I know that this sounds like a duplicate, but please read on.

I would like the ability to invite people into chat. I understand that I can already invite people who have already been in the chat room, but I would actually like to be able to invite anyone into chat.

This has been discussed before (and here), and the feature request has been declined. But I think that the justification was poor. Let me explain. The following reasons have been given for declining the feature request:

"This is not a social network". Well, actually we have loads of chat rooms, and the whole Meta thing. Jeff Atwood originally thought that there should be no discussion at all, no chat, no Meta, but eventually realised his error. The fact is that we are a community, and chatting helps to cement that community. People discuss all kinds of things.

"Chat shouldn't be private, it should be public in the comments of a question". Too late! There is already chat. This is not an argument against inviting someone into chat, this is an out of date argument against chat itself.

"If you want to invite someone into chat, just leave them a comment" Are you serious? You're encouraging me to clutter up the comments with chaff that nobody else wants to see? Is that solution really better than a proper invite mechanism.

"Some users would just annoy other users with invites all the time" So give users the ability to disable them. Or to block users. This has to be one of the daftest reasons against chat invites. Let's look at what we're allowed to do: A user with only 2000 rep is allowed to Leave comments, Create new tags and Edit other people’s posts! They can be trusted to do all of these things, but apparently can't be trusted not to bug people all the time.

"If you want to contact someone, look for contact details on their profile page" When people put contact details, it's usually in the form of a link to their personal site/blog. From there I can usually get contact information. But 1) this is a waste of my time to have to do this research. If they've left contact details, then they clearly don't mind being contacted. 2) It kind of feels like stalking. Contacting them about the site, through the site, seems much more polite.

Now let's look at some of the reasons for chat invites.

Jeff has already conceded 95% of the ground. He's allowed Comments, He's allowed Meta discussion. He's allowed chat rooms. The last bastion is chat invites, held on to in the mistaken belief that it's preventing total chaos. It's not. It would actually clean up the comments section by moving the uninteresting chaff away from the main pages.

Sometimes I just want to chat to someone, and I'm pretty sure they would like to chat to me. According to my rep, I'm a respected member of the community. So stop being a micromanaging douche and just let me talk to them!

Sometimes a new user needs a lot of help asking a question. Having a protracted discussion in the comments isn't helping anyone. It's also very slow and a waste of my time which I could be using more productively. After a great deal of rubbish posted in the comments for posterity, the system finally suggests that this would have been better in chat. I know! Why not trust me to have known that from the beginning? Having discussed their needs in full, I would be able to guide them in phrasing their question correctly, and thus having a successful question with helpful answers. Isn't that what we're here for?

Added: Re: "This isn't a social networking site".

It already is, and it's not causing you a problem. But being able to talk to people is really helpful.

Ask yourself this: Would you be willing to allow chat invites under the following conditions?

  • You can choose to block individuals.
  • You can choose to block users with less than x reputation.
  • You can switch it off entirely.

The third condition means that you would be totally unaffected by this feature. I would be very interested to know why you would be affected by a feature you could opt out of.

  • 3
    "This has been discussed before"...where? Got a link?
    – Bart
    Sep 10, 2012 at 18:04
  • 4
    You make some good points -- although "micromanaging douche" is going a bit far -- but I'm not sure I agree that holding completely clueless new users' hands while they struggle to formulate merely passable questions is what we're here for. Still, I would like to see chat become a more useful part of the site, so +1 from me for now.
    – Pops
    Sep 10, 2012 at 18:44
  • 2
    I would only support this if it comes with an opt-out setting. (Or even better, with a default opt-out) I don't see myself using it, but if others find it useful I have no major objections.
    – Bart
    Sep 10, 2012 at 19:07
  • 2
    This is a terrible idea. I'd down-vote 10,000 times if I could. SE is not a social networking site. Period. End of discussion. End of debate.
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 19:17
  • What about associating the chat-invite ability with a certain level of rep? This will prevent users from being overwhelmed with frivolous chat requests from those of low-rep, and allow for the use case of helping new users for those who are so inclined.
    – S. Albano
    Sep 10, 2012 at 19:19
  • 4
    This is not about being a social network. This is about saving the future of humanity. We've made too many compromises already.
    – user149432
    Sep 10, 2012 at 19:21
  • 2
    @JackManey - What if you could simply opt out of it? Then life for you would be exactly the same as it is now. You're already too late. SE already has chat, and comments, and meta. Hey, we're chatting now, filling up the comments with useless chaff for the future of humanity to read. Humanity thanks you! Sep 10, 2012 at 19:59
  • 1
    @Rocketmagnet - Absolutely not. If this ever became a feature, I'd probably delete every single one of my Stack Exchange accounts.
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:04
  • 2
    @JackManey - What bad thing would actually happen if invites were implemented, but you chose not to receive them? Please answer as a proper answer, not as a 'chatty' comment. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:17
  • 1
    @Rocketmagnet - What makes you think it's a good idea for users to have their in-boxes full of chat request spam?
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:27
  • 1
    @JackManey - I don't. And they wouldn't. They already do have their inboxes full of comment notification spam. Nobody died. I expect chat requests would be vanishingly rare. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:33
  • 1
    If even you expect chat requests to be "vanishingly rare", then why should the Stack Exchange dev team spend their time implementing this abomination of a feature?
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:35
  • 3
    @JackManey and Rocketmagnet Let's keep the discussion civil and relaxed here. This is just about pros and cons of a feature proposed here. The world is not (yet) ending. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:37

3 Answers 3


Full disclosure: I thought Chat was a horrific idea to begin with, but its high usage means I'm alone in my own corner.

I'm imagining this is implemented as you've requested. I'm also assuming that it is forced usage, because opt-out is the same as forced usage.

I would presumably receive notifications that people want to chat. The only on-topic usage of this feature would be to ask a question about a question, answer, or comment of mine. Basically they could have just asked me their question in the comments itself! Now we have to follow the breadcrumb trail to Chat.

I submit that any other usage of this "feature" would be off topic for Stack Exchange. If you don't have a question for me related to a question, answer, or comment, you should not be asking me to chat.

Worse, given the sheer number of off-topic and superfluous comments on Stack Overflow I would probably receive some non-trivial number of superfluous requests to chat.

Perhaps I'm unpopular enough to avoid this problem, but what about the site heavyweights?

They already get plenty of notifications about regular comments, now they're about to be inundated with requests to chat when likely a regular comment would have been just fine.

Basically, if you can't ask it in the comments there is a scope problem with the question, answer, or comment itself. The question, answer, or comment should be revised to address this scope problem. Sending requests to chat to people is not a constructive means of addressing this problem.

  • No, you would receive no notifications at all because you would opt out of it. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:25
  • 1
    Opting out is the same as forcing me to receive every notification. Opt out anything is spam.
    – user7116
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:25
  • @Rocketmagnet If anything this should be opt-in. But I fear that then your feature would fall flat. I can't see many users opt in.
    – Bart
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:26
  • 2
    No, this is a strawman. It's nothing like spam. It's other people in the community thinking they have something to say to you personally, that you really need to hear. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:27
  • 2
    @Rocketmagnet: so why don't they leave a comment?
    – user7116
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:27
  • 2
    Imagine you could limit it to only users who had > 5000 rep. Honestly, how much often do you think someone would invite you to chat without good reason? Sep 10, 2012 at 20:28
  • 2
    @Rocketmagnet: every time would be without a good reason. This is Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow, a site to ask and answer questions related to problems you are having. Not a place to chat. IRC is a place to chat. SE/SO are not everything to everybody.
    – user7116
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:29
  • @Rocketmagnet - So, why do you think it's a good idea to spam the in-boxes of users with more than 5,000 rep?
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:29
  • Let's say I wanted to ask you about CPR. Where should I leave that comment? Are you really such a hermit that you wouldn't want to help? Sep 10, 2012 at 20:29
  • 2
    If you wanted to ask me about CPR, I'd suggest taking a class and getting CPR certification. Why do you think you'd need to spam me with chat requests to ask me that question so that I could tell you to take a class?
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:30
  • 3
    @Rocketmagnet: there is an Area51 for healthcare stuff, that would be the right place to voice your opinion that you would like a place to ask those sorts of questions.
    – user7116
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:31
  • @JackManey - Please read again what I said about users with > 5000 rep. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:32
  • 1
    @Rocketmagnet - I read it. I happen to have more than 5,000 rep on SO. Again: why do you think it would be a good idea to pound incessantly on a chat request button to ask me a question about CPR? I'm not qualified to teach you CPR. Go take a class.
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:34
  • 3
    Ehm @Rocketmagnet You are apparently frustrated, but could I ask you to keep the OMFGs and bold shout-y stuff out of here? Perhaps it's even not worth it to keep arguing here? Just a thought. (Or I could ask you both to take it to chat, but, well.....yeah)
    – Bart
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:40
  • 1
    @Rocketmagnet: to address, "Are you really such a hermit that you wouldn't want to help?" General medical questions are off topic for every SE site I'm a member of, however, I provide more than enough information to get in touch with me offsite if necessary. SE is for SE things, non-SE is for non-SE things. I enjoy the separation and I don't believe that makes me a hermit.
    – user7116
    Sep 10, 2012 at 21:56

There is already a feature to move a comment stream into a chat room.

Chat is intended to be discussion about the site and to provide a way to carry on extended discussions about questions or answers that comments aren't well suited for. When you get into a back and forth with another user in the comments you are invited to invite them to chat.

Moderators can also ping any SEI user from chat and put a chat invite into their inbox.

However, a general invitation function to chat is both unnecessary and and imprudent in my opinion.

SE's primary purpose is to help users get answers to their questions. When chat is needed to serve that purpose then chat invitations are already in place. Any other purpose is incidental and shouldn't really be designed around.

  • You are right. Sometimes comments get so out of hand that it would be better to move them to chat. Now, imagine this. An experienced user, with several K rep realises immediately that the comments are going to get out of hand. Could that user be trusted to move it to chat imediately, this sparing the mess in the comments section? Sep 10, 2012 at 20:40
  • meh, maybe, maybe not, having a hint to future visitors what the chat is going to be about doesn't hurt.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:41
  • 5
    I know from experience, when I'm trying to help a new user, that a little bit of time in chat could really help me to help him. The result of the chat would be a properly phrased question that could be answered correctly, and would serve as a useful record for the future. That's the goal here, right? A couple of minutes in chat can quickly short circuit the endlessly repeated comments that we seem to see in many questions from new users. It helps everyone if used only by trusted users. Sep 10, 2012 at 20:46
  • Moving comments to chat can be accomplished by flagging. I see no need for a new feature.
    – user164207
    Sep 10, 2012 at 20:47
  • "When chat is needed to serve that purpose then chat invitations are already in place." My point is that the mechanism that exists is terribly inefficient, and always triggers late. Why can't high rep users be trusted to use chat prudently? Basically what everyone is saying is that not even high rep users can be trusted to use chat sensibly. They are so untrustworthy that they'll bring the whole system crashing down. Sep 11, 2012 at 0:58
  • 1
    @JackManey not true, not even a moderator can move messages to chat. The only way comments are moved to chat is if you click the "take this discussion to chat" link that appears after some exchanges.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 11, 2012 at 2:24
  • @Rocketmagnet that's the goal, sure, but the potential for abuse is really really high.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 11, 2012 at 2:25
  • @waxeagle - Abuse by high rep users? These are the same users that can be trusted to edit other people's posts. Plus you could just opt out of it. Then you'll see no abuse at all. Any abuse can be stepped on my a moderator. They could remove a user's ability to request chat. All of these fears have trivial solutions. Sep 11, 2012 at 8:46

First and foremost

We're trying to build a system better and easier to use than IRC


Obscuring the ability to chat – including the ability to invite someone – is not bettering things; not ease of use.

Discovery, disorientation, non-discovery and guesswork

https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/57538/166799 is accepted and popularly mentions

… user profile on chat

– however, https://chat.stackexchange.com/ may be not the best starting point for discovering a person's chat profile, or whether that person has a chat profile:

  • it's necessary to ignore the people button
  • seeking a person's user ID fails to find the user

– for example:

user mark-adler not found by seeking mark-adler

https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/27870209#27870209 exemplifies the disorientation that may occur when seeking a chat profile. It may be nice to learn that user ID numbers are not unique across Stack Exchange, but that's a clumsy way to discover (through guesswork) that there's no such profile.

Loss of functionality?

If it's true that the ability to invite from a profile page was removed, then disorientation such as https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/27870541#27870541 may be expected.

Missed opportunities and untimely communication

Years ago through resources such as How do comment @replies work? I learnt the value of @

True: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/43020/166799 does not explicitly mention chat. However from observed extensive use of @ in chat over the years, it was reasonable to assume that its effectiveness was pervasive (not limited to commentary).

Now I realise that the value of @ may be limited. https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/27862771#27862771 thanks to @grgarside I learnt that addressing someone in a chat room is not necessarily enough to draw that person's attention.

Food for thought

Why We (Still) Believe in Working Remotely – Stack Overflow Blog – A destination for all things related to development at Stack Overflow (2013-02-01)

… Chat is good for shorter conversations, or quick pings to ask someone a question. It has two big benefits: (1) it’s asynchronous enough that people can get back to you when they have a second, and (2) it’s persistent …. We built our own chat system …

If things are obscure or limited:

  • things are not quick.

Why We (Still) Believe in Private Offices – Stack Overflow Blog – A destination for all things related to development at Stack Overflow (2015-01-16)

… crucially, if someone is working heads-down and doesn’t want to be distracted, all they have to do is close the chat window. …

How is the comment/chat @ auto-complete implemented?

No mention of the requirement for a chat profile.

How do I invite someone to chat or send a private message?

No mention of chat profiles.

Keyboard Shortcuts in SE Chat

… Typing @<startofname>-<tab> starts an autocomplete …

Such things reinforce the assumption that @ is good for addressing in chat.

Bear in mind, not everyone relies upon automation. (I more often type longhand, or paste, a user's name.)

Receiving Stack Overflow's Chat Notification

Both answers are relevant, but it took me a long time to find that question.

I argue that the system should be more intuitive (better; easier to use).

Other links

RFC: Better chat @mentions – A prototype (2015-10-23)

Add “invite user to chat” function on main site

Notify me when someone forgets a chat ping


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .