Below, a question and answer on the only current MO chat, from two people who have been regulars on MSE chat, the second a moderator somewhere. My concern, for now, is that I see several MSE regulars there, including a few who put hw or similar questions on chat, one after the other. Which is why I stopped spending time on MSE chat.


I just hope the real mathematicians don't flee because of the guys asking homework questions in chat


Oh, you can ban that from the topic Most SE chatrooms have a topic You can discuss it on meta or in chat If, for example, a user comes long and posts an HW question, you can just tell them that "we don't discuss that here" If he persists, you can get him kicked (You guys may want to appoint room owners and decide a if HW is allowed, etc etc. I can do that but I don't know enough to determine which users should be promoted to owner)


EDIT: here is a transcript of the (only) MSE chat,


which has been going for about 1056 days, if you look back over at least a few days you will see what I mean, some people are active at certain hours of the day but not others, time zones differ, etc. It is especially annoying for me when I am asked a direct question by an @WillJagy ping. I prefer to pick the questions I answer, on Main.

P.S. to view the one current MO chat without getting caught up arguing with Harry,


  • $\begingroup$ starting already, question linked from physics.se $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ I deleted it now :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ Just one small thing to keep in mind: chat is really a shared place over the network. In particular, the flagging system is shared through out the network, i.e. if you flag something in any chat room all moderators on the network will see it and will try to deal with the flag. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


Chat is a relaxed, ephemeral third place that should not be used as a substitute for asking a proper question on any site. One off simple questions are fine, such as "Do you folks mind sanity checking something for me? I can't believe I'm getting this result" - or similar. If a question is sufficiently involved that a protracted response is warranted, chat is the wrong place to be asking, regardless of the topic.

Think of chat as something of a pub, where you arrive to a group of your peers engaged in a lively conversation. It's one thing to interrupt them quickly to ask for directions, it's another to expect that everyone would be suddenly interested in abandoning their otherwise enjoyable chatter to divert their full attention to something much less entertaining. It's a simple matter of manners - when you join a group, it's your obligation to fit in agreeably to the extent that others are willing to receive you.

As pointed out by some of our very helpful network moderators, each room has a topic. You're more than welcome to explicitly disallow homework related questions within that topic. Additionally:

  • Moderators and room owners can pin messages that remain visible to the right, these lead to chat transcripts that are considered important. Guidelines for a particular chat room should be pinned

  • Moderators can restrict users that chronically ignore these guidelines from participating in chat for periods of time

  • You have the ability to ignore certain users (thus blocking any @mentions)

  • Egregiously disruptive streams of noise coming from people that don't particularly care about the guidelines can be flagged, with the eventual effect of removing the noise altogether and the user that created it for a period of time

  • Gallery chat rooms are supported, anyone with over 1000 reputation can create one. This is a special type of room where everyone can read, but users must have explicit permission from a room owner to talk.

The best thing to do, however, at least in my experience is to simply ignore such requests until they become such a nuisance that more serious action is warranted. It's fine to politely point out that you simply don't entertain such questions, and would appreciate the user refraining from pursuing them further. You can, at your option and discretion, point the user in a more appropriate direction if one exists.

Since deployment, we've found chat to be an essential feature for fostering strong, lasting relationships within our communities. It's also an indispensable tool when it comes to coordinating and organizing the large amount of janitorial work that goes into maintaining a site the size of Math Overflow. We sincerely hope that you'll discover its usefulness and utilize it in whatever way suits you best. The scenario that you describe is applicable to many communities, and they handle it quite well.

What I recommend you do is set up a few rooms to help organize chat initially. You could have:

  • A room for 'meta' discussions, where you talk about the site, it's governance, janitorial endeavors and similar

  • A 'lounge' of sorts, where those who could be skilled contributors can come to ask the inevitable 'getting to know you' sorts of questions

  • Focused, topic specific rooms as you see fit. These are not for general idle chit chat, these are rooms where people really passionate about [topic] get together to learn from each other (gallery rooms can sometimes be useful here)

We (Stack Exchange) are here to help, we're at your disposal. Please, feel free to explore and take advantage of chat - it's a really awesome feature. Don't worry about what might happen, we've seen it before and we can help you manage it well.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. Time will tell, but I find the third type interesting for MO in particular. Some really meaty questions do not quite get finished, and further discussion by two or three people who stay interested in the question might lead to, well, publications. I used to suggest that for MO and email, nobody did that. Maybe the auto-suggested chat rooms will get people liking the general idea. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 17:02

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