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Moderators can move comments to a chat room associated with the post, and now we don't even have to wait for 20 comments to be posted in a short period of time -- we can do this at any time via the mod menu. This is great; it gives people a place to have that tangential discussion that might be valuable but isn't about the post any more and doesn't belong on the main site.

Here's the problem: we move comments to chat, which leaves an auto-generated comment saying "comments have been moved to chat (link)". And then some people continue the discussion in chat but other people keep commenting. At that point our choices are:

  • delete the comments (failure to follow directions), but users think this is mean and it's also tedious to do (have to either delete them individually or purge and then dig through the big pile to undelete the "moved to chat" comment buried in the middle)
  • leave it alone, but then we're being inconsistent (why did those have to move but not these?)
  • hand-copy them into the chat room, which is a lot to ask of moderators (translation: no)

The "move comments to chat" feature is single-use; once it's been used on a post it's grayed out on the menu, presumably because bad things would happen if it tried to create the same chat room a second time.

Would it be possible for that option to remain (optionally renamed "add comments to chat" if you think that's valuable), with later invocations adding new comments to the existing room? It could find the comment with the link to the room (which might or might not be the earliest comment on the post), and then send everything after that comment to the existing room. (It wouldn't need to generate a new auto-comment, but it would need to make sure those users can chat in that room, same as the current behavior.)

One might ask why we shouldn't instead just shut down comments after a move to chat -- once there's a chat room, force everything there and take away the "add comment" link. Attractive as that idea is to me, it also prevents the (few) comments that are actually what comments are for -- requests for clarification. If we can come up with a practical way to add some friction for post-migration comments that'd be cool, but we're always going to end up with some comments that should be in the chat room but aren't. I'd like to have a way to send them there.

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    This would be great. – enderland Sep 21 '15 at 18:49
  • This is a great idea! Super-minor point: I don't think the renaming is a good idea. The renaming changes "move comments to chat" to "add comments to chat". To my eye, the difference between "move" vs "add" sounds like the difference between "move" vs "copy" (is a copy of the comment left under the post?), so it seems like the renaming doesn't effectively highlight the actual different. But that's incredibly minor and I wouldn't want it to hold up this suggestion. – D.W. Sep 21 '15 at 18:59
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    @D.W. actually, the current "move" is really a copy. :-) (Mods have to delete the comments once the command completes.) Personally I would leave it as "move" and not change it to "add" because the users of this interface (moderators) don't really need to know the difference. The implementation is a little different between the two cases (in one case we make a room, in the other we find an existing room), but I don't think we need to bubble that up to the UI. Others might, hence my "optional" comment. – Monica Cellio Sep 21 '15 at 19:02
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    I like the idea of it changing to "add" because this signals a new behaviour. Signalling new behaviours is important because it advertises the functionality (increasing discoverability) and because it indicates that activating it would have new results. The alternative, leaving it as "move to chat", is not something it would ever occur to me to use a second time, as I would assume it would do nothing (or worse, do something unexpected). Changing the text may not be the best UX choice, but it's better than the UI doing nothing. – SevenSidedDie Sep 22 '15 at 18:47
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    I really think we should brainstorm something akin to the "Talk" pages of Wikipedia - a zone for people to discuss the questions, away from the high-quality zone, specific for each question. That may be able to solve some of the problems regarding comments around the Exchange. – T. Sar Oct 6 '15 at 17:32
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    This would also be extremely helpful when trying to deal with people answering questions in the comments. At some point, deletion is going to happen, and preserving things in chat helps make that less harsh, but if you can only move once it's not really workable. – Cascabel Jan 29 '16 at 21:29
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    @Jefromi I don't see the problem with just deleting stuff after the "continue conversation in chat" autocomment exists to serve as warning. I'd much rather the "chat-length proto-answers are not welcome" message get across than worry about preserving some proto-answers whose submission actively harms the network. – nitsua60 Aug 23 '17 at 18:28
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    @nitsua60 in principle I'd probably agree, but the big problem is that it tends to escalate rather than de-escalate. People react really badly to deletion sometimes, and sure, most of the time they should've known better, but if moving to chat would prevent the drama half the time I'm still for it. And then it's not always clear-cut; sometimes people genuinely think they've successfully come back to "suggest improvements" and make genuinely good points, just not good for comments, and it'd be great to be able to be nicer to them. – Cascabel Aug 23 '17 at 19:30
  • The concept of pulling out a series of comments and calling them "chat" is a broken on to begin with. Just because there are 2 or 3 people arguing back and forth doesn't mean that it's sensible to remove the comments. It just means that there are only a few people (2 or 3 in this example) that understand that nuanced point well enough to argue their case. Unless the comments are simply not appropos to the subject matter of course; In that case they should simply be deleted. But this mod-enforced "chat" nonsense is a feel-good measure that accomplishes nothing. – tgm1024 Mar 26 at 2:24
  • A far better approach would be to have a highlighting system. Put a pink box around the block of comments that are potentially chat-worthy and put a sideways label to the left saying vertically "Remove to Chat?" You could have a (+) section folding button to collapse it if needed. That would drive the point home while avoiding a ━━━━┫LOT┣━━━━ of ruffled feathers. – tgm1024 Mar 26 at 2:33
  • wow, this wiil be very good – Don'tDownVote Apr 19 at 14:25
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I do not think this would be a good idea.

Right now, if you post a comment after comments have been moved to chat, you enter the risk that it is lost if it isn’t a “proper” comment (i.e., an actual request for clarification, link to relevant related material, etc.). This is a considerable incentive for people to actually take discussions and similar to chat; I strongly suspect that for many users it’s the only incentive. Removing this incentive will lead to many (more) users just continuing to post comments after moving to chat as if nothing had happened, which just means more noise in which moderators have to find “proper” comments.

On Academia SE (which gets a lot of comments), we have have a FAQ to link in the moderator’s comment for moving comments to chat, usually with words like: “please read this FAQ before posting another comment”. It particularly makes clear that any comments after this may be deleted without warning. I have no numbers on this, but in my experience, after comments were moved to chat with this notice, the rate of comments is strictly reduced. Most of the comments after the notice are either “proper” comments, from users who clearly have a very high desire to have their opinion heard (and no, that’s not everybody) or are generally stubborn about this. I am pretty sure that if we could add comments to chat, this effect would be strongly reduced.

Now you might argue that moderators might only use this feature in exceptional cases, but I think that even the availability of this tool would at least suffice to increase disputes about why a moderator deleted when they could have moved to chat.

  • Maybe what we need is for the standard "moved to chat" comment to be more instructive. Having to hand-edit these comments each time is a pain so usually I don't, but why not strengthen the baked-in comment? – Monica Cellio Feb 7 at 16:02
  • @MonicaCellio: Sounds good to me. – Wrzlprmft Feb 7 at 20:36
  • The comments can be selected by checkboxes. When a comment does not need moving into chat, the moderator can uncheck the box for moving comments. – smileycreations15 Mar 8 at 23:56
  • @smileycreations15: Yes, I know. But I fail to see how this relates to my answer. – Wrzlprmft Mar 9 at 8:06
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Why not have any new comments automatically moved to chat? The first batch gets moved and the chat gets created, and then someone else submits a new comment, and the user gets a message saying "Your comment has been automatically moved to chat. Click here to continue the conversation".

Another (better) possibility would be to replace the comment area with the chat feed, and then when a user clicks on it they would go to the chat room. This way they can see if the comment they want to make has already been made, and what kind of conversation is going on. Starred comments could then be migrated out of chat and back under the question, so that serious stuff can be highlighted, and the fluff washes away.

Edit:
Third possibility, make something new.
Let's be honest; chat is an afterthought on SE, was added rather reluctantly, and is still treated as a kind of second class citizen, though slightly better than it was.

I really love chat, and think it's really useful, but it is not the best option for a replacement of comments on a question/answer. A new comment system could be made much better and solve a lot of the problems.

Something like threaded comments, where you could reply to a comment, and instead of having it added to the end, it could be nested underneath and shown/hidden by the user.

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    I'm reluctant to make the OP wade through everything that got moved to chat in hopes of noticing that late-arriving request for clarification. Further, the OP wouldn't be notified of new chat messages, so practically speaking, your proposal would mean that requests for clarification are effectively disabled after comments are moved to chat. I'd love to add more friction post-move, maybe making the commenter click through a "yes, this is really a comment and not discussion", but that's more work (including interface design). – Monica Cellio Jun 8 '18 at 14:37
  • @MonicaCellio For the first idea OP could automatically get the comment notifications, just like they do now, with almost no extra programming. Commenter posts comment, op gets notified, comment is automatically moved. For the second idea it might not be all that hard to set some kind of flag system so that OP gets notified when new messages are posted to their chat room. I've only had one answer with enough comments to get it moved to chat, and it was not a great experience. Basically killed any ongoing activity around the answer. 0/10 would not recommend. It did help me discover chat though. – AndyD273 Jun 8 '18 at 15:20
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As an alternative to allowing comments to be added to chat, I think comments should just be disabled once the first set are moved to chat. If we really want to keep the comments enabled, maybe additional comments should just automatically be added to the chat and not show up under the question/answer.

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    I don't really want to cut off productive comments, especially early. The Workplace gets a lot of comments, sometimes at high velocity; the three or four people having a productive but completely tangential, thus noisy conversation leading to 39 comments in the first two hours shouldn't be able to hijack the post before most people who might have a question or request have even seen it. I do like the idea of automatically adding them to the existing chat; I'd just like to find a way for somebody who comes along later to ask that clarifying question (not in chat). – Monica Cellio Feb 1 '18 at 2:10
  • @MonicaCellio I agree, but I don't think of the chatroom dedicated to the question/answer as being that bad of a place for people to ask clarifying questions. It is a little harder to find, but the burden of the extra click is small relative to the work usually needed to address the comment. – StrongBad Feb 1 '18 at 16:54
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    It's not the askers I'm worried about; it's the post author. We shouldn't make the author go to chat and dig through the transcript to see if anybody had questions for him, and doubly so if it's a new user who already has to learn a bunch of new things to use our sites. – Monica Cellio Feb 1 '18 at 16:57
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    Comments that highlight serious flaws in answers should be neither deleted nor moved to chat, and they should be allowed anytime. Significant comments must remain below the answer. The only reasonable solution is to have more flexibility in the management of comments. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 1 '18 at 19:09
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Just delete the comments. If anyone actually wants to have a conversation they will eventually make their way to the chat room.

delete the comments (failure to follow directions), but users think this is mean

If you aren't being accused of acting improperly then you aren't doing a good job of being a moderator :)

I don't really see making life easier for people who don't know that comments aren't chat as a good use of limited developer time. I would much rather see features that make it more difficult to use comments as a chat room in the first place.

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    You should try moderating on a comment-heavy site. Sometimes we have to pick our battles, and just being able to shovel the additional discussion into the existing chat room so I can focus on other problems would be very helpful. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '17 at 12:58
  • @Monica well, its true that i dont mod a comment heavy site, but i would imagine a tool to stop people leaving comments in the first place would be vastly more helpful. – user160606 Aug 24 '17 at 15:04
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    A pattern I sometimes see on Workplace: new question, 37 comments of discussion, {purge | move to chat}, then a few hours later somebody else has an actual request for clarification. I'd like to not have two or three people who insist on having a discussion or argument prevent everybody else from using comments for their intended purpose. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '17 at 15:29
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    I just saw a case where comments had been moved to chat and 57 more comments were then posted. Several of those were upvoted and the "moved to chat" comment wasn't, so after the first couple comments, nobody saw that there had already been a chat migration. If we had a way to pin that notification that might mitigate the problem, but right now we have people commenting who never even saw the migration -- yeah, maybe they should have expanded and read all the previous comments, but we know people don't always do that. It's messy, and "shovel this into the existing room" would help. – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '17 at 14:50

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