Off topic arguments

Is there any point in trying to discourage off topic arguments?
(off topic from the original post)

I get a little tired of people insisting on arguing about something totally irrelevant to the original question.
When I say “a little tired” I mean a tiny bit. Sort of “I really would rather talk about the subject of the thread.” kind of thing.

Although it’s more annoying when someone seems to be trying to show how much smart they are above everyone.

So, seriously, is there anything that can be done and if yes, should there anything be done?

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It doesn’t really bother me.

Conversations evolve and during the course of a conversation a variety of topics arise. Pursuing those is, in my opinion, perfectly fine, and is a natural part of the process of conversation and discussion.


It depends on the conversation and context. What you might see as “unrelated” to the post might be very relevant for someone else. Personally I would leave all of the discouraging up to the moderators and staff, since it’s part of their job to deal with these sort of things (if they chose not to do anything it’s probably not that big of a deal). If you want you can always continue the original conversation and not pay attention to tangents and off-topic arguments.



That said, the moderators typically also use a pretty light hand, unless something is seriously derailing a topic, and we often depend on user flags or messages to let us know when this is happening. (The Forum is too big any more for the volunteer moderators or paid staff to keep up with every single topic all the time…)

If a side-discussion starts taking on a life of its own, let us know and we can often move the relevant posts to a new separate topic where the discussion can continue.

If posts are seriously and willfully derailing a topic, please feel free to flag them as off-topic, which will help catch the attention of the moderators.

And yes, moderators also participate in discussions and sometimes get off-topic too - don’t hesitate to (civilly) call us out!


Sometimes it seems like the original question gets lost and never answered.
I have searched for things, found something that appeared to address the question only to be confused. a made-up example (inorder to avoid pointing out specific people)

If I were looking for lens recommendations and found a thread titled “what lens do you use?” and every other reply is two people going on back and forth about people who post blurry images. To the point where half the thread is the argument about blurry images. I didn’t go there to witness this argument. It may be somewhat related, but it isn’t really.

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Please flag or let moderators know, you can message forum_moderators directly. I know it can feel weird, but flagging in and of itself doesn’t mean you’re being vindictive or trying to punish anyone, it just means a moderator should take a look at something.


Sometimes you have to leave the trail to see where you’re going. Or see something different. As long as you don’t get lost, or fall off a cliff, it’s all good.


I don’t know about the topics you searched specifically, but I feel like often when this happens it’s on topics that have already been discussed a number of times on the forum. They never really get resolved, whether because they’re unsolvable world issues or because iNat hasn’t decided or doesn’t have the resources now to make the changes, but they continue to be topics that people care about. So new people come in who want to talk about them fresh, while people who’ve talked about the topic before may bring up a side sub-topic that they’re interested in exploring.


“Off-topic” is a rather vague category. Sometimes, it appears to be used as a catchall flag when someone doesn’t like what was said but can’t point to a specific violation. I doubt if people are deliberately derailing threads.


Agreed. Kind of like evolution, including reticulate evolution, where the conversation path(s) can veer, diverge, and merge. But when it completely “speciates” into a whole 'nother topic, then it’s time to give it its own discussion thread.


Problem is that where that takes place is entirely subjective, with each person having a wildly different threshold for where that division is. And even if it does appear to diverge ‘off topic’ it still may be relevant, just that some people don’t recognize the relevance.


Not unlike taxonomy.


the core problem is when the original question/post is never fully dealt with because of some side tangent that “evolves” into a different subject and takes over.

I don’t know how much it matters, but that is the thing.

Surely there must be some etiquette about bringing it back on track – especially if you are the OP who knows what you were trying to ask.

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If the moderator isn’t doing it, then the OP should reiterate their questions and try to push the discussion back on track. I’ve found the more specific you can be in what you are asking, the better chance you’ll get an answer.


i don’t like the banning of off topic discussion because something that seems off topic to others usually doesn’t to me. I’m fine with the splitting off but outright deleting i am not a fan of unless it’s just dramatically off topic, like trying to derail a post about bird tail feathers by discussing politicians or someone’s business they want to market or something.


I wanted to top this and add a comment, as an ‘AuDhD’ person whos mind works on multiple threads at once, i actually find the forum rules really inaccessible to me. I don’t know if something is ‘off topic’ because to me it isn’t, the things i mention are very much linked. I am not opposed to mods splitting off threads to let discussions grow, but as a neurodivergent person i honestly find constant policing to ‘stay on topic’ as really exclusionary. I know probably no one cares… but i’d really appreciate if people were a bit more conscious instead of constantly policing conversation. It doesn’t make me feel welcome here. Which maybe i’m not, and just need to take the hint… but there are other people like me you are excluding also.


I think because off-topic sub-conversations tend to develop gradually, it’s hard for any participant to tell at what point they should be moving to another thread (and that also requires the effort to find another appropriate thread to move to). I agree it’s hard to decide when to stop or move discussion of a sub-topic, and wouldn’t mind proactive thread-splitting.

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yeah this is a good point too. I recognize eventually that my topic has changed but i don’t always know when.