Twice this week I've seen comment chains turned into chat rooms. Are they really useful?

Upside of leaving it as comments:

  • Leaving the discussion as a chain of comments allows for the voting of comments.
  • I can just check the top bar on any SE page to see if I have a notification
  • Much easier one click access instead of having to load a separate page, or tab out to check the post details

What are the downsides to leaving it as a comment chain?

Downside to converting to chat room:

  • I really don't want to have to open and close a tab just for a chat room discussion, or keep it open on the side.
  • no notifications, making it tough to see if I need to reply to anything

What are the upsides of converting it to a chat room?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are supposed to be temporary and it's not the idea place to chat. Continuing the discussion in a chat room is a good idea if there are a lot of replies but it's not mandatory. I'm not sue if I'm the only one concerned but I was made moderator only yesterday. I'm still not 100% sure on how to handle the situation and I might need to adjust. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Aug 5, 2015 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ I see that you have only have 8 questions on main but this is something common when a lot of comments are generated in a question or an answer. The mods automatically get a flag when there are more than 20 comments. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Aug 5, 2015 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent I see what you mean, but for comments like those, I think it would have been better to leave it there. I was under the assumption that chat was for a more "real time" discussion. I don't think it's worth it to convert comments that are anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour apart from each other (I can't see the times now since it's in chat) - I would think that if there were 20 comments within say, 10 minutes, that would be cause for action. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Aug 5, 2015 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ Chat actually works asynchronously pretty well, and the transcriot sticks around. Don't think of it like IRC. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ One of the main point of your argumentation is that you don't get notification in the chat whereas you do in the comments. This is only true if 1) you wrote the post on which the comment is made or 2) someone mention you with the "@Aify" or 3) when no one else commented, you sometimes get a notification, but I am not sure how that works exactly. Anyway, when there are more comments, 1 and 3 may not be effective, so in comments, only 2 is a sure way. And 2, applied in chat, also send a notification. So when you use the chat, try to reply to on previous message or mention the name... $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ [cont'd] of the person preceded with an "@", they'll get pinged just as well as in the comments. The only drawback that I have seen is the Android app does not display the chat. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin I didn't know that @ pings from the chat. I'll keep that in mind. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Aug 6, 2015 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ It pings anyone who has a recent (not sure the definition of recent but it works for a good while) post in the chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Aug 7, 2015 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


The main idea is that neither the questions, nor the comments are places to discuss and/or debate. The chat is. So if you have some disagreement with someone (in a good way), and the point needs to be discussed, you should go to chat.

Once you come to some form of understanding, you can adjust the comments on the post or the post itself with the summary of the chat.

That way, visitors do not need to go through the complete argumentation and discussion to get the relevant information. Not everyone is interested in reading a long series of comments, but would rather have one or two higly relevant comments and/or an improved post.


This, in my mind is effectively a bug, even though it's meant to be a feature.

Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

Of course I understand that people may not want to trawl through many comments, removing an entire body of comments to chat effectively terminates what may be really salient and useful information.

In fact, if there were some form of UI ability to conceal/disclose threads, and to indicate just how many comments there are, the argument in favour of moving to chat as provided by @bilbo_pingouin would be moot and irrelevant.

Of course the reasoning appears good. But evidence (go have a look) is that moving to chat is a discussion killer. If we are hear to exchange ideas, it seems counter-intuitive to deter people's contributions to another's answer and effectively reduce their contribution to Upvote/Downvote/Not-bothered.

On many other stackexchange sites, and particularly the original one as well as maths, the answers are almost always accentuated and informed by the comments.

Note also, that on this site, an initial downvoting of an answer I gave (see question The Infinite Sea, how narrow can that be?) switched over to a strong upvoting in light of the comments - but the voting was effectively killed the very moment that the entire body of comments were moved over to chat.

While the chat is not visible on the page, in context, it may as well be called 'trash'*. And while admins may see it as beneficial to encourage the discussion to take place elsewhere, they are effectively saying 'move along please - nothing to see here anymore'.

* I have yet to see (or experience) a chat that has lived on after it has been moved out. This itself is a clear steer of it being nothing short of a trashcan.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not meant to be places for discussions. They should inform the OP of ways to improve an answer or question or request clarification, but they are not a place to exchange ideas. That's the core of StackExchange. For an example about how chats can live on I can give you one of my answers over on Writing.SE, which lead to a rather long debate, which rightly belongs in the chat and not in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 2, 2018 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ I have seen a few chats live on after being moved, but that's largely because it was chat by that point, not useful exchange of information. It's definitely better to clear them out. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jul 2, 2018 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ First of all, a big thanks to @michael-kjörling for editing my answer. Secondly, regardless of being down-voted for this, I stand by my answer. Stack Exchange is excellent at providing what it does - but it's by no means perfect, and IMO the comments system is a great example and the somewhat arbitrary backwash of switching comments to chats. Positive criticism requires offering a viable alternative - which I did in my answer, and which others have succeeded to do elsewhere. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 2, 2018 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ "Of course the reasoning appears good. But evidence (go have a look) is that moving to chat is a discussion killer." I couldn't agree more. The thing is that we are a minority of users - seems like most people are more comfortable with chats than comments. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2018 at 17:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "If we are hear to exchange ideas" [sic], that's where I would say that you misunderstood the site. SE is a Q&A site. As such people asks questions, and expects answers.The comments are there to try to improve both. The chats are meant for lengthy discussions and debate. If moving the comments to chat killed the discussion, you should ask yourself whether that discussion was worth it? $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2018 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin, have a look at the domain name... $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 3, 2018 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Konchog: "the Stack Exchange network consists of 133 Q&A communities" as per SE themselves. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2018 at 20:32

My experience with other stacks is that when you go making a comment, you have to put some thought into it. You can't use a single comment to say sentences like "Well, yeah", "Er", "Huh", "Herp derp" etc, which are the thing of chat. You have to drive your point, so the signal-to-noise ratio is very high.

Moving comments to chat is opening the flood gates of noise. This is my view of the communication that goes on in chat:


This is fresh from the factory floor.

If the rules state that comments should be moved after a certain amount has been reached, by all means, as a rules-abiding user I have no problem with it. But I see it more as a means to stop communication than to encourage it. The amount of noise in chats is so high that I rarely bother accessing them.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A site's main chat room usually has more of a social feel than chat rooms created from specific posts. I've definitely seen long discussions in the latter that were not overwhelmed with the stuff you're talking about, for what that's worth. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2018 at 21:08

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