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Chat rooms that have been inactive for a period of time and which have fewer than 15 messages are automatically deleted. This is a very reasonable thing to do in general, but not when the room was created to host a conversation that had begun in the comments.

When two users exchange too many comments under a post, they are prompted to take it to chat. However, this prompt can appear before they've reached the threshold of 15 messages that ensures that the room isn't deleted, resulting in rooms that have potentially useful discussions relevant to a post being deleted for inactivity.

Since we already have users complaining that the only reason we want to move stuff to chat is to shut them up, having their discussion deleted after they did The Right Thing® and moved it to chat doesn't feel right.

So, I am proposing that if a room was created by moving a conversation to chat, it should be protected from automatic deletion no matter how many messages they contain or how old the room is.

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    This feature request seems related to the same problem: Make chat room transcripts forever public if the room was auto-deleted.
    – Martin
    Mar 11, 2019 at 10:59
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    We need this desperately. Moderators from across the SE network regularly move "crowded" comment threads to chat, using it as an "archive". Yet, within six months, the chat room can be automatically deleted, taking all of the information with it. This defeats the purpose of chat as an archive. We might as well just delete the comments altogether. I just got a flag on one of my auto-comments, generated from moving a discussion from comments to chat. The flag said that the chat room link is dead. Doh! It sure was. That's a broken feature.
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 22, 2020 at 9:13
  • terdon, do you know what the status of this is? Also, would the only situation where comments-moved-to-chat is deleted be the <15 & <2 rule? Otherwise, it would just be archived but reader-recoverable? Thanks.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 8 at 1:44
  • @fixer1234 Yes. Inactive rooms that have more than 15 messages from two or more users are frozen (which retains public read access), not deleted. Sep 1 at 22:26

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I agree with this, especially for cases where a moderator has moved a comment discussion to chat. I agree with Cody Gray's comment: the whole point of a moderator moving comments to chat instead of outright deleting them is if they consider the comments valuable in some way, i.e. worth retaining in some archive, and that deleting them automatically after a period is antithetical to that.

A few days ago, I ran into this on the Aviation site: one of my posts had hit hot network questions, and the comments contained some valuable improvement suggestions, but many others began tangential discussion in the comments and a moderator moved the discussion to chat. As the post didn't garner enough comments for the system to consider the ensuing room worth retaining, it was automatically deleted. I felt that the comments were still valuable, even the ones with tangential discussion, so I flagged my post for a moderator to ask for the room to be undeleted, and the mod agreed.

Another reason I come across is when a user doesn't notice that a comment they've posted is a repost of a comment (from another user) that was moved to chat. While this can't by nature be wholly resolved (since the prior comment is behind a link), at least some users can and do check the chat room to see if they're reposting a moved comment, so having the room continue to be public will allow such users to check and allow others to flag new comments as reposts.

Finally, the current behavior results in confusion from new users. As an example, the 404 page combined with the prompt that one needs 20 reputation to talk can mislead them into thinking they need 20 reputation to read all rooms' chat transcripts. There's also the aforementioned issue of the point of chat moving being intended to archive comments, which auto-deleting the room nullifies.

An edge case I've also run into is where a question was closed with a custom comment, which was later moved to chat. In that case, it was fine as there were enough comments moved for the system to retain the room, but if there weren't, that custom explanation would have been completely wiped.

In conclusion, rooms that were created as a result of comment-to-chat migrations should always be considered "worth retaining" for the purposes of the system's rules, even if they don't meet the message criteria: they should be writable for 14 days, then frozen (which retains public transcript access), not deleted.

(I guess the only downside I can think of is users who object to not having the ability to delete their own comments once they get moved to chat - waiting for the room to go away on its own was proposed as a solution for such users - but there are other solutions, such as asking for one's messages to be anonymized.)

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    Maybe we should just fix the problem that causes valuable commentary to get moved into chat instead of preserved in context with the post. Moving comments to chat is a baling wire and duct tape fix that causes a bunch of other issues. Just off the top of my head... the participation of anyone who upvoted a comment instead of posting "me too" is lost when transferring comments to chat. The ability to ping participants is lost. The comments can now be interfered with by mods across the network instead of just a site's mod team. It thwarts the comment anywhere privilege rep requirement.
    – ColleenV
    May 2 at 16:44

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