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Using StackOverflow pretty much guratanteed I would eventually solve each problem I posted. I believe this is largely to do with that fact that when solving problems in code, you can post the broken code to the site, and the responses will eventually contain fixed code.

But I have found the problems I've tried to fix with ServerFault generally don't have code, instead I need to post a description of the symptoms of the problem, and all the things I've tried so far. The responses are usually more things I can try, but they don't always result in my problem being fixed. Sometimes the problem is simply un-fixable - due to genuinely broken hardware - in which case the correct solution ought to be "buy a new XXX". But responders generally don't write that. More often, in order to really fix a problem with a server or network, a knowledgeable individual really needs to get access to the equipment and try his own barrage of tests and checks based on his/her personal experience and instincts.

Right now I have a handful of problems on ServerFault which I have not been able to fix. I'm being nagged to "considered accepting an answer or starting a bounty for this question".

My question is, how to more effectively ensure the problems I post to ServerFault will ultimately actually get solved? And what should I do with questions that didn't get a working solution?

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    On Superuser I have a similar problem, people ask questions of which you know beforehand: the solution to this is impossible or non-existent... Good luck telling that person that – Ivo Flipse Aug 19 '09 at 5:18
  • @Ivo, That depends. There are questions that are impossible to solve now, but wait a few months and they become solvable. When the question is "How can I solve this", then "this is unsolvable" should be a comment and not an answer. – Pacerier May 18 '15 at 17:47
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Continue editing your question with the steps that you've tried and new speed bumps that come up. It may go into CW, but it's a small price to pay for fixing your problem!

Editing the question will keep pushing it to the front of the homepage, too. This is totally acceptable if you don't have a resolution to your problem. Also, let people know that you're okay spending money on new hardware. There are a lot of IT depts out there that are locked into a budget, and so it is clearly a fine line to walk with the, "Go buy X" and not sound condescending or spamalicious.

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I quite agree with you, many problems on ServerFault will require more back and forth dialog than will on StackOverflow. That's the nature of these types of problems. Patience is the key with these. And with sysadmin problems there sometimes is not an acceptable solution, just a lesser of many evils. That sucks bad, but is something we have to live with.

Honestly, though, I don't really see the breakdown in the system that you're hinting at. I had a look at your question list and here are some general observations I have:

  • Q1: How to reset a bricked belkin router model f5d7320
    In this case splattne gave you the suggestion to replace the hardware, which is what you indicate (above) that you would want to see. (Note that this question really belongs on SuperUser now.)

  • Q2: how to make windows shutdown script run earlier
    You accepted the answer, albeit it wasn't ideal. I would have just left it open as the provided solution wasn't really the answer to your question, but rather a workaround. You could edit your original question to note that the answer was a workaround, but not the true answer to your question. You don't have to accept an answer if it's not the real answer you're looking for. It's perfectly acceptable to leave it open until you are satisfied. You could also try putting a bounty on the question, but I know that can be not very acceptable in the back-and-forth dialog type resolutions that we're discussing, due to the timeline of the bounty and the possibility of not receiving an acceptable answer.

  • Q3: thinkpad t42 loses power with no warning
    (This one also belongs on SuperUser) I'm guessing this one's all good since you note the accepted answer exactly addressed the problem.

  • Q4: ssh tunnel using putty no longer works after server change
    There are comments to the answers asking you questions for further information. You should follow up with those people.

  • Q5: w2k3 bsod irqlnotlessorequal
    Looks like here you were able to work to you solution with the assistance of others on the site.

One more point I might make is that right now ServerFault is still relatively young. Some of this stuff, I think, will settle out given a little more time.

Hope that helps!

  • The back and forth discussion is generally how server and system problems usually get fixed. From this point of view, programmers have a much easier time of things, as they have code samples to deal with. Systems folks don't always have that option as we usually don't have access to the code of the problem we are trying to fix so we have to work around the software we are dealing with. – mrdenny Aug 19 '09 at 5:41
  • Squillman, thanks for analyzing all my questions!!! You were right about the shutdown script post - I accepted the answer just because I was being nagged to! When I posted those earlier questions I don't think SuperUser was running, so thanks for moving them to the right place. – rwired Aug 20 '09 at 3:34
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squillman says:

[M]any problems on ServerFault will require more back and forth dialog than will on StackOverflow. That's the nature of these types of problems...

Perhaps this site should be configured to have a higher threshold for the number of edits required for a question to be pushed over to "community wiki" status.

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Sounds like ServerFault could also use some kind of direct integration with the Copilot service. That might also turn into a good way to monetize the site.

  • That would also work with some Super User questions. – Brad Gilbert Aug 19 '09 at 14:26
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Yes you make a reasonable observation. I think that you are right; the model for answers doesn't really work on that site, if that is the typical approach. Probably it shouldn't be so answer-based (or only answer based). Instead you could just hand out points to those that are helpful, and comment on the underlying resolution to the problem yourself.

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I see one outstanding Question:

SSH Tunnel using PuTTY no longer works after server change

Maybe I am a bit slower, but I read that a couple times and still can't figure out what you are trying to do exactly. I recommend often having what you are trying to do at the start of the question or in bold or something. For instance:

I have a Linux Server and a Windows Server, and a Windows Desktop. I am trying to connect to the Linux server from my Desktop via a tunnel I set up on the Windows server. I used to have this working, but on the Linux server, we moved the hard drive to a new physical server.

vs:

Prior to the move I was using PuTTY on a Windows box to tunnel web-traffic as a SOCKS proxy through the server using a Dynamic port set as 9870.

It is not that clear to me if you are using putty to set up the tunnel, or using putty to connect to the tunnel, or both. What is 'the server'?

So I recommend that your draw a picture, even with ascii art, or paint the picture with words. If you explain the situation very thoroughly, but concisely, you might get better support.

  • Ah, thanks for pointing that out! I've updated said question with some ascii art. Hope it gets some hits now!!! – rwired Aug 20 '09 at 4:19
  • I can't think of what it could be at the moment, but I at least upvoted your question! ;-) – Kyle Brandt Aug 20 '09 at 11:16

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