I've probably missed some great debates in here, but I want a status report. What has happened with our rules over the past half a year in here?

Spoonfeeding was always encouraged in here, as far as I can remember. We have always encouraged those who downvote to provide a proper reason for doing so. As well as explaining how to fix your post, to make it more valid, instead of closing it right away.

I also personally tried as much as I could, to guide less-experienced users towards their true wishes. Because they have a lack of experience, because they don't know what technology exists out there (which is actually really hard to find). They ask to the best of their abilities, and we, experienced people, help them to understand what they want, and maybe show better solutions.

Now I came to Server Fault and posted a few questions. One was taken down, because it's "not a real question" and a moderator provided a link to the documentation of Red Hat Linux. I've read this documentation and couldn't even find where the solution to my problem would be included. But the question was already closed, so I had to go to IRC, and ask people there.

A second question was closed because it's "not constructive", and the user who voted for closing it said: Please go to that product board and ask there, because nobody has expertise in the topic (although it's not off-topic at all).

REALLY? I MEAN SERIOUSLY? So why are we in here?

Is it not allowed to ask anything in here before you read 1000 pages of documentation regarding your software you have problems with? What are we allowed to ask and what not?

So let's go and close all the topics where answers can be found in manuals, bugs can be found in issue trackers, etc. But then what? We'll be solving issues which never happened to anybody before? Or let's maybe even close the topics in Stack Overflow where you haven't read the source code of your used software?

Seriously guys, what has happened in here? Am I not allowed to ask simple questions (which has not been asked previously on the site) and should I be kicked off with some link to the documentation? Is this really a valid way to proceed?

The best thing about this community was spoonfeeding, so people who had a hard time on resolving issues could get support from those for whom this is not that hard, and who have experience with those issues and can answer in seconds.

What happened to me recently is basically the same as: Throwing me into the water and watching me drown, instead of teaching me how to swim. Even if it makes me a better swimmer, do you really think this is the way to go?

  • 8
    Since it concerns your experience on Server Fault, this question should have been asked on meta.serverfault.com, not here.
    – Sven
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:26
  • 4
    it happened actually on stackoverflow, on serverfault, and on superuser. is this still should be moved? feel free to move. just don't close it.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:27
  • 1
    I've taken the liberty of linking the specific question you mention, because it might help people understand the context. Personally I find the linked-to documentation to be ... lacking. The GECOS field is mentioned, but it's not clear if the -c option (or any other) will set it. The "locked" part, however, is explained. Jun 10, 2013 at 12:28
  • Thanks Joachim, although that question doesn't have anything similar with locking. guy who answered the question in there - is a solution I really needed. Locking has different impact on that what I'm intended to do.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:30
  • 33
    You might want to slightly rephrase this. "Spoonfeeding" does not have a positive tone to it and it's certainly not what I would call "the best thing about this community". To me the word "spoonfeeding" indicates lazyness on behalf of the OP, something we surely discourage.
    – Bart
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:32
  • I don't know any other term for helping less experience users to help find their way. I mean, I'm usually putting good amount of time for researching on keywords, before even asking. So I've googled all over the place "how to disable login in redhat" and I've failed on this, tried various other keywords, like "nologin in redhat" (wrong feature). After all it appears tobe I had to understand "disable-login" option indetails, before even asking, redhat "adduser" tool is different from debian? this where I need " spoonfeeding", people who explain problem when I've gave up.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:40
  • 30
    "spoonfeeding is not allowed" implies that someone got told off for helping another too much. Your complaint seems to be that you are not allowed to demand that you be spoonfed, which is different. Jun 10, 2013 at 12:41
  • @KateGregory any ideas how to rephrase a topic? :) thanks.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:42
  • 1
    @holms: The manual for Debian says "--disabled-login creates an account without a password" and the manual for RedHat says "creates by default an account without a password", so I'm not sure how that does not answer that... Jun 10, 2013 at 13:01
  • 12
    "Throwing me into the water and watching me drowning, instead of teaching me how to swim." I think that analogy is wrong, it's more like "Watching me jump into the water and watching me drowning, instead of teaching me how to swim.". Jun 10, 2013 at 13:02
  • 3
    @holms: How else would you read "By default, the useradd command creates a locked user account. To unlock the account, run the following command as root to assign a password: passwd username"? Jun 10, 2013 at 13:07
  • 8
    You might want to edit your post and tone it down. The "cool moderator" part is especially sarcastic and not likely to garner sympathy from anyone here. The exasperated bold caps aren't helping either.
    – Ben Lee
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:24
  • 7
    @holms You're getting awkwardly close to a rant here. We're not your enemies, nor are the moderators. Tone your language down a bit if you want to keep the impression of constructiveness.
    – Bart
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:43
  • 15
    @holms: one ugly truth about SE you have to realize is this: when in doubt, SE prefers to pander the answerers over the askers. Why? Because people who write good answers (and do that more than once) are rare. People who want to have their questions answered are legion. That might sound nasty, but it's a simple reasoning: losing on person who answered questions is a lot worse than losing one person who asked questions. Jun 10, 2013 at 14:44
  • 4
    It saddens me that this question has received so many upvotes.
    – user164207
    Jun 10, 2013 at 23:11

3 Answers 3


Anywhere on Stack Exchange, research is essential. Put yourself in the boots of someone who's mainly here cause he enjoys answering interesting questions.

I see a horribly simple question I could probably answer when I'm sick, high as a kite flu medication, and am probably drooling. I'm actually fine. I'm looking at the question and wondering why the hell the guy didn't google the damned thing as I do to get a good answer.

Or not. (I sometimes do, but that's when it's something I realise other people will struggle with, and go beyond the basic question).

OR I can find good, hard questions and actually learn stuff. We're NOT your infinite monkeys on the keyboards of research. Stack Exchange's a really nice place when you're actually stuck.

Server Fault in particular has the thorny issue of trying to retain folk who want to keep the place for system administrators of a certain skill level - and that sometimes means not catering to folk who can't do the basics. If it's on a man page, it wouldn't hurt to try it, then report back with what went wrong. You'd know this if you'd actually gotten familiar with the site culture.

  • Should note this is no longer true.
    – djechlin
    Apr 4, 2014 at 14:35
  • Which is no longer true?
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Apr 4, 2014 at 14:40
  • "Anywhere on Stack Exchange, research is essential."
    – djechlin
    Apr 4, 2014 at 16:04
  • @JourneymanGeek, He's referring to StackOverflow's high number of really insanely simple questions (that can be answered with one line, sometimes literally) which are allowed to live because they are fetching high pageviews / traffic / $.
    – Pacerier
    Aug 28, 2015 at 14:45

For what it's worth, this "spoon feeding" you want was never encouraged or welcome on SF. As we see professional system/network administrators as our only audience, it shouldn't be necessary anyway.

As for the questions:

  • The first you asked was about an obscure system where I pointed you to a better place to ask your original question, considering the fact that the original form of the question amounts to either "google this for me" or a learning material question, both off-topic on SF. You since rephrased this question and it got reopened. So, what is your problem here?

  • I wouldn't necessarily have closed the second question, as the RHEL manpage (cited from a Scientific Linux 6.4 install) is not terrible obvious with the relevant part:

    -p, --password PASSWORD
           The encrypted password, as returned by crypt(3). The default is to 
           disable the password.

    however, the link Michael Hampton gave you was spot on and included the necessary information. If you are to layz to read it, that is entirely your fault and I think to expect anything more from a site where people answer questions for free, in their own time, is entirely inappropriate.

From a more general perspective, if you made the same experience that you required too detailed instructions on three sites and people complained about it, couldn't it be that your expectations are unrealistic? I can't speak for SO or SU, but if you expect that people explain every single concept, phrase or term, ServerFault is not the site for you. Our goal is to help you help yourself, not to do your work for you.

You know, the funny thing is that you chose Sherlock Holmes as your avatar, the quintessential detective able to make great discoveries from the smallest observations. Frankly, you present yourself as the exact opposite.

  • last paragraph is logical fallacy? fine, that happens, you human after all. The fist question has 2 votes for closing it, so what's the point of that editing, when there's still no hope for proper answer. The second one is fine, I'm only complaining for things that's happened, and I don't want them to happen again. The answer of second question is just perfect, short and clear. and if you noticed that questions is closed by one person, for no reason, oh sorry.. I THINK that this reason is invalid. I can even ask "how to create a user in linux", and the only reason to close is, is "dublicate"
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:36
  • and talking about professional, where you professional in one topic, I will be profesional on another, that means when you'll be stuck with some deep debugging within verilog.. i will give you a link 'how to debug verilog', and (use imagination) I'd close your topic for invalid question. I wonder would you be very happy about that? Again: dropping only the link without explanation is even worse than no answer at all. and closing it down is a punch to my face. without explanation how to fix a question.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:38
  • 9
    @holms: And my fallacy is what exactly? The edited first question racks up close votes because it still is off-topic (essential asking for a product recommendation). As I said, closing the second question was not really necessary, but the link you got with it was exactly as helpful, and since it was only a link, Michael posted it as just a comment, not an answer. And if come to some site where Verilog is topical and just shout "HALP. I DOEZ NOT WANTS TO READ. EXPLAIN" I fully expect to get my rear kicked. But you would never see such a question from me.
    – Sven
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:51
  • So to ask for solutions in here is also invalid (yes products ARE SOLUTIONS) ok ok, give me more rules, and it's even better to put this to some agreement before registering on site, cause I see how users "understand" all of your 'requirements' documented 'nowhere'? logical fallacy regarding last paragraph -> carm.org/logical-fallacies-or-fallacies-argumentation 1,3,4. no rights to point at any individual data like nickname, points, mail, site and any other cyber-discrimination as an argument. P.S> my questions always contains plenty of information for understanding my wishes.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:01
  • 1
    @holms; It is a conscious decision not to do product recommendations on all Stack Exchange sites, explained here. I don't fully agree, but that's the way it is. Unfortunately, the new "help center" makes it even more difficult to point to the list of valid topics, but that doesn't make it OK to ignore the site's standard.
    – Sven
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:39
  • 4
    And for your "fallacy": Please read my post again. Nowhere did I discredit or attack you in any way, I just was amused by the obvious discrepancy between your chosen avatar (one artifical persona!) and your explicitly stated demands to not do the "detective work" yourself.
    – Sven
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:42
  • 2
    @holms While comments on the OP mentioned you were "awkwardly close to ranting", I'd say you've gone over that line and have entered the realm of uncontrolled venting. Take a step back; nobody here is your enemy. Jun 10, 2013 at 15:03

The context of spoonfeeding as used here is different from the one mentioned in this comment.

We encourage people to leave comments helping a user get a closed question reopened or a bad question fixed. This sort of spoonfeeding is good.

However, Stack Exchange will not do all your work for you. If you want to be spoonfed in this manner. Michael Hampton's comment is correct. SO/SF are not here to teach you how to read documentation. They are here to solve specific problems.

  • 1
    This still leaves me with unanswered question. What's the point of putting link where I can't "see" anything for example because of complicated terms/text? "point me where is it?" request is invalid? That person who answers a question SHOULD NOT copy/paste, he should interpret solution in own words. That's actually considered as "answer". it's like in school.. if teacher will ask you something, you'll give him link too web page or open the book? hell no, please create your own answer, you can quote something but please do explain from your perspective.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:11
  • 2
    @holms: "That person who answers a question SHOULD NOT copy/paste, he should interpret solution in own words." Actually, we encourage people to C&P with citing of the source...it's better then link-only-answers. Jun 10, 2013 at 13:15
  • 3
    @M.NightDemonbobby it's sounds similar to "How does python metaclasses works?" and your answer would be a link to 200 pages of PDF "how to do meta-programming in python". You think it's valid? Valid would be to explain what are metaclasses in ~3-10 lines give him source to go further. That at least could be considered as an answer, so person could decide drop this idea, or continue with it. but dropping only the link without explanation is even worse than no answer at all.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:21
  • @Manishearth if you could define what do you mean by "Stack Exchange will not do all your work for you." I'd be happy to take it as a rule. cause what obvious for me in my topic, is not obvious for you, I mean even the simplest thing can make me laugh and that thing can be totally ununderstable/difficult for you.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:45
  • all I'm asking why rephrasing or quoting exactly as answer needs to current topic is not a must? I'm asking in one way, and link explain information in another way. So that one who post link can at least point what exactly he want's to show. My main anger is pointed towards closing a question, by giving one link with no explanation of reason or whatsoever.. This is REALLY rude and disrespectful.
    – holms
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:11
  • @M.NightDemonbobby It's mostly off-topic to this conversation, but I feel like there's way too much copy-pasing¬m
    – Jeremy
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:41
  • 3
    @Metrics You mean like the entire paragraph added to the page when the post is closed explaining what it means to have the question closed for that reason, and with a link to the FAQ with even more info?
    – Servy
    Jun 10, 2013 at 16:23
  • 6
    @holms - "What's the point of putting link where I can't 'see' anything for example because of complicated terms/text?" Because you can then research and learn what the complicated terms mean. Stop begging for fish and pick up a fishing rod.
    – user164207
    Jun 10, 2013 at 17:25
  • @JackManey equivalent to your suggestion in real life "What's this sentence means in japanese?", "oh here's a link, go study japanese". either you answer question, or just skip it and don't say anything. this is just disrespectful to anyone. this kind of behavior, brings only anger and fighting nothing more. SERVICING is first word which you need to learn people. if you don't know how to share knowledge, don't even start to share it, instead of showing your arrogance by dropping links which only understandable for you.
    – holms
    Jun 11, 2013 at 11:59
  • 1
    @holms: No, this is more like "what's this word mean in japanese?":"here's an English-Japanese dictionary, look it up". He never asked you to learn anything, just to look it up. Learning has a flow -- you need to start at the beginning and go through meticulously. When you're looking stuff up you can just skip to the relevant portion. Jun 11, 2013 at 12:07
  • Well the real situation of question before: if you won't understand that adduser is an alias of useradd (nobody told this, no info in manual) you won't understand what --disable-login actually does even by reading adduser man pages.. ok? so because nobody explained the behavior, and i've only got a link to follow, that means "please learn what is adduser tool" that means tons of time for reading instead of solving that stupid issue and continue with your work.. and now it's just torturing me by forcing to "learn" how that tool exactly works.
    – holms
    Jun 11, 2013 at 12:15
  • 1
    @holms: We're not a crystal ball. If there's something well known -- on a site for professional system/network admins, some things are assumed -- then users will assume you know it. There are a million other things like this that are assumed; how do we figure out where your confusion lies? Jun 11, 2013 at 12:20
  • I've actually told him in comment, and he just closed a topic, and said he won't spoonfeed me. so this kind of behavior is invalid.
    – holms
    Jun 11, 2013 at 12:26
  • @holms - Stack Overflow is not a language translation service.
    – user164207
    Jun 11, 2013 at 14:04
  • 3
    @holms If you aren't willing to learn, you have absolutely no business in professional IT. Go find another career before you really do something destructive. Jun 11, 2013 at 17:08

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