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Thread Stealing (was: Installing debian via network)

Michael Naumann <mnaumann@giga-stream.de> [2002-11-03 16:19:09 +0100]:
> 03.11.2002 04:29:40, Rob Weir <rweir@softhome.net> wrote:
> > [Please start a new thread for a new question, it makes it much easier
> > for people to follow the list and makes it more likely that you'll get
> > an answer.]
> I'm not sure I understand what you want to say with this.
> Didn't I start a new thread.? Or was there already an equal named thread ?
> I'm quiet new to this list, so maybe I didn't get it.

This is not an uncommon confusion.  Can I have your ear for a moment?
Please let me explain.

You message can be reviewed in the archive:


There you can see that you generated that message as a reply.

  In-reply-to: <200210310931.KAA02370@mach.vub.ac.be>
  References: <20021031024723.HJCG14348.tomts22-srv.bellnexxia.net@there> <200210310931.KAA02370@mach.vub.ac.be>

You replied to a message "Re: blank LCD monitor".  Your message
referenced both it and the previous message in that thread.  In the
archive the references are also links.  If you click there you will go
to the referenced message.  But that is not all that being threaded
does for you.

Let's look at it from the threaded view.


You message is threaded by virtue of being a reply in the thread of
discussion about "blank LCD monitor".  This is in the list archive.
But most mailers will show it the same way.  Your message will be
displayed as being part of the thread and the thread will be
manipulated in one action.  When I kill a thread in a mail reader it
kills the entire thread, your message as well, all at one time.

A little confusing in the archive, but not in mailers, is that the
archive splits over months and so the next month contains Rob's reply
and there is no archive threading across months.  But mailers will
display it since all of the messages are in a mailbox until you delete
them.  Normally in a mail reader the entire thread would be shown.

Therefore you did not start a new thread.  You replied to a previous
one and only changed the subject.  Changing the subject does not start
a new thread.  It just changes the subject.  Threads are maintained by
the "References:" headers.

If you want to start a new thread then you need to either 1) start a
new message and send it to the list, which is the preferred method.
Or 2) be sure to change the subject, delete the In-Reply-To: header,
delete the References: header.  The first option certainly seems
easier then doing the second option.

In general what you did by replying to an existing thread is called
"thread stealing".  That is considered a rudeness.  It is like barging
into conversation between other people in the middle, interrupting
them, and then shooting off in a completely different direction.
Right there in the middle of a discussion is this other person trying
to start something up!  How rude!  You can see how that could be
viewed that way.

Is it always rude to thread steal by changing the subject?  No, and
many times changing the subject is the right thing to do.  To be
specific just changing the subject is not the same as thread stealing.
When thread drift occurs this is frequently appropriate.  A discussion
of one thing mutates into a discussion of something else but perhaps
not of interest to the original thread.  Therefore the author will
change the subject to show this.  This is not really thread stealing
because the flow was directly connected to the original thread.  It is
just the drift of discussion.

A real example from not too long ago was a thread titled "Make Debian
better" which drifted into a discussion about broken home and end
keys.  csj correctly kept the same thread but politely changed the
subject to "Home and end keys (was Re: Make Debian better)" so that we
reading the discussion could see exactly how the discussion flowed.  A
good illustration of when changing the subject was quite appropriate.

I myself in this message am doing this.  Since this message itself has
nothing to do with installing debian but only with a subtopic I have
changed the subject line.  But it flowed out of the original thread of
discussion and I expect it to be threaded with it.  But to give
readers a topic I have titled the subject with what I thought was most
appropriate.  People not interested will skip it.  Or perhaps people
that are interested will read it when they would not have read the
previous part of the thread of discussion.  There is actually quite a
bit of order to the seeming chaos of a usenet discussion.

Hope this helps.


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