I'm a decentely active stackexchange contributor.

I do not have massive reputation, but I consistently try to ask good questions, provide good answers, and moderate to provide my modest contibution to the overall quality of these communities.

There is one only stackexchange website which is troubling me: ServerFault.

I constantly try to bring server-related questions from SO to SF, and ask my own here: but I think I will stop.

The reason? On SF I often see behaviors against all stackexchange etiquette: most notably, downvotes without any comment. I usually try and do the opposite: comment first, and if really there is no reaction, then downvote.

I have a couple of examples:

This question (not mine) got 3 downvotes WITHOUT ANY COMMENT. Why?

There was an answer which I do not consider correct. I made a comment on it, without downvotes, and posted my own answer, which got downvoted without any comment. I provided links and details.

  • I made a question on Solaris development status

I deleted it since, I don't know if somebody with higher rep could recover it: but again, I got it downvoted and closed with only one comment and no time to try and fix it. I'm not saying the questions had to be saved - I'm talking about constructive behaviour. edit I feel this example is more confusing than anything, since the original question is not there anymore, and the current answers show that the meaning of the question was well understood without it. Please forget it, the first one is good enough!

And I know I should find more examples, but I honestly do not have the time right now. I'll try and add when I see one.

What's my point, and what I'm asking ?

I'm definitely not saying that I did not get constructive, useful, friendly contributions on SF. But I'm saying that that is starting to feel almost an exception.

But I will most likely stop bringing questions here from SO, or asking them myself.

My question is: how can we make this community as welcoming, friendly and constructive as the other StackExchange ones??


this is definitely not the same as What's wrong with ServerFault?, or How active is the serverfault community? though extremely closely related I think.

This community is really not making it easy to participate...Edit It's actually the current FAQ that does not serve good!

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    As unuseful as it can be, let me comment that I'm extremely positively impressed by the focused, constructive, consistent answers that I very quickly got! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:56
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    ^ Thank you. And we agree about the FAQ. We're working on it. I see you've already talked about it in comments with Bart. We'd love to have as much input as we can on it if you do have the chance. – Rob Moir Jan 24 '12 at 13:24
  • @RobMoir definitely! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 14:50
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    Here here! Folks on SF are unreasonably judgmental and narrow. Step the slightest bit to the side, and your thread gets closed. Even here on meta people are just plain hostile. – Jonesome Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '13 at 3:30

On top of what Bart has allready said, I'd draw your attention to what the FAQ says, on SO:

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it.


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

Serverfault is a site designed for professionals, whereas SO is happy with both professionals and amateurs. Ther is a clear reason for this, how many amateur sysadmins (that aren't just messing about with a home server) do you see? Because of that we hold questions to a higher standard, they need to be professional, they need to be valid in a professional environment and they need to show that the person asking them has put some effort in.

Your question about HA Proxy was down voted ( I would imagine) because HA Proxy is not designed to do that sort of thing, is not supported doing that sort of thing, and using it in that manner is not professional.

Now I agree, some explanations on the reason for the down votes would have been nice, but that's not a problem limited to SF, that happens on every site. And yes, I will agree, there are examples on SF of people (including me) being snarky with people, often when they seem to have not put any effort in to researching their problem, and this has been mentioned before and is something we are want to improve, but we are a bunch of profesionals, we want this to be a professional site, and we are going to hold questions to that standard.

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    Short comment about the HAPROXY example: the question was downvoted but wasn't mine, my answer was downvoted too. I personally disagree that's not proper HAProxy usage, considering that it's a very standard and documented feature. – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:35
  • I am likely to accept your question - after the usual time to let the community participate! -, yours and @BartDeVos answers really makes me understand the "problem" with SF wrt to my question. I definitely had interpreted differently the FAQ, which is entirely my fault, but probably unclear to a lot of other people. It still remains that something has be done to improve the interaction, I'll try to contribute to the new FAQ discussion! Thanks a lot! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:59
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    @stefano no problem, and don't get me wrong, there is always something we can do to make new users more welcome and it is worth bringing these things up. – Sam Cogan Jan 24 '12 at 12:11
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    I'm not familiar with HAProxy, but I do see a lot of questions that get downvoted because somebody is asking a question regarding the use of a product for a purpose other than what is was designed for, but why does this make it a bad question? The user is probably asking because they don't understand. I do actually spend a fair amount of time looking for downvoted questions, and counter voting them back up when there is no apparent reason for a downvote. I see frequent over zealous use of downvotes (and VTC for that matter), which IMO serves no purpose other than alienating new users. – Bryan Jan 25 '12 at 0:13

I think we, as a community, are very welcoming but require you to do some work and read or FAQ (that we are trying to rewrite so that it would be clear to everyone). We do not deal with home-questions or open "shopping-questions". Asking how the development of product X or Y is coming along is a question that will probably be outdated the second you click the submit-button. Also keep in mind that questions like that on SO (How is the development of C++ coming along) would get migrated to Programmers. Something we can't do.

As for the down votes on the HAProxy question, they seem pretty obvious to me. You are trying to make a piece of software do something that it wasn't design to do. (Or at least not a best practice.) I agree, a comment would have been nice, but you can't force people to make a comment. Why would we have votes then? You can't hold a community responsible for the down votes from a few people.

Nevertheless, I also noticed there is a tendency to down vote more since they removed the penalty/ricochet for down voting questions. But I think that's a good thing. It separates the crap from the good questions.

  • I agree that my Solaris question was disputable, though there are many more specific questions that would be outdated after a while! About HAProxy... I'm not so sure. But forget that (I'd love to discuss it, but in a separate thread), my point was entirely about behavior. Yours, and @Sam 's answers are really enlightening, though I think a sort of compromise could be found. Thanks a lot for your feedback! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:32
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    A compromise would be nice indeed. For now we are working on rebuilding our FAQ here: meta.serverfault.com/questions/2591/… Feel free to add your thoughts on it. Once the FAQ is fixed we hope people will understand when and why we act the way we do. – Bart De Vos Jan 24 '12 at 11:45
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    I'll definitely try and join, and become a better contributor myself! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:56

On SF I often see behaviors against all stackexchange etiquette: most notably, downvotes without any comment.

If it is a Stackexchange consensus that downvotes should come with a comment, I would suggest technical means to ask for it. Maybe popping up a (dismissable) query box asking for the reason with each downvote would be an option.

Aside from that I tend to agree with you that questions are closed way too fast on Serverfault to give the original author any chance to fix it, but apparently it is regarded necessary to keep off spam and low-quality content.

  • It's very nice to see that all the answers are consistent and constructive! – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 11:54
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    There is a box that suggests that you leave a comment when you downvote and have low rep – MDMarra Jan 24 '12 at 11:59
  • @MDMarra Maybe there is. But if commenting is really something which is considered a necessity, the box should be more nagging (i.e. show up with higher rep too) and include the comment field as a further hint for people who do not read popups. – the-wabbit Jan 24 '12 at 12:05
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    It's been discussed on mSO over and over. Basically, the feeling is that voting is the most important thing and they want to remove hurdles from voting. This is why question votes are free now, for example. You're certainly welcome to bring this up there, but you probably won't get the reaction that you want. – MDMarra Jan 24 '12 at 12:11
  • @MDMarra do you have links? I am not sure if I will take the time to do a posting at mSO, but if I do, I would like to make sure not to produce or encourage repetitions. – the-wabbit Jan 24 '12 at 12:15
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    As the OP should know if they're active on the meta for stack overflow, the feature you describe above has been asked for and turned down several times... which kinda suggests that requiring a comment for a downvote isn't "stack exchange etiquette" at all. As for questions getting closed too quickly, the concept of a close is that it should 'protect' a flawed question, giving the person who asked it a chance to fix it then ask in the site meta for it to be re-opened. That doesn't work too well on any SE site IIRC, but its the reason that a close and a delete are not the same thing. – Rob Moir Jan 24 '12 at 12:17
  • I'd agree that its nice to explain downvotes that are not "obvious", and I think it would be nice to post an explanation of the "clean up then post to meta dance" on closed, but salvageable questions (good luck reliably automating that) but overall I think we're in line with Stack Exchange's general codes of behaviour as far as I can tell. – Rob Moir Jan 24 '12 at 12:23
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    Oh, as I see there is nothing new to be added, especially meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… has it all – the-wabbit Jan 24 '12 at 12:37
  • @RobMoir thanks for your comments. I understand better the reasons about quick closing, and not requiring comments. Maybe it could be made more clear in the FAQ/UI... – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 12:59
  • @Rob Moir - where is it explained that the closure of a question is the question author's cue to 1) fix the question through editing and then 2) ask in meta to have the question reopened? – quux Jan 24 '12 at 16:52
  • @quux - that's a very good question actually. I've seen it discussed and generally accepted by the community in meta.stackoverflow on discussions surrounding closed questions but I can't find an actual authoritative source for it. Read Shog's answer here for an example of what I was talking about: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/288/… – Rob Moir Jan 24 '12 at 17:44
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    @Rob Moir - until and unless there is an obvious and well defined workflow for this, few people really know it. A closed question feels final to the asker - and to potential answerers or editors. Heck, I've been on SF since beginning of its beta, though not heavily involved in the various metas ... and I was completely unaware that 'edit closed question, then take it to meta' was the rule. I thought it was the exception. – quux Jan 24 '12 at 18:16
  • Agreed. If we want people to know that's possible, never mind whether its standard procedure or an exception, we need to do a better job of that. No two ways about it. – Rob Moir Jan 24 '12 at 19:06

I got it downvoted and closed with only one comment and no time to try and fix it. I'm not saying the questions had to be saved - I'm talking about constructive behaviour.

I'm sorry that you feel you were wronged, but you say that your question was about the development status of Solaris, which sounds off-topic (I can't know for sure, I haven't seen the actual question). It's not our responsibility to coddle a user if they ask something off-topic. I disagree that someone should be given a chance to "fix" their bad question before its closed.

The second that a user clicks submit on a question or answer, it's just that. A question or answer. It's not a draft. Just because there is an edit button doesn't mean that questions shouldn't be closed right away. We assume that you've read the FAQ and have a grasp of how the site works before you post. If not, it should be closed.

As for the HAproxy question: that seems like a bit of an outlier and I've up voted you, but I can't up vote the OP. The question is poorly written and a bit difficult to understand without re-reading 2-3 times. I can understand why it collects downvotes, though I wouldn't add my own. You shouldn't take downvotes personally. If you participate within the context of the FAQ and contribute good info, one or two rogue downvotes become meaningless.

  • The I disagree that someone should be given a chance to "fix" their bad question before its closed would apply both to my Solaris question and to the HAproxy question. I totally understand your point of view, though I feel that at least newbies should be given a chance with their first questions. But I am understanding the big difference between SF and SO from all you guy answers, and it make sense, as long is it made (even more) clear in the FAQ. About Solaris, I'm updating my question a little to make my point clearer! Oh and thanks for the upvote :) – Stefano Jan 24 '12 at 12:52
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    If a question is crap, it should be closed, immediately. If the user wants to edit it, it can easily be reopened. If the user would simply prefer to start over they can submit a new question. It's not like we're banning the user for a single bad question. – Chris S Jan 24 '12 at 14:09

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