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OnAndOffTopic

OnTopic and OffTopic are two terms you often hear in any online community. Why is that? The problem is InformationOverload. In order to protect themselves against overload, communities try to defend against content they are not interested in. At the same time, their common interest is what pulled them together into a community, so they care about being on-topic.

“On-topic” is the topic that belongs in a given place. For instance, talking about omletts is “on-topic” for a cooking website; but talking about astronomy is “off-topic” for a cooking website. Topics apply to all sorts of communication: Conversations, messages, documents.

On this wiki, anything having to do with community is on-topic. This includes anything having to do with online communities, including the software related to them. The topic of this particular wiki is described in the MissionStatement.

Some topics are off-topic. Perhaps a WikiNode would help you find the right place to put things that are only slightly off topic. Perhaps the WikiIndex? (which lists all known wikis) would help you find the right place to put things that are totally off-topic here.

One way to consolidate information OnceAndOnlyOnce is to move all the information on a particular topic to only one wiki – in other words, make that topic OnTopic at that wiki, and OffTopic on all other wiki.

See also: MeatBall:OffTopic

How to react to off-topic content

If you tell someone something is OffTopic, you should tell them where it is OnTopic.
Because just saying “That’s off-topic.”, period, is the same as saying “Shut up.”.
The internet is a big place – someone, somewhere is talking about just about every topic you can imagine.
Telling someone that what they say is unimportant – that no one is interested in that topic – is not only rude, but factually incorrect.
DavidCary
Corollary: If you tell someone to leave a wiki because they don’t fit, you should tell them where they would belong.
AlexSchroeder

The problem with off-topic content is that often there is no place where it would be on-topic, in which case one of the people posting the off-topic content should just create a new site where their stuff is on-topic. See TooFewWiki.

Another problem is that sometimes people want us to read off-topic content because they’re hoping to reach their target audience that way. This is also known as spamming. The problem is that these people do not want to go elsewhere, because they think that their target audience is here. You can either try a CommunitySolution? and educate these people or broaden your scope; or you can try to use HardSecurity? or a LegalSolution?. :(

Benefits of being off topic

Friendships are ties that go beyond immediate utility or strategic mutual benefits. Most humans find them very comforting. How do we get there?

Sharing values or interests can be lead to friendship. This in turn requires that we have the possibility to discover our values and interests. This is impossible if we’re 100% on topic all the time.

Off-topic conversations are the basis for relationships that go beyond immediate utility.

Discussion

Is it even possible to send people “elsewhere?” We’re community leaders, not Gods. We don’t have omniscience about all the communities in the world, nor can we fully understand every troublesome contributor. Maybe it’s useful to try to help people fit in somewhere else if you want them to leave, but there’s no obligation. Similarly with off-topic material, except insofar as everything is on-topic on your own website. – MartinHarper?

Perhaps the two rules-of-thumb should both be qualified with “if possible” – you are right in that this is not always possible. I do feel that such a reaction would generate far less animosity, however.

I don’t think the point is that you have to, or you have to be omniscienct. But I do think that if you know of a wiki, you should point it out. In fact, I think you should point them out, even if you don’t want to kick them out.

Mighty right. It’s about creating good Zauber (magic). Good Zauber not only on your prefered wiki, not even only in the widths of entire wikilandia but in the entire (*******) world. Wiki has the power to overtake a part of global human communication, and the basic difference of wiki beeing communication and history at the same time will open unknown doors to mankind. Off-topic? How can any of human communication be off-topic? Sure pointing everybody where it’s best for her/him. Musicialy: Groove! Look for the big common rythm. I’m pretty sure, when this is all finnaly measured and anyalysed, we’ll find out that we are grooving with the moon. He’s the stick that beats the drum, the big one. At least we will, when there are women with it. - Little spaced out after the 04 calendar drumbeat, honestly: You surely can be better, but you can’t be off-topic. 040102 16:43

Is it even possible to send people “elsewhere?” Yes. Why else make hyperlinks ? [I wrote theoretical, speculative comments, then deleted them in favor of actual experiences that are somewhat analogous].

I tried to buy a slightly unusual-sized battery at an office supply store recently. The sales clerk didn’t know where they were, but he led me to an office manager who told me “We don’t carry that size battery here”. But check out the very next thing he said: “I think that (store A) might sell that size, and they’re just up the road. And I know that (store B) sells that size, but they’re on the other side of town – let me get you their address.” That sort of helpful information makes me want to keep coming to this store. (Something similar happened in the movie “Miracle on 34th street”, right ?).

I want to discuss some topic wiki-style (rather than mailing list style), but I haven’t seen that topic mentioned on any wiki I’m familiar with. Does this seem like a reasonable sequence of events ?

  • Of the wiki I know, I pick the one that seems most relevant (i.e., the people there seem likely to give me good feedback), find some page on it, then I BeBold and just start talking about my topic of interest.
  • Someone more familiar with that wiki than I am moves my text to a more appropriate page, leaving behind a (moved to …) WikiPage? link.
  • Somewhere there exists a wiki that’s more appropriate for this text. When someone active in both wiki stumbles across my text, that person moves it to the “more appropriate” wiki, leaving behind a (moved to …) InterWiki link or URI.
  • There’s another wiki that is ideal for this kind of discussion. When someone who knows about that wiki stumbles across my text, that person moves it to the “ideal” wiki, leaving behind a (moved to …) InterWiki link or URI.
  • Someone more familiar with that wiki moves my text to a more appropriate page, leaving behind a (moved to …) WikiPage? link.

No one in this entire sequence knows about all the wiki. Each person just moves the text (with cut and paste) and me (with the hyperlinks) to the most relevant location that he knows about.

DavidCary

That’s the vision.

Exactly.

If you tell someone something is OffTopic, you should tell them where it is OnTopic.

Because just saying “That’s off-topic.”, period, is the same as saying “Shut up.”.

The internet is a big place – someone, somewhere is talking about just about every topic I can imagine.

Telling someone that what they say is unimportant – that no one is interested in that topic – is not only rude, but factually incorrect.

(I think I’ve said this before somewhere – yes, Wiki:WikiSquatting ).

Dave, that is really insightful. I like it, how do we easily ReDirectVisitors??


CategoryIntroductionToWiki

Define external redirect: CommunitySolution WikiIndex MartinHarper HardSecurity ReDirectVisitors WikiPage LegalSolution

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