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In the last month or two I've noticed my questions are becoming increasingly dev ops related and less related to server fault or stackoverflow. Examples include 0MQ compiling issues or problems in TCP.

The field of Dev Ops is ever increasing, and I know teams who have rewritten protocols and entire NGINX modules but their problems aren't necessarily software or hardware related. They can be hybrid problems or caused by a programming error that didn't respect a firewall keep-alive.

I think many users may be confused as to why they see some of these questions and simply say they're off-topic. But now that our economy is cloud-based and SaaS companies do not control the hardware, Dev Ops have high value in the field of software development.

Where do we put these off-topic questions?

Update: example

This question was about 0MQ and probably only someone working in Dev Ops would have a clue. It was multi-faceted and involved Java bindings, Visual Studio, and C compiling

Definitive fool-proof steps for 0MQ / ZeroMQ and Java on Windows 7?

This question was about redis which both requires networking, server and software expertise. It took some time to track the bug to the Scala client itself:

Scala-redis subscribes to * but receives zero messages

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Consider including some links to some examples in your question that were actually closed as off topic. This will give everyone a better perspective of what you're seeing. –  jmort253 Jun 2 '12 at 19:36
    
Admittedly I deleted another question earlier today as it was about to be closed. I did so since it was too open-ended and could have been a problem in our websocket server, our host's firewall, or a combination of other things –  crockpotveggies Jun 2 '12 at 19:47
    
I completely agree to the intent of DeLongey's question. I would ask questions such as; "How do I handle deployments with Capistrano, Puppet and Ubuntu/Upstart with continuous integration?", or "What is the best way to bootstrap an EC2 instance into a cluster and handle the synchronization and installation needed to make my own services start properly? - Would you use Cobbler+Puppet+Capistrano+MCollective+ZooKeeper e.g.?" "What is a reliable failover configuration configuration with HAProxy and Keepalived?" "Would you use AMIs or TFTP if you're bootstrapping your devs with vagrant/VirtualBox?" –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 11:52
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"What is the best way to do rollbacks of hetrogeneous service oriented architectures with continuous integration?" "How do you manage versioning of services w.r.t rollbacks with TeamCity?" "Is there a way to deplace dnsmasq with a quorum-aware service like ZooKeeper?" "Can I replace DBus with ZooKeeper somehow? - both do signals, but DBus is single point of failure while ZooKeeper is quorum based" "How do you analyze your system logs and application logs and how do you integrate them with e.g. Logstash and ElasticSearch?" –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 11:56
    
"How do I set up a continuous integration environment that does a run through my isolated services, in a well-behaved manner - can I automate VirtualBox with Vagrant/Sahara/Puppet in TeamCity and how do I synchronize queue drainage from the message broker?" "What do you use for 'faulty failure detection' in your distributed systems?" "Can I use OAuth to authorize my services across programming languages rather than having a certificate authority handle the individual computers and then having a different layer of security ON TOP OF that, doing OAuth + Claims based security alone?" –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 11:59
    
As you can see, I have a few questions that I would like to have answered. It turns out that these questions don't really arise until you start working with distributed systems, clusters and failover management - as well as all the rest I mentioned above - as a part of your daily job. And it's pretty hard to find a cohesive resource, but imo DevOps deal with all of the above questions, because it facilitates the knowledge exchange between operations/sysadmins and devs that is required to know the answers to the above. –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 12:01
    
"For those of you using nodeless puppet configuration; what master election protocol or logic in puppet are you using to select what nodes get to be master/slaves? E.g. HA-clustering with RabbitMQ - you need to choose one or two disk nodes and a mem-node - how do you select which gets to be which?" –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 12:17
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stackoverflow.com/questions/9011674/cluster-monitoring - supposedly not a real question - despite that I have answers to it! –  Henrik Jul 24 '12 at 12:31
    
Just a thought...but "StackOps" or "StackScale" LOL –  crockpotveggies Jul 24 '12 at 22:02
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Didn't even know there was such a thing as Dev Ops (we just call that "software engineering"). –  user7116 Sep 27 '12 at 17:00
    
@Henrik why don't you ask some those very good questions you posted above, in here - area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/66151/devops ? –  guido Oct 9 '14 at 10:22
    
@crockpotveggies - nearly every question in Stack Overflow's nginx tag is off topic because they are server configuration questions (and not related to programming or development). Ditto for Apache and its configuration questions under the apache tag. –  jww Apr 10 at 4:23

3 Answers 3

In a way, many of these questions sound to me like a subset of the questions that are on-topic at SuperUser: how to install, set up, and use some apparently poorly-documented software. I think the deciding factor as to whether this would make a good Stack would be whether there is actually a population of people who know the answers, or if the knowledge is spread so thin that most questions would go unanswered.

Other questions though, begin "What is the best way...," "What do you use...," etc, and those are the sort of discussion/polling/shopping questions that are banned at most (if not all) stacks. I'm concerned about those; several of the ones you posted in the comments above don't sound as if they could be rephrased another way.

My remaining concern is about rot. Those questions all sound extremely specific to particular versions of particular software packages used in combinations that would come tumbling down like a house of cards as the various packages evolved. For most of the questions on StackOverflow, the answeres will still be relevant in a year; I somehow don't think this is the case for your proposed site.

But ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, and my concerns may be invalid. Therefore, I'll point out that there is an established process for requesting and initiating a new StackExchange site: Area 51. Head over there and work up a proposal, see how it flies!

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I think some of your points regarding phrasing and time-relevance are indeed valid. The success of such a site might be in the format, such as emphasis of posting date. A helpful feature to prevent it could be to auto-flag a question and mark it for follow up. "Best practice" changes every day. –  crockpotveggies Jul 29 '12 at 22:11
    
Many of the questions don't have exact answers, and that can be said about programming as well, which StackOverflow is about. Not everyone finds 'Why is library xyz throwing ErrorABC when I turn the corkscrew?' very interesting - because of exactly how stale those questions will be in a year or two when the library authors have moved on to new bugs or other software is in use. On the contrary, how a quorum is assembled is timeless, because the underlying computer science is. Just because it's a normative question, doesn't mean it can't be answered objectively. –  Henrik Aug 29 '12 at 7:03
    
how to install, set up, and use some apparently poorly-documented software" - that's only true if its for personal or home use. If its professional or for an employer, then its off-topic at Super User. See the Super User Help Center for more details. –  jww Apr 10 at 3:59

Where do we put these off-topic questions?

I think many of them could be asked on Super User. But the thing that makes some of them questionable is Super User's requirement of personal and home computer networking (see their Help Center). So if someone asks for their own edification, then its on-topic. If they ask on behalf of their employer, then its off-topic.

Some of them could be asked on (in no particular order): Stack Overflow, Unix & Linux Stack Exchange, Server Fault. But the person asking has to be mindful of how to keep it on-topic. For example, if they are posting to Server Fault, they need to ensure they are satisfying the criteria of managing information technology systems in a business environment, and not setting up a dev server (see their Help Center).

There was also Dev Ops in Area 51. But it was closed for some reason.

Until the Stack Exchange network stands up a Dev Ops site, Stack Overflow, Super User and Server Fault will be polluted with off-topic developer operations questions like how to configure Apache, How to configure Nginx, How to configure Amazon, How to generate a private key, how to generate a certificate signing request, how to create a certificate, etc...

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Interesting to see that 3 years later this question is still generating interest. I remember there was a Devops in Area 51, if I remember correctly it was closed because it seemed to be a "gray area" and poorly defined topic. You bring up a lot of good ways to format these questions, though. –  crockpotveggies Apr 11 at 21:01
    
@crockpotveggies - yeah, its an acute problem. I wish the Stack Exchange network would do something about it. –  jww Apr 11 at 21:04

DevOps itself is a loaded term that means a lot of things to a lot of people. But the need for the terminology highlights an important point: drawing hard lines between development and operations has led to much pain in the history of building and managing software systems. Companies that keep their sysadmins in one building and their programmers in another are having their lunch eaten by companies who realize that close collaboration is necessary, and that team boundaries need to be drawn where they make sense based on the specific problem at hand, not where an HR person's knowledge ends.

The fact that so many questions are being closed on Stack Overflow for being offtopic when they are talking about things that bleed pretty deeply into programming is troubling to me because it indicates an impulse to cram things into a rigid taxonomy that does not fit the direction the software world is moving. A dedicated DevOps site would dilute strong questions and answers on Stack Overflow in favor of servicing such a taxonomy.

Obviously we don't want every software package under the sun to spawn a zillion off-topic Stack Overflow questions, but programming is a messy thing and there should be some nuance to the fat we are attempting to trim lest we start cutting meat as well. Stack Overflow is of course the original and largest, and therefore will necessarily have the messiest edges. We need to wrestle with the messiness and come to reasonable terms that maximize the utility of the resource overall.

My worry is that the people making these decisions are not the ones getting the most use of Stack Overflow, but are the people most drawn to tidiness and organization for its own sake. I'm reminded of the problem that Wikipedia has where the domination of the community by policy lawyers with no actual domain expertise allow bad content through based on a (possibly malicious) contributor's willingness to jump through hoops, where real topic experts through up their hands and give up their efforts to correct obvious falsehoods because, you know, they can be more effective in other areas of their life where their expertise is actually recognized!

In short, I feel very strongly, database storage is cheap, the search feature is effective: DevOps questions should be allowed on Stack Overflow.

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Stack Overflow is a site for development and programming questions. Effectively, you want (need?) to change the site's charter to include configuration and sysadmin questions. But I don't see the need since there are other sites like Super User and Server Fault. The configuration and sysadmin questions belong on SU and SF. Better, there should be a site dedicated to the non-programming and non-development questions that developers want to ask. That way, developers don't have to worry about staying on-topic at SO, SU and SF. –  jww May 4 at 9:56
    
You're not engaging with my point at all, which is that these things bleed into each other, and we need to be pragmatic about drawing the line rather then being driven by an abstract sense of pure taxonomies (which unfortunately is what the type of personality attracted to meta.stackexhange.com will tend to value). –  dasil003 May 4 at 18:29

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