What are the benefits of using a chatroom instead of asking a question directly on a Stack Exchange site?

  • Sometimes, a question can be too broad or too opinion-based for the Stack Exchange Q&A sites. A simple example would be "I'm a Java developer, how do I get started with Python?" I'm not familiar with the culture of the Python chatroom on Stack Overflow, but they might be willing to help.
  • If you have trouble phrasing your question correctly, or generating a MCVE reprex, users in a chatroom might be able to help you interactively, in a better way than comments and/or downvotes on a poor question do.
    • Please don't forget to actually ask the question on the site if you think it has value for future visitors, even if you got the answer in chat already. The Q&A site is way more accessible and searchable than chat.
  • You can ping certain knowledgeable people in chat, if you're specifically interested in what they think about your question. I would only do this if I knew that person well and that they're open to be invited like this. It's not something you should do as a new user, and it's something I'd do in addition to posting the question. In general, you want as much visibility to your question as you can get, and Q&A is much more visible than chat.

But chat is mostly used for other things than Q&A, e.g. coordinated moderation, (as a side channel) for live events, or just to chill.

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Chat's primarily a social space. You get the most out of it simply by hanging out, observing, and getting to know people.

It's not always the best place for asking questions. Rooms have very varying amounts of patience for such things.

In a chat room where people are familiar with me, and vice versa, I know some folks are subject matter experts. More importantly, I sometimes use the room to rubber duck problems that I know will be well-received, and workshop things that could be questions.

In the right chat room, and the right crowd, you often end up being able to work through issues. (This specific one was spectacular, and started with me complaining on chat that updating was borked, and it so happened someone on chat went "OOOH, can I take a look?") Knowing I'd post a question helped too ;).

In the right room, you can troubleshoot, step through problems, and so on.

What doesn't really work is the old IRC pattern of asking, waiting, asking again....

What works is knowing the room and knowing when and how to ask.

So... it's terrible, until you work out how to.

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