As everyone should be aware by now, a new off-topic close dialog has been implemented network-wide.

The new system offers us the opportunity to customize our off-topic close reasons, and This post is here to allow the community to propose and vote on our custom off-topic reasons.

We are allowed three custom reasons by default, though this may be expanded with appropriate justification.

locked by voretaq7 Jul 25 '13 at 15:00

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. See the help center for guidance on writing a good question.

Read more about locked posts here.

  • 3
    Without trying to sound negative about what you're proposing (because I'm all for it), I think it would be good to clear up some of the conflicts between the help page and the about page first so we know exactly what is and isn't off topic before we start thinking about changing close reasons. – Bryan Jun 27 '13 at 19:42
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    @Bryan Clearing up the ambiguity there is a good idea, but I don't think that single point substantially affects the scope of this question - I will bring up the Dev Tools vs Dev Environment thing in Chat though (I don't think it warrants a meta post since either way to resolve it is a small change, and most of our Meta users are in chat) – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 19:51
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    I'm not disagreeing, but the number of questions with close votes relating to developer stacks or desktop software isn't insignificant, they are constantly appearing. Hence why I think it's best to clarify the rules before we think about enforcing them. – Bryan Jun 27 '13 at 19:57
  • It isn't just a single point, the meta question I posted sited one example. For another example, refer to Dennis' comment to an answer to this question. I agree with him that cpanel should be off topic, but I know of a number of businesses that use cpanel for their hosting needs, and they have pro sys admins that manage it. Strictly speaking by the wording of the help/about pages, cpanel appears to be on topic here. (Managing computer systems in a professional manner). – Bryan Jun 27 '13 at 20:17
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    I propose: "Closed as off topic because WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!" – Wesley Jun 27 '13 at 20:29
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    @Bryan Some twit defended cPanel as being potentially on-topic a while back and got a lot of people to agree with him - If I ever get my hands on him I'll beat him sensible. (Oh wait, it was me. Yeah - I kinda regret that defense now.) cPanel and the like aren't expressly forbidden topics, but the questions about them tend to be uniformly horrible and asked by non-professionals from a point-and-drool standpoint. IMHO those are properly closed as "Asker isn't a professional" – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 21:35
  • OK, voting has closed :-) This post is locked while the final language is worked out – voretaq7 Jul 25 '13 at 15:00

16 Answers 16


Ok, I'll bite.

We need a "You have no idea what you are doing, hire a professional" close reason, but without sounding as condescending as that.

ServerFault is supposed to be for professional sysadmins. Well meaning novices/amateurs/non-sysadmins-tasked-with-sysadmin-tasks should be and feel welcome, but for people who are a mile up shit creek without a paddle, quite frequently the best answer is "hire somebody who actually knows what he is doing".

Maybe phrase it as:

You need more support than we can provide.

From your question and/or responses, it is very clear that you are not a professional systems administrator but are in need of one. Server Fault is a site dedicated to professionals, novice questions like this are off-topic and the best advice we can give you is to hire a professional to help you out.

  • 2
    Yes, since ServerFault is one of the few StackExchanges that limits not only what can be asked, but also who can ask it, this is very necessary. "Your role is not within the scope of the allowed asking audience." – Wesley Jun 27 '13 at 21:23
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    I'm not sure "novice" questions are off-topic (I'd like to think we would certainly help a junior admin with a well-crafted question) so much as "not professional" is off topic. I took a stab at this in a separate answer, but I like your phrasing as well. You might want to work in a link to meta.serverfault.com/questions/4111 defining "professional capacity" – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 21:28
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    @WesleyDavid made your attempt a separate answer (so we can keep the voting straight :-) – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 21:59
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    Something about making an educated attempt at resolving the problem so there's some basis to the question (answers "what did you try?"). This way people newer to certain sysadmin(ing?) tasks will feel welcome here. – Nathan C Jun 27 '13 at 22:39
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    +1; I like that a lot, but I'd personally would tame down Very clear by replacing it with likely or quite apparent. This would make it a little less insulting to any professionals that do post crap questions, (although they often deserve insulting for asking crap questions). I think it's better for them to take something constructive from the message and feel inclined to fix it, rather than being annoyed by it and never come back here. Also, as voretaq7 suggested, I'd avoid the use of Novice. – Bryan Jun 27 '13 at 22:47
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    @voretaq7 Nah, mine was bad and I feel bad. – Wesley Jun 27 '13 at 23:20
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    It might be worth trying to catch the cpanel, dev stacks, rasperry pis, etc with an answer such as this one, by adding something along the lines of or you are asking about software or hardware that isn't typically supported by professional systems administrators. – Bryan Jun 28 '13 at 6:46
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    As a moderator I have to say I'm really tempted to veto this close-reason if it comes up. 1) It is very much an attack on the questioner, and 2) Offers nothing for how to rework the question to something that is acceptable. Point 1 is what we're trying to get away from, and point 2 is one of the main goals of the close-question rewrite process. – sysadmin1138 Jul 1 '13 at 23:23
  • This seems mostly redundant, as much or all of what it would cover is already "too broad". – Michael Hampton Jul 2 '13 at 19:32
  • Sometimes I think these questions are misinterpreted. The asker may not expect you to solve their problem for them, or hold their hand with a back and forth "now do this, what do you see"? But instead just some troubleshooting pointers are often appreciated. "E.g. that error could be caused by many things, check your Event Logs, and also run sysinternals process monitor to see if there are file access errors that indicate permissions problem" I've seen some broad questions, but the asker only expected broad answer to point them in right direction and they were happy with that. – AaronLS Jul 3 '13 at 5:08
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    @AaronLS: We shouldn't need to tell someone to chcek their logs they should be providing us with relevant snippets. – Iain Jul 4 '13 at 13:16
  • agree with @sysadmin1138, it is very presumptive, and feels like an attack. Better to focus on the question, not the questioner? – William Denniss Jul 18 '13 at 4:43
  • Suggested rewording: "You're an idiot, go away". That is why I don't like this Close-Reason. It's just euphemism for what I said. – Warren P Jul 23 '13 at 14:02

Pre-Filled Reason #1

Questions about hardware or software used in a home setting are off-topic because they require answers that may not be practical for the business and support professionals here. Questions about home or personal environments may be appropriate on Super User instead.

  • 1
    Don't say "should try asking on Super User" because they might just copy-pasta it over without any thought to tailoring it to SU's audience. Instead, say something like "Questions about personal computer use may be appropriate on Super User instead," which implies that it might fit on SU but doesn't imply a guarantee that their question will be accepted. --SU mod – nhinkle Jul 2 '13 at 18:46
  • Agreed - wording updated. – voretaq7 Jul 2 '13 at 19:18
  • I'm not sure about "home setting" in the wording. For example, I'm not sure whether I can assume this question is for home use, yet, I'd certainly flag it to be moved to SU (I can't think why it would be on-topic on SF, unless I'm really mistaken). – Bruno Jul 9 '13 at 15:07
  • @Bruno I'm not a fan of "in a home setting" myself, but no better wording has been presented yet. – voretaq7 Jul 9 '13 at 15:11
  • "in a home setting" is at least better than "at home" since it's targeting the application of the system, not the mere location. – William Denniss Jul 18 '13 at 4:45

This not a professional variant refocuses on the question, not the user.

(Blatantly borrowed from SO)

Questions must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See How can I ask better questions on Server Fault? for further guidance.

  • I like your idea to focus on the question, not the user. Well asked questions from budding sysadmins should be welcomed. – William Denniss Jul 18 '13 at 4:40
  • "Please demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved", sounds much better. – Warren P Jul 23 '13 at 14:04

Not a Professional

Server Fault is a site for professional system and network administrators. Your question does not appear to meet our standards for being asked "in a professional capacity", possibly because you are not a professional system or network administrator, or due to lack of research. Consider updating your question with what you have tried/found based on your research, or hiring a professional with the necessary skills and expertise to help you.

  • I usually find myself recommending that these people pick up a book on basic concepts regarding the topic of their discussion. Whether people realize it or not, it's almost impossible to work with a person who doesn't understand the basics or won't even echo a variable (at least in a useful Q&A context). The book thing is probably worth a mention. – Andrew B Jun 29 '13 at 19:49
  • @AndrewB As far as I can see there was no comment prior to your comment requesting that he echo the variable. So "won't" is the wrong term, that implies someone suggested additional troubleshooting and he refused to do so, which was not the case at all as far as I can see. – AaronLS Jul 3 '13 at 5:15
  • @AaronLS Correct, won't is not the correct term here, but this is still beside my point: working with variables is the basics. If you have to be told check the value of the variable, you do not grasp the very basics, and for some of us that meets the standard of insufficient research. (added context: the individual in question was locked out of asking questions as a result of their baseline of knowledge being lacking. this is not a case where newbie patience was helping.) – Andrew B Jul 3 '13 at 15:25
  • ... another one that thinks about the status and not the knowledge. next step, send a proof from your employer that states your job description... making this part of the account aproval. – sorin Jul 20 '13 at 13:27

I like:

Needs Additional Research

Server Fault is a site for professional system and network administrators. To best assist with your issue, please try doing some of your own research and make an educated attempt at resolving it first then asking a question with more detail, such as including relavent log files and/or configuration details. If you're not comfortable doing this on your own, consider hiring a professional.

  • 2
    I like this one. Could even have a "If you're not comfortable doing this on your own, consider hiring a professional" and make the "You're not a professional" reasons unnecessary. – Dennis Kaarsemaker Jun 27 '13 at 22:46
  • I modified it a bit. – Nathan C Jun 27 '13 at 22:56
  • I can't think of a good way to say it without making this message huge, but can we work something in there about relevant log file and configuration snippets? – DerfK Jul 12 '13 at 23:36
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    @DerfK I added a bit. It's not too long, but it doesn't sound perfect. Hmm. – Nathan C Jul 12 '13 at 23:59
  • Congrats @NathanC that's a constructive answer. – sorin Jul 20 '13 at 13:29

Pre-Filled Reason #3

Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.


For the worst of the cPanel questions...

Questions concerning the use of shared web hosting by end users or resellers, rather than the administration of web hosting, are off-topic. Contact your hosting provider for assistance.

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    As the administrator of 3+ cPanel/WHM servers, I approve of this – Josh Jul 1 '13 at 15:29

This would be nice for issues where someone is complaining about things like where to download a module for some software from, or how to get an ISP to fix an issue with their peering or provide different hardware.

Your question would best be resolved by an inquiry to your vendor's support service, as it requires action on their part. Server Fault can help you find answers to questions, but not fix bugs in software or tell you how to bypass working with your vendor.


For when they're on the right track, but are thinking too high in the clouds.

Your question appears to be too abstract to do well here. We prefer to handle questions with concrete answers. Questions that call for vague answers where we have to guess at a lot of the fundamentals, or don't actually have concrete answers, don't do well. It's likely that this can be resolved by rewording the question to be more specific, by supplying more information about your environment, or focusing on just a single, particular problem you're experiencing.

  • Reworded the last sentence because I felt the old one was a bit combative instead of constructive. I also tried to individually cover the three classes of scenarios I've encountered in which I might have used such a response: "Why doesn't my Windows work?", "apt-get works on only half my servers" (turns out the other half are RH/CentOS), and "The following is an exhaustive dump of every problem I've had on any of my servers in the last fortnight. <snip>thirty-page text dump</snip> How can I fix it?" – BMDan Jul 12 '13 at 15:49

I've seen this float by a few times as well. It happens often, though I'm not sure it happens often enough to be a canonical close reason.

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about bypassing a policy set up by a system administrator.

  • Based on this, personal guns should be forbidded all over the world because only police is entitled to use them. A question or answer should not be ever be denied because it could be used with bad intentions, obtaining knowledge is a crime... unless you are on SE. – sorin Jul 20 '13 at 13:33
  • No, it's for questions that are explicitly about how to effect policy workarounds, not things that could be used as one. Questions like this ("How can I bypass this firewall rule" or "How can I prevent a GPO from being applied" or "How can I root my shared hosting environment") are never asked by a professional admin with the right tools for the job working on a system under their control. – Falcon Momot Jul 20 '13 at 18:54

Another try at a product-recommendation question. This one includes links to relevant meta articles, and advice for improving it.

Your question appears to be looking for product, service, or learning materials recommendations. ServerFault considers these off-topic because they're too broad to answer, or too localized to your situation to be of use to anyone but you. They're also massive spam magnets. Please refocus this question to solve a specific technical problem, and don't focus on which specific product/service to use.

Note, the learning-materials link will go to a new meta-post describing why we consider education, something all sysadmins should be doing constantly, to be off-topic. We don't seem to have a good meta-post for that yet.


The scenario in question no longer exists or the problem has gone away without intervention; no solution is possible or necessary. Potential solutions to this problem are therefore of little use to future readers; if you are experiencing a similar problem, please open a new question.

For times that the asker resolves the question by inquiry to their vendor, having a bug fixed, or nuking their environment.


Along the same theme as the "hire a professional" answers, but phrased perhaps more agreeable:

Tech Support Request

ServerFault is a question and answer site for professional system and network administrators. It is specifically not a forum for primary tech support.

Not sure where to send the asker, though. Perhaps SF needs a "careers" subdomain like SO has where we can users who need to find a support professional.


Not a Professional
(WesleyDavid's variant)

ServerFault is for Professional system and network administrators

It appears from the context of your question and comments that you are not acting in a professional capacity as a system or network professional. While you may be tasked with duties that mimic such a professional, your skills and primary responsibilities are not within the realm of the allowed audience. Please consider hiring someone with the proper skillset to prevent damage to your systems and data. We can no longer continue to help and thus risk creating greater dangers than what are already present.


We get some things which are probably not for home use or dev use, but are certainly not professional either. I could see this close reason being used with a "how to cPanel" question or a problem someone is having with their shared hosting provider.

Server Fault is a site for professional systems and network administrators seeking help managing their production environments. Your question pertains to something which would never reasonably be encountered in a professionally managed environment or in the course of its management.


Pre-Filled Reason #2

Questions about software development are off-topic here, but can be asked on Stack Overflow.

  • That's already in the dialog... – Dennis Kaarsemaker Jun 27 '13 at 19:43
  • @DennisKaarsemaker we can remove it if everyone hates it :) – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 19:55
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    I mean it's already in there under "belongs on another site in the network". So yeah, let's use it for something more useful, like discouraging cpanel... – Dennis Kaarsemaker Jun 27 '13 at 19:59
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    This is useful for questions which, for whatever reason, we don't want to migrate. – Michael Hampton Jun 27 '13 at 20:05
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    We always have the option of "Other - leave a comment" for those – voretaq7 Jun 27 '13 at 20:14
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    @DennisKaarsemaker: You mean something like, "Questions about cPanel are off-topic because you're embarrassing yourself and the rest of us." ? – Scott Pack Jun 27 '13 at 20:27
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    Discouraging cPanel questions unless they're actually useful questions. Good sysadmins forced to use cPanel can have good cPanel questions, I swear! – Josh Jul 1 '13 at 15:31
  • It's not that they're bad admins, but that they aren't being admins at all while only using the cPanel GUI. They are still admins if cPanel is only incidental and they're doing stuff like editing the config of stuff, or asking a conceptual question; just not while trying to do things "only through cPanel". – Falcon Momot Jul 2 '13 at 9:19

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