Ever since chat was introduced as a third place, it's been a bit of a third wheel. Many people have entirely functional experiences asking and answering questions without ever finding chat rooms. Even if their comments are moved to chat, it's not obvious that there's an entire world of chat hiding under the surface. New users are treated a bit like Ms. Piggy: "left out of after-work festivities". Some of that is by design. While it can be fun to talk about Friday night for a few minutes on Monday morning, there's a necessary separation between work and fun.
But sometimes real work is done after hours over the beverage of choice. Rooms take a break from posting cat pictures and discussing conspiracy theories to talk about specific questions, tags or site policies. Just as important, chat is a repository of many informative, funny, and insightful messages. Over on Stack Overflow, we are integrating all the things. Now seems a good time to bring chat a little closer to the rest of Stack Exchange.
Proposal: include a sample of recent chat messages written by a user on their profile page. Specifically, include the three most starred recent chat messages.
To demonstrate by example, the following messages would be appended to my Meta Stack Exchange profile (under the badge boxes):
Recent chat stars
Extinguishing tire fires is difficult. The fire releases a dark, thick smoke that contains carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and products of butadiene and styrene. Burning tires are heated and as they have a low thermal conductivity, they are difficult to cool down. Moreover, they frequently burn inside even if they are extinguished from outside, and easily reignite when hot. ★3 Wed 12:06 AM
@ShadowWizard We have an unlimited supply of suspensions in that case. ★6 Oct 19 2:38 PM
Note that since chat would be placed at the bottom of the profile, it doesn't much matter that one of those messages includes a largish image. Unlike the chat sidebar, we can afford to onebox.
If you don't have any starred recent messages on the site's chat, the chat section isn't shown for you. By including only starred messages, we increase odds that they are of some value. Hmm... it's not a perfect algorithm without context. But that's why the date is linked to the full transcript of chat. There's also a precedent for keying off of stars: the Talkative and Outspoken badges.
Due to the somewhat temporal nature of chat, I don't think it makes sense to include messages from several years ago that happened to gather a galaxy of stars. Limiting to the 50 most-recent messages solves that problem for active chatters. But it won't work so well for less-active chatters. So I'd like to redefine "recent" for the purposes of the profile to be within the last 3 months. This will also avoid dropping a highly starred message just because a user has 50 more-recent mundane messages.
Now to the hidden motive: we think some rooms have gotten too comfortable with the relative undiscoverable nature of chat. We've always had the same be nice policy on chat as we do on Q&A. But some rooms interpret that policy radically differently than most of us. If chat rooms really were as private as they sometimes appear, that probably wouldn't be a problem. When you hang out at your neighborhood bar, it's not really rude to call your buddy a so-and-so or bastard or whatnot.
But every now and then a noob wanders into chat and sees behavior that would otherwise be flagged. When they do flag, as seems the right course of action, it's possible an outsider will handle the flag. Messages get deleted, users suspended, and rooms get frozen. Understandably, that annoys groups who feel they have earned the right to speak to each other any way they like. It's just a bad experience for everyone: not least for the regulars who just enjoy each other's company.
A pattern we've seen over and over again is when a regular has their chat message deleted, other members of the room up the ante by posting more potentially offensive things. Obviously, they get flagged as well. And starred. Users from other rooms flood in and see not only the flagged messages, but the starred ones too. So the tire fire flames on.
Exposing chat stars to the main site probably won't stop people from posting things that offend others. (Even it were possible, I don't think that's something we even want.) Nor will it prevent star and flag battles. But I think it will play a small part in evening out the divergent standards on Q&A and some chat rooms.