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One of our close reasons reads as follows:

Questions must be relevant to professional system administration. Server Fault is a site dedicated to professionals; novice questions are off-topic. Please see the Help Center for more information on topicality. The best advice we can give you is to hire a professional to help you out.

This close reason is being interpreted by some site members as a "rule" against beginner questions(See the comments noted in this question).

It is no secret that I am not a fan of this language - Server Fault is a site for professional system and network administrators, and professionals range in experience from those of us who have been doing this for more than half our lives down to people who need to read the "How is subnet formed?" question.
My view is that the site should be able to accept well-written, researched, and coherent questions from the Junior Admin crowd, many of which would be classified as "novice" questions by the majority of us who have been doing this long enough to forget that we once couldn't do binary arithmetic in our heads.

Unless there are strong objections (or better suggestions) I am going to replace the close reason above with the one in my answer below on Monday.

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    It never ceases to amaze me how many junior admins don't have seniors to ask basic questions of or managers to arrange education and don't get me started on reading documentation :( – Iain Nov 1 '13 at 18:35
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    What amazes me is there really does seem to be a trend of hiring junior admins & throwing them into an existing (largely undocumented) environment with no senior/knowledgable staff to consult. (That's still no excuse for not making an effort to locate & read documentation, but it's a thing. I blame the "devops" movement and people who do devops wrong.) – voretaq7 Nov 1 '13 at 19:12
  • @voretaq7 I was in that boat 12 years ago when I got my first job...all I had was usenet and my local LUG for reference. :) – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 19:32
  • @voretaq7 "Trend"? That happened to me when I started out 18 years ago... fortunately I had good friends with more knowledge than me. – Jenny D Nov 4 '13 at 11:10
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    I agree that there's nothing wrong with a "well-written and researched" novice-level question, but I also think nearly every such question I see on SF seems to have skipped over the "researched" requirement. – MadHatter Nov 5 '13 at 10:17
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    Downvote for no research, VTC if it is off-topic. – TheCleaner Nov 5 '13 at 19:17
  • @iain i can say from being in the position of having no seniors to ask myself that sites like serverfault are utterly invaluable. I'm glad this matter is being discussed on meta. That said it's always good to do research, though i know sometimes i'm not even able to grasp what i'm trying to search for so i imagine that happens to others also... and god knows i've got a ton of advice-needed type questions that i don't even ask here for being primarily opinion based. – Sirex Nov 21 '13 at 1:35
  • @Sirex: Yes, I've been there too but there was no internet so I had to learn to do my own research and more importantly read the documentation (several feet of DEC binders in this case), I am a much better <whatever> for this. The modern way appears to be to hand the keys to the completely clueless without educating them in the basics. They then find their way to our gates and the rest is history. If you want opinions drop into chat there's no shortage of them there and plenty of advice to be had from some exceptional sysadmins. – Iain Nov 21 '13 at 8:30
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    @Sirex There's a difference between I looked it up and found X, Y, and Z but I'm not sure what to do now and there's nobody here for me to ask. and I've got nobody to ask, I'm too lazy to Google, and I refuse to acknowledge the existence of man or MS TechNet -- Novices in the first category generally get treated well. Folks in the second category don't belong in professional system & network administration. – voretaq7 Nov 21 '13 at 18:05
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New "Not A Professional" close reason

Questions must be relevant to professional system administration. Server Fault is a site dedicated to professional system and network administrators; questions by end users or enthusiasts are off-topic (you should contact your system administrator, or hire a professional to help you out). Please see the Help Center for more information on topicality.

Note that this is NOT the close reason for "home environment" questions -- those questions should be migrated to Super User (if they don't suck), or closed with a polite explanation that home environments are off-topic and the question should be re-asked on Super User with appropriate details.

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    I kind of like the "The best advice we can give" phrasing, but otherwise very much like the revised close reason. – Chris S Nov 1 '13 at 17:49
  • Great change IMHO. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 17:49
  • Definitely prefer this over the current. – colealtdelete Nov 1 '13 at 17:57
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    Another thing to consider: sometimes professional sysadmins have to ask the same question that a novice would if they're working on something they don't have expertise on. A linux admin learning storage, for example. – Basil Nov 1 '13 at 17:58
  • @ChrisS I may keep that phrasing, it looked sounded weird when I was reading it in the revised text though – voretaq7 Nov 1 '13 at 18:07
  • And I especially like the link to the help-center, high quality add, there. – sysadmin1138 Nov 1 '13 at 20:17
  • @sysadmin1138 There's actually a link in the current one as well, I just didn't clean it up when I pasted it here (I grabbed the displayed text rather than the markdown) – voretaq7 Nov 1 '13 at 20:41
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    One minor change: "questions regarding end-user or enthusiast usage are off-topic" - remember we're supposed to be rejecting the question, not the user. – Michael Hampton Nov 2 '13 at 23:51
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    I would make it two separate sentences. My eyes skipped right past the semi-colon, treating it like a comma. Not exactly the message you were going for. – longneck Nov 4 '13 at 11:49
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The appropriate thing to do with repetitive, boring novice questions is to close them as a duplicate of the appropriate canonical question. If we are lacking a sufficient canonical Q&A, we need to make one (which shouldn't be hard, right?). We do, however, have a problem in that the canonical questions are not visible during the close process, and you have to do some extra stuff to find them.

It is infinitely better to close novice questions as duplicates than as off-topic, certainly.

It would be better if the close reason was like this:

Questions must be relevant to professional system administration. Server Fault is a site dedicated to professional system and network administrators; questions by end users or enthusiasts are off-topic (you should contact your system administrator, or hire a professional to help you out). Questions about home environments are off-topic, but can often be asked at Super User. Please see the Help Center for more information on topicality.

I think it's quite fair to use this as a close reason for questions about home labs (or just consumer stuff being used at home) in cases where migrating that question is inappropriate. It's not rude. Our rejection rate for questions sent over to SU is only 7%, which is not bad, but it would be unfortunate if we increased it by migrating junk there which we previously would have closed with this reason.

  • I'm not sure we can make the close reason quite that long. – Michael Hampton Nov 1 '13 at 23:54
  • Unfortunately even my close reason was pushing the character limit (@MichaelHampton had to make some edits to find enough characters to keep the Help Center bit as a pretty link instead of a bad URL). If we're seeing a lot of Really Bad home questions I wouldn't be opposed to asking for a 4th close reason to be activated though. – voretaq7 Nov 5 '13 at 17:58
  • One of our original close reasons (specifically for "Home Use" questions: 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. You should try asking on Super User instead. – voretaq7 Nov 5 '13 at 18:01
  • If you add "or home lab or personal website" to that somehow, it could work really well. We are indeed seeing a lot of those questions - and in particular, people playing with azure, making cloud VMs that do media fetching and transcoding, etc. – Falcon Momot Nov 5 '13 at 18:10
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    @voretaq7 Oh, we have plenty of home-user questions I would rather not migrate since they're too crappy even for Super User. And people have been using this close reason in lieu of a specific home-user close reasons. – Michael Hampton Nov 6 '13 at 21:04

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