I understand that this is not a conventional forum and I'm not suggesting that we have off-topic boards or anything like that, BUT...

There are times when conversations in comments need to be kept between the parties and chat isn't always the best location for it. For one, the character limitation makes it too twitter-like to get complex ideas and massive amounts of information across. Editing answers / questions makes the debate public, and that's not always the best (especially for side issues that are only tangentially related to the OP).

Look, I know in the past I've created a couple of issues given the breadth of what I can discuss (I think I've got a collection of hate-followers on Philosophy after my AI answers and Free Will), and I've straight out deleted some of my Theology answers because it's easier than trying to write up 1k page theses on why I'm right, where my sources come from etc. in comments. My point is, some of my responses (I feel) should be directed to the individual (rather than made public) because some of the debate is about the appropriateness of the answer or question, and in fact whether or not I should delete or edit.

I'd rather that be conducted behind closed doors, so to speak.

To me, the answer seems obvious; private messages. If we had the same edit and size capacity as a conventional answer or question, we could put detailed ideas across to others, share thoughts on whether or not an answer in particular is a good fit for the site, etc. and we could do that in non-real time, which is important for those of us who can't sit on chat.


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    $\begingroup$ Is your concern that you want to keep others out (you specifically want privacy), or that you want to avoid imposing on others but don't mind if people who want to watch can? $\endgroup$ Feb 1 '18 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Monica. There are times when others can watch, which seems to be the chat model; the problem I see is that sometimes comments or chat isn't enough space to discuss the side point, and some of these conversations can be inflammatory to others because of the nature of what's being discussed. In Philosophy I've actually had people wade in during comments because of taking thoughts out of context. Here, I've just deleted answers because justifying it is too hard in comments and I don't want to attract additional punters and start a flame war twitter style $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Feb 1 '18 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps another way of putting it is that I'm here to have fun; to me, that's answering questions in a non-emotional way and providing input into rational discussion. What I've found is that some people take intellectual argument personally on certain points they care about, and better to address such concerns personally than incite even more ire through public clarification of such a point. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Feb 2 '18 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ If you can't stand the chat and since private messaging is unlikely to be implemented, the only solution I see is to ask for their email address. But personally, if someone asked me my personal address just in order to continue a debate, I would refuse. Not everyone is interested in debating. That would also be a problem with private messaging. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Feb 2 '18 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ While chat rooms are public, the gallery chat room allow only allowed users to speak. Also, even if they are public, it is not advertised anywhere unlike the main chat room. You have to look for it. It's not difficult to find but if you don't know the existence of the room in the first place, your not going to look. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Feb 2 '18 at 2:44

Your argument, as I understand it, is that there are certain moderation-related issues that you think should be discussed in private - in the room where it happens, I suppose. In other words, you want to be able to address a given user privately about a point they've made, specifically, about whether or not a specific post is good for the site.

I don't think this is a good idea, for several reasons:

  1. Other people can, in some cases, provide good feedback. A plus side of talking in chat is that there are third parties available to step in and maybe even cool things down. Yeah, it's nice to not have people interrupting, but many one-on-one discussions on Stack Exchange don't end nicely. I think that this feature could just feed the flames in arguments.

    If two people have been talking a lot in comments under a post, they'll be given the option to move to a chat room. Sometimes it works; sometimes it fails. I've seen a lot of cases where it fails, and where it could have succeeded . . . had someone else stepped in.

  2. Democracies die behind closed doors.
    - Damon Keith

    When it's not necessary, I don't like talks about moderation happening in the dark, in privacy. Stack Exchange isn't a democracy, but there's an open process when it comes to content and content moderation. Decisions behind closed doors undermine that process.

    Yes, moderators do have moderator-only chat rooms, and we do use them. But those are needed for sharing information that cannot be made public, discussing actions the mod team will take, etc. That sort of information can't be released, as per the privacy policy, so any discussions about a specific bit of PII can't be public.

    There have been cases where users used non-Stack Exchange messaging services to discuss matters in private. One case I'm thinking of comes to mind because it was part of some infamous chat issues, and enabled the continuation of a toxic room culture that has continued to hurt a certain site. This system messaging is off of Stack Exchange, and so evades moderation. And it's harmful.

    The sort of private messaging you're proposing would presumably be visible to diamond moderators, but that still leaves it without a key level of community support and moderation, and provides a pathway to abuse. This sort of feature will be abused if it's implemented.

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    $\begingroup$ Being a mod on another Stack, I can full heartedly agree with you on most everything you've said. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 '18 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, you've convinced me. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Feb 2 '18 at 3:18

I pretty much agree with what HDE already wrote. However, I want to specifically note two particular parts of your question:

some of my responses (I feel) should be directed to the individual (rather than made public) because some of the debate is about the appropriateness of the answer or question, and in fact whether or not I should delete or edit.

It seems to me that what you are basically saying here is that you feel that most people aren't worthy of being privy to your reasoning why a post is good (or bad, as the case may be).

That seems like a dangerous way to run things.

Part of what makes Stack Exchange so successful, and so good at filtering the good answers from the bad ones, is the community moderation. Each vote on each post has limited influence, but taken together, this actually does work pretty well to separate the wheat from the chaff.

If arguments are held in private, even if those arguments are completely civil (which, as HDE discusses, they might not be), then others have less information by which to make their judgements on a post. That is, at best, not good.

Diamond moderator tasks on all but the largest sites in the network is pretty low-intensity, in that there's usually little that specifically a diamond moderator has to do. Most things can be handled by the community. (That, too, is how things are generally handled on Worldbuilding; most moderation activities that can be handled by the community actually are handled by the community, not by the diamond moderators.) If you add something to the system which is not accessible to the community at large, now everything that happens using that feature must be monitored by the diamond moderators to ensure the feature is not abused. This would cause moderator workload to spike. At best, such as with a private messaging system, perhaps only flagged content would need to be reviewed; but even if so, this would still cause an increase in moderator workload, for what appears to me to be dubious gain.

Editing answers / questions makes the debate public, and that's not always the best (especially for side issues that are only tangentially related to the OP).

If it's a side issue only tangentially related to the question, then why are you including it in an answer in the first place?

A wise person is supposed to have once quipped "a letter is perfect not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to be taken away". In other words, each and every word serves a purpose in communicating relevant information. While Worldbuilding SE is fairly lax, I still think that's a reasonable goal to strive for: include the relevant information, and omit the useless fluff. The line separating the two can sometimes be difficult to identify, but it's usually fairly easy to tell if something falls well to either side of that line.

If a major part of your answer is about something not raised by the person asking the question, then consider whether it belongs there in the first place. Maybe it's better off as a different question and answer (maybe on a different site in the network), or on your personal web site or blog, or as an article in a peer-reviewed journal (you wish!), or on a regular discussion forum, or if it's better to simply sack it. Nothing prevents you from linking to external content, as long as the answer itself is self-contained and ideally the links are relevant. Most likely, wherever that extra set of points might belong, they're better off there than in an answer to an unrelated question.

  • $\begingroup$ 2 things; firstly I'm not suggesting that others aren't worthy of seeing my reasoning; I was suggesting that sometimes the debate brings others in on side points and the key message gets lost. Second, I'm not saying that I'm including tangential elements in my answers, I'm saying that sometimes people misinterpret a point in my answer and get hung up on the wrong thing. I've already acceded to the point in any event. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Feb 2 '18 at 20:47

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