Where can I read what kind of questions that are appropriate to ServerFault?

One could think About page is such a place, but it is not.

  1. I have a couple of questions that were poorly received. I can see why the first one How to set environment variables was downvoted (it's a basic Linux and Unix question, appropriate for that Stack Exchange site), but I can't see what wrong with a question on FAT vs NTFS in a KVM guest. Therefore, I can't understand how my questions can be improved, so that they would be received better (which I need now, that I am autobanned). Also, it makes me very afraid to ask questions in future.

  2. Anyway, what is the right thing to do when my question is poorly received (e.g. the linked two). I could delete them altogether, but then I can hardly see how I could get positive reputation: I imagine I would need to spend a lot of time learning untill I can answer any questions like the highly competent people that are getting upvotes on this site. Asking the questions that don't suck looks like a more realistic proposition short-term.

  • 2
    Self-deleted questions sill count against you in the question-ban algorithm, so that's not likely to help you avoid a question ban anyway. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 16:27

6 Answers 6


The official guide to what's "on-topic" is burred in the confusing mess SE calls the "help center" (sorry SE, I know you were trying, but the HC is so much worse than the FAQ ever was).

From https://serverfault.com/help/on-topic

Server Fault is a site for system and network administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity.

If your question is about…

  • Server and Workstation operating systems, hardware, and software.
  • Business/Enterprise grade virtualization
  • Enterprise storage, backup, and disaster recovery
  • Network routing, switches, and firewalls
  • Operations, maintenance, and monitoring

and it is not about…

  • Anything in a home or development environment
  • Product, service, or learning material recommendations
  • Career, salary, personnel, employment, or formal education
  • Licensing, legal advice, and circumvention of security or policy
  • Unauthorized hacking, password cracking, or system misuse

But that topicality is defined only within our target audience, mainly that first line with a link to a lengthy discussion of what "professional capacity" means. To sum it up quickly, it is someone being paid to maintain these on-topic systems in a supportable manor with the intention of ongoing operations.

Addressing some of your questions directly:

  • The Environmental variables thing is a novice question, better suited to unix.SE
  • The FAT vs NTFS question shows absolutely no research on your part. A quick Google brings up the comparison that Hopeless linked to. There's a blue pane to the right when asking a question, trying to give advice like Provide details. Share your research.
  • While about a quarter of the site's Answers come form a core continent of highly competent people, the majority come from random people who wouldn't even be considered regulars. Put a touch of effort into it and you'll be really surprised at how quickly you can find a question you already know something about.

One could think About page is such a place, but it is not.

One would think that. One would also hope that One would read the entire About page, and in doing so One would discover this section: enter image description here

which generally mirrors the contents of the official Help Center page (which, as Chris pointed out, is kinda hard to find).

I'm not trying to be mean here (though it's very tempting to be), but this kind of thing is what we mean when we say Do Your Research.
As a professional system administrator (see also here) you need to think on your feet - to show that you are capable of that you need to do the groundwork and being at least a partially formed idea to your question. Ask Google before you ask us. ("Pick one for me: NTFS or FAT" doesn't pass muster, for example - 30 seconds on Google would have answered this for you).

As for what to do when a question is poorly received, that's pretty simple: Go sit down and think about what you've done. Understand why your questions are not doing well here ("I'm not showing any research effort", "I'm asking for a silver spoon solution", "My question is too vague", etc. - these are all incredibly common problems but by no means an exhaustive list).
When you understand why your question is not doing well you can either fix it (edit) or delete it and ask a better one (deleting and re-asking is often a better approach if your question has been buried in downvotes).

  • 1
    "Go .. and think about what you've done" - The whole office just heard me laughing at that. I think you're ready to settle down and raise kids.
    – Chris S
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 13:42
  • 4
    @ChrisS It's still illegal to kill them and eat them before they can compete for the food supply. Let me know when my Lizard Parenting Skills will be acceptable to the masses :)
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 15:49
  • It ought to be a mirror. I went to a lot of trouble to make both of those identical. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 23:53

The most important thing to do is show your research! If you need help, you need to show people what you've done yourself to solve the problem and why your solutions didn't work. This shows that you're competent in the subject matter and will therefore get answers that are relevant. Otherwise, we're just guessing at an answer off vague information.

On your last question, it was closed because you didn't disclose any research or show any effort to find the answers yourself.

Further, reading the FAQ will help improve your questions so you'll get the answers you need without being downvoted/closed.


I'm not sure what you are seeking to gain from your participation on Server Fault, in particular

... see how I could get positive reputation: I imagine I would need to spend a lot of time learning untill I can answer any questions like the highly competent people that are getting upvotes on this site. Asking the questions that don't suck looks like a more realistic proposition short-term.

confuses me. This seems to suggest that you're only interested in gaining internet points which is entirely the wrong reason to be here.

Whilst it's conceivable that just about any IT related question could be asked here with the expectation of getting an answer, we limit our audience to the professional in the hope that we will attract good quality questions. This is largely what your questions are falling foul of.

You really don't appear to fall within our target audience. Your questions are very basic, poorly researched and of a generally low quality - like you're trying too hard to gain rep and will ask just about anything. The scatter gun approach may work elsewhere but it won't work on SF as you are discovering.

You need to consider whether Server Fault is the SE site for you and take appropriate action. If you're going to stay then you need to get yourself some education, right now your knowledge and skill set is way below that which I would attribute to a professional within our target audience. As a Q&A site it is not our mission to teach you the basics or how to do your own research.


Where can I read what kind of questions that are appropriate to ServerFault?

There is a wealth of information on this in the Help Center. Which, for your convenience, is accessible with a mere two clicks, starting with the "Help" link in the top menu bar of every SE site.

  • 3
    3-Click rule of Web Design: When people are looking for something they'll only click 3 times before they get frustrated and quit looking. You have to burn 2 click just to find the Help Center...
    – Chris S
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 13:47

Observing a few of your questions, what stood out to me the most, is that they seem to show little to no research effort. I don't agree with them being closed (but am not surprised by it either), however the tooltip over the downvote arrow should explain why thy were dowvoted. It says: This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful. I wouldn't say your questions were unclear or not useful (though an argument could be made that they are so basic as not to be useful to the professional systems administrator target audience of this site), however, they all gave the appearance of lacking research effort, which is undoubtedly why they were downvoted.

None of your questions took me more than 30 seconds to answer with a Google search, and at least on this SE site, we expect people to do their research first, rather than coming to us and treating us like an answer machine.

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