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The fact that chat privileges are granted early (20 rep) means that many users who have not had any substantial amount of SO/SE experience wind up in chat. The chat room I frequent has had no less than three users ask questions that belonged on the main site in the past twelve hours. As chat is the primary refuge of experienced users, this causes a large amount of consternation.

A few options that I don't see as working or that cause more problems than they cure:

Raise the reputation required to use chat

I'm not very much in favor of this. Early use of chat was key to my deeper involvement in the site, and provided me with quite a bit of insight into how SO works.

Insta-propogate

This has been discussed, and I generally agree it provides the wrong incentives.

Use existing moderator tools

Seems pretty harsh to moderate someone for a simple mistake given the limited moderator tools available. And still requires too much intervention by experienced users when chat gets flooded with questions.

Here's what I think might work:

Provide guidance on appropriate use of chat

In many other situations, SE provides guidance on appropriate behavior, yet at 20 rep a user can join a chat with no other information about what chat is for than the chatroom description. Either a large warning box on the top of chat.SO or a pop-up the first few times a new user types in the chat window would help. The box could say something like, "Chat is a place to converse about life and discuss technical issues. It is not a place for Q&A. If you have a specific problem to solve, chances are it belongs on the main site as a question, not in chat. This also helps get you better answers, as it is a much better format for passing the details of code."

Current guidance

Here's the guidance that currently exists: A drop-down overlay which points you towards the FAQ. The FAQ itself says nothing to discourage Q&A--in fact, it even implies that it's appropriate.

when trying chat as a newbie

if you bother to click the FAQ window

I don't think that Q&A never belongs in chat, but I have yet to see someone who is not a regular chat user ask a chat-appropriate Q&A.

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2 Answers

Chat is used for discussion. When a user asks a question on chat, we (the experienced users who hang out on chat), do one of the following:

  • Answer it, if the question is small. "What was the function to replace a string called again?"
  • Direct the user to the main site, guiding him which details to give, and how to maximize the chances of getting a good answer.
  • Discuss the question in chat, if it's particularly interesting, or is not of good fit to the main site. "What is the best way to implement a Model in PHP MVC?".

All three options look acceptable++ to me. The way I see it, the current FAQ offers quite accurate guidance for the user.

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This is not a proposal about moderation tools. This is a proposal about providing new users with guidance on the appropriate use of chat. See the screenshots above for the inadequacy of the current guidance. –  Ari B. Friedman Nov 3 '12 at 12:35
    
@AriB.Friedman: Edited. Still doesn't change my point though. There are questions much better suited for chat rather than the main site. –  Second Rikudo Nov 3 '12 at 12:56
    
I don't disagree. As I said, though, I've never seen a new user ask such a question in chat. It takes a while of hanging out in chat to figure out what such a question is. –  Ari B. Friedman Nov 3 '12 at 13:13
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You could just use the channel topic to reflect this - "This channel isn't for live support - you may ask on the main site" for example.

SF already does this

enter image description here

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But no chat room is a place for live support, so why shouldn't all chat rooms advise new users of that fact? –  Ari B. Friedman Nov 3 '12 at 13:14
    
There's some situations where they're used in very similar ways - in some cases we actively move topics that arn't of concern on the main site to chat, and occationally chat conversations lead to questions. Chat needs overegulation like a fish needs a bike. Why have a blanket rule when the tools that are needed are right there? –  Journeyman Geek Nov 3 '12 at 13:18
    
I agree--there are some situations when they're used similarly. New users inevitably do not make that distinction. Furthermore, this is not a rule, it is guidance. Right now there is no useful guidance provided to new users--they're left on their own to figure out what's appropriate for chat vs. the main site. Here's a typical example. –  Ari B. Friedman Nov 3 '12 at 13:23
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