We were recently frozen in a chat room for being too off topic, and because I suggested it. (Oops) I do think it is a good idea overall, but it needs some work.

The feature is intended to get discussion going back in the right direction, which is why it was used here. A few people began talking about Star Craft 2 (understandably), and the room was frozen.

There are a few things that I would change about the current implementation:

problems http://img202.imageshack.us/img202/3604/timeoutt.png

Green Box:

The message given was not helpful. "The room does not exist, or you do not have access - retry / cancel." Here is what went throug hmy head

What, why can't I chat now? Ok, retry, what, same message...hmmm, I must have been banned, or the room got deleted.

This should be giving a different message. "This room has been frozen for X seconds because it has strayed off topic. You may want to move to this room instead: ..." Or something like that.

Red Box:

Ok, timeout.

Well, what exactly does that mean? Why was I pointed to a different room? I don't wanna go to a tavern... When can I get back to chatting about "Chat Feedback"? (the topic of the room)

This needs to give more information. Or give a link to the FAQ that has that information.

  • Support for more graceful handling of things like this is in development. I think for now @balpha did something more... basic ;p Aug 6, 2010 at 21:26
  • @Marc Oh, so he just posted a message, and then did a room-wide gag? I figured he was using something that @waffles just implemented.
    – jjnguy
    Aug 6, 2010 at 21:33
  • actually, I expect he out the room into read-only and then posted the message. If that sounds self-contradictory: well, we're the site admins... Aug 7, 2010 at 10:25

4 Answers 4


We now have:

  • timeout implementation with visual indication, and sensible error messages even if you didn't get the notification (due to lucky timing); this is mainly intended only as a brief repose while the moderator / whatever suggests (for example) a more appropriate venue. This also automatically re-emphasises the stated room topic etc
  • message relocation; a moderator can pick a set of messages from a room and relocate them to a different room. Everyone in the off-topic conversation (i.e. the relocate messages) will automatically get an invite to that room (if they aren't already there)

The timeout can also be cancelled by the admin once they've swept up the pieces.

  • Will have to go check it out
    – jjnguy
    Aug 13, 2010 at 20:10

The only thing I did was taking a suggested (and only partially implemented) feature and simulated it with the currently available tools:

I set the room to "read-only" for a minute and posted the message asking to move the non-chat related discussion out of the chat feedback room.

That's precisely what the "timeout" is supposed to do, but it was only simulated using tools that are already there. And it was a pretty successful test, I'd say.

Obviously, if and when this is a full-blown feature, the UI will act correspondingly.

  • 3
    but, I want a fancy Jack Bauer 60 second countdown in a dimmed <div> overlay when a room is in timeout.. seriously! Aug 7, 2010 at 8:53
  • @Jeff - we'll get there ;p Aug 7, 2010 at 10:24
  • @marc and a pony! Aug 7, 2010 at 10:24
  • 1
    @jeff Do you want <blink>, <marquee>, or both?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Aug 7, 2010 at 10:25
  • 7
    @jeff @balpha maybe a scrolling, blinking unicorn? that takes [n] seconds to prance over the screen? that'll be nice. Aug 7, 2010 at 16:53

I still think "time-out" is unworkable. Need to kick users and their messages into a separate room... Otherwise, they'll tend to either continue the conversation once unfrozen, or drop out of the conversation entirely.

  • 2
    Make the conversation threaded and ignore the off-topic thread. Being kicked out of a room into a new one is like waking up with headache in an unfamiliar bed. Aug 6, 2010 at 20:38
  • "Hey guys, drop whatever it is that you're doing and make the whole site threaded instead of timeline-based". Yup I can so see that happening. Aug 6, 2010 at 22:08
  • meh, it's just another tool in the toolbox, not the ONLY one. And it works exactly like sending a toddler to timeout -- meaning, it works. Aug 6, 2010 at 23:28

The thing is, I don't see the point of freezing a room once you say "timeout: please use the tavern", and then people stop talking about whatever it was that was off-topic to begin with.

Let me rephrase that.

I was the one that started talking about Starcraft 2, not because I fancied "hey, this fits into the room", but just because this was where people was actually talking, it was queting down, and I fancied doing something else. I wanted company. I wanted to talk about it.

Which is the point of chat. If we start adding "Closed, moved to that-other-site-about-gaming" or whatever, the point of actually "chatting" becomes moot.

But yes, I agree, the topic strayed from the purpose of the room. My fault, sorry.

However, and let me repeat that. "balpha", one of the moderators said "timeout: please use the tavern", what was the point of freezing it at that point?

I stopped talking, realizing that, yes... this is not the right room to talk about this, so I shut up. And the room was frozen.

Is that like "warnings as errors" in Visual Studio? Ie. once a moderator says "please take this to another room" it is already too late? "Hey sir, please drop that weapon", uhm, sorry, you shot me already, why are you still talking to me?

Or rather, "Hey, I'm straying off-topic!!! Look at me!!!" and then everyone dies.

There has to be a better way of resolving that?

  • you weren't too far off topic yet. Balpha was just reminding us because he was leaving/ I suggested freezing the room because I had talked to Waffles about it yesterday, and I wanted to see if Balpha had an opinion on the matter. I didn't think we were actually going to be frozen. (I don't think we needed to be frozen either)
    – jjnguy
    Aug 6, 2010 at 20:49
  • I was off-topic, I can freely admit that. The room is about feedback on the whole site, and I was talking about Starcraft 2. Tough kitty, no titty, I'm off-topic. However, there should be better mechanisms in play to warn people (me included in this case) that they're off-topic than simply freezing the room. If it was a test to see if freezing a room actually worked, never mind me, but if this is a sign of times to come, then I seriously want a say in how this feature turns out. Aug 6, 2010 at 20:51
  • my guess is that it was just a test because I suggested it. Balpha already gave a quick reminder a few messages above, and he didn't seem too concerned about it.
    – jjnguy
    Aug 6, 2010 at 20:54
  • The chat site is still in beta, so of course any testing, no matter how deep it goes, is within scope, but remember that no matter what you do, you're still dealing with people. If a function of the site can freeze a room (for whatever reason), make it excplicitly clear to everyone in that room what just happened. If a message had popped up on everyones screeen saying something like "Room frozen; too many messages off-topic, waiting for room to calm down", would you've posted the question here? Dealing with people is not the same as talking to computers, sometimes you gotta think. Aug 6, 2010 at 22:12
  • I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I see only two circumstances where I'd think timeout was acceptable: 1) no-one listens when someone calls out that the discussion is off topic. 2) the moderator just needs things to 'hold still' long enough for him to be able to 'invite' the culprits into a separate room.
    – Benjol
    Aug 16, 2010 at 13:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .