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I think that right now, we have a problem in the chat. Now arguably, this is true for all rooms, although the C++ room is the only one I know of that actually reaches enough users to have this problem.

Quite simply, at peak times, there are just too many people in the chat wanting to talk about too many things. Having only one thread of conversation between 40 people isn't enough. But we can't really create a new room. For a start, the moderators seem to disapprove (for good reason, IMO) and secondly, they won't share things like room owners, starred messages, and that sort of thing.

So I suggest having a kind of sub-room level. Arguably, on a conventional forum, a "room" would be a subforum, and I propose adding separate threads.

Ideally, a tabbed or docking window (like VS) interface would be good. One room shares ownership, starred messages, etc, and there is always a main thread. However users can create threads at will, which will be destroyed when there are no more users participating in them, or if there are no new messages after a certain timeout, etc. A new user-interface element will list all the available threads and their names.

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I've been on IRC channels with a few hundred simultaneous users and it always seems to Just Work. 40 feels like a quiet channel... Are the nickname highlighting / tab-completion facilities in the chat just not sufficient to the task? –  sarnold Jan 14 '12 at 0:16
    
That would make things much more complicated for new users. –  Mooing Duck Jan 14 '12 at 0:16
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@sarnold: IRC messages tend to be small in size - SO chat messages (atleast the C++ room's ones) not so much, especially during discussions. –  Xeo Jan 14 '12 at 0:18
    
@Xeo, ah, good point, IRC doesn't allow >~500 chars per messages, keeping them relatively short. Thanks. –  sarnold Jan 14 '12 at 0:23
    
Does ignoring users help? –  Chris Frederick Jan 14 '12 at 0:24
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@sarnold: My experience of IRC was that you had 500 users in a room and about 10 of them, or less, were actually chatting. –  DeadMG Jan 14 '12 at 0:27
    
@DeadMG: while that's common (#kernelnewbies comes to mind; 150-200 users and hours of silence...) some others (#ubuntu) have hundreds of people active over an hour or so. –  sarnold Jan 14 '12 at 0:33
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@sarnold: It's not about how many are active over the last hour, it's about how many are active in the last 5-10 seconds. –  DeadMG Jan 14 '12 at 0:47
    
@deadmg: good point; I've seen bursts of dozens of messages in a few seconds though mostly it's in the range of one-per-second. –  sarnold Jan 14 '12 at 0:49
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This sounds like creating a highly complicated (both conceptually and technically) user interface in a futile attempt to circumvent a basic fact of life: Human conversation doesn't scale. Whether you're chatting face-to-face or via a keyboard, there's an upper boundary of how many participants a conversation can have. –  balpha Jan 14 '12 at 7:35
    
@balpha: No. It's trying to increase the number of concurrent conversations, which can each fit a non-scalable number of people. Right now, there is only one conversation between X people. N conversations between X people can probably produce better results. –  DeadMG Jan 14 '12 at 21:38

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