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[offtopic] Topicality debate [my 2 bits]

  • From: John Underhill
  • Date: Sat Sep 23 19:03:51 2006


I hadn't checked this list for a week or so, and today was met with this deluge of posts regarding topicality [again], in response, might I offer a couple of stray thoughts?
The debate and subsequent infighting has become far more disruptive now, then the occasional offtopic post. It is a simple thing to filter a particular member, but near impossible to filter the ensuing fallout from an 'offtopic' thread.
I can think of a couple of ways to make things a little better for the innocent bystanders amoung us:
-Self Moderating Approach
Grey Areas. If you think your post could be considered off topic by some, simply prefix the subject with '[offtopic]', then it is a simple thing to filter, and your post is far less likely to be met with a negative response.
Clarify what -is- on topic. Are worms/virii on topic? Possibly.. If: it is SANS top 10, and an emerging issue with potential to dramatically amplify traffic flow, Then: I want to hear about it, Else: [offtopic]. Are botnets offtopic? I would say yes, there are better and dedicated venues for those discussions. Are these endless debates about what is offtopic subject matter themselves 'offtopic', clearly they are.. prefix please.
A definitive set of posting guidelines, one that leaves litlle to individual interpretation could be established, leave less up to the 'debateniqs' to rant about, by creating a clear and concise set of acceptable subject matter rules.
There is the issue of sustaining readership. If window of acceptable subject matter is too narrow, appeal will decline, and with it some of the readership that we need to remain active will leave the list, hence we need some [reasonable] measure of flexibility allowed for in guidelines, [think: discretion]. As for issues that are clearly outside definitive guidelines but still of general interest, maybe a relaxed charter on Fridays? I rather enjoy Fergie's article references, just make sure to use the [offtopic] thingie.
-Moderated Approach
Create an nanogofftopic@ to give a vent to members. If a post is clearly offtopic and not announced as such, use a 'three strikes your out' approach, first warning and inviting review of list guidelines, then as a last measure cancelling list subscription. Include 'this is offtopic!' responders among offences, and maybe we can reduce some of the list noise.

John




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