Not all of us have the good fortune to work for enlightened employers. While participating in Stack Overflow (and other Stack Exchange sites) may be closely related to our vocations, we cannot fully participate in all of the Exchange's places.

That's because we're worried about a URL with the word "chat" in it will appear in the network logs. In some cases, such a URL is blocked at the firewall.

I'm not suggesting that Stack Exchange facilitate goofing off at work. I, personally, have not been able to fully engage as a Moderator because I don't dare go to chat.stackexchange.com while I'm at work.

So, how about an alternate URL that we can use? Or even just an IP address?

Update: For what it's worth, I brought this up in last night's Moderator chat-cast and was encouraged to post it here.


1 Answer 1


Questions about whether it's appropriate or not to access any site that violates a company's Internet policy aside, what you're asking for is nothing more than an additional move in the eternal game of cat and mouse.

If a new DNS name were provided or the IP address were provided, what would be the solution if that was blocked?

SE would then be inundated with requests for additional DNS names to be added, not all of which are practical to service, and the requests would just add more noise to the system.

Even worse, if a company blocked the site at the IP level, it's even more work for SE to provide a different/additional IP address to access the site from (beyond the pool they have accessible to them ready).

For the feature to be practical, it has to produce a result that solves a reasonable amount of the problem, not just prevent the same problem from happening for just a little bit, only to reappear again in a different form.

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    Sure, some companies would adjust to block this. However, this isn't about those employers, this is about situations where a dumb firewall or blacklist will get triggered by the keyword. For instance, I'm constantly running up against my company's firewall blocking the word 'hack'. Yes, any site with the substring 'hack' in the domain (about 10% of programming blogs) is blocked as 'Hacking and crime-related sites prohibited'. It's just not worth it to try to get contact info for the person responsible, start an official communication process, justify it, and use their time to change it. Dec 1, 2011 at 5:58
  • @Kevin By the same argument, it's just not worth it for SE to devote resources to a problem that can't be solved. Like you said there are many dumb firewalls and blacklists, it's not SE's job to find the one that will evade all (or most or any for that matter). Someone will always be impacted.
    – casperOne
    Dec 1, 2011 at 6:07
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    I see the slippery slope argument, but I don't think it needs to come to that. Changing "chat" to "comm" and saying "this far and no further" is fine.
    – ale
    Dec 1, 2011 at 6:16
  • @AlEverett: It's impractical and unrealistic to say that it would be done "this far and no further"; you also fail to show that your solution can break the chain of logical implication established by my slippery slope argument.
    – casperOne
    Dec 1, 2011 at 6:29
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    @casperOne Nobody's suggesting that it's their job to find a solution to all possible problems. Because Stack Exchange is usually not a deliberate target of these filters, a single alternative domain would address the problem for the vast majority of users. Your slippery slope argument fails because the devs have already shown that it's not their nature to strive endlessly for perfection; they're satisfied with pragmatic solutions like this that work in most cases.
    – Jeremy
    Dec 1, 2011 at 7:40
  • @JeremyBanks: Not to be pedantic, but your claim "a single alternative domain would address the problem for the vast majority of users" is an unsupported claim. That disqualifies the following statement that is based on that ("pragmatic solutions like this that work in most cases")
    – casperOne
    Dec 1, 2011 at 13:29
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    @casperOne - I don't have data to support my claim or Jeremy's, but logically, there are three groups of users: Those who don't have chat blocked, those who have chat blocked but their employer doesn't mind them using Stack Exchange, and those for whom chat is blocked and their employer wants them to not use Stack Exchange. For the first group, this isn't a problem. The third group cannot be helped. The second group is the target of this feature request, and the slippery slope chain is broken after one link because their employers don't mind and wouldn't adjust the blacklist. Dec 1, 2011 at 14:52
  • @KevinVermeer: The chain is not broken because it's not known if the new DNS/IP address would be blocked based on some other criteria (to quote you, this is "about situations where a dumb firewall or blacklist"). You don't know what else those blacklists contain.
    – casperOne
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:04
  • @casperOne - Maybe it's not shattered, but it's a little weak. As long as they don't set the new domain to something questionable like porn.stackexchange.com, gambling.stackexchange.com, xxx.stackexchange.com, freeflashgames.stackexchange.com, or poker.stackexchange.com, it should be OK. Al's suggestion to use comm is a good one, though I also like Mrozek's unicorns and seriouswork suggestions. Dec 2, 2011 at 14:16
  • @KevinVermeer: I disagree because you are making a presumption about what the majority of corporate firewalls behavior/rule sets are; the fact is, you haven't presented anything to show what new names would be not be impacted by existing rule sets. And it still doesn't address the cyclical issue, what happens if (and possibly when) rules are adjusted to handle the new DNS/IP.
    – casperOne
    Dec 2, 2011 at 14:18
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    @casperOne - It's not cyclical. As I stated above, the targeted employers won't change their rules to handle the new address. Dec 2, 2011 at 14:20
  • @KevinVermeer: "Targeted employers won't change their rules to handle the new address" is another assumption about behavior that is not predictable, no guarantee can be made that the targeted employers would not react due to other, external forces which would have a coincidental impact on the new DNS/IP. IOW, it might not be a reaction to the SO url that would be changed, it's a rule applied to some other external factor which would then impact the new SO DNS/IP.
    – casperOne
    Dec 2, 2011 at 14:21

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