Unless you post a message in a chat room other members of the room should not be able to ping your inbox. Otherwise you end up in a situation where you can come back to multiple inbox notices for a room you were just lurking in.

Chat room lurking is a way of checking out if one is interested in a room or not. A lot of people do it and never speak, and they may hang out in the room for a while intentionally (or unintentionally, if they don't realize they never actually signed out of it in the chat interface).

For people in the room, there is a balance between greeting people so they do not feel they are interrupting a conversation...and just ignoring them so they feel like outsiders who shouldn't interrupt. Outreach to a lurker can involve browsing their SO profile, and perhaps even multiple people will have something to say to the new "potential chatter".

However, there's not a good reason for the StackOverflow inbox to reflect the existence of these messages. They are ephemeral to the period of potential interest. A beep or notification to the lurker--only while they are present in the chat room--should suffice.

This has nothing to do with "shutting out lurkers". There are two categories of notifications in chat:

  1. beeps in the room while you're in it and
  2. those red flags that show up in your "SO inbox" at the top of the site when you're not logged into chat that tell you about your mentions in question comments etc.

I'm merely suggesting eliminating the second category notifications for people who have never in a chat room's history spoken in it but just joined and left (or thought they left).

  • 5
    You get inbox notifications only if someone directly mentions you (e.g. @username hello!) - which means they're actively engaging you, and most people would want to know about that. If you don't want to receive messages from a particular room, you can leave the room. If you don't want to receive messages from a particular user, you can easily ignore them via the chat room UI.
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:36
  • @TimPost this isn't quite true because you don't actually need the full name to ping someone, I've picked up a few false notifications for @end before, which is decently annoying.
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:33
  • @enderland That's sometimes true. I've been in rooms with several Tims and it was a little confusing.
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 3:46

2 Answers 2


I don't quite understand the purpose of this request. Is this actually a problem for... Anyone?

If so, let them know they can read the transcript of a room without actually entering it and making themselves addressable.

Note that if someone is in a room when they get notified and they acknowledge the ping, an inbox notification won't be generated from it; they'll only get the main-site notification if they left chat or ignore the ping when they're addressed - generally, this is a very useful feature for those of us who don't like to sit in chat all the time.

  • Yes. received a complaint from someone who thought they'd left the room and came back to complain of spam...in this case, four @ mentions, the first four before the complaint. (Note I am assuming he just logged out and logged back in and saw a batch of notifications... as he didn't actually explain the complaint.) Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:46
  • I didn't know about the transcript-without-joining. My impression is just that if anyone has interest in the pings, they'd have spoken in the room at least once in all of that room's chat history... Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:49
  • 4
    @HostileFork: might want to add that to your question. Although from the look of things, this guy may just be pulling your leg... Also, I frequently lurk in rooms where I've no interest in talking but want to be available in case someone wants to talk.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:49

No. My experience in Usenet and later with a variety of mailing lists is that only around 5 to 10% ever (!) publish anything. If you shut out lurkers, you are shutting out almost everybody who is interested. You would be forcing any interested party to publish some useless "Hi! I'm Joe Random, and I'd like to keep up to date with what is being talked here".

In any case, they don't do harm (much less than the loudmouths who just have to sound off, if they have no idea what is being talked about, so much the better)

  • 1
    I think you misread my post. I didn't say anything about "shutting out lurkers". Just that there are two kinds of chat notifications: (a) the beeps that occur while you're still in the room, and (b) the little red flags that appear at the top of your screen in your "StackOverflow inbox" whenever you're browsing the main site whether you're logged into chat or not. A lurker in our room who thought he'd moved on came back to complain that he had been "spammed" by category (b) notifications. So if someone joins a room, says nothing, and leaves I think they shouldn't get inbox notifications. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 17:31

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