Let's make it easier for people discussing a post in comments to retire to chat, without waiting for comments to pile up until the system prompts them or a moderator acts. There are two main use cases:
Two (or more) users start a discussion and somebody realizes it belongs in chat. But it's not very easy to create a room and link it to the post, and the conversation could get lost in a busy general-purpose room, and if you want everything in one place you have to paste in the comments one at a time, and the special case in #2, so they just keep commenting.
A new user needs help with his first post. For good reasons, you need a small amount of reputation (20) to chat, but this unfortunately makes it hard for a willing community to help a brand-new user who shows promise. The alternative to chat is a conversation in comments -- an anti-pattern that we want to stamp out, not model. (New users also tend to expect a forum style, especially because we call them comments, so conversations in comments are the most natural thing in the world for them.)
Let's allow users at some moderately-low reputation level (1000?) to push a button that:
- creates a chat room
- grants access to that room to the post's author and everybody who's commented so far
- copies all comments to the room
- creates a comment on the post linking to the room
This behavior is like the "mod move comments to chat" feature that didn't exist when I proposed something like this in 2013, except that this feature would not delete comments from the post. When the system prompts two users to take a discussion to chat, that also copies but does not delete comments. This is like that.
A community manager wrote about my earlier proposal:
This is something we were looking at strongly, but at the moment, haven't been able to find a satisfiable implementation. It's still something we're considering in some fashion down the road, though. – Grace Note♦ Jul 26 '13 at 15:13
Implementation has gotten easier since then. The "mod move to chat" code exists now and should account for most of the work. I see two remaining pieces of work:
Create a user interface to trigger it. Maybe we add a "start a chat" link next to "add comment", which is replaced with a link saying something like (e.g.) "visit chat room (47 messages, last update 12 min ago)" after somebody does that. Maybe there's a better UI.
Decide how this feature interacts with the mod move. Suppose some users are talking in comments and they get a room. Eventually 20 comments pile up and a moderator receives a flag. If the moderator moves comments to chat, the conversation is forked -- there was already a room, and now there's a new room with some additional comments. This is a problem with the two-users-chatting scenario now, too, but allowing users to proactively create chat rooms could exacerbate the problem. I don't know what we should do about that, other than implementing add comments to chat. (It would be great if we did that anyway, and then we'd get this for free.)