5

I've noticed an uptick in questions that are literally asking us to read the vendor's spec sheets to someone (There's PowerEdge 2950 hard disk , this weekend we had one asking what the address space limits of WinXP 64-bit were, and we've had a bunch that seem to have been closed which were asking about provider-specific configuration questions like How do I do X in my Rackspace account manager?).

What is the consensus on these? Should we answer them, should we lay the closure smackdown on them, or should we do something else?

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My $3.50:

ServerFault IS NOT tier 1 technical support. We should expect a minimum standard of effort from people asking questions here. That means at least a cursory Google search, and the understanding that questions about specific hardware or software limitations, pricing, provider-specific configuration questions, etc. are best asked of the vendor.

I've been commenting/voting to close based on that, referring people to their provider, the vendor, etc. for an answer when it's painfully obvious that no research/effort has been expended before running here to ask the question.

I don't mind the occasional "How many Herps can my Derp9000 support?" questions, but it seems that this is becoming more than occasional. I would hate to see the site become "please spoonfeed me my vendor's spec sheet".

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    Agreed. Professionalism implies at least a reasonable level of effort before posting a question. – John Gardeniers Jan 23 '12 at 22:58
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    I tend to agree, if the information you are looking for is easily available from a quick google search, then you aren't putting in any effort, so why should I? That said, there is always the occasion where you get the spec sheet, and nowhere can you find the bit of info you want, in which case if you've tried, and failed to find it then I'm happy to help. – Sam Cogan Jan 24 '12 at 10:55
  • @Sam, you're perfectly correct but an increasing number of posts indicate that the poster has made no effort at all to find the answer for themselves. How many times do we see questions that are answered on page one of the docs or the first hit with a quick Google search? Those are the ones that display unprofessional laziness. I for one wouldn't want to be working alongside such people. – John Gardeniers Jan 24 '12 at 21:15
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I find the idea of taking a category of questions and applying a sort of default rule to close them is very disconcerting unless there is data to support a serious problem. The problem is that this sort of behavior creates a community with all sorts of hidden rules known only to the in-crowd.

Both sysadmins and Programmers in general have a need to classify and organize things, sometimes to their own detriment. So when there are "rules" like this people tend to jump too quickly to close a question without taking a more holistic approach to its merit.

In the example you linked to, PowerEdge 2950 hard disk , a better response is to take our experience to educate the user on the question they meant to ask but were not experienced enough to know that is what they should have asked. Such an answer would be something along the lines of:

"There are several factors that effect the maximum storage size for a single server including: The Raid Card, The Current Firmware, limitations in the operating system [list more here]... Vendors can be helpful in many situations so it is good to double check with them, but being aware of all of the above, you make sure your vendor contact is being thorough and checking all of the above for you. If you don't deal with vendors in this educated fashion, it will often end up biting you in the ass".

So what this does is extract a canonical question and answer from what the user was trying to figure out. Canonical answers are helpful, advance the profession, and create content the community can be proud of. Advancing the profession and creating great content will invite more expert system administrators to become part of Server Fault, finding excuses to close questions won't.

  • "You have to pan a lot of silt to get a little gold" – Chris S Jan 24 '12 at 16:25
  • @ChrisS: I don't really know what you mean by that – Kyle Brandt Jan 24 '12 at 16:26
  • IMHO explanations like the one you posted above are best placed in a comment (it doesn't answer the posed question, but it is a great explanation of why the question isn't a particularly good one and explains why the person asking should go talk to their vendor). – voretaq7 Jan 24 '12 at 16:37
  • Specifically Re: the Dell question, that question offends me because the asker knew they should talk to Dell, but came here rather than pick up a phone and call the vendor. Anecdotally I've seen more of those questions lately than I have in the past. That data is anecdotal though and just represents the small subset of questions I've seen - it would be interesting if there were a way to gather hard data, but I can't come up with an automated way to do it... – voretaq7 Jan 24 '12 at 16:49
  • @voretaq7 Kyle has habit of talking about what he wants to say instead of saying it. He has apparently never heard of panning for gold either. He's free to correct me if I'm wrong but I think he's saying that we should not have a rule regarding specification-type questions. We should apply the rules we have already, per the new FAQ (which needs some final polishing before posting), and as according to our previous criteria for prerequisite knowledge. – Chris S Jan 24 '12 at 17:07
  • @ChrisS I totally agree - I think the crux of the issue is "minimum effort", not "You're a bad human being for asking about specs" -- In the same vein of "talking about what I want to say instead of just saying it" I really intended this question to catalyze discussion for (further) FAQ refinements. – voretaq7 Jan 24 '12 at 17:16
  • @voretaq7: My hypothetical answer is shortened, so by saying it should be a comment I think you miss my point. I am saying create a canonical Q/A on "How do I determine storage size limitations of a server". To me it seems likely that he doesn't what the limiting factors are. If you call a vendor without know what those limiting factors are you're likely to get screwed eventually. – Kyle Brandt Jan 24 '12 at 17:22
  • @ChrisS: Yes, that is one implication of what I was saying, but on the whole that disregards a lot of what I am saying. – Kyle Brandt Jan 24 '12 at 17:29
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More often than not, people ask questions whose answers are easy to find because they don't know where or how to look for them. I think that the answers to these are of value. It may be obvious to an expert that the answer can be sourced from page 2 of the derpotron-9000 manual, but to someone with less experience, they may not know the contents of the manual, or maybe even have trouble understanding it.

Answers to questions that are sourced from the manual will usually have the reference point of where precisely in the manual it can be found, and this might have more value than the actual answer itself.

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    +1 I think that's the crux of my objection to Vortaq's answer: yes directly answer their question is probably off topic or at least of minimal value to the community, but how you answered the question is of fairly significant value. – Chris S Jan 24 '12 at 18:06
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    Try looking through Symantec's BE manual. Holy balls, that thing is ridiculous to get through... – Holocryptic Jan 24 '12 at 18:39
  • My XP24000 manual is borderline unusable, after being written by autistic developers, translated to engrish, and then ported to the HP support organization. – Basil Jan 24 '12 at 20:08
  • Because the derpotron-9000 manual only has 2 pages there's no excuse for not reading it properly, regardless of experience level. – John Gardeniers Jan 25 '12 at 8:42
  • It actually has 15000 pages. The answer was on page two, but the questioner never got there before getting lost. – Basil Jan 26 '12 at 15:04

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