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This question got migrated to StackOverflow but it started me thinking about the nature of this beast.

There are many Node.js questions still on here and I can't really see much difference between many of them and this one. Although this one contained javascript code, many of the questions left here also contain code (and often, exactly the same five lines) because in Node.js, the configuration is code.

I would presume that if they had much more than those same five lines of code then the problem they have could well be a bug in the code they have written, but if it's just the same listen() and "Hello, World!" code that everyone uses, it would be much more like just another http server question.

What's the defining line between whether a Node.js question belongs here or on StackOverflow (or somewhere else)? Are there any deciding factors other than the amount of code they have written?

  • Maybe you should use a different example question because the one you used is a clear-cut programming question. – John Gardeniers Sep 10 '12 at 23:03
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In this particular case the question is "I wrote some code. The code doesn't work as expected. HALP?" -- it's a programming question, not a system administration question.


More broadly, "How do I do X in programming environment Y?" is almost always off-topic for server fault. A limited general-case exception exists when X is a sysadmin-specific task ("How can I extract all the lines containing error: kitten killed from syslog?")

Questions about specific application environments (node.js, Tomcat, etc.) are on topic for Server Fault if they relate to setting up, configuring and maintaining the environment. Once they move into the realm of debugging actual code written to execute in that environment they're more the domain of Stack Overflow.

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My general rule of thumb is:

  • Development goes on Stack Overflow
  • Deployment goes on Server Fault

In this case I voted to close because there was absolutely nothing in the question to indicate to me that it was a question about administering the environment in which Node.js runs; it looked entirely like a development question.

There's always going to be some overlap, I think; sometimes the separation between Dev and Ops is a bit blurred. (This could be because you are in a DevOps environment, or because Ops had to emergency migrate the app to a new server while the Dev was out in a national forest getting eaten by a bear.) For instance, rewrite rules are generally something we deal with on SF, but in my environments, the developers are responsible for writing and debugging them.

For more discussion of this, see When to post on Serverfault vs Stackoverflow?

  • As more "programmable infrastructure" gets put out there, "deployment" related questions (such as puppet) need to remain topical here. – sysadmin1138 Sep 10 '12 at 22:28
  • Scripting environments, like Node.js, PowerShell, Perl, Ruby and more are becoming the domain of SysAdmins too. A modern SysAdmin isn't limited to Ops in the old school sense. I agree with this migration, but possibly not your reasoning, at least not in general. – Chris S Sep 10 '12 at 22:40
  • @ChrisS I'd love to learn more about what sysadmins are doing with Node.js. Got any good pointers? The node.js home page isn't too obvious in this regard. – Michael Hampton Sep 10 '12 at 22:43
  • I suck at JavaScript, so I'm not the greatest reference; but I know Joyent is using it pretty exclusively for their OpenSolaris automation/administration in their Cloud platform (SmartOS et al). Their one of the major contributors to the Node.js project as well (Google is one of the other heavy lifters IIRC) . – Chris S Sep 10 '12 at 22:48

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