Defining "off topic" (with added goats)

At the risk of going off topic here I won’t try to explain it.

I was just curious how or who determines off topic.

Thanks for responding.

We must strictly adhere to the objective standards set forth by Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964 — that is to say, “I know it when I see it.

More seriously, there’s no hard standard here that I’m aware of. My general rule is that if a conversation is derailing the original topic or is otherwise better served in its own topic that’s a good indicator that it should be handled as such.


Not very strict standards based on the iHop topic.

Which is why I asked about how or who determines what’s off topic.

Please Note: I am not complaining about that topic or any other topic that wanders around, I was just trying to figure it out.

The moderators. There are plenty of times that someone might flag something as off-topic and the mods disagree. Like all things related to moderation, it’s always up to them to make that judgement call. That has not changed.


In case my flippant reply wasn’t clear: no objective standard here. It’s a judgement call. Remember, this isn’t our house – we’re just guests here and we’re not owed any explanation about how things work behind the scenes.

My take:
Things going off-topic is a pretty natural tendency for any message board. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when this happens. What is a bad thing is when the intent of the original topic is lost and that is a pretty good reason to split that conversation off. What can also happen is some great sub-discussions that otherwise deserve their own topic – maybe they aren’t off-topic per se but they would be better served standing alone.

So, again, I generally go by the “I know it when I see it” standard based on decades of being a member of and moderating online communities. (To be clear I’m not a moderator – I have no access to flags or anything. I do have some privileges including the ability to split topics and I try to be proactive about it using the standard I noted above.)


Since you mentioned this, it’s worth noting #boing topics may have their own unwritten rules as they are not community topics – they are written by stakeholders, contributors, and friends of the site. Some don’t look at comments at all, while others keep a very watchful eye on them.

Fuck around at your own peril.


Figuring out if something’s off-topic is more of an art than a science, I think. (Hence @ficuswhisperer’s “I know it when I see it.”) Being Happy Mutants, our thoughts wander off on tangents from time to time. It isn’t always bad, sometimes it’s informative, useful, and/or fun!

If it’s a question of a few posts with side-jokes or a branch that’s still mostly related to the OP, I don’t flag, because the conversation will typically meander back to the point on its own. If a post is branching off into something completely unrelated or is actively derailing the current coversation, then I consider it flaggable, or needing a split into a topic of its own.

That’s one of the beauties of this site-- Mods and Leaders can preserve off-topic conversations by splitting them into their own threads, when it’s appropriate. I’m open to DMs requesting splits (though I’m not sure how other Leaders feel about that), or we can be summoned by mentioning @leaders in a post. (Please keep in mind, the response might take a little while, we might not be on-line at that moment. And in rare cases, I might decline a split, if I feel moderation of the topic is imminent or if it doesn’t seem necessary.)

At the end of the day, all we can do is check the Guidelines, then use our experience and judgement as well as we can; ultimately the site moderators decide what is on- and off-topic, and their word is final. :woman_shrugging:


goat GIF

lick goats GIF

bed jumping GIF

(Am I doing this right?)


Sometimes something can be off-topic and yet just what is required.

Goats are always required.


Stop kidding around!

Happy Cracking Up GIF




Oh brother, I asked a simple question, I did not mean to create a federal case.

Sorry I asked for some guidance. I’ll just wing it from now on.



It’s probably best just not to overthink it. As long as you’re not purposefully trying to derail topics to meet a certain agenda it’s unlikely that going off topic is something that would count against you.

I’m as guilty as anybody of derailing or otherwise steering a topic off course – and it’s the kind of thing that is completely unintentional. Like I said before, it’s just the nature of the beast. Things are pretty self-correcting here and if it’s bad enough it will get addressed (and if it doesn’t get addressed, it probably wasn’t that bad).

I’d be far more focused on just making sure the general community guidelines are met – chief among them is “be cool”.


@Threeflings this green

(And I’m guilty of the occasional off-topic swerve, too. It happens, it gets fixed, we move on. :grin: )


Party My Kind GIF by Beauty and the Geek Australia


That’s no goat!!


That’s a no-true-Goatsman fallacy. :wink:

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That goat doesn’t even have a beard!
This thread is off the rails!!