As I understand it, ServerFault is reserved for technical questions that are specific to the professional support of systems, network and desktop infrastructure in a business environment. Where does this leave questions that deal with non-technical issues related to this field?

I'm referring to things ranging from physical inventory organizational schemes, documentation guidelines to questions dealing with some of interpersonal challenges of being "that guy (or girl) in the basement that does computer stuff" (i.e., makes everything work so everyone else can work). Maybe it is just my general inexperience in the field, but I find that I have quite a few questions along these lines, and that while they are not specifically about system administration they are, in my opinion, a huge part of being a system administrator.

Stack Overflow has Programmers where, as far as I can tell, non-technical or career oriented questions for programers and software engineers are permitted as long as they general enough to not be localized to a particular situation. Should ServerFault have a similar site? Would it be worth it to merge the "non-technical" career questions from StackExchange into a single site? Should these types of questions be considered off-topic and dealt with accordingly?

I certainly haven't been here long enough, to even consider suggesting a solution, but perhaps a discussion might be worthwhile?

EDIT: Ignore the documentation and inventory examples. They are not relevant to this question (although they are relevant to SF as John Gardeniers has pointed out).

  • Wow. Right around the time you posted this, I was going to ask the same thing because I wanted to ask other SF-ers some questions about job-hunting. May 6, 2011 at 3:02

2 Answers 2


Your examples a real mixed bag, with some being on topic and even come up regularly, while others are not.

e.g. Documentation issues come up a fair bit and because documentation is a part of our job it is normally on topic.

Interpersonal issues are common to any job and have absolutely nothing to do with system administration. For those who might disagree I'll ask where would we draw the line? Should we discuss what we have for lunch, or how many cups of tea/coffee we have during the day? Those things are part of my day but not part of my job.

"Career development" (AKA looking for a better paying and/or more satisfactory job) is another thing that has nothing to do with system administration. Nor is any aspect of it unique to system administration. There are plenty of job oriented sites where those issues can be discussed.

Many things that most of us deal with on a daily basis are off topic for SF. That's mainly because the vast majority of us do not have a simple straightforward admin's role with clearly defined borders. For some it includes people management, for many it includes programming (I spend around 90% of my time coding), etc. but that doesn't make those things system administration.

In short, SF is not about being a system administrator, it's about how we perform the tasks of system administration. I for one wouldn't want it any other way. I come to SF to learn and to help others where I can. In a way I see it kind of like an Open Source knowledge base about system administration.

  • +1 Exactly what I would have said.
    – Chris S
    May 6, 2011 at 3:31
  • There was a proposal about a 'programming' like site for SF for that kind of topic, but it was closed (by people that don't use SF at all). It's on area51 somewhere.
    – coredump
    May 6, 2011 at 17:52
  • Is there a place on SO where I can ask career-oriented system admin questions? You've stated that career development questions are considered off-topic, but what about say the choice between pursuing a CCNP certification or completing a Computer Science degree with regards to working as sys admin?
    – user62491
    May 29, 2011 at 4:54
  • @kce, my view, which I believe is essentially supported by the FAQ, is that SF is for asking questions about how to do the job, not about changing the job. As such I vote all career questions as off topic. If you really want career advice use a careers site or talk to a careers consultant. May 29, 2011 at 5:01
  • OK. No career stuff on StackExchange. Fair enough.
    – user62491
    May 29, 2011 at 5:04

I'm referring to things ranging from physical inventory organizational schemes, documentation guidelines to questions dealing with some of interpersonal challenges of being "that guy (or girl) in the basement that does computer stuff" (i.e., makes everything work so everyone else can work).

There are inventory and documentation questions here, I think everyone would agree that those are part of a sysadmin's job and I'd say they're technical enough to go on SF itself.

As I said in my comment to the question, I was going to ask the same thing because I was interested in asking other SF-ers some questions about job-hunting. I don't think that type of subjective question belongs on SF, I was going to ask if it's ok on Chat.

Unlike John, I think that some HR questions would be on-topic, and an easy way to draw a line would be to say that if they're specific to sysadmin jobs, they're ok. For example, how do you explain (or try to explain) your job and its complications and difficulties to whatever non-technical managers you deal with? Answers to this would be specific to sysadmin jobs and would be very different from what, for example, an accountant would say.

Again, with career development, I think there could be good, on-topic, subjective questions, but I haven't gone back and looked at the blog post on what SE, Inc. considers good vs. bad subjective.

  • 1
    While specific questions related to aquirring an SA job or hiring SAs might be on-topic, as you mentioned there has to be something that really stands out as "For SysAdmins Only", otherwise it's just another generic job question. Similarly for education questions; asking for a book recommendation for a specific topic is on-topic, while asking what degree you should go to college for is off-topic. Overall hit the mark close enough to warrant a +1.
    – Chris S
    May 6, 2011 at 3:31
  • My feeling is that the majority of the community here is with @John Gardeniers on this issue, although I am more inclined to agree with you about the relevancy to HR and career questions. With that said, "Is there any place where those questions are relevant?" or are the mentor-less like myself stuck learning everything the hard way?
    – user62491
    May 6, 2011 at 4:02
  • 1
    On the topic of explaining technical issues in a non-technical way, whether to managers or anyone else, the wording might be job specific but the issue is the same regardless of occupation. I've been through it as an electrician, a plumber, an engineer, a programmer, etc. etc., and these days do so as a sys admin. Only the words differ. It's a skill that most of us require but is not job specific. May 6, 2011 at 8:20
  • Understood. I'm guessing you are referring to this question of mine. In short... my bad.
    – user62491
    May 6, 2011 at 21:12

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