There has been quite a few times that I wished I could send a message to another user on SO - not ask a question for everyone to see, but just a short message informing them of something or requesting them to do something. Are there any plans to allow this to happen in the future?
This has been suggested many, many times, going all the way back to the earliest days of the site. Prior to the creation of Meta SO, feature requests were posted on UserVoice:
Declined without comment.
it's possible we might have some kind of messaging function later, so as not to expose emails but let users communicate. But it's low priority.
Comments were added to the system to allow users to communicate with each other in the context of a specific post.
it's about the questions and answers, not social networking. But if you want to contact someone, check their profile -- they will provide an URL or email address there.
Declined without comment
Later on, the system was expanded to allow notifying other users of comment-replies.
Even with the ability to communicate with other involved users in regards to a specific post, the requests kept on coming. When Meta Stack Overflow replaced UserVoice, the number of feature-requests exploded:
The consistent response to this is that it's a bad idea, because:
It could hide information from the community: useful information transmitted privately is unavailable to other readers, subverting the core purpose of the site.
It could be used to harass other users ("Answer my question!", "Accept my answer!", "Yer momma so fat she overflows the stack!", etc...)
However, there is some value in being able to communicate with other users outside the context of a specific question or answer. This point was conceded with the implementation of a chat system: users on every Stack Exchange site can create and participate in chat rooms, integrated with the normal user accounts. There are still no truly private messages between users, but for those who want to chew the fat or discuss whatever outside the confines of the sites themselves, this can provide a viable solution.
Finally, it became apparent that moderators occasionally need to contact users about sensitive topics, and relying on email for this created problems. So the ability for moderators to send a private message to another user was implemented. The use of these messages are heavily restricted, reviewed by the system administrators, and reserved for critical messages only.
For normal users, the advice remains: if you want others to be able to contact you privately, add basic contact info to your profile's bio page.
I suggest doing this like on Wikipedia.
All registered users already have an email address associated with their account. Add "Enable e-mail from other users" to user prefs. For those who have the option enabled, "E-mail this user" link appears on their user profile. Clicking that takes you to a form for writing a message.
This would be pretty cheap to implement and unobtrusive for potential recipients (opt-in required; email address is never revealed to the sender or general public), yet effective.
Some people argue that private messaging is not a good idea for the community.
This I don't get.
When you disallow private messages you ultimately get people shouting over the heads of everyone else (i.e. over posts, comments) in order to communicate 1-1.
I remember such horrors from other Q&A/Sex-Change web sites that shall not be named where at some point half the questions became
"eh, this question is for [highest ranked C++ guy], ...". This might not occur exactly the same way in SO since people do vote down and close annoying messages, but it does occur in milder ways.
Other reasons why it should be easy to send a private message to a member:
- You may want to ask them a private question or offer them a job.
- Your question may not to be public for some reason, perhaps due to company IP issues, and so you need to seek help privately.
- The question may only be answerable by a specific person. E.g. someone who is a writer or major contributor of some library that you use, and posting it on SO might be a big waste of time since very few people use it and know it well enough. This happened to me. I asked a bunch of questions about some library that turns out only select people actually used. I didn't know who they were beforehand, and most of my questions didn't really get answered because the probably missed them.
But above all, I really dislike seeing comment threads that have in-jokes and personal chats. If people want to talk they should be able to do so in private. I don't think that would hurt the site at all.
No there isn't and I like it that way. It's a Q&A site and this strongly encourages that all answers and comments are part of the record rather than, say, the OP and someone else getting into a private chat and solving the problem to the benefit of noone else.
So I'm strongly opposed to private messaging.
The biggest weakness of the current system is that someone can leave a comment on one of your posts, you essentially reply to them and theres no way to bring this to their attention (unless they've subscribed to the question, which lets face it doesn't happen). This can be an issue if you've been marked down and want to correct the issue.
The ways that propose this is done (and I like the idea):
- Allow messaging only after a certain amount of reputation is acquired. This is to stop a million new users messaging Jon Skeet. But, if Jon Skeet messaged a person with 1 rep, they could respond.
- Allow users to opt out of messaging, and/or set a "reputation threshold". If a users reputation threshold is X, then only users with reputation > X can message them.
I think private messaging would be a great feature. There are plenty of times I want to take a conversation (going on in comments) offline. Also, I have gotten to know/recognize some users as I have used stack overflow because these people post on the same posts I do. It would be nice to be able to recommend posts to people because they might be interested in reading the question or would have good input. I am not inclined to put my personal email on stack overflow, so having an integrated messaging system would be nice.
In fact, if people don't want to have messaging supported, it would be nice even to just have "question recommendations". Just something that lets you say to another user "hey, have a look at this question, you might really like it!".
By choice, I have my e-mail/blog etc in my profile; but I've spent years on usenet etc, and this information is very easy to come by anyway.
In all the time on SO, I haven't been pestered. I've had 2, maybe 3 people asking me about a question - which I've either taken back to the site, or (in one case) pointed out that I was the editor, not the answerer - and that I couldn't help.
My conclusion is that in terms of regular questions/answers there isn't a huge demand for this; the only times I can see it being used are in the off-topic flames etc that start; and that isn't a good thing to encourage.
Actually, I would like to have a user-specific moderator ability to add a message to a user, but that is because I sometimes need to get hold of people who haven't provided an e-mail address, to tell them why I've done something; or to "cease and desist" (kindly). But that isn't an issue for most users.
I'm not certain a PM feature would benefit this particular site with this particular community.
Right now the unavailability of PM creates a certain atmosphere. Everything you say has to be said publicly, to be rated or berated by the community.
So that's something special. Public communication being the only communication creates automatic policing -- prevents harassment of certain users (c'mon you know at least 10 nerds wrote marriage proposals in obfuscated C++ and planned to post them as comments..) and actually protects high rep users from private abuse and harassment except as they would otherwise receive from Jeff Atwood.
Do you really want people to be able to PM Mr. Skeet and be like
yo skeet... its dave.. i kno ur busy an all ..
I don't think so. Building messaging into the site has consequences -- namely that consequence that it will be used, appropropriately and inappropriately by certain parts of the user base.
Is it going to add or detract from the site? I think rolling it out as an experimental feature might be a good idea, but I'm not sure what its overall effect (+/-) will be to the communication that happens on the site.
I would request this feature due to a situation I recently came by. I had asked a question and was in the process of trying to find an answer with a particular user (userA). In the course of working it out with userA another user (userB) came a long and offered the exact answer I needed. UserB nailed it on the first time. Shortly afterwards userA posted the same answer in a comment.
Since UserB had far less reputation than UserA and had nailed the answer, I accepted his answer and voted both of their answers up.
I later came back to discover that UserA had voted down my question and deleted all his answers and comments in it, apparently in a fit of rage over my not accepting his answer.
This is a situation where I would very much have liked some sort of direct message to another user. UserA hadn't posted any sort of contact info in his profile. And in an effort to contact him and explain my reasoning for accepting UserB's answer and perhaps apologize for offending him, I ended up commenting on one of his questions.
It doesn't have to be private, but I believe that some sort of way to directly contact other users would be of great use to the SO community in situations such as this and many others. It could be a public wall like facebook, or a direct message - publicly viewable like twitter. If it contained Q/A information that could be useful to the community at large it could be migrated into a question and answer.
If such a thing existed it would be easier to contact UserA in order to explain that I had meant no offense by accepting UserB's answer and that I greatly appreciated his help!
It is possible to send semi-private messages using the chat system, at least if you have enough reputation.
To do this, create a private chat with that user. While (I think) private chats can be viewed by others, they don't show up by default so people will only find them if they're looking for them. Also, inactive chats with few messages are deleted after a while, so once that happens they'll be private.
This is not high security, and there's no guarantee others won't see it, but it's good enough when you want to notify a user, but your communication isn't useful for the rest of the community.
Any way to send a personal message to another user?
Go to the user's page, click on one of their questions or answers, and leave a comment.
When they next visit they will be notified that you have responded to their post.
It's not a private messaging system, but it is a personal messaging system, and it's the only one provided by SO.
Keeping SO impersonal and limited to a Q&A forum does quite a lot to keep discussions from dissolving into flame wars. It also helps to keep discussions on-topic, which is a good thing for a Q&A forum. IMHO, if SO was turned into a social networking site the quality of material would degrade rapidly. Therefore I think there is a reasonable argument that SO should discourage personal contacts or conversations by design.
If some enterprising bod wants to start a 'Stackers' web site or mailing list they could but it needs to have a certain distance from SO and strictly discourage discussion of SO Q&A material so the actual Q&A doesn't get dragged off SO and lost in the social networking fluff.
It might be argued that there's a niche for a geek version of LinkedIn and the requests for contacts and messaging facilities are indiciative of that demand (in fact, that facility used to be known as 'Usenet' before it got destroyed by spam).
However, the objectives and design for such a site are in tension if not in conflict with the design objectives of Stackoverflow and it should maintain a deliberate distance from Stackoverflow even if Joel and Jeff decide to build it.
Well I think there isn't any IM sort of mechanism as of now.
However if you only want the target user to look at something, you can post a comment under one of his questions or responses.. that should light up his/her envelope icon. Also consider deleting your 'look here' comment once your goal is achieved. Also use with extreme discretion.
I think I've only had this need once - and it was to have a top poster look at one of my questions which didn't seem to be going anywhere with the answers.
Rather than posting my email address in my profile for all to see, I'd like the idea of having a section of my user profile that is visible to other users that I designate as "contacts" (or "friends" though I hate that term). I'm somewhat paranoid about posting personal info to the general public.
I don't see the need for private messages / chat / etc., however: it seems like it would be an unnecessary resource drain for this site, something that should be carried on in an out-of-band channel.
A couple of times, I've started answering a question only to see the question closed before I can submit my answer. This can be frustrating and I have even resorted to digging up the user's email address and contacting him that way. Being able to answer closed questions would be ideal, but some way to direct message the user who asked the question would have saved a lot of clicking.