I had begun drafting a reply to this when it first showed up, but refrained because I was unsure about whether and how to address it. @deeplow captures some of the sentiments I share about this proposal, though. While I too would love to read the thoughts that people here have about those subjects, since the Qubes-specific audience here probably would give much different responses to them than might those at /r/privacy or even PrivacyTools or Whonix, opening the space for that type of discussion must be handled with care. Continuing from my draft:
Even if an off-topic category is introduced, it will probably need restrictions on acceptable content. The subjects you mentioned are appropriate, but what about politics? Baseball? Casual chatting?
Those may be easy, but what about the politics of privacy and security technologies like Qubes OS, such as legislation under consideration by governments like the United States that have serious implications for the future of privacy and security, such as the EARN IT Act or (historically) SOPA and PIPA? Or the inside baseball of such legislation and surrounding political considerations? Or the internal politics of related projects, such as PrivacyTools, Whonix, Red Hat, or even Debian and Linux? To what extent is casual conversation even permissible, or are off-topic discussions expected to be serious as well, such as this productive and serious but largely off-topic discussion?
My point is that off-topic sections of a forum or community never stop being experimental. It is hell to moderate (I can vouch for this) and the normal rules always seem to be suspended. Eventually, off-topic sections either become graveyards and garbage dumps where other sections offload their unwanted topics; or they become rowdy halfway houses where forum veterans and timid newbies go to die under the sheer weight of everyone else. Eventually, they tend to grow into being the largest and most active parts of any forum and it takes strong community discipline to prevent any of this from happening.
That does not mean that off-topic zones are bad; they are often some of the most fun parts of a forum, and can sometimes be what keeps the rest of it alive—that is, when they aren’t the tumor that’s killing it. This is especially true when it is well-implemented, restrained, and given its own community-specific flavor (the off-topic section of a security technologies forum is going to be much different from the off-topic section of a sailboat forum).
The best advice I can give as someone with experience in these matters, including with off-topic sections of forums from long before Discourse existed, is that any creation of an off-topic section needs to come with it some pretty strong (or at least clear) rules on just what is permitted and what is not, and that includes what topics are permitted or prohibited. Without that, there is actually no legal case for moderator actions, which just makes it easy to characterize them as arbitrary and abusing their power; and there is no way to contain the very section whose purpose is as a containment section.
It also takes community discipline and a collective effort to cultivate a productive, relevant off-topic section that does not just serve as a petty time sink localized to this forum. That means its members need to take care with how they use the off-topic section, not just in its topics but also its activity level and atmosphere, much like how members of a community might be especially gentle and considerate when visiting the community garden or park. Because really, that is what the off-topic section is—or should be—to the skyscraper sections around them, where almost everyone is otherwise working diligently inside.
So, if there is to be an off-topic section, it should probably be limited in what constitutes an acceptably off-topic discussion. Otherwise, keeping this forum Qubes-only (maybe with some leniency toward occasional off-topic discussion) may be for the best. After all, other forums already exist for many of the off-topic subjects we are likely to discuss, such as Whonix, privacy, Brave Browser, and even Linkin Park—and those are just options that use Discourse software. Now, if only there was a unified login feature…