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Given the recent uptick in new users with new questions, I've been noticing an even sharper-than-normal decline in quality on the site and a correlated increase in the number of questions about how to do $basic_task or simple troubleshooting in $crappy_webpanel_administration_tool. The three four that stand out to me are , , and .

Could be I'm just feeling extra cranky on account of the deluge of fecal matter making the main site too depressing to even visit most days, but it seems to me that, historically, the existence of these tags has been predicated on the corner-case possibility of on-topic questions related to those tools, but browsing through the questions with those tags now doesn't seem to me to justify keeping them around. It's crap after crap after ask the vendor after RTFM, after not-related-to-crappy-webpanel sandwiched with more crap, with the very occasional tolerable question that's not going to get an answer because the real answer is that processionals don't use that shit, and the OP should learn the OS he's administering.

The only thing I can see that comes from our continuing to suffer the existence of these tags is a broken-window situation, where new users somehow manage to miss all the information about what's actually on topic here, but do manage to find those tags, and then expect that this would be a good place to ask about how to server when cpanel has borken teh websites.

So, what does what's left of the community think? Is it time to get rid of these tags, or is that just my crustier-than-usual mood talking?

  • 8
    Yes and add plex to the list too. – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 6:28
  • Damn, how could I have forgotten about plesk? Indeed, that one needs to die too. – HopelessN00b Sep 4 '14 at 6:35
  • Yeah, I just finished reviewing and feel like putting a sharp object through the screen after that bunch of cpanel and whm questions. The only good point was Iain's comment on another crappy question "My guess is solar flares." – Ward Sep 4 '14 at 6:37
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    zpanel is a rivulet of sewerage too. @Ward did you notice the link under solar flares? – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 6:45
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    Maybe we can do a stackexchange TV show about why these things are crap. – Rob Moir Sep 4 '14 at 7:37
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    I feel this rant is directed at my question... Come and visit, I don't have enough down votes yet! – CJ Dennis Sep 4 '14 at 8:39
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    @CJDennis don't delude yourself - it's only -2 there are some real shockers out there today. – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 8:43
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    @Iain plex, or Plesk? Plex is a media server (fairly decent, too), Plesk...isn't. – tombull89 Sep 4 '14 at 9:12
  • @tombull89 the noob already caught that ! – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 9:13
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    Friends don't let friends use /(.?p(ane)?l(ex)?|w(h|eb)m(in)?)/ – Tom O'Connor Sep 4 '14 at 9:31
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    Is it possible to warn users when trying to use the tags on new questions, that their question is likely to be off-topic? – kasperd Sep 4 '14 at 10:09
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    @kasperd That facility doesn't exist. The closest you might get is the list of Questions that may already have your answer which might show lots of closed questions ... – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 10:34
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    You should probably add kloxo to the list as well. – user186340 Apr 9 '15 at 17:50
  • Not just kill the tag, but delete all posts altogether. When a user tries to make a new post with cpanel/whm/etc keywords in the text, title, or body -- it should block posting completely. Given this is a banned topic, it makes no sense why you choose to leave in public view an archive of something not supported and closed/locked/etc abruptly halting any viable conversation on those topics. So support them -- or nuke them completely so this site doesn't come up in search for them. – Kraang Prime Jan 30 '16 at 8:15
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    @SanuelJackson As explained elsewhere, the presence of the word "cPanel" in a question does not make it off-topic. You can keep saying "this is a banned topic" as much as you'd like, but it is still false. – EEAA Jan 30 '16 at 18:41
19

This is a particular set of broken windows that is long overdue fixing.

I think though it depends on where you are sitting as to whether your Panel question is topical or not.

  • If you are using a Panel to administer a host then you are driving a web application. This is not system administration within the meaning of Server Fault and your question is not topical.

  • If you are providing Panel systems to end users then conceivably you might have a panel related question about it's installation/configuration etc. which may be topical on SF.

Having said that I can't recall seeing a question that falls into the latter category so yeah burninate them

Burninate all the Panel questions

On a practical level perhaps we should have a canonical Q&A which tells people why we consider these questions to be off topic which also points people to the relevant support channels. This we can then use as a close target and pile them up as a warning to others

A Warning to Others

  • When you burn those kind of tags "This is not system administration within the meaning of Server Fault" you need to go with a hammer too, to close those questions along the way. – Braiam Sep 5 '14 at 0:54
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We should ruthlessly close questions which are inappropriate for us, though I have a plot twist:

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with one of the Webmasters moderators, who expressed interest in having questions like this migrated there. They are especially interested in receiving questions about shared web hosting, control panels like cPanel and Plesk, and basic Apache .htaccess stuff.

In future, if you see such a question and it isn't completely brainless, consider flagging it for migration to Webmasters.


As for the tags, I don't believe they should be burninated, but they should have warnings added to their excerpts (the most likely thing someone will see before asking their question) that their question may be better asked on another site.

  • 2
    In the past I'm sure webmasters have declined to accept hosting panel questions. – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 14:19
  • My understanding might be incorrect. We'll find out soon enough. – Michael Hampton Sep 4 '14 at 14:48
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    Pro Webmasters does have tags for cPanel, Plesk, and Webmin, and although they don't represent the majority of questions there by any means, decent questions regarding these and basic web server configuration (e.g., Apache .htaccess, IIS web.config, and nginx configuration) are acceptable for migration there. – dan Sep 5 '14 at 0:03
  • I'm curious, have you dealt with any panel questions that have been flagged for migration and if so how did it go ? – user9517 Feb 18 '15 at 22:42
  • @Iain Overall I have no idea. The stats show 9 posts migrated to webmasters recently. One was deleted by its author, another was closed as too broad. I don't think we're sending enough stuff over there to draw any conclusions. – Michael Hampton Feb 18 '15 at 22:52
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    Apparently everyone missed this answer – MDMoore313 Apr 10 '15 at 12:34
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    @BigHomie That's because we don't have time machines. – Michael Hampton Apr 10 '15 at 17:46
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    Heh, I was talking about this answer of yours here, but I have a feeling it would warrant a Yeah but he wasn't serious rash of comments :-) – MDMoore313 Apr 10 '15 at 17:57
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See also: Topicality: What should be done with “hobbyist” firmware questions?

My opinion on this hasn't changed: the quality of the question is what matters, not the tools in use. If a question in those tags is terrible, then the normal close criteria apply; if each and every question in those tags is close worthy, then close them all - a blanket ban on all questions in the tags would serve only to further confuse the scope of the site.

8

" the real answer is that processionals don't use that shit"

Professionals do, sometimes you need to set up limited access through web tools to enable non-technical users to administer simple tasks.

I can't think of a technical way to filter people before they post. Maybe they should answer these questions when they create an account:

  • Are you a professional system administrator? y/n?
  • If N -> Have you ever been a professional system administrator? y/n?
  • If N -> Are you working to become a professional system administrator? y/n?
  • If N -> Go to Superuser. No shame, really.
  • If Y -> Do you promise to always RTFM? y/n?
  • If N -> Lesson 1: always RTFM. Do you still want to become a professional system adiminstrator? y/n?
  • If N -> Go to Superuser.

I would rather see non-professional questions be dumped to another site like superuser or, if nothing quite exists for amateur administration, then maybe something should be created.

Degrading the site with non-professional questions sucks.

  • 3
    To be a little technical or pedantic, in your scenario, the non-technical person, who's not an IT professional, would be the user, and the professional would still not be using that shit. But yes, this would be the corner case that's been the reason we have historically suffered the existence of tags for these administration panels. Every once in a long while, there is or could be an on-topic question where these abominations/products are relevant. – HopelessN00b Sep 4 '14 at 16:53
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    This is the case of bullet point 2 in my answer. They don't exist. People should be required to participate and have upvoted answers before they can ask a question. – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 16:53
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    @Iain, good point. You did raise it. I misread it as "- if you are providing Panel systems... look! Fire and skulls!" – mgjk Sep 4 '14 at 17:04
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    fwiw, as an entrepreneur I'm forced into the role of server and network manager at my business. At least until my income after taxes pays all my personal bills. :p BUT my 2¢ would be to push the questions to webmasters or web apps SEs. – Chris K Sep 9 '14 at 19:12
7

Despite the communities best effort the , and have recently been resurrected again.

I have taken the liberty to follow Michael Hampton's suggestion and added warnings that explicitly state those labels/topics that are off-topic.

Wiki Excerpt:

Off Topic Warning: cPanel | WHM | Plesk control panel questions are generally considered off topic for ServerFault.


Full Tag Wiki:

cPanel | WHM | Plesk is web hosting control panel that is supported by vendor example.com

Off Topic Warning:

The majority of questions regarding the cPanel control panel are likely to be closed as they are not considered on-topic for ServerFault:

Questions involving web hosting control panels are off-topic at Server Fault because they customize their systems such that normal administration tools and methods no longer apply, and thus require support from the vendor or the web hosting industry. See Where can I ask questions about web hosting control panels?

There have been several discussions on meta.serverfault.com regarding this policy.

  • 3
    HBruijn for mod! Actually come to think of it, when is Hopeless going to be replaced? – Reaces Jul 29 '15 at 18:01
6

I stand largely with Iain, and I like posting fire, doom, and desolation. Thus:

pyro dragon

However, I must disagree that there should be a canonical question, because I can't imagine any useful or on-topic content that one might contain. It is not appropriate for us to maintain a support directory, and that is aggravated by the fact that the software being supported by the supporters in the support directory is not being supported in a context where the user is a professional systems administrator within the definition we use in common practice (i.e. somewhat better than a mere pusher of buttons and a follower of step-by-step instructions with screenshots).

The most appropriate course of action is to close and delete all such questions except those to which the use of a web control panel is incidental. In that case, the tag should be removed since its use is unimportant to the question, and the question may be edited to clarify that the problem being experienced is with some software other than the web control panel.

The tags themselves must most definitely be abolished, and we should consider amending the on-topic help page to include explicit language concerning this topic.

  • So we shouldn't have this canonical either? – Michael Hampton Sep 4 '14 at 11:20
  • @MichaelHampton if you're going to be like that do it properly :) – user9517 Sep 4 '14 at 11:33
  • @Iain In a fantastically hilarious (to me) coincidence, my employer's corporate network has been getting DDoSed since shortly after you posted the comment pointing to Falcon's canonical about DDoS attacks. – HopelessN00b Sep 4 '14 at 13:23
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    I could see some benefit of a canonical QA on this were we lay out well-reasoned, well-explained reasons why control panels are to be avoided at all costs. – EEAA Sep 4 '14 at 15:03
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    The software licence canonical question turned into flamebait for people who wanted to explain about how they knew that SF didn't allow licensing questions but they were a special snowflake, so... or people who wanted to rant about how we all smell faintly of wee because we closed their licence question, or how about they've been on the site for 20 whole seconds and therefore knew better than everyone else about how we should allow those questions and were therefore wrong to close them. I can see this going the same way which isn't a reason not to do it, just a prediction of the reaction. – Rob Moir Sep 6 '14 at 21:35
4

It's one thing to recommend a product (a no-no in the SF guidelines), it's another to recommend a technology. Basically, it's the difference between a product and an idea. Having those tags, while "helpful", feels an awful lot like the product and not the idea.

We should be encouraging the ideas.

Burn it. BURN IT ALL.

Hank Scorpio is BURNING IT ALL

4

I left a comment in an answer but perhaps my perspective can help a little: I'm the President, CEO, PrimaryL(u)ser for my company. We're not rich enough to pay people to run things for us yet. So my BSEE and technician experience means I'm the Server Admin, Windows/IT guy, network guy, all that. And since my revenue is e-commerce driven, I know more about web programming than anyone making less than $100k should.

Because my role is informal / by need, I consider myself not to be the same as a paid professional whose daily job is real IT, Server, or Network Administration. So I try extra hard to deserve the questions I ask and earn the answers I receive.

If Webmasters wants the "web app admin" type questions, that's awesome! Send those there now and burn the tags. I find my way to specific SE sites via Google and I believe Google will (eventually) redirect people looking for cPanel help there instead of here. Personally, I don't really like magic apps like cPanel, but the hosting company my site is on uses it, so I get to as well.

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