The comment thread and reaction to the original poster of this question was completely out-of-line.


This went from something that could have been informative to a absurd attack on developers...

I'm not sure why people piled on the original poster. Some of the responses were disrespectful. Start-ups with dev-only teams are not an uncommon scenario these days, and there are plenty of situations where access to a qualified systems engineer isn't easy.

I understand that there's friction between the traditional systems administration community and the increased presence of DevOps and developer-driven architectures, but it's here to stay!! There will be more Ubuntu questions, more basic infrastructure inquiries from people who have had little experience with enterprise hardware and definitely more people who haven't "paid their dues" in the same way old-school sysadmins have... New paradigm.

But it's not an excuse to berate someone coming to Server Fault for help. "Hire a sysadmin" isn't constructive on its own...

  • 10
    I don't condone the condescension in that comment thread, but of all the beat-down questions to stick up for, that one? It was not asked by an IT professional that is within scope of the FAQ, it could not be answered because of it's staggering breadth, and even if it could be answered it would likely not be fully grasped because the subject material would not be within the scope of the OP's base of knowledge. So what was the appropriate answer? "Contract a SysAdmin lest you hurt your fledgling business before it even leaves the gates."
    – Wesley
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 6:54
  • 8
    The OP was target for being a developer. That dev status was the reason for the hatin'. The question was rightfully closed quickly, but it's comment thread that followed that seemed particularly-nasty.
    – ewwhite
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 11:44
  • 5
    I agree, the hostility was unnecessary. I tried, in my comment, to present a reasonable explanation, without casting blame or negativity. Perhaps I could have done better, though.
    – EEAA
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 12:28
  • 6
    @MichaelHampton I'm sorry but I don't agree with you here. I thought that your comment "DevOps means that you talk to your sysadmins [etc]" was a little rude and that SAFX responded to that. Considering your reputation I'm sure you didn't mean it that way. I guess this is a lesson that the way someone interprets a message can depend more on the mindset/mood of the reader than that of the writer. I had a flaming row with a co-worker once: blaming each other for being rude while neither thought he was. I guess the only solution is to realise it and don't hold a grudge it when it happens :-) Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 21:33
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    This behavior is a large part of why I haven't been coming by anymore. Unfortunately, it's not only focused on Developers; I've seen the dogpile on what I thought were useful and valuable questions because they didn't fit explicitly within the explicitly-allowed bounds of the FAQ. SF has a toxic feel now, and the only reason that I can see is that too many high-rep users have become jaded.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 1:35
  • 5
    @Iain To hell with that (giving up)... if we do that, we may as well just tell the SE team to merge the site with SuperUser, log off and never return. It's probably a losing battle, but I see nothing wrong with using the VTCs, downvotes and comments "as intended" on the many off-topic, not-constructive and/or just plain crappy questions we see every day. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 15:43
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    Thank you for illustrating my point so well, @HopelessN00b - I can't read your text in a tone other than dripping with contempt, scorn, and haughtiness. Here's the thing: a community that isn't growing is at-best stagnant. (In reality it's dying.) If you are unwelcoming to the new people (never mind being hostile), they will not stay. And they'll tell others that it's filled with BOFHs. Simon Travaglia's stories are funny (because they're not true), but nobody wants to work with or be around that guy.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 19:06
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    Speaking as a relative newbie to SF, I've not found the site unfriendly. But then I'm not a newbie sysadmin - what I find frustrating here are questions like the one linked, where there's no understanding of the scope of the problem and an unwillingness from the OP:s side to accept that this isn't something that can or should be reduced to a pat list of answers off of a web site.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 7:32
  • 8
    @HopelessN00b it would be great if people read my carefully-prepared docs, & I hate (HATE!) when people reply to my email asking a Q which I'd already addressed THAT VERY THING. But I don't know anyone who hasn't done that - The best Devs, Sys/Ops folks, and non-tech people have all done it. Even me! Slack should be cut, especially for new people. It used to be harshly responded to if you should answer a (easily google-able) SF question with a LMGTFY link, but even that is a better user experience for the OPs than "READ THE FAQ, N00b!" & "This question isn't professional enough" remarks.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 12:53
  • 7
    It's only natural to want to be around people just like you. But this is a place where people are supposed to be able to get assistance. Yes, we have a narrowly-defined scope where SO and SU are pretty broad, I have long been concerned at our harsh enforcement of "Professional". While I personally have a high standard of people with whom I'd like to work, I'm pretty lenient with regards to people asking questions of me.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 12:54
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    On my long-ago Day 1 of being a Professional SysAd, I didn't know much and had to ask a lot of basic questions. I didn't know much, but I was still a "Professional SysAd", and needed help with questions in "a professional capacity". I'm glad that I wasn't relying on the SF of today back then.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 12:54
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    Yes, the question ewwhite presented was weak, but the way that it was handled could have been much better. Us repeatedly saying "hire a SysAd" when the OP made it clear that it wasn't an option is futile. What to do then? Well, instead of continuing to say "Hire a SysAd", an answer that would actually be helpful is "Managing systems is a significant undertaking, but here are some guides", and provide links to articles and documentation! Y'know, maybe attempt to help.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 12:55
  • 9
    @HopelessN00b Yes, there is a lot of crap out in the world. Yes, it's frustrating to say the same things repeatedly. Yes, they should read the FAQ. But the fact that you even think of them as "lusers" illustrates contempt and hostility, where a Q/A site should fundamentally be about helping people. You yourself have done a fine job of earning a high reputation in the short amount of time that you've been a part of the site. But you demonstrate an amazing amount of scorn for the people who most need your expertise.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:36
  • 6
    As a relatively new user, I can see both sides of this problem. This site would not nearly be as useful to me without the "IT professionals" slant. Simultaneously, I can see the overzealous attempts to police in action, and have even allowed them to model my own behavior incorrectly in some places. (@EEAA had to straighten me out once) tl;dr, I think there is a great deal of value in trying to maintain the balance. I disagree with "giving up", I disagree with being "too welcoming", I disagree with "being outright rude". Just because a balance is tough does not mean it lacks merit.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 19:16
  • 6
    @Amicable - I'd say that is turning it the wrong way around. You shouldn't be setting up a dev environment to mirror a work environment; you should set up a secure and production-ready environment to develop on and then copy that environment into production. Both jobs require that you understand the scope and risks inherent in systems administrations on the internet. Setting up dev for a startup without the skills to setup production is a huge risk and will haunt them for years to come - if they survive that long.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 13:18

8 Answers 8


As a long time lurker ServerFault is infamously known for its hostility. Several times I have considered reporting certain users due to their consistent history of attacking the OP and arrogance with their knowledge. That doesn't make a healthy Q&A site.

I also disagree with the idea that eliminating the "professional capacity" requirement will drive experts away. Take a look at StackOverflow's top monthly users, most have large amounts of reputation and experience. Even with the massive amount of low quality questions they are still doing fine.

In this case the main problem is not the question itself, its the broadness of the question. To me its perfectly reasonable to close the question as NARQ since building a public server means talking about OS level security, firewall security, application security, secure coding practices, etc. That's a lot for a single question

What I do NOT agree with are the multiple users who flat out attack the OP. Yes, in an ideal situation you would hire a sysadmin (or at least outsource it). However, in an ideal situation you would also hire a lawyer for every single non-critical law question you have instead of googling, hire a general contractor to install a dishwasher or stove, you would never fix your car yourself and instead go to a certified mechanic, and you would never attempt repairs computer or phone problems by yourself. However, I bet most people do things like this on their own even though there's risk of damaging something but ended up doing just fine in 90% of cases

The proper response would be similar to law questions: "IANAL, but..."

The proper and best thing to do is hire a sysadmin or at least outsource it. They will know how to secure the system better and manage it in a production environment.

If this is absolutely not an option, the following resources will be helpful in getting you started. Note that you have real risk of suffering downtime, security vulnerabilities, and system instability, but these resources will attempt to limit those. Try to make it a goal though to have a sysadmin as soon as you can

  • link to the several hardening Linux/LAMP questions
  • link to a description of different services
  • link to why desktop GUI is bad on a server (multiple questions on this, could also use Windows Server Core as an example)

Now was that so hard? You've made very clear this is the wrong way to do things and may cause bad things, but have provided a long list of resources to help get the OP started. This both discourages the behavior but answers the question in a nice easy way. You get the best of both worlds

  • 7
    It's nice to say you don't agree that removing the professional requirement will drive away expert users, but we've already had a number of high-rep users leave the site because it's not professional enough, or there's too many crap questions. The most recent departee is John Gardeniers. Yes, he often was an ass who wouldn't suffer stupidity, but he was also a seasoned SA, and an expert answerer. The site will suffer for not having him as a resource anymore. He's also not the first to leave for this reason, nor will he be the last. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:02
  • 23
    I respectfully disagree about John. John is very smart, and an expert in many fields, but his inability to keep his scorn out of his answers greatly decreases the value of his answers.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 16:22
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    @HopelessN00b In those cases, if a user writes answers like "You dumbass, how did you not know to do X" or "If you don't know that you probably shouldn't be a sysadmin" (I actually saw an answer like that before), then they really should be kicked out of the community regardless of their expertise. Attacking others does NOT build a community, it destroys it
    – TheLQ
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 17:19
  • 9
    @gWaldo Maybe I am becoming too cranky in my age as SA Consultant, but I never had an issue with John's tone on SO or on the Home Improvement sites. It's very frustrating to experts when people want free information, but only with a minimal effort on their part.
    – tegbains
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 7:11
  • 10
    @tegbains If you never had a problem with John's tone, then that is fine. For you. But many of the posts that I'd seen in the past two years began with him being unnecessarily hostile with no gain. If he had cut out the opinions and only left the actually useful part of his answers, I could not be more pleased with his answers. Yes, I get frustrated with my users, and have to fight the urge to LMGTFY them. But here on SF (where it is not your job), there's absolutely no call to be an ass. If you don't want to answer a question (especially because there is no effort), then DON'T.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 13:53
  • 9
    @TheLQ If someone posting on a site for professional sysadmins does not know the basics of using the operating systems they're working with, then I'd say that the latter answer is at the very least not incorrect. And I have seen questions like that here.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 14:39
  • 3
    "As a long time lurker ServerFault is infamously known for its hostility." - Agreed. Many times, I'll ask a question I have elsewhere simply because I know that here, I'll get screamed at. FYI: I'm a developer who does a lot of sysadmin and networking work. Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 18:09
  • 4
    Maybe this is just a technical problem? How about an option that you want to see only questions with an upvote result of x or higher? The questions who make certain experts angry due to the lazyness (or cluelessness) of the asker will not even get to two. This would even make upvotes more valuable: "Upvote a good question to make it reach a broader audience." Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 2:28

I've noticed a fair amount of hostility towards questions that originate from people who are obviously developers. In most cases, the negativity isn't as blatant as this example, but I frequently spot on topic questions being VTC as 'Off Topic' simply because a developer has asked the question.

Now according the FAQ, "Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity". It doesn't say it's for "System Administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity".

A developer who is asking for help trying to set up a server for whatever reason, is somebody who is an Information Technology Professional that also needs help from experts related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity. So what's the problem?

The FAQ says nothing about Server Fault being exclusively for systems administrators to help other systems administrators. If this is the case, then I think the FAQ should be updated to reflect this.

It isn't unusual for somebody to be employed to develop software and manage computer systems, and as stated by the poster of the question, he believes he knows enough to implement any changes that are required, but just wants some pointers on what he needs to be looking at. Personally, I think the correct approach to the question would have been to either VTC as 'Not Constructive', and point the user to the FAQ, as I think they've asked an open ended/chatty question. Had the OP had asked for help with something specific, then it would have been a different matter.

  • 3
    We occasionally get quotes like 'My IT tell me..' or similar which suggests that some developers at least don't consider themselves IT.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 10:19
  • 2
    That's a good point @Iain, it isn't always clear cut, and questions need to be considered on a case by case basis, rather than having a blanket rule applied.
    – user11604
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 11:23
  • 1
    The test is "do they have control of the systems they are working with" - if they don't, then in that context they are an end-user.
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 6:36
  • 3
    @Andrew: "do they have control of the systems they are working with ... and it's not their personal workstation" works better.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 9:25
  • 3
    In my shop, the Developers are part of the IT department on the org chart, but as @Andrew points out, the only systems they have control over are their own workstations and the development servers. They don't touch the production servers without submitting a ticket explaining exactly why (i.e. for which job) they need the access, and what access they need. Then they get the access to perform that job, then the access is again pulled.
    – Adrien
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 17:38
  • 2
    Just an importantly God help you if you are a new sysadmin and ask a question. You'll never find a question like this stackoverflow.com/questions/1137158/what-is-a-variable on SF, which is a shame
    – Jim B
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 14:31
  1. What hostility?

    • Telling a developer "hire a sysadmin" might not be the answer he's looking for, but it's hardly hostile, disrespectful or unreasonable in response to a question that amounts to "what sysadmining do I need to do?" Of course, that's not exactly useful as an answer, hence it being said in the comments.

  2. Turn it around.

    • Dear Stackoverflow, What coding things do I need to do for my web servers? I run a start-up that can't afford to hire programmers, so I'm just looking for the bare essentials I need to do get my production webservers coded.

  3. This was never in danger of being anything informative.

    • This was textbook Not Construcitve / NARQ. Impossibly broad, a topic you could write a book on (in addition to the books that already exist on the topic), and at least 6 questions in one question post to boot.

    • We have a FAQ, which the OP obviously didn't read. It could possibly, maybe, with a lot of work be on-topic over at Unix and Linux, or even here, if there was a compelling reason to overlook the fact that the OP is not an Information Technology Professional, but at it heart, "what do I need to do to make my [Ubuntu] servers production-ready" is a book, not a good question for a Q&A site like ServerFault is supposed to be.

    • Serverfault is not a site to give 101-level Systems Administration advice to... well, users. That would be the unbearable part of my job, not anything I'm willing to do for free, off the clock. Again, this is supposed to a be a from IT pros, to IT pros site, so this kind of question simply doesn't belong.

  • 5
    Regarding point #2: A better analogue would be "I'm trying to develop a basic wiki using MySQL and PHP, what are some of the basic steps I should be aware of?" And that is a perfectly valid, beginner question. Point #3: It's not "impossibly broad" this topic is routinely covered in whitepapers and even on forum posts ("what's the first things you do when prepping a public-facing server?") Also, in the context of this question, this person wasn't a "user", he was asking an admin question.
    – jamieb
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 12:36
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    @jamieb The whitepaper ewwhite linked to for the OP to read (not as a complete answer) was 188 pages. If you want to say that a question, to which a partial answer is 188 pages long is anything other than impossibly broad, then whatever, there's not much point in discussing it with you. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 15:38
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    So if one of your paying clients asked you the question 'how do you do foo', you think a terse hire a sysadmin response, would be the one that would keep you getting paid? The question was poor, yes I think we all agree, but saying only hire a sysadmin, is almost never a useful answer or comment all by itself.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 23:09
  • 1
    I think it's irrelevant whether someone asking a question is an "Information Technology Professional". Answers can and should assume that the audience consists of IT professionals however. And questions can be edited to match the intended audience too! Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:01
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    @Zoredache - if they are a paying client, then I am their sysadmin already. Why would I tell them to hire someone else unless I disagreed with them on an ethical level? The situations of an in-person conversation with a paying client and a question on SF are vastly different. "Hire a sysadmin" cuts to the chase and prevents a long, drawn-out discussion on "why" they should hire one, in which SF is not the appropriate format to have that discussion anyway.
    – August
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:49
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    @KennyEvitt Spoken like someone who's never given an IT-professional-appropriate answer to a non-IT-professional. It never goes over well, and causes only frustration for both the asker and answerer. Never mind the fact that it's explicitly stated in the FAQ, and if a person's not going to even read and follow that, they're not going to be a useful community member anyway. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 17:53
  • 6
    @HopelessN00b – your comment is arguably rude, which is also a violation of something in the FAQ", but my point was that there is a natural audience of interested (and even intelligent) people that aren't literally IT professionals, and they could benefit from questions and answers that are nevertheless written for that audience. For instance, there are many developers that are more knowledgeable about systems administration than most IT professionals. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:10

This is going to be short because I think the other answers have the other angles covered.

There is very clearly an identity struggle going on here. I'm picking up three main themes:

  • The "IT professionals" standard:
    It's hard to maintain in the face of least common denominator, but it's what makes this SE site unique.
  • Not scaring away new users:
    Some people are genuinely clueless. Some are genuinely confrontational assholes who don't care about the rules and just want you to make their problem go away. Somewhere in the middle of there are well-meaning people who make mistakes, and potentially the next generation of SF users. These are the ones we don't want to scare away.
  • Not having the time to invest in helping everyone who can't be bothered to read about our subject matter:
    Flies in the face of not scaring away new users at a glance, but not entirely. We can't afford to use a delicate touch in all cases or we'll never get anything done. Worse, we'll get burnt out from going through the motions constantly with people who aren't salvageable.

All of these points are legitimate when acting as checks and balances to each other, but cannot exist in vacuum. Speaking as a relatively new SF user but a decently experienced sysadmin: if you completely disregard any of these bullet points, the value of the site is destroyed in my eyes. Going "all in" with any single one of these approaches is self-defeating.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: we're all doing this in our spare time, and we can only afford to invest as much effort into things as a person is willing to put into a question.

New people will make mistakes, but so long as you can perceive effort or intent toward building a good question or contributing (even if misdirected, i.e. off-topic), it's worth an attempt to help steer them toward being better at doing so. The people who can't be bothered (and there are many) are the ones you can't afford to spend much time on, if any at all.

If in doubt, err on the side of helping someone out. If someone can't be bothered to put in the effort, be concise without being rude, or let your downvote do the talking. Just don't spend much time on them.

  • "... let your downvote do the talking" – or just let the lack of your upvote do the talking! Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:16
  • @Kenny True enough, but I'd still prefer a downvote to someone being rude if they really disapprove of something. That's mostly what I was trying to get at.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:17
  • – I agree with that, and the rest of your answer too. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:21
  • 1
    @KennyEvitt: That's not talking it's keeping your mouth shut! Vote appropriately based on the hover text guidance and your own judgement is the only way forward.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 8:03
  • 2
    If you're worried about downvotes being taken the wrong way, leave a constructive comment. And on the receiving end, if you think a Q/A has received a prohibitive number of downvotes and want to "start over", then delete and do just that. (provided that you are in fact starting over from scratch with what you've learned)
    – Andrew B
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 13:45

What's the problem with the comments?

I thought the comments were basically valid, if just a little bit harsh. I also agree with Michael Hampton in that the OP is the first one who bristled when they didn't get a nice answer chock full o' pointers and links for them to reference. I think the following comments were at least partly in reaction to the bristling by the OP when it became clear they didn't want to hear good advice. From a sysadmin perspective we would totally put the brakes on something like this if we saw it crop up in our environments, because we know better than to try and implement:

"...the minimum things we should do before going live in production to ensure that we don't subject the server to any security or other malicious exploits".

Since the OP doesn't have any sysadmins they don't have anyone on the inside telling them "maybe we should rethink this". They're a dev-driven shop as many start-ups are, and they will find out the hard way when they put an insecure server out there on the interwebs. Unfortunately, I think the OP walked away from their experience thinking most of the people on SF are rude and not helpful instead of going back to their team and saying "We should contract with a sysadmin to make sure we are deploying things properly and aren't putting insecure things into production."

"Here at Chotchkies we don't like to do the bare minimum..."

As we know, there is no such thing as "the minimum" when it comes to security. All it takes is one vulnerability and you are done, and the comments were in response to the lack of understanding of this concept in the OP's question. That plus it was impossibly broad to answer in the Q&A format of SF. Also we would never try to barely understand something, read a "Ubuntu for Dummies" hardening guide, throw it into production, and hope for the best without understanding the concepts behind the hardening guidelines and the best way to implement them.

It was also obvious from the OP that they didn't want to understand anything about what they were asking. They just wanted some guide or basic pointers to doing the "minimum" to get their code or whatever into prod, which goes against the grain of every decent sysadmin. This being the case, nobody here wants to give pointers or waste their time on any amount of half-hearted advice to an OP who doesn't even want the full answer in the first place. So what happens? The "old salts" who have been on here awhile cut right to the chase, because they have seen this whole thing play out before and they know better. They know whatever they say isn't really going to be implemented well or at all so they want nothing to do with it and discourage the whole thing altogether.

How could things have gone differently?

Well, nothing was really wrong with the content of the comments since they spoke the truth. The way in which that content was delivered could have been a little softer like saying:

"Your question is far too broad to be answered in a Q&A format like SF. I suggest you start with understanding the OS better instead of focusing 100% on the app side of it before you decide to throw it into prod, because if you don't, you will have many more issues down the road."

Or maybe we could come up with a canonical answer on why the OP's general approach is not a good idea, and why baking in good sysadmin practices from the beginning is a good idea? Whether or not they accept it is up to them, but at least they may not feel like their wrist just got slapped for asking something that is perfectly acceptable to ask on SO... Ahh... I think therin lies the answer that keeps surfacing time and time and time and time again... SF is not like SO and nobody coming to the site realizes it despite the many discussions and attempts at differentiating SF from its bigger, older brother. I'm not going to try and offer any suggestions on successfully doing this other than saying one thing:

Maybe SF should take it's own advice, admit that the community does not know how to accomplish this and contract with a marketing person/company who has experience on how to differentiate SF from SO enough so that it will be obvious to new people coming to the site.

Finally, lain mentions that SF "...has unfortunately descended to the lowest common denominator and like so many other places is just somewhere else for the clueless, feckless, hapless ... to to ask crappy questions." The last part is true since SF is open to anyone to ask questions, but as far as I know it is still up to the "old salts" to ensure that the first part never happens by shooting down questions like this in one way or another.

  • 1
    You're not entirely correct when you say "... perfectly acceptable to ask on SO ...". There are certainly examples of questions that might lead one to believe that SO is much more lax in closing overly broad questions, but I think that's more a function of the larger number of users on the site. There are many (zealous) moderators on SO too and has the same basic conflict as exemplified by this question. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:58
  • +1 for "contract with a marketing person/company". That just made a Saturday at work slightly better for this dev, entrepreneur who masquerades as a sysadmin by necessity.
    – Krista K
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 20:08

The hostility both on this site and on SO sadden me greatly. To my surprise, I discovered just now that the SF FAQ explicitly covers "civility" under the "Etiquette" section:

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated.

The proper way to handle the referenced question, and any overly broad questions generally, would have been to close the question and add a comment pointing to the FAQ.

It's disingenuous to cite the FAQ as a reason to close questions while simultaneously violating the FAQ to berate and abuse others.

I think the real problem is that the SE sites won't just accept 'broad' questions. As there are many such questions with excellent (and comprehensive) answers on the various sites, it's obviously not true that the sites can't handle such questions. And it would certainly simplify a lot of people's searches for relevant info to be able to expect such questions on these sites. Why couldn't the "... bare essentials ..." question have been such an example?

  • 2
    I agree RE: civility, disagree RE: broadness. The focused nature of SE is what drives up the value of the answers. Avoidance of broad discussions don't have a definitive "answer" is one of the characteristics significantly distinguishing these sites from forums and it should probably remain that way.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 17:44
  • 3
    I disagree. SO and SF at least are filled with low-value questions. And 'broad' questions aren't necessarily discussions. But regardless of where we could agree to draw the line on when a question becomes a discussion, there are excellent questions with excellent answers that are widely considered to be too broad according to the site FAQs. And yet the sites themselves seem perfectly capable of letting users accumulate and organize that info. The hostility on these sites tho is definitely one of the main aspects driving away users new and old alike. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:14

The question itself probably needed more details and that kinda didn't reflect what the OP had done (which was bad). I might not asking questions on SF as much as I wish I could (or answering), but if I did, I'd want to provide as much information on what I'm doing.

If I'd asked this question, I'd have started with - not all of this would be best practice, but its a good starter

"I'm running $webserver with $mods, $database on (the same/seperate) server allowing access to $specific/any ip address, and using $programming_language. I've also put in place key based/password based logins. $class_of_people have access to the system through a group/account." Asking what he's done so far might have narrowed the scope of the question.

On SF's part, I've noticed massive pride in the number of questions that are closed. People run out of closevotes routinely. Quality control is awesome but, if we're going to try to balance having quality questions with not scaring newbies right as soon as we get here, we're probably going to have to engage in some handholding. Keep closing shitty questions, but rather than saying "hire a sysadmin", maybe we can point out what would make the question itself better - where something is explicitly out of the FAQ's scope, point out the specific part. THEN close the question.

I hate to say it, but I sort of think closing the question as quickly as it was was part of the issue - a lot of this might have been, I suspect better off posted as an answer, without a character limit. Could we have gone "You're better off hiring a sysadmin, since there's many broad areas of security" posted a VERY broad answer, and handled this better?

I guess we do have a site culture that dosen't suffer idiots gladly. I think thats great, and I've learnt a lot from you guys. I do think its possible to balance QC with not being SE's dark scary place.

  • 1
    <3 "...not being SE's dark scary place."
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 16:28

Original question was WAY too broad. Akin to asking: I'm starting a new company, what are the basic things I need to do to prepare i.e. HR policies, plan for bad debt collection, accounting software we need, payroll, that sort of thing.

Just securing a server alone is a non-trivial task. There are many tools and techniques. If you're a developer, imagine someone asks you: I need to make a database, what's are the basic things i need to do make it efficient and secure?

  • 3
    Agreed. Any question that basically can be rewritten as "take all your years of study, experience, and training, and condense them to a checklist for my use" is at the very least clueless. The very first response was concise and clear - which IMAO is not hostile. The hostility started when the poster did not accept that answer.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 10:11

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