...in this case it was an interesting tangent/divergence.
How can this not already be accomplished by creating a new thread and crosslinking? Clearly if a divergent topic seems worth discussing it merits its own thread to keep that new discussion orderly and relevant.
In this case (as the off-topiccer), I had no real way of knowing if the off-topic stuff I posted would be interesting or not, so I had no way to know to cross link it. In this exact
case, you splitting the 40K stuff off and putting it somewhere else with a note letting us know where would be a fine solution, but not one that we could do anything about without near-mod powers. Sometimes, the information is still somewhat relevant to the topic at hand and splitting it off isn't warranted, which is where I'd rather leave the situation to mod discretion and hope that it not get culled. In the OP-case, the information was possibly relevant, but not wanted
, which is the situation that would be best solved with a post-hiding karma system.
We appreciate the feedback but from our experience it offers a more consistent reading experience if we can keep things somewhat organized. Do note that staying on topic is also a part of the forum rules, so simply adding a popularity counter would not necessarily allow for off-topic tangents - it would require amending the rules and expectations of the forum as a whole.
Since this has been an ongoing battle (members going off-topic, mods coming in and cutting the topic up/shutting it down, forum activity coming to a standstill until another interesting topic comes up or there is an update), perhaps it would be worth revisiting the strictness of that particular rule and the ways of mitigating the unwanted effects (difficult to parse forum topics). Maybe we need to add tags too, so the OP and users can tag a topic with it's range of discussion, or maybe bookmarks of some sort should be implemented for jumping around inside of a topic. Maybe sections can be flagged for moving to a new topic similarly to the karma system (enough off-topic flags and the thing gets moved automatically). Or possibly sub-topics could be created, and those sub-topics' headings be viewed as sub-headings under the main topic in the forum title (I've seen something similar on a forum without quote support - people would change their post-title to reflect what their response was geared at).
Part of the problem (for me, anyway) is that alot of the stuff I'll write isn't strictly off-topic (in this case, directly referencing the OP's problem topic), but that it is
a separate discussion. As I mentioned earlier, bringing it up elsewhere wouldn't make any sense (I don't necessarily have the attention of the OP in a new topic), and PM's don't make sense, since I'm fine with the community weighing in on the discussion. So (for now) it's easier to go off topic inside of a thread; though I'd use a sub-thread, tag, or self-flag off-topic posts if those options were readily available.
...we have come to the determination when laying out the rules that it would be more enjoyable in aggregate if the forum were expected to keep some semblance of order.
Strictly as a compilation of information, I'd agree. However, that isn't how forums work; people come to them to discuss. We get posts weekly about a feature that immediately gets responded to with some variation of "already planned." The problem is that the information those people are looking for isn't readily available for them to peruse, and there's little or no Dev acknowledgment of what is and is not really planned. There should be a separate compilation of information, readily available, of all the important bits - and that should be curated for off topic stuff like crazy. For the forums part, adding tags to posts/threads, hiding obnoxious users/comments/posts, and sub-threading could make it so that 'off-topic' comments are allowed, but don't clutter up the main topic and ease search-ability/visibility of important topics.