Did anyone else than me notice the lack of answers, up/downvotes lately?

I've been away for a few months, but I notice a huge difference - especially at the number of responses on questions. Why did people leave?

I can only speak for myself, but I'm very much annoyed by the plethora of questions raised by the "I have a server at my home where I want to host a web site" questions, when this is supposed to be a site where professional admins can throw questions and advice at each other.

What can we as a community do to attract more professional admins to Server Fault?

Edit: Please don't misunderstand the post. People are pointing at duplicates, where graphs are shown of the traffic that comes in to serverfault, wich shows no downfall at all.

The point I'm trying to make is that less admins are responding to difficult questions than before, and less difficult questions are being raised (my home server bla bla). This makes me conclude that more SU-people are asking about "easy" or home-related questions, and the most experienced professionals stay away from the site because of this. I made this thread to spew some discussion around why there are so few responses to questions lately, not about how many hits the site gets from Google.

  • 1
    This question would be better suited to Meta
    – Sam Cogan
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:20
  • StackOverflow's meta? Why? I (and probably other admins) don't visit that site much.
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:22
  • Oh, I see. I weren't aware that it included meta questions for serverfault. Still, I have a gut feeling that the discussion will drown over there..
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:24
  • 7
    Disagree - this does belong on meta. Meta is for discussion about the trilogy sites.
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:26
  • Furthermore, this should have been a Community Wiki question
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:28
  • Yeah, meta is for all 3 sites, its just there are more SO ones there. I agree that it may get drowned out by other questions, primarily because there aren't alot of significant meta users who are primarily SF users, which is really something that needs to change
    – Sam Cogan
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:28
  • Sam: Thank you, exactly my point. Sadly it didn't help, it got moved to meta now. Edited the post to be community wiki.
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:34
  • 1
    Duplicate: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26689/…
    – squillman
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:38
  • Pauska...I 100% agree with you. Check out the responses to the question squillman linked to.
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 18:15
  • 1
    @Sam_Cogan: And the fact that it's named Meta Stack Overflow might not make the SF and SU people feel entirely welcome.
    – David Thornley
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 19:01
  • 1
    @David Thornley: Well, First came SO, and the underlaying platform is called the Stack Overflow Engine, so it's fitting that its support/meta site is Meta StackOverflow
    – perbert
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 22:35
  • @Voyager and that's where some of the problems come from. Yes SO came first, but having everything focused on SO can make SF and SU users feel like second class citizens sometimes.
    – Sam Cogan
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 13:17
  • As feared, the discussion drowned. Oh well.
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:22
  • It's not a matter of SF-ers feeling like 2nd class, but meta clearly has its own community that's closer to SO, so this just doesn't seem like a good place to discuss SF.
    – Ward
    Commented Nov 22, 2009 at 23:02

10 Answers 10


If you see questions on Server Fault that don't belong, flag them!


There are active moderators, it takes the whole community to enforce the boundaries.

  • 5
    It would be nice if the community could agree on where the boundaries are...
    – Unknown Yahoo
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 14:45

I've been thinking about this for a while. There are a couple of things I'm seeing:

  • The types of questions being asked. Really, most of these are just barely not programming releated (mod_rewrite questions) or barely not superuser questions (how do I configure xyz web server to serve pages). At times it seems as if ServerFault should be called WebServerFault. And then there are the questions with very little detail and no response to the added detail.

So, how do we fix these? Honestly I'm not sure. I guess the answer would be to attract good sysadmins. How to that that, well that is the 10000$ question isn't it.

I do have a suggestion for the no response to requests for more information. At least on SF make the notifications non-lazy. I know this is done intentionally, but i don't know if that way of working is the best for a site for sysadmins who need more of a back and forth.

  • "The ServerFault Community" I really think that having meta bet the overriding discussion about site is really working. Part of SO is the fact that there is a strong community on meta shaping what SO is. From what I have seen on meta SF questions get almost "silly children" type treatment when it has anything to do with how SF is as a community.

The issue that I see here, is that SysAdmins and Programmers think differently. So when the community here considers things, they consider it from the perspective of a programmer. Which isn't a knock against you guys it's just the way we are and has created this great community.

How to fix this, well this is where the challenge comes. The powers that be at SO have decided that a meta.serverfault.com is not a good idea. I've heard explainations both ways some I agree with and some I think just arn't working. So here is what I propose:

  • meta.stackoverflow.com - discussion about stackoverflow and the stackoverflow engine. A place that SO people can go to develop the SO community, as well as for stackoverflow engine discussion across the Trilogy.
  • community.serverfault.com - discussion about serverfault. A place where SF Admins can go and work together to develop a community that works for sysadmins. I really think that SF having it's own place to develop a real community will gain bigger rewards than trying to stuff it into what SO has already built on Meta.
  • Most of the people here on meta are from SO, a few from SU, almost none from SF. That's a problem! It doesn't help your community because you're simply marginalized like that.
    – alex
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 22:54
  • 1
    Very true. Although at one point I'd say 2 or 3 months ago, just about every high rep user on SF was trying to participate here, but would get their questions very quickly closed as a dupe (while the question may be the same, the answer for sysadmins is very different), voted into oblivion, or simply ignored. That gets frustrating when you are trying to grow a community you support.
    – Zypher
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 23:05
  • I totally agree with Zypher's comment. When I first started visiting MSO I felt highly unwelcome. So I went away for a few weeks, came back, and watched other SF'ers go through the same treatment. I just lurked for a few months watching what was going on and reading, without contributing. However, I feel MSO is a lot more 'settled' lately. But perhaps that's been becuase of the Christmas break and a lot of people are on holidays?
    – Farseeker
    Commented Jan 7, 2010 at 1:30

I agree that the questions about home servers and single XP machines are quite annoying, but I think the community is doing a good job of staying on top of these and getting them closed and move to superuser.

I find myself going through stages of spending a lot of time answering questions, and then a few days of not doing much at all, often because I get busy at work, and I think this is the same with alot of people. I know I often find myself needing a break from answering questions too, and will spend a few days away, but always come back ready to answer more questions.

I do still thing SF needs to attract more professional admins, particularly who are interested in answering questions, rather than just asking questions. I think that is one of the big problems with the site, that a lot of admins who come here do so for a very specific question they wasn't answered and then leave again. We need to encourage these users to hang around, answer a few questions, it doesn't take much to get hooked on it, its getting them in initially and onto the other side of the question/answer divide.

I do see quite regularly people discovering SF, and their joy at finding somewhere like this, but its a bit of a trickle. It needs to generate some mass and start gaining more and more admins, because this really is a fantastic resource.

  • "particularly who are interested in answering questions, rather than just answering questions." - Did you mean for the second one to be "asking"?
    – Dennis Williamson
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:33
  • Dennis: Taken care of now. :)
    – Dr. Gonzo
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:37
  • Yep, that's what I meant, thanks for reading my mind :)
    – Sam Cogan
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 16:38
  • You think I like answering home server questions? Thought SU was the dump of SO, not SF...
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 20:11
  • You take time off from answering questions? Zow... I never thought about that... >smile<
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 0:09
  • Ah, so now I see where I'm going wrong :) I'll catch you in no time now Evan :)
    – Sam Cogan
    Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 9:44
  • @Ivo: Hah! I wish. Plenty of stuff gets dumped into SF from SO that should go straight to SU.
    – Unknown Yahoo
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 17:21

I've noticed the same thing on SO. Since sometime end of the summer the percentage of good interesting question has been dropping with the current set of questions is largely populated by stupid ones. Stupid questions and duplicates are not being downvoted and closed as before. I find myself reluctant to even look inside most of them less to participate. I'm not sure if it's seasonal or not, but it's definitely getting boring, the last 3-4 weeks being the most boring time since I discovered SO.

I think community needs to take more active actions on dealing with duplicates and bad questions. Otherwise quantity will defeat quality.


I think the knee-jerk reaction that "it's meta, it has to be on meta" and "this is a dup of Jeff's question about growing the SF community" are a problem.

This isn't a dup of "how to grow" it's more like "what's wrong" and I think you have to figure out if there is anything wrong before you have much hope of growing.

  • 2
    I don't think you have to figure out what is wrong. You just have to get lucky and figure out what to do right.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Nov 22, 2009 at 11:12

One of the big problems is that many users from stackoverflow do not understand the purpose of serverfault.

I've seen many questions about something network related for a home network that got closed as belongs on serverfault instead of superuser.

In contrast, I haven't yet seen a question on stackoverflow that really belonged on serverfault.

Would be interesting to see how many questions are migrated to serverfault and get closed over there.

  • 5
    So Superuser's also Serverfault's garbagebin?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 12:17

I deleted the bookmarks to SF last week. It was too much effort to get any enjoyment out of the site and the quality appears to be decreasing - not increasing.

Jeff should just rename the site to "Stuff That's Not Quite Stack Overflow" because that's what it is. It is definitely not a site for professional admins.

  • 2
    what would you point to as correct examples of sites for professional admins? what do they do differently? Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 12:36

Perhaps a lot of the people with good questions are finding their answers already present as someone else has asked something very similar already, and people are ignoring the not-so-good questions to a certain extent reducing the amount of voting and other activity seen?

  • It's a valid point, but I find it hard to believe in the most difficult cases that people bring up (or should bring up, but don't).
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 23:46
  • Didn't physicists say something like that at the end of the 19th century... "everything there is to know is already known" or some such?
    – Unknown Yahoo
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 17:22
  • There are still many questions to ask, and that is even if you ignore new software/hardware/business developments. But most of the most common current problems are probably already answered on SF so will be found by a search, which reduces the number of "good" questions being asked to a certain extent.
    – David Spillett
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 11:09

In my opinion SF lacks a role model. I think the community at SO is formed by people that can identify themselves with people like Jeff, Joel, Jon, Marc Gravell, VonC, TheTXI, etc. I could go on with this list of SO idols out of my head but I have difficulty to do the same with SF.

If you picture what these people stand for, the purpose of SO becomes so concrete. SF on the other hand looks to me mostly like a place for people that are primarily programmers and only part time sysadmins.

Jeff is a good example for this. Keeping all the servers running, no doubt he does serious sysadmin work, and yet he considers himself a programmer. I'm a good example myself, having done a lot of sysadmin work in a large network. But primarily I'm a programmer.

Sometimes I wonder if the pure-bred sysadmin SF targets really exists at all.

  • 1
    We have idols on SO? Looks like I missed something...
    – Ladybug Killer
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 12:49
  • What else do you call Jon Skeet? But maybe idol is something slightly different in English than I suppose from the use of the word in German [shrug]...
    – Ludwig Weinzierl
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 13:48
  • 3
    Who identifies with TheTXI?
    – mmyers
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 18:29

My issue is that I don't use the Tags very well, honestly I ignore them. I should probably take some time and setup the tags, but I haven't so far. I'm not sure how many others fall into this category, but the problem for me is that when I do go to SF there is a ton of stuff I'm not interested in, and consequently I burn out and stop looking for questions to answer.

If this is related to just me, the easy fix is that I need to do something about it (learn the tags). If this is related to more people, maybe something needs to be done to make the tags easier, or prompt for more use of the tags.

  • 2
    I use tags, and it helps me to focus on the subjects I feel interesting, or atleast where I feel I can give a hand. The "problem" is that my tags are similar to this: Vmware, SAN, Exchange (etc). When I joined SF a few months back the frontpage would tag almost half of the post. Nowadays it's more like 3 posts in total.
    – pauska
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 23:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .