarm compare with IPFS would be on-topic. How does IPFS compare with dropbox would be off-topic.

  • Ethereum Core Infrastructure: on topic, because this is an Ethereum stack exchange.
  • Stand-alone Ethereum Forks: off-topic, because either they are exactly the same as Ethereum in which case any questions are already covered or they differ in critical respects in which case these differences would cause confusion. That said questions about how to fork ethereum e.g. how to change the consensus mechanism would be on topic.
  • Projects that implement the EVM: off-topic, because either questions are about the EVM in which case the project is irrelevant or they are about the specifics of these projects in which case differences in implementation will cause confusion. That said questions about how to extract the EVM and use it elsewhere are on topic.
  • Projects utilizing Solidity or Serpent: off-topic, because either questions are about Solidity or Serpent in which case the project is irrelevant or they are about the specifics of these projects in which case the best forum is the relevant website for that project. That said tooling such as compilers, debuggers, simulation environments that can be used to develop for both ethereum and or other projects are on topic.
  • Smart Contracts and Frameworks: off-topic, because they are completely different projects. However questions regarding smart contracts in general such as 'how do I write a smart contract which is also a legal contract' or which which relate to smart contract design patterns would be on-topic.
  • Distributed Applications and Storage: on-topic, but only in so far as they relate to Dapp development so questions about how to use IPFS to store data would be on topic but implementation details of IPFS would be off-topic.

On the other hand we should not be too doctrinaire about this and only enforce the above strictly if questions are too frequent or cause a problem.

I'm not convinced that Solidity programming questions are a good idea on Ethereum Stack Exchange. Why not asking them on StackOverflow, which seems more adapted to the purely programming questions.

  • Well, solidity is a key feature of Ethereum and makes up a major part of the questions asked. There are more solidity experts here than on Stack Overflow due to the nature of this site. FYI, you might want to discuss solidity in this separate thread here on meta. – Afri Jun 14 '16 at 7:22

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