To Bulldoze or not to Bulldoze? The Future of Off Topic Discussions at gotdotnet

Every community has its dirty back alleys, seedy joints, mean streets or, like Amsterdam, a Red Light District.

In the gotdotnet community, our seedy joint is the Off Topic Discussions message board. This un-moderated discussion has included a wide range of sometimes contentious but always interesting discussions and debates. For several years, the gotdotnet team has been content to let the discussion map its own course. We have not condoned abusive behavior but we have not aggressively cracked down on the trolls either. Additionally, we have neither the resources nor the inclination to provide active moderation. Thus to my question:

To bulldoze or not to bulldoze?

From a business perspective, the calculable ROI of this discussion board, if ever there was any, has disappeared. Frankly, it’s an administrative burden.

From a community perspective, this decision is anything but clear. If I order the demolition of Off Topic Discussions, what will the consequences be? Could the effect be to drive away positive contributors as well as the few bad actors?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, by email, on the discussion board, or in the comments to this blog post, especially if you a current or future gotdotnet community member or if you have experience in such matters. If you are Rudolph Giuliani, I already know what you think.

Comments (12)

  1. NeoRev says:

    How about splitting it into two forums? Have a seperate forum for politics and religion, and another forum for everything else?

    Another idea is to disable the automatic e-mail notification for this forum (or default it to off). This may allow for tempers to cool down.

  2. NeoRev says:

    BTW, we’ve actually been able to have several good discussions the last couple weeks on a variety of topics, including religion and prohibition, without any of them being turned into a flame war. Maybe it’s just temporary, but people may also be learning to be a little more polite.

  3. DMan says:

    Don’t bulldoze…leave it alone…and don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch…

    The OTD discussion board here is what seperates almost all other technical forums out there…Yes, My primary reason for participation in the GDN forums are pure technical, however it is the OTD that offers a break, and a perspective into the other active posters. I believe I have a better sense of community and knowledge of (and hence a closeness to) the other contributers here because of the OTD…You may get to know someone technical expertise through technical forums, but you really don’t get into the insight of others through pure technical discussions…

    I believe that ( and personnally speaking ) you will see a dramatic fall of in participation on GDN if you bulldoze OTD…It’s what makes this place unique!

    Also if you haven’t taken notice…The OTD boards have been very accomodating and friendly for the past couple of weeks…since one of the biggest GDN OTD trolls were taken care of. ….JMHO

  4. Lee LeFever says:

    Hey Korby,

    I don’t have experience with the GDN forums, but I think off-topic "lounge" kind of discussions are important in helping the other community topics stay focused.

    In a lot of communities, it’s a place for things that would otherwise pollute the focused topics.

    In bulldozing the off-topic discussions, I think you risk the same kinds of topics popping up in places where they can do even more harm.

  5. Ted123 says:

    As sad as I am to say this, I say it should go. This is a technical forum. I detest the few ignorant people who use it to grand stand their malicious, ignorant views. Their views are simply designed to atagonize.

  6. MStarr13 says:

    The OTD board is what distinguishes GDN from many other technical boards. I include it as part of my standard browsing of the tech threads. Since the biggest troll was removed by the staff we have been getting back to a more civil discussion on a lot of topics. it is also the only place where folks can post misc technical questions. Last time I tried that on any of the other threads you get people slamming you for being "Off topic". I would say, keep it up and if monitoring becomes an issue, I am sure you could find some people who would volunteer time to do that for you.

  7. MStarr13 says:

    Korby, was there any decision made as to what way GDN is going to go on this?

  8. MSDNArchive says:

    Yes, NO bulldozing will occur. Party on. 🙂

  9. MStarr13 says:

    Was there any thought to some of the suggestions regarding volunteer (yes free) moderators for these forums? I know we could get you a mess of folks to help out and maybe lower the overall cost of ownership, and potentially pain for you guys. Of course, all that was said with no idea of your infrastructure for that site so it may not even be possible from your end. Just some thoughts in to easing your pain. I think there are very few users who do not sypathize with your point on that forum being a PITA.

  10. CharlesA says:

    How about you leave it well alone. OK so it gets heated occasionally, it’s also often fascinating, and I don’t know if this is out of place, but even if the ROI is non-existent, surely Microsoft doesn’t need the cash that badly? You can’t place a market value on freedom of expression, for the people who don’t like it here’s a hint: always AVOID the Off Topic Discussions and move quickly to the safe harbours of C#, or SQL server or something.

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