I don't like it!

Let's make it better, because it's weak.

  1. What questions are being closed right now with it where it's not conveying what we want it to?
    • Are they "you're on the wrong site", "you're doing it wrong", something else?
  2. Do we need a generic "you're on the wrong site" reason that replaces "not professional"? We can go up to 4 custom close reasons if we need to.
  3. How can we word "reasonable management practices" to convey that it's for the "you're doing it wrong" questions in a clear, and yes, nice way?
  • 4
    I think you should first of all attempt to determine what it is that people what to say that isn't adequately handled by existing close reasons.
    – user9517
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 20:16
  • @Iain That's what I'm going for with the first item :) Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 19:23
  • 1
    Then you need to ask that question separately; the only answers you're getting are to the other parts of your question.
    – user9517
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 22:14
  • 1
    Regarding the first part, most I've closed with it are the "this is just plain stupid" or "You clearly have no idea what you are dealing with" scenarios. Wrong site gets closed with the other migration options, you're doing it wrong usually involves answering with the correct way to do it instead.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 2:18
  • @ShaneMadden For reference, could you add the current text of this close reason to your "question", please?
    – ricmarques
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 20:46
  • Any updates on this?
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 19:16
  • @TheCleaner Sorry, busy week last week - my current thinking is that we have three cases to cover: "you're on the wrong site", "you're doing it wrong", and "you're in way over your head, we can't help you in 30,000 characters" (which is what your answer covers well).. does that sound right? I think we can do a generic one for the first, and get wording together that covers both the second and third. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 19:34

5 Answers 5


I'm really new to this community, and I'd rather like to just comment and see what everyone is thinking. However I want to throw some thoughts out there and see what the responses are. And it's a bit over the comment character limit.

First of all I think there are a lot of questions that simply lack basic research on the OP's part.
And these questions usually get one of the following treatments:

  1. Downvoted (to the OP's suprise)
  2. Responded to with a great answer that only seems to encourage more questions
  3. Ignored (can't find an immediate example, but I'm sure they're out there)

Closing them with a statement that the OP could easily find this with basic research would save some time.

The question implies a lack of basic research.

There's also the kinds of question that seem to indicate that the OP is either royally ruining his career, or very likely not actually talking about a corporate environment / playing around.
While these are currently closed as "blatantly offtopic" (which might not be the exact fit here) or simply answered in good faith. The OP's are demonstrating a lack of constraint and their actions would not be acceptable in any company I know of.

Closing them with a notification similar to:

The question is caused by a business / personnel problem, and is unlikely to be resolved here.

We can still help the OP in comments, but due to the nature of these questions they're unlikely to help anyone in the future.

This still leaves out the "you're doing it wrong" aspect though...

  • 4
    This is one of the first solutions I've felt I can get behind. "This question shows a lack of basic research" deals very nicely with half of what I used to use "not professional" for. I'm not quite so convinced by the other reason (I'm still holding out for "your question is bad because what you're doing is bad, and you should feel bad", but I know I won't get it!).
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 12:42
  • @MadHatter I think the basic problem is that for a lot of questions the person asking them is the problem. If we had a line to a more sane person in charge of that person we could fix everything and everyone would be happy!
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 12:44
  • 3
    I disagree that the question about resetting his colleague's password (serverfault.com/questions/656665/…) is about a business/personnel problem. It's about circumventing his employer's security policies. The fact that he's a domain admin doesn't change that. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 14:23
  • 1
    @KatherineVillyard What I'm actually trying to imply with that sentence is that we can't help him, because his problem isn't technical. His problem is that he wants to do something that he shouldn't be able to do and shouldn't even be thinking about doing. What I would like to say is "I hope I never have the misfortune of working with you, please go away". But I can't so I'm calling it a "Business problem/Personnel problem", meaning I would hope that HR / his employer finds out and deals with it.
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 14:27
  • 1
    A bit off topic, but the sole answer to that question was simply "No" and currently has 10 upvotes. I think the answer spoke for itself in that case...as did the downvotes.
    – Nathan C
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 17:09
  • 2
    @Reaces While it's true that you are new to the community, I'd like to welcome you. You've been a voice of reason. (I can't say much about your answers on the main site; I'm a unix person and usually run the other way when somebody asks about Windows...)
    – Jenny D
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 8:11
  • @JennyD Thank you for the welcoming :). I'd like to think that most people in our profession that care enough to answer on these forums have some modicum of reason and tend to lean towards the logical. As for my answers... I often miss something or don't know something, which at times makes my answers not entirely correct, but learning is a two way street :)
    – Reaces
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 14:30

OK, so maybe this will end up being completely wrong and downvoted away, but here goes. Feel free to poke holes in it! :)

ServerFault exists to be a good Q&A site for sysadmins, but it also is a great lurkers/searchers site. There are tons of folks that simply google something and end up here. The whole point of an IT "community" is to be a community. When we vote to close things we do so based on various reasons but then additional folks in the close queue have to agree with those reasons. We also have to have a good reputation as a quality site. That means quality questions and answers.

Personally, I miss the "too localized" close reason...So taking on what Reaces said in his answer, here's my proposed replacement for this particular close reason:

The question implies a lack of basic research or is such that the ServerFault community feels it isn't going to be of value to the IT community at large. You can find more information as to why [here].

With the [here] hyperlink have a Meta post saying something like:

OK, you're here because your question got closed due to a lack of basic research or is such that the ServerFault community feels it isn't going to be of value to the IT community at large.

So what does that mean?

  • Your question (as it was written when voted on) was obvious enough to our community that we felt it had been covered by the IT community here or at large numerous times and a simple search here or on Google would have given you the answer(s) or led you in the right direction.
  • Your question was just plain silly. It's written where the experts here would read it and ask "Wait...what?" not because we need clarification but because the question makes no sense period. Example: "At what speed would my work's internet connection allow me to not receive spam?"
  • Your question is too localized. While it's fine to ask questions about obscure situations, products, or issues that only a handful of folks might encounter...it's generally considered off-topic to ask us how to fix something only you are experiencing or to fix your in-house applications. The IT community at large is unlikely to benefit from these questions.
  • Your question deals with a product/service that offers free/included technical support and you haven't shown that you've contacted them for resolution.

"So what can I do? I still need my question answered!" you ask. This is difficult to answer as a blanket statement, but our advice would be to start with a good search here, on StackExchange, and of course your favorite search engine(s). If that fails, check with the OEM/VAR/sysadmin/consultant/etc. that would be the direct contact for help with the product or situation you are facing.

Feel free to present your case! Follow the 5 R's!

Reword your question accordingly after going through the steps above to show the experts here that what you are facing is Real, Researched, and Relevant. Then vote to Re-Open the question.

If you still feel that the question is warranted or your question is being treated unfairly, you can ask about it on Meta.

  • 1
    I like yours better than mine, although the 5 R's comes of as a bit contrived to me personally. I also like the idea of a link giving more explanation and filling out the close reason a bit more. Is it possible to have the post locked from comments etc? Otherwise I feel a lot of "Why did I get closed!" comments are going to be placed there.
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 14:38
  • Yes, the Meta post itself can be there but Protected. But even current close reason links to Meta answers exist without protection and it's very rare to see someone comment there after clicking it. Likely they don't even click it, but if they did they probably don't have enough rep in Meta to comment.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 14:41
  • I feel like this overlaps a bit with installation, configuration or diagnostic help; sufficient information about the configuration and environment to reproduce it, and attempted solutions kinda covers "lack of basic research" and without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers kinda covers "isn't going to be of value to the IT community". But I like the direction you're going with this. Do you think we should also add a "wrong site" reason in addition to this one? Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 19:18
  • I personally think "Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers and are unlikely to get good answers." should simply be removed from the other one. Possibly combine it with this one in the Meta link explanation? -- By wrong site do you mean wrong SE site? If so, I think the existing Migration choices are enough.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 19:50
  • 5
    BTW @ShaneMadden I think the only thing really lacking from the existing close choices is a clear enough "your question is completely stupid...I think so and so would most experts here", that's what I was hoping to convey without straight up offending the OP.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 19:54
  • @TheCleaner Haha, fair enough! Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 19:56

I've been thinking about this for a few weeks, and watching closed questions on SF fairly closely. It seems to me that closed questions not well-addressed by this close reason fall into one of two main categories:

  • The user has absolutely no idea what he's doing and answering the question will be an exercise in explaining very basic concepts, such as how to use the keyboard, or why a guide on the Internet sucks. There's not a real consensus on questions like these; while most people seem to dislike them, there is a significant minority of people here who think they should be asked and answered.

  • The question is blatantly off-topic. Either it's about programming, debugging a program, setting up a developer's personal workstation, a home network, etc. Many of these questions already get migrated to their proper site (mostly SU or SO) but a good percentage of them really aren't good enough quality to migrate. Remember that we aren't supposed to migrate crap.

I won't address the first type here; I think the issues surrounding it need more exploration and for one side or the other of that debate to give ground.

I would address the second type by proposing we bring back the "not professional" close reason in a different form:

Questions on Server Fault must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment. Home and end-user computing questions may be asked on [su], and questions about development, testing and development tools may be asked on [so].

In particular I do not mean for this close reason to replace the existing one, but to be an additional close reason. This will require SE to raise the number of close reasons our site can have, which is something I am assured can be done within 6 to 8 weeks if the community is on board with the additional close reason(s).

  • +1 from me, Michael, but I urge you now to turn your thinking powers to the first category. I agree with you that consensus probably can't be reached on it, but I very much desire that the community should at least reach closure on the issue. The current model where the vocal minority continue to post low-knowledge questions while the rest of us desperately wish they'd go away isn't working very well, for me. I'd love ground to be given, but as is often the case with binary questions, I'm not sure it can be; a simple count of which half of the community is really bigger may have to serve.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 7:47
  • Agreed on the new reason. I don't think I have the permissions to flip the "extra close reason" switch, but I'll ping the community team on it. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 23:31
  • @MadHatter I will indeed continue thinking about them. For the moment I would just use the "too broad" close reason, since that's essentially what they are. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 23:52
  • @MichaelHampton And, done - 4th custom reason slot should be available. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 0:08
  • 1
    @ShaneMadden Yes indeed it is! Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 0:09

I frankly think that one of the strengths of the original non-professional close reason was that it did (or could) apply to the poster, and not just the post.

To be totally honest, some people are simply well beyond help, and many of them come here to spew their garbage questions at us.

A lot of people, while not spewing useless garbage onto the front page, simply can't be helped in a Q&A format because they don't know enough, or aren't approaching their problem from a professional mindset, etc., and these questions turn into utter trainwrecks with massive comment threads and edits upon edits to ask more follow up questions or radically alter the question and are really only good for causing frustration on everyone's part.

In these cases, which constitute a significant number of closed and deleted questions, the problem is the person asking the question, as much as anything else.

So, while I know it's not going to happen that we get back a close reason that can be applied to the poster ("your question is fine, but we can't help you), that's my two cents. This reason could be improved by allowing for an interpretation where the problem is the person asking.

In my opinion, the absence of a close reason that acknowledges the reality that sometimes the problem is the poster himself causes more problems than it solves, because those questions still get downvoted feverishly and closed with great vigor, but they just get closed with ill-fitting close reasons that confuse the OP as to why.

  • I very much agree. Yet I fear even if we put a massive red flag on it stating: "You're wrong and you should feel bad!"... It wouldn't convince them 99% of the time.
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 10:40
  • 5
    I'm going to go post over on Aviation.SE "I bought a plane, tried to fly it, and it crashed. What exactly is wrong with the plane?" just to see if your point is valid or not. :)
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 16:32
  • I'm trying to come up with good wording along these lines, but I keep running into thinking that these are covered by "minimal understanding" - do we have some good hypothetical questions this needs to hit? "my environment that someone else set up has a strange problem that I have no idea how to troubleshoot", maybe? Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 21:30
  • @ShaneMadden I think it's less a case of the person being too new (because those questions usually get answered with a lot of documentation and / or good answers)... It's the cases where people go (exagurated for emphasis, but two actual things that I read here) "My predecessor set up an SSO, I tried to add my gmail to it by changing the ADFS proxy url and now everything is broken, I then deleted some DNS entries and now I can't go google, what's wrong?"
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 6:25
  • @Reaces I think "minimal understanding" covers that kind of "what are you even.. ... ..facepalm" question pretty well, though? Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:37
  • @ShaneMadden The thing about minimal understanding, though, is that it's not an option anymore and has to be added as a custom reason. So, what's "covered by" minimal understanding kind of becomes an academic issue, doesn't it? Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:39
  • @ShaneMadden That close reason doesn't really exist anymore in that form. Which is why I gave that example, it's what I'm currently using "reasonable management practices" for, despite it not being a good fit. :)
    – Reaces
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:57
  • @Reaces You're right, my mistake :) Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 18:30

It's better than "not professional," because that sounds like we're slamming the OP rather than the question, but it's still vague. I think it's trying to convey, "hardware, software, and practices relevant to a business setting."

Differentiating "wrong site" and "you're doing it wrong" might help, yeah. For "wrong site," perhaps "questions must be relevant to business-class hardware and software" or "questions must be relevant to hardware and software suitable for a business setting." For "you're doing it wrong," "Questions which go against best practices may not be suitable for Server Fault."

Edit: You convinced me. I'm trying to articulate the difference between "I run a small business selling things at conventions. Should I install a DC on a laptop so I can take it to conventions with me?" and "I'm having trouble setting up my minecraft server." I think the first is on-topic (if doing it wrong) and the second is not; my attempt to describe that is "hardware and software suitable for a business setting." (The second person may actually be more knowledgeable than the first, but it's not business software.)

  • 3
    One man's best practice is another's wtf did you just do there.
    – user9517
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 20:19
  • 1
    Indeed! :) I'm trying to avoid "you're doing it wrong" as a close reason, though. Also, "Questions where the OP refuses to listen to any answer may be unsuitable to Server Fault." ;) Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 20:27
  • 4
    "You're doing it wrong" is an opportunity to share how to do it right. I don't think questions like that should always be closed. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 20:52
  • Good point, yeah. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 21:00
  • 4
    @MichaelHampton I agree. But. In my experience, even when applying great effort to be understanding and gentle with our correction, it seems the vast majority of OPs we say "You're doing it wrong" to respond negatively. That's not to say that we ought not give answering those questions a good college try...
    – EEAA
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:21
  • 1
    "I'm setting up a minecraft server" might actually be a professional business question of course. It still might not mean that we're the best site to provide an answer of course...
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 15:00
  • Yeah, I agree. It's not "suitable for a business setting," though. Not unless you want productivity to plummet. ;) Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 15:16
  • 3
    @KatherineVillyard Devil's advocate: what if you're running a Minecraft hosting service?
    – user15323
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 18:29
  • @MichaelHampton If a person asks: "How can I do A?" and somebody answers "You you should not do A", they are really not answering the question. Are you proposing that we are cool with answers saying don't do that, instead of answering how to do what was asked for? Or would it be better to edit the question such that instead of saying "How can I do A?" it says "I am considering doing A, are there any pitfalls I need to look out for?", and then answer that question.
    – kasperd
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 16:25
  • 2
    @kasperd: How can I store passwords in plaintext ...
    – SamB
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 3:27
  • 1
    Exactly, @SamB. It would probably be better to come back in a comment and say, "What problem are you trying to solve?" but if the answer to that comment is, "I just want a list of users' passwords," the answer is, "Please don't do that." Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 3:30
  • 1
    I had a similar issue recently, on a thread I think you were on. Someone asked how to use Windows ICS to create a tunnel through an existing VPN so they could access restricted subnets. I probed in comments about why they didn't just configure their VPN to allow access to the subnet, and discovered that they were just trying to circumvent corporate security policy on a system they weren't allowed to administer. I wonder if we need to incorporate a "We won't help you do bad things" reason too.
    – Hyppy
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    Yeah, I was in that thread. I wasn't sure whether that needed to be closed as "Don't circumvent policy" or as "Ask your sysadmin to fix it for you." (His workstation was allowed to access those subnets, after all.) Either way, it was clearly unsuitable. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 18:30
  • @Hyppy There's already a text about it in the help center; specifically "[if your question] is not about [...] unauthorized use or misuse of IT systems". I'm not sure it's a frequent enough occurrence that it needs its own custom close reason; we can still VTC with a comment pointing at that reason.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 8:09

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