Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(November 2001)

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Subject: "I know this is off-topic, but...."
From: Chuq Von Rospach <chuqui @ plaidworks . com>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 10:10:15 -0800
To: <list-managers @ greatcircle . com>
User-agent: Microsoft-Entourage/

Here's a question for the masses.

I am seeing more and more messages of the form "I know this is off-topic,
but..." -- things where the poster knows and admits upfront it doesn't
belong on a list, but has decided to send it anyway.

These drive me crazy. Innocent mistakes and naivete are things I can deal
with and I try to be patient with those people, but here are folks who know
up-front what they're doing is wrong, because they are apologizing in

What I can't decide is whether this is a problem, or whether any 'cure'
would be worse than the disease. On the one hand, I see this kind of
side-chatter as community building (mostly, sometimes, it's just clueless
people, but a lot of it is mining of a trusted community for non-topic
information). On the other hand, these things can lead towards an attitude
of "topic is optional", and some of the discussions can take off with a life
of their own and clutter up the list, creating all of the problems too much
side-chatter brings.

What do people think about this stuff? How do you manage it? Are you seeing
the same trend I am, with people doing this more often? It seems to me
there's some aspect of laziness here ("rather than find the right place,
I'll ask the close place") but combined with the "know these guys are
clueful" aspect, so there's a mixed message here. Definitely hard to decide
where to draw the lines in the sand, so I thought I"d throw it out and see
what others are thinking.


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