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A thread was started earlier today, titled "What is your favorite photography joke?" There was some discussion going on in the comments of this question about whether the question was off-topic, and if it was off topic, was it an acceptable diversion from the primary purpose of the site.

As a user of StackOverflow for over a year, and a user of SuperUser and ServerFault as well, I think that some threads, like "favorite jokes", "favorite quotes", etc. are the kinds of topics that fall on the edge.

Personally, I enjoy joke and quote topics. I think they add a needed fun element to these sites that help keep the mood lite. However, where should the line be drawn, and when do such topics become truly off-topic, and worthy of closure or being moved to a more appropriate site?

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I do research in online communities and one of the things the field has discovered is that off-topic but relevant stuff builds community. Obviously we don't want off-topic to the extent it drowns out on-topic, but there's great value in having some of this stuff around. It makes the site a more engaging place to be and drives participation.

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Hopefully, there will be a third place active soon. Off topic questions should then be redirected to that area.

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@jrista - the fact that you see them as common demonstrates the 'broken windows' effect that we're trying to curtail. On SO, 10k users have been voting to close and delete most joke or 'best of' or 'list of' questions. If we permit a few of these, people will naturally want to start more discussions, which is not what we want. In the not too distant future, you'll have to work rather hard to find a 'permitted' disucssion on SO (outside of meta).
- Tim Post

Tim mentions that 10k users have voted to close joke, 'best of', 'list of' topics. Thats an interesting statistic, when you figure SO has something on the measure of 210,000 users. That makes 10k users voting to close those threads a mere 5% of the membership. I am not using this as a vote for or against eliminating such topics. However, I do think that the ratio of members who do wish to eliminate "fringe topics" is an important factor.

I do know that quite a few people enjoy such threads and think they are relevant. I don't know that we have any information to provide concrete statistics about how many, but it might be an interesting comparison. It may also be that I am interpreting the statistics incorrectly, and if so, please correct me.

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    The 10k members are the ones that care most about SO, and stick around the obtain that rep, and thus deserve a bigger say in what's included. Also, you're mis-using statistics here - just because 5% of 210,000 being opposed to something doesn't mean the other 199500 are in favour. – Peter Boughton Jul 16 '10 at 13:25
  • Oh and Tim's lumping different styles of questions there - I'm not opposed to "list of" questions; they can be a useful resource if done well. But jokes and favourite X questions are ones I'd vote against. – Peter Boughton Jul 16 '10 at 13:28

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