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I'm aware of the preference for 'general answers to general questions' attitude on SO, and wholeheartedly agree that questions that are focused on specific, one-time issues are not as valuable to the site. However, where an issue is potentially useful but getting to the heart of it is taking some doing, the obvious option is to migrate the discussion to chat. Once the user has a better understanding of their issue, the question can be edited to a useful form and answered succinctly for future readers.

The issue, as noted in other questions here, is that these situations most often occur with a sub 20 rep user, and so with the chat feature denied a long discussion in the comments becomes likely. I totally understand the sentiments expressed here: Add "invite user to chat" function on main site, and I don't feel that a chat session should be used to completely solve a users problem, but it would be nice if the chat could be made available while a user's issue is being made clear. And so...

The Actual Proposal

Would it be possible to enable the invite to chat feature for sub 20 rep users, based on an invite from a higher rep user who can be trusted to use the chat conversation in the correct manner and take the results back to the originating question?

The sub 20 rep user could be locked to that single chat instance, and still unable to participate in the main boards. The inviting user should have a much higher rep, somewhere in the thousands, and so would hopefully use the feature responsibly in a way that was aimed at providing a worthwhile question and answer as the result.

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New users should be focused on writing excellent questions and answers, not conversation. That's why you must have 50 rep to post comments everywhere. –  Robert Harvey Jul 29 '11 at 15:58
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This is probably going to sound more confrontational than intended, such is the way of text, but are you saying that correct etiquette would be to encourage the user to provide a generalised example, rather than to try and assist and potentially be involved in a drawn out discussion? –  shanethehat Jul 29 '11 at 16:02
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Yes, essentially. New users earn the right to converse by demonstrating that they understand the SE platform and how to properly use it. The primary goal of Stack Overflow is to create a repository of well-written programming knowledge that everyone can use. While extended conversation can help solve a poster's specific problem (and it's always nice when that happens), those kinds of questions don't always further this primary goal, because all of the good information is in a long stream of comments instead of an actual answer. –  Robert Harvey Jul 29 '11 at 16:07
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That's really what I was getting at. I was hoping that some balance could be found whereby the inviting user would be responsible enough to update the original question with a clear and succinct summary of the chat. Possibly even to use the chat only as a Q&A platform to fully understand the issue. If the issue then turns out to be localised, the answer is given in chat and the question is flagged for close/delete. Otherwise the question can be edited to a usable and useful form, and a concise answer given. –  shanethehat Jul 29 '11 at 16:11
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20 rep is a really low bar. Perhaps that balance has already been struck? –  Robert Harvey Jul 29 '11 at 16:11
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For a new user with 1 rep, 20 is quite a high bar before their problem can be discussed, whereas the ability to invite a new user to chat could only be available to > 3k users. I don't want to seem like I'm fighting this too much though, it was only a suggestion and I much prefer the attitude of this site to the standard forum approach. –  shanethehat Jul 29 '11 at 16:17
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Related: Allow temporary guest accounts in chat (which moderators can already do). –  Arjan Aug 14 '11 at 16:44
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I agree with shanethehat on this one. New users often need handholding as they grow accustomed to SO. Often they need help learning how to ask the right question. I frequently find myself wanting to get someone into chat and end up punting on the question because of the very slow back and forth via comments. –  mrtsherman Apr 6 '12 at 14:24
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@RobertHarvey, the one and only time I've tried to get a newbie into chat it was to get them to improve their question. How can they "focus on writing excellent questions and answers" when such an effective means of teaching them to do so is closed off? My experience was written up at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99491/… –  Mark Ransom Jul 24 '12 at 21:06
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Well, for what it's worth, I've commented elsewhere that I believe users with sufficient reputation should be able to successfully invite anyone to chat, regardless of their reputation. –  Robert Harvey Jul 24 '12 at 21:08
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@RobertHarvey, that seems at odds with the comments you've left on this feature request. Are you saying you support it? Or is there another proposal you support instead? –  Mark Ransom Jul 24 '12 at 21:10
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I think that users with sufficient reputation should be trusted to invite low-rep users into chat. Still, how tough could getting two upvotes be? New users should really learn the system on their own with a minimal amount of hand-holding. –  Robert Harvey Jul 24 '12 at 21:13
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+1 I agree. But I might even go a step further: It strikes the that the OP should always be automatically permitted to participate in chats resulting from their question, regardless of reputation. Why should I even need to explicitly invite them? –  Robert Ryan Jul 24 '12 at 21:28
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Please fix this meta.stackexchange.com/questions/142069/… –  JonH Aug 2 '12 at 18:35
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This area remains an ongoing annoyance; see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/153417/… –  Craig Ringer Nov 3 '12 at 1:30

2 Answers 2

Agree that low-reputation users need to chat, but think it should be moderator choice for that room. I'm not too prescriptive on the mechanics beyond that.

Got to this post as I just asked a question that was closed as being redundant to this one, though it's a bit different in terms of stated desire:

Chat Moderators Enabling Under-20 Rep Users Speak in *Their* Rooms To Help Newbies Ramp Up

My scenario lays out a specific and clear need for letting Day-One people chat. Without that ability, what "living" link are you supposed to pass into a community that is evaluating StackOverflow...and possibly starting with some biases against it? Chat exists and is absolutely perfect for showcasing, debating, and explaining the value the site has to a community. Just read the thread linked in my question to see how my hands are tied by this speed bump.

Encouraging people to engage in the increasingly complicated and nuanced world of StackOverflow needs a personal touch. I believe it should be possible for moderators to easily communicate with and authenticate people in their chat rooms, regardless of reputation. The "oh it's only 20 points, how hard is that to get" attitude completely misses the point.

Is the worry of chat room spam so much more frightening than new question spam? I'd actually bias the concern the other way. And there's a reason religions don't have a cover charge at the door when they're trying to win converts!

On a related note, new users' questions could also use a slight delay before being published, where they passed through a "welcome committee" for potential feedback before being thrown to the wolves. Just fifteen minutes to give those with established newbie-skills an opportunity to curb the bleeding.

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This shouldn't be hard to implement, the feature is already there, except only moderators can use it. Any room owner can find it on the "access" tab of the room info page:

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So, like I said, it shouldn't be hard at all to make this available to room owners. Perhaps at a certain reputation, like 1k.

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