This is a Canonical Question about the scope of Server Fault and the attitude of the community.
This is in response to Questions to ask the SE staff regarding the future of ServerFault
Why am I responding by posting a new question? Because the SF system is broken. I can't respond directly to the meta question because I don't have enough reputation. I don't have enough reputation because my community participation is so low. My participation is so low because - well that's what the meta question is trying to find out!
A comment by Chris S is a good introduction to my response: "Might be also worth noting that, year to date: traffic to the site is down, new users per day is down, new questions and answer are down, edits are down, voting is down - every meaningful measurement of the site is down, except closed questions, that stat is up."
Why are users leaving or not participating? Why aren't new users joining or staying?
JamesRyan nailed it with his answer to the meta SF question:"As a user (and professional sysadmin) my impression is the complete opposite, that moderators are overly critical and too quick to close questions as off topic that could be helpful to get answers to..." But the snobbish, elitist behavior is not limited to moderators but to many of the regular users as well. I have occasionally seen new users directly insulted by other users while their questions are closed with little more than a link to a previous question that is only slightly related. You want to know what the real problem is with ServerFault? The community. You want to know why site stats have dropped? Because legitimate users with legitimate questions can get better answers from a more welcoming community elsewhere. I'd tell you where they're going, but then this post would get flagged as spam :) The reason why users are not joining or are leaving is because it's quite clear that they are not wanted.
JamesRyan asked a number of questions pertinent to fixing this problem, but the first question that needs to be answered is point number 1 in the meta SF question: What is the purpose of ServerFault? Is it to be a country club golf course for elite cream of the crop IT? Or does the definition of "Professional IT" include those who work for MSPs or for small businesses, who frequently have a limited scope of experience? I fall into that latter bracket and so far my experience on ServerFault leaves me feeling unwanted and unwelcome.
But how do we solve this problem? Besides a shift in attitude on the part of those who are at fault (haha, pun) for this snobbish behavior? If "Professional IT" embraces a more broad definition, then perhaps new users can be welcomed to the community. "Newbie" questions can be responded to with politeness, even if the asker is being directed towards a previous answer thread or easily findable external resource. Condescending attitudes and "low quality" arrogant responses can be down-voted as much as low quality questions - in fact, users and moderators should be able to lose reputation points for being patronizing.
Voting on questions and answers should NOT be limited by reputation! Neither should commenting on a question or answer. As a measure of community participation, I can understand reputation being used as a limiting factor for meta SF, but that alienates users like me, who are the ones most directly affected by this particular issue.
In fact, if reputation governs anything, it should be required for new users to have a minimum reputation before asking a question - but only if you want to ensure that all new questions come from people who are participating in the community. Of course, then you alienate everyone who comes here to learn but is unable to contribute for whatever reason. Reputation governing community involvement (as opposed to only measuring it) is a lose-lose.
As for me, I may continue to use ServerFault as long as it proves useful. To their credit, there are a good number of friendly and helpful users here. Other StackExchange sites have much more congenial communities and I will continue to participate in them. But honestly, I can usually get better answers, faster, and with a smile from a different free IT forum.
Hopefully this proves useful. Hopefully someone sees this and can read enough of my good intentions to share on the meta SF thread on my behalf, since I'm unable to post this there myself.
First off, thanks to whoever moderator it was who moved this into meta where it belonged.
Secondly, another suggestion. When new users sign up, they should be presented with a home page giving clear and organized instructions on how the community works and how to participate. I "signed up with facebook" and if there was any such information it was presented in a EULA style that I likely skipped over (who doesn't?). In this case, it's all about presentation. Perhaps a couple of guided "getting started" tutorial pages - heck I'd be willing to help write it.
Another thought I had for a suggestion is to require comments from down-votes. Considering how important reputation is, I think a person deserves some kind of explanation when that reputation is being demoted by someone. Especially when askers may not realize that their questions don't meet the standards in some way; and most especially when such a question can easily be amended to fix whatever supposed violation may have occurred.