I by no means consider myself to be a professional network administrator. Rather, I am a systems and application programmer, and an occasional project manager.

However, due to the nature of my work, I am sometimes forced out of necessity to take on at least some roles that would normally be in the domain of a professional network administrator and technician, especially early on in a project's timeline. Often times it requires significant research effort on my part to make sure that I am doing at least a decent job, since I have neither formal training nor significant experience in the area. The projects tend to be unique and highly specialized.

As such, the questions I have often deal with "professional" level networking scenarios, but I have only a novice/intermediate level of knowledge. Essentially, they're amateur questions in a professional context.

Is it acceptable to ask amateur questions here if the situation is, for example, not a consumer-level networking setup, despite the fact that I am not a professional network administrator? In other words, can non-professional administrators still ask questions about professional setups?

I don't actually have any specific questions in mind otherwise I'd give an example, but on multiple occasions in the past I have thought about this site while searching for information, but stayed away out of uncertainty in an attempt to respect the topics here.

  • 13
    Mostly topicality is not about your job title or actual job, as it is about the quality of the question. (as longs as the subject of your question is topical and you are asking not about home use, development setups etc. etc.
    – HBruijn
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 22:10
  • 2
    The professional requirement is long gone meta.serverfault.com/questions/6701/…. I thing the barrier is now as low as 'doesn't drool too much'
    – user9517
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 5:28
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    People in such odd roles tend to use technology in odd ways. That's not judgmental. It's more of a consequence that your typical DB is managed by a typical DBA, your average network by a network engineer. That skews the figures for unusual DB's and networks. It's therefore logical that you get the more interesting questions, as documentation will focus on typical uses.
    – MSalters
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 16:09
  • @MSalters "Odd" would be the understatement of the year.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:18

4 Answers 4


I am fine with this, as long as:

  1. The systems and equipment are truly professional-grade. (No questions about Aunt Mabel's inkjet printer)
  2. You have full administrative permissions on the systems you are asking about, and have the authority to modify their configuration.
  3. You have attempted to resolve the situation on your own, and can provide evidence to us of this - what worked, what didn't work, etc. The more details you can provide, the better.
  4. You are not asking us to explain rudiments to you. For instance, asking a question about how a router works is not acceptable.

We try to not be fundamentalists here. Yes, we are a site for professionals, but even if you're not that, provided that you can satisfy the above requirements and you are fulfilling the role of a professional, go for it.

  • 7
    Mainly I agree, except (2): in my opinion, the administrative permissions of the sysadms are generally more restrict in professional environment. Typically, they have access only to a small part of a complex system, and nobody really has full access on the whole (except maybe some boss, but he doesn't really use it).
    – peterh
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 18:14
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    @peterh I guess the nuance there is that one has full administrative permissions on the subsystem they are asking about.
    – EEAA
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 18:25

Even when this place was quite insistent on the professional requirement, to me that always related to the standard/level of the question, not the resume of the asker. A bad question is bad no matter who asks it, and a good question is always good no matter who asks it.

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    On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog .
    – user9517
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 13:02
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    Professional questions about professional setups, not necessarily by professional admins...
    – Sven
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:14
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    @istheEnglishway woof.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:10
  • 2
    I would never have guessed @MadHatter
    – user9517
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:24
  • 2
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 2:29
  • 1
    @JasonC: "All your hands" Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:42

IMO, you don't need to be a professional sysadmin to ask a question here, you just need to be able to play one on the Internet. A lot of questioners can't manage to play Homo Sapiens on the Internet, and that's when things get ugly.

  • 3
    Heh, well, to be fair (and somewhat philosophical), every single person that has ever posted anything anywhere by definition is a 100% accurate portrayal of a human, facepalminess and all.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 1:43
  • 3
    Monkeys. Typewriters. Stir to combine and bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven.
    – womble Mod
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 1:29

I suspect ServerFault is fairly largely summarised by 'non-professional admins asking questions about professional setups' - hopefully with the caveat said admins are 'professional' in other aspects of their setup.

  • 1
    You missed a non in there between about and professional setups . SF is a place for (mostly) amateurs to ask questions of (mostly) professionals.
    – user9517
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:51
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    It is unavoidable, most professional sysadms have only a little need to ask.
    – peterh
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 15:50

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