Yesterday we had quite an invasion of nazi/swastika-avatared trolls in chat. Of course none of them could talk since they all had 1 rep, but with such avatars them showing up in the user list is already annoying enough (and pretty offensive to some people).

It would be useful if users who cannot talk in chat due to their reputation didn't show up in the room's user list either. Since anyone can read messages from the transcript anyway there is no point in showing those users as actually being in the room and thus reading along.

Another option would be making this a per-room setting to show only users in the user list who have spoken since joining. So anyone who cannot (or does not) talk won't show up in the user list. Especially in larger rooms that could be useful to show only somewhat active users in the user list but not those who only lurk around and read.


6 Answers 6


This is probably not the final solution (more ideas still welcome!), but I wanted to have something done now, because these morons are just wasting too much of everybody's time.

So for now, users with less than 20 rep and with no previous chat activity will appear as the "anonymous shape":

          screenshot of such a user profile

The "(why)" links to https://chat.stackoverflow.com/faq#avatar.

Also, since January 2019, the name is also blanked out, i.e. chat will always show the default system generated name and not any display name chosen by the user.

  • Nice :) What about using the identicon instead of the anonymous pic though? Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:19
  • 2
    Just a thought - the username is still visible if a curious user (say, me) hovers an anonymous face. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:22
  • 1
    @JanDvorak Yes, this does nothing about the user name (and I'm not sure it's worth doing anything about it).
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:23
  • 1
    This is AWESOME! Yeah, I don't see a problem with the username. That is low key enough we can probably wait for mods.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 17:37
  • It would be nice to have this extended to suspended users as well.
    – Jason C
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:49
  • @Sonic funny, we both followed the same link at the same time and your edit was done a split second after I got to this page. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 5:30
  • It's worth noting that if the user has any past chat activity, such as if they were granted explicit write access by a mod and used it at least once, or if they chatted in the past but got suspended on the main site, their avatar will not re-blank again. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 5:31
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    If we’re not going to show the names and avatars, why have these users appear in the first place? They’re just noise and can’t interact at all in the rooms. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 17:15

I think that's too strong of a solution to the problem; it's punishing the 99% well-meaning low-rep users for the actions of one or a few idiots. I've always liked the idea that despite the 20-rep barrier on talking, a new user can at least jump into one or more rooms, "listen in" if you will, start being part of it and maybe see that as an incentive to start participating on the site. Maybe I'm over-romanticizing this, but there's a reason that when you enter the room, you see yourself flying into the user list.

Regarding your second idea, that's interesting. Although maybe it shouldn't be a setting, but happen automatically once a room crosses a certain activity threshold. The question remains, should users also be considered to be leaving once they haven't talked for a while?

As an aside that only tangentially targets your request, but is in a good place here to make people aware of what's happening:

To address this and many other issues and requests, I'm currently working on extending the chat permission systems in order to make three things possible that currently aren't (with the single exception of suspensions):

  1. Subtractive permission adjustments. As I said here, the current permission system only allows you to give users additional permissions, never remove permissions from the default set.

  2. Temporary permission adjustments. This will, for example make it possible to give users time-limited permission to chat despite low reputation, or ban a user from a single room temporarily.

  3. Global permission adjustments. The current system only allows adjusting a user's permissions for particular rooms, not globally. Global permission adjustments will, for example, make it possible to prevent a user that usually behaves, but abuses the flagging system, from flagging at all, or to give additional site-wide powers to certain users that have shown to be a great help, but aren't technically moderators.

These are just examples; I'm not promising that any particular one of them will actually end up being implemented (though at least some probably will). Currently it's just about making such a thing even technically possible.

This permission system revamping is at an early stage, but somewhat functional already (although only developers can currently make permission adjustments). One of the example adjustments that I've added (for testing; it may or may not eventually exist in its current implementation) is a kickban functionality that prevents a user from re-entering a room (and thus having their avatar displayed). For what it's worth, today's troll was a good case to try this out, and once I started doing that, it seems to have made them give up pretty quickly.

Once all of this is stable, we can start creating fairly fine-grained permissions and restrictions that can, even temporarily, be applied to users, and because it can be fine-grained and temporary, we can even consider giving the power of applying these adjustments to normal users, taking some burden from the moderators (or at least giving them time to respond).

  • 3
    What about providing a room option "do not show joining users until they talk"? Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 8:09
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    I don't get your premise. How is not showing an users avatar in chat "punishment"? Simply make the list show everybody who opened the chat room and is allowed to talk instead of everybody who opened the chat room and has an account. I fail to see how that punishes anybody.
    – l4mpi
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 9:13
  • Also, your proposed solution to the trolling/spamming problem is inefficient as it still requires manual interaction to kickban offenders. The proposed solution by ThiefMaster would make it impossible to perform this kind of abuse, without hurting anybody.
    – l4mpi
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 9:19
  • @l4mpi My proposed solution? I didn't propose a solution. I merely said that I'm not a fan of the solution proposed in the question. But I haven't declined it. I'm curious to see more people to weigh in on this.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 11:50
  • @ThiefMaster Can you expand on that suggestion in your question or an answer? I'm not 100% clear what you mean.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 11:51
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    @balpha OK, I understood that your proposal to deal with this was to add a kickban feature and then kickban people, and in general to give room owners and mods more moderation tools to deal with situations like this. But still, can you elaborate on why you don't like the proposal by ThiefMaster? Right now all I can get from your post is that you feel it's somehow "punishing" the low-rep users who don't spam, and I have no idea how you come to this conclusion.
    – l4mpi
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 11:55
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    @balpha, not be a chat user, I don't see how not listing the user until they can/have talked is punishing them, could you expand on that a little bit?
    – TMH
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:18
  • @l4mpi: retracted my comment; I should try before I speak. The chat UI is patently obvious as to why you cannot yet speak when you have < 20 rep. Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:22
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    "Maybe I'm over-romanticizing this, but there's a reason that when you enter the room, you see yourself flying into the user list" - IMO you are definitely over-romanticizing this. If the only thing a user loses is seeing their image flying into the sidebar until they have 20 rep, this seems like an incredibly small sacrifice to make sure nobody can ever again spam chat with sock puppet accounts (at least not until farming 20 rep on each of them, which makes it some orders of magnitude harder). Also, new users won't feel a sense of loss as they never experienced this in the first place.
    – l4mpi
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 12:43
  • Will step 2. allow the room owners to kick the offending users too? That would solve this issue right here.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 15:07
  • @ɥʇǝS Kick-banning is incredibly inefficient...
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 20:11
  • @hichris I'm not talking about kick banning, but having the ability to kick as well as suspend a user from the room. User presence is causing this problem, and right now only mods can fix it.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 20:14
  • @ɥʇǝS I'm kind of hoping that point 2 will be something similar to what I proposed here Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 20:15
  • @Jon Shog's answer here looks good too: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/229905/…
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 20:19
  • @ɥʇǝS indeed - they're very similar - the Don't allow kicking users who haven't talked (at all or since the last kick) rule wouldn't work in the case that's inspired this discussion though... Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 20:32

Display users in the list who

  • are in the room
  • have entered the room and are able to speak or have spoken in the last X hours

This makes the list of people in the room the list of active people in the room.

X could be an hour, a couple of hours, or even a day, or a week, or whatever the chat room wants.

Observers with not enough rep cannot be active, so they would not show up in the list. Complete lurkers would fade from the list, and you'd have a better idea of who it is you are actually talking to.


Just a thought -- why not just hide the user's avatar and replace it as default, or issue a flag on the users avatar -- enough flags would either:

a) Display a default gravatar to users of chat so the troll thinks it's working, but only they see it


b) Simply assign the avatar as default and notify the user "Your avatar was flagged for being [reason here (offensive most likely)], please (optional feature) wait [time] and assign a new one"

I think option a would be easier and simpler, with a potential counter-troll measure.

Edit: we just had a user flaming 9/11 by having the burning twin towers as his image, and the name "lets bomb the twin towers again". I tried to kick, but since the user hasn't spoken, this does nothing. Complex code or not, something needs (and apparently is being) to be done about it.

  • Hiding for everyone is unjust punishment for most users, who are legit. Adding flag ability is both complex addition to code, and keep in mind those trolls just keep creating new accounts, so it would be a pain for the users to keep flagging. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 15:09
  • True, it would give room owners a chance though. But a flag system would be tough. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 15:30
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    Not sure we're going to to exactly this, but I like the direction this is going in the best. So... have a bounty :)
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:05
  • My first bounty on any stack site <3 I'm glad I could help even in the slightest! Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:12

I'd like to speak in favour of the original change, rather than just anonymising avatars.

I tried joining a chat channel with an account that has less than 20 rep (I just wanted to read it, I wasn't planning to chat). That immediately made the account show up in the user list, and I started receiving pings (it was a small channel and people were curious). There was nothing I could do about them on that account, though, because I didn't have the reputation to reply (and couldn't use the common indirect methods of replying either, because an account with 5 rep can hardly do anything). If I'd been a new user (rather than merely a very new account that I hadn't linked for the association bonus yet), this would have been very confusing and offputting.

On the other hand, it's possible to join a chat channel without logging in at all, if all you want is to read the conversation (which is, indeed, all I wanted). As such, placing a person into the user list if they're logged in (but with insufficient reputation) is a complete anti-feature; it prompts comments directed at them which they can't reply to, and it leaks information about what they're doing on-site. If a <20 rep user were even slightly concerned about privacy, it'd be 100% a better idea to log out before joining a chat channel than it would be to join it directly, as it would hide their username from the user list and not give them any other downsides (as you can't do anything in chat with <20 rep as it is).

(It's worth noting that most public chat systems take the opposite approach, leaving users out of the user list until they say something. Even on IRC, where the list of users in a channel is normally publicly available, the convention is to treat a user as though they don't exist until their first comment. Note that because pings go to the inbox if the user isn't there, there's no reason for people in the channel to know whether a given user is reading it "live" or not, if they aren't speaking.)

So, please implement at least the OP's request as stated: if a user can't talk in chat because their reputation is too low, don't show them in the user list. There's really no benefit to this for anyone, and there are notable downsides in terms of confusing new users. Going further, and hiding users who haven't spoken yet, is perhaps even better, as it would help prevent gaining reputation from turning (in a minor way) into a disadvantage, which is clearly a perverse outcome.


An idea would be to give room owners the ability to (re-)set the user's avatar to the default gravatar system. Perhaps only for that specific room.
A (automated) avatar reset as the result of flags is also an option.

This function could be limited to work on low rep users only.

This way, you're not limiting a potentially valuable new user, in the chat, but you have a way of dealing with offensive avatars.

  • That's not an ability room owners should have. Oh, and the resetting 15s timer on comments is annoying :p Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:21

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