Jeff Atwood recently suggested that the community begin to help develop some guidelines as to what should be allowed on SuperUser.com so that it doesn't become the great big "catch-all" of computer talk on the internet (and the dumping ground of undesirable questions from StackOverlow and ServerFault).

This topic is to allow for users to begin to develop their ideas for:

  • Drawing the line(s) between Acceptable and Unacceptable content.
  • Develop reasons to close topics (such as Not Programming Related on StackOverflow)
  • Congrats on the ♦, btw... – Marc Gravell Jul 15 '09 at 19:52
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    Thanks. I'll try my best not to nuke my own account on accident. – TheTXI Jul 15 '09 at 20:13
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    That's the grind; developers are (by nature) always trying to break things; it is just so tempting to wonder "what happens if I try to delete myself? or Jeff?"... – Marc Gravell Jul 15 '09 at 20:28
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    Do it, Marc, do it! I want to see! – Ladybug Killer Jul 16 '09 at 6:51
  • (I see what you mean about my "trash bin" post; merged into here) – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '09 at 8:14
  • Jeff may want to post a blog entry about this then. In the URL below, he describes SU as a "At any rate, if you wanted a community where (almost) anything goes, you’re about to get exactly what you asked for in the form of superuser.com. If your question has to do with computers, it will be allowed there.", so that may be partly where users are getting the idea that they should do this from. blog.stackoverflow.com/category/superusercom – jasonh Jul 21 '09 at 2:30

15 Answers 15


My personal opinion is that SuperUser should retain much of the true Q&A that we got from StackOverflow and ServerFault. This means that we should be striving for questions that actually have answers. Questions about how to perform Task X or how to correct Problem Y. I do not believe that SuperUser should be a breeding ground of favorite product lists, unless those lists of products are an answer to a problem or task.

The more "What is the best..." and "What are some must-haves" questions that get posted, the more and more polluted that SuperUser is going to become. The same can be said for all of the whimsical and navel-gazing Community Wiki posts that have already been made ("What was your first computer").

The idea of these websites it to give answers to questions, and I think SuperUser should more clearly reflect that. The more it turns into a full-blown anything-goes discussion site, the less and less it is going to stand out from other tech sites, and the fewer people who are going to come actually looking for answers to their tech questions.

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    we like these ideas; we are escalating TheTXI to moderator on Super User for a trial period to see if he can help us mold and shape that community. We need the help, frankly. (and yes, there will be other escalated moderators on SU as well later -- we'll need a few) – Jeff Atwood Jul 15 '09 at 19:31
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    his first act as moderator: change the name to SuperPony and install Cornify buttons on every page – Kyle Cronin Jul 15 '09 at 19:51
  • @Jeff - possibly quite a few more than either of SO/SF, but time will tell. – Marc Gravell Jul 15 '09 at 19:54
  • Apparently Jeff is now royalty. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 15 '09 at 20:01
  • I agree, more and more questions are popping up that doubtfully helps anyone as they cover no specific area. Instead they attempt to fill themselves with loads of answers that aren't even answers, but merely dumping opinions. It would be a flying shame if SU ends up like this, something I really don't want to see as a user myself. – Thor K.H Jul 16 '09 at 0:56
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    I agree... SU seems to be full of nothing but community wiki "popularity" lists so far. – TM Jul 16 '09 at 22:25
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    I'm hoping that people will run out of ideas for "Best ..." or "Most annoying ..." or whatever in a few weeks, and then the site will settle down to genuine questions.. – John Fouhy Jul 16 '09 at 22:56
  • Please don't confuse CW with subjective. CW is only there so that more editing can be going on, Ref: Wiki. – Lance Roberts Jul 19 '09 at 23:26


Explicitly branding Superuser.com as a more free-form, relaxed version of the other sites might just open that crack to a much larger problem. I hear it referred to as a "free-for-all" and a "dumping ground." I'm sure that's not what you envisioned.

If you (we) hold Superuser to the same focus and same high standards as the other sites, most of these problems would go away. Even if Superuser is held to the same high standard as the other sites, it would still have the lighter, more relaxed atmosphere you imagine, just from the broader appeal of the the site and the subject matter.

More specifically, I see the abundance of Wiki-style posts as a problem. I thought it would be fun having more subjective, intriguing conversations on Superuser. I started one myself. But I see it just doesn't work in the bigger picture.

I think the "community standard" should be that Wikis are rare. Wikis are reserved for that rare case when a question does not have a specific answer but the solution would be part of a "group think." Even then, Wiki questions should be posed as a specific question looking for a real solution. Anything else should be closed as too general or too subjective.

StackOverflow is a winning formula that should be reapplied to Superuser, almost verbatim. That's my take on it.

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    Wow, I don't know whether to give you +1 or -1 for all the bold. – TheTXI Jul 15 '09 at 19:52
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    Most people don't like to read long posts. It's my version of "if you read nothing else, read this." +1 – Robert Cartaino Jul 15 '09 at 20:04
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    free-form, relaxed version same high standards abundance of Wiki-style posts doesn't work Wikis are rare real solution almost verbatim. Maybe you should think through your strategy, rcar. – Ladybug Killer Jul 16 '09 at 6:58
  • @John Smithers - Ohhhhh, yeah. It took me about 5 minutes but I got it. Very good. Hehe +1 – Robert Cartaino Jul 17 '09 at 2:33
  • Wiki has nothing to do with subjective, see the FAQ. – Lance Roberts Jul 19 '09 at 23:27

The only questions that should be removed are questions that are "not computer related".

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    I wholeheartedly disagree, as many of the questions that are being presented never have a specific answer, nor an answer where the asker gets what he was searching for. In many cases, it's just questions asking people to list away stuff they use and like, which as far as I know, is not the purpose of Q&A. – Thor K.H Jul 16 '09 at 1:38
  • There are plenty of poll questions like that also on SO too, and some of them are among the most beloved of all questions (e.g. stackoverflow.com/questions/1711/…). I wonder why people consider the "must have" questions on SU such a big problem. After some time passes, they'll be just a drop in the sea of SU questions. – Jonik Aug 8 '09 at 21:42
  • (or should that idiom be: drop in the ocean? bucket?) – Jonik Aug 8 '09 at 21:45

One thing I would do would be to give people with sufficient rep the ability to wiki-ize questions with extreme prejudice, or at least vote to make them community wiki (maybe they already have that ability, I don't know), and encourage them to use it aggressively against obviously subjective or open-ended questions when the original asker doesn't. This would at least discourage rep farming, and hopefully would also condition people toward asking more useful questions.

  • Only the question author can move it over to Wiki (except for cases where it gets revised numerous times and the automatic switch occurs). – TheTXI Jul 15 '09 at 18:30
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    +1; I'd like to see this option on all the StackExchange sites. Event a "vote to wiki" that users with a certain rep score can do; it would allow a final end to the zillions of "this should be wiki" comments. :) – Dr. Gonzo Jul 15 '09 at 19:16
  • @TheTXI - that isn't entirely true; ♦ moderators can force a wiki, too. The real question to answer is: what defines a SU wiki? – Marc Gravell Jul 15 '09 at 19:53
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    You have this ability now- any edit to the body of a question is a vote to make it community wiki. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 15 '09 at 20:02
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    @Joel, yeah but that feels sort of a "hack". If I don't really have anything to change in the question (except that I'd want it to be wiki), I'm not going to do some "dummy" edit on it. (I'd rather just upvote the nearest "should be wiki" comment, while there's no "vote to wiki" feature.) – Jonik Aug 8 '09 at 21:37

Honestly, I think SU should be left in its Wild West state until it calms down on its own.

For one thing, a dirty little secret of sites like these is that the proliferation of original, diverse, fundamentally useless and nonsensical user-generated content helps the site build credibility with Google; all those goofy-ass "must-have" questions are little pagerank factories. That will help get the site out there and build its audience.

Once the initial expansionary phase has gone on for a while, then I'd say start calming things down and straightening them out. But don't come in with the SWAT team right away.

I would even go so far as to say that serverfault's relative lack of success compared to stackoverflow has a contributing factor in the fact that stackoverflow started out as a Wild West and evolved its social conventions, where serverfault had The Law in place from day one.

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    I agree with the "don't come in with the SWAT team right away" sentiment. It will be the most relaxed of the three, I mean four, sites in terms of allowed content but there WILL still be rules. – Jeff Atwood Jul 16 '09 at 8:37
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    What I have been doing so far as a moderator on SuperUser has been to draw a pretty clear line in terms of the CW and non-cw posts. If you have a post on there that is a question that can actually have an answer (a solution to a problem?) then it would be acceptable as a regular question. If you are just looking for "the best" or "must have" or "what do you have on your desk" then this is not something that can have a correct answer, so it will typically get moved to CW. I am pretty lenient in terms of closing and will usually only close Dupes and blatant non-computer-related posts. – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 22:30

The only difficulty here is that SU has been labeled as being the nearly anything goes site where if it is about computers/technology its probably goes...

I would say that the questions must be about technology or computers at a minimum. If the question is not about technology/computers it should be closed.

Other reasons questions should be closed:

  • spam
  • offensive
  • too localized

Overall, I do not want SU to be a trash site or dumping ground for non SO and SF questions. Nobody will win in that scenario. We should keep the questions as Q&A as possible.

I think that we may need a vote for wiki option that questions that are subjective can have users vote and automagically make them CW. This should help with some of the rep stuff that folks are going to do at the beginning.

To keep the site to the Q&A format, I also think that we need to get some moderator attention on the site as soon as possible. I would definitely say anyone with mod access to META, SO, or SF would be a great fit for starting the mod process out on SU. I started a thread on moderator nomination here.

  • Jeff has said in some recent comments that perhaps more strident guidelines needs to be put into place. This is why I am posting this, so that we can help define those guidelines more. If you want it to remain open-ended, that's fine. – TheTXI Jul 15 '09 at 18:03
  • I'll add more info above... – Chester Jul 15 '09 at 18:10

I see it is a free-for-all site that should be left to the masses so they can burn themselves out on it. As long as it keeps the noise from the other sites I say it is a success.

If it is computer related, let them talk about it. Just stay away from it if you don't want to be offended by blinding stupidity and mind numbingly useless content.

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    So you don't even care if it's computer related? No need for "AS A COMPUTER USER" in your questions to make them relevant? – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 15 '09 at 17:59
  • Like I said "If it is computer related". – Geoffrey Chetwood Jul 15 '09 at 18:01

I agree with many of the answers provided, mostly with TheTXI.

However, what I see right now is users gaming the system, and it's a bit worrying. The typical listing questions/community wikis are insanely popular (because you merely say what you already use, not necessarily why you use it) and it doesn't take a lot of effort to answer, creating these horrible lists of answers that are short, yet so many of them that it doesn't matter.

This is really a shame, as I think many users believe this is all fair and square due to SU being labeled as the "anything computer related goes", without considering the part where you ask a question and get hopefully one good answer that satisfied you.

That's not the case with the majority of questions, and it's a darn shame, as SU can do a whole lot better than this, especially the users, instead of gaming this and getting reps at speeds comparable to this.

while ( $rep < 500 ) {
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    As a moderator I am taking a pretty straightforward stance that anything which is little more than "best of" and "must-haves" is going to end up being Community Wiki. This will allow for product lists to be compiled which may be useful to future users, and the most "damage" you see will just be some users may get some easy badges. But for questions that are actually looking for product recommendations for certain tasks I am going to let them go because the answers should actually be addressing a problem/issue. I also think that a lot of these lists will die down as the number of subjects lower – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 1:58
  • @TheTXI: Sounds good, and yeah, I guess time will tell. – Thor K.H Jul 16 '09 at 2:06
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    yes, moderators have a "force wiki" option on the questions -- feel free to use it! – Jeff Atwood Jul 16 '09 at 8:38
  • It would be faster to do rep += 500 – bobobobo Nov 25 '11 at 2:49

You should probably take a look at


The short answer is: We are still working on developing a more concrete guideline about what is accepted, what is not, what should be wiki, etc.

I can say in general terms

  • Anything that looks like a list or "must have" or "what do you have" will generally get turned to CW if it is not closed.

  • Questions that are specifically about certain games are likely to get closed as Not Computer Related.

  • Questions concerning console gaming are almost sure to get closed as Not Computer Related.

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    Somehow I managed to respond to myself in my own question, pointing to the very same question. WTF. – TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 12:19
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    Presumably two questions got merged? – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '09 at 23:03

My impression when I first heard about it was that SuperUser would be for (1) PC hardware questions and (2) questions about single-user/client software (basically things you wouldn't find on a server), including operating systems. So I would put forth the suggestion that SuperUser questions should be generally limited to those two categories. (I'm not 100% sure I believe in it, but I'm putting it forth.) Looking at it now, it seems like most of the questions do fall rather cleanly into one or the other.


How anything is anything? SU is not a trash bin either!

Regarding this SO question, and in particular some of the comments:

  • ...But with the catch-all superuser site...
  • ...would be relegated there...

On the same grounds as "serverfault.com is not your trash bin!"; I really think we could do to clarify what "goes" on SU?

  • is it anything? (blog: "...if you wanted a community where (almost) anything goes...")
  • or do we still want to avoid the same types of things as we try to avoid on SO/SF, but simply with a different target audience? (which is my understanding, given the moderation).

Personally I'm mainly invested in SO - but I'd hate to see SU degenerate into a mess of pointless discussions about your favourite radio channel to listen to while surfing, etc...

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    Good point. I have invested myself in SU and find the number of CW questions a problem. The current rate is around 5/1. Also handling these questions are becoming somewhat of a headache for some of us and I think we keep make a CW copy and paste at the moment. – Diago Jul 19 '09 at 8:57

The PS3 is a computer. I don't see why PS3 questions are off-limit for SuperUser.

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    Depending on your definition of a computer, my microwave would also fall under that category. – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 22:25
  • Does your microwave have a hard drive, graphics card and processor? – Paolo Bergantino Jul 16 '09 at 22:26
  • Paolo: again, depending on your definition of a computer, you don't need to have any of those things. – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 22:32
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    But for things like Linux on the PS3, I would agree that that is acceptable. But questions about Madden 2010 on the PS3 I don't find acceptable personally. – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 22:33
  • TheTXI: Any other "definition of a computer" would be petty and obviously not applicable. The PS3 is a computer, it just has its own operating system. While game-specific questions can be discouraged, PS3-specific questions should not be. – Paolo Bergantino Jul 16 '09 at 23:01
  • If PS3 quesitons are allowed then SU will start being about gaming, as if you allow PS3, you have to allow XBox, Wii and of you allow them then you have to allow PSP and Nintendo DS as well. I vote to keep console related stuff off SU. – Bruce McLeod Jul 19 '09 at 12:40

I had assumed that it was going to be the "SO trash bin" - a place for the folks who really don't see the point in restricting questions at all...

But most of the comments i've seen here since the beta opened seem to indicate a desire for a "consumer ServerFault" - gotta be a real question, gotta be directly computer-related.

IMHO, that's a good thing. SO makes lousy forum software - restricting it to Q&A seems like the only way to realize the advantages of the system.

Of course, it's not gonna stop anyone from whining when their favorite, "What's your favorite beverage to drink while playing Halo?" question gets knocked down...

I suspect the end result will be a combination of both: GTKY questions will be dumped on SU, forced into CW mode, and forgotten about. CW in turn will continue its evolution from "more wiki mode" to "OT ghetto flag", eventually being replaced with a "Pointless waste of time" checkbox that disables rep, badges, editing, and replaces Markdown with BBCode. Oh, and also, gigantic animated avatars.

At night, the /b/tards come...


I'm wondering how we'll deal with the inevitable shopping questions: "I'm looking for a new graphics card. What should I get?" These answers are different for every user and even for a single user would likely change on a monthly or even daily basis.

  • I have touched on this in other areas already. My basic premise is that SuperUser can be a very powerful product recommendation engine. If someone makes a post and clearly specifies what they are looking for and what qualities they are focused on, I don't see why users could not recommend suitable products. If an OP ends up deciding on one, that would justify an accepted answer, yes? For things such as "what is the best X", those to me are not specific enough and are just lists of things, therefore should probably be CW. – TheTXI Jul 16 '09 at 22:32
  • Perhaps if such a question were answered by pointing to an off-site resource that keeps up-to-date information about comparative merits? (delegate!) – jerryjvl Jul 18 '09 at 15:47

Having written the original "Must-Have Games" question I wasn't sure I should comment due to bias, however I guess that doesn't disqualify me from an opinion.

Let me start by saying that I really have no problem if games-related questions are off-limits and will be closed, but if that is the outcome can we at least have a 'No Games Questions' reason or some such, since 'Not Computer Related' just reads silly.

Having said that, I specifically asked my question because I have not been gaming for some time, and I do not want to waste my new-found time on games that do not have something special about them. As such I specifically tried to word my question to receive more thoughtful responses than just whatever game people were currently playing. Based on the high-scoring answers that I actually recognise from either having played them or read about them, I have no doubt that people weren't just throwing out random games (or at the least that those that floated to the top are actually going to be worth my time).

As a final thought I think that writing down rules in absolute terms is a mistake; some judgement needs to be involved, because otherwise worthwhile/fun things will be disallowed too. Take as an example the huge "Jon Skeet Facts?" thread on Stack Overflow which is still an open CW (and rightfully so in my opinion), but strictly speaking that is not even computer related in the sense that people are advocating here.

Unrelated note: (unrelated to my main point at least)
Is there any way to make the CW tickbox a bit more prominent? So far every question I have asked that was made into CW after-the-fact it was actually my intent right from the start for it to be CW. Call it a case of the "attachment-less-email" syndrome, but by the time I have written my question and attached tags, I often forget to check the tickbox before clicking post.

To illustrate my point, this Playstation Network question (closed by Jeff, so not sure how well that'll do to support my case :P) is, although terribly worded, in essence a perfectly valid question from a guy that needs tips for troubleshooting a bad connection... the fact that he identifies the most likely culprit himself (wireless) does not mean it couldn't be something else, and he clearly does not know how to establish this with certainty himself.

On the other hand this iPhone question (coincidentally also closed by Jeff) does not ask anything overtly wrong; the iPhone is a perfectly valid topic, and asking for useful features has already been proven valid on other questions. The reason this is a bad question has nothing to do with its content as such, but rather that its answers are not going to actually matter to anyone, including the author of the question. Then again, had this been Steve Jobs asking the exact same question, it would be an entirely different matter.

Maybe what we need more than anything else is a close-reason "Leads to Inconsequential Answers", which pretty much sums up most (all?) of the content people actually object to, while not outright black-listing specific topics.

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