It seems odd to me that this question (Windows XP procedurally drop packets) is currently flagged for issues on being "professional."

When did this site become so judgmental and only accept questions that it wants to answer?

For all we know the OP in this question is asking a professional question here. There could be many reasons that he is constrained to a specific (legacy) OS, and perhaps he is unable to elaborate on what those constraints are. Some people do have Non-Disclosure Agreements or other corporate policies that limit what they are allowed to say "outside the walls."

Flagging this question for professionalism seems completely inappropriate to me.


I wanted to clarify my perspective on this subject.

I think that when we close a question for not being professional when there are possible unknown extenuating circumstances, I feel that it defeats the purpose of the site.

For example, we say this question is not professional because the OP is using the wrong tool for the job.

The OP has a problem, and is asking for help. We (the community) have a few choices. We can say "this is not professional," or we could answer the OP's question, or we could guide the OP a little.

Perhaps a comment stating:

"It really is not a good idea to do this this way. Normally, you would want to configure this on your router. If you need help on how to do that, update your question and someone can answer it accordingly. If there are extenuating circumstances, call them out so people understand and can help you accordingly"

Or, we can choose to answer the OP's question, similarly to how Jim G did. While some people in the community might view this as a help vampire, those people are not obligated to help. There may be people who decide to take their time to help the OP.

If, however, we label the question as not being professional, I think that we leave an OP confused. They now need to ask themselves a lot of questions. At a minimum they would likely ask themselves "What about my question was unprofessional? How do I reword it to get an answer to my problem without sounding unprofessional?" And sometimes, trying to answer these questions yourself can be very difficult.

I think that part of being a professional is to be helpful.

If for example, someone at your office came to your desk and asked you how to solve this question, would you send them away telling them "Your question is not professional, come back when it is" or would you take a minute to give them that simple comment example I wrote above? I would hope that as a professional, you wouldn't simply turn people away like this at your place of business.

  • 2
    Defending help vampires does not seem constructive to the idea of building a community. We use the "professional" criteria to cull the mass of content our contributors find most objectionable. There seems to be a disconnect between the "professional" intention and the way help vampires perceive it - to be fair, not understanding their own condition is prerequisite of being a help vampire. (Note: a previous version of this comment was fairly described as "judgmental" - this is a complete rewrite)
    – Chris S
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:24
  • Thank you for your clarification and your rewrite. I have updated my question with my thoughts on the subject. I will try and think of how to update it further such that I am not taking a stance of defending a help vampire as the link you gave defines them. I completely agree that help vampires are not a good thing, I am hoping to have a discussion about the site and community in a constructive and insightful manner.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 15:20
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    The main problem I have is that by allowing a wider range of content you force potential answers to wade through more of what they don't want to answer before finding something they do want to answer. The site allows for a degree of user filtering by voting; but people don't vote (if you can solve that issue it would solve other problems too). Filtering by tags requires extra Answerer effort to setup, and is less effective than you'd think. Lacking filtering, the effort required to Answer will rise until nobody wants to put that much effort into providing an Answer on a recurring basis.
    – Chris S
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 15:29
  • Would you mind moving this comment to an answer? I find it very valuable and insightful to the discussion
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 16:22
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    You need to acknowledge broken windows theory too. Today we have such good search engine ranking that allowing questions like for instance about using XP (or another client OS) as a server will bring hoards of other people with other $similar problems. Server Fault is not here for those people (amateurs). We already suffer from far too may amateurs asking questions that can easily be solved by reading documentation more we don't need. This is not limited to people using client OS as servers either.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 16:32
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    The close reason also says is not relevant to professional system administration not is not professional they are different.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 16:36
  • @Iain Granted, but for whatever reason it's read as the latter, and people are generally 50x more likely to tell friends about a negative experience than a positive one.
    – Chris S
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:23
  • Given hat the majority of our questions come from people who are outside our $target market, them passing on a negative experience works for me.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:26
  • @Iain I'll accept the broken windows theory, and I am not saying that this question is good "as is." Moderation, and the voting to close a question is analogous to policing our community. What I am trying to discuss is the means in which we police. I think through a constructive discussion we may be able to come up with a better means of "policing" the community.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:07
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    I hear what you're saying and to be honest there's nothing new here. Perhaps you should spend more time in our community before trying to fix it.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:09
  • @Iain I think the beauty of the stack exchange sites is the ability for professionals to show their professionalism by helping others, even if they are currently less of a professional in the field as another. Chris calls out some difficulties that may impede our abilities to do that, and discussing those difficulties could allow us to generate feature requests to improve these sites.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:19
  • @Iain I apologize for coming off as claiming the community is broken. I do not believe that. I believe that people have the best intentions. I will reword my question to focus less on the community and more on the sites.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:20
  • @Iain I started to edit this question again (3 times actually) and struggled with fixing its wording. Instead, I'll let the discussion continue/die off for now. In the meantime, I have provided the OP of the linked question with some suggestions.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:23
  • @Adam, my input for you is that this is an unwinnable battle. I have never understood why a simple downvote or just ignoring the question entirely isn't enough in so many cases.
    – nedm
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 7:11
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    @nedm then you don't understand any of the stack exchange sites. While you might well disagree with this site's criteria for closing questions and you're welcome to do so, ruthlessly closing questions that fall outside of a site's scope is a central part of the stack exchange sites; they are meant to be centres of excellence in their subject areas with curated content, not a free-for-all.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 20:33

4 Answers 4


I don't think we're judgemental enough.

Windows XP isn't a Sever OS. We have never supported using Windows XP as a server, we routinely close questions that use Windows XP as a server for this reason - it really isn't relevant to professional system administration.

In the past we have supported people who deployed/managed XP in their environment, though we have never supported end users. Windows XP is past it's end of life, we will likely start to be less supportive of people still managing it and will almost certainly stop supporting people trying to deploy it.

Part of being professional is using the right tools for the job and managing the lifecycle of those tools. The question you link to demonstrates a failure to do both.

All in all I think closing the question as not being relevant to professional system administration was a good call.


Please indulge my bit of amateur anthropology here...

I think the other answers here have done a great job distinguishing between closing a question due to a "lack of professionalism" versus "not being about professional system administration"; however seeing as you are coming here from StackOverflow I want to bring up another piece of the cultural history of ServerFault.

The ServerFault community and the greater StackOverflow/StackExchange community are not in consensuses about the scope of this site. StackExchange is explicitly billing its mission as to be "free and open to everyone" whereas if you read ServerFault's purported scope it is explictly limited to "system and network administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." in seeming contraposition to StackExchange's stated goal of being free and open to everyone. The ServerFault community has traditionally advocated for an exclusionary scope.

The next few lines in StackExchange's mission statement say this, "Of course, all this information is worthless if you can't find the answer you need. So we empower our communities to curate it". Therein lies the internal tension - StackExchange wants to be open to everyone but it also wants to allow the sub-communities to curate content as they see fit to some extent. Not to be grandiose but the same tension exists in many Western democracies - the juxtaposition between liberty (doing as one wishes) versus equality (treating, both legally and civically different people equally).

Back when people voted and there more than 25 people with over 1000 rep actually engaged ServerFault used to have a much more larger scope (at least in practice), questions in that large grey area between "free and open" and "curated content", things like CPanel, VirtualBox and development environment questions were more tolerated albeit with some grumbling. I seem to remember the first big push-back was the FAQ Rewrite but I think culturally it had been gaining momentum for some time.

As ServerFault's popularity grew the influx of questions in the grey area increased exponentially faster than the influx of questions and more importantly contributors in our target audience. Consequently this had a few effects: 1) it lowered the overall quality of the site as there were less "qualified" people to answer more questions, 2) it disenfranchised the parts of the community advocating for a narrow scope and consequently they participated less or left the site altogether, and 3) it disenfranchised all the people expecting a "free and open" model when they showed up, got fishslapped with a VTC and then they summarily declared that we are all a bunch of dicks.

This situation sucks. Folks like Pedro Sousa and Michael J Mulligan are stuck in the middle of what I believe is really a culture war between the small (and rapidly shrinking) ServerFault community and the rest of the StackExchange network. Or framed less adversially, between those advocating a "curate the content" model versus a "free and open" model. The StackOverflow/StackExchange culture is much, much larger than the remaining ServerFault community and consequently they are "winning" by sheer numbers. And as the ServerFault community loses ground on the site they feel they have helped create they respond with increasing frustration, quickness to VTC and general brutality against the trespassers who have happened to have stepped into a four year long debate they didn't even know was there.

In short. Don't take it personally.

  • 1
    We are free and open to everyone. But, just as SO only accepts questions about programming, we only accept questions about professional system administration. I should also remind you that there are far more programmers than system administrators, by orders of magnitude. Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:23
  • I take that to mean we are "free and open to everyone" that are "system and network administrators needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity." Equal Opportunity Q&A, affirmative action, etc.?? In all seriousness very few will stick around 1) if they see a bunch of n00b `How do I set a static IP address PLEZ HALP ASAP!!!! or 2) No one can answer their SCOM/$Technology question in a reasonable time, which could be in part due to #1. I say we continue to downvote and get rid of bad quality questions even moreso than before.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:30
  • @MichaelHampton - Right. "Programming" vs. "System Administration" defines what content is in scope. "Professional" defines who should be posting that content. We can play mental gymnastics all day with "professional mindset" vs. "professional" but we are putting an ability restriction on our scope.
    – user62491
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:30
  • If that results in a small community then so be it. It's about quality, not quantity.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:32
  • 1
    @BigHomie The problem isn't that it results in a small community, it's that it results in a death spiral. As in, the talented people get fed up with the poor signal to noise ratio and participate less or quit. As a result of less expertise on the site, the signal to noise ratio worsens, causing more talented people to participate less quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, ... Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:36
  • 3
    The question nobody has come up with a good answer for yet is: How do you attract and retain high quality people and content? Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:38
  • 1
    which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes more talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to worsen, which causes the rest of any remaining talent to quit, which causes the signal to noise ratio to eventually kill the site and migrate all questions to.... super user.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:40
  • @MichaelHampton I always thought it was really good fried chicken. Barring that, is there a meta question about that yet? I think it would make a good one there or either in chat.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:41
  • 1
    @BigHomie - How to attract more professionals?. That was back in '10. Might be time to revisit it.
    – user62491
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:44
  • very well then.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 18:05
  • @MichaelHampton SE might have something soon to help us.. look at the bottom half section of the latest SE podcast blog entry: blog.stackoverflow.com/2014/05/…
    – pauska
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 18:12
  • @pauska Those are good ideas. Though I suspect that SO will get them and we won't... Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 18:13
  • @kce This is very well written and makes sense. Thanks. In my own experience, I have 3 issues with contribution, which Chris calls out in a comment to my question. 1 - I am a casual contributor to SF, part due to my skills in sysadmin have detered over the years since changing my professional focus to development and part due to other responsibilities consuming my life. 2 - I find it hard to find questions that I can answer because of poor filterability. 3 - My impressions of this behavior/policy as closed/elitist. I don't believe the people are elitist, it just comes off that way.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 19:37
  • It looks like you're confusing scope and audience. Our scope is very wide, our audience is quite narrow. Unfortunately our audience is mostly outside of our target and this brings quality issues just like everywhere else on the internet. Sadly there aren't enough people who fight the good fight and the hoards are winning.
    – user9517
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 19:38
  • 2
    @Adam - 1. Nothing wrong with being a causal contributor as long as your contributions are appropriate. 2. This is a problem for everyone. Agreed. 3. It is elitist. A portion of the SF community is saying, "this site is not for everyone or all types of questions". There are hundreds of sites with larger defined audiences (SU being one). SF is supposed to be different. I don't see anything wrong with this.
    – user62491
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 20:11

The issue is not with the choice of Windows XP, the issue is that he's trying to use the wrong tool for the job.

A professional sysadmin wouldn't be trying to do this on a client OS - they would be doing it on a router/transparent bridge device.

That said - he did get an answer that basically told him to do this, and how to do it, and I don't think it should have been closed (although I am more relaxed regarding content than most of the other high rep users on the site). But five other people did.

  • I understand, and appreciate, your point. Would the question be better valued/served on a different stack exchange site? Maybe one that is more geared towards DevOps or something?
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 6:21
  • 6
    @Adam A very important part of DevOps is Ops warning you that something is way out of left field and should not be done at all. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 12:51
  • I understand and agree with you, believe me. From my perspective, I am giving this guy the benefit of the doubt though, and assuming that he has some extenuating circumstance that has led him to this non-ideal problem/solution. There are limitless possibilities to how he got into this situation, and I feel like being too quick to close a question isn't the best approach here. I was curios if there is a different stack exchange site, and I should not have suggested it being a DevOps site, but I don't know where else I would send this OP.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 15:26
  • 1
    @Adam For Windows workstations outside of our scope, SuperUser is probably your best bet.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 20:45
  • @AndrewB Thanks, I commented on his question with some suggestions on how he could improve his question and suggested he may want to alternatively checkout superuser.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:19
  • @Adam I'm not sure that this is a "lengthy debate" as you are putting it to this user. We have a definition, and it's linked to in the close reason. The others have covered that this falls under condition that would never exist in a professionally managed production environment. We've had the "I am a professional and my boss is forcing me to do this" angle tossed at us many times before, but that doesn't really change things. At that point you may be an IT professional, but what you're doing isn't, and those aren't the solutions we provide here.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:33
  • @AndrewB Very well, I'll concede your point on the lengthy debate. I have not followed the history or am familiar enough with the current state of the community to draw that conclusion. I am unable to edit my comment on SF to remove that statement though. Maybe a moderator can edit it for me?
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:35
  • @Adam I wouldn't worry about it, just trying to put a finer point on it. :) You may get some mileage out of this answer I supplied a few months back as it addresses the point I'm covering in greater detail. The focus is more on whether the answer we offer is going to be a professional solution, and less on whether the person asking is a professional.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 22:02

I entirely agree with everything the other two answers say. However, something that occurred to me reading your question was your use of the word professional. You use it, or variants, 12 times in your question, and each time it's as a word on its own.

The two answers, however, almost entirely use professional immediately followed by system administration (or equivalent).

I think that may identify a significant error in your assumptions about the issue. Iain makes a similar comment above, but I thought this was such an important misunderstanding that it was worth pulling out into an answer.

We're not after some nebulous form of professionalism here, some general code of conduct that suggests appropriateness for the workplace. Despite what you think, we're not closing questions to send the message "Your question is not professional, come back when it is".

As the close text says, we're closing questions because they're not about professional system administration. There is some discussion about exactly what that comprises, but it seems to have strong elements of "I'm trying to do something that would be normal in a production setup" and "I have the necessary basic skillset to do it".

A question that satisfies those is, at least to me, entirely on-topic and worthy of assistance, however badly-written or incomplete it is. It may take some clarification, some teasing-out of details in comments, and that's fine. But a question that doesn't satisfy those on the face of it should be closed, for this is simply not the place for it.

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