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The stated intent of the Network Engineering site is:

Network Engineering Stack Exchange is for asking questions about professionally managed networks in a business environment.

There is little to no discussion of industry best practices.

On one level it makes sense that discussions of best practices should flourish under such a charter. However, the question types are extremely factual. The one time I personally tried using the Best-Practices tag I was told the question was not appropriate as such answers would be subjective and I took the question down rather than leave such a question up with a resolution of "no best practice exists" and a down vote which is disincentivized by the SE reputation logic.

Over the past 2.4 years the tag has been used 0 times in 2019 (so far), 2 times in 2018 and 5 times in 2017.

I do not know if others attempting to use this tag have taken down questions like I did or if this just shows a natural disinclination to ask such questions.

It seems that a case could be made to eliminate this tag or conversely, possibly re-craft the charter for Network Engineering to allow potential users to better understand what types of questions are appropriate?

I would think a modification would not be huge but would serve to more accurately encapsulate what goes on here.

Thoughts?

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  • By the way, NE users do not seem to rush to down vote the way that happens on other SE sites. We try to give someone time to rehabilitate a question to be on-topic, and a question put On-Hold with no activity will convert to Closed after a few (3?) days, then it will later be automatically deleted due to lack of activity. – Ron Maupin May 7 '19 at 17:06
  • Ron, that is good to know, thank you. While I lurk more than post, the behavior on some other sites has made an impression! – techkilljoy May 8 '19 at 2:10
  • There is a related question on SE Meta. – Ron Maupin May 8 '19 at 18:40
  • Another related "best-practices" discussion: networkengineering.meta.stackexchange.com/q/196/775 – Mike Pennington May 9 '19 at 21:51
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That tag is something that usually gets misused. For example, I have seen used for questions on how to design something that lacked sufficient information or used by someone who wanted free consulting. The tag also gets misused to try to solicit opinion-based answers or off-topic recommendations.

Questions tagged with asking something like:

Should the NOC be connected to a P or PE router in a good design? If the NOC will be connected to a PE router, it may be unable to reach the P routers.

are simply too broad and lead to opinion-based answers. There would need to be a lot more detail explaining the network to even start to answer the question.

The question to which you refer could have attracted many conflicting opinion-based answers, possibly creating a flame war, even if answered and accepted with, "no best practice exists," as you suggested. That is something each company would need to decide on its own, based on its site requirements. There are sites that may have three people and a printer with no room for growth, and there are sites with hundreds or thousands of users that constantly move around (moving to a different network closet and switch), or grow and shrink as a market expands and contracts (think about the home mortgage market, sensitive to interest rates, that hires many people as refinancing grows, then lays them off as refinancing shrinks).


There are legitimate uses of the tag. A proper use would be where there is a vendor that publishes best practices. There are also best practices enshrined in RFCs.

There are best practices recommended to prevent potential problems. For example, to prevent STP problems, Cisco recommends that a VLAN not extend to more than one access switch (an access switch could have multiple VLANs, but those VLANs would not be on any other access switch), and access switches should only connect to distribution switches, not other access switches.

There are also best practices dealing with security. For example, not using the Default VLAN (VLAN 1) and not using Native VLANs on trunks, disabling Proxy ARP, and never allowing Directed Broadcast.

If you search NE for best practice (not the tag), you will get answers that should legitimately use the tag, but are not using it. You will also find some questions tagged that way that should really be closed as too broad and have conflicting, opinion-based answers, but they were from the early days of the site, while standards were still being defined. There are also good questions with good answers that should be tagged that way.


Nobody, even moderators, can delete a tag. The only way to get rid of the tag is to edit every question using the tag to remove to remove the tag from each question, then wait for it to be automatically removed by the system (I think 72 hours).

A tag description can be updated by anyone, even you, to clarify when it is appropriate to use it, and when it is not appropriate to use it. (Users below a 5000 reputation will have tag description changes placed in a review queue for approval.) Unfortunately, many people simply look at the tag name without reading the description. That is a problem on all SE sites.

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  • I appreciate your insights and sharing your experience. I guess I dont see why some level of opinion is a bad thing? If answers admit that the reply is based on personal experience the upvotes will define how widely that opinion is accepted as a good one wont they? I value the opinions of experts quite a bit and find them worth listening to even if, at the end of the day, I dont follow them. I make a much better decision for understanding them. – techkilljoy May 8 '19 at 2:22
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    Well, asking about experiences is actually fine. The problem comes in when people answer a question with "the answer" that conflicts with other answers. Experiences are different. The What types of questions should I avoid asking? explains about asking subjective questions. We also have the General Network Engineering recommendations where people hang out and hold discussions, which areoff-topic for the main site, and other off-topic questions. – Ron Maupin May 8 '19 at 2:29
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    @techkilljoy, the last section in the link about what questions to avoid actually explains how to frame subjective questions, including "invite sharing experiences over opinions." – Ron Maupin May 8 '19 at 2:31
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The stated intent of the Network Engineering site is:

No. The quote you provide is a description for the tag. This is not the stated intent of the Network Engineering site.

From the help center for the site, the stated intent of the Network Engineering site is:

 Network Engineering Stack Exchange is for asking questions about 
 professionally managed networks in a business environment.

This may include questions/answers about best practices, but is by no means limited to such topics.

The one time I personally tried using the Best-Practices tag I was told the question was not appropriate as such answers would be subjective and I took the question down rather than leave such a question up with a resolution of "no best practice exists" and a down vote which is disincentivized by the SE reputation logic.

I had to look up the question you referenced, but as Ron noted, the way it was asked leaves it open to opinion based answers. There is a decent reference in the Help Center about asking subjective questions.

Personally, I would have rephrased your question to be less subjective and to more accurately target answers that you seemed to be looking to get.

For example, you asked: "What is a good guideline for the number/percent of unused switch ports to have available in an IDF?"

Each organization/entity would need to determine this for themselves based on their needs and plans. Often this comes down to cost. Does it cost more to have excess equipment in place (with capital costs, support costs, energy usage, etc) vs. labor required for more frequent moves/adds/changes?

I have been in organizations that felt having every wired port live for easy access was more important than the savings they may have had reducing the amount of equipment. I have also been in organizations where being "green" was a much heavier consideration and reducing the "carbon footprint" of the company was more important than increased labor costs for moves/adds/changes.

Your question as stated allows for answers that are subjective. Answers from either of the previous extremes wouldn't necessarily be very helpful for your situation.

How would I have rephrased it? Perhaps something along the lines of "What are some of the considerations I should take into account when determining the number of unused switch ports the organization should be maintaining?"

Maybe not perfect yet, but this is now asking for objective items that you should be considering when making your decision. Maybe the considerations provided in the answers wouldn't be important to your organization, but you aren't asking for answers that discuss the merits of those considerations (how important are they).

But the way I asked the question is answerable and probably more accurate to the information you were seeking to get from asking your original question.

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  • Great insights both regarding tightening up the content of my post (done) and on the post I took down. I definitely wish I had not been so gunshy and waited- your observations would have helped me craft a much better question and learning something along the way from your experiences. Definitely my bad there. My bigger point is the low and seemingly trending towards 0 use of a tag that seems to me to be inexorably tied to a lot of discussions we have about network design and management but seems rarely discussed here. – techkilljoy May 8 '19 at 2:15
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    @techkilljoy, I didn't really address that in my post because I think Ron already answered that part of your question quite well. There are two broad points that he made I would stress. There are some tags (including the one referenced) that commonly get used on poor/unanswerable/subjective questions. Second that there are many questions that could (or should) include tags that they do not. Anyone can edit a post, including adding/removing tags; we try to adjust them when we catch it, but everyone needs to do their part and even then some are missed. – YLearn May 8 '19 at 2:26

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