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Related: flagging a chatroom which has no technical discussion (2) , flagging a chatroom which has no technical discussion

I've noticed that there are lots of chat rooms on chat where there isn't much technical discussion. By "isn't much" I mean:

  • People advertising their own posts (not counted as technical discussion, IMO)
  • ~2 technical questions a day, usually go unanswered.
  • Some short technical discussion every few days

Here's what I do see in the rooms (mix and match):

  • Small talk
  • Random chat (What you normally see on FB/IRC/etc)
  • Flirting. Yes, flirting.
  • Exchanging emails
  • Jokes

Aside from this, many users seem to visit SO just to chat, and nothing else.

Many of these rooms are in Romanized Hindi (or some other Indic language), which means that moderation of these rooms fails--thus I'm trying to clear these out first.


Yes, we do allow OT discussions in chat. OT discussions help keep a room alive, and add to community bonding. But, these rooms seem to be just full of OT stuff. And, since many users are just here for the chat, I don't see how it promotes community bonding.

One issue is that there aren't any great guidelines for the suitability of a chat room for SO. Thus, whatever points I put forward to justify deletion are arguable. In case of a bare minimum of technical discussion, Jeff's criteria are arguable as well.

My rule of thumb is Is this room useful to SO in any way?, but that's another arguable point.


Basically, I need something (preferably official) that dictates what is and is not allowed on chat, and why . This will be something useful to link to, and will hopefully prevent the inevitable "Why was my room frozen/deleted??" messages one sees. And it will prevent arguments, if the guidelines are sufficiently objective.

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7  
I guess you have never visited the chat for EL&U. –  kiamlaluno Jul 11 '12 at 12:50
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@kiamlaluno: the ELU chat is completely on-topic, it's just incomprehensibly so. –  ЯegDwight Jul 11 '12 at 13:24
    
That would be like saying I am always on-topic. May I cite you, when somebody says I am off-topic? ;) –  kiamlaluno Jul 11 '12 at 13:26
2  
If you read some of the comments in these rooms you see that for many of the participants are unable to use other forms of chatting (IM, GTalk, AIM, Facebook, etc) because they are at work and such sites are blocked. –  Abizern Jul 11 '12 at 16:33
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Because technical discussion all the time is boring and SO is terrible. –  Cat Plus Plus Jul 11 '12 at 16:33
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@abizern not an excuse to plonk themselves here :\ chat.SO is nothing like the other platforms. Maybe we can tell them to use IRC, if webchat.freenode.net isn't blocked –  Manishearth Jul 11 '12 at 16:37
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I think I didn't explain myself properly. I'm not supporting this - I'm pointing it out as a reason why there are so many chatty chat rooms that aren't technical discussions - and why there seems to be the same small set of users that populate them. If you look at my chat history you'll see that I absolutely detest this behaviour. –  Abizern Jul 11 '12 at 16:42
    
@Abizern: I know, you were helping me that time :) Sorry if my reply sounded a bit abrasive :\ . Thanks for your help! –  Manishearth Jul 12 '12 at 5:38
    
I feel the need to defend the Lounge<C++> we seem to be a special place. We have a strong community in there and often talk about all sorts of nonsense, but do give technical things a fair go as well. The topics discussed would often lead a non-regular to think the room is just a waste of time and not appropriate to SO at all. However, I think it would a big mistake to consider it a bad room. The real world equivalent of our room is very much like a bunch of people in the pub after work; shop talk is ok, but where are there to relax and unwind. –  thecoshman Jul 12 '12 at 9:05
    
@thecoshman: I know, actually I've been pretty concerned about that and didn't want the rules to destroy some good rooms. For one, your room is full of active members, so you do get some community bonding--which is good, and answers "Is this room useful to SO in any way?". You may want to see the comments here as well. :) –  Manishearth Jul 12 '12 at 9:10
    
@thecoshman: We've already discussed this in the Lounge yesterday. The C++ room meets every single criterion for an "appropriate room" and fails on everyone for an "inappropriate room". Move along, nothing to see here for us, really. –  sbi Jul 12 '12 at 9:18
    
@sbi: well having a discussion in chat is all well and good, but I very much doubt some over zealous mod would bother to read through to decide if he should close the lounge. It only takes one mod in a bad mood to look at one 'inappropriate' flag to many and poof, room gone! Thanks for posting the links here, perhaps some can eloquently say something along the lines of "look at Lounge<C++> as an example of a room that is not always 100% so related, but still a fine room" –  thecoshman Jul 12 '12 at 9:24
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@thecoshman: missing the point. Lounge<C++> is an example of a room that meets all the criteria, and is therefore a fine room. –  sehe Jul 12 '12 at 9:26
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@thecoshman: That's completely fine. All rooms have that issue, to some degree. The average is what's being looked at. FWIW, in my cleanup I look through quite a few pages of the transcript before making any decision. And you can always appeal room deletions on meta--deleted rooms don't go away permanently. –  Manishearth Jul 12 '12 at 9:33
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@thecoshman: Lounge<C++> is, AFAICS, the most active room in SO's chat, it has a very high amount of high-rep users (the ten users currently on the "frequently in room" tab hold 350k), many of the high-rep users of the C++ tag are more or less regular visitors in the room. Many of the mods have been visiting, too, at one time or another, some of them were hanging out there as regular visitors for weeks. What you are implying is simply nonsense. There would have to be a whole lot of changes until this room's existence would become questionable. –  sbi Jul 12 '12 at 9:51

1 Answer 1

up vote 44 down vote accepted

First of all, thanks a lot for your help in this. Really appreciated.

Now, while there's obiously no clear-cut answer to this, here are a few tell-tale signs I can see. You already identified much of this yourself, and I agree with your reasoning so far. All of these are merely hints that should be considered together with common sense, not as a yes-or-no checklist.

Signs of appropriate rooms

  • The discussion generally (not necessarily exclusively) evolves around topics that are relevant to Stack Overflow. This doesn't mean it has to be about programming; it may also be about technology in general, about the programming community at large, or about Stack Overflow itself.

  • The population of the room contains many active Stack Overflow users who use the chat as what it was designed to be – a Third Place –, not as their primary way of interacting with Stack Overflow.

  • The room is welcoming to new users, but critical (in a helpful and guiding way, if possible) of dumping-my-problem-into-the-room drive-by chatters.

  • There's a (not necessarily outspoken, more implicitly present) agreement among the inhabitants regarding the question "What is this room about?", and even when the conversation drifts off for a while, it tends to automatically return to somewhere around this topic.

  • The real-world equivalent of the room would be a user group meeting.

Signs of inappropriate rooms

  • The room's given topic (and thus its definition) already hints at the fact that people explicitly not want to talk about stuff that would be considered SO-related.

  • The room is mainly used by people who just so managed to get 20 rep on SO in order to be able to chat, and then started chatting and hardly contribute to the site anymore.

  • The room generates conversation in a tone that cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered "professional". This may e.g. be A/S/L types of conversation, bullying, back-and-forth accusations, etc.

    Although we generally tolerate conversations in non-English languages, I think the professionality bar should be higher in the non-English case, for the simple reason that community moderation is less likely to be helpful if only a fraction of the users even understand what's going on.

    Since Stack Overflow itself is English-only, we can expect chat users to be able to communicate in English as well; if they chat in other languages, they have to live with the fact that the benefit part of the doubt may be smaller.

  • The room has lots of people talking at the same time, and usually past each other. There is no conversation going on (of course there may be several conversations at the same time; that's not where I'm going), instead, the room seems to drown in noise of unanswered questions, "hello @foo @bar @user @all" kind of messages, get-to-know-you chit-chat, etc. The room has a general feel of "no community here".

  • The real-world equivalent of the room would be people waiting at a bus stop.

share|improve this answer
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Awesome, just what I was looking for! Thanks for taking the time out and posting this :) –  Manishearth Jul 11 '12 at 14:43
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People talk to one another at your bus stops? Sounds dangerous. –  user7116 Jul 11 '12 at 14:49
    
@sixlettervariables Well, if they do, it feels kinda awkward. That's the point :) –  balpha Jul 11 '12 at 15:28
    
@balpha Why not increase the rep bar for chatting? Make rep threshold X>>20 for ordinary rooms and rep 1+ for rooms arising from a comment migration (naturally, only the participants should be immune from the rep requirements. All other additional participants must have X) –  Lorem Ipsum Jul 11 '12 at 16:07
    
Won't work. It would need to be low enough for new / inexperienced programmers - and a little bit of cross voting will easily reach any realistic barrier IMHO –  Abizern Jul 11 '12 at 16:16
    
@balpha what's the policy on rooms with non-English titles and/or mostly non-English content? –  Abizern Jul 11 '12 at 16:19
    
@Abizern See the third bullet in the second list. –  balpha Jul 11 '12 at 16:55
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@Balpha Okay - how about this chat room in French chat.stackoverflow.com/rooms/13455/… –  Abizern Jul 11 '12 at 17:04
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this is a really great list; should some of this be distilled into the chat FAQ? –  Jeff Atwood Jul 12 '12 at 0:35
    
@JeffAtwood: Yeah, I think so too--though all the points are awesome--dunno how to trim it. –  Manishearth Jul 12 '12 at 6:32
    
What on earth are "A/S/L types of conversation"? –  Daniel Fischer May 20 '13 at 12:16
    
@TinSoldiersAndNixonsComin' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age/sex/location –  balpha May 20 '13 at 19:59
1  
Old, yes please, but only with women, Europe. Thanks for the info. –  Daniel Fischer May 20 '13 at 20:00

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