Re: "Off Topic" Postings

Subject: Re: "Off Topic" Postings
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 15:52:13 -0500

>While I am just as opposed to off-topic postings as anyone, and myself have
>complained about them in the past, I wonder why it is that postings that
generate a lot of interest from subscribers are deemed "off-topic?"

>I think that like other ambiguous features of human life, deciding what is
>and is not off-topic is going to be a judgment call. Obviously, numerous
>people thought the ageism issue important, while others decided to leave
>the list because they found it another example of irrelevancies being

I, also, have noticed that the more popular a post becomes, the more it
is deemed 'off-topic'. This leads me to question whether some are upset
with the content of the posts or with the volumes of responses that some
posts generate.

Obviously some posts are off topic (such as Make Money). Others are
borderline (such as one or two spaces after a period). However, a
reader may tend to classify any topic that is not of their interest as
'off-topic'. For example, I don't use Interleaf. Therefore, I may
consider 50 responses on how to convert to Interleaf format as
'off-topic'. So the question is, "do 10 off-topic posts (including
responses) present more of a problem to a reader than 50
on-topic-but-not-to-their-interest posts?"

I also wonder if those who are leaving because of too many off-topic
posts feel that they have made a sufficient number of attempts at
posting original on-topic posts before deciding that the list is
fruitless. (By original, I mean that their posts are not responses.)
If not, aren't they leaving it up to others to originate on-topic posts
of which they feel are appropriate enough for them to participate? My
point is, if you're someone who is upset with the topics, generate a few
that you feel are on topic. Maybe a few 'go-bys' are required.
Otherwise, we are left with a feeling for what is deemed as off-topic
(word vs. frame, grammar, ageism, and so forth) but only have a generic
and wide-open-to-interpretation (pertinent to technical communication)
as a go-by. If this doesn't work, maybe you've got a point.


_/ Michael Wing
_/ Principal Technical Writer
_/ Infrastructure Technical Information Development
_/ Intergraph Corporation
_/ Huntsville, Alabama
_/ (205) 730-7250
_/ mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com

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