why-topical

A question often asked:

Why can't we chat about off-topic things if no one is talking about Windows?

The short answer is, we tried things that way, and it did not work well. So we changed to something that works better.

##windows now regularly has 400 or more people in it, and has fairly regular activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When we were a much smaller channel, we did allow off-topic chat, and things worked fine most of the time. But as the channel grew, we began seeing problems with off-topic chat. Here are a few that we remember:
  1. Our channels exist within the larger framework of an IRC network. A basic and reasonable assumption within IRC is that each named channel is primarily comprised of talk relevant to the thing the channel is named after.
  2. Once an off-topic discussion gets started, it has momentum of its own. When something more topical comes up, the off-topic chat rarely chops off cleanly, despite the best intentions of everyone involved. The more people in channel, the more often this problem arises.
    • The longer an off-topic discussion lasts, the harder it is to stop and relocate to another channel. So in our experience, it's better to stop the off-topic chat quickly when possible.
  3. We saw a lot of off-topic discussions veering into especially heated areas like politics, religion, and sex. In the ##windows channels we're just not set up to moderate that stuff very well. 
  4. It got in the way of topical chat. Someone new might come to the channel, see several folks vigorously discussing political matters, and decide not to ask their more topical questions. 
One other point: surprisingly often, people ask off-topic questions in our channels because, in their words, "there is no channel suitable to my question." We're sorry about that, and gratified that these folks find us so helpful with Windows that they want our help with other things. But let's be realistic: the lack of a more suitable channel does not magically transform us into a catch-all channel for every question under the sun.

Ultimately, we want our ##windows channels to be known as places where you can get knowledgeable discussion and help about Windows. We are not a general entertainment chat channel. So please, stay on topic. For other topics, you can probably find or start channels that work well.
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