Kyle Brandt asked: The quality of questions in terms how professional or advanced they are comes up again and again on meta. Joel answered when that came up once with:
"There are basically two ways discussion groups can go. They can stick with the same people (who are learning and getting smarter) or they can stick with the same subject. If they stick with the same people, the only way to keep them entertained is to get more and more esoteric until you have a site where nobody can get useful information except the 14 old-timers who have been around since the beginning. This is nice for the 14 old-timers, but doesn't make the Internet a better place. If you stick with the same subject, eventually the old-timers get bored. That's a better outcome, I think. I think the old-timers would be better served by finding a new area to learn about that's challenging and interesting."
Do you agree with him on this and how do you determine if a question is too basic?
ErikA answered: I personally don't think any question is too basic - as long as it is on-topic per the FAQ. Heck, I got started here on SF by answering a lot of very simple questions, and there will always be a place for that level of discourse. If the old-timers get bored, then that's they're problem - perhaps they should then spend more time mentoring the less-experienced people on the site.
pauska answered: Interesting question, as it's something we've talked alot about in the chat. We should help newcomers with questions that are trivial, as it will eventually attract new users (who generate new questions and answers), which will build up the site. The problem is find that magic line of how "bad" a question can be. The ones who do no research before asking is generally not accepted by this community..
Ben Pilbrow answered: We've had a lot of the truly awful questions already, so we could close as duplicate of a canonical answer. There's not much I would consider "too basic", that depends on your area of expertise - I can ask what some would consider to be very basic Linux questions, but that doesn't make me an idiot when it comes to Linux. I'd apply that thinking to others with basic questions and try to guide them along a bit.
WesleyDavid answered: I agree with the logic of that community lifecycle theory. As far as what I agree with concerning ServerFault's culture:
I believe we can blend both. We shouldn't be answering the same questions over and over with new content, when a single canonical answer will do. I believe that more questions can and should be closed as duplicates. I also believe that canonical answers can and should be curated to be better and better. Closing those as duplicates I think will push us closer to a "same-subject" model where we by necessity get more interesting and complex questions.
In short, we should be answering the same questions on the exact same topics over and over if for no other reason than wasting time and energy. We need more canonical references.
Chris S answered: I understand what he was chasing, but think he solidly missed his target. In another post the simple razor came up "Can we really help them" (with the implication that the help be with reasonable currency. If we can help them, if they have the base level of knowledge, then we should accept them regardless of their novice or guru state.
voretaq7 answered: I agree with Joel in principle: If we shut out all the "newbies" the SF community will not grow. If that happens then eventually we will stagnate, start missing out on new technologies/ideas/practices, and become irrelevant. It is important to be able to bring in new people at various experience points along the continuum.
Re: figuring out if something is "too basic", my standard here is "blatantly obvious in the docs or a google search". Someone asking "How do I list the running programs on a Linux machine" and seeking
top as the answer is not really at a "professional (unix) system administrator" level.
There's a lot of wiggle room there in my eyes and I'm honestly not sure where I draw the line -- A brand new junior admin or someone who just inherited an environment may need that help, but sometimes the best advice we can give is to Seek Professional Help in order to keep someone out of deeper trouble.
MDMarra answered: I really don't think that this applies to Server Fault. Systems Administration is so broad that there will always be new products or technologies to ask about. Being in technology is an ever-changing landscape and because of that, I don't think that we have to worry about things becoming stagnant. I think that SF should remain for pros only, because of the quality that it allows us to maintain. If someone has a very basic, but on-topic question, then it should be allowed.
Iain answered: If I can I will answer any question. Most of the truly basic ones are often dupes and closing them as such is a good thing.