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Define "On Topic" for the Monastery

by jdporter (Chancellor)
on Jul 17, 2015 at 19:28 UTC ( #1135218=pmdevtopic: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

There's been a fair amount of discussion lately about how to designate off-topic posts (i.e. whether to set up a separate section for them, or not). (I think a good place to start getting familiar with the subject is here.)

The implicit underpinning of these discussions is what "off topic" means at PerlMonks. Indeed, part of the difficulty in arriving at a solution of which a plurality of monks would approve is that "off topic" is not well defined, and seems to mean different things in different contexts. I am starting to think it might be a good idea, then, to establish definitions for the following:

  1. What is so far off topic for PerlMonks that it simply won't be acceptable? A post that is beyond this pale would be reaped, or possibly moved to the offtopicroot "section". (Note: not a section.)
  2. What is off-topic enough to warrant not being approved into a section?
  3. What is off-topic enough to warrant being designated (labeled, binned, etc.) as "OT"?
  4. And indeed, what is the relative "severity" of the latter two criteria?

These definitions would be documented for all to see, and in particular would be incorporated into the Janitors' Guidelines, as well as the moderation and consideration guidelines.

Question #1 is: Do we agree that having something written down would be a good idea? I get a vague feeling that the answer to this question, historically, was "No". But it could just be that we never got around to it...

I reckon we are the only monastery ever to have a dungeon stuffed with 16,000 zombies.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by Your Mother (Archbishop) on Jul 17, 2015 at 19:37 UTC

    Anything applicable to Computer Science (algorithm, theory, practice, NP complete discussions, etc) or to work involving Perl (project management, how much beer makes you a better hacker or does it, keyboard selection, glued languages, editors...) seems the complete range of Off-Topic that would be acceptable and does range very far afield but still might belong here or help other monks.

    Dating, politics, cooking... Unless you're dating another monk or running for chair of the EPO or cooking a monk... That's why one Facebooks or Tumblrs or Reddits.

    I don't think we need a guide. Off-topic is like pornography. Not just that one knows it when one sees it but what was pr0n 30 years ago is just about PG-13 today. Off-topic today might not feel like off-topic tomorrow.

      one knows it when one sees it
      delegate this question to the janitors

      The problem in this (and that) approach -- which is what we've always done -- is that, when someone objects to a certain action (e.g. "My post wasn't off topic!"), we don't have something we can point them to. People are not satisfied with "sorry, it's janitor's discretion". They have to live with it, yes; but it's not satisfying, and does nothing to abate the flamefests.

      I'm not suggesting that the definitions should be very specific and rigid. In fact, with my Process Improvement hat on, I'd say probably the best way to start would be for the janitors to write down what criteria, heuristics, etc. they use, no matter how nebulous. Someone could then take that material and try to distill it for the documentation.

      I reckon we are the only monastery ever to have a dungeon stuffed with 16,000 zombies.

        I did suggest guidelines too despite believing they are unnecessary. :P


      politicis in the sense of national politics -- I agree that is off topic for this website

      But, for example, politics of programming websites and mailing lists and bug reports, I believe that could be on topic for our off topic section

        I did cite a case of Perl politics. :P

Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by BrowserUk (Patriarch) on Jul 17, 2015 at 21:40 UTC

    My broad strokes definition would be: 'Anything that a professional (predominantly Perl) programmer might (reasonably) find themselves needing to solve as a part of their work'.

    My examples of what that includes:

    • Algorithms.
    • Maths.
    • Design.
    • Any programming language that might be called on to inter-operate with Perl.
    • Methodologies.
    • Tools.
    • Techniques: design; programming, testing; documenting; packaging; validating; benchmarking; security.
    • Programming related legal issues.

    My examples of what that excludes:

    • Politics: (possibly excepting office politics.)
    • Religion: for or against, any and all religions; and religion-like philosophies.
    • Race.
    • Gender.
    • Exploits, easter-eggs and strategies for playing computer games.
    • Sex/porn/relationships/conquests.
    • Anything illegal.
    • Cleaning the toilets.

    For arbitration; I'd suggest an extension of the current consideration process whereby a post considered for being too off topic would be borged. Ie. Rendered ineligible for the front page and uncommentable until at least (say) 11 people had voted ack/nack; with the majority at that point being the decider.

    With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
    Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
    "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
    In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
    I'm with torvalds on this Agile (and TDD) debunked I told'em LLVM was the way to go. But did they listen!
Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by Laurent_R (Canon) on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:34 UTC
    That's reminding me of a discussion on the same subject a few weeks ago.

    Sometimes someone asks about how to do this with Perl under Linux (or pick whatever other OS, application, network environment, etc.). And, although it related to Perl, it is obviously a question about that OS or environment rather than Perl. I might reply something like this:

    You might have a better chance of a good response on the following Linux (or whatever) forum.
    If I make such answer, I am just trying to help the OP and tell him or her to check on another forum, but it certainly does not mean that I consider the OP to be off-topic, but just that it might be better on-topic on another forum, but that post still is on-topic here.

    Other wise, I basically agree with Your Mother:

    "Anything applicable to Computer Science (algorithm, theory, practice, NP complete discussions, etc) or to work involving Perl (project management, how much beer makes you a better hacker or does it, keyboard selection, glued languages, editors...) seems the complete range of Off-Topic that would be acceptable and does range very far afield but still might belong here or help other monks."

Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by GotToBTru (Prior) on Jul 17, 2015 at 19:51 UTC

    I would be delegate this question to the janitors. Do they feel a call to action on this topic? Because the burden of enforcing it, beyond moderation, falls to them.

    If Perlmonks decides to get more formal in its definition of off-topic, I'd suggest the following:

    • Add "Off Topic" as a moderation selection, as an alternative to "Approve" or "Frontpage"
    • Add "Off Topic" as consideration category, an alternative to keep/edit/reap/nada
    • Allow users a selection to suppress nodes designated OT. This could be as simple as posting possible CSS language
    • Updated to strike out OT stuff - what irony!

      Dum Spiro Spero
      Should "off topic" be an additional moderation option ...

      Not bad ideas, but I'm not trying to address solutions/implementations in this thread.

Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by marinersk (Priest) on Jul 17, 2015 at 21:38 UTC

    If there's a set of topicality rules to be used, I think having something written down is good -- it doesn't have to be worded with mathematical precision. The Monastery Code can be more like what you would call "guidelines". But having something to refer to, which can be adjusted as needed, will more than likely help more than hurt.

    So, to the questions:

    1. offtopicroot:
      • spam
      • posts which are not redeemable from topical proximity as noted below
      • posts which are deemed to include farcicle Perl, PerlMonks, or Perlesque topics only to veil a clear intention to troll; this is a judgement call and should be used with extreme reticence
    2. section nonapproval: Comments which do not qualify under topical proximity as noted below, but which are social enough to be considered "In the Spirit of the Monastery"*, insomuch as the Monastery is sometimes as much a social place as it is a technical one.
    3. labeled: Computer-related conversations which do not implicate, mention, reference, or otherwise involve Perl; this includes topics which could include use of Perl but are otherwise too general to be considered Perlesque. I would consider these to have good topical proximity to Perl, even if not actually about Perl.
    4. severity: I see almost no useful distinction between these latter two categories, but if they must be divided, I've identified where I see a relatively logical (if a bit fuzzy) dividing line.

    *Answering this question gave me an idea I'd like to include here, even though it is solutions-oriented and out of scope of the question, because otherwise I'm likely to forgot to bring it up at the appropriate time. A nice feature to consider adding: The owner, or perhaps a Consideration feature, to reparent a mid-conversation node to the offtopic section, should one come into existence, to effectively trim a conversation down to its Perl-related components, with side conversations relegated to the off-topic section. The corner and edge cases here could quickly become overwhelming (what do do with the descendent nodes), but if someone has a brilliant idea in that space, I thought I'd toss this log onto the fire.

Re: Define "On Topic" for the Monastery
by Discipulus (Abbot) on Jul 24, 2015 at 07:25 UTC
    Question #1... i think having something written is a good idea; it have not to be precise and verbose, just to understand the idea behind.

    I think that we can have something like the list posted by BrowserUk and YourMother.

    I posted the poll idea just to stimulate a debat about the matter because i read many threads in the recent past about offtopicness presence here. I still think the poll is worth to be published, even better in September when almost all monks are back from summer holidays. After poll results you can (if you want and have time) write down a little manifesto of permitted or not offtopicness.

    There are no rules, there are no thumbs..
    Reinvent the wheel, then learn The Wheel; may be one day you reinvent one of THE WHEELS.

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