The new blog post on the SuperUser blog says that home networking questions should now be asked on SuperUser. But this has been bothering me: What about complex home networking questions?

It may be because I come to SuperUser at the wrong times, but I still view it as a Geek squad type tech support site for "What's wrong with my printer?" instead of "Whats wrong with my Bind server?" questions. Not every home user has a basic setup with simple fixes ("Just unplug it and plug it back in"), some users run significantly more complex networks. This can be for learning or because they want to. SuperUser simply doesn't have the experts to answer these types of questions

Where am I going to get help when I play with an Active Directory server and actually use it on my home network? Where am I going to get help when I play with Bind9 and dhcp3-server on my home network? What about a PXE server with Fog or Ultimate Deployment that I use to gain experience and actually install something on a home computer? What about getting IPv6 to my entire network from a dedicated Gateway server? What about when I try to run a normally server class program or OS (Windows Server?) on crappy consumer hardware (Old Dell Dimension boxes) since I can't just drop $2000 on a server?

Asking these kinds of questions here in this current state of ServerFault will net several types of responses

  • Others: This is your home network? Migrate to SuperUser. Silence for 4 months
  • Others: Why are you running this on your home network? Are you crazy? Just buy a router at Walmart for $20 and be done with it Insta-close. Me: Its for testing. Others: Oh well read the mega 78 page manual, good luck in real usage, and pray that the question gets re-opened
  • Me: Its for my "business". Others: Why are you running this on consumer hardware? Wait, your 18? Nobody should ever give you that much power. I feel sorry for your company. Insta-Close

TL;DR: StackExchange is all about getting experts together in one place and regulate questions to the proper group of experts. This new change is preventing me from doing this. Where am I supposed to ask complex networking problems on my home network that is off topic on ServerFault and doesn't have the required experts on SuperUser?

Note that I know this problem has existed for some time, its just that this new blog post and the official change in the rules makes enforcement go way up.

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    When I see "home" in a question, yes, I automatically think "OT for SF" - Mainly because the expectation [on SF] includes actually reading the mega-78-page-manual which you mention. From some reason "home users" are not always comfortable with this method of problem solving. As a sysadmin, you tend to RTFM, a lot, some times without finding the answer. – jscott Dec 13 '11 at 20:27
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    Super User is in a bit of a bind. They have some experts, but breadth of topics is so wide they'll have a hard time ever getting experts enough to answer all the questions that are on-topic there. For Bind you can can on Unix & Linux and you're likely to get an answer. But there will be Questions where you're best bet right now (in my opinion) is simply to lie (or lie by omission) about the situation and put it on sites where it's OT like Server Fault. – Chris S Dec 13 '11 at 20:27
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    A big part of the issue here, as @Jscott says, is that in a business environment you are expected to have at least skimmed the manual and the support website, and a lot of home networking questions can be summed up as "I can haz Internet?" Not all of them of course, but enough to cause our apathy for "home network" questions. Is there a case to be made that a "home network" and a "business class network that just happens to be in a home" are different things? Or would that just lead to more confusion? – Rob Moir Dec 14 '11 at 8:53
  • I'm with Rob, if you're taking a business class approach to the situation, I don't care if it's at home or in a business. But to keep the "I can haz Intranetz" people out we really can't let up on the "No Home" verbiage. – Chris S Dec 15 '11 at 1:24
  • just out of curiosity, which question, specifically? – Journeyman Geek Dec 16 '11 at 11:20
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    Brilliant question; Favourited, as I'd like to think a solution to the issues raised here might get resolved one day. - It gets even more complicated if you want to ask a question about an Ubuntu server? You have a choice of three out of four possible SE sites: ubuntu, unix, serverfault (professional use) or superuser (home use)? There is also a very fine line between SO and SF in a some cases, e.g. scripting could be equally valid on either site. I've occasionally fogged over some details that might make the question appear off topic, so I can post where I think I'd get the best response. – Bryan Apr 26 '12 at 22:46
  • I work from home. What am I supposed to do?! – Michael Hampton Jul 27 '12 at 17:49

If the required experts aren't on SU, then SU should be doing whatever they can to attract those experts. Home networking is explicitly off topic here and I don't see that changing any time soon.

There's nothing stopping you from asking the question here and leaving out the part that it's in your home if you have legit gear. If you post a question asking why your Linksys WRT54G keeps rebooting, you'll probably be bludgeoned to death so proceed with caution. :)

  • Leaving out the home part might work, but sometimes questions come up like: Why are you doing this? Where is this again? What did you say this server product was running on? Why are you deploying to X? – TheLQ Dec 13 '11 at 19:59
  • @TheLQ That's the risk you take trying to sneak one through. It's very clear what our faq allows. If you try to circumvent it, you have to expect your question will be closed. – MDMarra Dec 13 '11 at 20:04
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    @TheLQ, when someone is questioning you like that it is frequently because you are doing something unusual/wrong. If your question is too rigid, then it may not be obvious to the commenter that you would be interested in seeing answers about how to do things the 'right way'. If a person asks, a question like that, then you should review your question, and see if you have express any invalid constraints/assumptions, and change them. – Zoredache Dec 13 '11 at 20:08
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    @TheLQ - What Zoredache said is pretty much the general case when we ask "WHY (in the name of everything unholy and wrong in the world of the interwebs) are you doing that?" -- If we can't fathom a reason we usually won't help you do something that violates our instincts of what's good and right on a network. It's our way of avoiding the subsequent "So I did X like you guys said, and now my datacenter is infested with dragons! HALP!" follow-up questions :-) – voretaq7 Dec 13 '11 at 20:30
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    @TheLQ I think the answer to "why are you deploying to X" is to lie. "We're a small charitable institution and I know this isn't ideal but its all we can afford". When we ask "Why are you doing Y" then sometimes, yes, we're incredulous that someone's using an unexpanded VIC 20 as a SAN controller in what's supposed to be a business environment, sure, but sometimes we just need better context to answer a question properly. – Rob Moir Dec 14 '11 at 8:31

Some general guidelines in the wake of the new official-ized rules (all opinions my own and not representative of any collection of kittens I may or may not have in the documentation bins above my desk!):

If your question is explicitly about a home network you're likely to be bounced out of ServerFault as Off Topic.
There was a time (before SU existed) that we would occasionally give these questions the benefit of the doubt, but the sad fact is so many of these are "clueless newbie" type things with some dude asking how to build a cantenna that they've lost the benefit of the doubt.

If your question is about running some piece of hardware or software in a configuration not supported by the manufacturer (Like Win2k8 Enterprise on a Dell Dimension desktop) the answer you get here will virtually always be "That's not supported. Don't Do That!"
The reason behind this is that we're a site for the Professional, Corporate and Enterprise crowd. Running stuff in an unsupported configuration is Just Not Done in those environments (when it breaks, as all software and hardware eventually will, you can't point at anyone else or ask for help: Your configuration is unsupported, so you're the one left holding the bag).

If your question is about a general class of networking problems (cross out the words "home" or "school project" and the question still makes enough sense that we can give you some guidance) you can usually post it here and get good answers.
The caveat here is that again, we're a site for the Professional, Corporate and Enterprise crowd. You're likely to get answers like "Oh yeah, that's EASY man! Pick up an ACE blade for your 6500 router and drop it in - you'll be set in a few hours!" - Unless you're independently wealthy and money is no object you probably won't have the cash to drop on the ACE blade for your home network, much less the 6500 series router to put it in. You may also get other not-really-well-supported suggestions or pointers at open-source solutions that do the same thing, but it's luck of the draw.


I'm as quick as anyone else at voting to close or migrate OT questions but there are times where it can be a bit of a grey area. e.g. My home network also hosts the secondary DNS for my employer's domains. Of course if I had a question about that instance of Bind I'd "forget" to mention that it's running in my home DMZ.

Sometimes the word "lab" can be substituted for "home". Just be aware that many "lab" questions are still readily identifiable as home networking, so just watch your wording.

As for someone asking why you're using consumer grade gear, just remind them that's the norm for most small businesses where it simply cannot be justified to spend the large sums "enterprise" class gear costs. e.g. Our office wireless AP is a D-Link DIR-615, simply because that's all we need.

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    Totally agree. Just don't tell them it's home, tell em its a lab, and your excuse for using consumer gear is totally valid. – Mark Henderson Dec 14 '11 at 3:21

Our FAQ is pretty clear on this:

and it is not about

  • Networking outside the professional workplace
  • Running servers at home for personal use

And yes, this does mean that there is no one definite spot where network experts hang and ask questions to all comers. A lot of the people here could probably make a lot of friends that way over on SU if they chose to, and some of us do.

One of the big problems preventing more SF people from participating on SU is topicality. Even within the 'networking' tag over there there is a LOT of completely mundane content and a few gems of complexity that drift through. That makes for disincentives to hang around.

One possibilty, and I present it merely as that, is to occasionally drop the interesting complex SU questions in the SF chatroom. You might get a few takers there.

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    "Running servers at home for personal use" - Does anyone actually run something like AD at a home server/vm for personal usage, or do they run it at home to learn/lab? I've done the latter several times, and it was only for professional reasons.. – pauska Dec 14 '11 at 8:58
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    @Pauska We've split that hair before and come down on the 'off-topic' side. It fails the 'professional workplace' test. Professional enrichment doesn't count as 'workplace'. I do know sysadmins and enthusiasts who do run AD home with their families, while also learning more about it; nothing like real users to learn something. – sysadmin1138 Dec 14 '11 at 12:39
  • @pauska: I know a guy that runs AD at home to manage his own personal systems. If he happens to learn relevant stuff, that's cool, but the primary reason is personal. – Scott Pack Dec 14 '11 at 18:42

The blog post may be new, but the welcome of home networking questions on Super User has been allowed for a while.

The update to the Super User FAQ was just explicitly reminding other users that it's okay to ask such questions there.

That users would continue to post on Server Fault when it is just a personal setup and then asking why they're closed as off topic isn't giving any valid reason when you choose not to post where it would fit.

You have dropped by Super User at the wrong times then. It's not all about the Nerd Herd.

When people keep posting to the wrong site and then fingering another as not having any experts there, that's rather circular. If you're always lowballing, you never get higher.


I can think of one case where a question about home routers would be explicitly on-topic: "I work for an ISP and I'm wanting to centrally configure several thousand routers that we distributed to our customers..."

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    Then it's not really home networking, is it? In that context the question does indeed belong on SF. This is really no different to how many of us need to deal with remote users of our corporate networks. – John Gardeniers Apr 25 '12 at 21:43
  • Nope, but it's home equipment, which some people were arguing was off-topic. – Richard Gadsden Apr 26 '12 at 9:38
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    Eh, that's not "home equipment" as we define it... We've had this discussion before (can't find the link right now), but don't get too caught up on the word "home". The location of the equipment and the fact (in this case) that it's carrying data for a "home user" doesn't detract from the ISP's business use of the technology. The other discussion I can't find the link for was regarding a telecommuter, he was working in a 100% business capacity. The fact that his "office" is collocated with his domiciliary habitation doesn't make it a "home" question. – Chris S Apr 26 '12 at 19:35

It think it breaks down to 'which place will i get the right answer?'

I admit the setup i run is basically nowhere near business grade, and i'm much more comfortable on SU than here, but it really breaks down to, what is the right place to ask a question, and where you're more likely to find an answer.

I'd say focus on the main issue at hand (You're more likely to find DC answers here then there, while consumer router questions, and general hardware wierdness would belong on SU).I prefer to ask server related questions here - though on occasion the components in question are found in both server and personal systems - for example i asked a question on upstart relating to a specific ipv6 tunneling question here because i felt i was more likely to find an answer here - ended up finding the answer elsewhere, but people found it useful It should break down to 'where do i think someone knows' rather than 'what will people think?'

Don't worry too much about hardware you're running things on, unless of course, the hardware itself is the problem. Keep that in the background - i like to lay out the primary scenario first, then what i have tried with a software question. If its a hardware question, it should be obvious where it belongs.

  • I adamantly disagree with "whatever site will get you the right answer". SF definitely has the most knowledge when it comes to networks and will always be the most likely place to get an answer, unless we punt. The FAQ makes "home" question OT with good reason however. – Chris S Dec 16 '11 at 19:32
  • I think the third paragraph clarifies the first line a little - I hardly if ever ask questions here (or vote to move things here off superuser for that matter) since the environment and tools i work with largely are indistinguishable from a home setup.With specific reference to the question, asking a domain controller question on SU seems out of place, as would a question on using enterprise grade routers in a home environment. The point of asking a question is primarily to get an answer, and secondarily to build a longer term knowledge base after all. – Journeyman Geek Dec 16 '11 at 22:26
  • The home/professional distinction is valid. But it should be determined based on the category of the question, and not the category of the network that stimulated the question. There are questions some home networkers ask that belong in SF. Just don't tell 'em it's for a home network. There are other questions that should be migrated to SU. The problem with SU is that is doesn't distinguish between a "home super user" and a "home system/network administrator". Neither one necessarily implies the other. – Walter Mitty Feb 2 '13 at 13:33

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