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The Help Center currently has this section about on-topic posts:

  • Server administration/deployment

Lately, we have been closing many/most of these as off-topic. Then one of the moderators noticed that these are on-topic, per the statement above.

Do we want to allow server administration questions, and if so, to what extent?

Pros:

  • If you run a Drupal site, you will invariably end up needing to do server admin.

Cons:

  • Most admin isn't really Drupal related.
  • There are other SE sites that are better equipped to answer admin questions.

I am mostly in favor of allowing Drupal-specific admin questions, but I am struggling to think of some good examples.

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  • I prefer Server administration/deployment as on-topic, even though other SE sites support this, most of them here on DA have much knowledge in Server administration/deployment to support. So I think there is no harm this to be as on-topic :) – Bala Mar 28 '14 at 15:44
  • @Bala I have to disagree - If the question doesn't relate specifically to Drupal, why would we have it on Drupal Answers? I have a lot of knowledge on the inner workings of NTFS, for example, but that doesn't mean we should accept questions about that here too. The site is scoped by what we want in the Q+A, not what people can technically answer... – Clive Mar 28 '14 at 16:50
  • @Clive I agree with you, what to do, if the question is closed like Gisle pointed in the below comment!. – Bala Mar 29 '14 at 6:13
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    What are some examples of these questions that have been closed? – blue928 Mar 29 '14 at 6:59
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When I first created the list of allowed / not allowed questions, I used the answers given to a specific meta question, which included that as allowed topic. I also added the following note, to make sure only questions specific to Drupal would be asked.

Questions are acceptable as long as they require specific Drupal expertise to be answered. Does the answer change if you use WordPress instead of Drupal? The question is on-topic for Drupal Answers Stack Exchange.

Since there are very few questions about server administration that are Drupal specific, I would remove that topic from the allowed questions. I would also add a note about those questions being more on topic for another site, rather than adding it to the list of questions that are expressly not allowed.

There is already a part suggesting what other Stack Exchange site users could be interested in.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Drupal Answers, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. For example:

We could change that list and add more references to other sites.

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    The ServerFault crowd really doesn't like questions from non-professional server admins (which I suspect will be the case for most of the Drupal site managers that ask server admin questions here). Basic questions about .htaccess, mod rewrite, etc. is often closed. There is a SE site for webmasters (webmasters.stackexchange.com) that is for "professional and enthusiast webmasters focused on how to operate websites" (my emphasis). I believe that the type of server admin questions we sometimes get here will be more welcome there, than on Server Fault. – Free Radical Mar 29 '14 at 4:41
  • I think you made mistake - use WordPress instead of Drupal? The question is on-topic for Drupal Answers Stack Exchange. – Bala Mar 29 '14 at 5:45
  • @Bala Uh? "Does the answer change if you use WordPress instead of Drupal? The question is on-topic for Drupal Answers Stack Exchange." If the answer is the same whatever you use Drupal or WordPress, then you are not asking a Drupal-related question. – kiamlaluno Mar 29 '14 at 5:56
  • @kiamlaluno ya got it now thanks!!!!!! – Bala Mar 29 '14 at 6:08
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    So, long story short, Drupal-specific server administration is OK, non-specific is not, right? – Mołot Mar 29 '14 at 7:54
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    I think we should either remove that line from the "on-topic" altogether, or change it to read "Drupal-specific server administration" so we're covered. Definitely shouldn't stay there as-is in my opinion – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 11:14
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Drupal provides features that enable it to be run out of the box on a number of different server types and OSs.

As it has so many different configurations to deal with it is unrealistic to expect it to be perfectly configured for any single one. This means that a number of changes to the configuration of Drupal and/or the server may be required to improve performance, and sometimes even to make it run at all.

The stack exchange system allows those with have knowledge to share it with others.

Drupal can not exist without a server and Drupal.org contains information about system administration for this very reason. To remove the system administration aspect from DA would be incorrect.

To enable DA to grow into a healthier ecosystem, it should be positioning itself as the first port of call for any Drupal related query rather than try to minimize it's scope to only explicitly dealing with the internals of the Drupal system.

Drupal can only exist on a server..

In terms of example I think 'Varnish' is a good one: Using Varnish as a reverse proxy to serve Drupal will provide you with the best speed improvements possible. It does however need to be configured correctly specifically for Drupal (it's cookies & admin URLS & headers via it's VCL). It will need a 'Drupal centric' answer but it is most definitely in the realm of server admin.

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    I hear what you're saying, but we unfortunately cannot (and never will) be the "first port of call for any Drupal related query". Stack Exchange sites are Q+A sites, and as such can only accommodate questions in a certain format. That format has been refined over a number of years network-wide, and the over-arching philosophy of scope simply has to extend to all sites on the network. If we didn't have standards, this place would just be another Yahoo Answers. It might be difficult for newcomers to understand, but limiting the scope if the site is extremely important – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:21
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    By the way, Drupal Answers is already a healthy ecosystem, and has been for a long time now - there's no need to 'grow' for us to get to that point, we're already there. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but definitely an excellent resource for developers and site builders alike. If we try to do everything, that will inevitably be diluted. A good example - Drupal runs much better with APC enabled. Should we be answering questions on how to install APC because of that? The answer simply has to be 'no'. So we can't accept literally any question about server admin just because someone uses Drupal – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:26
  • Thanks Clive, that should be 'healthier' not healthy, will edit. – Taylor Taff Mar 29 '14 at 12:33
  • Cool ;) I do agree with your sentiments entirely here, but I also think we need a specific scope, or things can get out of hand. The 'ifs and buts' of that should definitely be up for discussion though – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:39
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These are sometimes extremely difficult to call.

@MPD, you ask for examples.

I think the one you probably refer to (the one closed as off-topic, and then reopened again) is an excellent example: Adding .htaccess within httpd.conf correctly.

The question looked to most of (including me) as something that only involved Apache (i.e. off-topic). However, when it was re-opened, the first (and so far only) answer was Drupal-centric (i.e. the criterion: "Does the answer change if you use WordPress instead of Drupal" can be answered in the affirmative - and that answer also could only be given by someone familiar with both Drupal's .htaccess files [plural!] and Apache). You probably would not get such a Drupal-centric answer if you asked this on SO, Server Fault, or Pro Webmasters.

If the quoted criterion is going to be set as an official criterion for closing or not (as is implicit in the suggestion by kiamlaluno), I think we need to be wary about closing stuff as off-topic too quickly. Give them at least 24 hours. You cannot really judge if the answer change if you use WordPress instead of Drupal until you've actually seen the answer. Closing them prevent answers from being posted. Sometimes somebody comes up with a really good Drupal-centric answer to something that on first glance seems unrelated to Drupal.

If we take "Server administration/deployment" out of the list of allowed topics, it will become far easier for the topic-vigilantes among us to get these closed (too) fast.

I am in favour of keeping it in the list, but close as off-topic those that after the community has had a reasonable time to respond (I suggest 24 hours) appears to not have anything to do with Drupal.

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  • why negative vote please comment and I like the idea he suggested! – Bala Mar 29 '14 at 10:41
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    The criteria for a question being on or off topic has to be intrinsic to the question itself - not based on answers given after-the-fact. If the question is about Drupal, then the answer can/will be about Drupal. I disagree with an arbitrary delay on closing questions, it goes against the principles of the network – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 10:57
  • Just to clear up the misunderstanding here, the question you refer to wasn't re-opened because the OP pointed out a line in the help centre or anything like that. It was reopened because the OP edited the question to detail exactly how it specifically related to Drupal. The closure had the exact desired effect, and everyone has won because of it. Ample proof that putting questions on hold works exactly as we want it to, and doesn't need to change on the way you're proposing. All that delay would do is delay the OP getting an answer, and us getting a decent question. – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 11:02
  • @Clive, the main criteria proposed is: "Does the answer change if you use WordPress instead of Drupal?" I am simply pointing out that unless moderators are semi-gods with the ability to imagine every possible answer, then they should not close questions until there are answers to measure up against this criteria. If you don't like my proposal, then you need to find a better criteria. – Free Radical Mar 29 '14 at 11:24
  • Yep, that's exactly what it says, you're just interpreting it incorrectly. What it means is that you should use the body of the question to determine whether or not the answer would be specific to Drupal or Wordpress. It doesn't mean that you should wait for the answers to tell you that. – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 11:31
  • Yeah, cos that's what I said. Don't try to put words in my mouth. Your opinion is enough, no need to make stuff up, it weakens any argument you may or may not have – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 11:46
  • @Clive, I quote you verbatim. There's nothing made up in my argument. – Free Radical Mar 29 '14 at 12:27
  • Lol ok, guess my definition of 'verbatim' includes using what I actually said, and not making your own version up about 'semi-gods'. Any yea this hardly a productive area of discussion about Drupal Answers so I'm out – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:32
  • @Clive, to rephrase my argument in terms I hope you find less offensive: It looks as if you're suggesting that mods should "use the body if the question to determine whether or not the answer would be specific to Drupal or Wordpress". I honestly don't understand the logic behind this criterion. How can an answer that does not exist yet be used as a criterion for anything? Don't you mean that mods should use the body if the question to determine whether or not the question is specific to Drupal or Wordpress? – Free Radical Mar 29 '14 at 12:47
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    OK, if something's got lost in translation here then I guess that's what it is (if your English is perfect then I mean no offence, I just don't understand what's unclear exactly). "Pedantic semantics" aside, those phrases mean exactly the same thing. If a question is specific to Drupal, then it could have a Drupal-specific answer. If it's not, then it couldn't. It's just a different way of phrasing exactly the same thing. Neither phrase implies that an answer has to exist before the question can be judged, as obviously that doesn't make sense – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:50
  • BTW, I haven't found your argument(s) offensive at all up to this point. A little bewildering, different from my own, but certainly not offensive ;) – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 12:52
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I understand your suggestion. You suggest that before I cast a vote to close, I take a close look at the question, and based upon that look, I must decide whether there is a possibility that a Drupal-centric answer to that question would exist. If no such possibility exists, then it is OK to vote to close, and vice-versa. However, as all students of logic knows, it is very hard to prove a negative. I can't imagine putting that much of an effort into a vote, so I would never vote to close. – Free Radical Mar 29 '14 at 13:11
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    Yes, you understood correctly. I disagree with your assessment though; an expert in the field of Drupal will easily be able to tell whether a question is likely to be on or off-topic, whether it will potentially involve a Drupal discipline, etc. If making that judgement is a lot of effort, then sure, no-one's expecting anyone to do it. But for those than can make the expert assessment, these are the guidelines (guidelines being the operative word, they can't be totally rigid as it wouldn't work). As always, the rule is: if you're not sure, don't vote. If you are sure, do vote. – Clive Mar 29 '14 at 13:23
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    @Clive And if you were mistaken, or OP edits, retract your vote. Fortunately we can do it now. – Mołot Mar 31 '14 at 8:45

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