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One issue we have on Programmers.SE is that people like to have extended discussions in comments on answers and questions. Try as we might to delete long comment chains and educate them about chat (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, MSO example), our chat room sits relatively empty and long comment chains still occur with great frequency.

Presumably, this problem also occurs on any Stack Exchange question that invites differing schools of thought about a problem.

Rather than continue to fight a losing battle, can we get a "migrate to chat" option for comments? This would allow people to have their extended discussions in the correct place and expose chat a little more to the people who would most benefit from it.

The artifact that could be left behind to let people know that the discussion has been moved to chat could be a comment from Community:

The extended discussion in the comments has been moved to chat.

Where the word chat links to the permalink where the comments were migrated.

There's a case where this resolution would make continued discussion inaccessible—when a user is participating in an extended discussion on his own question but does not have 20 rep—but perhaps a warning or disclaimer could be added:

The extended discussion in the comments has been moved to chat. To continue participating, you need 20 reputation.

Or some logic (like perhaps a special-cased chat room) to allow the user to continue participating in the migrated discussion.


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I like this idea a lot, but I want to request one additional feature. On SO I notice a lot of the extended comment discussions involve new users who can't get in to chat. I'd like to see a warning if I'm about to migrate a comment thread to chat if any of the comments are from users with less than 20 rep. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 1 '11 at 19:22
@Bill Although there's still the edge case of a new user commenting on their own questions, generally you need more rep to comment than you need to chat. I wonder if there's a way to build the it's-my-discussion-so-the-rep-rules-are-more-lax logic into chat, but absent that I agree a warning should be added. –  user149432 Jun 1 '11 at 19:27
@Mark: That might be a better idea. Create a room specifically for that conversation, then let all the users involved in to that chat room, regardless of rep. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 1 '11 at 19:34
@Bill @Mark Would we potentially end up with a lot of zombie rooms, never to be used again, as a result? –  Anna Lear Jun 1 '11 at 20:54
@Anna Because of that, I would prefer the disclaimer option rather than catering to the edge case of a user with less than 20 rep participating in an extended discussion on his own question. –  user149432 Jun 1 '11 at 21:14
-1, what about those of us who never will use chat? (not saying I try and participate in long comment chains outside of meta, but still) –  user7116 Jun 1 '11 at 21:55
@sixlettervariables you don't have to participate in chat. Right now, comment chains are deleted if a moderator catches it. This is providing an avenue for those comments to remain, but in the most appropriate location. Not willing to go to the chat room to have an extended discussion doesn't give anyone license to treat comments as a chat room. –  user149432 Jun 1 '11 at 22:01
@Mark: just delete them. If they are worth saying on chat somebody will say them. I'd wager the majority of these chains are by users who have no desire to visit chat (which is a SE gray area at best). –  user7116 Jun 1 '11 at 22:13
@Chris if I remember correctly, it was deleted in favor of this proposal. Removed the reference from the question. –  user149432 Sep 14 '11 at 22:25
@sixlettervariables I disagree. Parenting in particular leads to discussions that would be better moved to chat. –  deworde Feb 16 '12 at 10:53

3 Answers 3

Agreed. I've done this at least once, and IIRC twice, by copying the text of the messages into chat, adding attributions, and deleting the comments. It was extremely tedious, but it was the right thing to do at the time.

So yes, please give us a tool do do that!

This feature should give a choice of creating a chat room (when you want to take users to a place where they won't bother anyone else, but not silence them) or using an existing room (when it's just a conversation that's been drifting away from the topic of the question).

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Wish I could +1 twice for the suggestion to use an existing chat room. –  David Z Jan 14 '12 at 0:43

This is something we're putting thought to; the "mod pushing it" scenario is a bit more complex than the existing setup, as the current mechanism is designed to spot and migrate an ongoing conversation between two individuals. We've played with some experimental code to see how the existing mechanism works, and it looks like to be useful we'd have to relax the rules a fair bit on what conversations we let it transfer. Not a problem - just something to be done.

We also have some ... reservations about when it is appropriate vs. not, and (for example) whether we should check which participants are chat users before dragging it over (since in this scenario neither/none of the participants is the one pushing the button).

But: it is something we are actively now thinking about, in terms of what is/isn't appropriate.

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This is good to know, thanks. I look forward to the conclusions :P –  Matthew Read Jan 23 '12 at 14:53
Sorry to bug you, but any update on this? –  HodofHod Jun 1 '12 at 16:54
Marc, the stats site is desperate for this kind of feature. If it would simplify things, we might be well enough off if you always provided the "move to chat" option to all future commenters (of sufficient rep) as soon as (say) one individual posted more than 50% of 5 or more comments to a question or answer. Although this might seem like nagging (it would be), the "monopoly" criterion I suggested would limit this behavior to just a few threads and would help users understand the reason for the nagging. –  whuber Jul 16 '12 at 18:17
A nudge on this: security.stackexchange.com/a/25600/836 is a mess that I'd love to migrate and preserve. My options are quite limited without this feature. –  Jeff Ferland Dec 18 '12 at 23:10
Marc - have there been any more progress on this? Thanks! –  DVK Feb 1 '13 at 0:40
Politics could actually be resurrected by this! –  Affable Geek Jul 9 '13 at 20:39
I don't see how allowing mods to move chatty comments to a room could be less appropriate than the current situation where we are forced to summarily delete them (and lock the post so they don't just regenerate). –  T.E.D. Aug 14 '13 at 14:39
...aaaand, just got a complaint from a user about me doing just that. Please, please give us some better tool for dealing with this than the delete button. –  T.E.D. Aug 15 '13 at 2:55
I second @T.E.D.'s request. Please for the love of mods this would help so much. –  ihtkwot Aug 20 '13 at 0:48
Any news on this? Moving discussions to chat would be so useful. –  Raphael Jan 7 at 11:34
Four months after the last request for news, two years after the initial "it's on the to-do list," can we get some update here? This feature is literally the one I most desire from SE. –  KRyan Apr 9 at 17:41
This would make a big difference on Workplace. –  Monica Cellio May 4 at 3:09
Another plea for this feature! Over at skeptics we get some.... interesting... discussions in comments which we mods unfortunately have to clean up. Sometimes it feels right to migrate the whole comment thread to its own chat room and leave just a link saying (extended discussion moved to chat). –  Jamiec Jun 20 at 23:34
It sounds like you're looking for ways to adjust the existing mechanism to auto-identify comments to move. You should totally ditch that and <strike>use jQuery instead</strike> consider letting mods select -- a selection interface + a migrate button that then calls the same code that the auto one does (to create a new room and move stuff) would be a huge win. Could it be better than that? Sure, but even that would be a major step. –  Monica Cellio Jun 23 at 16:17
Ok, I guess comment markdown doesn't include strikethrough, either <strike> or --- . Oh well. –  Monica Cellio Jun 23 at 16:17

This has now been implemented, in the following form:

On posts that have been automatically flagged as having too many comments (defined as over 20 comments in 3 days, by default - these values can be tweaked per site), moderators will see in the moderator dashboard section a button - "Move comments to chat".

Clicking this button will copy all current comments to a new chat room, with explicit read/write permissions to all comment authors. A link to this room will come up and will also be added in a new comment - the flag will not be dismissed, nor will any comments be deleted.

At this point, it is up to the moderator to clean up the remaining comments and clearing up the flag with the other options.

The button will show up so long as the flag has not been dismissed, but if the post has already had its comments moved to chat via this mechanism, a new room will not be created but a link will pop up for the moderator, informing them that this has already occurred and will contain a link to the chat room.

If there are any comments on the post by users without an account (such as deleted users, or the post was migrated with comments and some users do not have an account on the target site), the move will fail with a message indicating the issue. (it makes little sense to move comments to chat if some of the participants of the discussion can't join in).

See also: When should moderators move comments to chat?

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Finally! Thank you so much! –  ɥʇǝS Aug 12 at 19:51
Will the comment about the chatroom be associated with a mod, meaning that another user won't be able to delete the comment about the chat room? Does the 20 rep restriction still apply? –  bluefeet Aug 12 at 20:22
@bluefeet: "Clicking this buton will copy all current comments to a new chat room, with explicit read/write permissions to all comment authors." The explicit write permission means that a user can chat even if he hasn't 20 rep yet. –  Second Rikudo Aug 12 at 20:25
@bluefeet - the comment will be attributed to the mod that pressed the button. The rep restriction will not apply, thanks to the explicit read/write permission. –  Oded Aug 12 at 20:26
Can there please be a way to do this from the "mod" menu on a post itself, not only from the flag queue? Just because there's less than 20 comments doesn't mean an extended discussion isn't clearly happening. –  Doorknob Aug 14 at 13:48
@Doorknob: Obviously that's why they removed the comment rate limits for moderators. If there aren't enough comments yet... make it so. –  mmyers Aug 14 at 15:22
Previous month I asked for this feature and its up, thanks ... –  Mr. Alien Aug 14 at 18:07
What are prerequisites and process to have the threshold lowered? My instinct is five; any post (on Computer Science) with five or more posts probably needs attention. (Is the concern that a lower threshold creates more flags? That may be a non-issue on most sites, plus it's probably better anyway to have a "Many Comments" review queue in which more users could have a look and flag away.) –  Raphael Aug 14 at 18:44
Try a meta post on meta.cs with specific examples of conversations you'd like to be notified of / that you're unable to move, @Raphael. –  Shog9 Aug 14 at 18:47
@Shog9 Done. But I really don't think it's about the numbers, it's about content. 30 comments that discuss the technicalities of an answer can be fine (until the answer is fixed) whereas meta or personal discussions with three comments should go to chat. I don't see where the problem is with letting mods always move (!) select comments to chat, and providing a new flag "does belong to chat" for users to use. We could even use "too chatty" for that. –  Raphael Aug 14 at 19:35
Also, being able to decide between "new chatroom" and "main site room" would be nice. Some general discussions could liven up otherwise silent chats. –  Raphael Aug 14 at 20:02
One point could use a bit of streamlining: after moving an extended discussion to chat, I deleted all the comments, then undeleted the automatically-posted comment containing a link to the chatroom. I think this delete-undelete action will be the most common cast, it would be nice to exclude the automatically-posted comment refering to the chatroom from the “delete all comments” tool. –  Gilles Aug 20 at 11:58
@Shog9 An example from B&CG: boardgames.stackexchange.com/a/19056/409 - it was clear even at 10 comments or so that the discussion was going to go on, and didn't all need to be on the answer, and a mod decided it definitely needed cleaning up, but couldn't migrate it. (I'm not a mod there, just an observer.) –  Jefromi Sep 23 at 22:10
Good example, thanks @Jefromi. –  Shog9 Sep 23 at 23:40

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