Re[2]: "Off Topic" Postings

Subject: Re[2]: "Off Topic" Postings
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 16:14:00 -0600

Just some thoughts on this; perhaps helpful, I don't know. Delete now to
avoid the ravings of a madman.

I wonder why it is that postings that
generate a lot of interest from subscribers are deemed "off-topic?"

I think we're confusing "interest" with "topicality." Postings on chess or
electric vehicles would be interesting to me, but I'd never suggest they
were on-topic for this list.

A large contingent of the writers on this list might be intereted in many
things which could not possibly be considered on-topic. The fact that a
post generates any level of interest is irrelevant to a discussion of its

The signal-to-noise ratio is falling. I'd venture that well over 80% of the
traffic on this list ends up in my mailer's trash, unopened. If my snail
mailbox carried the same level of junk, I could heat my house with it this

But, like Eric, I'm loathe to suggest a list of things which are to be the
allowable topics. Some, for me, are easy. I'm not interested in *any* of
the discussions that have been held about how to do xxxx with tool yyyy. I
know how to use my tools, and when something comes along that I *don't*
know how to do (which happens) I also know where to turn to find it out,
and that where is *not* this list.

There are times when it seems the list membership only considers software
documentation to be on-topic, and other times where it seems folks consider
things which are held in common with every working sod on the face of the
planet, not even just writers, to be on-topic. My ideas of topicality are
no more infallible than the next person's; I'm not comfortable thrusting
them forward as the ideal. Using my level of interest as a guide is even
worse; I'm only interested in a small fraction of what even *I* would
consider topical for this list.

Which brings me to the reason I even opened my keyboard on this. I've
noticed lately a disturbing trend among some of the posters here, who seem
to forget by whose kind offices this forum is provided, and whose house we
are metaphorically a guest in while we participate in it. I'm referring, of
course, to Eric.

Even in an unmoderated forum, there is an amount of respect and deference
which is due the list owner, by right of office. As soon as he declares a
subject out of bounds, that should be the end of it, regardless of personal
feelings. Yet quite often of late, even in just the portion of techwr-l
I've read, there has been a dramatic increase in the tendency on the part
of some posters to tell Eric precisely where and in what matter to get off,
as if *they* owned the list.

To me it's as if a drunk began shouting at the host of a dinner party. It's
ghastly to watch, and doesn't do anything but accentuate how thoughtless
the drunk is.

Like the whole of Internet, a mailing list depends upon the co-operation of
those who participate in order for it to function. As Eric noted, the
functionality of the list is declining; each brain disconnected from the
whole diminishes our collective capability. Perhaps we need to heed the
promptings of our collective conscience, and focus ourselves a bit.

Yes, I know it's tedious to ask the right questions on the right list; so
what? There's such a thing as the right time and place for a question. By
refusing to take that time, you are communicating to the rest of us that
while *your* time is too valuable to waste by spending the minute or two
necessary to put the right address on your email, *our* time is so much
less valuable that you can waste a lot *more* of it. (Think of it. Even
four extra seconds, multiplied by a thousand list members, means an hour
has been wasted. Is saving yourself that minute or so *really* more
valuable than an hour of our time?)

Yes. It's tedious. But it's just as tedious, if not more, to have a
question go unanswered because the people who could answer it stopped
listening long ago. Such selfish, short-term thinking does no one good.

Anyway, I've said my piece.

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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