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ServerFault is intended for professional sysadmins. I think that this is a good policy. It helps keep the site on focus.

Has there ever been thought into restricting membership to professional administrators?

I'm not suggesting how to do that, or even necessarily implying that it's possible. But since the focus is somewhat exclusionary, should the membership also be exclusionary?

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  • 3
    If you're a not a professional sysadmin, or you are a bad one, you'll have a hard time gaining karma. Therefore excluding yourself naturally.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 19:00
  • 4
    Well we'd prefer the bad ones stick around and read the questions/answers so they don't stay bad....
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 19:04
  • I think that some of the answers have pointed out that ServerFault is not for professional sysadmins. It's more that the questions have an implied preface of "Assuming I want to accomplish this in a maintainable manner …". Does that sound right? I guess what this is now pointing out to me is that "for professional systems administrators" doesn't really mean what we want it to mean.
    – wfaulk
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 20:25
  • @wfaulk in a maintainable manner doesn't pass muster. Home use questions are still explicitly excluded, even if your home is run like a tier 1 datacenter, and a newbie's idea of maintainable may be plain wrong. There is a (social) barrier to entry, it's just not one that can be codified as "member of professional organization", "licensed professional", etc. Our use of for Information Technology professionals and in a professional capacity are essentially a catch-all: there's probably a better way to phrase it, but we haven't found it yet.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 16:23
  • @voretaq7: But if a home user doesn't specify 'home', there's no way for us to know, nor, IMO, should we care, if it's still a question of use to the community. And there are professional newbies. Are they to be excluded from asking questions?
    – wfaulk
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 17:29
  • 2
    The reason for the "home setting" exclusion is to avoid all the people doing grossly stupid things in their living rooms and expecting the all-knowing sysadmins to just make their shit work. We (or at least I) don't want those questions. The generally accepted thing to do with a "Home Question" that otherwise meets our quality standard (and are of use to the community) is to edit out the "Home" bits. This is a double-standard, but the alternative is that those home users scream and cry and we've got nothing authoritative to point them to when we tell them to go to SuperUser.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 19:10
  • Re: "professional newbies", it was decided long ago that questions of that sort are ON Topic for Server Fault, as we're essentially an educational resource. Many of these folks may be doing grossly stupid "home-y" things in a production environment and will balk when the answer is "Don't do that - spend money on the right solution!", but our goal is to provide high-quality professional answers, not to make everyone feel good about bad infrastructure choices. Satisfaction not guaranteed, offer void where permitted, etc. :-)
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 19:12

3 Answers 3

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The problem with this is the unanswerable question:
How do you define a Professional System Administrator?

Unlike professionally licensed fields (architects, engineers, lawyers, doctors) there really isn't a unified (or even fractured) system for licensing / credentialing sysadmins (though arguably the profession would be well served by one given some of the people that pass for "sysadmins").

Similarly membership in a professional organization isn't a prerequisite -- even LOPSA (arguably the largest "sysadmin association") doesn't cover more than a tiny fraction of our active contributing membership.


Aside from the above, I think the idea of exclusionary membership runs counter to the principles underlying Stack Exchange -- Even though Server Fault is an oddity in that we're geared toward being a site "for professionals" the idea of open membership and a community-controlled meritocracy seems like a better fit than restricting who can say what.

Sometimes the best ideas come from the outside, and the community (SF and System Administration at large) should not be set up in a way that excludes outside voices. Better to hear them and then decide if they're crazy or not.

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I've always interpreted the requirement for professional sysadmins as referring to the job a person is doing and/or their ability to present issues here in a professional manner rather than membership of a professional association. While the latter is something I'd love to see in the industry anyway, it shouldn't be a requirement for posting here.

In other words, I see our requirement for professionalism as a quality bar for questions, not a barrier to entry for people asking those questions.

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  • +1 for the second paragraph. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 12:43
  • AOL!!!1!!!1!!!!
    – the-wabbit
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 14:58
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No, membership shouldn't be exclusive to "professionals."

No matter how professional is defined, people outside the definition can ask good questions or provide good answers so it doesn't make sense to exclude them. A likely scenario is someone who used to be a professional sysadmin but is now a developer or coffee roaster or something...

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  • You mean "exclude"?
    – wfaulk
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 20:27
  • Hey, were you just talking about me in chat? (but downvotes don't mean the same thing on meta, so dv+comment is a bit different) Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 20:46
  • I was. Didn't realize you were there. Was still interested to know.
    – wfaulk
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 20:58
  • While there are certainly some people outside the scope of SF who have asked and/or answered questions well, and sometimes extremely well, the reality is that they are very few and far between. I do however agree with your first sentence. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 12:41

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