Oh, I think some amount of off topic chatter and punning around is not only to be tolerated, but also encouraged. You simply can not take a group of bright, intelligent,and interested people in any kind of interactive discussion and force them to stay "on topic." Nor, in my opinion, would you want to.

The flame-bait is an entirely different matter. Flame bait is like that famous description of por-no-graphy. I don't know how to define it, but I sure know it when I see it! It is easily identified by being insulting, abusive, light on facts, heavy on opinion, inflammatory, objectionable, and so forth. It is flame-bait when it goes against the standards of propriety for the vast majority of a group, and is presented in a way to anger people.

Clearly chatter about camera's is off topic, but just as clearly, talking about cameras does not anger anyone reading the group, other than perhaps a minor irritation if the OT header is missing. Hoping that the President Elect is assassinated, is just as clearly, nothing more than flame bait, and worse, it is fueled only by anger and hate.

Think of a 12 year old Jr. High kid when his wishes are thwarted. Same thing. Only kids are expected to grow up and learn how to behave in a civilized manner. Why electronic communications encourages otherwise rational adults to do and say the things they will on a list like this is an unfathomable mystery.

I think Ron Seybold perhaps did not discriminate the difference between the two types of traffic clearly enough, but then, it is his choice what to read and what not to read. Our e-mail readers today are plenty good enough to take care of filtering the chatter out, if we wish them to do so.

Flame bait, can, and again in my opinion, *should* be filtered out, both by technology, and by agreed upon consensus of the discussion group. It's Jr. High School level behavior from people who would *never* ever do or say anything like that to your face.

Anyone who particularly disagrees with that, drop me an email. I'll send you my address and you are welcome to come and say something like that to my face. It has happened one time.

I've been around since ArpaNET days, and seen the same kind of thing on most UseNET groups, mailing lists, BITNet groups, and so forth. I learned a lot more about it than I wanted to know as a moderator on the old BIX system. Especially moderating a non-technical history conference. Even received death threats because I removed some over the top threatening messages. The technical conferences would get hot at times too- ever here the term "MacTribesmen?" And anyone who is a public figure automatically gets subjected to this nonsense - even if all they say is "Good Morning."

Heck, electronic communications are fraught with peril. You would think *I* should at least know better, and yet I unintentionally insulted someone a few weeks ago, and didn't even know it until they got irritated enough to tell me. And I *watch* for that kind of stuff and try to avoid doing it.

Especially in casual communications like this. If I took the time to edit this, polish it up, and make it publication quality, some of you would disagree, but nobody would think it was targeted directly at them. But this is, in many ways, a "real time" discussion, not a debate, nor a peer reviewed journal. Nor even something that any of us get paid to do. So it has to have an element of *FUN* in it, or it just isn't worth doing.

Which brings me back to the original point, which is a certain amount of off topic chatter should be allowed and even encouraged. It is one of the things that makes the list fun, and builds real and lasting bonds between people. We just have to filter out the flame bait.
Either with technology, or with social pressure.


On Saturday, November 08, 2008, at 01:21AM, "John Dunlop" wrote:
>This is getting very sad. In my memory, the HP3000 listserver has always
>been a great font of collective HP3000 wisdom where people respected each
>other and had high regard for each others' expertise. Recently, there seems
>to be an element that just wants to use the listserver as a vehicle to
>inflame, insult and incite. I agree 100% with what Ron says on his blog at
>Ron is one of those people who is very widely respected for all that he has
>done in the HP3000 field and deserves better than the comments offered by
>some. Come on people, lets calm it down and have a self-prescribed
>moratorium on OT posts to allow the listserver to get back to business as
>Just my $.02.
>John Dunlop
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