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I've seen a long standing trend here, and I know some of the reasons why people do what they do. What they do is use 'thedomain.com' or 'example.com' when showing the actual domain at hand would make answers take less time, get more responses, and get better answers overall.

I understand people want to hide the name of the zone for many reasons. I suspect sometimes it is because the person asking has claimed to be a DNS expert and is in fact not, so asking here and having their client discover the question would be embarrassing. I don't think it should be; I'd rather have someone I hire consult with another if they are unsure, rather than just plodding ahead and hoping for the best. After all, aren't you supposed to get a second opinion on medical issues? Why not DNS issues?

It's not limited to just hiding DNS related questions. People fake up IP addresses, URLs for their web servers, etc. Sometimes I'm certain it is a good idea:

Hey guys, my web server has a security hole. When you go to http://www.example.com/hackme.cgi it shows my system's root password!

However, in general hiding this information just slows down answers and keeps people from spending time to try to help out. It's a lot like telling your mechanic that your car makes a strange noise, then not telling them where the noise is coming from, what it sounds like, nor what you were doing when it happens. It's a key peice of information that is missing, so questions are anwered using a question and answer dialog format, using wild-ass guesses like "If you look here, and you see this, then it might be that", or not answered at all.

So, why do people always do this?

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migrated from serverfault.com Jan 20 '10 at 17:58

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11 Answers 11

up vote 18 down vote accepted

As our marketing guy is looking through his google alerts for our domain name, the last thing I want him to see is that name mentioned on some sort of technical or security issue. He'd probably pop a calf right then and there.

In other words, "Brand Management."

Not saying I agree or disagree, but that's certainly a big factor (to me, at any rate)

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The last thing I need is for my bosses to notice what's going on through outside channels. Especially since a lot of what I do is for our customers, who DARN sure don't want to be mentioned in any context that they don't control. –  Michael Kohne Jan 20 '10 at 18:13
    
There's always URL shortening services that will hide your domain, so you never have to use the domain. AFAIK, Google doesn't read and index the destinations of shortened URLS. –  dmanexe Feb 2 '10 at 19:20
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A minor additional point is that if it's not necessary to use an actual domain name for purposes of the question you can avoid the suspicion of link spamming your domain.

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That's actually a good point. People try for SEO in the goofiest ways. –  Chris K Jan 20 '10 at 17:14
    
Please help with my dns records for www.cheapviagranow.com :) –  Alex B Jan 21 '10 at 17:02
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If you work for a Public company (Sarbanes Oxley) or a Private company (SAS70) you might find that the auditors, customers, managers, ectetera would take offense to any publication of any thing remotely security or privacy related.

If your company doesn't deal with auditors you still have competitors who may gain a competitive advantage if you spill the beans.

Finally an actual IP address or domain name could just bring a script kiddie or hacker your way that would otherwise go hit some other site.

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For the most part I am ok with hiding DNS and IP info, sure it makes it harder to solve like the MX record question that came through a little while ago but I understand why people are extra cautious about security these days. What always gets me though is when people that take the time to hide their LAN addresses. Like pasting the output of some command but changing it to say 192.168.1.XX. That's just silly.

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The primary reason to hide this kind of information is from a security standpoint. The information along may not present a risk. But that information, combined with other publicly available information, may give an attacker an idea of the internal network architecture and system configuration. This information may sped targeted attacks on a site.

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While I think the most stated reason is security, I think this is often times misguided paranoia. Hiding the name is security by obscurity at best. Perhaps that helps, but I'd not bet my pay-check on it. –  Michael Graff Jan 20 '10 at 16:35
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What causes people to always hide data that helps in answering problems?

There are lots of reasons, but the main problem is how do you know what data will help solve a problem?

I try to pare down my questions to the bare essentials, and leave out any information that is not relevant.

I also don't include information that may cause people to go off on tangents. For instance there may be no need to discuss the ethics of what I'm doing, so I might re-frame the question slightly so people don't go off the rail and start worrying about what they might assume are my contractual obligations.

Lastly, I sometimes limit information that may cause people to think 'in the box' to use a horrible phrase. In other words if I give them everything, they may not consider all the options. I may be stuck in some problem because I think I must approach it from some direction, so by limiting information someone else isn't restricted by assumptions I've made.

In addition to the above, the other answers here address your specific example very well.

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Answering with example.com and similar anonymous websites can make the question seem more applicable to a wider audience.

If I come across a question about MX records for csszengarden.com, I might assume that the problem has to do with css instead of MX records. If I come across the same question with "example.com" I will look into it for help with MX records.

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I typically abstract my problem for several reasons:

  1. I am creating IP for my company. Non-abstracted information is a violation of my agreements with my company.

  2. The greater context is irrelevant.

  3. Most of the reasons above.

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Well it can be like this. If I have done some thing wrong and if there is a loop hole(security/non security) in it, I might not want the entire world to know about it. so write generic stuffs like (foo, example.com, etc etc).

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If the question is about a security hole, this makes sense certainly. However, I see people using masked domain names when asking about MX records, A records, and general DNS questions. If a site is so insecure that releasing the IP address or hostname is a security hole, then unplug the ethernet until it can be fixed. –  Michael Graff Jan 20 '10 at 15:35
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I don't think you have a raised a bad point essentially but I think potential answers are numerous and varied i.e. security, privacy, it may be a clients details and not yours etc. personally I understand your frustration and think that there should be some kind of convention (not just on SF) (unfortunately this doesn't mean people will use it) ie use example.com (this is reserved on the internet for just this purpose I think) and 111.111.0.1 or alternative.............

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192.0.2.0/24 is the designated TEST-NET, as per RFC3330. I think there's no hope of anyone actually using it. –  womble Jan 20 '10 at 20:37
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Asking users to go to some website they've never heard of is rude. I don't know when I click your link if I'm going to see a real website or an offer for male enhancement pills. Posts that include a link to an external website, even if it's relevant, are often flagged "spam" (something I've learned since I hit 10k rep on SO). People are more likely to help you if they don't think you're spamming.

In general you should use example.com and describe what you have tried and what is happening. If people say they need more info, and you can't come up with any way of providing it short of posting a link, then maybe post the actual URL in a follow-up comment.

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