I asked a question today, is CTAN broken?, and was "told-off" for asking a transient question. So, I put it to us, users of TEX.SE.

Should transient questions (questions involving the moment, that might not be relevant in less than a day even) be allowed here?

I think the usual rules are that arguments for or against are given as answers, but the voting on my question collects the votes, right?

3 Answers 3


I don't think this kind of questions make a lot of sense in the site as, I would say, they don't have a “unique” or correct answer. Or, put it another way, the answer to the question will change from day to day.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind about this kind of questions being asked in meta.

What do other people think about this?

  • I agree with you.
    – TH.
    Commented Oct 24, 2010 at 23:16

Transient questions are fine if they are relevant for more than a single day, or hour. But if CTAN is down, which is certainly possible, you can be 99.999% confident that it won't be down some short time in the future.

  • The problem is that I didn't even know if CTAN was down, or if there's a problem with my mirror, etc. So if someone would have answered, it would have been really nice! Perhaps someone could have given me an answer saying that since I see all the directory listing, it probably isn't CTAN itself that is down, but rather my mirror, and given me advice how to get a different mirror. or something! Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 9:47
  • I think that while any specific transient blackout may be, well, transient, TEX.SE may be a good place for such questions since the answers could be helpful for the next time such a transient event happens. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 9:49
  • Going back to 99.999%: I still cannot get anything from CTAN. And I still don't know if this is localized to my mirror, (I'm in Spain) how to try a different mirror, nor how to tell someone that there's a problem with my mirror! I think that my question should be opened as I think that the site would benefit from an answer to this question. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 9:53
  • 1
    You could formulate your question in a non-transient way: “Where can I find a list of CTAN mirrors and the people responsible for them?”
    – Caramdir
    Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 14:29
  • Well, sure. I'll do that. however, when I was looking for information, I was unaware of the mirrored nature of CTAN, and so, had I been looking for information using "is CTAN" down, I am not sure if would find a question talking about mirrors...but I'll try to formulate it so that I would. Thanks for the constructive idea. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 16:38
  • 1
    @Yossi Farjoun: downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ctan.org
    – TH.
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 2:46
  • That's awesome! thanks, I had no idea about that site... Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 10:08

We already have several (though admittedly not many) questions whose answers are time-dependent:

Not to mention many questions concerning current tools/upgrades/versions that may cease being interesting in a few months. Clearly, the status of CTAN can change within hours, but where is the crossing line?

Should not TEX.SE be the place to go for all things *TeX related? Should this not include transient blackouts of services that are important to *TeX users? Why not use the many eyeballs of *TeX users for this purpose as well?

Formally, there is nothing in the guidelines that requires the question to be timeless. It is objective, it is about TeX related repository (a tool). It isn't about TEX.SE, so it should not be in the meta. There may be people who don't care about the running of TEX.SE meta who could answer this question.

We could have these transient questions tagged [transient] or similar so that it would be easy to purge them or filter them or whatever, but I don't see the gain in hiding them while they are relevant.

So, here I am, 10 hours later, still not able to download anything from CTAN. I see the directory listings, I can navigate them, but whenever I ask for a specific file that requires that I download from a mirror, I time-out on the request. Perhaps my mirror is down? how can I find out? How can I ask to use a different mirror? Can someone tell me if they have similar problems?

By asking the questions here, in an answer I am trying to show that the original question (that was closed, and I think should be reopened and given an answer) has a large component that is as important to the general and timeless *TeX community, and does not pertain to the specific blackout that I am still suffering from.

  • 5
    I dispute the "too localized" nature of all of your examples. People use old packages, the examples will continue to be interesting after documentation exists, the future of Latex3 will continue to be discussed long after it is considered to be ready for release, &c. The number of people who will continue to care a year from now about a particular outage that CTAN had last night (GMT) will, I predict with high confidence, be less than four, none of whom would consider tex.sx to be a useful source of information for them on this incident. Chat.tex.sx will, I expect, be good for these things. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 6:00
  • I didn't say that these examples a "too localized" I just said that they are also specific in time. The unstable status of beamer, for example, will probably be a non-issue in a few days, at any rate, when it ceases being an issue, the question will become non-interesting, people will either upgrade to a stable version, or stay in their old stable version. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 10:25

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