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There has been quite a few times that I wished I could send a message to another user on SO - not ask a question for everyone to see, but just a short message informing them of something or requesting them to do something. Are there any plans to allow this to happen in the future?


Related: How do I contact other users?

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It could even be an opt-in thing, so that most casual users wouldn't ever get bothered by it. –  Brad Gilbert Jun 29 '09 at 4:23
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I can see this being used by recruiters and contracting folks. For example, there's been times where I've seen someone's answer and I've wanted to say, "I'd give you $X to do some short contracting for me, because you've got exactly the kind of experience I need for a quick project." We talk a lot about the expert economy, and in order for that to work, we need a way to pay people to do work. –  Brent Ozar Jun 29 '09 at 12:20
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I think people can achieve recruitability by putting links out to contacts (perhaps blind) in their profile. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Jun 30 '09 at 15:25
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Great idea - so many times I had wished to be able to send a follow-up message to a person asking a question...... –  marc_s Jul 12 '09 at 13:49
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I would love to have this for two reasons: (1) I like to thank people for their contributions and sometimes my comments left behind don't get seen. (2) And sometimes I have short questions unrelated to the topic at hand that don't need much of a reply. -- As for the accusation that problem solving could go on behind "closed channels", I say that Private Messages should be limited to something 128 or 160 characters, and the functionality that detects when code has been pasted in could pop-up a Javascript window reminding the user that maybe this should be in a new topic. –  Ranger Pretzel Mar 11 '10 at 18:40
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I also don't like the notion of Opt-In. Everyone should be available to chat with. At the very least, there should be a way to poke someone and say, "Hey, I'd like to ask you about X. Are you willing to chat with me?" And then give the user the option of allowing an exchange or not... –  Ranger Pretzel Mar 11 '10 at 18:42
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I think PM should be possible and would be useful on SO - particularly when it comes to Area51, and communicating with other people who have 'followed' or 'committed' to your site proposal. You could coordinate the site much better with people if you could PM them. –  Jez Feb 25 '11 at 9:30
    
i wish i had this because i had some really cool information i wanted to post on a certain question but the question is protected from ppl with reputation<10 and i wanted to msg Will the moderator but he doesn't list contact info on his profile so nyah! further testing showed the information wasn't that cool anyway. ;) –  murftown Apr 4 '11 at 10:50
    
Anyone who voted this question up, I encourage you to go HERE and vote up this proposal for a PM system. It proposes in great detail a workable PM system for StackOverflow, and has (at the moment) been voted down a lot. If you support the idea of introducing PM to StackOverflow, go and vote it up! –  Jez Jun 5 '11 at 16:13
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@Ranger: No. You've already disturbed them by that point. Nothing irritates me more than reading constant "are you available to talk" messages and then having to keep writing "no"; it's quite obviously counter to my desires. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 2 '11 at 3:08
    
It is really frustrating, I would contact someone who is obviously working on the same subject as me. I really need to share experience with him. Is it really impossible? –  MiniScalope Nov 24 '11 at 20:19
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I'd love to see a "wall"-type feature implemented. This would allow messages to be sent to specific users, while at the same time keeping the messages public. In order to curb harassment and spamming, only users with a certain amount of reputation could be given the ability to make wall posts (for example, 500 rep). –  Michael Jun 20 '12 at 19:25
    
Vote here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/172688/… –  user216196 Mar 20 '13 at 14:37
    
Here's another use case that is what I want it primarily for: Say a new user does some kind of [minor] formatting mistake. I would like to be able to say "hey, did you know you can use underlines to demarcate your headings? It makes posts easier to read", without having to publicly call them out on it. –  zebediah49 Apr 22 '13 at 19:17
    
@zebediah49 excellent point! Looks you can read my thoughts, since I too wanted to contact a user once because I wanted to tell him to stop playing the wise guy, with my grammar and all. Well, it mightn't have been 100% grammatically correct English, but the question was perfectly readable. However what he did is rewrite nearly all of my sentences and that really annoyed me. -- Contacting him would be the ONLY way out because what would others say if I started an off-topic dispute right in the comments telling him to stop that? That wouldn't be a good idea either, so ... sometimes you need it. –  syntaxerror Sep 18 '13 at 23:16

19 Answers 19

up vote 181 down vote accepted

Nope.

This has been suggested many, many times, going all the way back to the earliest days of the site. Prior to the creation of Meta SO, feature requests were posted on UserVoice:

Comments were added to the system to allow users to communicate with each other in the context of a specific post.

Later on, the system was expanded to allow notifying other users of comment-replies.

Even with the ability to communicate with other involved users in regards to a specific post, the requests kept on coming. When Meta Stack Overflow replaced UserVoice, the number of feature-requests exploded:

The consistent response to this is that it's a bad idea, because:

  1. It could hide information from the community: useful information transmitted privately is unavailable to other readers, subverting the core purpose of the site.

  2. It could be used to harass other users ("Answer my question!", "Accept my answer!", "Yer momma so fat she overflows the stack!", etc...)

However, there is some value in being able to communicate with other users outside the context of a specific question or answer. This point was conceded with the implementation of a chat system: users on every Stack Exchange site can create and participate in chat rooms, integrated with the normal user accounts. There are still no truly private messages between users, but for those who want to chew the fat or discuss whatever outside the confines of the sites themselves, this can provide a viable solution.

Finally, it became apparent that moderators occasionally need to contact users about sensitive topics, and relying on email for this created problems. So the ability for moderators to send a private message to another user was implemented. The use of these messages are heavily restricted, reviewed by the system administrators, and reserved for critical messages only.

For normal users, the advice remains: if you want others to be able to contact you privately, add basic contact info to your profile's bio page.

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Vote here and maybe the moderators will notice: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/172688/… –  user216196 Mar 20 '13 at 14:38
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"This has been suggested many, many times" And you continue to deny it. Your users want it. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 24 '13 at 22:11
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What I really REALLY dislike is that it takes every user a lot of time to find out that this feature does intentionally not exist. My first thought never was "well, let's see if I even can send a PM"; my first thought just was "Okay, I want to send a PM; where do I have to click?" And then I went on searching for the presumed hidden button. And didn't find it. And didn't. And got frustrated. And only much later I thought about searching for the topic on Meta. I'd suggest to make the intentional non-existence of the feature more obvious. Make a "Send PM" button which displays a dialog. –  Alfe Feb 28 at 9:49
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@Alfe A button for a non-feature is never a good idea. Next thing you know, there's one that says "Make me a sandwich" which displays a dialog: "We're sorry, we are currently unable to transform you into a delicious snack. Stay tuned though, as we are working with CERN and NASA on it!" I would reckon that some form of FAQ can address the issue instead, like Q: "How do I send a private message to a user?" A: "SE believes in open communication and therefore it is not in our plans to introduce private messaging (etc etc)." –  ADTC Aug 5 at 15:09
    
Okay, that's convincing (non-feature buttons are bad, alright). Then I suggest a "Why can't I send a PM?" clickable info line somewhere at the spot where that non-existing button expectedly might be. –  Alfe Aug 5 at 22:03

No there isn't and I like it that way. It's a Q&A site and this strongly encourages that all answers and comments are part of the record rather than, say, the OP and someone else getting into a private chat and solving the problem to the benefit of noone else.

So I'm strongly opposed to private messaging.

The biggest weakness of the current system is that someone can leave a comment on one of your posts, you essentially reply to them and theres no way to bring this to their attention (unless they've subscribed to the question, which lets face it doesn't happen). This can be an issue if you've been marked down and want to correct the issue.

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Yeah, I thought of the possibility that you would end up getting a private chat going on, but what about limiting the number of messages that can be sent? Its just that I get really frustrated when I leave a comment and the questioner doesn't reply to it, and I wish that there was a way to really get their attention (I know that there is the "New Responses" page, but that one sometimes takes a few hours to actually show that there are new responses, and sometimes it doesn't show it at all! –  a_m0d Jun 29 '09 at 2:19
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+1. I always feel unclever when I leave comment on my own answer - basically talking to myself. –  kd304 Jul 13 '09 at 20:31
    
I have met through a StackOverflow post someone else that is closely involved with similar problems to me and I would like to at least offer to keep in touch with them privately, but I have no way of doing that other than putting my email address on the site, which I want to avoid for obvious reasons –  Andy Jun 27 at 13:09

Some people argue that private messaging is not a good idea for the community.

This I don't get.

When you disallow private messages you ultimately get people shouting over the heads of everyone else (i.e. over posts, comments) in order to communicate 1-1.

I remember such horrors from other Q&A/Sex-Change web sites that shall not be named where at some point half the questions became "eh, this question is for [highest ranked C++ guy], ...". This might not occur exactly the same way in SO since people do vote down and close annoying messages, but it does occur in milder ways.

Other reasons why it should be easy to send a private message to a member:

  1. You may want to ask them a private question or offer them a job.
  2. Your question may not to be public for some reason, perhaps due to company IP issues, and so you need to seek help privately.
  3. The question may only be answerable by a specific person. E.g. someone who is a writer or major contributor of some library that you use, and posting it on SO might be a big waste of time since very few people use it and know it well enough. This happened to me. I asked a bunch of questions about some library that turns out only select people actually used. I didn't know who they were beforehand, and most of my questions didn't really get answered because the probably missed them.

But above all, I really dislike seeing comment threads that have in-jokes and personal chats. If people want to talk they should be able to do so in private. I don't think that would hurt the site at all.

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Except that important content that would benefit everyone would then be private thereby circumventing the system. The issue is not private messages like "hey, how are you doing?" - it's "hey, you helped me on this problem last time and I am still having this issue..".. now it is taken offline and no one can benefit from the subsequent troubleshooting –  staticx Dec 30 '09 at 16:26
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The idea is to enable a private message like "hey, please have a look at this question I posted". And to get rid of personal chats as well. I no longer kid myself that SO has any motivation to allow personal messaging regarding job offers. even though it's perfectly reasonable and fair to allow high ranking participants to contact other participants for such reasons. (definitely better than to allow only paid recruiters to do so). –  Assaf Lavie Jan 13 '10 at 5:54
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(-1) StackOverflow is not a forum, and it is specifically not designed to be a social website. people who want to be spammed can post their email addresses. Everyone else should be able to use the site in peace. –  devinb Jun 25 '10 at 8:56
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(+1) I think the reasons Assaf gives would increase the value of SO. I believe the site would be most effective by providing a messaging/contacting service and letting the the culture of SO encourage posting a question once there is one to ASK, as opposed to forcing all types of SO dialog to be public and risk polluting the stream with less relevant content. –  Pete Dec 28 '10 at 19:28
    
@assaf for that there is careers.stackoverflow.com -- check it out –  Jeff Atwood Jul 7 '11 at 0:55
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SO not a forum? Could've fooled me. If I took this question, this answer and these comments and formatted them like a forum, nobody would be any the wiser. –  user227849 Jul 10 '13 at 7:14

Well I think there isn't any IM sort of mechanism as of now.

However if you only want the target user to look at something, you can post a comment under one of his questions or responses.. that should light up his/her envelope icon. Also consider deleting your 'look here' comment once your goal is achieved. Also use with extreme discretion.

I think I've only had this need once - and it was to have a top poster look at one of my questions which didn't seem to be going anywhere with the answers.

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I did try that... It did not go well: the user wanted to flag my comment as inappropriate, since it was not about the current question... –  VonC Jun 29 '09 at 9:04
    
@VonC, fortunately downvoting comments doesn't have a high impact afaik –  Shimmy Feb 13 '12 at 4:25

I like the idea... I have my email address on my user profile and have gotten several interesting comments from people who don't otherwise seem inclined to post, or where the comments would have been off-topic to the question at hand.

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Yes. Exactly!!! –  Shimmy Feb 13 '12 at 4:25

Rather than posting my email address in my profile for all to see, I'd like the idea of having a section of my user profile that is visible to other users that I designate as "contacts" (or "friends" though I hate that term). I'm somewhat paranoid about posting personal info to the general public.

I don't see the need for private messages / chat / etc., however: it seems like it would be an unnecessary resource drain for this site, something that should be carried on in an out-of-band channel.

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definitely - I would hesitate publishing my home or work e-mail here, too many harvesters........ but I'd like to be able to designate certain people with the right to get in touch with me (first through SO, later directly, possibly) –  marc_s Jul 12 '09 at 13:51
    
I'd like to keep my private information secret. Why would I want to make anything public if I could message system right on SO? –  HelpNeeder Mar 28 at 9:28

I suggest doing this like on Wikipedia.

All registered users already have an email address associated with their account. Add "Enable e-mail from other users" to user prefs. For those who have the option enabled, "E-mail this user" link appears on their user profile. Clicking that takes you to a form for writing a message.

archived screenshot

This would be pretty cheap to implement and unobtrusive for potential recipients (opt-in required; email address is never revealed to the sender or general public), yet effective.

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Would love to see this feature around! Private in-site messages would be great. –  Shimmy Feb 13 '12 at 4:19
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post as a feature request. –  Mr.ØØ7 Jun 1 '13 at 11:20
    
There's already a related feature request right here. Seriously though, I'm certain the dev team is aware of this suggestion already; if they don't want to do it, re-posting it probably wouldn't help. –  Jonik Oct 19 '13 at 2:28

Keeping SO impersonal and limited to a Q&A forum does quite a lot to keep discussions from dissolving into flame wars. It also helps to keep discussions on-topic, which is a good thing for a Q&A forum. IMHO, if SO was turned into a social networking site the quality of material would degrade rapidly. Therefore I think there is a reasonable argument that SO should discourage personal contacts or conversations by design.

If some enterprising bod wants to start a 'Stackers' web site or mailing list they could but it needs to have a certain distance from SO and strictly discourage discussion of SO Q&A material so the actual Q&A doesn't get dragged off SO and lost in the social networking fluff.

It might be argued that there's a niche for a geek version of LinkedIn and the requests for contacts and messaging facilities are indiciative of that demand (in fact, that facility used to be known as 'Usenet' before it got destroyed by spam).

However, the objectives and design for such a site are in tension if not in conflict with the design objectives of Stackoverflow and it should maintain a deliberate distance from Stackoverflow even if Joel and Jeff decide to build it.

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By choice, I have my e-mail/blog etc in my profile; but I've spent years on usenet etc, and this information is very easy to come by anyway.

In all the time on SO, I haven't been pestered. I've had 2, maybe 3 people asking me about a question - which I've either taken back to the site, or (in one case) pointed out that I was the editor, not the answerer - and that I couldn't help.

My conclusion is that in terms of regular questions/answers there isn't a huge demand for this; the only times I can see it being used are in the off-topic flames etc that start; and that isn't a good thing to encourage.

Actually, I would like to have a user-specific moderator ability to add a message to a user, but that is because I sometimes need to get hold of people who haven't provided an e-mail address, to tell them why I've done something; or to "cease and desist" (kindly). But that isn't an issue for most users.

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For those reading this later, I believe the idea in the final paragraph has now been implemented. –  Jon Seigel Jun 5 '11 at 14:26
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@Jon good spot. Of course, in the end it ended up being me that wrote it! Cosmic justice taking over. –  Marc Gravell Jun 5 '11 at 14:38
    
Your first paragraph sums it up for me. Most people can be contacted 1 to 1 either way, if they so wish (by filling out their profile information). SO works so well, because it is fairly simple and straight forward. Adding features on top will just diminish the return from the core use experience, which is, finding answers to questions. –  kontur Aug 9 '12 at 9:02

The ways that propose this is done (and I like the idea):

  • Allow messaging only after a certain amount of reputation is acquired. This is to stop a million new users messaging Jon Skeet. But, if Jon Skeet messaged a person with 1 rep, they could respond.
  • Allow users to opt out of messaging, and/or set a "reputation threshold". If a users reputation threshold is X, then only users with reputation > X can message them.

I think private messaging would be a great feature. There are plenty of times I want to take a conversation (going on in comments) offline. Also, I have gotten to know/recognize some users as I have used stack overflow because these people post on the same posts I do. It would be nice to be able to recommend posts to people because they might be interested in reading the question or would have good input. I am not inclined to put my personal email on stack overflow, so having an integrated messaging system would be nice.

In fact, if people don't want to have messaging supported, it would be nice even to just have "question recommendations". Just something that lets you say to another user "hey, have a look at this question, you might really like it!".

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I totally agree! In a couple of occasions I wanted to leave messages for other users, but there is no way... –  Vivi Jun 9 '10 at 12:57
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I also agree. Today I tried to find someone whose university web site has gone away, to ask him, "Are you the Brian who wrote the Freezerware utilities," and, "do you have a new web site?" and I found what might be his ID, but there's no way to send him a message. –  Dave Burton Feb 5 '13 at 20:36

A couple of times, I've started answering a question only to see the question closed before I can submit my answer. This can be frustrating and I have even resorted to digging up the user's email address and contacting him that way. Being able to answer closed questions would be ideal, but some way to direct message the user who asked the question would have saved a lot of clicking.

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I would request this feature due to a situation I recently came by. I had asked a question and was in the process of trying to find an answer with a particular user (userA). In the course of working it out with userA another user (userB) came a long and offered the exact answer I needed. UserB nailed it on the first time. Shortly afterwards userA posted the same answer in a comment.

Since UserB had far less reputation than UserA and had nailed the answer, I accepted his answer and voted both of their answers up.

I later came back to discover that UserA had voted down my question and deleted all his answers and comments in it, apparently in a fit of rage over my not accepting his answer.

This is a situation where I would very much have liked some sort of direct message to another user. UserA hadn't posted any sort of contact info in his profile. And in an effort to contact him and explain my reasoning for accepting UserB's answer and perhaps apologize for offending him, I ended up commenting on one of his questions.

It doesn't have to be private, but I believe that some sort of way to directly contact other users would be of great use to the SO community in situations such as this and many others. It could be a public wall like facebook, or a direct message - publicly viewable like twitter. If it contained Q/A information that could be useful to the community at large it could be migrated into a question and answer.

If such a thing existed it would be easier to contact UserA in order to explain that I had meant no offense by accepting UserB's answer and that I greatly appreciated his help!

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UserA frankly sounds like a jerk; you shouldn't have to explain yourself in this situation, accepting answers is done on the merits of the answer, not the answerer's reputation. That's ridiculous. –  Adrian Petrescu Apr 30 '11 at 17:28
    
@AdrianPetrescu - Well, without being there, you and I can't really know what happened. Maybe UserB only saw the answer because of the collaboration between UserA and the op. Still, deleting all the answers and downvoting the question is a little ridiculous, since a post can only have 1 accept of 15 points but can get many many upvotes that could lead to hundreds of points potentially. People give accepts way too much credence... UserA basically cut his nose off to spite his face. ;) –  jmort253 Oct 25 '12 at 5:20

Any way to send a personal message to another user?

Yes.

Go to the user's page, click on one of their questions or answers, and leave a comment.

When they next visit they will be notified that you have responded to their post.

It's not a private messaging system, but it is a personal messaging system, and it's the only one provided by SO.

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Yes, that works, but it certainly isn't ideal, because that isn't what the comments are for. It subtracts from the flow on the page. The comments are really only for responding to the answer/question and to clarify a few things. –  a_m0d Mar 3 '10 at 23:54
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@a_m0d, and that's exactly why in-site private messaging IS compelling! –  Shimmy Feb 13 '12 at 4:24
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I could physically do this, but then I'd be polluting that question with non relevant information and noise. Feels very contrary to the beliefs of the site. –  Paul Aug 7 '13 at 13:27
    
I received just such an off-topic comment addressed to me after a comment I left on a post. It asked why I voted to reject a particular edit. I replied with a comment (same place, so also off topic). When I returned 30 sec later to see if there was a reply I saw that the message-comment to me was gone. So I deleted my msg-response comment also. So no more off-topic comments at that post. However, I have no way of knowing whether the user asking me about my vote ever saw my response. Perhaps there is a way to see the deleted comments? –  Drew Oct 14 '13 at 2:38

I'm not certain a PM feature would benefit this particular site with this particular community.

Right now the unavailability of PM creates a certain atmosphere. Everything you say has to be said publicly, to be rated or berated by the community.

So that's something special. Public communication being the only communication creates automatic policing -- prevents harassment of certain users (c'mon you know at least 10 nerds wrote marriage proposals in obfuscated C++ and planned to post them as comments..) and actually protects high rep users from private abuse and harassment except as they would otherwise receive from Jeff Atwood.

Do you really want people to be able to PM Mr. Skeet and be like

yo skeet... its dave.. i kno ur busy an all ..

I don't think so. Building messaging into the site has consequences -- namely that consequence that it will be used, appropropriately and inappropriately by certain parts of the user base.

Is it going to add or detract from the site? I think rolling it out as an experimental feature might be a good idea, but I'm not sure what its overall effect (+/-) will be to the communication that happens on the site.

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Did she say yes? ;) –  jmort253 Oct 25 '12 at 5:23

It is possible to send semi-private messages using the chat system, at least if you have enough reputation.

To do this, create a private chat with that user. While (I think) private chats can be viewed by others, they don't show up by default so people will only find them if they're looking for them. Also, inactive chats with few messages are deleted after a while, so once that happens they'll be private.

This is not high security, and there's no guarantee others won't see it, but it's good enough when you want to notify a user, but your communication isn't useful for the rest of the community.

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Since one problem is that many people don't choose to not put links to off-site accounts but rather forget to (me included).

So why not add a Social Network Related Accounts section in the user's profile so they realize that this is the only way for people to contact them?

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There should be Private Messaging, especially given that there's moderators who close peoples [mine] questions. There's no way to get their attention to appeal. The best you can do is comment on your own question, but this isn't intuitive, will they see this new comment? Who knows.

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They will if you @-mention them by their name. You can also flag the question, which is pretty much a means of sending private messages to moderators already. –  Yi Jiang Sep 30 '12 at 23:14
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You can flag your own closed (or even deleted) question and appeal. –  Shadow Wizard Nov 18 '13 at 12:13

Why not charge for those who wants to send a private message? Most of them are recruiters so they have company budgets.

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As far as recruitment goes, there's already Stack Overflow Careers. –  icktoofay Aug 17 '13 at 4:04
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No offense to recruiters or to you, but that just sounds downright evil. Taking money to allow people to bother users who (likely) don't want to be contacted? I think we'll pass. (As a side note, we have 100-ish other sites where the "they're recruiters anyway" line of reasoning wouldn't apply.) –  Anna Lear Aug 17 '13 at 4:50
    
Sounds cool, I am not a recruiter but I suddenly realize that there's much less hiring ads here than on LinkedIn :) nice point –  Aw Qirui Guo Mar 29 at 8:36

Messaging can be enabled by providing Twitter handle. Those users who want to have messaging enabled can provide their Twitter handle. Any messages sent will be sent as a tweet. Ofcourse, max 140 characters!

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How is this the business of Stack Exchange? If a user chooses to promote their twitter handle or email in their "about me" section it is their prerogative. –  Lix Nov 18 '13 at 10:09

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