Yes, censoring the threads kills the conversation. Also, a too agressive moderators censoring "out of topic" posts reduces the debates as the "out of topic" idea is very subjective. Also, it can put tension on some people that often post out of topic, without any intention to harm. Many start on a forum and don't get the elemental rules (search before you post, keep in mind original poster question...). However, those newbies often provocate debates with their questions. Like in a brainstorming, the many posts in a thread contribute to making it more interesting sometimes. If some one wants to re-focus on original post of topic, then he can just post his comments/questions in the ongoing "out-of-topic" thread.
It is time consuming, but reading through 15 pages of a thread is sometimes the price to pay for knowledge in a friendly forum.
I understand where you are coming from ... human nature is that conversations tend to naturally "change course". If you are relaxing with a bunch of friends, you may start out talking about one subject and gradually over time the conversation turns in different directions ...
That is also what happens in threads ...
Different forums have different styles and approaches. Some forums "over zealously" moderate and "police" things which can be both good but frequently "bad" ...
The opposite problem of what you described is when moderator police "Merge" threads that they "deem" to be duplicate ... because the opposite complaint from what you expressed is often complaints about all of the "duplicate" threads ... or complaints about "new" threads that ask the same questions that have already been asked (often frequently) in other threads ...
Here is my "take" on the various situations and scenarios ... I care a lot about the "experience" of those people asking questions. Unfortunately, when they post a question at the end of a LONG OLD thread if we try to move their question into a new thread (which moderators can do) the most common "next" post is from that user who is now complaining that we "deleted" their post because they can't find it in the thread they were expecting !!!! That is not a good "feeling" or "experience" when you are looking for help.
So there are unintended consequences no matter which way things go !!!!
As Biollante suggests ... all I can do is "ask" that we start new threads as topics change ... but again, as Biollate writes, it can kill off a conversation. Starting a new thread is kind of like leaving the group of people you are having a conversation with and walking outside in hopes that others will follow you and continue the conversation outside !!!
So ... I don't disagree with anything in particular ... but it is also pretty self-policing as natural human conversations pick up and die off ... and as we mingle around the various rooms we can jump into and out of conversations with great ease ...
I would say no UNLESS you end up with a few separate active subthreads at the same time bearing no relation to the subject, in which case asking for them to open a more dedicated thread to their particular tank/issue usually takes care of the issue. Being too strict on this tends to kill off the "why" part of how the discussion got to where it is. i.e. Someone with a CO2 issue which moves to flow questions which ultimately ends up moving to someone not cleaning their filter being the underlying cause. This may then lead to someone discussing THEIR filter method which leads to more people adopting that particular technique. Locking things down to "on topic" only may end up killing off these important subdiscussions. I'd rather read through the whole thread and hopefully learn something new, or help someone, than risk losing that. What's more annoying to me are the, thankfully rare here, two word "me too" responses. There are a few joke responses here and there but I try to keep mine to a minimum as well. As long as the thread provides useful discussion I don't really mind since we're all here to learn and hopefully help. If the thread is not too useful to me at the time, I tend to wander off and come back later on maybe. Usually not too big a deal and you'll often find stupid little tricks in them that you'd never otherwise find. Your requirements may not be the same as mine however.
I do not moderate much, I think it often is a simple thing.
Personal drivel incurs my full wrath.
Some stickys, other article threads need closed off, so they do not become 34 pages of mismash.
That's about all I ever do.
I have not found any need to do more.
I'm a bit of an Anarchist, so very minimal structure and rules, enough to keep the Huns from over running us.
I think I've banned 3 people and they deserved it 150%. Rest where spambots etc.
We also do not have sponsers, so the moderation is not an issue there either.
Folks hang themselves pretty much IME, which is a lot more than most folks on the web based discussions, mailing lost and forums, I go back to 1995.
Not many are still posting on aquatic plants today. Fewer have been sued in Fed court.
That's actually how Greg and I started communicating.
I still owe him a nice White Anubias plant.
This hands off, no money approach is easy and causes few issues, same with polant local clubs, not charging dues etc as a model.
The server still cost $$$, software updates etc and all this has been coming out Greg's pocket, subscriber payments do not pay for the total cost, so you can thank Greg for this.
We get no $ from sponsors like most all Aquatic plant forums.
That alone might be worth the $$$ in less headaches and drama???
100$ a month for no BS? Not a bad idea. I can sell a few plants to make up the cost and it would be better in most ways.
Certainly more time per hour $ effective.