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I know that this sounds like a duplicate, but please read on.

I would like the ability to invite people into chat. I understand that I can already invite people who have already been in the chat room, but I would actually like to be able to invite anyone into chat.

This has been discussed before (and here), and the feature request has been declined. But I think that the justification was poor. Let me explain. The following reasons have been given for declining the feature request:

"This is not a social network". Well, actually we have loads of chat rooms, and the whole Meta thing. Jeff Atwood originally thought that there should be no discussion at all, no chat, no Meta, but eventually realised his error. The fact is that we are a community, and chatting helps to cement that community. People discuss all kinds of things.

"Chat shouldn't be private, it should be public in the comments of a question". Too late! There is already chat. This is not an argument against inviting someone into chat, this is an out of date argument against chat itself.

"If you want to invite someone into chat, just leave them a comment" Are you serious? You're encouraging me to clutter up the comments with chaff that nobody else wants to see? Is that solution really better than a proper invite mechanism.

"Some users would just annoy other users with invites all the time" So give users the ability to disable them. Or to block users. This has to be one of the daftest reasons against chat invites. Let's look at what we're allowed to do: A user with only 2000 rep is allowed to Leave comments, Create new tags and Edit other people’s posts! They can be trusted to do all of these things, but apparently can't be trusted not to bug people all the time.

"If you want to contact someone, look for contact details on their profile page" When people put contact details, it's usually in the form of a link to their personal site/blog. From there I can usually get contact information. But 1) this is a waste of my time to have to do this research. If they've left contact details, then they clearly don't mind being contacted. 2) It kind of feels like stalking. Contacting them about the site, through the site, seems much more polite.


Now let's look at some of the reasons for chat invites.

Jeff has already conceded 95% of the ground. He's allowed Comments, He's allowed Meta discussion. He's allowed chat rooms. The last bastion is chat invites, held on to in the mistaken belief that it's preventing total chaos. It's not. It would actually clean up the comments section by moving the uninteresting chaff away from the main pages.

Sometimes I just want to chat to someone, and I'm pretty sure they would like to chat to me. According to my rep, I'm a respected member of the community. So stop being a micromanaging douche and just let me talk to them!

Sometimes a new user needs a lot of help asking a question. Having a protracted discussion in the comments isn't helping anyone. It's also very slow and a waste of my time which I could be using more productively. After a great deal of rubbish posted in the comments for posterity, the system finally suggests that this would have been better in chat. I know! Why not trust me to have known that from the beginning? Having discussed their needs in full, I would be able to guide them in phrasing their question correctly, and thus having a successful question with helpful answers. Isn't that what we're here for?


Added: Re: "This isn't a social networking site".

It already is, and it's not causing you a problem. But being able to talk to people is really helpful.

Ask yourself this: Would you be willing to allow chat invites under the following conditions?

  • You can choose to block individuals.
  • You can choose to block users with less than x reputation.
  • You can switch it off entirely.

The third condition means that you would be totally unaffected by this feature. I would be very interested to know why you would be affected by a feature you could opt out of.

share|improve this question
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"This has been discussed before"...where? Got a link? –  Bart Sep 10 '12 at 18:04
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You make some good points -- although "micromanaging douche" is going a bit far -- but I'm not sure I agree that holding completely clueless new users' hands while they struggle to formulate merely passable questions is what we're here for. Still, I would like to see chat become a more useful part of the site, so +1 from me for now. –  Pops Sep 10 '12 at 18:44
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I would only support this if it comes with an opt-out setting. (Or even better, with a default opt-out) I don't see myself using it, but if others find it useful I have no major objections. –  Bart Sep 10 '12 at 19:07
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This is a terrible idea. I'd down-vote 10,000 times if I could. SE is not a social networking site. Period. End of discussion. End of debate. –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 19:17
    
What about associating the chat-invite ability with a certain level of rep? This will prevent users from being overwhelmed with frivolous chat requests from those of low-rep, and allow for the use case of helping new users for those who are so inclined. –  S. Albano Sep 10 '12 at 19:19
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This is not about being a social network. This is about saving the future of humanity. We've made too many compromises already. –  user149432 Sep 10 '12 at 19:21
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@JackManey - What if you could simply opt out of it? Then life for you would be exactly the same as it is now. You're already too late. SE already has chat, and comments, and meta. Hey, we're chatting now, filling up the comments with useless chaff for the future of humanity to read. Humanity thanks you! –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 19:59
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@Rocketmagnet - Absolutely not. If this ever became a feature, I'd probably delete every single one of my Stack Exchange accounts. –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:04
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@JackManey - What bad thing would actually happen if invites were implemented, but you chose not to receive them? Please answer as a proper answer, not as a 'chatty' comment. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:17
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@Rocketmagnet - What makes you think it's a good idea for users to have their in-boxes full of chat request spam? –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:27
    
@JackManey - I don't. And they wouldn't. They already do have their inboxes full of comment notification spam. Nobody died. I expect chat requests would be vanishingly rare. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:33
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If even you expect chat requests to be "vanishingly rare", then why should the Stack Exchange dev team spend their time implementing this abomination of a feature? –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:35
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@JackManey and Rocketmagnet Let's keep the discussion civil and relaxed here. This is just about pros and cons of a feature proposed here. The world is not (yet) ending. :) –  Anna Lear Sep 10 '12 at 20:37
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@AnnaLear no, we've got what, like 2 more months? –  wax eagle Sep 10 '12 at 20:40

2 Answers 2

Full disclosure: I thought Chat was a horrific idea to begin with, but its high usage means I'm alone in my own corner.

I'm imagining this is implemented as you've requested. I'm also assuming that it is forced usage, because opt-out is the same as forced usage.

I would presumably receive notifications that people want to chat. The only on-topic usage of this feature would be to ask a question about a question, answer, or comment of mine. Basically they could have just asked me their question in the comments itself! Now we have to follow the breadcrumb trail to Chat.

I submit that any other usage of this "feature" would be off topic for Stack Exchange. If you don't have a question for me related to a question, answer, or comment, you should not be asking me to chat.

Worse, given the sheer number of off-topic and superfluous comments on Stack Overflow I would probably receive some non-trivial number of superfluous requests to chat.

Perhaps I'm unpopular enough to avoid this problem, but what about the site heavyweights?

They already get plenty of notifications about regular comments, now they're about to be inundated with requests to chat when likely a regular comment would have been just fine.

Basically, if you can't ask it in the comments there is a scope problem with the question, answer, or comment itself. The question, answer, or comment should be revised to address this scope problem. Sending requests to chat to people is not a constructive means of addressing this problem.

share|improve this answer
    
No, you would receive no notifications at all because you would opt out of it. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:25
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Opting out is the same as forcing me to receive every notification. Opt out anything is spam. –  user7116 Sep 10 '12 at 20:25
    
@Rocketmagnet If anything this should be opt-in. But I fear that then your feature would fall flat. I can't see many users opt in. –  Bart Sep 10 '12 at 20:26
    
No, this is a strawman. It's nothing like spam. It's other people in the community thinking they have something to say to you personally, that you really need to hear. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:27
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@Rocketmagnet: so why don't they leave a comment? –  user7116 Sep 10 '12 at 20:27
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Imagine you could limit it to only users who had > 5000 rep. Honestly, how much often do you think someone would invite you to chat without good reason? –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:28
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@Rocketmagnet: every time would be without a good reason. This is Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow, a site to ask and answer questions related to problems you are having. Not a place to chat. IRC is a place to chat. SE/SO are not everything to everybody. –  user7116 Sep 10 '12 at 20:29
    
@Rocketmagnet - So, why do you think it's a good idea to spam the in-boxes of users with more than 5,000 rep? –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:29
    
Let's say I wanted to ask you about CPR. Where should I leave that comment? Are you really such a hermit that you wouldn't want to help? –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:29
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If you wanted to ask me about CPR, I'd suggest taking a class and getting CPR certification. Why do you think you'd need to spam me with chat requests to ask me that question so that I could tell you to take a class? –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:30
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@Rocketmagnet: there is an Area51 for healthcare stuff, that would be the right place to voice your opinion that you would like a place to ask those sorts of questions. –  user7116 Sep 10 '12 at 20:31
    
@JackManey - Please read again what I said about users with > 5000 rep. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:32
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@Rocketmagnet - I read it. I happen to have more than 5,000 rep on SO. Again: why do you think it would be a good idea to pound incessantly on a chat request button to ask me a question about CPR? I'm not qualified to teach you CPR. Go take a class. –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:34
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Ehm @Rocketmagnet You are apparently frustrated, but could I ask you to keep the OMFGs and bold shout-y stuff out of here? Perhaps it's even not worth it to keep arguing here? Just a thought. (Or I could ask you both to take it to chat, but, well.....yeah) –  Bart Sep 10 '12 at 20:40
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@Rocketmagnet: to address, "Are you really such a hermit that you wouldn't want to help?" General medical questions are off topic for every SE site I'm a member of, however, I provide more than enough information to get in touch with me offsite if necessary. SE is for SE things, non-SE is for non-SE things. I enjoy the separation and I don't believe that makes me a hermit. –  user7116 Sep 10 '12 at 21:56

There is already a feature to move a comment stream into a chat room.

Chat is intended to be discussion about the site and to provide a way to carry on extended discussions about questions or answers that comments aren't well suited for. When you get into a back and forth with another user in the comments you are invited to invite them to chat.

Moderators can also ping any SEI user from chat and put a chat invite into their inbox.

However, a general invitation function to chat is both unnecessary and and imprudent in my opinion.

SE's primary purpose is to help users get answers to their questions. When chat is needed to serve that purpose then chat invitations are already in place. Any other purpose is incidental and shouldn't really be designed around.

share|improve this answer
    
You are right. Sometimes comments get so out of hand that it would be better to move them to chat. Now, imagine this. An experienced user, with several K rep realises immediately that the comments are going to get out of hand. Could that user be trusted to move it to chat imediately, this sparing the mess in the comments section? –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:40
    
meh, maybe, maybe not, having a hint to future visitors what the chat is going to be about doesn't hurt. –  wax eagle Sep 10 '12 at 20:41
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I know from experience, when I'm trying to help a new user, that a little bit of time in chat could really help me to help him. The result of the chat would be a properly phrased question that could be answered correctly, and would serve as a useful record for the future. That's the goal here, right? A couple of minutes in chat can quickly short circuit the endlessly repeated comments that we seem to see in many questions from new users. It helps everyone if used only by trusted users. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 10 '12 at 20:46
    
Moving comments to chat can be accomplished by flagging. I see no need for a new feature. –  Jack Maney Sep 10 '12 at 20:47
    
"When chat is needed to serve that purpose then chat invitations are already in place." My point is that the mechanism that exists is terribly inefficient, and always triggers late. Why can't high rep users be trusted to use chat prudently? Basically what everyone is saying is that not even high rep users can be trusted to use chat sensibly. They are so untrustworthy that they'll bring the whole system crashing down. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 11 '12 at 0:58
    
@JackManey not true, not even a moderator can move messages to chat. The only way comments are moved to chat is if you click the "take this discussion to chat" link that appears after some exchanges. –  wax eagle Sep 11 '12 at 2:24
    
@Rocketmagnet that's the goal, sure, but the potential for abuse is really really high. –  wax eagle Sep 11 '12 at 2:25
    
@waxeagle - Abuse by high rep users? These are the same users that can be trusted to edit other people's posts. Plus you could just opt out of it. Then you'll see no abuse at all. Any abuse can be stepped on my a moderator. They could remove a user's ability to request chat. All of these fears have trivial solutions. –  Rocketmagnet Sep 11 '12 at 8:46

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