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Any way to send a personal message to another user?
Does SO need social networking features to improve the experience for expert users?

(This is not a duplicate of Does SO need social networking features to improve the experience for expert users? or Any way to send a personal message to another user?—see comments thread below).

Given that this is primarily a Q&A site and not a hang-out spot, the fact of the matter is that asking people questions and getting answers from them are social activities. Gaining and losing reputation are mechanisms of social status. Everyone loves Jon Skeet (or else) and Eric Lippert. Sure, I can find their e-mail address or personal blogs and connect with them there but I would prefer to have some Stack Exchange back-channel for a one-to-one follow-up that the community needn't mediate. The chat feature only goes so far. I don't even use it. I don't expect others to poke their head into a chat room on a regular basis to see if I said something interesting.

I want Stack Exchange to be part of the social web and ultimately the semantic web. I'm not satisfied with the archipelago of S.E. islands, each with their own priesthood of moderators who frown upon chit chat and buddy buddy.

I'm asking for OPT-IN socialization, not soviet socialism. If you just want to ask and answer, don't check the box that says you want to do otherwise. Technology isn't evil, it's just misunderstood. Policies can be automated, and I feel that they should. Communities should just have fun and let the machines moderate whenever possible.

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marked as duplicate by Piskvor, BinaryMisfit, Mark Trapp, ChrisF, Lorem Ipsum Nov 3 '11 at 17:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

I don't get what you are asking for exactly. What are the features you are requesting? "Being part of the social & semantic web" is... pretty vague. – Mat Nov 3 '11 at 14:45
What's this "sociality" you talk about? And please don't make it a "Facebook for programmers", for God's sake – Damien Pirsy Nov 3 '11 at 14:45
Is it useless because you don't say anything interesting or because people don't want to chat with you? – random Nov 3 '11 at 14:54
@MarkCidade Thankfully, SO has established itself to be about content and Q&A, not users. Most of us frown down on the limited twitter and Facebook integration already on offer. Seriously, there is enough social networks out there. SO/SE does not need to be another one. – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 14:55
@MarkCidade That's your interpretation and use of your computer and internet. Not everyone. For some us, Facebook and Twitter is evil, and add no value to your lives except for creating a very impersonal world. No matter how you defend it, socialization is a choice, and as much as you suggest that the users demand it, every time it comes up the community disagrees, and very much so. The down votes on this question alone is a good indication of that. I like answering question and even like asking them, that doesn't mean I want to socialize with the person that answers that question. – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 15:07
@MarkCidade Every social integrated Q&A site out there has failed. There is a model for it actually, it's called a forum. Funny, people prefer SE over them. – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 15:15
@MarkCidade Thankfully, SE is not a forum, so it can be lame. It's intended to be lame, it's intended to discourage discussion. Which is why there is chat, and why after a certain number of comments, the conversation can be moved to chat. Anyways. I've had my fun for the day. – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 15:19
If this idea was the cutest puppy ever seen on youtube I'd still shoot it in the face. – Won't Nov 3 '11 at 15:25
@Mark Cidade: must..avoid...capslock: Because it happens six, seven times a year, since SO's beginnings: someone proposes to completely revamp the purpose of SO (sorry, to shift the paradigm), and then reenacts the "Help help I'm being repressed! Now you see the violence inherent in the system!" Monty Python sketch when the idea gets downvoted through the Mohorovicic Discontinuity and previous declined requests are mentioned. That's why. – Piskvor Nov 3 '11 at 15:36
No, @MarkCidade, you are the very vocal 1% who don't get what's happening but think they do. The 99% like the system the way it works and refrain from opening questions on meta to ask for things that have been requested dozens of times before. Just because you are loud doesn't mean there are more of you, or that you are right. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 16:49
@MarkCidade - 100% of the people who have voted on this proposal disagree. I think 110% of your statistics are made up! 84 views and 21 downvotes tells me that 25% of the people that see this question dislike it enough to downvote, but 0% like it enough to upvote. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:30
@MarkCidade - yes, you have 21 downvotes and 0 upvotes currently. Just because you respond to something doesn't mean you like it. Subpoenas are a good example :) – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:34
Please @MarkCidade, save us from ourselves! No seriously though, please stop. You're not helping your case, and it's starting to look like trolling. On meta, you do not ignore something you don't like, you downvote it. That's what downvotes are, that's their purpose. Get that into your skull, get over it, and stop telling us how meta works. – meagar Nov 3 '11 at 19:32
You should read this @Mark - and then either post your suggestions as an answer to that question, or compose a new question ([feature-request]) that relays your suggestions in a similar fashion (IOW, it's not enough to say, "We should have some talky-chatty stuff here" - because we do. Say, "This is how, specifically, we should do things differently. 'Cause then we can agree / disagree / riff on that) – Shog9 Nov 3 '11 at 19:58
@Mark Cidade: See, reality is the part that doesn't go away just because you ignore it; that's what separates it from a delusion. – Piskvor Nov 4 '11 at 6:52

I see it as an important feature that there is nothing like personal messages or a Facebook-like wall on the user profile. Not everyone wants random people contacting them, I could imagine that the more famous users here would get quickly annoyed if masses of users contacted them directly.

If someone is interested in chatting with people they can hang around in a chat room, that makes them easily accessible to everyone (with 20 rep). If someone doesn't want to otherwise interact with users in other ways than asking and answering they can just ignore chat and use SE the way they like it.

We already have chat, I see no need for another mechanism of talking with other users.

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We can have it both ways. It's just one check box, one boolean field, and everyone is happy. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:16
@MarkCidade Seriously? You have one button. The chat button. Yet, everyone is till not happy, as you indicated by posting this question. How more sociable can you get then chat? – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 15:17
@Mark No feature is for free, someone has to develop it and spend some effort, I'd rather have the SE devs work on something else. And you might want to count the number of checkboxes in you profile settings and extrapolate from there how much Jeff & Joel like per-user settings ;-). – Mad Scientist Nov 3 '11 at 15:18
@Fabian there are ways of selecting features without explicit checking. E.g., just don't use them! – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:20
Chat is also opt-in like the suggested opt-in wall on a person's profile. Would be just the same, but messier @mar – random Nov 3 '11 at 15:21
I don't want to go into a chat room just to appear in someone's inbox notification list. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:21
@Mark There are other websites for this. Go to them. It is not Stack Overflow's mission statement to make everyone happy. – meagar Nov 3 '11 at 15:22
What is the mission then? – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:26
@Mark CIdade why don't you build your Q&A sites with all social decorations around and see how long it takes to degenerate into (and lower than) a regular forum? :) – Damien Pirsy Nov 3 '11 at 15:32
I will build my own site. In the meantime, I'll continue to help build this site, too. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:35
@MarkCidade: This: "Stack Overflow is a programming Q & A site that’s free." That's as clear a mission statement as they come. – Piskvor Nov 3 '11 at 15:38
Define "Q & A site". – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:39
@Mark Cidade: Since you don't care about the existing data, let me spoonfeed it to you. Next sentence from that link: "Free to ask questions, free to answer questions, free to read (...)" - a Q&A site is a place where you can ask Q uestions, or A nswer them, or read the Questions and Answers of others. Clear enough? – Piskvor Nov 3 '11 at 15:47
@Mark as said, questions are not removed from the site, just from the front page. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 15:55
@Mark true, true. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 16:00

Lacking any specific feature suggestions, it is difficult comment or vote on your [feature-request]. Users are left guessing what you are actually asking for.

So, in general, Stack Exchange isn't designed for you to contact users personally. Everything to be learned here is set up to be shared for the community's benefit as a whole — through a giving-back relationship. Stack Exchange is more "long-tailed encyclopedia" than "part of the social web." Saying that "SO has progressively become more socialized" is just another way of saying we've become better at crowd-sourcing information. Still, it's not a back-channel to personal, social activities.

You don't use the chat room, but you lament not having more personal contact with users. If anyone you mentioned above wanted to be contacted through other channels, they would provide that information in their personal profile. But they don't chose to do so. They're here to learn — and to teach others — for the greater good of the community.

Stack Exchange is about knowledge exchange. It's all done publicly for the benefit of the entire Internet. With over half-a-million registered users on Stack Overflow alone, the network effects of giving you your own personal "back-channel" for one-to-one followup is untenable and not really what we do here.

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Giving control to users as to whether they want to broadcast or narrowcast will reduce the noise:signal ratio. We already have @name tags for this but it's restricted to comments. I want to make a comment without having to visit a question page to do so. Stack Exchange is socially selected, not intelligently designed. Jeff and Joel couldn't have dreamed that it would come to this. Remember his fight against the demand for Meta? Well, here we are now. Entertain me : ) – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:09
@Mark Cidade: It will not reduce noise, it will just make it less visible. Also, "Stack Exchange is socially selected" - in a question which currently sits at +0/-12 votes, I'd say that is an argument against your request. – Piskvor Nov 3 '11 at 15:12
@MarkCidade You were entertained. By creating Meta, and chat, and allowing sharing questions and answers on Twitter and Facebook. You want more? Are you sure? Considering that your profile (in example) tells me nothing about you, and your website goes nowhere, I don't actually see the first class citizenship, where is the motivation for me to want to socialize with you to start with? – BinaryMisfit Nov 3 '11 at 15:12
@Piskvor'sSemifiniteMonkeys I'm pressing buttons and people are downvoting as a reaction to that. Paradigms shift when the nay-sayers finally die out. The amount of comments on this page says the real story. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:14
@Diago This page is where that motivation starts. No one forced you to visit my user page. I'm sorry that my status updates aren't posted there. I should let the Digsby people know about the SO API. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:15
<comments deleted> Let's keep this constructive and not so much about the personal side discussions and ad hominem attacks. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Nov 3 '11 at 15:35

I think that What to do about a user who keeps reposting a comment to pester you into responding makes it abundantly clear why we shouldn't have any of that nonsense here.

  • No private messages. If I wanted to be contacted by people on Stack Exchange I'd post a email address for that purpose or link to a social networking site.

  • No means of saying "Hey, could you answer my question! It's really important to me!" They are all important to someone and no one has a claim on anyone else's expertise.

  • No commenting on people's profiles. I mean what would people use it for "This person helped me"? Upvoting and acceptance already say that. Likewise for negative opinions. It merely invites personal attack.

  • No circles or networks or friends or whatever. It's not about who you are it about the questions you've asked and the answers you've provided.

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Communicating using integers is very Orwellian. Why do we even bother with user names and user pages and flare? Who cares about John Skeet? He should be identified by a random number each time so that there isn't any idol biasing in the upvotes. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 15:49
@Mark Cidade: Finally something we can agree on: the posts should stand on their own merits, not on who posted them :) – Piskvor Nov 3 '11 at 15:58
Same with XBox 360 Live—I just want to see the high scores. Who cares who my opponents are! – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 16:00

The singular goal of the SE network is extremely simple:

Make a QA site with an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio.

Adding social features, or friends, or whatever the hell you are asking for is exactly OPPOSITE to this purpose. Socialization is just noise.

Stack Exchange, as currently designed and implemented, is a highly specialized machine that performs its job very well. Questions are opened and closed very efficiently, searchers are redirected to the right questions with pretty high accuracy, etc.

SE right now is an extremely efficient solar car. You are saying:

Sure, it works fine as a solar car and goes a long ways on the charge because you have designed it to be so light and aerodynamic, but I want to haul things! Can't we just add a trailer to the back, and put in a gasoline engine so it is more powerful? Also, I think it would be cool to take my friends with me, so can we expand the passenger compartment so I can fit 15 people with me as well? Otherwise it's great!

Follow this train of thought far enough and the efficient solar car becomes a school bus.

Please don't redesign the car - it works as well as possible now.

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I'm saying that there's too much noise and not enough signal and that a small group of programmers aren't going to know how to fix that on their own. With social features, we won't have to wait for the next improvement—we just talk amongst ourselves. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 16:59
Social features ARE NOISE. Comments are noise too but they are left in out of necessity. If Jeff had his wish, the whole site would be only questions and answers with no other features. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:01
If that was Jeff's wish, this site would have died out from stagnation. If you think that the social element is noisy, you're probably not working for something that will ultimately make you happy. I know that there is the potential for a crap storm but so far we have been good at mitigating that without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:04
@MarkCidade - everyone seems to disagree. You have 21 DV for this so far without a single upvote. I admire your enthusiasm but I think you are wrong on this one. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:08
Rightness or wrongness isn't a matter of democracy. The amount of carefully thought-out comments this issue has attracted says more to me than whatever knee-jerk reactions there may have been. This site and WWW itself was built on enthusiasm. I speak for myself but others may agree in silence. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:11
@MarkCidade - there's a dissonance in what you are saying. You want social features, but don't care what others think? I agree that there may be some who agree with you, but 100% of the voting users here don't which to me says there is probably a larger silent portion who disagree. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:22
I care about what others think. Voters are people who have nothing better to do. The polls aren't closed just yet. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:27
I'm sure it's comforting for you to think that the only people who are voting (and therefore the people voting you down) are just jerks who want to give you trouble, but that's not the case. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:29
I don't think anyone's a jerk or is trying to give me trouble. There isn't anything better than voting for an issue, except for maybe actually talking about it. You know, all social like. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:33
I see a lot of talking here accompanying the voting. Where's the problem? – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:34
@Pekka - he wants us to be able to talk more privately, but not in chat. I think he basically wants a wall or messaging functionality as a starting point. This is a good idea but not appropriate for the site as currently designed and implemented. – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 17:40
The messaging is happening anyway, in comments and such. I'd rather see comments used for technical clarifications not chit-chat. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:56
@Mark you mean like the SO feature that automatically invites users to chat when a comment thread becomes longer than (IIRC) 5 questions? – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 18:09
I downvoted and I partecipated, so don't throw mud at people, you social-loving person. And please stop making this a war of principles; people's opinion is clear on the matter, I think this "thread", as you wrongly definied, has already reached its limit. And if all this social partecipation isn't noise, I don't know what else it might be. Can you imagine such wall of comments on SO? it would be Hell, and its tumblering death – Damien Pirsy Nov 3 '11 at 18:09
@MarkCidade - then you need to decide if you want social features or expert advice – JNK Nov 3 '11 at 18:20

There already is an excellent, free way of opting in to communicating with others through a social network - your profile's "about" box.

You can put all manner of URLs in there - and many do. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, E-Mail, Myspace, a blog link.... Numerous ways of connecting with others, without the need to add anything to Stack Overflow.

Other than that, as others have mentioned, there is chat.

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Chat doesn't work for what I'm asking—not even Facebook chat is successful. I'm not looking for links to other sites. I want all my SO-related stuff (including info about users) on SO. Even if there was a DIV element to include an app, that would be cool. I could do that with a chrome extension but I don't have the resources to promote it. The Stack Exchange people do have the resources. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:01
@Mark what would that social thing of yours do exactly then? – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:12
It will let me work with another user on a hard problem that others aren't interested in (as made apparent by their down-voting). It will let others express gratitude without being forced to say so with an anonymous up-vote devoid of provenance. It will take discussion threads out of the comments so that technical clarifications will be made more visible. It will let me address someone directly via their inbox notification list without having to start a stub question just to do so. What will it NOT do? – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:17
@Mark for all the stuff you mention, there are other, much better venues on the web. And some of it, users simply do not want. Why reinvent the wheel with things that have nothing to do with the mission of the site? – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:20
Although you can solve this problem with another layer of indirection, it's these abstractions that leak and smell. I don't want to repeat myself on different sites. The mission of the site is to ask and answer questions. We can't do that if our voice is constantly silenced. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:22
@Mark I've managed to answer some 6,000 questions to this day, and I have never been able not to say what I wanted. I like it just fine without too much social bling. If it had more of that added than it already has, I probably couldn't participate at all because it would be distracting even more of my attention than it already does. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:25
Couldn't we meet half-way? Why does one have to suffer for the comforts of another? – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:38
@Mark if you have concrete suggestions in mind what meeting half-way could look like in terms of concrete features, consider posting them as a feature request. However I would give it a couple of days for everyone to cool down – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:41
I agree but that will only work if the discussion is still visible so someone has to keep it active till then. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:50
@Mark as Shog said - if a discussion has 8 downvotes, and no upvotes, it is very unlikely to ever succeed. A normal, detailed feature request will normally never attract that amount of downvotes, though. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:51
Lots of normal, detailed feature requests normally don't attract any attention because there was no outside input. Just ask the W3C. How do I better ask for input? – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:55
@Mark no attention = not much interest. It's simply the way some feature requests go. But as a general rule, being concise and adding illustrations helps a lot. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 17:57
I agree but it's better to just put something out there than to wait to finish up some PowerPoint stack that no one is going to see because it never gets done. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 17:59
@Mark it may never get done either way. It's not really up to us. – Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 18:35

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