Closing threads on secnews

There has been some recent confusion about threads in the secnews.netscape.com newsgroups being closed. I just want to make things clear for everyone.

What is this all about?
There has been too much off-topic discussion taking place on the secnews.netscape.com user support newsgroups. While camaraderie is encouraged, the utility of the user support venue is first priority. Too much off-topic discussion makes reading the group much less efficient. Those looking for technical support, may have to weed through a lot of off-topic discussion to find an answer to their problem. In some cases, an answer may not be there, because the problem may have been lost in the discussion. Those of us offering to help people with their technical problems become less efficient at solving problems, and less quick to get to the technical questions.

After being asked to stay away from off-topic discussion, most replies were in defense of such practise. Most users showed an unwillingness to adhere the request; so something more had to be done.

What is considered to be off-topic discussion?
secnews.netscape.com has newsgroups set up for user support. Each support group is dedicated to a specific product. If the discussion is not about the product the group is for, then it is off-topic.

What is the purpose of closing threads?
Closing threads is a way cutting down on off-topic discussion. This way, people will not have to compose messages with an uncertainty that the message will be deleted.

What is the criteria for a thread to be closed?
I make it a rule not to close threads in which the technical discussion is still ongoing, or the original posted problem has not been solved. Other than that, there must be an ongoing off-topic discussion. The closing of threads has absolutely nothing to do with who the original poster is, or who is engaging in the off-topic discussion. Thread closures are based on message content, not the authors.

If the above rule is exploited or abused at all, I may start partially closing threads, removing only the discussion that is off-topic.

As a general rule, if you want to discuss something that is off-topic, try to move the to an appropriate forum. Jay Garcia has set up a general discussion venue for secnews off-topic posters here.

Why are your “CLOSED THREAD” notices in reply to the original post, rather than the latest post in the thread?
I don’t want to give the latest poster the impression that the thread closure is his/her fault alone.

Why are you (Chris Ilias) the only one closing threads?
Closing threads is my responsibility alone. The rest of the Mozilla Champions have put their trust in me to choose which threads get closed, and to do the removing of messages. This is a responsibility that I asked for.

The posting guidelines say “The “Original Poster” has control of the thread”; so why is it that you can close them?
You control your threads to a certain degree. Ultimately, it is AOL’s server, and the Champions have the authority to delete posts. In the case of using AOL’s Netscape user support news server as your personal chatroom: you abuse, you lose.

Added on May 25th:

Why don’t you create a newsgroup for off-topic discussion?
We don’t have the power to create newsgroups on secnews. Even if we did, I’m not sure we would create a newsgroup for off-topic discussion (Still iffy on the issue). I mentioned the possibility of an OT newsgroup on the new Mozilla server to Gervase Markham, who replied with “OT discussion should happen somewhere where it’s on-topic. Otherwise in mozilla.general.” Yet web-based user support almost always have an OT forum. (After Dark, Lounge, General Discussion) The community is kept together, and able to discuss whatever they want. This is why Jay created a general discussion venue. I suggest you use it.

Part of why I participate on secnews, is because I’m able to talk off-topic. Either let it go, or I’m going to participate somewhere else.
This ultimatum makes me laugh. Most of the people saying it have been participating on secnews for years, yet there was never this amount of off-topic discussion, until just a couple of months ago. Why the change? Why is it, all of a sudden, so imperative? It’s not a question of ‘allow OT or disallow it’. It’s simply a case of volume. Having said that, if that amount of OT discussion is so important to you, take your OT and leave. There’s no shortage of people willing to help; and more will come due the increased efficiency.

Isn’t this censorship?
Why yes it is. Every privately owned user support venue is moderated.

Why don’t you post this URL on secnews?
To keep discussion out of the way of user support. I’ll add this URL to all of my “CLOSED THREAD” notices from now on.

23 Responses

  1. Peng May 24, 2005 / 10:19 pm

    I dunno, pissing off the people who help in the group by storming in and shutting down the conversation in the middle of someone’s sentence doesn’t sound like a great way to keep people coming to the group. Personally, I just wrote out a reply to the thread about this, and then suddenly noticed that I can’t reply because you decided to close the thread.

    If you want us to stop discussion OT stuff, give us a place to put it. Give is a ‘netscape.mozilla.offtopic’ newsgroup or something where we can move threads that start to go OT. Being able to to it right there is easier than starting a thread in Jay’s forum and copying and pasting your message there or something.

    Those looking for technical support, may have to weed through a lot of off-topic discussion to find an answer to their problem.

    Usually, a good answer is one of the first messages in the thread. Once you read it and get your answer, there’s no need to continue reading the rest of the messages, so OT messages are not a problem.

    In some cases, an answer may not be there, because the problem may have been lost in the discussion.

    I dunno, I don’t think I’ve seen that happen. The off-topic discussion doesn’t go back on-topic, so the answer won’t get lost.

    Closing threads is a way cutting down on off-topic discussion.

    Yeah, it’s a way of pissing everybody off.

    This way, people will not have to compose messages with an uncertainty that the message will be deleted.

    Sure, they’ll be completely certain you’ll go and delete it. Before, I don’t think there was any uncertainty at all. I don’t think messages were ever deleted, aside from when they expire from the server after sixty days.

  2. Peng May 24, 2005 / 10:23 pm

    Hah, I should have proof-read.

    Personally, I just wrote out a reply to the thread about this, and then suddenly noticed that I can’t reply because you decided to close the thread.

    Looks like I stopped in mid-thought. :P It should have been something like “Personally, I just wrote out a reply to the thread about this, and then suddenly noticed that I can’t reply because you decided to close the thread. Since the person I was replying to does not show his email address, I can’t privately email him, so here I am in a bad mood making a comment in your blog.”

    Being able to to it right there is easier than starting a thread in Jay’s forum and copying and pasting your message there or something.

    “Being able to do it right”….

  3. Anonymous May 24, 2005 / 10:42 pm

    FWIW, I spend so much time looking at non-relevant C**P (and killing threads) that I hardly get to see technical problems, let alone respond to them.

    Closing these “chat” threads comes so late in the cycle that it hardly helps me at all.

  4. Anonymous May 24, 2005 / 10:59 pm

    Closing down threads is a vast waste of time on your part. It only serves to alienate and irritate the posters, most of whom are extremely helpful and responsive to technical requests.

    Lighten up and find something important to do.

  5. Peter Reaper May 25, 2005 / 4:07 am

    Closing OT threads is a bad idea.

    I skim the newsgroup regularly because there are the occasional interesting threads (Mozilla and OT!). I also occasionay will answer some questions.

    OT posts are a large part what keeps me (an advanced user and potential helper) even reading the newsgroup.

    I’ve said this before: Too narrowly defining the allowed modes of communication will stifle all communication. We are humans, not mono-task machines. This is supposed to be a community.

    I am very disappointed in this development, and foresee participating much less in these newsgroups.

    PS. What is so hard about pressing “k” to kill a thread you are not interested in? Why not invest your energies into finally fixing bug 11054 (Ignore (kill) a Subthread (branch: not the whole thread))?

    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=11054

  6. Irwin Greenwald May 25, 2005 / 11:19 am

    FWIW, I posted the first “anonymous” message. Turns out – for reasons I can’t fathom – I couldn’t establish an identity using NS8

  7. Anonymous May 25, 2005 / 11:21 am

    Testing

  8. me May 25, 2005 / 11:22 am

    testing

  9. Anonymous May 25, 2005 / 4:28 pm

    I understand an occasional OT remark can happen and it can be fun. Those very long lines of OTs are very burdensome and don’t refer to the original topic and, frankly, I find them tedious and boring. I’m no angel, I’ve been known to throw a remark into an OT string but the OTs were getting completely out of hand and taking up space that should have been used for users to exchange relevent information.

    Since users were not policing themselves and were treating the ng as a chatroom, I’m glad someone stepped in to put a stop to those miles of OT remarks.

    When I go into a ng, I scan the headers for topics that may be relevent for me. Expanding a header only to see it drop to the realms of the underworld is overwhelming. A newbie may feel that a asking question may turn into a free-for-all where there is backbiting and name calling. What an impression! Users are encouraged to go to the newsgroups for help. Keeping it professional but relaxed is much better than “kaffe klatch” behavior.

  10. Anonymous May 25, 2005 / 4:30 pm

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Anonymous May 25, 2005 / 7:18 pm

    Sorry for the double post. Hope it can be deleted.

  12. Andy May 26, 2005 / 6:26 pm

    IMO I like the OT. There have been some great topics, topics that ranged from politic lessons, to history lessons, to language lessons, and we even had some cooking lessons, especially the Beverly Hillbillies’ type of cookin’. That was just a few of the topics that was in that one. Remember that one Chris I. You started that thread.

    Having off topics like this is what make the group interesting. And it keeps someone like be coming back.

    But, why don’t you transfer the threads to the Netscape.Test newsgroup. There we can continue with ALL the off topics. If you do that, then there would have to be a posting informing everyone that you can resume any and all discussions there.

  13. Peng May 26, 2005 / 7:50 pm

    I still support netscape.mozilla.offtopic. 8) Though with how long it took to get n.m.firefox and how Mozilla’s new server will be here soon, I doubt there’s much chance of another new Mozilla group being added…

  14. Chris Ilias May 27, 2005 / 8:33 pm

    Andy said…“Remember that one Chris I. You started that thread.”

    Not really. It was probably an announcement thread, which I started to inform people of a new release. I may have started the thread, but I certainly didn’t start that topic of discussion.

  15. Anonymous June 11, 2005 / 12:04 am

    I am not at all in favour of this “CLOSED THREAD” policy. It is rude and very annoying. I have always found you Chris to be an abrupt and rude poster ..no personality and now you have taken it upon yourself to force the rest of us to provide one line answers ..and without a website like yours we can’t just post a link. I enjoy the OT discussions and if you continue to shut them off you will find yourself with very few people to provide tech support since it will be a very dull place.

    Lighten up and knock off this “CLOSED THREAD” CR**!! If you MUST continue, then change your template to properly spell T*H*R*E*A*D ..it is NOT T*R*E*A*D!

  16. Chris Ilias June 11, 2005 / 12:24 am

    Anonymous said…”I have always found you Chris to be an abrupt and rude poster ..no personality and now you have taken it upon yourself to force the rest of us to provide one line answers ..and without a website like yours we can’t just post a link.

    Well, Anonymous (and an actual identity would be appreciated, if you want me to take you seriously), as I have said on secnews, I try to keep emotion out of my posts on secnews. However, I don’t see how this, in any way, forces people to post one line answers, or post a link to an answer.

    Where did I spell thread as tread?

  17. Brian J. Graham June 11, 2005 / 10:07 am

    I believe the spot “Anonymous” refers to is in your “CLOSED THREAD” posts.

    QUOTE: This thread is now closed. Any further replies to this tread will be
    removed from the server.
    ENDQUOTE

  18. Chris Ilias June 11, 2005 / 10:10 am

    Ahh, okay, I fixed it. Thanks.

  19. Gord McFee June 15, 2005 / 7:35 pm

    I agree with your approach, and frankly, it makes the newsgroup much more usable.

  20. Dave July 24, 2005 / 4:18 pm

    Chris, I also agree with your approach. I like the idea of badly OT posts being removed. It was always my understanding that these forums were for technical help. It should make it easier to find useful information….I hope.

  21. Anonymous December 23, 2005 / 2:36 am

    While I hate censorship, I can appreciate the constraints within which you operate (the servers being owned by AOL and all), and appreciate you owning up to it being censorship.

    But since this is presumably in the interest of not using up every kilobyte of available space, how about reducing space by ending that idiotic practice of every message in every thread carrying every single response since the beginning? Don’t people know what “judicious trimming” is? I see lots of such posts, some running hundreds of lines long, with a single-line reply. Stupid.

  22. Chris Ilias December 23, 2005 / 6:37 am

    Anonymous: No-one ever said that this was in the interest of preserving bandwidth. It’s about keeping focus on user support, and preventing people from using secnews as their personal chat room.

Comments are closed.