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I will have been at Stack Overflow for three years this summer. Although I have mostly stopped answering questions long ago, I still rake in the occasional piece of rep, and have thus amassed >60k, most of it in this one tag, where, in over a year of me slacking, they still haven't managed to push me off the list of the top 20 users. (Suckers, the bunch of them!) I am a trusted user thrice over, a mere step below a moderator, I can edit just about anything on the site, and with the click of my forefinger cast a third of the necessary power to atomize (or rematerialize) any question or answer given by anyone.

I have been in the chat since >2.5 years. I am one of the owners of one of the most popular rooms, where all of the most frequent users are >10k (half of them 50k or above), and I have my share in the room having developed its own FAQ and wiki, and a whole set of memes and idiosyncrasies.

Yet, when I need to split a message in the chat because it gets too long (I know you wouldn't have guessed, but I am a bit long-winded sometimes), cut out the second half, hit enter, paste it back, and hit enter again, the chat server greets me with "you can try this action in ... seconds", and requires me to grab the mouse to click on "retry", by which time someone else will have sneaked in a dumb technical message, interrupting my beautifully crafted, witty, universally applicable, and most philosophic statement—very likely with some stupid template meta-programming bullshit.

Incredible as it may seem to the praised creators of the chat (Long may they live!), but I really resent that.

What is that "feature" good for for, actually? Do you think it likely that, after almost three years on Stack Overflow, I am about to script up a bot that dumps an endless stream of spam into the chat? Or do you really think I can type fast enough to prevent everyone else from slipping a message in once in a while, thereby bringing the chat server to a grinding halt under the sheer weight of my voluptuously opulent thoughts?

You know, I kind of can see the point in not letting everyone roam totally freely when you have almost 7k users who can flood the chat with anything they want to (until they are flagged and caught, that is). But the <1000 trusted users? Really, where is the point in preventing them from committing several chat messages in under one second once in a while?

Note: Since this is threatening to go the way Konrad's request went and become buried under tons of Is-it-Friday-yet-in-Iceland postings and the proverbial unicorn wankery, I removed and added instead. To be absolutely clear, here is my feature request spelled out plainly:

I want that built-in brake removed for 10k, or, at the very least, 20k, users, or, at the very least, slackened, so that they can post more messages in short succession.

And I would love to see that tag on this question rather soon.

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+1 for atomize any question –  Oded May 14 '12 at 9:39
I must admit I'm surprised I joined SO before you did (my 3rd anniversary was just yesterday). I'd always thought you were one of those beta guys. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn May 14 '12 at 9:55
+!, ever thought about writing a book? I like your style. Irony mixed with the innocence of frustration. –  Toon Krijthe May 14 '12 at 9:55
@BoltClock: No, I didn't bother with beta. I thought I'd let the proverbial early adopters iron out the worst of the wrinkles before I join. Unfortunately, that strategy mostly failed. :( –  sbi May 14 '12 at 9:59
@Bart, capital 1. –  Toon Krijthe May 14 '12 at 9:59
@Gamecat: Thanks for the praise, but I think I am not the book author kind of person. It takes quite some frustration to squeeze that kind of irony out of me (I had a gripe with this for at least a year, until I finally went through the roof today), this never lasts long, and nobody wants to read a whole book of frustrated rants. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 10:24
@BoltClock'saUnicorn sbi, beta? He’s alpha as f*ck! –  Konrad Rudolph May 14 '12 at 13:35
@casperOne: The real problem with Konrad's question is that it has a score of 21 (with not a single downvote) and a lot of positive comments, but one answer by Jeff, denying the request, with a score of -10 (and counting, with not a single upvote) and a lot of negative comments — but no action was ever taken on the issue, it wasn't even closed as "STFU, we do it this way no matter how loud you complain". It's now sitting around there as a bait for any other discussion on a similar topic to get closed as a dupe of, thereby very effectively and very infinitely stalling the discussion. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 13:49
@sbi Just a note about where Jeff posts: if it doesn't have a status-declined then it's not official. Jeff's post in that matter is his thoughts/opinion on it, and while it more often than not carries great weight (in this case, it obviously doesn't), if it hasn't been tagged officially as declined, then the feature request is still up there. That said, I'm almost inclined to close that question as a dupe of this, as this has a more positive spin on it (we could merge Jeff's answer into this as well if we really wanted to). –  casperOne May 14 '12 at 13:51
@casperOne I prefer sbi’s wording over mine. This is annoying as hell, I don’t feel a “positive spin” is appropriate any longer. –  Konrad Rudolph May 14 '12 at 14:02
thinking about re-posting this question at Tavern - just to test for how much parts one would have to split it to –  gnat May 14 '12 at 14:07
Even moderators are rate-limited in chat, so this isn't just a symptom of the divide between trusted users and diamonds. Very annoying, as I am apparently rather long-winded myself. –  Cody Gray May 14 '12 at 18:50
@TheEstablishment: I wasn't trying to get closer to be a moderator, I was merely pointing out that I am trusted to not to wreak havoc on SO proper, the site's main display, despite incredibly power to do just that was handed to me, but OTOH I am not trusted to post more than one message per second in the chat, which almost no amount of googling will ever bring some SO newbie to. This just doesn't make much sense. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 20:17
Yay for the [status-review] tag, @balpha! –  sbi Aug 3 '12 at 20:10

6 Answers 6

up vote 46 down vote accepted

Like the limit of links for first-posters on Skeptics, this is an entirely made-up problem.

Even if a benefit existed because this were a real problem (and in my opinion nobody has made this plausible), it is massively overshadowed by the downsides.

Here’s a heretical thought: how about switching off the flood control completely and see if the world ends?

I know what my prediction is. Spoiler: it is less dramatic than Nostradamus’.

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Nostradamus probably wasn't too dramatic. It was being interpreted in dramatic ways because of fear. Oh wait –  sehe May 14 '12 at 13:48

Yeah, this annoys me too.

When I'm in the grip of a caffeine-fueled rant, callously ignoring anyone who tries to get a word in edgewise, I like to slap the enter key at regular intervals so as to let folks know I'm still typing.

It's just good manners.

So being told I need to send messages less often is the same as being told I need to type slower, or say less. It's a slap in the face. From a robot!

Of COURSE SE chat has glowing red eyes. It watches you always...

Forget spam - disabling the rate-limiter entirely makes griefing too easy. But it would be nice to be able to send two or three reasonably short messages back-to-back without having to wait.

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It's really great to see again that meta works so well. You make a suggestion, it's heavily upvoted, even SE folks agree with you — and then the thing is buried under the huge pile of similar well-received but never acted-upon suggestions. Uh. That is, what meta was invented for, right? –  sbi Jun 25 '12 at 21:10
The "SE" is a tiny bit too sharp around the edges to fit into the rest of the picture, but +1 for the painstaking realism with which you edged "CHAT" into the image. –  Pëkka Jul 29 '12 at 15:03
FWIW, @sbi: apparently adjusting the rate-limiter based on reputation is a bit trickier than it sounds. I know balpha's looked into doing this once or twice. –  Shog9 Nov 21 '12 at 14:29
@Shog9: How can something be too hard to fix when it, literally, annoys hundreds, if not thousands of people? –  sbi Nov 21 '12 at 14:49
I don't know that it's "too hard to fix", @sbi - but it's more than a trivial change. And it annoys me daily, but... I get by. –  Shog9 Nov 21 '12 at 15:10
@Shog9: The limit is something that has to have been built in explicitly. But it's a misfeature, to say the least which affects very many users daily. And if it really is that hard to fix, then that's a bad code smell in my book, and all the more reason to clean up that code ASAP. –  sbi Nov 26 '12 at 12:17

We have done some extra work on this. The overall rates haven't changed, but - we now let you post (or edit) once (in any sequence) before the system gets all prissy. This means you can do a quick 2-liner, or a ninja edit, without it complaining. This seems to cover a majority of the cases it is seen, but it still applies an overall rate throttle - so while you can do a quick 2-liner, you still can't suddenly post 40 messages in 10 seconds.

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I can't help but have to downvote this. Sorry, but it's silly. My question was What is that "feature" good for for, actually? Why would you want to throttle my output anyway? You have provided nothing to support its existence. But if it is a misfeature, and you can't explain its existence, why not simple eradicate it? –  sbi Feb 15 '13 at 22:15
@sbi if you don't think that the system needs a throttle, then please allow me to introduce you to the Internet, where users will do silly things just because they can, for the single reason of being obnoxious. We try to make it so that genuine and fair users hardly see these controls, but: I cannot for one moment imagine removing them completely. –  Marc Gravell Feb 15 '13 at 22:18
Are you deliberately obtuse? What about I want that built-in brake removed for 10k, or, at the very least, 20k, users, or, at the very least, slackened, so that they can post more messages in short succession. don't you understand? SO's 10k, or 20k users, are not "The Internet". And "these controls" are far from being "hardly seen". –  sbi Feb 15 '13 at 22:58
Chill, man. Why not test drive the new settings first? –  Pëkka Feb 16 '13 at 0:41
please change to 4-5 messages at once, then rate-limit for a longer time (10 sec?)! :O –  Doorknob Feb 16 '13 at 3:11
@SaladFruitcake Have you ever been on IRC? What acceptable use case is to be found in posting forty messages in ten seconds? –  badp Feb 18 '13 at 13:21
@SaladFruitcake It helps the discussion in accepting the fact that there is a line to be found beyond which you're almost certainly engaging in abuse. sbi has been challenging this fact. –  badp Feb 18 '13 at 14:47
There is, but there's no reason to assume that 10-20k users will do this, or at least, not enough to justify these controls for them. –  DeadMG Feb 18 '13 at 14:54
@DeadMG There's also no reason to assume that posting 40 messages in 10 seconds is okay because you've got 10k rep. –  badp Feb 18 '13 at 22:09

The idea behind this to avoid mass spamming if a trusted account is taken over by a spammer.

However, I'd also love to see this annoying feature go away. I'm sure there are already other measures in place to detect abusive behaviour.

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How many accounts of trusted users have been taken over by spammers in the last three years? And how many minutes does it take on average for a spammer to be flagged and banned? Really, that's a movie plot scenario. IMO this is security theater. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 10:09
It may seem unlikely, but the damage could be very great if it happens, which means the result of the Impact x Likelihood equation goes up. Not security theatre, but common risk management. –  Rory Alsop Feb 18 '13 at 21:24

It seems to me, your gripe is not with the chat system stopping you from 'spamming' messages to quickley, but from your longer posts being shrunk down with a 'show full text' link at the bottom.

I personally think that current system is just fine. Normal flow of conversation is not halted by the anti-spam filter, if we can accept calling it that and long posts are shrunk so that they do not get in the way.

A long message will break up the chat, as it very quickly pushs messages of the screen. The 'folding' of it prevents this, to a point, but allows users who actually want to read your entire rant post can.

I think the ideal solution, is to allow users to configure post folding. Thus you would be able to disable it for your self, without forcing us to have look at your big fat wall of text.


I agree with the anit-spam filter at low levels, if anything, it should have an even longer time out. It helps force people to think a bit more rather then use chat as a stream of conciousness. But like as people reach higher levels of rep, there is no need throttle them in such a fashion. If some one did decide to go wrong, a ban can be applied easy enough.

So yeah, an unlock of "you can now spam chat, but don't" would be a good idea.

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I'd be perfectly fine with longer posts requiring an additional click to be fully visible, but they have serious shortcomings. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 10:14
So now we are back to Letdown (I like that) needing to be fixed for multi-line messages. I still don't see the need to remove the "stop posting so fast" filter –  thecoshman May 14 '12 at 10:18
Look at that link. It won't be fixed because it isn't considered a bug. –  sbi May 14 '12 at 10:53
Looked at the link, thus I knew of this 'Letdown' phrase. Not sure where yo go from here... perhaps a coffee? –  thecoshman May 14 '12 at 10:58
Look at the tags: status-bydesign –  sbi May 14 '12 at 12:56
I disagree, because I enter many short messages and this pisses me off too. –  DeadMG May 14 '12 at 13:17
No, this fails to account for oneboxed links. The chat system makes it tempting to post many short messages (a good thing, IMHO)! It now must also make it affordable. –  Konrad Rudolph May 14 '12 at 13:43

@thecoshman says:

I agree with the anit-spam filter at low levels, if anything, it should have an even longer time out. It helps force people to think a bit more rather then use chat as a stream of conciousness.

I see no reason to presume that high-rep users are magically any less susceptible to this than low-rep users. Rep does not correlate well with ... well, with anything, really.

I would support slackening the rate limiting as it keeps getting me, too. But I don't see a reason to remove it. I realise that the obvious response now is "give me a reason to keep it" and I can't answer that any better than @thecoshman did.

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