[offtopic] Topicality debate [my 2 bits]

John Underhill stepnwlf at magma.ca
Sat Sep 23 23:01:40 UTC 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 
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] 
-Moderated Approach
Create an [email protected] 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.


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