[EDIT]: Okay, I clearly miscommunicated on my first attempt, so I'm clarifying my whole post. I am not interested in promoting zsh through Q&A regarding arbitrary features. I am interesting in promoting zsh as a system administration and server diagnostic utility with significantly more advantages over other, more ubiquitous sysadmin tools. So that being said, I'm going to go through this question below and edit it accordingly...

I am interested in getting more sysadmins aware of specific features of zsh that apply directly to sysadmin activities and server diagnostic / troubleshooting tasks. These capabilities are not present in other shells, and are not commonly known.

What I'd like to do is:

  1. Post a question of the form "How exactly does feature SUCH-AND-SUCH in zsh work, and how can it be applied to common sysadmin tasks I have encountered?"
  2. Immediately answer my own question in a way that is clear, concise, and makes people think "Oh wow - that is a great feature. I should try that."

Or is this something that would be encouraged?

Can all of you in the community help me get a feel for if this behavior is frowned upon? Thanks!

  • 7
    I think that for something like zsh that's a grey area, but if you're from ACME Software who has written ACME's Greatest Shell Ever (Yours for only 4 small payments of $999.99) then that's definately a no-no. Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 2:26
  • 1
    I think @Lain's answer is the best way to keep your self out of trouble.
    – Nixphoe
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 14:11
  • 3
    Post a blog, get people to link to it. Or try searching for existing questions.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 15:33
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    I don't see any difference between the question you are asking and the one you originally asked.
    – user9517
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 21:54
  • Even with your edit yesterday this still seems like a contrived question and answer routine rather than a genuine one to me. I'd still classify it as spam, personally.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Sep 17, 2011 at 16:53

7 Answers 7


I'm of the opinion that asking and answering a question for the sole purpose of promoting a product should be dealt with in the same way as spam. It's pure advertising. Whether or not you have a personal interest in the product is, in my view, irrelevant. If you want to push a product find a more appropriate place to do it.

  • Agreed - If your sole purpose in posting the question/answer pair is to promote a product it's spam, regardless of accuracy or usefulness. If you find someone else's question and $PRODUCT is a good fit, by all means mention it.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 22:13

If you asked a question specifically about zsh features it would likely get closed by the community as off topic or (better) be flagged for migration to Unix & Linux because that's where it belongs. If you did this a lot you may be perceived as a spammer and start to take flags for that.

If you actively answer system administration questions using zsh examples then you would be OK, there is at least one person who actively promotes the use of GNU Parallel in such a manner. This is probably your best way forward.

  • My only beef with that is if you only post such a solution - zsh (and GNU Parallel) are great tools, but they aren't ubiquitous. If you post something that relies on them make sure you call out that dependency (and it would be nice to offer more generic solutions in e.g. Bourne shell)
    – voretaq7
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 22:14
  • 1
    Indeed, they have to be answers to real questions that use tool plugh.
    – user9517
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 11:45

Asking nebulous Questions about features, or how some component, of an app works is going to be off-topic. The question would have to be of a topic that a 3rd party would actually ask on SF. This will largely preclude asking ZSH specific question unless they mention a prototypical problem with the software.

What you can do, and the angle I would suggest, is finding questions about other shells and writing up an answer of how to solve the same issue using ZSH (eg, find a Q like "how to iterate folders in bash" and write up an answer "This can be solve with ZSH by doing X, Y, and Z."). While you might not get many upvotes for this sort of activity, it's a valid answer and wont be delete as spam.

As Chopper pointed out, promoting commercial software is very stringently regulated. If you're associated with the software in any way, you need to make sure that association is disclosed. F/OSS is generally given a lot of leeway, but be very careful if there are any commercial angles.


My own rule is I'm happy to let any open source or freeware people promote themselves but commercial stuff I come down pretty hard on, especially if it's all the user ever does.


In my opinion, asking a "loaded" question simply so that you can reply to it yourself with a long screed about how awesome your own app is, makes you a spammer, pure and simple. Don't care if you're pushing 'payware' or open source. I don't even care if you're personal friends with Linus Torvalds or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates... it's still spamming.

If there are questions that can be usefully and reasonably answered with a link to your utility and you participate in the community here fully, then that is a different matter.


Please don't. Serverfault is a place for professional sysadmins to go in order to get their questions answered and further develop their skills. It's not supposed to be a place to promote and stir up interest in a product.


Is it taboo to answer my own questions to ...

You are allowed to ask questions and answer them yourself. It is a good thing. I have answered a few of mine own. It is very important that if you do this that you write a good question.

to promote nice features of app?

I am going to disagree with the crowd here and suggest I don't really care about the promotion aspect that much as long as the question is actually good, on topic, and not extremely specific so that it only applies to a very specific situation.

If you can ask a good question, then people will probably up vote it and accept it on the site. If you ask a poor question, and use a good answer that you post as an excuse to ask it, then it will probably be down-voted or closed.

So, ask a question good on-topic question that is as generic as possible, and doesn't have any arbitrary limitation so that only your answer would apply. Leave it open for a while before you post your answer.

We like good questions, and we like good answers. We don't like extremely contrived questions that are only asked so you can promote something.

If you are posting crap, then I will down-vote it, flag it, or vote to close it.

So make sure your question doesn't fit into match any this criteria.

  • downvote - This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

  • too localized - This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

  • off topic - Questions on Server Fault are expected to generally relate to servers, networking, or desktop infrastructure, within the scope defined in the faq.

  • not constructive - This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

  • not a real question - It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

  • exact duplicate - This question covers exactly the same ground as earlier questions on this topic; its answers may be merged with another identical question.

  • 2
    "You are allowed to ask questions and answer them yourself." provided they are not made-up questions, that is, they are actual problems you had in doing your job. Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 7:27
  • 1
    The problem here is that the guy is talking about posting contrived questions to which the product he's promoting is the One True Answer. I can't help feeling that the need to post contrived questions will severely limit the possibility of them being good questions.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 9:23

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