There have been one or two cases of threads in recent months which have struck me as being very blinkered for extremely narrow audiences. Its my feeling that this is verging on (but isnt quite) abuse of the community since this is an international community and therefore discussions of topic that clearly exclude the majority of members are... well - shall we say - rude?
On several occassions I have added my 2c worth to try and expand the debate away from an exclusive, 'clique'y conversation into one where others may feel they can contribute..
Does this make me a good forum citizen for trying to be inclusive and expande the debate from a specific limited interest one to a more universal philosphical discussion? or does this make me an agent of the devil for daring to look beyond the initial statement or question and invite others to express an opinion?
Let me give a (fictitious and ridiculous) example:
Initial Post: "Who will win the game between the Albatrosses and the Blue Caps?" ....<insert many discussed entries about the relative merits the "Albatrosses" key players and "Blue Caps" recent slump in form>.....
Me: "What sport are you talking about? I assume its camel-polo?... How come this never caught on outside of Mongolia?.. Do you think that perhaps if the game were played with people riding camels instead of camels riding people then it might attract a wider audience?.. Where I come from sports involving animals are often thought of as being cruel and may be outlawed soon!... Given that a game of camel polo takes 4 days to play, how do spectators mange to keep themselves occupied? Particularly in the 3 hours meal breaks?..."
That was a silly example - but would this be considered a hijack? I'm not moving the topic completely (I'm still trying to discuss polo)- just allowing a door in to the conversation for the millions out there who have no idea about "Mongolian Camel polo", and may not have realised what teh thread was about. Given that we have a rule about not making "foreign language" posts - can we not extend that concept to somehow discourage these "culturaly exclusive" posts?
...of course you can all tell me that I'm just being a dickhead and should just ignore any posts where people wish to have local conversations! (Perhaps I'm jealous 'cos there isnt anyone else in here from my neck of the woods!)
Personally, I think thread hijacks are perfectly in line with the title of the forum ... it seems weird to me when people ask for real world advice that admits to being meaningless drivel. [ April 25, 2005: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
I understand your unease about "camel polo." It's a fine line, though. Sometimes people get into some very involved, intellectually rewarding discussions, which are nevertheless opaque to many people wandering by. I don't think in an involved discussion of some fine point of linguistics, you can wander in and start asking "Who's Pinker? Who's Chomsky?" You have to go Google for yourself.
I guess the difference is whether, in theory, anyone could be included. If somebody's asking about the chippy around the corner, well, not many people are going to be able to help him out. Likewise, conversations that aren't in JavaRanch's official language aren't inclusive and so it's OK to interrupt.
I see some danger in keeping all topics universal. The more universal the topic, the greater chance it has for offending somebody. This is because they are those closest to our personal belief systems and moral structures.
The great thing about the "'clique'y" topics is that it allows ranchers to learn more about each other in aspects other than our philosophical and religious beliefs. The specific topics bring hobbyists and enthusiasts together.
If you took all of the ranchers and placed them into one giant [physical] room, we'd eventually form little huddles. One group might discuss the latest "American Idol" episode, another on World Cup Soccer (oops! I mean Football!), and I'd venture to guess there'd be a few groups that would slip into spitting out random "Monty Python's Holy Grail" quotes for a half hour or so. When a topic gets dull, the group disperses to join new groups or start a new one.
If a new person enters the above mentioned room, she will [likely] walk around listening in on discussions until one of interest is found. This person then chooses whether to participate or simply listen (I think the web-term is "lurk"). Speaking from my own experience, there have been many topics on MD that I have found very interesting despite my lack of knowledge or experience to contribute.
The English-language requirement is for the lurker in all of us. It is a communications protocol that we all (to some extent) understand. Even when a topic is beyond our personal experience or interest we can, as lurkers, come to understand the experiences and interests of the international world (or at least those with computers and an interest in Java).
--Disclaimer: The views of this post are not necessarily the views of the trailboss.--
Adrian, I think in your example, your post wouldn't be a hijack, I think it stays on topic pretty well. And yes expands the original intent of the topic to something that can increase the discussion.
Some threads that might be for narrow audiences are posted here because it is personal, and wouldn't fit into the JDBC forum, or Java In General (Beginner) forums. I think they are truely looking for help and when some posts take the thread away from that, they end up not getting the help that they are looking for. Something like that.