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If you click on someone in chat, you get a window like this:

Chat Dialogue

This shows when a user is generally active in chat.

Chat is fickle* and will often make you look like you were active. And then someone pings you because it looks like you're active, when you're really snoring on your bed. If you are a mod (or a CM) who has responsibilities, often a single ping is followed by several others in quick succession.

* Many heavy chat users, employees and mods primarily I'd guess, never bother to leave rooms or log out because their computers stay on. Despite not using the computer, for some reason they will pop up as active and their user icon will become un-gray and move to the front of the active users list in the room making it look like they are active when they aren't. I don't know if this is due to the computer waking up, something involving notifications on the mobile app, or something else entirely, but it happens regularly and makes it seem like folks are active when they aren't.

For the person pinging, this can be frustrating as the person you pinged can't actually do anything about it until they wake up. For the person being pinged it's frustrating because you wake up to a bunch of tasks that may have already been completed by someone else, and have to spend time checking to make sure they are done just in case.

To avoid these issues, when you type @jmac or whatnot in chat, it will let you know if the user is usually active during this time. So for instance, in the graph above, we can see that the user is probably sleeping, so the system should give me a little warning window that says:

It looks like Anonymous rarely uses chat at this time of day.

This is just for information purposes, and doesn't actually prevent sending the message, nor should it pop up if someone replies to a message. This will prevent a large portion of those 3am pings that I seem to get with regular frequency, and make sure that folks are addressing people who are conscious and can actually do something.

  • +1 I've already made it a habit to check whether someone is really active and not just idling, before pinging them. This would be faster. – Stijn Sep 24 '14 at 12:08
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    Creating a better way of contacting any CM would be nice - that way we don't pick one at random (or the last active one) and end up pinging someone who's asleep. – ChrisF Sep 24 '14 at 13:10
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    @ChrisF The CM's should always be active. Sleep is not allowed! – Taryn Sep 24 '14 at 14:22
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    As an adjunct to this, it would sure be nice if you could ping a group (mods on a particular site, CMs, and -- for extra credit -- any explicitly-grouped set of users) such that if one picks up the ping, the notifications to the others are marked as handled somehow. – Monica Cellio Sep 24 '14 at 15:13
  • "Chat is fickle and will often make you look like you were active." -- Can you expand on that sentence? I don't understand what you mean there. – balpha Sep 24 '14 at 18:49
  • @balpha I don't think it's that chat is fickle, I think it's that employees (myself included) sometimes leave chat windows open when we're done for the day and if our computer is always on or randomly wakes up from sleep, it makes you appear as "active" in chat. – Laura Sep 24 '14 at 19:08
  • @Laura I've been marked as "active" even though all browsers were closed on my computer. A running theory is that the SE phone app may be contributing this "false sense of activity" as well. – Matt Giltaji Sep 24 '14 at 23:06
  • @balpha made an edit to explain it better. – jmac Sep 24 '14 at 23:12
  • Ah yes, that would be because the computer goes to sleep (thus the browser stops talking to chat, so after 10 minutes it assumes you're gone), and when for whatever reason your computer wakes up again, and then your browser loads the page again, and so you enter it. I have some small ideas for this, but in general my opinion is that it's pretty unfair for you to insult chat for this, when you say for yourself that you "never bother" to leave the room. – balpha Sep 25 '14 at 4:55
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    @MattGiltaji Pardon my words, but that so-called "running theory" is pure nonsense. The SE phone app does not talk to chat at all. – balpha Sep 25 '14 at 4:56
  • Apologies if it came across as an insult @balpha! Wasn't intended. The behavior is mysterious to me as someone who uses it a lot. I guess we really do fear the things we don't understand? – jmac Sep 25 '14 at 5:02
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    jmac and I had a discussion about this in one of our internal chat rooms, I've moved it to a public room here: chat.meta.stackexchange.com/transcript/776 – balpha Sep 25 '14 at 6:16
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I'm not sure if we really need a warning, just a way to show that they probably aren't awake (since it'll probably be only power users using this anyway). For users that we have enough information on to make this (insanely creepy) prediction on, how about this?

enter image description here

This image has been... slightly altered (yay chrome dev tools), but you get the idea. I would propose only showing the 'usually active' text for the first one in the autocomplete line, I put it in the second one just to show how cases of current-activity could be handled.

Whatcha think?

  • If we're going to do it that way, I'd just prefer that we prioritize how faces are greyed out in chat. If they say something, they are active. If they don't say something, but pop in the room during the time they usually talk, they are active. If they appear in the room when usually inactive, they stay inactive. – jmac Sep 25 '14 at 0:02

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