I'm done with Serverfault. When people can't see outside their own little box of what's system admin related they're not worth me wasting my time.

This question/COMMUNITY WIKI is related to OUR HEALTH and yet people think, not system admin related because it's not an enterprise technical question. Personally I put on 40 freaking pounds 2 years ago from the poor lifestyle I was leading as a result of being a system admin. Guess what, it is system admin related.

That guy who has a peer to peer network of 10 computers Windows XP Home manages with one of them being the "server" - He's a systems admin too, just not your concept of enterprise.

That question about how do I flash the Bios on my laptop? Well last time I checked I was doing that from work, too.

How do I access my home PC from work? Well when I use it when I work from home, that's a system admin related one too.

Or the question about a guy wanting to put a DB on one big freaking server and not cluster it? Get off your high horses, that's what he wants to do so rather then say "bad idea", or "it'll crash" just shut up or offer something useful.

And you sit there and wonder why people hate calling the Helpless Desk or IT Unsupport

Yes I was (am) one of those at times and work hard not to be. It was fun here for a while, I'm going outside for a bike ride now and get rid of a few more of those pounds.

And the question for this question is : why are admins so tied to their little box of what's system admin related?

  • 7
    Almost all the points you are trying to make have already been asked and debated on meta. I understand you are frustrated, but posting this type of question is not the way to handle it.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 2:14
  • 4
    Maybe we get this way because people call us blaming us for problems that we can't do anything with. Customer: why don't I see the dns changes I asked for ... site's not visible ... a day ago. Me (checks and everything looks fine: what ISP? Customer: AOL. ME: AOL implements non standard caching... Customer: Well that's not acceptable it has to be so and so you're supposed to suport... ... Me: I'm sorry you'll have to talk to AOL, we can't force them to conform to standards. Customer: ... ... Me: I'm sorry I have to let you go Ma'am.
    – xenoterracide
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 2:23
  • I agree with you that people should answer the questions asked and not give you a bunch of crap you didn't ask for, or at least give a real answer with the opinion. Trust me Developer's are worse than Admins.
    – xenoterracide
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 2:25
  • 9
    Bravo, SpaceManSpiff. I haven't been here long but I've seen plenty of examples of arrogance, condescension, and non-professional behavior. If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm guilty of it as well. I'd like to see more of a community based on the intent and spirit of the questions\answers. We need less snide comments, haphazard and arbitrary downvotes, etc. As my boss tells me "You have a massive but fragile ego". I suspect we all do and that might be at the root of the problem here.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:39
  • @Nonapeptide: Once again the voice of reason. Wise beyond your years.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:59
  • 3
    I think the subject is probably appropriate for further discussion, but the way it was expressed is not doing the OP any favours. It would need some heavy editing before I would vote to reopen. For what it's worth, when deciding on a close vote I take each question on it's own merits and in context. If it seems obvious that it's a home user problem from that context then SU is definitely more appropriate.
    – mh
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 20:11
  • I wrote the "You're not eating lunch at your desk" question ... @SpaceManSpiff I feel your pain, I usually give up on serverfault every 2 months. Honestly, about 80% of these questions are boring, and can be found through proper use of google. I would encourage you NOT to go, and start asking questions you want to see: be the change. I care about the craft of my profession, I care about the users I support, and most of all I care about using my work to make me a better person. There are many elements that make a SysAdmin, & most of them aren't technical. I hope you enjoyed your bike ride. :-)
    – Joseph Kern
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 1:05
  • 1
    I don't like loaded question like this one. It contains a questionable presupposition (as in "Have you stopped beating your wife?"). I think meta.stackoverflow.com is a better place for discussions.
    – splattne
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 16:57
  • @splattne: Jeff (I assume) changed the title of the post from what was originally asked on SF, which messes up your comment.
    – Ward
    Commented Nov 17, 2009 at 18:07

9 Answers 9


SpaceMan, don't go. To bastardize a certain famous quote: "All that is necessary for the triumph of pompous admins is that good admins get frustrated and leave." So, in other words, stick around and be that force for good that you want to see. I sympathize with you completely, but if I could constructively criticize you: you're a part of the problem in that you're letting the more destructive forces' voices drown yours out. Is it tough some days to get along with the more abrasive people on this planet? Yes. But suck it up and be good in spite of it. It makes you gooder. =)

If this site is community driven (although not to a 100% degree... and I suspect that it's not even anywhere near 100% community driven; However, meta is a whole 'nuther discussion), We can affect the change that we want, but not without effort or discipline.

...pause for a moment. Is it just me or am I starting to sound like a Workers' Party speach writer? Now back to regular broadcasting...

Stick around and be the change you want to see. It takes effort to not let the annoying ones drag you down and to also deliberately look for the bad traits in yourself and replace them with better ones. Or you can leave and start the community that you want to see and hope that others help it to gel into a good resource.

In other words: Be a good admin. Stop seeing problems. Start seeing everything as a solution waiting to happen.

  • that's a definite plusOne there
    – dyasny
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 11:29
  • Great points! {pad}{pad}
    – Scott Lundberg
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 14:57

I play Server Fault for fun, and because I like how it feels when I actually help somebody. I'm sure that some people do play to forward their "religious" agenda w/ respect to IT, but I think they're fewer in number than your question suggests.

I hope that, above all else, the Server Fault community works to keep the site fun and welcoming. Having a reputation of being insular and unfriendly is worse, to my mind, than having a reputation for being inaccurate or unhelpful. Frankly, we'll never get a chance to be helpful to anyone if our collective attitude intimidates questioners. Running the site in the ground while trying too hard to keep "on topic" would be a real shame, and something that I think that all of us who enjoy Server Fault need to keep in mind.

All-in-all, I see the Server Fault community as being very knowledgeable, though sometimes "focused" perhaps a bit too finely on the intended subject area of the web site. I didn't vote to close the health-related question earlier today because I agree that the typical "all consuming" occupation that is systems administration can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight. I'm also alright if the community doesn't want to discuss it, though, too. I'm not going to get hung up bickering about whether the question is "valid" for the site or not. I don't happen to feel strongly enough to vote to re-open, but if enough people do it'll come back.

To speak to some of your specific points:

Server Fault is a microcosm of the real IT world. I've noticed that there's an "enterprisey" bent to the types of answers that come up on Server Fault, but that doesn't surprise me. I think that some people suffer from the "All I have is a hammer" problem when they look at solving IT problems. They know a particular tool, operating system, management methodology, etc, and look to apply it to every problem. Every IT crew that I've ever contracted with has been this way, and part of the fun and challenge in working on a contract is to learn something new and to teach someone else something new at the same time.

I do get the feeling, sometimes, that posters don't have any concept for what their proposed solutions would actually cost. Not every server role needs five 9's of uptime. Not every business is "enterprise" in its needs for change control and operational documentation.

I happen to suffer from the curse of trying to do anything I can to get away "on the cheap". It's as bad as the curse of trying to make everything "enterprisey", and I Work hard to keep it in check. I try to recognize when not throwing money at a problem ends up making the "solution" more costly in the long run.

In the end, we all need to remember that decisions about IT, in business, are about ROI, risk tolerance, and the all mighty "bottom line". No business (that wants to stay in business, at least) "does IT" for the sake of "doing IT". The "enterprisey-ness" of a given IT solution needs to be based on real business need. It should not be based on the personal whim of a sysadmin who really likes SAN gear and thinks that everything needs to be on dedicated RAID-10 arrays (or, conversely, the sysadmin who thinks that backups are for wimps and uses whitebox PCs as 'servers').

re: questions being closed to diverted to superuser.com - I do vote to migrate questions that aren't sysadmin related. If you're talking about a BIOS update on a fleet of PCs that's one thing, but questions with a scope of a single client computer aren't "sysadmin-related" to me. I don't play on superuser.com, but plenty of other people do and there will be answers posted for the migrated questions from that community. I don't feel bad about voting to migrate a question, and I don't think anybody else should either.

  • Nicely put...(side note...seeing all your activity and contributions on the site, are you an AI? But seriously, nicely worded response, as are most of your responses...)
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:17
  • I have been accused of being an A.I. from time to time, but you'd think differently if you saw how much natural stupidity I exhibit regularly. Thanks for the kind words, though. My ego is a dangerous thing to feed.
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:37
  • 2
    +1, agree -- nicely put. Personally, I do appreciate the diversity of perspectives and advice on this site... I'm happy to see questions from beginners as well as ones about more advanced/specific topics, as long as it relates to admin'ing -- be it at a 25-person company or a 25,000-person one. If a questions skews more towards programming or end/single user, migrating is good for everyone, and will usually result in better answers for the asker.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 5:30
  • @Evan: I probably was the once asking. I have no idea how you're able to post so much throughout the day and still get work done (and the posts seem well crafted with CORRECT SPELLING! Wow!) Egos need feeding once in awhile...we're in a meritocracy-based field. If we didn't get our egos stroked once in awhile I think many might quit in frustration and taking so much blame and crap but getting so little in return otherwise (unless you're one of the lucky ones making 6 or near 6 figures...)
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 12:00

Personally, I hoped to see Server Fault maintain a higher level of discussion between professional system administrators (you know...the people that get paid to support your networks and servers). However, the site seems to be mainly developers and other non-professionals looking for help on their web/sql/development/home PC. That's great for them, but pretty dull for the rest of us.

I personally don't have any problems with the food-related question you linked too...at least it is applicable to a large percentage of sysadmins (UNLIKE questions about flashing the BIOS on a laptop).

I really have a hard time seeing this site succeed as-is, and the folks over on Meta couldn't seem to care less either.

This doesn't answer your question...but whatever, I'm not interested in a flame fest.

  • 1
    What does it mean for the site to "succeed"? I'd like to see a common frame of reference w/ respect to this "success" that's been mentioned on here and on meta. I, for one, care rather deeply about Server Fault because it's been the source of a lot of fulfillent and enjoyment. I also haven't been particular disappointed by the "tone" of the site. I'd like to see more traffic, but there's rarely a day that goes by that I don't see a question that's engaging and fun to respond to (or, if I'm late to the party, that's fun to read and comment on).
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:34
  • 2
    Evan: The interesting questions come from the people who are deep in the trenches. The few interesting questions get lost in the flood of lame questions. The difficult questions don't necessarily get answered because the deep-in-the-trenches sysadmins have mostly left. The topic of the site is too broad and except for the n00b questions that flood the site, the "interesting" questions are better served by focused communities.
    – Karl Katzke
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:37
  • 5
    I think Karl hit the nail on the head. The site is really filled with beginner questions (and answers), and it takes some effort to filter through them. From time to time that is interesting, but it is certainly rare to see some of the more difficult deployment/config/troubleshooting questions that come up on other sites. I guess I had high hopes based on the success of Stack Overflow which probably led to my disappointment here.
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:43
  • 3
    I can only confess that I may have no basis for comparison. I haven't been as taken by any other community IT support-related sites and I've spent no time comparing Server Fault to the "competition". Perhaps I'm guilty of enjoying answering "beginner" questions a bit too much. I'd be interested to see some references to "deep in the trenches" questions that you find interesting. Personally, I'd much rather have a subjective discussion of management policies than, say, banter about some particular odd behaviour of some IOS version. Vendor tech support is for that, IMO.
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:51
  • Is the site so broken we need to circumvent the question upvoting? ;)
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:52
  • 1
    @Karl & @DLux: What you're saying is based on your frame of reference and your experience. If I'm a new sysadmin responsible for one server and 10 workstations and I have a question about setting up a DHCP server, is that question too beginner-ish? Maybe for you, but not for me and isn't that the purpose of this site: to be a tool for sysadmins of all levels who manage systems of all sizes. If we weeded out questions and users based on our own frame of reference and experience then in pretty short order Evan and a few others would be the only ones left who weren't asking beginner-ish questions
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:55
  • @Evan - I would love to see some deep discussion on things like management policies, but how would that work here? It would end up as a long string of comments just like this question. :) As for interesting questions, let's look at something like the TCO of running Exchange on premise versus purchasing a hosted solution? Or maybe a comparison of remote access solutions that look at ease of deployment, cost, end user support, policy control and ability to navigate through firewalls hostile to my remote users.
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 3:59
  • @joeqwerty - Those questions are fine, but not when they are 90% of the content here. Of course, maybe that is the goal of the site and I should follow SpaceManSpiff out the door....
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:02
  • @DLux: One solution might be too implement some type of categorization\forum style (instead of tags) that would allow people to hone in and focus on those categories of system administration that interest them most. Another option would be to pay closer attention to the tags and avoid the questions that you think fall into the areas you find beginner-ish or uninteresting. I tend to look at the title of the question and tags and only click on those I find interesting or think I can contribute to.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:16
  • 2
    @DLux: So, how would a discussion about the "TCO of running Exchange on premise" work any better? This is a Q&A site, and the engine isn't well suited to discussions. Frankly, I think you want something that this site isn't. Maybe it will "fail" because "serious" sysadmins don't need Q&A. Maybe it will "succeed" with more entry-level and beginning sysadmins because they do want a place to ask (or refer to others having already asked) more "beginning" questions.
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:17
  • Good point Evan. So let's go create a SysAdmin roundtable discussion site and call it a day. =)
    – Nonapeptide
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:31
  • "This is a Q&A site" seems to be a common excuse (even From Mr. Atwood). Maybe you are right and this site isn't what I am looking for; however, I think you will find may people on here that agree with me. The fact that SF only garners 5% of the traffic compared to SO is telling.
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:47
  • Yea, closed. :rolleyes:
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:55
  • I think they play much rougher over at SO than here. I think the difference has as much or more to do with 1) the inherent difference in the industry and 2) the fact that JA and JS have an established programmer following and we don't have an admin figurehead to bring traffic here.
    – Dennis Williamson
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:57
  • I wish Tom Limoncelli was here.
    – Nonapeptide
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 18:12

This question/COMMUNITY WIKI is related to OUR HEALTH and yet people think, not system admin related because it's not an enterprise technical question.

If you look at the close reason, you will notice it was closed as not a real question. It was not closed because it wasn't sysadmin related. Serverfault is a Q&A site. 95% of the question was not a question and instead was your personal answer. The bits where you actually asked something people could respond to was buried in the middle of you telling us YOUR answer and preaching at us. Write a better question, and it probably won't be closed with a the reason not a real question. There where three comments asking you to reword the question. It would have been very easy for you to follow the advice and reword your question, and move the rest to an answer. Instead of following the advice and making it a question you simply added more of your personal opinions.

The FAQ has this to say.

It's also perfectly fine to ask and answer your own question, but pretend you're on Jeopardy: phrase it in the form of a question.

I can't find the article where I read it, but someone said that they though that it is very common for your IT guys idolize the character Gregory House from the show House M.D.

Some people have take the stance that people are drawn to IT because because they have Asperger's Disorder.

Some people believe it is the nature of IT and working with computers all day that makes us less likely to be social and polite

Nature or Nurture? It is a big debate. It is probably a bit of both.

  • It's our nature most of the time, honestly. If you don't fit this mold you tend to have a lot of trouble dealing with the job or you become more of a manager than a person in the trenches, from what I've seen and experienced. Google "the unspoken truth about managing geeks" on the computerworld website.
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:19
  • We all have Aspergers either because we are genetically disposed to it thanks to our parents or because we were all vaccinated with the MMR vaccine when we were kids. (There is Autism in my family so I get all the kooky theories as to why ASDs are the way they are.)
    – David Mackintosh
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:37
  • 3
    @David:problem is that the vaccination theory is wrong...thimerosal was removed from vaccines back around 2000/2001 and autism rates continue to rise, and more and more studies are being released now that time has passed disputing any link between vaccines and autism.
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 11:56

You're raising multiple points, but I'll try to get at a couple of them before my attention span flitters off elsewhere.

  • SF was not intended to be a messageboard. Of course people have a need to converse, but the site wasn't set up to handle that. It was set up to handle sysadmin Q&A (the way votes rearrange posts nonsequentially is a big tipoff here). Using a spork as a shovel is possible but there will be a lot of complaints about its ability to do the job effectively.

  • What is SU FOR if not questions pertaining to individual systems? By the definition you've given, everything computer-related could apply to sysadmin, and therefore SU has no reason to exist. There's got to be a line somewhere. Migrating questions to SU isn't some kind of punishment - it's about sending the question to the place where it should get the best answers.

  • As to the glib & rude responses - DOWNVOTE!! When I get a downvote to an answer, I think long and hard about whether I'm speaking from experience or wild conjecture - about whether I've phrased my response professionally or obnoxiously, etc. At the very least, maybe you can help downvote the snarky comments right out of existence.


If you can't look after your own health that's your problem, just like my health is my problem. While it might be job related it is not sysadmin related. Instead of sitting there complaining about it why don't you move away from your computer and start doing something about it?

  • 4
    All of your problems are your own problems. This site was created to help sysadmins with their problems. Being a jerk about it is kind of against the spirit of the site. And by the way...coming here IS a form of taking care of the problem; he came here asking for advice and experiences of others to find hints on coping and dealing with the issue. That's what the site is for!
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:21
  • 1
    And here is me thinking that the site is a Q&A about system administration. Sorry. I didn't realise it was also an agony aunt column.
    – John Gardeniers
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 23:36
  • 1
    @John: And here is me thinking the site is a Q&A about system administration issues that is community-driven. Sorry. I didn't realize this was a straightforward meta-Google with a pre-filter for vaguely-defined system administration results.
    – Bart Silverstrim
    Commented Nov 17, 2009 at 12:30

I don't have much to add in direct response that hasn't been already stated elsewhere, but being very active on the site and wanting to see it succeed I do feel compelled to point out that there is a very active community at meta.stackoverflow.com ready to address issues such as this. Nearly every point that you reference and the actions of the community that you refer to have been discussed on Meta in some form or another. And even if not, then it is well worth raising your concerns there as well. I have already asked that the moderators move this discussion over to Meta, where you're likely to see some more varied discussions from the non-sysadmin participants on the other sites.

As an exmaple, here are a few specific questions that I've seen and been a part of that relate to some of your points:

I can't emphasize enough the importance of raising concerns through the proper channels if you care to see anything change. It sounds like it might be too late for you, but maybe (hopefully!) after the bike ride you will feel different and consider another go at it.

ServerFault is a community. All of the SOFU sites were developed with community in mind. As such you will inherently see a vary wide variety of personalities. None of us are perfect, and I put myself at the top of that list. The choice is always yours whether or not to participate. Personally, I hope you do and I hope you help make it better. If not, well, then I do wish you the best of luck and I'm sorry that it didn't work out.

  • I'll toss you a +1, but so far, raising concerns like this through proper channels hasn't resulted in any changes to SF.
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:52
  • @DLux: Yeah, I understand your concern there, and you're right. It seems it's a bit of a common theme across the sites at the time. SF seems to have a VERY low representation over on Meta (at least active representation). If these concerns are raised more often and actively discussed then I think we'd have a better chance of seeing things change for those who desire it.
    – squillman
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 4:56
  • I've tried...it didn't work meta.stackexchange.com/questions/27454/…
    – DLux
    Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 5:04
  • @DLux: I know from some email conversations that I've had that Jeff Atwood is pretty serious about driving more traffic to Server Fault. At this point, I think it's safe to say that Jeff and the team are open to ideas. FWIW, my best efforts to drive traffic and new questions, to date, have been to pass the word around to my friends and collegues. It's especially nice when I can find them an answer to a question they've got as a Server Fault link (which is easier than writing an answer for them myself, as a bonus) to introduce them to the site.
    – Evan Anderson
    Commented Nov 15, 2009 at 2:48
  • @Evan: There's a pretty good chance that if you direct someone to an answer here, you did write it yourself. :)
    – Ward
    Commented Nov 17, 2009 at 0:08

Maybe some venting at the UserFriendly pages would help you settle down a bit.
All support work is quite stressful and unsettling.
Blowing your mind only takes you further out.


The process is rather natural: people learn that there's a place where clever guys answer YOUR questions, and they go there to get their task fulfilled. Every place - either on the net or in real life - gets filled with people who are really not very appropriate, and it would have been better if there was none of them.

I also expected to see higher concentration of clever, nice, professional people out here, but like it always does happen - they're rare. Often you can get no gratitude for your help, but it happens everywhere.

Don't take it that serious: you can't the world, so just take from it the things you like and ignore everything else!

Life's short, and it's f***ing ridiculous to spend your precious time on the sulks! ;)

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