Further to the discussion of list and subjective questions, here's something I was going to ask, but have been trying to figure out how to make it "good subjective." (There was also a discussion today on meta.SO about list questions.)

What strategies can be used to minimize problems when you (the SysAdmin) don't have as much control of PCs as you would like?

There are a variety of situations where users insist on having more control of their own systems than the sysadmins want them to have. For example:

  • President or other company bigwig insists on having admin access
  • Developers want admin access to their own PCs
  • Mission-critical apps need elevated privileges, unusual network configuration, or run on non-standard hardware or software
  • and so on...

When faced with an absolute business requirement to support something non-standard and (often) sub-optimal, what strategies can be used to minimize the negative impacts?

It seems to me that there are lots of potential good subjective questions that have the same features:

  • There's no single "correct" or best answer
  • But there probably aren't too many good answers... For my example question, I expect there might be up to a dozen strategies that lots of us would agree are useful.
  • Answers don't have to be specific. The problem with questions that are looking for specific "use tool ABC" recommendations is that tools change over time. But a question asking for techniques or approaches is more likely to be useful in the future.

An obvious problem with this type of question is drawing the line on how many useful answers are likely. Maybe I think there are only a few strategies, but I could be wrong, maybe there are hundreds of useful techniques and the question will be useless because they'll all be muddled together with no useful structure.

So: Is my example question "good subjective?" Are questions like it allowed, or are they Not Constructive?

ANNOYING INLINE EDIT #1: My example question appears to be a duplicate, but what about the general question: is it good subjective to ask for strategies and techniques for dealing with a problem?


3 Answers 3


I can go on at some length on such Layer 8 issues, and ended up discussing methods of just that last week at LISA. There are a variety of strategies to use, and a lot of it does depend on the management style you're working with.

Personally, I find these eminently answerable and good-subjective. If you've been in the job long enough, you're going to have to figure out how to handle management, and that's squarely in the middle of "...in a professional context."

However, I most definitely am a minority in thinking that.

  • 1
    I don't disagree, but we have The Workplace now - These questions were (and in a sense still are) on-topic here, but can we do a better job than the folks on Workplace?
    – voretaq7
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 0:15
  • 1
    Are the folks on Workplace going to even understand the issues surrounding such questions? Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 1:58
  • 2
    @voretaq7 That's beta, so I don't officially notice it yet. Though it does show promise.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 2:34
  • @MichaelHampton You'd be very surprised. Questions about justifying resourcing increases, or policy-driven behavior, can be very generic.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 2:35


Ultimately, those are not technical problems, they're layer 8 (people) problems, and they basically boil down to "what's the best way to eat this shit sandwich?" Also, the answer is invariably "don't, here's how you trick whatever dumbass into thinking you're giving him what he asked for (without actually giving it to him)."


My gut feeling is that this kind of question is really more appropriate for The Workplace than Server Fault. The core issue is more "How do I get management to come to their senses?" rather than "how do I mitigate this bad decision Management is forcing on me?"

That doesn't mean this is a "bad question", but I'm having trouble seeing how the solutions are technical when the core problem is political. It boiles down to "you can slap all the technical roadblocks in front of the boss that you want to, but he signs the check and if he says to take them down you do as you're told or you go pound sand."

  • I'm not talking just about a boss who wants to let his kid install games... How about a small company that doesn't have much IT and the staff that design and build products are currently managing their own systems (a mix of Windows and Ubuntu desktops). They don't want to give up control all at once, so in the meantime, what can be done to avoid or minimize problems? Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 22:44
  • @ward We have that question, too. Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 22:48
  • 1
    @MichaelHampton WTF? Some freak with a cross-eyed pony avatar answered that question with some suggestions... Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 23:00

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