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Drifting away from thread topic in large email discussions (was: Choice


From: Ihor Radchenko
Subject: Drifting away from thread topic in large email discussions (was: Choice of bug tracker)
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2023 08:33:06 +0000

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

>   > > We are more disciplined these days, but I have seen many old,
>   > > sprawling bug threads with dozens upon dozens of replies, more than
>   > > half of which are about something else entirely.
>
> This is a serious but perhaps difficult question.
> What is it that leads people to post about other topics
> in a thread that is meant to be about a very specific topic?
>
> I'm hoping for specific answers, not vague ones like "getting
> distracted" or "carried away by a thought."  Those do happen, but I
> would expect them to happen regardless of what interface is in use.

I can tell for myself, because I am guilty doing off-topic comments from
time to time.

I can recall three reasons:

1. When replying to email, I sometimes want to comment or ask something
   not directly on topic, but related to one of the points raised in a
   message I am replying to.

   I think about such questions when I am already writing the reply, and
   in the process of editing the quoted message I am replying to:

   > quote 1
   My on-topic answer.
   > quote 2
   Another on-topic answer.
   > quote 3
   By the way, what about <off-topic staff>
   > quote 4
   On topic again.

   I sometimes try to watch myself and reply with several messages,
   changing the email subject appropriately. But I only managed to
   remember doing this a handful of times only.

2.  Sometimes, the situation is even more subtle:

   > quote X
   _almost_ on-topic answer

   then, the reply to my reply will be

   >> quote X
   > _almost_ on-topic anser
   an answer drifting slightly further away

   <skip N replies>

   <totally off-topic>

3. On some cases, somebody clearly replies off-topic, but that off-topic
   still seems interesting to continue.

   Then, multiple answers sprawl, with some inevitably not changing the
   subject:

   Reply 1: <same subject>
   > off-topic quote
   Off-topic reply

   Reply 2: <same subject>
   > off-topic quote
   Off-topic reply 2

   Then, doing my own reply with

   My reply: <changed subject>
   feels pointless, because part of the new topic discussion will inevitably
   remain under the parent subject thread.

-- 
Ihor Radchenko // yantar92,
Org mode contributor,
Learn more about Org mode at <https://orgmode.org/>.
Support Org development at <https://liberapay.com/org-mode>,
or support my work at <https://liberapay.com/yantar92>



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