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Going Off Topic

Going Off Topic

“Off topic” is something we see a lot in blogging as a criticism. This appears both about content and about comments. You can understand why, we go to a blog for a reason and feel cheated if what we expect is not what we see.

But, what is “off topic”? Who gets to decide? and is it really that bad?

My blogs in the 90’s and early 2000’s were free flowing personal thought type blogs where the only topic was whatever was on my mind at that time. My on-topic writing was for targeted publications, books, journals and sites. So an article about GDI+ programming using C# would be found at ASPAlliance, something about my recent vacation on my personal blog (whichever incarnation that was at the time, it moved around a lot!).  Then in February of 2003 I was given a blog on the official ASP.NET domain where I started mixing up the programming with the personal.

The strange thing with that blog was even though it was supposedly for ASP.NET programming topics, and even though I mixed up subjects, nobody ever complained of it being off topic. This is when I realized it was on audience, even if it was not on topic.

So my programming articles were clearly on-topic while my ponderings while all over the map subject-wise, were always relevant to the kinds of people who were reading. I read a lot of blogs like that, such as BoingBoing, D’Arcy, Scott Adams.

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Your topic is whatever you say it is. If you define your topic then you need to keep to it (although I usually say a 80-20% rule is normally ok). If you don’t define your topic, how can people say you have gone off it? Having said that, once you grow an audience it is best to stay true to that audience if you want to keep them.

What do you think about off-topic? When or how is it OK, or even a good thing?

View Comments (5)
  • I’ve been wondering about this recently myself. My (new) blog is about illustration, design and general creative topics but me being me, I knew going in I was going to want to throw the odd gaming post in there. I was determined to keep it focused on the topic at hand. It’s not far in and I’ve already wandered a bit some some “off-topic” sort of posts, but I think I’m ok with it.

    I like your comments about being “on audience”, maybe that’s a more important concern.


  • I think we worry too much. I look on my blog in a sort of ‘windmills of my mind’ type of way whilst at the same time trying to make some kind of connection to its title no matter how tenuous or distant. If my readers ‘get it’ then they will come back. The point is, I’m having fun and if someone else is enjoying it too, then that’s a bonus.
    To be honest most blogs are really about pleasuring oneself…aren’t they?

  • I think a lot of people visit and continue reading blogs because of the author not specifically the content. They like the writing style and find in enjoyable and informative. Which is the reason why going ‘off topic’ every so often doesn’t really bother me.

  • As long as the off topic posts are not annoying existing readers, they should be OK. But better not do them often, or you’ll lose your blog’s focus.

    I wrote about excluding some off topic posts a while ago. Check out my name.

  • Since ours is a niche-less sort of blog, it veers more towards off-topic than on. I hopeful that the mix of topics will provide something of interest to just about anybody who lands on the page. However, there are recurring themes that I revisit from time to time and standard monthly features, so it isn’t totally a random jumble of topics.

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