Nuances of the ServerFault FAQ: Networking in the home

As a moderator on ServerFault I run into a lot of the iffy questions. Our users flag them for moderator attention and we deal with them. Some are obviously wrong enough to get dealt with through the normal close-voting process without the mod-hammer being involved. Along the way, we mods do run into some differing opinions on certain nuances of the FAQ. I'll be covering some of the more frequently misunderstood areas of that august document.

#2: Networking in the home
The FAQ states simply, "and it is not about.. Networking outside the professional workplace."

As with servers, a lot of sysadmins do interesting networking things at home in order to keep their skills sharp. A decade ago I created a Linux firewall for my home network in order to allow such things as multiple computers behind it (my, have things changed in 10 years) and a way to SSH into my home network for various things. These days we're far more likely to throw something like DD-WRT or Tomato on the right off-the-shelf home router to do the same thing, and not bother with a 6 year old dinosaur PC.

These days, home networking sysadmins are exploring topics like how to get IPv6 tunneling to work, reaching strange places in their home with any number of networking technologies, and whatever remote-access methods seem appropriate given the family audience. Or focusing on info-security, some are even running honeypot-networks, various IDS systems, and outright malware research.

Interesting as they are, they're off-topic. The vast majority will get forwarded over to SuperUser where their very good home networking gurus will handle them. Just because a SysAdmin is doing it at home for professional development does not elevate them above "power user". The Super User FAQ states that it is for, "computer enthusiasts and power users," and when not being paid for what we do, us sysadmins are power-users at home.

It is very easy to see why such home networking questions end up on ServerFault. The reasoning goes something like this:

Hey, I've got an advanced networking question. It's all sysadminy, so I'll ask where the networking experts are!

While true, the question is still out of scope. If left to our own devices, a lot of these questions could be easily fielded by us, but we don't do that. That's a SuperUser thing, and some of us hang out over there too. That said, to someone who has a brain filled with BGP, L3+ routers, and other such networking arcana, DD-WRT questions can be just as baffling.

There are some things that are clearly out-of-scope for ServerFault:

  • Off-the-shelf home routers of any kind, no matter how modified.
  • Wireless problems in the home.
As with the servers-in-the-home problem, "Professional workplace" is a key differentiator here, and one missed by a lot of new askers.