There's been discussion on chat for quite a while now about creating a canonical question along the lines of:

Q: Our last guy who was our expert in system XYZ left, HALP?

A: Hire someone.

Q: I'm not a systems admin and I broke something, HALP?

A: Hire someone.

Q: I'm the sole IT guy and they're asking me to do XYZ, HALP?

A: Hire someone.

i.e. a whole category of questions where the correct professional response seems to be "Hire a consultant / replacement because you need a professional sysadmin / expert in XYZ".

Related: Unqualified "professionals"

If not a canonical question, then a section in the Help Center.


Edit: the new close reasons are looking like a good way to go with this.

  • 7
    I used to just say "Contact me for consultancy via the email address in my profile". Problem is, hardly anyone is willing to pay for it. Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 8:06

4 Answers 4


I disagree with this, because this is way too broad, and it's unhelpful, and it will encourage people to hit people on the head with this question instead of, you know, helping them.

There is a time and a place when advising someone to get professional help is appropriate, but it should not be the first answer. Otherwise, this answer could basically apply to everything.

I'm not really seeing a problem that this fixes.

  • 6
    +1 -- "Hire a professional" is frequently the right answer, but unlike software licensing it's not something that lends itself to a blanket "point everyone who lacks the requisite skills here" answer because often we can help them develop the skills, or at least point them in the right direction.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 2:13

This is not a good idea. We have enough of a problem with being snippy around here without being able to rattle off a 'U NOOB! HIRE A SYSADMIN!' with a link to a canonical answer saying so.

That is REALLY going to put people off the site.

  • 5
    So what do you suggest we answer when the only reasonable solution is to hire a sysadmin?
    – Jenny D
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 6:54
  • 3
    Then we can tell them so. But we don't want to make it to easy to do so, I think that'll end up harming us in the end. We do have the FAQ to which we can point them, specifically: "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much."
    – MikeyB
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 16:57
  • Also, folks who ask questions where the answer will invariably be “Hire a professional.” really won’t be receptive to hire a professional. If they understood they need a professional, they would have hired one to begin with & not expecting free advice from an online community. Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 1:55

I don't think it's a good idea...and I honestly don't see it come up that often.

Who actually posts questions on this site? It's not "non-IT" folks from other departments/professions posting questions, 99% of the time I'd venture it is someone in IT or at least been given the responsibility of administering whatever they are asking about (otherwise it's closed as OT, such as "my boss is blocking Facebook, how can I get around it?)

The IT person posting may not have professional expertise in the particular subject matter, but turning them away immediately without giving them the benefit of trying to help them out seems kind of cold and unfriendly, especially if the user is new here.

Questions shouldn't drag on as if they were a call to support, but if the question is framed correctly for the site it shouldn't immediately warrant a "go hire someone noob!" response.

I often feel bad for someone that shows up here saying "I inherited" or "I'm not an expert in this matter", etc. when they write a well thought out question. There are times when I have to ask a Linux question here and wouldn't want the Linux folks to simply assume I can't be prodded in the right direction because I'm used to Windows.

  • 3
    If you look at who is asking the questions on SF and in particular their Rep you will see that the majority would not naturally consider themselves within our target market of systems/network/desktop support professionals. ~70% of the people asking questions have more Rep on SO which means that primarily they are programmers ... I don't work on my car because I don't have the skills to do so - why allow someone without skills to run a companies IT ?
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 6:33
  • So throw out a blanket statement? I can't overhaul an engine but given a little guidance changing out the spark plugs isn't that hard.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 13:09
  • 1
    I recently couldn't find the spark plugs on my BMW Mini and when I was shown them by a mechanic I realised that even if I had found them I couldn't without a special tool - knowing in theory and being equipped are different things. Far too many people ask questions here who shouldn't be allowed near a server.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 15:28
  • 2
    So then the sequence here on SF for you would have been: 1) Iain asks "where are my spark plugs?" 2) MDMarra answers with "Go here to x and look in Y" 3) You comment with "found them...still lost" 4) MDMarra comments with "time to hire a pro". The first reply shouldn't be "haha you don't know where your spark plugs are...go away noob...hire a pro". You have the stats so if 70% of the people asking here are from SO, do we autoreply to anyone like that with "hire a pro" and only work with the other 30%? The site wouldn't exist if everyone in IT knew everything about IT.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 13:35
  • 1
    Just imagine the quality of SF without the river of shit generated by the 70%. The scope of SF is immense but it's target market is tiny. In reality it was I need new spark plugs, can't see them - take it to a garage - I am aware of my limitations - unlike many who seek to play serverfault.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 15:26
  • I do understand your points, I guess in my mind SF can fall into either a "come one come all" site or be a niche site for experienced IT pros to discuss higher end issues they face. The latter obviously would have less users/traffic but higher brow content. Think community college vs. MIT. The idea was never to be the "Yahoo Answers of IT" I get that. I just don't get the comments when the substance of my answer was no different than Mikey or Mark's, in that I don't think a canonical would help.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 16:30

On one hand I think this is a great idea. When your production mission critical application is down and you are out of your depth a true professional takes a step back, realizes they are in over their head and hires someone who has the knowledge to immediately stabilize the situation and get the company back up and running. This truly is the right answer in some cases.

On the other hand I agree with @TheCleaner. We should not turn away operations folks who have inherited something ugly or who are trying to fix something that's outside of their field of experience, which is generally not supported or documented, and they are likely doing so under duress. We can all assume that as professionals, they will know when to make the call to get outside help and that it is a bit presumptuous of the community to second guess them on that.

I suggest a modification of the original proposal. The "XYZ, HLP?" questions are invariably going to be closed as off-topic. Professionals, even those trying to solve a "the chips are down and I've never worked with technology $XYZ before" type of problems are most likely not going to ask questions that will be closed as off-topic.

I think the non-professionals (again, as defined under professional capacity) would benefit from a "SHTF. I'm not in Systems/Networking/Operations but have been tasked with this burden. We don't have a support contract. We don't have an outside vendor or contractor. The Boss says "Fix it" HALP?" canonical answer explaining why, again "as professionals" we cannot assist them in fixing it and that they and their organization will be best served in the long run, with an emergency budget appropriation, an expert and maybe a short bit on why it's worth paying money for one in such situations.

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