I'm noticing a trend that worries me. I'm beginning to see more and more impatient responses from high-point posters and I wonder if hanging around here too long begins to jade one's responses and the inpatient responses might start to drive off the new posters.

For instance - today I've seen one comment that said "please, please, please read the FAQ", an answer with an image that had four red arrows pointing to a key config checkbox and a third example where multiple comments pointed out the simplicity of finding an answer outside of Serverfault.

It appears to me that as our point level goes up, our patience/tolerance levels go down.

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    You should provide links to examples. – MDMarra Feb 23 '12 at 17:49
  • Yes. You've probably been around long enough to start feeling it, and I'm really too impatient explain it. :) Actually, I did drop a "FFS draw a diagram man" comment on somebody's terrifying network problem description, then punted it to SuperUser yesterday. Understanding your question isn't supposed to be harder than solving your problem. – Jeff Ferland Feb 23 '12 at 18:38
  • @JeffFerland I have been around for about 7 months total and only started actively answering questions recently and I have noticed a dramatic shift in the quality of questions. – user89350 Feb 23 '12 at 22:32

The short answer: Yes, we do.

The long answer:

Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity.

It is generally expected that Information Technology Professionals are familiar with the existence of Google, capable of reading the options on their screen (and their vendor's documentation), and able to form a coherent question with at least some of the necessary details for us to help them without having to be lead down the primrose path via an extensive comment thread.

On most days most users will be very helpful in leading people through what needs to be done to turn an awful question into something that will have value for the Sysadmin community at large. After many days/weeks/months/years of doing that there are some days where some users (myself included) will invariably get a little short with people who:

  • Have not read the FAQ
  • Are asking about something that can be answered by typing their question title into Google
  • Are asking a question where they are not the sysadmin
  • Are asking a question that shows they have no business doing what they're trying to do and will likely cause their environment to blow up in their face.

The Bottom Line:

I don't think we're actively mean to new posters. That would be a Very Bad Thing.
I do believe we have a certain minimum standard of effort/research that we expect to see from people asking questions here, and upholding those minimum standards is a Very Good Thing. It keeps the site from degrading into a DaniWeb/TechTalkForums/etc. kind of cesspool.

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    I will of course defend the counter-point: Since getting my diamond I've seen how aggressive we are as a site in blasting half-formed questions into the void. Some tolerance and hand-holding is needed (and I think as a site we could do better at helping people fix their lousy questions). The fine line we have to walk is determining if the question (post-fixup) would really be worth having around. – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:05
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    Tricky move putting the dissenting view in a comment. You can't -1 a comment. :) – MDMarra Feb 23 '12 at 18:07
  • @MDMarra If someone wants to jump up and say we have a problem with the number of close/delete votes they can post their own answer :-P -- I'm just pointing out that we're aggressive about making bad things go away and less inclined toward fixing them than I'd (personally) like to see. – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:11
  • I think we ARE getting actively annoyed with new posters. My other concern is we are raising the bar, not holding it steady. – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 18:19
  • @uSlackr: I guess that we are currently experiencing a phase where we get relatively few good questions and a load of crap. This might be an unfortunate side effect of better rankings in Google for various search terms, but it might lead to the impression of shorter patience from top users. – Sven Feb 23 '12 at 18:36
  • @uSlackr I agree we are trying to raise the bar -- I just happen to feel that's a good thing for the site. The bar was effectively non-existent in the Good Old Days (Shopping questions were OK, even welcomed, Home use questions weren't aggressively kicked to SuperUser, we tried to work out complex DBA and security stuff here). Times have changed though: Shopping questions are definitively off-topic network-wide, Home use is always the province of SuperUser, we have DBA, IT Security, and AskUbuntu for narrowly-focused sub-topics. – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:38
  • @uSlackr: Also, I think that we actually needed to rise the bar with regard to topicality. This is a consequence of the ever growing fragmentation of StackExchange and means that e.g. a Linux shell script question that wouldn't be a problem here two years ago is now clearly off-topic. – Sven Feb 23 '12 at 18:38
  • To throw some data into the discussion: Our asking and answering rate has been relatively consistent since about 2010. Our close rate has definitely increased over time, and our year-over-year close/delete rate has substantially increased, however much of this is related to our cleanup (closing/locking/deleting) old off-topic questions, and seems to come in a periodic surge of activity as @SvenW alluded to, and if the general trend holds there should be less closings happening soon. – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:48
  • @SvenW: Shell scripting is generally on topic. – user9517 Feb 23 '12 at 20:42
  • @Iain: I know, it was just a bad example... – Sven Feb 23 '12 at 20:48
  • From the about page: "we can build good answers to every question a system administrator or desktop support professional might have." (emphasis mine). Sounds to me that the creators want to bring content into the site, not push it out to google. – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 20:56
  • @uSlackr I'm not sure where you got that line from (AH! The about page!), but "[W]e can build good answers to every question a system administrator or desktop support professional might have." (emphasis mine :). Professionals do not scream "HALP! HALP! IZ B0RKEN!" without doing some research first. As others have said, in this field putting zero effort into your question does not normally motivate others to want to help you (or if we do the help is "Go do some research and come back if you still have questions.") – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 21:14
  • serverfault.com/about Second paragraph - middle. This isn't a question of how to be successful in IT - It's a question of how to keep SF a viable/vibrant community. (I agree there is a relationship at the individual level) – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:28

I couldn't agree more, my enthusiasm to teach has been turned to bile by the unteachable.

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    This is why I only answer 1-2 questions a week these days – Mark Henderson Feb 23 '12 at 19:26
  • So are you saying today's new-comer is less teachable than those from 2008/09, or that you are more jaded? – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:30
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    There certainly seems to be more of a 'just do my work for me' attitude than when the site was new, SO many questions where new users have clearly ignored the previous questions suggested by their 'question' title. – Chopper3 Feb 23 '12 at 23:22
  • No time to leave something longer, but I suspect we've crossed a threshold where people who need their hands held find SF a good place to get answers, and they're now seriously outnumbering the pros who flocked here in a marked way. I'm pretty sure SO went through this transition too, and we all know how hostile they can get to teh stupidz. – sysadmin1138 Feb 24 '12 at 3:20

It appears to me that as our point level goes up, our patience/tolerance levels go down.

I'd agree.

A major part of that is because, as a 10k+ user, we have access to the /review tools that unearth a mountain of off-topic or poorly asked crap. You'd be surprised just how many new users don't take 30 seconds to read the faq. After you go through dozens of such questions daily, it wears on you.

This raises a question: Is this an inherently bad thing? My opinion is that it is not. Imploring someone to read the faq, or pointing out that a question is incredibly basic is not inherently bad. These types of questions are off-topic to begin with. Making it clear to the users why it is off-topic helps to prevent the mountain of crap from amassing once again.

I don't see a problem with having little patience with something that's off-topic anyway as long as it's not offensive or derogatory. If someone didn't take 30 seconds to read the faq, why should any of us take more than 30 seconds to point them in the right direction?

  • I wouldn't be surprised at all about how many people don't read the FAQ. It's been a fact of internet life since the AOL users first gained internet access. Asking them to read the FAQ and referrring them to a particular point in the faq is one thing. Saying "please, please, please..." with no explanation as to why is another. It sounds to me like "go away you bother me". My larger concern is whether the tone of the site is changing form helpful to annoyed. – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 18:10
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    I assume that you're referring to this comment. If the OP had read the first sentence of the faq, they would have known that it was off-topic. If you think that I was wrong, we're going to have to agree-to-disagree. – MDMarra Feb 23 '12 at 18:12
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    @uSlackr - I think MDMarra linked to the most relevant section of the FAQ (the first page). Remember that new users are implored to read the FAQ and the How To Ask documents before asking their first question. There is even A BADGE FOR READING THE FAQ -- As of right now only 415 people have this badge (which makes me a 🐼Sad Unicode Panda🐼). – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:30
  • @voretaq7 Perhaps that badge should be silver – Bryan Feb 23 '12 at 20:46
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    At this rate, it could be gold and it still would only have 400 owners. – MDMarra Feb 23 '12 at 20:47
  • @Bryan If we make it silver or gold I'd like some kind of comprehension test at the end of it. You can literally get that badge without reading a word: Just click every link in the FAQ. The fact that it's that easy and still only 400 people have done it is kind of pathetic... – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 20:55

Yes, we're getting more impatient. Why does that surprise you?

In reference to voretaq7's answer I'll add that we've been working to raise that minimum standard and many here try rather hard to maintain it. Compare questions from a couple of years ago to see how the standard has improved. Ridiculous questions such as "what is your favourite server name", which were posted with astonishing frequency in the early days, wouldn't last an hour now.

It's almost impossible to do that and maintain a relaxed/patient attitude to some of the absolute crap that gets posted. Do we not also get impatient when users keep asking us the same moronic questions that could have been answered by simply pressing the F1 key, or something else equally dumb?

Despite what others would have you believe, sysadmins are still human and therefore have human traits. Mostly at least, although personally I'm waiting for the mothership to come pick me up and take me home.

  • I don't know if it surprises me, but it bothers me because I don't believe this site was created for the answer-ers - it was created for the askers. Surely it gives an incentive to answer questions, but the real value is to the people who come here for help. If the ask-ers stop coming by for help, then we can sit around and stare at our belly-buttons. – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 20:50
  • @uSlackr, when the rep system is clearly biased against asking questions I have to wonder whether the site really is for the askers. Then again, that might be just my cynicism coming to the surface. – John Gardeniers Feb 23 '12 at 20:53
  • See the about page and FAQ for my response on that. Agreed the system favors good answers, but without the questions it gets real quiet around here... (so we have to move to meta for fun.) – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:06
  • I'm curious how you think that the system favors askers? Most high-rep users get there from answers, since an answer upvote is worth double a question upvote, but you don't need to actually...know anything...to ask a question and get rep from it. Answers are more highly rewarded because they require some level of knowledge/expertise. Questions just need to be on topic to get rep. I'd say it's fairly balanced. – MDMarra Feb 23 '12 at 21:21
  • Did I say it favored the askers? I said the system is pretty pointless without questions & ask-ers. – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:41
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    I meant answerers, and it was in response to @JohnGardeniers. Perhaps you should cool your jets. :) – MDMarra Feb 24 '12 at 0:38

I'm noticing a trend that worries me. I'm beginning to see more and more impatient responses from high-point posters and I wonder if hanging around here too long begins to jade one's responses and the inpatient responses might start to drive off the new posters.

I am guilty of this. But I don't believe using this site for a long time, has made me personally any more impatient. I frequently participated in forums, usenet, irc, and many other similar online venues. But I will admit some times I do get more annoyed then other times. Sometimes related to work issues and so on. I have been grumpy to people in the past, and I will almost certainly be so in the future.

When I am already annoyed, and someone posts a question where a very good and obvious answer would show up if the simply typed did a search that included exactly what they had in their title, then I may may be a bit more rude/curt then I prefer to be. But it also doesn't bug me too much. Most of the time, when I let out the a little rage, it is because I believe someone has seriously violated general Netiquette. A little negative feedback may help them not be an idiot in the future, just like a child burning them-self the first time will teach them that fire burns. I know many people like ti deny it these days, but people learn from pain. Some minor insults and ridicule might encourage them to be better.


I haven't read all the other answers yet, just a quick thought off the top of my head that I think is different than what anyone else has stated:

If people are getting impatient and frustrated with bad questions that need to be closed or downvoted, why not just do that? Vote appropriately and move on - you don't have to take the time to comment.

SE Inc. has repeatedly confirmed the design decision of not requiring comments on close and down- votes. It's great if you can add a comment, and it's wonderful if the OP responds and clarifies their question, but it's not required.

And if the effort of trying to save crappy questions is wearing on people and making them cranky, I'd think it's way better to simply have things closed or downvoted quickly without comment than to have cranky comments that might bother someone else who comes along later.

I don't think anyone expects high-rep users (say, anyone over 3000 that can cast close votes) to dedicate huge amounts of their time to maintaining the site. It's great when people do put time into cleanup and other types of maintenance, but that's clearly above-and-beyond behaviour.


This is an issue with any community where people learn a skill by learning/example/questioning. Whether it be cooking, systems administration, or sewing, as people get better at a skill, they become less patient with the newbies who are asking the same question that they (the experienced person) has answered 10 times this past week. Just beacause you understand the framework of the answer does not mean a newbie does. It happens. When someone finally finds the holy grail of empowering newbies to find this information on their own in a manner that they can understand without being "driven away" by the mean people, they will make a trillion dollars. Just because the instructions are obvious to you does not mean they are obvious to all. This is why the army, etc spend massive sums on training, so they can produce a book that they can give to any high school graduate and after some period of months can have someone capable of maintaining an engine. This is hard and it takes a lot of time and it isn't fun to produce.

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    I don't think the clueless newbies are a real problem here, as long as they demonstrate a willingness to learn and show some effort. The problem are users who demonstrate with every aspect of their questions that they are lazy fools who don't care at all about their problem, where they ask it and don't think for a minute about what might be needed to help them. – Sven Feb 23 '12 at 18:20
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    Google is the Grail -- just my 2 cents, but many of the questions we get where the asker is yelled at to read the FAQ and do some research are like this one. Literally typing hardware virtualization benefits & hardware virtualization drawbacks into Google would have given this person SUPERB answers, and been faster than asking here. – voretaq7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:21
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    And to follow on from Voretaq7's comment above, just a hint that they'd done the necessary with Google and were asking for some deeper, more considered nuances of some of the issues, would change the tone of the responses they would get - not just in terms of patience but in terms of flat-out better quality answers. Sometimes its difficult to justify putting more effort into answering a question than the person asking put into the question itself – Rob Moir Feb 23 '12 at 18:29
  • @RobMoir - interesting comment - I was voted down in metaSu for suggesting short answers might be OK: meta.superuser.com/questions/3190/… – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:02
  • @voretaq7 see my comment above re:google. I think the about page thinks differently about this topic. Which is fine of course, but interesting – uSlackr Feb 23 '12 at 21:03
  • @uSlackr well that's there and here's here. Of course, a question doesn't need to be long to be thoughtful. "I can haz youtube clone on my unexpanded vic20 server plz" is a dumb question whether its asked in 20 words or 2000. – Rob Moir Feb 23 '12 at 21:57

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