I can see benefits of disallowing off topic discussion:
Moderators would have less work to do since the derailing of threads would probably be less common. And there would likely be fewer tough decisions.
Visitors would have an easier time finding relevant information.
Community members would likely feel a greater unity since we’re all here for the Safe Network, regardless of political views or otherwise.
The perception of the forum from the outside would likely be more professional if discussion of things like conspiracy theories, politics and other divisive topics aren’t allowed.
The only potential downside I can see is that the forum will likely see fewer posts. However, if posts are not related to the project, does it really add value to the forum or the project? For me it certainly detracts from the value of the forums.
There are many places online to discuss whatever topics one might be interested in, but there is only one place to discuss the Safe Network. Maybe this forum would be better off if it leaned into that fact and tried to be the absolute best at being a forum about the Safe Network.
Would it be a good idea to disallow discussion of topics outside of some given relevant categories?
There’s a balance between stimulating and supporting Safe through a variety of discussions which are related while also allowing separate space where some can go very off topic, and ruining the forum for most people and especially newcomers by using on-topic threads without discretion or restraint.
Which is why that What’s Up today thread worked in the past as just a collection of links to external… opinion and debate can be for off-topic. The focus here is better on the project and core topics/issues relative to that.
Topics relative to those (on topic) are welcome, in what is already the /community subforum.
Seeing those (on topic) valued relative to (what does it mean to see “on topic” valued relative to something?) real world topics (what is a real world topic? Do you mean off topic topics?), is a breath of fresh air in a stifled environment.
My non-native English brain can’t quite understand this, can you write this paragraph in easier English? Added some notes to communicate what I’m reading and not understanding.
@happybeing just so I understand what you write, you’re writing that there’s a balance to be struck between “facilitating both on topic and off topic discussions” and “letting on topic threads get derailed”.
Your post seems to assume that off topic discussion is valuable in the first place. Is it really?
If off topic isn’t allowed, derailing threads would happen much less, along with other benefits, and what is lost really? Are the things that would be lost more valuable than those that would be gained?
When I go to these forums, and I see heated disagreements and unpleasant language—which I often do—they’re almost never about the Safe Network or related topics. They are about politics, sports, conspiracy theories or other subjects that belong in the off topic category.
So to me it seems like off topic discussion causes friction and an unpleasant environment in general. And what do we gain from it?
This thread isn’t meant for a discussion about the “What’s Up Today” thread or any other specific thread.
Personally I do find off topic discussions useful sometimes, and they can broaden the interests and composition of the community which I also think is valuable, as well as get to know each other better.
For example, I’m very glad to have learned about @Sascha’s lifestyle, as well as the different perspectives which we all have on a range of issues, and to see that despite sometimes extreme differences we have shared values which draw its to support this project, even if the reasons we give are can be very different.
I don’t like it when the focus of a topic is detailed by unhelpful distraction, ego clashes, personal disputes etc, because this inhibits useful discussion and learning, as well as undermines the sense of common purpose, mutual respect and ultimately our ability to support the project. I think it discourages engagement both on the topic and on the forum generally. Why post if there’s just going to be repeated derailing and personalised battles? Why stick around if the first thing you see is a bunch of disrespectful bun fighting?
In trying to keep things on topic there’s also the risk of having arguments about whether something is related enough to be on topic, which of course are then off topic!
So I prefer that people think before they post and consider the effect of their posts on the topics, the forum, on the sense of community and common purpose, rather than to have a strict policy which is rigourously enforced - assuming the moderators have time to do that, which they may not. It might be better than what we have at the moment though.
So I think @lukas has a point but maybe moderators could focus on particular discussion areas which are not going well (such as IMO “What’s Up Today?”) rather than disallow off-topic altogether.
From my own moderation experience I’ve learned that it’s much easier and less work to moderate when there are strict policies that are rigorously enforced, it’s actually less time consuming and less draining to moderate in that environment. The reason is that most cases are more clear cut like “do we allow this or not”. This is why I’ve listed this is a tangible benefit of disallowing Off-Topic. I could go into more detail if requested.
I agree it would be great if we didn’t need any rules on the forums, but I think we all know that this is not feasible. Rules are needed and can greatly improve a digital space for everyone’s benefit.
This is just something I’ve been thinking about, and the conclusion I came to is the following: If I create a community around a piece of software there would be no doubt that I would only allow discussion that is somehow related to the software. If people want to discuss other things there are better places for that, and the goal of the community would be to be the best place possible for discussing the software.
The reason I’ve come to this conclusion is in large part because of my previous moderation experience, and from following this forum for a long time. To me, off topic discussion detracts from the experience. Whenever I’ve come across a forum that is more focused I have generally enjoyed that focus.
I’d agree if Safe Network was just a piece of software, a product with narrow focus etc. I think it’s much more than that though, it’s a platform, a project which aims to have something for literally everyone, so I’m glad that the ethos here has always to try to be inclusive and to allow community as well as product focused discussion.