Is that OK to leave a small endless loop script running on server?

Powershell assistance for Active Directory Cleanup

Those are two examples that I've seen in the last day. Neither of which deal with illegal activity, unethical behavior, or general shadiness. Sure, each environment might be unorthodox and it may not be a place many seasoned veterans would like to work, but early in a career, working at the wrong place can be just as valuable as working at the right place. It's not like this was the guy with the security auditor that demanded all passwords in plaintext.

If there's an alternative solution, the OP should be told of it. If the OP can't use that solution, they should be asked why. If they say it's because of some ridiculous constraint that most people wouldn't ever deal with, we can close the question. But telling people to quit their jobs because there are 20k stale objects in AD is silly. A two line script can fix that in about 5 minutes.

Let's take it down a notch.

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    I think we should focus on answering questions and using comments for their intended purpose of requesting clarification etc rather than erm commentary.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 16:28
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    I can't upvote this enough.
    – gWaldo
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 11:59
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    Haha whoops. I never claimed innocence ;)
    – MDMarra
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 2:28
  • Neither did I. Though in my case, the OP did offer to accept it as an answer... :) Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 2:31
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    Reading some of the commentary I totally agree with the sentiment. People getting into tricky situation or possibly getting in over their heads are asking for advice. That's the whole purpose behind the site. Replying with snark and a poor attitude is counterproductive and shines a poor light on the profession as a whole; an ironic situation from a community that prides itself on answering professional questions. Try mentoring before mocking. Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


There's no reason for us to tell someone "Quit and get a new job" in comments:

  • If it's a situation where quitting is the only option (some kind of criminal/ethical violations like the company forcing you to pirate software) "Quit" is the answer.
  • If the work situation is terrible then if the admin in question is any good they'll figure it out on their own (and if not they'll probably keep bashing their heads into problems until they leave the profession or improve and move on).

I think it's important to point out that most of the "Quit" comments tend to be on one of two types of questions, ones involving Willful Stupidity, or ones involving Forced (organizational) Stupidity.

  • The PowerShell question is forced stupidity
    This poor person inherited a screwed-up environment, and is trying to fix it.
    We should support this person in every way possible.

  • The "Endless Loop" question is willful (organizational) stupidity
    This person was told they are Doing It Wrong, told why they shouldn't do it that way, and told what the proper solution is.
    They're refusing to listen to reason. Maybe they're afraid of their boss, maybe their boss is really that big of an ass that they won't listen to reason.
    Whatever the case, there's nothing further we can do to help this person within the bounds of professional ethics, and questions like this should be left alone (with the correct answer on them) to die a noble death.
    We could all certainly recommend other bad solutions, but that just makes this site (and all of us) look bad.

As MDMarra rightly points out If there's an alternative solution, the OP should be told of it. - If the OP stubbornly refuses to see reason or throws up roadblocks that's frankly not our problem: We're a TECHNICAL site. If they need help standing up to institutional stupid they should go to The Workplace.

To be blunt there are only three choices for dealing with willful stupidity:

  1. They can suck it up and do it right.
    Break the willful stupidity cycle.

  2. They can be stupid, but take their stupid elsewhere.
    If the OP doesn't want to do it right we're not going to help them do it wrong.
    The alternatives we provide will serve as the answers, and the question should be left to die.
    (Remember: our goal isn't to make people happy, it's to provide great answers.)

  3. They can quit the job.
    It sucks, but it's true: If the situation is that bad sometimes you gotta quit.
    It's not our place to tell someone that though. (Maybe it's The Workplace's place, or something we'd tell them in chat...)

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    Why does getting a new job "suck?" I guess I don't understand this attitude... if your current job/boss/environment is bad, why is moving to a better one seen as a bad thing, or sucky, or whatever? Seems to me that if the current work situation is bad, staying would be the sucky option, and leaving for something better would be the only unsucky option. <shrug> Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 17:04
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    @HopelessN00b Unfortunately the job market still isn't that great, and most folks aren't independently wealthy enough to just quit a job that sucks without reasonable prospects lined up. Job hunting sucks (perhaps you enjoy it, but you'd be the only one I know who does), and for junior admins it's a nontrivial task -- would YOU hire some of the junior-types posting on SF these days if they suddenly landed on your desk?
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 17:07
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    You can't make an informed comment that tells someone to get a job. You don't know their financial situation, the job market in their region, their current pay vs. competitor pay, how many children they provide for, or any number of other non-technical things that factor in to where you are employed. What you can make an informed comment on is the technology they're using, why they should or shouldn't use it, and why you think that. The former is a waste of time and potentially insulting. The latter is helpful. Or just cast a downvote and move on.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 17:22
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    What really saddens me from this response is the "stupidity" labeling. It's answers like these, not bad advice, that make this site look bad.
    – sgorozco
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 18:33
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    @sgorozco What saddens me is that we've reached the point where calling an idea "stupid" is considered offensive. I have stupid ideas all the time. I expect people to call me on them. Making some shell scripts to emulate DFS is a stupid idea. Because there are lots of better ways.
    – Grant
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:01
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    @HopelessN00b Not only does the job market suck, but server administration work is basically invisible work based on trust. And there are a lot of clowns out there overstating their skills & taking gigs. Not to mention most companies actually do not want to admit they have issues. So you have to basically wait like a hawk, check listing constantly & then maybe—just maybe—you will end up in a job you can deal with. But more often than not the best jobs in this field comes from word of mouth. And that doesn’t happen overnight. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:34
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    @sgorozco I'm sorry, I'm not paid enough to mince words. If you would like to constructively suggest an alternate phrasing I'd be happy to listen, if you just want to whinge about my word choice: English Language & Usage
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 20:40
  • @Grant, I concur with your thought, although please try to be sensible to the fact that what may be considered offensive is deeply tied to the cultural background of people. I'm from Mexico, and calling someone's idea "stupid" is considered plainly rude and you may easily end with one black eye. Other cultures such as Chinese deeply value the concept of "saving face", where you choose your wording in such a way that the person receiving advice won't feel diminished.
    – sgorozco
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 0:51
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    @sgorozco if we tried to honor the social graces of every culture, we wouldn't be able to speak at all. Then again, not speaking probably also offends someone. In the culture of this site we call things what they are.
    – Grant
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 1:21
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    I think you two are going off on a tangent here. This wasn't about the quality of the question - it's clearly poor. It's about the recommendation to get a new job that's been popping up more and more in the comments.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 1:44
  • This should be a canonical Q&A - What is the correct response to someone asking how to do something stupid? And the emphasis on dealing with Willful Stupidity should be that it's off-topic here. Maybe dealing with the organizational stupidity should be on Workplace.SE, but certainly SF isn't the right place. OTOH, comments along the lines of "get a new job" are useless in dealing with organizational stupidity - just noise, because you can't slap a blanket solution on all types of stupidity. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 3:18
  • @Ward I want to say we already have something about that (the one where my answer was "Sometimes NO is the answer - deal with it.") but I don't recall the title off-hand...
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 3:25
  • At the risk of being annoying and dating myself, ;) I've been told my entire life that I was in the first generation of Americans that would do worse than their parents, that I was doomed to a life of poorly paid temp jobs, etc. This has not been true. It's my opinion--worth what you paid for it--that everyone will always tell you you can't get another job, and that there's always another job. IT seems to suck a lot less than people make out compared to libraries and teaching college, so maybe my basis of comparison makes me overly optimistic. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 11:52
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    On the "Powershell Assistance for AD" I simply weeded through to try and get the heart of what the OP needed. I posted an alternative in my answer, as @MDMarra points out as an option. My final comment wasn't bashing, it was stating that before the OP goes and disables thousands of accounts at least explain to mgmt what is about to happen and why. I feel that's pretty fair and hopefully my answer isn't what is being discussed in this "thread".
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 13:03
  • I think "get a new Job" is in very few situations a "good recommendation". There are always new Starters, and People who just might have a bad day with the Problem they try to solve. It's not our place to judge that. We Should tell People that what they want to do is stupid, because of xxx, yyy, zzz.
    – MichelZ
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 19:53

The endless loop one basically said "my boss doesn't trust the right tools, so I can't use them". That to me clearly says you either need to learn to communicate better with your boss to explain why it's the right solution, or find a new boss. I'm all for telling people to either stand their ground and convince them to use the right tools, or run. It's often a professional's job to explain to their superiors why things need to be done a certain way, and to point out flaws in silly plans before a lot of time is wasted trying to implement them.

If a car mechanic's boss told a mechanic he wasn't allowed to use any tools but hand made pliers they had forged themselves...would you keep taking your car there? Sorry your tires fell off - maybe if I make the pliers bigger next time that won't happen!

As for the AD one...yeah, it's a mess. But it's an educational mess. Most of the comments were along the lines of "be really careful, this would be easy to screw up and break something". I don't think there was much need to tell him to run there. Some of the best experience you can get is learning how to fix something that others have broken.

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    I see too many sysadmins who don't have buy-in or good control of their environments. It's hard for me to understand, when so many businesses rely on their IT infrastructure to function. Part of being a pro is knowing how to sell your ideas to people who are less technical than you. "I don't have the right tools to do my job" Then make the case to the right people.
    – ewwhite
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 15:30
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    The analogy about a mechanic and IT work do not coincide. I have the boss that you speak of. I am not afforded all of the tools I need to do the "right way" but at the end of the day it still has to function. Our current software package transmits across the network the ENTIRE username/password file, in plain text, when a user logs in. I explained this technically. I explained it to him simply, that it is like having your debit card info & PIN number written to your forehead and walking around downtown Manhattan, NY. He doesn't see it as a problem.
    – Travis
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 15:38
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    @Travis And the mechanic doesn't have to get the car fixed? He may try, but the business will suffer. I've been in a situation like that before. I asked my boss to sign a letter that I had explained the risks of their solution, and that I held no responsibility for any issues that came out of it. If he refused, I would have given notice on the spot. Instead, we worked on finding a better solution that didn't leave us doing silly things like that. Refusing to implement solutions that will eventually destroy the company you are working for is part of being a professional in my book.
    – Grant
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 15:42
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    Don't get me wrong. I'm in no way defending the "endless loop" question, its asker, or it's asker's boss. I'm just saying "get a new job" doesn't educate the OP as to why the situation is so terrible or what he can do to help improve it.
    – MDMarra
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 16:18
  • I just read the “endless loop” question & am not too sure about the hostility. I have rolled my own Bash scripts to handle tasks that off the shelf software could have done… But only when cost is prohibitive or it wasn’t that bad to handle in a BASH script to provide a proof of concept to a higher-up. Many times I negotiate what I will code & state, “Okay, this is the best I can do at this time. If this isn’t good enough a more robust solution needs to be found. But I am not willing to program this forever.” Reality is that is the workplace in many cases & there is just so much anyone can do. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:40
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    @jakegould true. but DFS is built into the OS, so no extra licensing costs, and already well tested to handle edge cases, race conditions, and network interruptions.
    – Grant
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:47
  • @Grant Tangibility is the reason the analogy doesn't work. The owner of my company bought a new car. When asked about it he said his old one was getting to 100k miles and starting to have problems. It was a $35k car. He bought an $80k Lexus this time. Our ERP system is older than his car. He spent $100k on it. It has tons of problems and breaks constantly. He won't spend the $400k (software+install) for a new one because he wants to keep patching this. Why didn't he just patch his 100k mile car? It's cheaper. This is why the mechanic analogy doesn't work. He does not see the it.
    – Travis
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 12:15

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