This post, after being without an answer for 10 months, got 4 close votes with the reasoning:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it deals with the installation process for a third-party package.

Should the installation process of third-party packages be on-topic?

Please post answers arguing for yes/no or vote on existing answers. I see why there might be differing opinions about this so I think we should put it to a community vote.

  • I posted in favour of allow them! I'll leave the opposite argument to someone else.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:32
  • 1
    I think it cannot really be strictly on-topic because that would require us to make some sort of guarantee about our familiarity with arbitrary packages that maybe nobody here has ever used. That being said, I can see the merit of your position, and don't disagree strongly enough to vote it down. I can't help feeling that it is not a great situation to encourage potentially unanswerable questions, but it probably will do no lasting harm to the site even in the worst case, so a potential benefit to the community seems to at least justify the experiment. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:31
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    @OleksandrR. "that would require us to make some sort of guarantee about our familiarity with arbitrary packages that maybe nobody here has ever used" <- Couldn't that argument be brought for just about any Mathematica feature? E.g. there's only one hit when searching for ToContinuousTimeModel, a function that exists since version 8. Also, there are several packages which are popular enough that question get answered. There are lots of hits for SciDraw/LevelScheme. It would be hard to come up with an objective criterion for which package is okay to ask about and which isn't.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:05
  • In all likelihood there are a fair number of people in the Mathematica community who would want to use any built-in feature, otherwise presumably WRI wouldn't have bothered to implement it. For third-party packages, especially commercial ones, I think this is not such a good assumption. Also, WRI does offer their own documentation and support to which we can refer to answer the question in the absence of anything else, but many packages are defunct and poorly documented, and maybe not even available to the majority of users. It is a difficult situation. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


Personally, I think these questions should be allowed and for a number of reasons I want them to be allowed.

Why should they be allowed – the objective part

Questions like this are in line with the spirit of the site: this site is for the users of Mathematica and for the problems they encounter while using Mathematica.

Package installation problems are directly related to Mathematica (excepting those cases when the problem is obviously with some external tool that the package relies on and the problem can be made evident without even having to start Mathematica).

Whether a package is by WRI or others shouldn't matter, for as long as it is a Mathematica package.

Why do I personally want them to be allowed – the subjective part

I do realize that the OP would likely get a solution faster if s/he contacted the author of the package. I also do realize that similar questions often linger without an answer for a long time. But those are not good reasons to disallow them.

What I am hoping for instead is that:

  • This site will become more popular with advanced users and package writers will check it more often
  • This website will be instrumental in encouraging more people to develop Mathematica packages
  • With time, these sorts of questions will get answered more quickly here

I do have a personal stake in this too: we get lots of emails about (installation) problems people encounter with MATLink (and I also get some about MaTeX). In the vast majority of cases these problems are due to errors made by the users, not problems with the packages. Dealing with these support requests takes quite a bit of time (we even considered setting up a community forum for MATLink to reduce the support load). I am sure that many would be quickly answered here on Mathematica.SE (even though most are not posted here). So I want these sorts of questions to be at least allowed.

Mathematica.SE is the most prominent Mathematica community. If the community decides that such questions are off-topic, that will have an negative impact on the package ecosystem. If they are allowed, then more third-party packages will be mentioned and discussed here; people will learn about and start to use more third party packages; advanced users who write packages and are not already participating will be more likely to join the site (and there are more such people than you might imagine); in the end more of these questions will get answered here. I think either decision could start a feedback loop and I want that feedback loop to have overall positive effects.

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