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What?

Where by "T-Ball questions", I mean, relatively easy (compared to a lot of our crazy-hard-troubleshooting questions) questions which have a clear answer. This would be in the "most professionals know this". (Obviously some may not know it if it's outside their usual domain.)

Examples

Diff between IKE and ISAKMP (which is one on which I've scored a lot for an upvoted answer.)
What exactly is SDN?
Is Ethernet a protocol

Encourage or Discourage?

Should they be...?

June 24 update

Am I crazy, or is there a notable uptick in these sorts of easy questions? I've seen a few like What is real difference between host and node in network in the last few days.

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  • Lots of discussion, but no consensus. I'm removing the "featured" tag and moving on with a new meta question about the next thing I think we should do. – Craig Constantine Jun 24 '15 at 18:06
  • Does the number of votes a question have in any away affect that questions potential for showing up on the first page of a Google search? Does Google crawl the first few pages of NESE more often than the rest? – Eddie Jun 25 '15 at 5:30
  • I think they come in waves. As various schools around the world hit "intro to networking," we get a bunch of these kind of questions. – Ron Trunk Jun 25 '15 at 21:59
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Encourage them!

Downside first: T-Ball questions are probably not of interest to many (a majority?) of our power users. So having more of them would, basically, add more noise. But I don't think this negative point is a deal-breaker.

On the upside...

– This does a lot to make people (people new to this stack) feel welcome if we all respond positively.
– It builds up a set of easy/common answers to T-Ball questions. Which a) helps people who are new to NetEng (the field of work) and b) makes us even more of the go-to stop on the Internet.

Action items for you...

See a T-Ball question? Up-vote! Even if you don't bother reading the answer, commenting or anything... just up-vote the question. Put another way, don't think "well, that's a simple/easy question." and then totally ignore it; Give it a bump!

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    Agreed, a lot of questions will be pretty straightforward and simple - but the most important thing here is that it gives newer engineers and newer users to this site a chance to build some reputation. Also too, sometimes someone trying to learn something just needs that little extra reassurance or a different point of view to get to that Eureka moment. – Jordan Head Jun 19 '15 at 15:24
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    +1, not every question should be geared toward CCIEs. We need a good cross-section of question difficulties to make a meaningful impact. – Ryan Foley Jun 19 '15 at 17:45
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    maybe we should also create a "T-Ball" tag. Then any of our existing members who want to play T-Ball can easily do so. (No insult intended, some people may want to go around picking off the easy questions to be helpful or to hunt for points.) – Craig Constantine Jun 19 '15 at 18:38
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    I have no problem with keeping easy questions, but where does T-Ball come from? I'm not familiar with that term. I think a Novice tag would seem to fit. – Ron Maupin Mod Jun 20 '15 at 4:33
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    At this point, a t-ball tag is too subjective. There is no standard for what is or is not a t-ball question to begin with. What a seasoned professional might call a t-ball question, another person might consider it normal. – This Jun 20 '15 at 9:54
  • @RonMaupin: "T-Ball" is a sport played by children who are too young to play American Baseball. The ball is set on a tee (a vertical pole) and the kids hit the ball off the tee, rather than trying to hit a pitched ball. My analogy here is about those sorts of questions which are very easy, but are still about real knowledge that a professional NetEng would possess. – Craig Constantine Jun 20 '15 at 10:29
  • I never heard of T-Ball, although I did play real baseball as a young child. We even had tryouts, drafts, and trades. Also, we never had soccer back then like kids do today. I still have a couple of championship trophies from the 1969 "Yankees" and the 1970 "Astros". – Ron Maupin Mod Jun 20 '15 at 14:50
  • Being a Dutchie I never heard of it either, Ron ;-) – Teun Vink Mod Jun 20 '15 at 20:30
  • ...I thoroughly regret framing this as an American, kids' sport analogy. Probalby too late to reword it all, so I'll leave it be. – Craig Constantine Jun 24 '15 at 17:35
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Allow but do not encourage T-Ball questions

There is a difference between encourage and allow.

We should allow but not encourage T-Ball questions.

Network Engineering is for professional network engineers

A front page full of "What does IP stand for"? and "How many bits are in an IP address" is completely pointless for the intended purpose of this community (to be a resource for professional network engineers).

However, if you just want to spam simple questions so the site is "popular", then I argue it will significantly contribute to the death of meaningful participation on this site. This site was started as an alternative to Server Fault in part because of the low professional networking signal to noise ratio there.

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  • There should be a balance. It can be useful for novices to have some of the easier questions answered this way. But if the majority of questions here are too easy, it can make this SE less attractive for experienced networkers. And we really need those to answer the tougher questions. – Teun Vink Mod Jun 20 '15 at 20:33
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    Don't make this the thin end of the wedge, you'll end up like SF, overrun by clueless amateurs who can't be bothered to educate themselves by reading the most basic of documentation. – user644 Jun 20 '15 at 21:47
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    Does an upvote on a question bump the thread to the top? If so, I could see your concern about a front page full of "tball" questions. If not, then I think we can protect the front page by "protecting" questions that would have gotten a bunch of "me too's" and "thanks", etc. – Eddie Jun 22 '15 at 4:34
  • upvoted questions persist longer on the front page – This Jun 22 '15 at 6:26
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    @Iain, I am becoming increasingly convinced that SE is primarily a social media company, which is more concerned about view traffic than the quality of questions. If that is the case, professional sites are almost doomed to the dynamic you described. Craig's proposal will certainly accelerate that outcome. – This Jun 22 '15 at 7:01
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    It's good that people here are recognising this early on, it'll save y'all a whole lot of heartache down the line. Most of the people who helped bootstrap SF have fled because T-Ball is all that's ever played there now. I suspect that my second paragraph here ( and perhaps more) will find resonance. – user644 Jun 22 '15 at 7:29
  • "Network Engineering is for professional network engineers" - If the last three words of that quote are meant to indicate those who have a paying job and title of Network Engineer, then it is sadly my experience that some of those who qualify under those conditions may very well come here and post easy questions, like "what is an IP address?" Maybe just working in DC with a lot of government employees is why I have that experience. – Todd Wilcox Jun 25 '15 at 17:36
  • Lots of non-professional NEs come here and get simple questions answered. Like I said, we allow simple questions – This Jun 26 '15 at 10:39
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I don’t understand what the big deal is. If you don’t like easy questions, don’t answer them. Or vote them down. Are you offended that some novice asks what a subnet mask is? As others have pointed out, one person’s curve ball is another’s slow pitch (just to keep the baseball metaphor going). The more you know, the more things that will be easy for you.

There will always be more novice questions than difficult ones. It’s a simple fact that there are far more novices than experts. That is true for whatever field you’re in. It’s always lonely at the top.

Experts need less help than novices. For example, take the top dozen members and see how many questions they ask here. It’s not that experts don’t have problems, but they have more (and better) resources to answer them. Speaking for myself, I run into difficult problems all day long. But between vendor support, colleagues, or even a well-constructed Google query, I can get a more reliable answer than SE.

Presumably, we’re on this forum to help people who don’t know as much as we do. Personally, I have taught beginning networking classes and I like helping new students understand the basic concepts. Seeing someone “get” bridging is more satisfying (to me) than discovering why a line card doesn’t support some feature with a particular code version.

One more thing: practically speaking, how would you limit “T-ball” questions? Have a close option that says, “Welcome to Network Engineering. Unfortunately, your stupid question is beneath our dignity for us professionals to answer. Come back when you actually know something.”? This is a public forum, so the public in all its glory, is going to ask questions. Most of them will not be about some intricate MP-BGP routing issue. As I said, if you don’t like the question, vote it down.

If you really want a forum where only “professionals” ask “professional” questions, you should create a closed forum where “professionals” have to qualify to get in. Or, you could always get a job with Cisco TAC.

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    From my personal experience elsewhere on the SE. if you don't hold the line, you end up overrun by easy questions and cannot find interesting professional level questions to answer in the sea of rubbish so the professionals leave and the rest is history. This SE site was set up by professionals for professionals.Why can't that remain the case? Why can't the amateur easy questions go elsewhere e.g. SuperUser ? Why does the whole internet have to sink to the lowest common denominator of cluelessness, halp! and the unwillingness to educate yourself by reading and researching? – user644 Jun 23 '15 at 20:59
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    Heh. I've spent my years doing "tech writing" (use cases, high level tech support, etc.) so I'm less incline to author various tomes on how to do various X's. But I'm perfectly happy helping people figure out their issues. The key problem with t-ball's is they show an almost criminal level of not trying to figure it out themselves. Many q's are already answered (more than once) or a two word google search away. – Ricky Jun 23 '15 at 22:17
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    @Iain, Let me address your points one at a time: 1) I’m not suggesting “anything goes.” We already have rules and I think they work pretty well. Most really basic questions are duplicates and should be marked as such. Questions about how to connect one’s cable modem are marked off-topic. 2) Who is a professional? The girl with the title “network engineer”? The programmer whose boss said, “Fix the network”? The student who hopes to be a network engineer someday? (cont.) – Ron Trunk Jun 23 '15 at 22:46
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    3) Who is going to decide what is an amateur question, and how are you going to respond? “I’m sorry, your amateurish question is not worth my time to answer.”? 4) On an open forum, you get what you get. Expecting people to somehow comport to your ideal OP is hopeless and will only make you bitter. People don’t read FAQs or EULAs or parking signs. That’s life. If you really don’t want newbie questions, don’t allow newbies to join. – Ron Trunk Jun 23 '15 at 22:46
  • @RickyBeam I’m perfectly happy to (and often do) tell users that their answer is only a Google search away. We can mark questions as duplicates, but someone still is going to explain one more time why we need ARP. I don’t know any way around it. – Ron Trunk Jun 23 '15 at 22:46
  • The truly amateur questions: vote down, move on. (sometimes not even worth that much time) All we can do is vote (close, dup, up/down,...) and see if it settles out. I don't think we should discourage participation, but overly simple questions should be limited. – Ricky Jun 23 '15 at 22:53
  • @RickyBeam Yes, I agree completely. – Ron Trunk Jun 23 '15 at 22:55
  • I could remove my downvote if you could be more explicit about answering the question, "encourage or discourage". – This Jun 24 '15 at 2:51
  • The answer is, it depends. I'm waiting to hear how someone proposes to limit, encourage, discourage, block, promote, reject, etc, simple questions beyond what we do already. – Ron Trunk Jun 24 '15 at 3:06
  • blanket upvoting encourages, comments antagonizing the OP discourage... I think you're making it harder than it should be – This Jun 24 '15 at 9:15
  • @RonTrunk: I think I was explicit in my "encourage!" answer; members of the community can encourage, but taking the time to up-vote (when they see fit), even if they aren't going to comment or attempt an answer. – Craig Constantine Jun 24 '15 at 17:35
  • @MikePennington I respectfully disagree. Answering questions encourages. Not answering or telling them to go away discourages. I think most are interested in getting their question answered, and couldn't care less about reputation. I'm really arguing against the "we ought to do something!" idea. I believe there's little we can do. I guess I'll try to live with your downvote ;) – Ron Trunk Jun 25 '15 at 22:06

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