What’s really being taken in consideration to close a question? Is it based on how "ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form" or how dumb/stupid the "voters" think the question is?

I asked this question, which I think is pretty valid. Even one of the mods thought "it had value in it" and even answered it. What happened? Close about 12 hours later.


While the question could be a little "broad" you don’t actually need to read "whole lots of books" to answer it, its current answers prove it. I think it’s a valid question that most starting professionals did to themselves at one point in their career. But hey, who voted to close down the thread?

A 20 years SysAdmin , Principal IT Engineer at a company, a SysAdmin with 15kRep a 6krep user and a 20years + Linux user.

Since it got closed I copied all the answers into a file because I found useful every single answer and I don’t want to wait for all of them to vote delete the question sending all that valuable information to the trash can.

I believe the quality of the information that’s being asked/posted should be taken in consideration before closing a post. Five users bookmarked the question which leads to me think that at least 5 people are interested in the answers or did have the same question themselves.

Isnt this question broad? Our security auditor is an idiot. How do I give him the information he wants? I dont think it has a specific answer, everyone will have "different ways" to give the auditor the information. Why it hasnt been closed as too broad? Because of the user? I'm sure it was kept for the quality of the information thats been discussed.

EDIT: 07/17/2012

And just like I thought. The question was deleted and all those smart/valuable suggestions went to the trash. Thanks to all those who answered it. If you are interested in the suggestions given in the question let me know and I will gladly email the information to you.

  • 1
    As pointed out, that kind of broad question is specifically against the stated purpose of the Stack Exchange sites. (Even if all the highest voted questions and most visited questions are popular precisely for being broad and generally applicable.) I don't like it either, and think it's a pity, but there are other IT communities out there with more of a forum structure that are better suited to (and happy to answer) the type of broader, subjective question you asked. Try somewhere else instead of getting bent out of shape about things here. Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 2:18

4 Answers 4


Whats really being taken in consideration to close a question?

Whether five people chose to click 'close' or not.

That's it, that's all - nobody has mind-reading powers to figure out what people thought and inconsistencies come into play all the time.

This place is a democracy - sometimes you're going to be upset, and trawling through the accounts of those who voted to close your question seems to me pointless and a bit creepy.

I believe the quality of the information that’s being asked/posted should be taken in consideration before closing a post.

Inherently it is, everyone reads posts and form opinions on them, it's just that people's opinions differ - you might think a post is valid, if five others don't then it's history.

This site is one of the options you may or may not choose to use when dealing with a problem in your professional life - there's no SLA for us to deliver, no overarching committee of leaders choosing who gets answered and who doesn't.

It helps if you always assume that your questions and/or answers are never going to even get looked at, let alone answered/upvoted - that way when that happens it's nice, and you won't get all 'boohoo' if anything else happens.

Ultimately your first edit of the question, after a lot of pointless preamble was "what would be the first 5 things you would do after you do a fresh Linux install?" and that's just not the kind of question that gets answered on here as it's way too open. Imagine "I just bought an oven, what should I cook?" - it depends on if you eat meat, are allergic to anything, your budget, how many for, what you have in already, the time you have etc. Do you get what I'm saying, there's no concrete answer, you're asking for opinions based on assumptions because the question wasn't clear enough.

So don't get all upset about it, learn from this, look at the questions that DO get answered to see how they're framed and try again. None of us get this stuff right all the time, just quit moaning about it and get back in the game ok.

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    "It helps if you always assume that your questions and/or answers are never going to even get looked at, let alone answered/upvoted" - I will now pretend this answer doesn't exist and learn nothing from this question. Wait a sec...
    – TheLQ
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 13:57

While I did not do so, I would have voted to close this as well. Looking at the description of the close reason

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

It is true, most of those do not apply, however the question as posed is too big to be reasonable answered. The most correct answer is, "It depends on what the server is used for, how your administrators work, and your environment." While it would be possible for someone to develop a list of general case best practices, you, and the site itself, would be better served with a series of more specific questions.

You do mention that "one of the mods thought 'it had value in it' and even answered it." However, if you look at the first line in voretaq7's answer, he even says that the question should be closed.

This is really not an answerable question -- There are too many variables to apply a single one-size-fits-all set of steps.

I feel like this question would have been a fantastic example of the historical use case for Community Wiki questions. Unfortunately, the powers that be at SEI have decided, as detailed in the blog post 'The Future of Community Wiki' that Community Wiki is apparently intended for answers, and should almost never be used.

  • So, its closed because some other people thought there's no way to answer MY question? Based on the scenario exposed in the question I, (the one who asked the question) received answers which completely satisfied me. But oh well, seems this is like a government, we have to live by the laws no matter how wrong and dumb they are.
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:13
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    @Rhyuk: The questions and answers on the site effectively serve three purposes: 1) Be useful, 2) Represent the site and it's culture and community, 3) Follow the strictures set down on high from SEI. The FAQ does its level best to lay those out, but sometimes nuances slip through the cracks. Just because you the asker finds the answers acceptable, doesn't mean the question itself fits within the broader scope of those purposes. Shopping questions are a great example of what's verboten, but may trivially be answered according to the asker.
    – Scott Pack
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:21
  • So basically its like: 1. You have the right to say anything you want as long as its smart. (check) 2. What you say must not be off topic (check) 3. We reserve the right to decide whats actually smart or not. (BTW please, do not take anything I say personal)
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:28
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    @Rhyuk: I can tell that you're feeling upset and defensive. I recognize the validity of those feelings. While we are all human, and as such do occasionally make mistakes. However, I feel the majority of voters do their best to honestly vote according to the FAQ.
    – Scott Pack
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:43
  • Yes, I have to admit I'm upset. But oh well... can't swim against the current. And you sir, are a gentleman.
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:47
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    @Rhyuk That Auditor Question was closed and reopened 4 times by different sets of people before Jeff Atwood decided it was in SF's best interests to directly violate the FAQ and keep the Question open (solely on account if it's popularity, not on any technical merit). "On High" is allowed to be arbitrary when they pay the bills...
    – Chris S
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 14:00
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    So just like my government example, there are rules, they are just bent depending on the interests.
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 14:02
  • @Rhyuk: I certainly thought so. As I recall that one hit reddit and drove a mindblowingly amount of traffic to the site. Like ChrisS said, it's open not because we want it, but because it was deemed to be an acceptable evil.
    – Scott Pack
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 14:03
  • I would have added: duplicate of serverfault.com/questions/11659/…
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 3:03
  • @Andrew complete different question, systems, purpose and users too. Oh yeah.. and the 2 years of difference.
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 11:50

I have a single very simple metric for closing a question like the one you asked: can I imagine that the question could attract an answer which would fully and completely answer the question? If I'm reasonably confident that the question could not attract such an answer, I'll vote to close, delete, fold, mutilate, or spindle, as required. With the demise of community wiki, I believe the message has been made very clear that "questions should be answerable", and if I don't think a question is answerable, it should not be on the site, and I will do whatever I can to effect that.

Of the "answers" you got to your deleted question, each of them may have provided you value, but none of them were answers -- they were merely replies. This isn't a discussion forum, it's a question-and-answer site. As such, questions that generate discussion, rather than answers, are off-topic. If you disagree, I'd invite you to nominate which of the replies to your question fully and completely answers the question posed.

I won't deny that the fact that ServerFault doesn't cater to people like you who need generalist education rather than answers to specific questions does suck for you. However, this site serves a specific purpose for a specific community. While it is unfortunate that you're not a part of that target audience, it doesn't mean that we're going to change things to accomodate you. Thankfully, ServerFault isn't the only game in town (although it's the only one I bother playing, for various reasons). No doubt you'll be able to find somewhere more appropriate to your needs at this stage in your career.

  • +1 My sentiments exactly. It's taken a long time to get to this point and the results have been worth the effort of culling inappropriate questions, which generally indicate the posted has failed to even look at the FAQ. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 8:19

As much as it may suck, the reason you lost 5 viewers immediately is probably that you said in the first sentence that you weren't a sysadmin. There's almost nothing you can do after saying that that won't get people howling to close your off topic question.

Next time, leave that out, and maybe change the context to "what are the best practices for doing [x]". That's essentially the question the accepted answerer answered.

  • 1
    Well...nobody in SE was born being a sysadmin. They had to start somewhere, and if its like you say, it defeats the purpose SE which is stated on SE FAQ section "What kind of questions can I ask here?".
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 15:29
  • Hey, I didn't vote to close :)
    – Basil
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:24
  • I know, nothing personal! ;-)
    – Rhyuk
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:59
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    The trouble with 'Best Practices' is that everyone has their own.
    – user9517
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 19:46
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    Nobody was born a sysadmin but on SF you're expected to already be a professional one. Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 1:21

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