Staying On-Topic

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Minibit, Jan 21, 2016.

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  1. In line with recent attention to staying on-topic, shitposting, thread content, and the like, I'd like to talk for a moment about how to stay on-topic!

    Why do I need to stay on-topic? Can't the topic evolve?
    It can, but it's better to move to new thread or possibly a conversation when it does.
    The reason you'll often see given for staying on-topic is to respect the OP; for example, if I start a thread talking about everybody's favourite types of pizza, and someone mentions there are kinds of pizza they haven't been able to try because of allergies, and then the topic shifts into food allergies and foods people wish they could eat, that's not really cool. It's not that I have anything against discussing allerty-inflicted menu limitations, but I started my thread to talk about pizza, and now it's difficult for people to post in it without feeling like they should also put in their two cents about allergies. The topic becomes first diluted, and then derailed :(

    But what if I have something to say that's sort of related to the topic, just not 100%?
    That's called tangential subject matter, and it happens! This is part of the natural evolution of threads, and it's not a bad thing, but you do need to be conscious of when what you want to say is tantential, and not topical. Let's stick with the favourite pizza/food allergy example. Say you see someone has commented their fave and added that they dont' know if they like anchovy pizza because you're allergic to seafood. You are allergic to a popular topping as well and want to express how much you KNOW THAT FEEL! What do?
    1. Send them a conversation! "I saw your post in the pizza thread; oh my god solidarity, man! I'm allergic to mushrooms, and I always hear people saying how yummy they are :("
    2. Start a new thread! "The topic of allergies came up in the pizza thread, and I was wondering if anyone else here also has allergies that prevent them from trying certain foods! Non-allergic people, can you tell us what we're missing?
    This way you get to talk about your tangential topic without derailing the existing one!

    But something a member said is in some way objectionable to me! How can I address this without derailing/turning the discussion into a debate?
    First, don't attack members. Seriously; don't demean, belittle, or insult other members, no matter how stupid they are being, how misguided they are, or how rampantly they are misinforming others.
    If you really feel you must at least attempt to comment on something you find objectionable, do it in a POLITE, NEUTRAL voice, and make it a constructive comment that stays on-topic! In cases where you feel like a member is breaking site policy, don't tackle it yourself, just report the post and a mod will handle it. And for god's sake don't tell people you've reported them, that's just petty.
    In terms of general stupidity... I know, I know, people make me grind my teeth too. But we need to trust that people can check their own facts and make their own decisions about who to trust. We also need to accept that sometimes people don't realise or won't be convinced of their errors, no matter how perfectly you explain why they're wrong. If someone says the sky is green, and you chime in to say "actually, it's blue!" that's fine, but try to leave it at one remark, it's better if you don't start arguing back and forth, that's called a debate and as you may have noticed, those don't typically end well. Try to learn to recognize also when people are 'baiting'. That is, deliberately saying stupid or objectionable things to goad people into arguing with them. Don't fall for it!
    It's hard to address this becasue it's very case by case, but as a general set of rules
    1. Don't be a dick
    2. Don't pursue an argument (no matter how much you are baited! Be the stronger person!)

    But if a thread's topic doesn't change and evolve, the thread peters out and dies!
    Yes, that's what threads do. Let it happen, it goes to a better place.

    I don't have anything to contribute to a topic, but I still want to be part of it!
    Rate the posts, ask (on-topic!) questions to people who had something to say, educate yourself on or become involved with the topic, but don't derail the thread just because you don't have anything to contribute to it's theme, that's just not cool :(

    As an exercise, and because now I'm genuinely curious, here's a thread about pizza

    If you have thoughts on ways to stay on-topic in a thread, or how temptation to post off-topic or tangential comments can be handled, go ahead and throw your two cents in here.
    #1 Minibit, Jan 21, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
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  2. What happens to off-topic posts or threads that become derailed?

    Does consistent derailment of a member become behavior that is punishable?

    (Is this a derailing question aaa)
  3. Honestly I think one just has to look at normal human interaction to see how punishment for derailing isn't a wise idea.

    I mean, I understand why Staff may want to take measures to avoid it. It's nice for a thread to stay on topic so people can actually respond to it easily.

    But at the same time... Come on, who here HASN'T gone into a conversation with a friend, had that conversation go on for hours only to stop and find yourselves on something completely different?
    It happens all the time with people, it's part of how we communicate.

    So by all means, try to catch it and redirect it when it happens...
    But if this is going to end up being any sort of "Bannable Offence" stuff for when it happens...
    Well, I seriously don't see that going over well. :/
  4. Depends. Often if the thread has devolved into people being mean to each other, shitposting shitfest, or has generally become problematic to the community or the site in some way, it will be locked by a moderator. The point at which a thread becomes this bad is very case-by-case. We once left a spambot thread up because people were having fun being silly and making fun of spambots in the comments!

    Again, super case-by-case. More often than not if a member is contacted about derailing it's because they're being harmful or mean about it; for example, they're doing it in a way that it could be defined as harrassment. But again, super case-by-case. Derailing is more discouraged becasue
    1) it's annoying/disrespectful to the person who started the topic
    2) it's annoying/disappointing to people who come in later hoping to comment on the titular topic only to find that's not what's being discussed anymore
    3) in terms of aggression/derailing with an argument it can escalate into harmful behaviour
    4) it makes the forum cluttered, disorganized, and therefore makes it difficult for people to find the topics they want to talk about
    and more abstract stuff. Again, very case-by-case.
    Not at all <3
  5. Agreed! See my post above for why if we lock a topic or contact a member it's not necessarily to do with derailing, so much as larger/more serious problems related to the derailing which harm the site

    Exactly! It's a tone issue, a morale issue, and an organizational issue all rolled into one

    This is very much related to the organizational issues discussed; talking with a friend one on one (or even a conversation with a few friends) is different from a public forum discussion, where people may come in at any time, see the title, and come in hoping to address the titular issue. It also has to do with being able to find the topics you want to talk about. I've actually had difficulty trying to find a conversation I was involved in before, because it was in a derailed thread whose title and first few pages were on something completely different!
    I seriously doubt this will happen xD Again, the odd time we need to talk to someone or lock a thread or in any way take disciplinary action for derailing its because the derailing is a small part of a larger problem.
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  6. True, some more level of organization is needed on something like a public forum.
    I'd just rather it stay there, some extra organization.

    And not turn into this "Remove these trouble starters!" mentality I've been starting to see pop up.
  7. I think this is jsut a product of people getting frustrated due to the problems derailing causes (disorganization, disappointed OPs and members, arguments, etc etc); humans love to place blame. Hopefully we can re-cultivate a culture of staying on-topic and it will die down! In any case, like I said, people may bitch but I really don't think you have to worry about derailing or posting tangential comments becoming a bannable or punishable offence.
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  8. Perhaps you could link the tangential/evolved subject back to the old one?

    sticking with my pizza example cause I like it, you could start a thread for allergies and call it "Pizza Thread 2: Food allergies" to indicate that it evolved from that thread? Some members also just start their thread with a nod like "inspired by the pizza thread" or "continuing from the pizza thread", although that's less searchable.
  9. [​IMG]
    I know. :P
    I did that earlier today when the GW2 Thread started devolving into Planetside 2 talk.
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  10. No one is gonna get anything worse than a warning for topic derailing (like if they were asked to cut it out and never did), unless they're shitposting on purpose to trash a topic and get it shut down. THAT would be something someone got an ass kicking for, cause that's just rude. O_O

    Also, debating is not against discussion rules in General, it's just discouraged cause people dunno how to debate without getting out of hand. 8D

    It's "Okay, you can drink a few more beers, but you're just going to barf all over your room later and the rest of us have to smell it."
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  11. Edited my wording, thanks for the clarification!
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