I don't believe the Q&A format can address every need so I've been thinking...

You know how we always blow any 'I'm a student etc.' questions out of the water? What if we could have some form of 'SF Apprenticeship' instead?

What we'd do is get junior sysadmins/students or whoever to somehow apply for one or more positions where they, having proved themselves to be smart but inexperienced, could then ask us more high-level questions than we'd usually get or answer and then we could take them under our wings and effectively train them in the basics via write-ups we'd do. We could volunteer to write about one of the students subjects/questions and do a EvanA-style full-scale write-up, possibly with chat-sessions to work with the junior/students to make the write-ups better. We could put these together to form some kind of basic guide that we could reference to in answers.

It would mean that instead of dismissing these junior/student types we could point them at what had been written and gain a greater understanding of what less experienced guys struggle with - it's hard to see when you've been around a while.

What do you think?

  • 9
    I never pegged you for an optimist... Jan 10, 2012 at 16:33
  • I agree, I'm a student myself and hopefully a junior at the end of this year. I'd like this way of working. If you are going to test this I'd gladly be a test subject :) Jan 10, 2012 at 16:37
  • 4
    @Bart - I bet you'd love to peg me any way you could ;)
    – Chopper3
    Jan 10, 2012 at 17:17
  • 1
    I'd certainly be up for getting involved in that. I had considered joining the LOPSA version but it seems very US centric.
    – Sam Cogan
    Jan 10, 2012 at 17:58
  • @chopper3 - After that sports clothing advice you gave once, it would probably involve a large rock to the head... Jan 10, 2012 at 18:30
  • This could work well, especially if they could be encouraged to participate in answering the simpler questions as part of the deal, which would help them learn and might even improve the answers to those questions for the people asking them, come to think of it.
    – Rob Moir
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:34
  • @Sam LOPSA's also seems very concerned with liability - which is reasonable I suppose.
    – Wesley
    Jan 11, 2012 at 2:37

3 Answers 3


I like the concept quite a bit. I meant to do more of this when I had my very own intern last Summer, but work just got away from me. I believe one or two SFers are involved in the LOPSA Mentorship program and can give some tips about what works and what doesn't.

I believe this would be a valuable way to help build the SF community beyond just [meta.|chat.]serverfault.com. Other sites are doing give-aways, contests, and other creative things so professional training seems just our speed. It'll take some new infrastructure, but I think it is quite worth it.


Two thoughts spring immediately to mind.

  1. While I think the idea has some merit I don't see how it would fit in with the current SE site structure, so it's in the implementation where I see problems. Right now the only way I could see this being done is with tags.
  2. As things stand this would require a very significant change to the FAQ, especially the very key part about SF being for professionals. To me that's the only thing that keeps SF from turning into just another site where anyone can ask any damn fool question because we can use it to kill off questions that would dramatically reduce the value of SF to those of us who are professionals.

Of course if both issues could be resolved without damaging SF I'd be all for it.

  • 1
    "especially the very key part about SF being for professionals." - someone taking their first job inside a profession is still a professional. Or at least close enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt.
    – Rob Moir
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:33
  • @Rob, true but how does that apply to students? Jan 11, 2012 at 3:44
  • John, well that depends on what Chopper meant by "student". I think he was talking about being sympathetic towards junior sysadmins, not doing homework for schoolkids.
    – Rob Moir
    Jan 11, 2012 at 8:08
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    I totally appreciate that SF is almost certainly not the place to do this but I just like the idea of us 'adopting' a smart newbie and helping them. 99% of questions by new sysadmins or student ARE utterly crappy and they don't deserve the time to answer them but there must be at least one humble, switched-on guy out there who'd respond really well to a bunch of us taking some time with them and along the way documenting some basic stuff in a slightly less rigid way than the Q&A format dictates. No idea what to do with the idea though tbh, just want to add somehow.
    – Chopper3
    Jan 11, 2012 at 9:04
  • @Chopper, how would we identify the chosen candidate(s)? In the real world you could just make them wear a hat with a flashing red light on top but that wouldn't work here... or would it? I wonder whatever happened to that kid (can't recall his name) who used to participate here. At 15 years old we all knew he was only a student but he was such a standout that it was easily overlooked. Jan 11, 2012 at 20:28
  • I'm thinking runes
    – Chopper3
    Jan 11, 2012 at 22:32

we could point them at what had been written`

isn't this usually referred to as Read The Fine Manual? A whole bunch of vendor-specific stuff has good documentation already. And basic computer science concepts do have rather excellent explanations in lecture notes of the appropriate faculties. I believe our time is spent much better just referring to the existing documentation instead of re-writing it again and again.

What needs changing IMO is the attitude of not answering "lame" or "too basic" questions and the ambition to reference "further reading" links.

  • This direction eventually distills down to to "we need to post more LMGTFY links".. which goes against the reason that this site exists. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5280/embrace-the-non-googlers Can you clarify what you mean by not answering basic questions? The basic questions that are on topic seem to usually get pretty good answers, in my view.. Jan 13, 2012 at 20:09
  • @ShaneMadden I think there is a firm difference between a "LMGTFY" and a posted documentation reference with the relevant excerpt. I have no current examples, but I've got the impression that basic question tend to either be closed as "off-topic" due to being "unprofessional" even if the poster indicates professional use or get not much attention and answers with considerably less love. I have to admit to feel guilty for cold-shouldering them as well most of the time.
    – the-wabbit
    Jan 13, 2012 at 22:59

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