The banner in the Comms Room says This is *NOT* a place for 'Live Support', ask on the main site. I think we all agree that we don't want this room to turn into "halp! halp! My production system exploded!" and that we want properly-scoped questions to turn into valuable content on the main site. That part's fine and I totally agree.

On the flip side, I've noticed that whenever anyone has any question, that banner gets posted. I'm guilty too. I'm very quick to take a screencap of it and make a freehand circle, but I think I've been wrong. Questions like product recommendations, general inquiries, or someone asking about a product that's still in the exploratory stage (before they have enough info to ask on main) should be OK in chat.

We already "give a pass" to regular chatters about this type of thing, why not make it officially OK. After all, the original idea of chat was to be a place for content related to the main site but not quite topical.

  • 2
    Not long enough to warrant an answer IMHO, but if someone joins TCR and needs help, and if there's someone with expereince and can help, then create a new, tempoary room for that converstion. If they ask it as a question on the main site, good, then use chat to work out as an answer and post the answer once it is known.
    – tombull89
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:16
  • IMO, the message was basically just there as a ward against help vampires. I don't have anything against reasonable questions. I both ask them, and answer them in chat.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 17:27
  • @Zoredache I agree, but I've seen a decent number of instances where any question from a low-rep user that isn't "hey, what's this room?" gets ridiculed
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:55
  • As most will know, I'm no fan of chat but when I did use it I was there to ask a question that was OT for the main site. This leads me to wonder, if chat isn't a place to ask questions, what is it for? Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 22:20
  • To network with other professionals. For example, I recently started doing side consulting work with someone I met in there. Also, more than one person has gotten a job via contacts made in chat.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 23:49
  • Even (or perhaps especially) while networking with other professionals, a conversation where no one asks anything is a conversation where no one learns anything ;)
    – DigitalMan
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 10:32
  • 1
    @DigitalMan We do talk shop all the time, but we expressly disallow "halp, walk me through restoring my exchange server!" and other questions like it. It's not that we don't want discussion, I just think we may be slightly overzealous in applying this policy at times. There's a line between discussion and hand-holding. I just want to make sure that line is being respected on both sides.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 20:13
  • I didn't become a regular in chat until I asked a simple question. I got a few answers that guided me in the right direction and since then I've become a regular chatter. I don't think it detracts from the chat aspect and several regulars do have questions regarding some things. It isn't one of those "walk me through restoring my exchange server" type of questions. I've learned a little bit from those with greater experiences then my own.
    – Travis
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 13:01

3 Answers 3


My short answer: I think the SF members in chat need to chill out a bit and consider that they also started out somewhere, and if someone has a legitimate question, maybe try and ask why they are asking rather then seeing it as live support.


I have to admit that I am one of the culprits with regards to asking. I am not a full time server admin, however because of my experience I often assist in server related issues and problems. I tend to rarely ask on ServerFault unless I know the question might be interesting to a system administrator.

However, I am having issues with an ISP to host some WordPress blogs, and decided to purchase a VPS and get started by myself. Getting the web server etc running was fairly straightforward with online help, but when it comes to mail, I am a total newbie. I recall in the past configure one linux mail server only to be told I should have used another, by an SF member actually, and decided to pop into chat to get some solid advice without making it a question on SF, since I didn't believe it was on-topic. However being a long standing SE member, I thought it I might just be pointed to the correct link on the web to read.

In short, I was basically told that I am asking for Live Support, and I should use what I am more comfortable with. My honest opinion, WTF? If I knew, I wouldn't have asked.

A copy of the chat can be found in the Chat Logs

  • 1
    That is a good example. You didn't even ask which mail server to use, you asked where to ask, and @pauska reply was a bit out of line. But keep in mind that particular question is approximately the same as which distro of linux should I use. You were in religious war territory, without knowing it. There are many MTAs that probably would do an adequate job for you, and there are very few references in existence that tell you what is not possible with each MTA, so you could at least exclude the possibilities that could never work.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 17:48
  • @Zoredache I respect that. More then anything. However it may not be the greatest example, but at the very least guidance isn't support? I had really hoped that would have opened up the discussion and honestly, there is a lot on the internet about it. I have since tried installing something using the most recent step by step, and still haven't figured out how to get it working. I do feel though that there is relevance to the OP's question with regards to the above. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 17:53
  • 2
    Right, and not picking on Pauska because I've done the same thing and so have many others, but this is the exact thing I'm talking about. If a regular asks something like that it would cause a discussion. If a low-rep SFer asks it, they usually (not always) get a much different reaction.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:49
  • 2
    @MDMarra I've said this before, but while we have to maintain our status as a site for pro admins we really need to be way more forgiving with people who lack experience. We weren't born with 10 years of infrastructure experience, and neither are they!
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 10:20
  • 1
    (didn't notice this until now) I'm sorry for being a bit grumpy, I was in a terrible mood that day. I should have answered in a more polite manner. Zoredache is still right, you're basically asking us what kind of car you should buy. But again, I'll try to be a bit more friendly and helpful in the future.
    – pauska
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 19:25
  • @pauska Firstly, no need to apologise. I over-reacted in my response, and to be honest, had no idea how to raise the topic since I knew it may be seen as live support. I should also not have used the word best. I can respect you had a difficult day, we all do, and sys admins more then others. I dropped it because to be honest I have been doing the whole VPS setup as a learning curve. After failing to get mail working I went with mail forwarding for now. I am really just trying to get expert advice and do it myself. I did not mean to single you out. For that I do apologise. Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 21:27

There's two issues here I think. Firstly we have to manage expectations - people cannot come into chat and expect to be able to have a discussion on whatever they want to talk about. It may be that the people in chat are not interested in a subject, or lack the knowledge to talk about it. We'd need to be careful about how we phrase making it "officially ok".

Secondly, I think there's a difference between asking for live support and having discussions or talking about products (effectively a product recommendation) and the latter are fine have in chat. We need to encourage those without encouraging people who want their problem debugged by someone live.

I think the culture of our chat is closer to "having a chat at the bar after work" rather than "standing around the water cooler at work" and I kinda like that. I do think we need to make it clear that discussions are welcome in chat, but not live troubleshooting.

Perhaps something like "Discussions are welcome but questions should be on the main site" except without the suck would capture it?


To some extent this already exists. If someone asks a question on the main site and a comment conversation starts, then the parties are invited to go to chat. If they accept then a chat room is created and the discussion surrounding the question is captured and correctly attributed for posterity.

I doubt that most people who drop in looking for support really want to ask on the main site and having had their question answered I doubt they would then go and ask it, so it can be answered correctly. This deprives the community and the internet in general of good quality Q&A.

  • 1
    Right, I'm talking more specifically about questions that aren't appropriate for the main site but are still sysadmin related and aren't about production issues. Things like "What do you guys use to monitor 100+ Windows Servers that's free or low cost" or other similar questions that obviously aren't good for main, but also aren't like "halp halp! Exchange is broken!" which is the type of chatter that we're trying to avoid.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:16
  • If someone comes into chat saying "halp halp! Exchange is broken!" then they need a consultant rather than live support. I don't think SE have an issue of offering services in chat (as it were) but that's probably another question.
    – tombull89
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:21
  • @tombull89 I don't think SE offers services in chat but for SO, for example, they'll have a C# chat room, a perl chat room, a python chat room, etc and people use those rooms to discuss their languages... and to talk the usual nonsense like us, I suspect.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 15:44
  • @MDMarra: I don't believe the injunction on live support is anything more than cutsom and practice by the regulars. Why not just create a new room for what you're proposing, you could even bookmark interesting conversations and if it's kept clean and on topic so to speak it could become a valuable resource, unlike TCR which is largely a sewer.
    – user9517
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 16:27
  • @Iain Because it would a) turn into the existing room, or b) not be visited.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .