My recently asked question has been put on-hold minutes after being published. However not being new to ServerFault and quite a few other SE websites this surprised me. For me as asker the question is rather on-topic since this is about managing the hardware or software of servers, workstations, storage or networks and at the same time tools used for administering, monitoring, or automating these.

I can understand when the questions asking for too narrow functionality can easily become target of commercial recommendations etc.

However, it seriously confuses me when the question specifically asking for free OSS tool with rather wide functionality (so it can be entire list that can be extended even years after) is being treated as the named product recommendation.

So where border lies between product and tool?


So to explain this a little more - this question is not about re-opening that question. But the purpose is to question how similar questions are judged. And as in referenced similar meta-question I will quote:

There IS a gray area... I do think SF needs to slightly reconsider the stance because product recommendations are sometimes unavoidable

Moreover I've read relevant blog post quite a long time ago and it says that the reason those question are considered for closing is because:

These questions may seem tolerable at first glance. Isn’t it our mandate to help our fellow ewoksusers? But consider the voluminous amount of information you need to even begin properly answering a shopping question

Which highlights the core issue that should be looked at (IMO) - Is the question asking for something too broad that the answer will be too complicated?

To elaborate my point, the questions such as "what backup tool should I use?" are way too broad and have many different good answers depending on many conditions. However, questions "what of AAA, BBB, CCC that can do XXX?" is much more narrow and more clearly defined and thus the clear answer can be provided such as "None" or "Try DDD" instead, which are commonly appear to be good and highly upvoted answers on both SF and SO.


2 Answers 2


The close reason chosen lays it out quite well:

"Requests for product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they attract low quality, opinionated and spam answers, and the answers become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe the business problem you are working on, the research you have done, and the steps taken so far to solve it."

You were asking for a product recommendation, hence the question is off-topic. I'm not sure where the confusion lies here.

Please don't take this personally that your question got closed. We're not mad at you. You're not a bad person. You just happened to ask a question that doesn't fit well here, that's all. If you think these questions should be allowed here, you're always welcome to lobby the community here on meta. If you can convince the community that they should be allowed, then we'll gladly modify the rules of topicality.

So where border lies between product and tool?

IMHO, those two terms are interchangeable for the purposes of this discussion.

Once you've identified a tool that looks promising, then by all means come back here and ask whatever technical question you'd like about it.

  • 1
    Like I mentioned in comments to question I rather strongly disagree. There are many good and popular questions that were considered on-topic. E.g. serverfault.com/questions/96265/… Yes, it is closed as "opinion based" which is correct because it is asking "for best tool". But as can see many users found it helpful just judging by count of upvotes and stars (and yes, it's been closed 4 years later somehow). Jul 6, 2017 at 14:35
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    @AlexKey That question is eight years old. Server Fault was very new back then and the view about what are acceptable questions has changed a lot over the years.
    – Sven
    Jul 6, 2017 at 15:01

Regarding your edit:

However, questions "what of AAA, BBB, CCC that can do XXX?" is much more narrow and more clearly defined and thus the clear answer can be provided such as "None" or "Try DDD" instead

Personally, I find this even more problematic than to ask "what is available" because you are fully expected to read the documentation and/or try a product/tool/whatever in question before you can even think about posting a question on Server Fault. Really, a site like ours should be your very last resort, not the first one.

Also, this is very much a moot topic because that was clearly not what you originally asked and what this meta-question is about - your question was in no way different then "what backup tool should I use".

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