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One thing I've noticed in close-voting is that if the questioner mentions that what they're doing is in their home in any way, it gets voted off-topic. If it's about the network itself, it gets shoveled off to SuperUser. Right now the SF Faq reads:

Server Fault is for system administrators and IT professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity.

And under the 'What not to ask' section:

If your question is about …

  • Programming, not just scripting, ask on Stack Overflow.
  • General computer software or hardware troubleshooting, ask on Super User.
  • Web design and HTML/CSS layout, and your job title is "designer", ask on Doctype.

The FAQ does not in any way discourage asking questions relating to:

  • Networking outside of the professional workplace
  • Running servers at home in any way

The one gray area are questions which could possibly relate to the kind of continuing education sysadmins need to do. A lot of us have servers at home, we just don't consider them professional. This possibly is the topic of another Meta post.

The reason most commonly cited for closing at-home questions is largely, "this is a professional sysadmin community, and stuff at home isn't professional by definition." That attitude is not enshrined in the FAQ at all


Specifically, I'd like to modify the What Not To Ask section:

  • General computer software, hardware troubleshooting, *or home networks*, ask on Super User.
  • 2
    I have to agree with this. I'd almost be tempted to go further and say the difference is also the equipment used. If someone is using a "home" broadband router in their small office with 3 computers, is that a SF or SU question? While its pertinent to us in one way, they may get better answers to a question on a home router on SU. – Rob Moir Jan 2 '11 at 22:14
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    I agree with Robert. If I was to run a free service from my home in a manor completely consistent with Enterprise best-practices, I would expect that to belong on SF. Similarly if I was to run a completely unprofessional network consisting of a $20 SOHO router and 3 Win98 machines, asking 'Why FireFox 3.6 Wont Install" I would expect that to be Off-Topic. – Chris S Jan 3 '11 at 15:09
  • Great. I run a Cisco ISR at home...I would almost feel like cheating if I asked questions about it on SF, but now I feel empowered >>SMILE<< – Jason Berg Jan 4 '11 at 5:15
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    Even with the language change we'll still get a steady drum-beat of people asking the, "I'm setting up a dev server for some friends, how do I share it with them," type. Or the occasional, "I want to do hosting from my house!" question. – sysadmin1138 Jan 4 '11 at 5:47
  • too true, but at least we can now say "Please read the FAQ" and it specifically states something about home rigs. – Chris S Jan 6 '11 at 0:47
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OK, I changed the /faq to:

Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity. If your question is about …

  • Servers
  • Networks
  • Desktop PCs that you maintain in the workplace

and it is not about

  • Networking outside the professional workplace
  • Running servers at home for personal use
  • General personal computer troubleshooting

… then you're in the right place to ask your question!

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    Nice word-smithing! – sysadmin1138 Jan 5 '11 at 2:46
  • Thanks Jeff, that's how I was interpreting things but now you've really cleared up that point. However, about the "and IT professionals" bit... I'm sure many of us have different interpretations for what is IT and I'd like to see some clarification for this context. e.g. Is someone working (professionally) as a unit assembler for a PC maker an IT professional? How about a photocopier service tech? Both are certainly professionals in IT related fields but would they qualify as IT professionals for SF? The FAQ as it stands says "yes". – John Gardeniers Jan 5 '11 at 3:19
  • @John, what's your specific suggestion? Dropping the "and IT pros" altogether? I agree with what you're trying to say, but simplifying it to just "system administrators" seems a bit narrow. Desktop support (help desk) should be welcome here, similarly DBAs, network engineers, etc. – Chris S Jan 6 '11 at 0:50
  • @Chris, looking at what gets posted and what gets closed/moved, I think "System Administrators" (which should include things like DB admins, etc.) and Desktop support should cover it. I just think IT pros is too general and leaves the door wide open for those who think they belong on the site and then prove otherwise with their posts. – John Gardeniers Jan 6 '11 at 1:05
  • @john so you think it should say "desktop support professionals"? – Jeff Atwood Jan 6 '11 at 2:14
  • @Jeff, I think so. There is a difference between supporting a few computers at home or for family and friends and the same role at say a large company or school. While at first glance the difference might not be obvious in reality those who do desktop support in a professional capacity normally need to work within fairly tight limits and have to work in conjunction with the admins, or at least their policies. Continued below... – John Gardeniers Jan 6 '11 at 21:54
  • For those like myself who work in smaller companies desktop support is also very much part of the day to day tasks we perform. Also, the level of expertise most desktop pros have means that we shouldn't (and I really want to stress the word "shouldn't") get too many SU type questions from them. However, questions regarding issues with those desktops on a corporate or similar network should in my opinion be on SF. – John Gardeniers Jan 6 '11 at 21:56
  • @john fine, I changed it to "desktop support professionals" – Jeff Atwood Jan 7 '11 at 5:32
  • I'm actually against the "Desktop Professionals" inclusion. In my experience, DPs handle a localized problems (out at the leaves of the tree), and if the scope of the problem expands, they escalate to a SysAd. DPs that think beyond that scope are usually promoted to SysAds (and in every case, it is a promotion, not just a change in job description.) This has been the case in the Marine Corps, 3 enterprises, and two Software Dev SMBs (though I'm willing to acknowledge that it is not necessarily universal). In my mind, SU was THE place for Desktop Support Pros. – gWaldo Jan 7 '11 at 13:53
  • @gWaldo, I'm of the opinion that hardware issues will be taken to SU, as they generally have been in the past, because that's where the appropriate expertise tends to be. When it comes to things like networking, policies (think GPO and the like) SF is definitely more appropriate and the desktop people should not be discouraged from asking such questions where they are appropriate. While desktop people may not have been involved in such areas where you have worked that is not the norm. – John Gardeniers Jan 9 '11 at 22:10
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The FAQ does not in any way discourage asking questions relating to:

* Networking outside of the professional workplace
* Running servers at home in any way

The way I read the FAQ, unless you're doing that work on the home system professionally it's off topic so it does indeed discourage those things, albeit indirectly. Whether we agree with it or not is a whole other matter entirely and perhaps the FAQ does need to be changed. However, right now that's how it is.

I suspect my view might be that of a minority but personally I'm happy to leave things as they are. Softening the lines will mean even more crap being posted by admin wannabes and I believe there's far more than enough of that already.

  • I'm not sure Jeff's wording is a softening. Yes, the @home issue is implicit in the existing wording, I was attempting to add some explicitness to it. We've had meta-debates about similar issues (meta.serverfault.com/questions/465/perception-of-purpose, meta.serverfault.com/questions/973/…) my proposal was for a minor wording tweak to reflect some of that. Jeff's went a bit further. – sysadmin1138 Jan 5 '11 at 2:45
  • @sysadmin1138, I wasn't referring to Jeff's wording, which hadn't been posted yet. I was referring to softening the differentiation between professional IT and home stuff. – John Gardeniers Jan 5 '11 at 3:24

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