Every few months, the forum staff, behind closed doors, has a little discussion on whether or not the Backyard is actually a useful tool for our community, or if it’s an aberration and should be discarded.
Before you panic, I’ll say up front, with 99 percent certainty, that the Backyard will never be removed. The title of this post should tell you what side I’m on, but I will add that I’m in a minority that wishes it wasn’t there.
I have some very simple reasons for wanting for its demise. First, the Backyard is completely out of place for a Linux support forum. This is a venue for people to discuss the problems, solutions and news that surround a computer operating system. Only extremely rarely should things like religion, politics or any other sphere of human existence intrude.
I really think things like that have no function whatsoever on ubuntuforums.org. I don’t ask support questions for Ubuntu on CNN.com or http://www.islamonline.net; I don’t appreciate those conversations on our forums. It’s off-topic — in some cases very, very far off-topic, oftentimes to the point of irrelevancy.
And it’s not like there aren’t any other places to discuss those things. There’s a whole, great big Internet out there, ready and waiting to discuss the U.S. presidential election. There are thousands, if not millions, of sites willing to debate your view on Catholicism. Why foist it on a Linux support forum? It’s almost rude.
But the real problem that I have with this system, with having a Backyard at all, is that I really think it stands as an exception to the principles that form the community. We don’t allow flaming, meanness, trolling or inflammatory topics anywhere, but for some reason the Backyard rides that line a little too closely. And in many cases, it completely crosses it. Ask any moderator and they can tell you of times when outright verbal assaults occurred in the Backyard, and it falls to them to clean it up. Not fun.
So to me, the Backyard sets up a two-tiered reality — we claim to brook no insults, rudeness or intentional disrespect … except occasionally in the Backyard, where things are a little uglier sometimes. We correct it and punish as necessary. But yes, it has special rules, and yes, sometimes people break them. To me, the entire business is very un-ubuntu (note the lowercase “u”), just because what isn’t allowed elsewhere somehow happens in there.
So what would happen if the Backyard was gone? Well, in my mind, threads and topics that were that far off-topic would just be destroyed. As it is, the Backyard is mostly a castoff pile for the Community Cafe — things that are unrelated to Linux get dumped in the Backyard, making it the (get this) theological equivalent of Limbo, if you accept the allegory of the Jail as Hell.
And so if the Backyard were deleted, it means some things — maybe some topics that only glance Linux and Ubuntu — would stay in the ‘Cafe. But the evolution debate? Gone. Your favorite chocolate bar? Go to Jail, go directly to Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Tourism in North Korea? (Yes, that is an actual Backyard topic.) Terminated, with extreme prejudice.
In its place, I would have a list of offsite links to forums that accept religious topics, or social debates, or lolcats. Mods could close a thread with a simple link to another forum, or to a master thread that listed sites for offtopic debates. Clean and simple.
It’s not going to change, at least not any time soon. I know that, and it doesn’t bother me. I do what I can to contribute and police, usually gritting my teeth as I click the infraction button. But if I had my way, I would definitely close it down, once and for all.