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Is there a set of guidelines about where questions get migrated to and when and why? I recently noticed a question that got moved (228792) to a stackexchange site. My thoughts were:

  1. Seriously? - we need to move questions about windows firewalls/virus activity to a security stackexchange?

  2. why aren't all the unix/linux admin questions moved over to unix.stackexchange.com?

  3. if there are going to by superspecialized sites like this is serverfault essentially dead?

  4. Why can't I tell who moved this question?

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    I agree. With current trends, I am seriously concerned about number 3. – Warner Jan 30 '11 at 19:25
  • Guilty as charged :) I moved the question. I remember there was a user request to move this to the Security SE; at the time it seemed appropriate, but in this case I guess you're right. I'll reopen the question here. Next time I'll pay more attention, I promise. :) – splattne Jan 31 '11 at 17:08
  • For convenient context, here is a direct link to the moved question: serverfault.com/questions/228792/… – nealmcb Jan 31 '11 at 21:15
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It's very simple:

  • Server Fault is a community of professional (and wannabe professional) sysadmins

  • security.se is a community of professional (and wannabe professional) security experts

It's all about asking questions tailored to, and appropriate for, the specific audience.

Do we have programmers who "wear multiple hats" and play a sysadmin role at a small company insisting that they should be able to ask their sysadmin questions on Stack Overflow and "just tag them, what's the harm"? Sure we do. But that doesn't fit our model of expert communities.

As for what should be moved, I support moving the true "expert" type questions that benefit from ninja-level, specialized pro skills.

It's the same rule I use when determining which database questions should be moved from stackoverflow to dba.stackexchange. Is this question "how do I create an index" or is it "Why can't I use newid() in a user-defined table-valued function?"

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Why can't I tell who moved this question?

Since the security.se site is not one of the 'Top 4' it does not appear on the close to vote migrate page. As such, it requires a mod's intervention to migrate, and that is what happened in this case. If you want to see the closed question on the SF site, then per this meta-SO answer, you can append a ?noredirect=1 to the URL.

I will admit that I had flagged that question for migration to security.se. Reading the question, the prospect of a virus infection on the site's DHCP server is pretty scary, and working under that assumption, the Information Security community could provide some excellent assistance. Is it possible that I flagged in error? Sure, that's always a possibility. Though I take some comfort in knowing that I wasn't alone in that opinion, or else it would not have been moved.

if there are going to by superspecialized sites like this is serverfault essentially dead?

I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Having not read the faqs on most of the other speciality sites I can't get overly specific. However, glancing through the unix.se faq, I do see that there is definitely some overlap between what they say is on-topic and what goes on at SF. I also see some some major differences as well. I am nervous about fragmentation, look what this did to the linux community in the late 90s and early-mid 2000s. We will have to wait for those sites to get bigger before we really start to see what the fallout might be or whether those fears are justified.

In the end, the whole point of having the different communities is to encourage an environment where certain kinds of questions can get good attention. Migrations definitely help with that, but as always they really need to be focused on one thing -- Where can the asker get the best input?

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    I haven't seen the actual question but based on what I read here I do believe you flagged in error. A virus on a server is a sysadmin issue. Sure it involves a security aspect but it won't be a security person who has to clean it up. That's OUR job. Any admin worth their salary should be able to cope with it quite easily as part of their day to day job. – John Gardeniers Jan 30 '11 at 21:11
  • You are absolutely right, the person doing the cleaning up would definitely be a sysadmin. Depending on how your organization defines the office roles, it would be a security person deciding how the clean up happens. – Scott Pack Jan 30 '11 at 22:07
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I have to say I agree with a lot of this, point number 3 especially. We have a lot of issues with questions being migrated between the "big three" as it is, and we've already seen issues where webmasters.se defines its role differently from what people here seem to think, so questions that fall between those two stools could get lost.

I don't know if SF is "dead" but I think loads of very narrowly defined sites reduce the overall value of a questions and answers site because they reduce the number of eyes on a question or increase the amount of work one person has to do in order to see all the areas they are interested in (I wouldn't describe myself as a UNIX specialist these days, for example, but its still possible I know the answer to a question in that area and if I never see it then I won't get to answer it... And that's one less chance the person asking the question will get a useful answer at all).

The only purpose to a lot of the overly-specialised sites that I see is elitism. If a topic is essentially covered by one or more of the already existing sites then I really don't see how fragmenting the community needlessly helps.

Speaking of Unix, over-fragmentation did that platform a lot of harm. Why can't, or won't SE learn from Unix's mistakes?

  • ok, let's take this one step farther -- why have more than one site on the entire internet? Isn't that unnecessary fragmentation? Wouldn't it be easier to find someone if every human being in the world was a Facebook user? Why have Server Fault when we could just fold those topics into Stack Overflow? – Jeff Atwood Jan 30 '11 at 22:42
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    Ok, I think you're being a little ridiculous with your counter-examples Jeff. There are some clear divisions in topics, e.g. SO, SU, SF. but some are less clear; e.g. SF/SO vs. webmasters for example but still worthwhile (despite my reservations). Some are, imo, distinctions made purely for the sake of creating a walled garden to avoid talking to them, whoever the "them du jour" are in any given example. If you want to break things down to silly levels then why is there not a Win 2008 SE? & a Win 2008r2 SE? And a new one in the pipeline for when the service pack for W2008r2 comes out? – Rob Moir Jan 30 '11 at 23:14
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    Actually don't answer my last question, I already know the answer. My point is, though, that some of the divisions seem not much more justifiable than that - Ubuntu.SE vs Linux.SE anyone? I'm not saying those peoples opinions don't matter, but that each decision to divide a community like that up as as much potential to harm as it does to help. Especially if people end up confused as to where they need to ask a question or find their questions being migrated too often. It's a balancing act, I understand that. My concern is are we getting the balance right? – Rob Moir Jan 30 '11 at 23:20
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I originally shared the concern that Unix and Linux would start to pull away from SF as well. The main thing that changed my mind is that the Internet is not a zero sum game and that SF keeps growing every week.

There are many more professional system administrators out there that will be interested in participating on the Server Fault and becoming part of the community. Many of them will be Unix experts but consider themselves system administrators first and will want to be part of our community. Some of them will only want to be part of a Unix community, so Unix.se is for them.

Will there be some Unix experts who are also sysadmins that might have been part of Server Fault if it wasn't for Unix.se? Probably, but not enough to loose sleep over I don't think. Since the Internet is so big -- loosing a couple of them to Unix.se is going to harm our community from what I have seen. We already have people that know a lot about Unix and they will keep coming. I also think that there will be plenty of expert Unix questions coming to Server Fault even as Unix.se grows.

When it comes to moving questions -- I wouldn't move them unless the question is not related to system administration. I am not sure I fully agree with Jeff that using the the level of expertise required is the best way to judge migration. The DBA example makes sense as database work does become a specialty when it gets to certain areas. However I think even though there are full time Windows and Unix Admins I feel they are more tightly coupled with system administration. When it comes to networking I am less sure -- I think ISP level networking might be its own community. Check out http://sysadmin1138.net/mt/blog/2011/01/defining-system-administrator.shtml for some food for thought on this...

As always if you start to see patterns that concerns you let George or I know or ask here on Meta with examples -- we are very invested in this community as well.

  • One other thing when it comes to unix.se -- Go look at the first page of recent questions. I would say most of them are not sysadmin questions. – Kyle Brandt Jan 30 '11 at 23:48
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    I guess it really depends on how you see serverfault / specialized sites. I think that personally I'd prefer all sorts of unix related questions (and conversely windows related questions) on one site rather than have to browse 8 or 9 different sites just to see if there is something I want to answer, or learn about. Maybe the answer is some sort of metasite/app that pulls all the subsites into 1 view for browseability? – Jim B Jan 31 '11 at 0:15
  • @Jim B: Well stackexchange.com does that with tag sets. You can watch a tag across all sites. – Kyle Brandt Jan 31 '11 at 0:19
  • After thinking about this for a bit a few questions come to mind. Why would I go to serverfault when I can configure all off the tags I want in one convenient place? Is Rep then still a worthwhile measure of how trusted a user is (considering the user answering your question might have mountains of rep on SF but may have never visited say the unix site?) – Jim B Feb 7 '11 at 1:42
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My fault. A Serverfault user flagged the question requesting to move it to the Security SE site. One part of my brain told me to leave the question here, another part kept whispering "Try that new moderator-only cool Move-To-SE tool! Quick! NOW!" ¹

In the end, I moved the question because there were no answers here on SF and I wanted to give the Security experts a chance, but in hindsight it was a bad idea.


¹ Just kidding, I've done it before (to the Webmaster SE for example)

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