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Consider the following:

  1. Get a legitimate reason to discuss in private with a moderator.
  2. Create a room on chat.SE. You are owner of that room and have full rights over it.
  3. Locate an active moderator from a site different than the room's for the private talk.
  4. Give him owner access.
  5. Invite him for the chat.
  6. Have the moderator mark the room as private.
  7. Have the legitimate discussion.
  8. (bonus points) Time passes, moderator forgets about that room...
  9. Drop the moderator from the access list.

Now the original moderator is locked out of the original room, and you have a private room to make use of.

This can be stopped if chat can enforce this invariant: no non-moderator is owner of a diamond-private room.

  • 3
    As long as the private room is on a site where you're a moderator, you'll retain access to the room. Not that this indirect way of obtaining a private room isn't bad, but at least the site mods aren't locked out. – Gilles Jan 16 '14 at 22:21
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    I actually have a legitimate use case where a non-mod is the owner of a (sometimes-) private room. It's not what the system is designed to support, but it's useful (and officially approved). – Gilles Jan 16 '14 at 22:22
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    What makes this a problem? – doppelgreener Jan 16 '14 at 22:22
  • @Gilles "step 3: Locate an active moderator from a site different than the room's" – badp Jan 16 '14 at 22:32
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    @JonathanHobbs We've been clearly instructed to use private rooms for moderation purposes only. This allows a moderator to "leak" a private room accidentally. – badp Jan 16 '14 at 22:33
  • I think I left such a room accidentally a while ago. A user created a room to ask me to intervene in a chat room I was present (instead of flagging). The room did belong to another site, and I tried to make it private at some point (which was a really stupid idea, as it also locked out myself). – Mad Scientist Jan 16 '14 at 22:34
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    You know that mods always have access to private rooms associated with their site, right? – Shog9 Jan 16 '14 at 22:36
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    Why is it a problem for a non-mod to have access to a private room? – John Dibling Jan 16 '14 at 22:39
  • @badp I mean: if someone wants to have a private chat with you, create a dedicated room on a site where you're a mod. – Gilles Jan 16 '14 at 22:43
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    @Shog9 The room list page is a low traffic one. I for one go straight to The Bridge and maybe hit "rejoin favourite rooms." – badp Jan 16 '14 at 22:43
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    @Gilles I agree the current implementation is okay for sufficiently spherical moderators. I'm rough around the edges, I'm afraid. – badp Jan 16 '14 at 22:44
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Now the original moderator is locked out of the original room, and you have a private room to make use of.

Moderators cannot be locked out of rooms, so that's not really a concern here.

The real issue here is the notion of "private rooms" that are exclusively used by non-moderators - this goes against our policy of public artefacts, including chat. Private rooms have two main purposes:

  • Moderator only rooms, where they can discuss policies, specific users and other moderator only accessible information and tools.
  • User need to talk privately to a moderator (or vice versa).

So having rooms that are not used in such a manner goes against our policies.

This can be stopped if chat can enforce this invariant: no non-moderator is owner of a diamond-private room.

Indeed - and we have recently implemented such a measure.

A daily job goes through private rooms and removes anyone who is not a moderator from the list of room owners.

  • This makes sense to me. (Commenting to say so because I earlier wrote another answer.) – Monica Cellio Aug 30 '16 at 13:05
  • @MonicaCellio - we did consider your suggestion, but what we went with was simpler and meant less restrictions all around (which could bite us in the future). – Oded Aug 30 '16 at 13:09
  • Thanks for the feedback. Yours is simpler and thus less fragile. I can't think of a reason that non-mod users would need more than read and write privileges in a private room. – Monica Cellio Aug 30 '16 at 13:16
  • Could we also get some sort of flag if a room on our site becomes ownerless as a result of this job? – badp Aug 30 '16 at 13:49
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A site's moderators always have access to the room, and for an unparented room every moderator on that chat server has access. So while the original moderator who was part of the conversation might not have access any more, some moderator does. Alternatively, if we're concerned about rooms flying under the radar, we could prevent the last moderator from being removed as room owner. (Doesn't chat already prevent the last room owner from being removed? So it would be something like that, but for diamonds and private rooms.)

I think that's good enough. I've seen first-hand that moderators and CMs occasionally look at private rooms on their sites. If the room ever draws negative attention -- like flags -- a moderator can shut it down.

We do want non-moderators to be able to own public and gallery rooms, so changing this for private rooms only would potentially be confusing. It would also require the code to handle this exception at some non-obvious times: when a room's privacy changes, when a user's status changes, and when a room's parent is changed. Is there a problem that calls for adding this complexity?

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