The third close-reason is currently:

Questions must be relevant to professional system administration. Server Fault is dedicated to professional system and network administrators. End user and enthusiast questions are off-topic (contact your system administrator or hire a professional to help you out). Please see the Help Center for more information.

We should remove this one for a few reasons:

  1. It's frustrating to new users for a variety of reasons:
    • The linked explanation is a wall-o-text. Ain't nobody got time for that.
    • The person asking might well be a professional who is out of their depth, new to a technology, or has a hard time explaining their situation - to the point where it seems unprofessional.
  2. It seems to be pointing to the person asking the question rather than the content of the question itself. I know this horse is dead and kicked plenty, but especially to people unfamiliar with the site, they take it personally.
  3. There's no reason to use this close-reason in the first place.
    • If the Question is bad, pick on the reasons that explains why it's bad. Not only are you still closing a bad question but the OP might have a clue as to why (without taking up your valuable time explaining in the comments).
    • If the Question is good, but off-topic, it should be punted to the relevant site (usually SuperUser, Unix.SE, etc). If the site isn't in the migration list, just Flag it - Moderators will be all over that.
    • In the rare case a question is good, but there is no relevant site, you might have to pick the "Other" reason and say "Good Q, but not here". I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen a good question with no home anywhere on SE.

Related: We've been kicking around the idea of another close reason related to not having the required access to fix a problem, therefor the issue should be run up the flagpole within the organization or whoever maintains the relevant system. If anyone has some great thoughts on wording, feel free to open a new Question on mSF.

I've removed what was point #3 as it really has nothing to do with my reasoning for wanting this close reason gone. There never was a good reason for this close reason and the remaining three points cover that completely.

Addressing the specific concern about allowing non-Professional Questions - NOBODY has proposed this. This close reason is just as invalid with or without that specific wording. Constantly misrepresenting what other people are proposing is a Strawman argument, members of this community can do better than arguing logical fallacies.

  • 13
    If the scope is going to change, I think it would be helpful to figure out what exactly the new scope is going to be. I'm not entirely comfortable with getting rid of this close reason without a good replacement. Nov 24, 2014 at 4:56
  • 1
    @MichaelHampton Well, you have replacements, those reasons that speak more specifically to the problems that the question has. If those turn out to be less than sufficient, then we probably need to talk about the wording a bit. It's easy for the OP to read the reason, but hard for folks to actually pick one, so the angst falls more on the close voters than anything. A "catch all" reason alleviates this, but only the symptom - if changing this makes you feel that uneasy, we should probably talk about the rest of the reasons and what they might lack.
    – Tim Post
    Nov 24, 2014 at 9:42
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    What @MichaelHampton said, especially since we haven't really, truly, officially decided to change scope, right? (FWIW, I may be "Team Nice" but I like our scope the way it is.) Nov 24, 2014 at 14:20
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    @KatherineVillyard Edited Q, but wanted to post a comment to the same effect. Nobody is proposing changing the scope of the site, just the subjective wording. This proposal similarly does not intend to change either the wording or the actual scope of the site, it is merely a reaction to a distinct problem. The problem here is this close reason should almost never be used, but is the close reason 43% of the time, more than any other, and almost more than all others combined. Additionally, it's very difficult to infer a "correct" understanding of this close reason without reading a wall-o-text.
    – Chris S
    Nov 25, 2014 at 14:07
  • Thanks, @ChrisS. That makes a lot of sense. Nov 25, 2014 at 14:46
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    My thinking is that we could use a replacement close reason that drops the "professional" wording, but still keeps the gist of "uhh, you're way out of scope here", which communicates clearly that the question should not be re-asked here even if it's improved in ways it would need to be improved for it to be good enough to migrate. For instance, blatant homework questions, or a poorly asked question which, when cleaned up, would belong on SU. I think we get enough of those that it'd be a headache to "Other" for all of them. Nov 25, 2014 at 21:43
  • @ShaneMadden I'd have to look at the numbers to be sure, but my gut reaction is that we don't get enough poor questions to justify the close reason. Also, being homework really doesn't make it automatically off-topic, and I've seen maybe a dozen of them in my 4 years.
    – Chris S
    Nov 26, 2014 at 4:13
  • Using Shog's "random 40": reopen†, migrated, doesn't have admin†, recommendation, recommendation†, minimal†, minimal†, unclear†, minimal, migrated, unclear†, reopen†, recommendation, recommendation, migrated, minimal, migrate†, reopen†, migrate†, reopen†, migrated, way-off-topic, dupe†, minimal, call vendor†, reopen†, minimal†, minimal†, migrate†, minimal, reopen†, minimal†, reopen†, recommendation, minimal, reopen†, recommendation†, minimal†, minimal†. "†" = Closed for wrong reason - that's 25 of the 40. Exactly 1 could reasonable be "non-professional" of the 18 that were closed as that.
    – Chris S
    Nov 26, 2014 at 4:46
  • @ChrisS Not bad at all - seems like we can at least give it a shot without it and see how it goes. Nov 26, 2014 at 7:39

4 Answers 4


Discussion of this close reason so far have been... pretty abstract. That's a shame; it's a waste of everybody's time.

These custom off-topic reasons aren't here to define the limits of what's on- and off-topic; that's what your help and about pages are for, and both should be informed by the discussion of specific topics here on meta.

Rather, those canned OT reasons are meant as a convenience, a way to succinctly explain why commonly-asked-about topics are not allowed here without needing to bother writing specific comments every time you have to close a question. As I wrote when we released this feature:

Don't try to brainstorm on what you think should be or might be off-topic. Critically examine what you're seeing in practice instead - this should be driven by the community, not by your own personal preferences or prejudices.

When we first released this, I sat down and went through a sample of off-topic questions for every site on Stack Exchange, including this one, and compiled a list of the specific topics that were closed. Then I picked the top 2-5 by volume and wrote custom OT reasons for them. I did not ask myself if I agreed with them or not - that's not my call; I just wrote the reasons to reflect the data. (If you're curious, you can find my initial OT reasons in SEDE)

Now, a lot can change in a year and a half; the common off-topic questions you get today may not match those I found back then. But I strongly recommend y'all follow the same process: look at the data, note the specific topics that are being closed, create pre-defined off-topic reasons for the most common ones.

You can do this using SEDE as well: http://data.stackexchange.com/serverfault/query/250376/off-topic-questions-past-90-days; if going through 800 questions doesn't excite you, then take a random sample and analyze that instead.

Triva: over the past 90 days, 43.4% of all closed questions were closed using the "must be relevant" off-topic reason. If you're gonna close everything with the same reason, there's no point in bothering with convenience reasons at all; conversely, if you're gonna spend the time hand-crafting custom OT reasons, they should actually be meaningfully distinct.


Without the "Professional Capacity" aspect to our mission, I fail to see a difference between ServerFault and SuperUser.


Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users.


Server Fault is a question and answer site for professional system and network administrators.

Do we really want to be a mere dumping ground for 10,001 CPanel/WHM and Home router questions?

  • Server Fault as a place by sysadmins for sysadmins has probably never existed. It has pretty much always been a place where people come to ask sysadmins for help. As such, it has failed in it's mission and is no different from pretty much anywhere else on he internet. It really is time to move on leave it to become truly what it is Yahoo! answers. Don't forget to donate the spare time you'll have to a good cause rather than lining SE's pockets.
    – user9517
    Nov 24, 2014 at 7:09
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    Can we keep discussion of bullet point 3 on the question that's dedicated to that? Nov 24, 2014 at 7:21
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    It's very relevant to this proposal. I wholeheartedly disagree in every conceivable way.
    – Magellan
    Nov 24, 2014 at 7:23
  • @Magellan If you disagree with that, then disagree on that question. Nov 24, 2014 at 7:24
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    You listed it here, I'm addressing it here. If you feel that strongly about it, go ahead and delete my answer.
    – Magellan
    Nov 24, 2014 at 7:24
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    @Magellan I'm not Chris, actually. I'm just saying that if you're disagreeing with that, then it makes more sense to register your disagreement where that's actually being discussed, as opposed to here. Especially since the complaints you seem to have with it are directly addressed in that post. Nov 24, 2014 at 7:26
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    I haven't yet had an opportunity to read the full wall o' text that question has become. Kinda busy doing my job.
    – Magellan
    Nov 24, 2014 at 7:32

That particular close reason is simply a variation on your question is not on-topic. As long as the motto still is:

Server Fault is a question and answer site for professional system and network administrators.

That close reason can still stand.

The alternative is to simply phrase it both more bluntly and generic as something along the lines:

Questions must be on-topic and within the site scope as decided by the Server Fault community.
Your question may be more appropriate and on-topic in one of the other related Stack Exchange communities.

Possibly including a link to a recent discussion on Meta about the site scope.

  • 1
    This answer addresses the problem while avoiding the land mine of bullet #3. It also steers people towards the other SE sites, which the current answer does not. Me likey.
    – Andrew B
    Nov 24, 2014 at 13:57
  • Sorry, but I disagree. If the question is good it shouldn't be close, it should be migrated to where the good question can get good answers. If it's crap to begin with it should be close because it's crap, not because the crap is also off-topic. This rewording has the exact same problem as the original wording.
    – Chris S
    Nov 25, 2014 at 15:30
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    I'll admit it may appear a lazy choice but with 40+ active sites in the category technology alone and 186 proposals in Area51 my knowledge of what is on-topic and where decreases by the day.
    – HBruijn
    Nov 25, 2014 at 15:55

I opened a new question for "ask your vendor."

For the second half of what gets tossed into the "Professional" close reason, I'd propose something like:

Questions must be relevant to production (as opposed to development or home) environments. Production environments have different needs than home or development environments, including load, stability, reliability, and uptime. Solutions that work well in home and development environments don't always scale to production, and are therefore off-topic.

I still think this is a useful distinction.

  • 4
    If the question is relevant to Development environment then it should be migrated to StackOverflow. If the question is relevant to Home environments then it should be migrated to SuperUser. If it's crap it should be closed as crap.
    – Chris S
    Nov 24, 2014 at 15:47

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