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I've just started using Stackoverflow, and it's been very useful. I asked a question once on here that was much more technical (decoding a wordpress hack), but I'm confused in general about why to use Serverfault over Stackoverflow.

I tend to read and post questions/answers about: Wordpress, PHP, Amazon EC2.

My assumption is that if something seems "more technical" then SF would be the right place for it, but if something is coding-related then probably SO.

Is this correct? How do you determine where to post your questions between these two sites?

  • 2
    I don't suppose you read the FAQ did you? – Chris S Jan 15 '12 at 4:15
  • you raise a valid point, the FAQ does explain this in some detail. – Alex W Jan 17 '12 at 4:12
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Code-questions on SF tend to be focused on scripting and automation, and even those are getting foisted off to SO these days (they didn't used to). Information Security questions relating to code-specific items used to be somewhat topical here, but they're now going over to security.stackexchange.com.

In general, SF is more about installation, configuration, and automation. For something as general-purpose as PHP:

  • Installing it to a production server: ServerFault
  • Installing it to a home server: SuperUser
  • Digging into exactly how a security fault is a fault: Security
  • Figuring out how to code around a fault you can't fix right now: StackOverflow, or possibly Security.
  • Installing modules: ServerFault

As for Wordpress, there is a Wordpress StackExchange site just for that. Though even they punt install/config stuff back to us.


One thing I forgot to note is that our faq (currently) leads off with:

Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity.

It's the 'professional capacity' thing that trips a lot of people up. We're not about general server stuff here, we're about specific problems that arise in the day to day work-place of systems administrators. This is why people with servers in their home find their questions shuffled off to SuperUser, even though the answer would be nearly identical had it been in their workplace.

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    So, production server is SF, home server is SU, but what about a non-production work server? Such as localhost for a LAMP developer? We have a sysadmin where I work, but he's busy maintaining several hundred websites on our production servers. Developers are expected to maintain their own dev server without troubling him unless we're really stuck. It's grey areas like these that I struggle deciding where to ask. – Abhi Beckert Jan 15 '12 at 17:46
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    @AbhiBeckert That, I'm afraid, is a gray area. Dev-server stuff usually gets shuffled off to SU. The trick is to make it sound like you're not asking about a dev-server. – sysadmin1138 Jan 15 '12 at 17:52
  • @sysadmin1138, So would a general question on networking/DNS (unrelated to actual hands-on setup) be more suited for superuser or serverfault? – Pacerier May 13 '14 at 7:33
  • @Pacerier Depends on how it's asked. If it's clear it's just a hypothetical question, it will earn downvotes, guaranteed, it may avoid closing if it's interesting enough though. Generally not worth the risk, I'm afraid. – sysadmin1138 May 13 '14 at 10:52
  • @sysadmin1138, Would this networking question serverfault.com/q/594709/87017 be more suitable for superuser or serverfault? I see a ton of similar questions on superuser tagged "networking". – Pacerier May 13 '14 at 10:58
  • @Pacerier Nope. That one passes the smell test for 'could actually be working with this stuff'. It stays. – sysadmin1138 May 14 '14 at 11:30
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Review the FAQ on each site; they outline what types of questions are on topic.

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Code questions that remain on SF tend to be How can I automate X using Y?, or What collection of commands do I run to find out X?, with X being in the context of system administration problems (deploying patches to a large network, figuring out how much RAM/CPU is being used by a program). Any questions that require in-depth software design and hours of coding are likely to be foisted off on StackOverflow.

To address your specific question categories:

  • Wordpress
    Like sysadmin1138 said, There's a Stack for that.
  • PHP depends on the question:
    • Questions about setting up PHP on a server are on topic.
    • Questions about setting up PHP extensions on a server are possibly on topic
    • Questions about writing code in PHP are off topic.
  • Amazon EC2 Depends on the question:
    • Asking us to tell you how something works or how Amazon handles something, or how much something will cost is likely to be closed with Go ask your provider (Amazon).
    • Asking about EC2 APIs is likely to be sent to StackOverflow (it's programming).
    • Asking "system administration" questions (the kind of stuff we'd normally accept per the FAQ) is fine.

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