First off, I'm not trying to start a pity party for myself, nor am I trying to be overly pedantic - please don't write off my comments as such. Also, to those who responded to the question, I'm trying to be constructive, not critical of your responses.


I tried to ask a good question and be specific about what I wanted to know. Part of asking questions is that you might ask the wrong question, or a bad question. Bad questions can be handled well with a brief explanation, but it's inevitable that people (like myself) will arrive misinformed. If in that situation, questions are met with disdain, SE will not cater to anyone but experts (regardless if they are professionals, and their question relates to their work). If there is community consensus that this is the purpose of SF, then the faq could be find tuned a bit to make this more clear.

My question what-is-the-canonical-portable-means-of-determining-only-the-ip-of-an-interface from yesterday, on looking up server ip addresses, wasn't well received (fine, everyone is welcome to their opinion). I realize that my question is very similar to how-can-i-display-the-ip-address-of-an-interface, and that I could have phrased my question differently.

My point is that I asked the question because:

  • I was unsatisfied with the solutions I had available (which I did reference)
  • I believed that it met the criteria in the faq
  • It seemed like there should be a 'better way'
  • This is a common task (for me at least), and a good answer should be useful to others

As it turns out, there doesn't seem to be a good solution (i.e. "why do i need to sort though all this terminal output just to get an ip?").

The response that I think would have been more constructive would have been to say:

  1. There isn't a good way to do what you're asking
  2. Reasons: x, y, z

I would have been happy to accept and upvote that answer.

I also disagree with the closed as "Not Constructive", as I don't think my question met the criteria in the close dialog, or from Gorilla vs. Shark (although "Exact Duplicate" is probably called for).


  • 1
    A slight off-topic correction and related thoughts: Though SF is part of the SE sites, it's purpose it to cater to System Administrators and other Professional Business Network Support Personnel. Almost all the other sites are intended to include hobbyists and semi-related fields, not the case with SF however. While this doesn't require users being "experts" it does imply a certain base level of knowledge (which you have demonstrated you don't have, no offense intended).
    – Chris S
    Aug 16, 2011 at 17:26
  • 1
    @Chris I disagree on the basis that not all professional sysadmins are aware of everything they need to know to do their job. While you might feel I'm unqualified for my job, the faq (see section 1) doesn't set any requirements on qualifications. However, it may be the that this is the general consensus of the SF community. If that is the case, and taking your points into consideration, I doubt that any potential questions I have would meet the 'base level'. I do want to clear up if that's the expectation though, otherwise I should be looking elsewhere for assistance. Aug 16, 2011 at 17:37
  • 2
    @Dana - As a junior admin, especially a junior *NIX admin, you should expect that your questions will be answered by pointing you in the direction of a solution and saying "Go play with it until you make it work". With the exception of big/interesting problems or questions about configurations (with examples) SF doesn't really do the "I can has code??" type answers because one size very rarely fits all.
    – voretaq7
    Aug 16, 2011 at 18:09
  • 1
    @Dana, completely agree with Voretaq. In addition each question is judged on it's merits. This question had a mix of 'do my job for me' with 'I don't actually know what cross-platform compatible implies' and "stuff that's been done before". Your next question could easily be one that really stumps the most experienced admins. Nobody should be excluded based on who they are or what knowledge level they have; but questions will be voted based on the apparent knowledge level of the person asking the particular question. The purpose of SF is for the community to get the Answer, you included.
    – Chris S
    Aug 16, 2011 at 19:09
  • 2
    "SE will not cater to anyone but experts." -- from listening to the podcasts, I'm fairly certain that that is an explicit design goal. More than once I've heard Joel and Jeff express a sentiment along the lines of "if you don't attract the experts, then it's a big clueless newbie fest, and if you encourage bad questions you drive away the experts". Keeping question quality high is the only way to keep experts around, and you're asking questions here because the experts are here.
    – womble Mod
    Aug 16, 2011 at 21:15
  • @womble Agreed, and part of my reason for posting is to help figure out where the line of expert/professional is. Again, if you're accurately representing the bar for questions, then the faq could be amended to state that SF is for '.. professionals to ask advanced questions about system administration. If your question is on Basic/Intermediate systems administration tasks, it should be directed at SU". This would help rid SF of people like myself who have to do the job, but don't meet the requirements expected by the community (I know I'm getting off topic here). Aug 16, 2011 at 21:25
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    Don't put emphasis on "advanced" -- well-thought-out basic questions are encouraged (they're great rep bait, if nothing else). Meditate a little on the basis of "professional"; think about the characteristics (apart from "gets paid") that make someone a professional in their field, such as a willingness to learn, not sponge off others' knowledge, and so on. This dovetails nicely with "community", which means that if you're asking of others' time, you respect the time they give you by asking the best durned question you possibly can -- which, I'm sorry to say, yours wasn't.
    – womble Mod
    Aug 16, 2011 at 22:01
  • To expand a bit on @womble's comments, there's a difference between wanting to attract experts (and develop newbies into experts) and being "just for the experts" -- The former turns into an echo chamber quickly. The latter is what I see as the SE network's goal. Bringing in new people and new ideas is critically important (at least on technical sites like SF and SO), and the best source of those are inquisitive newbies.
    – voretaq7
    Aug 17, 2011 at 4:02
  • @Voretaq7 Unless my dyslexia is acting up again, I think you got your "former and latter" bass ackwards.
    – Wesley
    Aug 17, 2011 at 19:02
  • @WesleyDavid - Quite correct sir.
    – voretaq7
    Aug 17, 2011 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


Do I think your question should have been downvoted? No.
It is not a bad question, there's nothing inherently wrong with it (even though it's been asked before).

Do I think your question should have been closed (as a dupe)? Yup.
There's no reason you've given why the solution in the other question won't work for you in your current situation.

Climbing up on my high horse for a moment, an "answer" does not mean yes, it does not mean no, it does not mean "what the person asking the question wants to hear": In the context of these sites it means a response intended to enlighten and point you at possible solutions for what you're trying to do (or reasons why you shouldn't do it, alternatives to consider, etc.).

In this case it seems you wanted to hear either the tool you want exists. It's caled foo., or No such tool exists. Tough luck. - What you got was pointed at a previous question that explains how to do what you want in a relatively cross-platform way, plus people noting that if you want it to be truly cross-platform there would probably be a bit more work involved. That may not have been what you wanted, but in the immortal words of The Rolling Stones "You can't always get what you want, but if you try some times you just might find you get what you need."

  • Nope, I agree that I got the information I asked for and needed. Although the question got blasted to oblivion, which is what prompted my meta discussion. The answer I'm settling on is that participation in SF is entirely for those with a lot of experience and no one else. Knowing who you can place themselves in that group doesn't seem that clear though, and the SF faq may as well reflect that to reduce confusion (what exactly is 'professional'). Aug 16, 2011 at 20:55
  • ServerFault is not "for those with a lot of experience and no one else" - I'm sorry if that's what you elect to take away from this discussion. As I said, I don't agree with the downvotes, but the question you asked is, at least in my mind, a dupe - you asked for "a single command (or one liner)", and got pointed at a question that had the canonical one-ilner as an answer. That's What's Supposed To Happen…
    – voretaq7
    Aug 16, 2011 at 21:56
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    Re: "what exactly is 'professional'" - meta.serverfault.com/questions/465/perception-of-purpose is the typical reference topic for that. You're on the right site as far as I'm concerned.
    – voretaq7
    Aug 16, 2011 at 21:59
  • understood and your link addresses my question. Aug 18, 2011 at 15:07

You didn't say which other solutions you had considered and why they didn't meet your requirements. Your question is

What I'd like to know is if there is a single command (or one liner) that displays an ip (either v4 or v6)

The answer is No.

This seemed like a particularly unsatisfactory answer to me so I pointed you at an answer that with a little tweaking can be made to work on a variety of Linux/Unix and Unix like operating systems including macosx. I even asked in chat if the one liner would work on *BSD and Voretaq7 kindly provided an answer for that.

You go on to say

I'd consider the best answer to be the one with few caveats, such as portability .i.e. differences in the output of ifconfig, lack of ip on OS X.

This is what lead me to agreeing to vote that your question was not constructive. In good Q&A there is no best. It seemed to me that you wanted us to play code golf with you being the judge.

  • For your 1st point, I'm not sure why "I know that this information is included in the output of various incantations of ifconfig, ip, etc and can be parsed out." isn't clear about what I've considered. Also, I wasn't trying to disregard your contribution, just make it more clear what I was asking. Regarding your 2nd point, there are often many ways to accomplish a task, but there may be one that is better than others. That's what I was attempting to express. Aug 16, 2011 at 20:26
  • I concede the point and the 2nd half of my original question. I intend my question to be annoying but see how it become so. Aug 16, 2011 at 21:42

While the first part of the question seems quite reasonable and I wouldn't have voted to closed. However, you started pissing me off where you tell us what you think is a good answer and what you will upvote. Quite simply, if you were in a position to make that assessment you shouldn't be asking the question. People will give you the answers they feel are most appropriate. Work on the assumption that most people answering know more about the topic than you do, so don't try to dictate their answers for them.

SF is a Q&A site, so the idea is you ask an answerable question, or at least accept when people tell you there is no answer, and others provide answers based on what they know. SF is not one of those sites where you can buy, sell and trade scores.

  • Fair enough, that isn't what I intended but it's clear now that I was getting too clever with my question. Aug 16, 2011 at 21:36

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