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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


★8 Oct 8 11:49 PM


View recent chat messages →

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.

  • 1
    I've got to say, this is an interesting idea. Two questions: How would we choose which chat messages to show? Would it be site rooms go onto the site profile? Or messages from all chatrooms to formed a mini "chat network profile?" But your "hidden motive" also scares me. Chat is supposed to be a bit of a social place, and I don't think it would discourage "star battles". If stars become disputable, it could just create more of a problem (e.g. Who starred that? You're in big trouble now! <- 5 stars) – Zizouz212 Dec 5 '15 at 0:51
  • 24
    Why would I want a bunch of out of context nonsense appearing on my profile? – yannis Dec 5 '15 at 0:57
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    Most messages starred in chat aren't meant to be highlighted as a great contribution to society. They just are witty, or have some information useful to a few, but not to the masses. – hichris123 Dec 5 '15 at 0:57
  • 5
    It's an interesting idea, but I don't know if it'll help with the Chat - QA standards divergence. The best approach to that might be to just set a standard that employees, and later moderators, will consistently apply some kind of chat standard. I don't know that exposing crap is a good way to fight crap - let's just fight the crap, and give moderators the tools and precedent to do so. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Dec 5 '15 at 0:57
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    Considering that the people who are currently, for lack of a better term, misbehaving don't see anything wrong with their posts, I'm not sure "risk of public shaming" is the right approach here. I'm concerned about the same thing Ashley mentioned in her answer - you can't control who stars your stuff. Other people effectively control your profile when it comes to chat if this is in place and that's... weird. – Adam Lear Dec 5 '15 at 1:03
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    @AdamLear: I agree that public shaming won't work for many people. I'd argue that you remain firmly in control of your profile since you are still the author of the messages. That said, I'm sure someone could find junk I've said that would make me look bad if taken out of context. I guess I don't see how this would be substantially different than the existing star wall. Chat often moves fast enough that people need to click through to find context anyway. – Jon Ericson Dec 5 '15 at 1:10
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    @JonEricson I can recall numerous occasions when something I said getting starred made me uncomfortable. Not necessarily because it was offensive or over the top, but because it just drew attention to me that I didn't anticipate within chat. I can only see this being amplified with chat stars being promoted on Q&A sites. Even for questions/answers we only list links, not actual content on profiles. Speaking of which... linking to people's chat profiles from their site profiles might be a nice compromise here. – Adam Lear Dec 5 '15 at 1:14
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    @JonEricson p.s. the existing star wall is fundamentally different for the very thing you're trying to address - it's virtually undiscoverable by most people. (edit: The star wall also moves a lot faster (in active rooms, at any rate) than the 3-month window proposed here.) – Adam Lear Dec 5 '15 at 1:15
  • 4
    How about you freeze the Lounge and let the rest of us enjoy chat? Not a great idea, but then neither is this. – yannis Dec 5 '15 at 1:33
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    That said, I am not convinced there's much in chat that deserves showcasing. – yannis Dec 5 '15 at 1:59
  • 3
    You get me back the search-in-starred-messages functionality and we'll talk. I'll still think this is a crazy-bad idea, but we'll talk. – Tim Stone Dec 5 '15 at 5:13
  • 2
    I'm confused about all the people arguing that you "wouldn't have control" over the chat messages appearing on your profile. You don't "have control" over which questions and answers appear there, either...we default to showing the top few by votes, which is not necessarily the same as the ones that the author is most proud of. We've long maintained that if you're typing words into a box on Stack Exchange, you should expect it to be public. I don't see this as altering any fundamental tenants of how the site works. – Laura Dec 8 '15 at 19:13
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    A better way to "bring a chat a little closer" would be to provide a link to a user's chat profile in their profile. Because right now that's mod-only, but I'd really like to have it everywhere (and apparently the chat.foo/accounts/123 method no longer works). – Doorknob Dec 14 '15 at 13:29
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    For many 2nd Monitor regulars, that recent chat messages section would say "lol ⭐ 5" and "gosh I'm out of stars again ⭐8" – Mathieu Guindon Dec 14 '15 at 14:42
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    Chat messages can be starred completely out of context. Displaying such messages on a profile will not be helpful in the least. – Mast Dec 14 '15 at 14:46
21

I can see some use for that, but I can also see some down sides - take rooms like the Bridge, where things are more starred based on amusement value rather than usefulness - I can see where people might not want those things on their profile. Not that any of the starred things are things people shouldn't have said in a public, indexed room, but at the same time, since you can't control who stars your stuff, I can see out of context stars being a problem.

Not sure if that will dissuade people from posting things that might get starred and then show up weird out of context on your profile, but it might generally be problematic. Things I say in chat might have little to nothing to do with what I do on the site - in places I spend a lot of time, I kick back with SE friends in chat the same way I would if we were hanging out in real life.

Another question I have in relation to this is private rooms - I'm a mod, so I post in TL and other rooms where there are good reasons that things I say in there may get starred in that room, but I wouldn't want necessarily, depending on context, for those things to be visible outside of the private rooms I am speaking in.

There's also the usual star-bandit sort of situation, where someone goes on a spree and goes starring various messages in a row just for the shits and giggles, as it were.

I can definitely see why some sort of tracking publicly of chat stuff might be useful, but I'm definitely concerned about some of the possible implications.

  • 9
    I should have been clearer about it, but private rooms would not be exposed publicly this way. That would be all sorts of disastrous. ;-) – Jon Ericson Dec 5 '15 at 1:02
13
  • I assume that moderator rooms will be excluded from this
  • I assume that the most recently-starred messages from the rooms of a site will be posted to the user's profile on that site.

  1. I highly doubt that this will prevent the posting of offensive messages - hopefully they're unlikely to get starred, but even if they are, I would wonder how often users 1) look at other users' profile pages and 2) would look at these sections.

  2. And, if a moderator is to come across these messages later... what is the expected response? Ignore it? Suspend them? How new does the message need to be for us to suspend? Or is it just another judgement call?

  3. I'm concerned that users can't control who stars their messages, though it's not very different from the rest of their profile, except that users can't edit their messages. While on the main site, users can delete or edit their posts (and delete their comments) subject to a few restrictions, chat messages are set in stone after two minutes, unless spam/offensive flags are validated on them, or a moderator deletes them.

  4. This might actually lead to an increase in the amount of flags raised overall, as users who are unable to delete chat messages that they dislike may be compelled to ask other users to flag them for moderator attention. This could have the interesting effect of users getting themselves suspended by asking others to flag as spam/offensive...

  5. How and which messages are shown on the profile may also lead to increased starring of less-relevant messages - a culture of star-abuse, to game the system and show only certain messages, is likely to emerge. Users may collude to star certain messages from themselves or others, causing them to be displayed on profile pages.

  6. If this happens to a user, who makes something that is completely harmless in context but even borderline offensive out of context, they may not notice until after the fact, and even then, there's no clear remedy except as outlined in point 4 above.


A few of these concerns are likely me over-thinking things. And while it would be desirable that chat and QA have similar standards, I think that, by their nature, they're likely to be different from each other, and that chat rooms, like different bars, are likely to have different cultures. However, there are some things that are frowned upon anywhere, and some things that are completely unacceptable anywhere. And the fact that people in a room are comfortable with what they are doing does not make those things okay or acceptable, nor should they necessarily continue to be allowed just because they've not explicitly been disallowed in the past.

But essentially my view is that this proposal while good-intentioned is unlikely to solve the problems that it sets out to, and is much more likely to cause other, more time-consuming problems.

10

As one of the folks who get starred more often on my native room... this sounds like a pretty bad idea.

A good chunk of the time I say ahh gets starred... which would probably confuse folks. Chat's also the social space and in some cases doesn't quite reflect my public or on site persona.

While we joke about chat being the red-headed stepchild of the network, its role as a semi-neutral, social space is where its value is to me, and it can't really be considered in the same vein as the primary sites, or the new intiatives SO/SE is doing with regards to documentation. Maybe I'm unclear on what a 'chat contribution' is, since very little 'heavy' site related stuff gets starred. I doubt anyone would star me trying to deal with a hysterical user, but I'm pretty darned sure someone would star me going "woof", or "ahh".

we think some rooms have gotten too comfortable with the relative undiscoverable nature of chat.

Amusingly, some site related chat goes elsewhere because of the relatively discovered nature of chat, and the fact that there's stuff which we're cool with discussing with folk, but don't want scattered all over google. Sometimes I'd love less discoverability.

I'd suggest a few things instead for dealing with the hidden problem.

Let mods (and room owners?) see who starred something. We've got star abuse, and in the nature of self-regulation, we can say "hey, knock it off" to the appropriate people.

I've also found where there's an actual problem (we've been dealing with a few rambunctious puppies newbies the past few days), much to my suprise, the blue wave does seem to work well, since we have a core of well behaved regulars.

I have a few ideas on dealing with problem rooms but that needs a little more chewing on.

In the end though, it feels like this muddies the chat experience, by shoehorning what's pretty heavily a social fora for the site, into profiles, to try to solve a problem that doesn't really exist for a good chunk of users.

9

The primary feedback this proposal got concern that surfacing starred messages to the profile leaves people open to embarrassment when other people star out-of-context messages. Personally, I find that it delightful when that happens:

I've been thinking we should kill . ★6 Nov 27 '12

But I do get that others might not appreciate it as much. (Let's be honest, I was angling for the stars here.)

I considered two alternatives:

  1. Display X recent chat messages regardless of whether they are starred. This would mean that every once in awhile people will see something awesome, but mostly it will be random chit chat.

  2. Use some more general information from the chat profile such as what rooms you participate in and how active you are.

Of the two, I prefer the second as a way to get a fair overview of a user's chat activity. I envision the new section to look something like:

Chat (3)

Tavern on the Meta

CoGro Musings

Jon's Java Jitter Joint

view recent chat activity →

Notes:

  1. Only rooms that show up in the "recent" tab of your chat profile will be displayed. Currently that would mean only the rooms in which your last 50 messages have been posted in will be included.

  2. Private rooms won't show up here. As seen above, gallery rooms would be included. (If you are a moderator, you can get an idea of which rooms will be listed by going to your recent tab with an incognito browser session.)

  3. On Stack Exchange sites, just the rooms associated with the particular site would be included. So people won't see The Sphinx's Lair on your DBA profile. This might be complicated by the 50 message limit. It might be better to use a time period instead for the "recent" tab.

  4. Since this is at the bottom of the page, there would be plenty of room for to chat room boxes:

    Tavern on the Meta

    Those have the additional advantage of allowing users to access the transcript to lurk rather than join directly among other things.


In addition, I think we can improve the chat profile to draw out good content. While thinking about my initial proposal, it occurred to me that it's actually a bit hard to see recent starred messages. In addition to the "general", "recent" and "conversations" tabs, I propose adding a "starred" tab that shows recent starred messages. Since this is in the chat profile, there's not much risk of (additional) embarrassment.

  • 1
    I like the idea of showing rooms you are active in. I think it provides enough information to show that you are active outside of the main site and meta. It also provides a nice (clickable) link between the main user and the chat user. – Andy Dec 13 '15 at 4:30
  • Unrelated...that CoGro room needs more activity. I like reading tidbits in there. It's sad it see "36 days later…" :( – Andy Dec 13 '15 at 4:30
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    I would not want any of my starred messages in the Bridge to be on display anywhere else. – fredley Dec 14 '15 at 13:53
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    I like 3 though, and I think the only thing that'd make this proposal close to meaningful is 3. – M.A.R. Dec 14 '15 at 14:32
  • @ShadowWizard he obviously do, also, through I sometimes say some insightful stuff on chat that rarely (never?) get stared, just funny stuff. – Braiam Dec 14 '15 at 14:41
  • I'm in favor of the second option (the idea of including general chat information) – THelper Dec 14 '15 at 14:42
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    I disagree; showing starred out-of-context messages in the profile is not much different than going into the room and seeing the starred out-of-context messages on the starboard. Also, I want a hat. – user307833 Dec 14 '15 at 15:03
  • I think the second option is more workable, I don't mind people seeing where I choose to hang out on the network. But because I can't control stars and context, I really don't see a good reason for me to have starred stuff I have said there because I can't control what gets selected (and then we are back to revenge starring considerations and all that fun stuff.) – Ash Dec 14 '15 at 16:14
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    This is much better -- expose the room and not the individual messages on the main site (my answer has the same motivation). To avoid user confusion ("why this room but not that one?), instead of trying to morph the 50-messages threshold around private rooms and other sites, I'd suggest just going with a time limit. And I agree about adding a "stars" tab to the chat profile; that's hard to find now. – Monica Cellio Dec 14 '15 at 16:50
  • I like the idea of showing which chat rooms you frequent. Maybe it could also, alongside of having a limit, display how many messages you've posted in each room. That way people can look at it and go "Man, that guy has a lot of free time at work!" Also, hat, want, etc. – SaintWacko Dec 14 '15 at 21:50
  • It's probably not a bad idea to have the room parent site icon displayed somewhere. I don't know whether all site rooms have obvious titles. – jimsug Dec 15 '15 at 3:11
  • I'm voting for alternative 2 ;) – DavidPostill Dec 18 '15 at 12:05
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    I agree with alternative 2. – Riker Dec 19 '15 at 17:26
  • Same here, option 2 would be a nice improvement. – luk2302 Dec 21 '15 at 8:45
  • I have to say, I was much more into this proposal when it was about showcasing a bit of content I had produced, that was selected by others as having some sort of merit (starred). That's what my profile does now, it would just be extended to chat. I'm much less excited about some sort of activity tracker, which feels reminiscent of gaming "Achievements" and seems more to showcase how much time I waste (to the casual observer) than anything particularly noteworthy or interesting. – Air Dec 29 '15 at 1:19
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I've thought about this for a few hours now. At first I thought this sounded like a good idea, but I've changed my mind. It has to do with something that has already been mentioned:

  • I have no control over what appears on my profile. For questions, answers, comments, edit suggestions, etc - those are all things I've done. With this suggestion, it depends on what others have done to me: flag a message.

The example you provide, I think, is a good reason this doesn't work. "Hmm" doesn't show case anything about the user. It doesn't show positive interactions that user has had. It doesn't show negative interactions. This type of message, on a profile, doesn't do anything for the user.

Another example is one of my recent starred messages.

"Feature request for Smokey: A way to prevent all of this ^. ".

Even with a link to the transcript, this message doesn't show context, because the two pages of deleted messages directly above my message don't show in the transcript. My message was made at a time when messages were being posted and deleted quickly. The problem was temporary and resolved. The stars at the time were likely from other users that had been expressing frustration at the time too. The temporal nature of these stars is not something I'd promote on my profile if I had a choice.

The other part that bothers me, is that once a message in chat is over 2 minutes old, I can't do anything about it. If I gather stars on a message that I don't want displayed on my profile, how do I remove the message? Can we request disassociation from a chat message (serious question)? If I post a question or answer that I don't want on my profile I have that option. Does such an option exist for chat?

I understand the hidden motivation and that's part of why I liked the idea initially. But, after thinking about it a bit, I'm just not a fan of how little control I have over what appears in my own profile.

4

There have been some issues raised with the idea that I agree with:

  • Starred messages can be taken out of context.
  • Starred messages might simply be jocular ones that one might not want to expose to the world.
  • Various bits of crap can get pulled up.
  • Users can get shamed by embarrassing messages.

There is, I think, a solution, and it would hopefully solve this problem:

Let users customize what messages are shown.

A form of this already exists in the ability to hide network communities. I don't have to show my profile from a site that might be controversial - and might have posts that are less professional that an employer or other observer might like - and so I can bundle away anything unimportant that might be a bit embarrassing.

I propose that users can select from a list of their starred messages which ones they want shown - or if they want any shown at all.


Without something like this, though, I don't think the proposal could work.

  • 3
    This defeats the hidden - and only - motive of the feature. Threat of public shaming doesn't work if you get to pick and choose what messages will be shown. – yannis Dec 5 '15 at 1:35
  • @Yannis That's an excellent point, but that wasn't the only motivation. – HDE 226868 Dec 5 '15 at 1:47
3

As others have pointed out, there are problems with this for the users in question: I can't control what gets starred, the context is usually lost, and it's going to be more cryptic than inviting to the users you're hoping to draw into chat (one of the reasons you gave).

Instead of exposing stars at the level of the individual user, why not expose the room's stars? Often, in my experience, room stars come in clusters and are collectively meaningful while individual ones might not be. Stack Exchange already thinks it's useful to compile a room's stars on a single page; in fact, the chat FAQ has this to say on the subject:

The room sidebar is intended to be a collaboratively created mini-timeline of interesting room events for people who don't have time to read the entire chat transcript for that particular room.

Instead of hooking into individual profiles, maybe expose that. You already highlight (some) chat rooms on the main site, so maybe something like this:

mockup

Or if you want more visibility, you could use the community bulletin (when there's nothing more important to bump it off the list). Link to the stars list for the site's main room, or, for sites that have more than one "top-level" room (I don't mean "discussion on post by X" rooms here), rotate this link among those rooms, preferring rooms with recent activity and "enough" participants in the discussion (TBD).

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