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I'm aware of the preference for 'general answers to general questions' attitude on SO, and wholeheartedly agree that questions that are focused on specific, one-time issues are not as valuable to the site. However, where an issue is potentially useful but getting to the heart of it is taking some doing, the obvious option is to migrate the discussion to chat. Once the user has a better understanding of their issue, the question can be edited to a useful form and answered succinctly for future readers.

The issue, as noted in other questions here, is that these situations most often occur with a sub 20 rep user, and so with the chat feature denied a long discussion in the comments becomes likely. I totally understand the sentiments expressed here: Add "invite user to chat" function on main site, and I don't feel that a chat session should be used to completely solve a users problem, but it would be nice if the chat could be made available while a user's issue is being made clear. And so...

The Actual Proposal

Would it be possible to enable the invite to chat feature for sub 20 rep users, based on an invite from a higher rep user who can be trusted to use the chat conversation in the correct manner and take the results back to the originating question?

The sub 20 rep user could be locked to that single chat instance, and still unable to participate in the main boards. The inviting user should have a much higher rep, somewhere in the thousands, and so would hopefully use the feature responsibly in a way that was aimed at providing a worthwhile question and answer as the result.

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  • 5
    New users should be focused on writing excellent questions and answers, not conversation. That's why you must have 50 rep to post comments everywhere.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:58
  • 1
    This is probably going to sound more confrontational than intended, such is the way of text, but are you saying that correct etiquette would be to encourage the user to provide a generalised example, rather than to try and assist and potentially be involved in a drawn out discussion? Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:02
  • 4
    Yes, essentially. New users earn the right to converse by demonstrating that they understand the SE platform and how to properly use it. The primary goal of Stack Overflow is to create a repository of well-written programming knowledge that everyone can use. While extended conversation can help solve a poster's specific problem (and it's always nice when that happens), those kinds of questions don't always further this primary goal, because all of the good information is in a long stream of comments instead of an actual answer.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:07
  • 2
    That's really what I was getting at. I was hoping that some balance could be found whereby the inviting user would be responsible enough to update the original question with a clear and succinct summary of the chat. Possibly even to use the chat only as a Q&A platform to fully understand the issue. If the issue then turns out to be localised, the answer is given in chat and the question is flagged for close/delete. Otherwise the question can be edited to a usable and useful form, and a concise answer given. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:11
  • 3
    20 rep is a really low bar. Perhaps that balance has already been struck?
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:11
  • 1
    This makes it abundantly clear to the new user what kind of Q&A standards are expected here, without putting them off by seeming initially unhelpful. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:12
  • 37
    For a new user with 1 rep, 20 is quite a high bar before their problem can be discussed, whereas the ability to invite a new user to chat could only be available to > 3k users. I don't want to seem like I'm fighting this too much though, it was only a suggestion and I much prefer the attitude of this site to the standard forum approach. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 16:17
  • 1
    Related: Allow temporary guest accounts in chat (which moderators can already do).
    – Arjan
    Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 16:44
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    I agree with shanethehat on this one. New users often need handholding as they grow accustomed to SO. Often they need help learning how to ask the right question. I frequently find myself wanting to get someone into chat and end up punting on the question because of the very slow back and forth via comments.
    – mrtsherman
    Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 14:24
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    @RobertHarvey, the one and only time I've tried to get a newbie into chat it was to get them to improve their question. How can they "focus on writing excellent questions and answers" when such an effective means of teaching them to do so is closed off? My experience was written up at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99491/… Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 21:06
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    Well, for what it's worth, I've commented elsewhere that I believe users with sufficient reputation should be able to successfully invite anyone to chat, regardless of their reputation.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 21:08
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    @RobertHarvey, that seems at odds with the comments you've left on this feature request. Are you saying you support it? Or is there another proposal you support instead? Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 21:10
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    I think that users with sufficient reputation should be trusted to invite low-rep users into chat. Still, how tough could getting two upvotes be? New users should really learn the system on their own with a minimal amount of hand-holding.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 21:13
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    +1 I agree. But I might even go a step further: It strikes the that the OP should always be automatically permitted to participate in chats resulting from their question, regardless of reputation. Why should I even need to explicitly invite them? Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 21:28
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    "New users should be focused on writing excellent questions and answers" – sure. And how to teach them? By downvoting or closing bad posts (very encouraging for a new user – I doubt (s)he will "learn" that way but rather say goodbye)? Or by a flood of comments we've got to cleanup manually (or flag "obsolete" so the mods have to) later? I rather support the proposal. Bind it e.g. to 4k for the inviting user, that's fine with me (optionally 4k local || 10k global rep to make it easier for people active on multiple SE sites), but please do it :)
    – Izzy
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 9:12

5 Answers 5

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This shouldn't be hard to implement, the feature is already there, except only moderators can use it. Any room owner can find it on the "access" tab of the room info page:

enter image description here

So, like I said, it shouldn't be hard at all to make this available to room owners. Perhaps at a certain reputation, like 1k.

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Agree that low-reputation users need to chat, but think it should be moderator choice for that room. I'm not too prescriptive on the mechanics beyond that.

Got to this post as I just asked a question that was closed as being redundant to this one, though it's a bit different in terms of stated desire:

Chat Moderators Enabling Under-20 Rep Users Speak in *Their* Rooms To Help Newbies Ramp Up

My scenario lays out a specific and clear need for letting Day-One people chat. Without that ability, what "living" link are you supposed to pass into a community that is evaluating StackOverflow...and possibly starting with some biases against it? Chat exists and is absolutely perfect for showcasing, debating, and explaining the value the site has to a community. Just read the thread linked in my question to see how my hands are tied by this speed bump.

Encouraging people to engage in the increasingly complicated and nuanced world of StackOverflow needs a personal touch. I believe it should be possible for moderators to easily communicate with and authenticate people in their chat rooms, regardless of reputation. The "oh it's only 20 points, how hard is that to get" attitude completely misses the point.

Is the worry of chat room spam so much more frightening than new question spam? I'd actually bias the concern the other way. And there's a reason religions don't have a cover charge at the door when they're trying to win converts!

On a related note, new users' questions could also use a slight delay before being published, where they passed through a "welcome committee" for potential feedback before being thrown to the wolves. Just fifteen minutes to give those with established newbie-skills an opportunity to curb the bleeding.

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    The link points to a question that was marked as duplicate of this question.
    – Rubén
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 23:06
2

From a different perspective I just experienced.

A newcomer asks for converting a code from OpenCV to MATLAB. The OpenCV code is in a JPEG image. People ask for writing the code written instead of the image, more explanation about what the problem is, etc.

He blamed me for being destructive, and I wanted to make things clear and guide him by chatting. (In my comment, I had explained the reason behind typing the code. The first comment may not be a welcoming one, and that's why I wanted to help afterwards.)

I found out that he needs to have 20 reputation points to get write access in a chat. So here I am :)

I assured him in comments that my intention is to help, and I am willing to help someone who is having a hard time trying to learn/solve something. I mentioned that I could not invite him to chat, and I want him to notice me when he has 20 reputation points.

Further, after looking his profile, I saw his other question, where he is also asked for being specific on what the problem is. His comments are

Don't you know matrix? I already posted the code.

Things like that. Below the answer, he requests for the full code.

Seeing that, I wrote another comment that "After seeing your comments in the other question and attitude towards feedback, I must assume that you seek for someone to do the work for you, and blame others who do not. I would be glad if you prove me wrong.". And the question gets removed.

Although my statement is inductive, I conclude that there is a reason behind the 20 reputation points barrier, which most probably saved my time. And 20 reputation points is not that much high either.

Leaving the removed question for reference, since the author is anonymous. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/64767790/convert-from-opencv-to-matlab-codes

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I'd like the moderator power to invite new (sub 20 rep) users to chat, to be an earnt privilege around the 1k rep level, across the network.

Then all users can quickly get involved in making the network more welcoming, onboarding new users and explaining to them how to improve their questions etc.

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  • Not a good idea since many high rep users can't handle new users in a proper way, and they'll just scare them away. (Even with good intentions.) Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 9:29
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    @ShadowWizard at the moment they're being handled with a baseball bat. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 9:56
-1

I've had this issue today. I stumbled upon a good question, that unfortunately needed some clarifications that went beyond one comment for a complete answer. My solution was to just get the new user to 20 rep by

  1. Upvoting the question myself (+10 rep)
  2. Ask in a general chat room (C++ Lounge in my case) for some other kind user to do the same (the other +10 rep).

This worked out quite nicely for everyone, and led to a decent question for stackoverflow, and a satisfied first time user in the end.

Note: This approach only works if the question is already in a good state and deserves an upvote (admittedly not the common case, but it happens). Upvoting a bad question with the intention of meeting some rep threshold is abuse of the voting system. But for the cases that this is applicable, it can mean the difference between a promising new user (first question already good) getting an answer quickly, and him leaving the site disappointed. If we want to keep this community healthy and alive, I think it is worth putting in some extra effort for new, promising users (as is already encouraged by the site anyways).

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    This is abuse of the system on the verge of breaking the rules. Voting should be made based on the contents on the post. Not who posted, not because you want them to chat or want them to feel good. Those are non relevant reasons and must not affect voting. I'm sad people actually do those things, even people with rep and experience like you who SHOULD know better. Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 13:13
  • @ShadowWizardIsSadAndAngry: I don't see how this goes against the rules, even in spirit . I personally thought that the question was well written / researched enough to warrant my time and a descent answer so I upvoted it. Then I just raised awareness of the question a bit in a group of people that are knowlegable about the topic (C++ in that case) to see if somebody else felt the same. Please tell me how that is not exactly how voting is supposed to work.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 13:17
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    @ShadowWizardIsSadAndAngry: In case you feel that the whole 'checking back with the other user' indicates that I didn't care about vote quality / integrity: I did that precisely to make sure that integrity was preserved, and that the other user did so aswell. After a question / answer is significantly edited, we would ideally all go back and see if we still agree it / our vote on it. It's just that nobody does that usually, because of time obviously.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 13:30
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    Sadly there's no rule against it, but like I said, voting is meant to indicate post quality. Not a way to give/sell/lend reputation points. That is pure abuse of the system and it annoys me a lot that people do it, that is all. You won't convince me it's legit, because it's not, even if not against actual rules and won't lead to suspension. (If it was up to me, it would.) Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 17:37
  • @ShadowWizardIsSadAndAngry: My argument is that I only took this measure because I deemed the question to be of sufficient quality in the first place.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 17:45
  • If you thought it was a good question, you could be excused. There's nothing wrong with sharing a complete stranger's fantastic post, though it's not great to ask for votes. However, if it wasn't, then that's voting fraud.
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 18:45
  • @Laurel: That's fair, I've added a Note. Do you think this answer is fine as it stands now?
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 18:54
  • You're really supposed to only vote when the question is good enough to upvote, not before then on the promise that it will be. That's why this doesn't work when it's really needed (with users who need a lot of help before they can get their posts in order).
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:28
  • @Laurel: This was a build system problem. There can be many reasons for these, and if the user knew the precise one (or would even be able to perfectly describe it) they would often already have the solution. That does not mean that it's a bad question in my opinion, because that is the situation that other people seeing it would be in as well, even if it needs some (maybe a lot) of further information to be correctly answered in the end. I'm definitely not saying that all beginner questions are like this, but some are, and for those this approach (imo) makes sense.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:49
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    I didn't look at the linked question and it's probably not in my wheelhouse anyway. You should edit your answer so that it doesn't seem to be suggesting vote fraud. It's not even clear if you committed vote fraud or not, though I'm operating under the assumption that no harm was done in the end and everything worked out. If what really happened was that you stumbled upon a good question worth upvoting which eventually got edited to be even better, then say that. Bottom line, new users often vanish before responding to feedback so you should vote with the assumption they're not coming back.
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:58
  • @Laurel: Thank you for arguing in good faith. I edited again in the hopes of limiting potential misunderstandings / vote fraud interpretations.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 20:12
  • I don't think there's a way to word this answer such that it wouldn't be effectively supporting voting fraud, regardless of how you state that the post should be good worthy of upvoting anyway. The fact remains, it's suggesting upvoting the current post and then either doing targeted voting yourself or suggesting to others that they should.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 20:16
  • @KevinB: are you suggesting that I should delete this? I'm fine with that, and the votes seem to suggest that I should. I just thought that it was an interesting approach that could in some rare cases be a net positive for the community, and wanted to share that.
    – ChrisB
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 20:18

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