I used to be very active on ServerFault. In fact, I was on the first page in the top 10 overall ranking. I love StackExchange's products and ServerFault as a forum and I recommend them still.

What prompted me to post this was coming back to the site to find an answer that I previously wrote and I discovered that the question was closed.

I stopped contributing to the site for a couple reasons:

  1. I'm committed to many other community activities as well as having additional demands on my life otherwise, and ServerFault was something that fell off my list of priorities.
  2. The primary reason is an active combative position against professional related topics that aren't deeply technical amongst the community.

The second point became very clear running for moderator in 2011. It was a close election with two positions and I came in third not being elected.

Part of my candidate statement:

As many of you have seen me espouse before, I want to see your Server Fault continue to be a community of top-notch professionals. With this, I have encouraged policies and moderator actions that enable professionals, while discouraging participation of those who do not work in the Information Technology field. As a moderator, I will continue to encourage professionals, while guiding the end-user to the appropriate site.

During the election process, there were members of the community who took a hostile approach towards professional content that related to career management. I attributed that to the deciding factor in my loss. I believe that this attitude has taken over ServerFault today.

There are many deep technical resources for professionals. Internet sites, user groups, among others. Nevertheless, there's a substantial void for professional content regarding career management catered towards Infrastructure and Operations professionals.

It's unfortunate that ServerFault is experiencing challenges reflected in the reduction in use. There's more to running servers professionally than simply learning the technology -- it's learning how to grow and build as a professional, which is what you've seen the most successful past ServerFault contributors embrace.

I spend a great deal of my time in the community helping with that between the Career Track at Ohio LinuxFest, LOPSA Columbus presentations, as well as presentations and events that I organize and support. That gap is beginning to close but there is still a lot of work to be done. Before, I thought ServerFault would help with that and I believe that it still can.

It's time for technologists to be open to more than simply the technology. For us to grow as professionals and as a community, this must happen. Is ServerFault prepared to lead that change?

4 Answers 4


Do you really think that Is RHCA good? is a good question that will actually have value for people. The problem I see with most career questions is that ~95% of them are crap like the one you mentioned. Your answer is fine, but the question was junk.. Most career questions poorly written, and frequently highly specific to the single person. They almost always ask for opinions then objective useful questions.

I wouldn't be opposed to a good questions that had broad appeal, but describing a filter that only matches the good and useful questions will be very difficult.

I often see lots of career style questions over on https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin. I don't think any of them would make Serverfault better.

I don't want to see questions like the below, but I am almost certain that, if we were more permissive about 'professional' type question, these would account for majority of what we see.

  • What should I be when I grow up? (sysadmin, database admin, developer, devnops, etc)
  • Am I getting paid enough/how do I get paid more.
  • How do I get a better job/position?
  • What do I do if can't get along with my boss/employee/peer.

Most of the questions that are useful along these lines are being asked over on https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions

  • That's fair. There's numerous other questions of higher quality that apply. The example I provided was most convenient for me but unfortunately not the best example. I can see a single well-asked question on that topic being valuable and serving as the "sole source," as is done with many other questions.
    – Warner
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 18:27
  • Moreover, many things are specific to IT professionals or if a general topic specific information is still useful.
    – Warner
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 18:33
  • 4
    Since you mentioned Workplace... it's where I go when I need a laugh, want to stare at trainwrecks, or remind myself that my employers (whom I really dislike) aren't that bad, in the grand scheme of things. The site (or it least its low-lights) should be required reading for anyone who thinks they want those type of questions of ServerFault. As amusing as it is to read questions from people wondering if it's OK to use company resources and information to stalk an attractive female employee, I don't want to see that kind of question here. Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 19:01
  • 1
    Agreed with generic "Workplace" content, Hopeless. Stuff like this albeit not directly but still related to the type of content I think of: kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer/… ... or this: ansible.com/blog/…
    – Warner
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 19:34
  • 1
    @Warner Love that site, and have read it a lot for my own purposes, but in addition to the crap that gets attracted by these kinds of questinos, I just don't think there's enough broadly applicable career development stuff out there that can be answered reasonably objectively. The market for IT skills in Columbus is pretty fractured (what you see available in the Dublin/WorthingtonH/illiard is vastly different from what you see in Pickerington or Grove-tucky), and that's just one metro area...on a global site you're talking about entirely different countries and cultures and legal frameworks. Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 4:14

The scope of SF topicality has changed since it was opened. Learning material recommendations have been off-topic since before I even became an active member of the site.

Highly voted Q&A's from early in SF's life that are no longer on-topic are usually flagged as protected by the mods rather than closed outright, but sometimes normal users will beat them to the punch with a vote-close. Typically this happens because someone has either contributed an answer or an edit to a question that is no longer on-topic, which bumps it back to the top. Not sure what happened in this case.

If you don't like this change in policy related to learning material questions, hey. That's what meta is for. By all means make a case for changing that. That's not what you're doing, though. You're using it as a springboard to leap into other territory, such as why you're no longer an active contributor, speculation about it being a reason you failed to be voted in a mod (when SF regulars can't even vote in their most favored candidate because he has less than 10k rep...), and so on.


The kind of business question I see as on-topic has to do with making technology and business work together.

Say, for instance, "How can I convince my management that our broken implementation of X needs to be fixed" or "What benefits of technology X are useful for my company" - if well asked, I think these should be on topic here already.

Tougher are ones that are sysadmin-specific but subjective, "What certifications should I get if I want to get X position?" or "What can I do to clearly communicate to prospective employers my skill in X?" - these are much harder to fit into our Q&A model cleanly, since these don't have a "right" answer. I'm not really against trying to get these kinds of questions worked in, but I'm having a hard time imagining it working very well.

Then there's the ones that Zoredache mentioned, which are pretty purely business and non-sysadmin, which are definitely more topical for workplace.SE than here.

  • Good points, thank you. The subjective nature of some of the subjects do make it more challenging. I'd say that there are past examples that were successful questions with good answers that were subjective but later closed. The subjective nature is a tangible challenge with the way the community has been built. Many human things are not necessarily black and white -- career management and "soft" topics tend to lean human even if IT focused.
    – Warner
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 23:09

Perhaps instead of looking to increase the scope of ServerFault, we should change the way we handle related questions.
Take for example career paths, currently if you ask a question about it on ServerFault you will most likely experience the following:

  1. You are down voted
  2. You create comments about the down votes
  3. Your question is moved / or closed

How likely are you to return to ServerFault with another question?
What if we had a ServerFault careers section, which contains relevant discussions.
And then make sure we let the more active members know they should not down vote questions that should be moved. Perhaps even remove all down votes from a question that has been moved (is this already the case? I can't find any indication that it is)

If you expand the community of ServerFault, without expanding the scope of the questions on the main forums, you might create a more welcoming environment.

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