Importance of Staying On-Topic: What Derailing a Thread Is and How It Can Get You Banned

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Feb 5, 2016
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When a member creates a thread, they are choosing a certain topic to be the theme of that thread.

That topic is often self-evident after reading the thread title, or upon reading the original post.

Subsequent posts to that thread that are relevant to the theme of the thread, and directly address it, are deemed on-topic. Posts that completely avoid addressing the theme and have no bearing on the original post are considered off-topic.

Often the discussion within a thread organically deviates towards a tangential topic, and that is fine in most cases because conversations in general naturally evolve and develop over the course of the discussion, and an occasional sidebar can be useful to add context or to colour the conversation...

However, deviating from the theme of the thread is not always benign, as most off-topic posts occur as the result of one member attempting to provoke and bicker with another, and that target member responding in kind.

All it takes is a few posts (or sometimes even just a single post) for a thread to be taken off-topic and derailed.

So what does derailing a thread mean?

Think of a train on railroad tracks as an analogy:

The thread itself is the entire train. The topic of any particular thread is the railroad tracks, and the thread creator's original post is the first engine that powers the train to begin moving down the direction of those tracks. Each subsequent post is an individual railcar on that train. In order to stay on the tracks (on-topic), it is prudent for each railcar to remain on the tracks. A railcar (a member's individual post) that leaves the tracks increases the likelihood that the next railcar will leave the tracks, as the railcar ahead of them is pulling them towards a new direction off the tracks. A single railcar that falls off the rails can be pulled back onto the rails if the subsequent railcars remain on the tracks, but if multiple railcars are instead pulled off the tracks as well, then the entire train (thread) derails. However, all it takes is one railcar to start that process...

... all it takes is a single post to derail a thread.

Common ways threads are derailed:

- Posts that do not directly address to the topic at all, especially if they are one of the first few responses within that thread.
- Posts that do not offer any contribution to the thread in a meaningful way.
- Posts that explicitly insult other members.
- Posts that contain veiled personal attacks against other members (passive aggression).
- Any post designed to provoke another member, doubly so if it is a personal vendetta stemming from another thread or threads.
- Posts that are overly judgemental or condescending towards OP and do not contain any insight or practical information.
- Threads can also be destined for failure at the outset by the original post being drawn out or incoherent (stressing the importance of authoring a concise and well-formatted original post).
- A post that, instead of actually contributing to the thread topic, merely calls out a previous member’s post as derailing the thread, inadvertently becoming a derailing post itself (members should use the report button to report a derailing post instead of responding directly to it).

How derailing a thread can get you banned

Derailing threads for any of the aforementioned reasons are behaviours that are detrimental to this forum because such behaviours bog down a potentially worthwhile thread with irrelevant bickering and whining, needlessly cluttering it with useless information.
Posting comments to a thread should serve to CONTRIBUTE to that thread's topic, not derail it.

While derailing a thread in itself is not against the rules of the forum, please note the following three Forum Rules:

  • SoSuave is a PRIVATE community, not a public forum. Your membership is predicated on your adherence to the stated rules and policies.

  • If you insult, harass, or disrespect any member of this forum, you will be banned from the forum.

  • Please do not reply to insulting, harassing, or disrespectful posts from another member -- this simply escalates the problem. Contact a moderator who will review the offending message and take the appropriate action.
Derailing threads is disrespectful to the member who authored that thread and to every other member who wishes to participate in or observe the discussion. Disrespect is against the forum rules.

Repeatedly going out of your way to derail a thread to goad the same members that you have ongoing issues with into an off-topic argument time and time again, constitutes harassment. Harassment is against the forum rules.

A reminder to everyone: There are grounds for a moderator to enforce the violation of these rules.

Derailing a thread one time will not get you banned. However, a pattern of such a behaviour can and will ultimately lead to a ban.

Instead of derailing a thread, I advise all members to use the ignore button if they cannot self-govern themselves when it comes to interacting with the content of any particular member that triggers them on this forum.

What to do if someone is derailing your thread, or you see someone derailing the thread of someone

1. Do not respond to the derailing post. Doing so only derails the thread further.

2. Use the report button to bring the derailing post to the attention of the moderators.


To any member who chooses to repeatedly derail threads on this forum, know this. *clears throat and uses Liam Neeson voice*

I don't personally know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills that I have acquired over a very long moderating career. Skills that make me a nightmare for members like you. If you choose not to derail any threads going forward, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't...

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