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Related but not a duplicate: How far off-topic can we get in 'the 2nd monitor'?

Today was a complicated day in the history of The 2nd Monitor.

On one side there appears to be consensus something went wrong which should be handled. On the other side there appears to be disagreement about how much actually went wrong and how it was handled. A large part of what went wrong seems to be the idle chatter happening in the chat.

To quote Shog9:

Rooms with hundreds of thousands - or millions - of posts will tend to have a fairly significant amount of off-topic content; that's just how chat works. If nothing else, trying to evaluate hundreds of thousands of messages simply isn't practical; rooms that reach this scale must be moderated largely by their membership, with moderators stepping in to handle specific users or specific events.

So, we've established three things:

  • Chat will never be 100% on-topic.
  • Rooms should be largely moderated by their membership (regular users).
  • Moderators should handle the excesses.

Chat rooms should always be somewhat on-topic and excesses should be removed. But what is an excess? We can all think of examples which perfectly fit in 'good behaviour' or 'bad behaviour'. Today we found out the grey area between those is large and there is a lack of consensus about what is and what isn't acceptable. Specifically, how much 'off-topicness' is considered too much?

Let's find out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You cannot expect users of a chat room to moderate the room.. Off topic chat can and always will be relevant in a chat room, if someone new joins simply stop, find out their query, help them, maybe explain a little about the room, job done \$\endgroup\$ – CodeX Jul 1 '15 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CodeX the problem is... that didn't happen. at least not in a timely manner. \$\endgroup\$ – Vogel612 Jul 1 '15 at 17:07
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This seems to be about the right place to post a response to what happened in the chat room today, and in the past 6 weeks or so.

Since various names have come up, and people have posted here too, I won't make it all anonymous, but will use concrete examples instead.

I also want to stress that this is my perception of things, mine, personally, so if you disagree with what I say, you can blame me, not the site, the community, the other mods, or the "regulars".

Background

So, The 2nd Monitor, for the past 2 years, has been a core part of the Code Review community. It is where "the regulars" (and lurkers) congregate, coordinate, and participate in the site. Zombies, missions, and plenty of JAVA and LOLCODE has passed through. It is the site's "conference room" of sorts. Anyone who participates in the site (or is just visiting) is free to come to the table and chat about site-related things.

Taking a step back, the strength of the Code Review community is the people. The people who take their time to review questions, discuss, and improve the site as a whole. The community needs to be protected in a sense, because it is the heart of the site. The majority of the community is "silent", people who just get along with their thing. A significant part of the community, though, is to be regularly found in The 2nd Monitor - the conference room of the site.

Recently, though, that conference room has become uncomfortable, and noisy, and generally "not nice". As a result, the core community has been spreading out, or going quiet. The 2nd Monitor has been losing its value as the community meeting place. More importantly, it is as if some individuals have converted The 2nd Monitor in to their own office, and are "camped out" in there... filling the room with noise, and chatter.

Facts

Time for some evidence (picking on QPaysTaxes and Ethan, because that's easy and topical, but there are others too (Mast, at times, and even Quill, and perhaps even me....).

Here are links in to the transcript where the conversations just don't belong, and are just noise. I use the word "noise" because it is stuff that could be put in any other room without impacting the running or participation in the site. It does not even need to be on Stack Exchange. It could be Skype, or IRC, or something else. It is not related to building the community, and it is not related to the site.

Note that, in part, some of it is tangentially relevant, but the sheer volume makes that hard to see.

Let's go back to.... May 30th

I was reviewing codereview.stackexchange.com/questions/92171/… and black is insisting that this just a simulation. could you take a peak at it and tell me if I am mistaken or he is? - hildred

That's a user new to the site, who had a specific question, and came to chat. That's "official business". QPaysTaxes and EthanBierlein continued with idle chatter:

@EthanBierlein Is that from the cold? Because I have two nice, long, thick appendages that can warm you up. They're called arms

This was interfering with "site business", and it just kept going and going. So I kicked them:

Hang on, let me just kick @QPaysTaxes and @EthanBierlein ....

and kept working on the site issues.

Later I explained to them that they have to let site business come first:

Right, serious things befor eidle chatter

Not long after, QPaysTaxes and Ethan again got in to a long discussion which a different room owner moved over to a separate room:

→ 34 messages moved to Adventure Engine

→ 19 messages moved to Adventure Engine

→ 23 messages moved to Adventure Engine

I again warned these people here:

@Mast / @QPaysTaxes / @EthanBierlein - just a head's up (official business....) - a couple of times recently, when there's been "official" chat happening in here, you folk have continued with idle chatter. The purpose of this room is to support the Code Review official business, and while idle chatter is fine when there's nothing else happening... you need to put your stuff on "mute".

Look, I am trying to strike the right balance here between telling yuou guys to have fun, but also to be mindful that this is the main chat room for the site.

Really, I think the best thing from a community perspective will be the regular "have fun in the 2nd monitor".... but be prepared to let the official stuff take priority on the (few) occasions that's needed.

Then, I concluded with:

There's a few things that I moderate heavily in this chat room, just to be clear....

  1. I am heavy-handed with people who just come in here to ask for help, etc. This is not a help-desk

  2. I encourage people to take tutoring sessions to other rooms

  3. I get people to mute themselves when interrupting official stuff.

I really don't like being the ogre, but someone has to be for those things. Otherwise the value of this room will be eroded And really, this is, without doubt, the best chat room on the exchange

So, it is clear that these folk have had plenty of warning, and they have specifically indicated that they understand "the rules".

Fallout

Over time, the general banter has been increasing, and increasing, and overwhelming the useful threshold of background idle chatter.

Core community members have been noticing, and complaining:

Phrancis: On another note, I think (don't quote me) that The Tavern room is mostly for general chatter

Quill: Thanks @rolfl, the SNR was getting a bit out of hand

When I suggested to QPaysTaxes that he should improve the quality vs. quantity of his chat some regulars agreed (@nhgrif ), and no-one disagreed.

Since then there have been a number of remarks (to me, and others) about the poor quality in the chat room:

Conclusion

So, the value of the 2nd monitor has been diluted/polluted by excessive off-topic discussion. I tried today to remind people that this is a site-specific chat room:

At this point it becomes complicated. I was asked what had happened, and I explained it like:

@skiwi QPaysTaxes and Ethan were prattling on like a couple of seagulls squabbling over some french fries. It was annoying and inconsiderate, so they were moved over to there.

OK, probably not the best choice of words, but that was what it was like watching their banter go past. My subsequent analogy was better?:

They were like two people talking loudly to each other on cell phones on the same bus.... that's about as close as I can get to an analogy .... and, they now have their own bus

Others agreed with me (multiple stars, and this from @nhgrif):

@Mast That's the problem. When there was only one teenager in the room, there was never 3 or more people interested in talking about teenager things. Now there are 3 or more teenager regulars. There are far more non-teenager regulars that don't want to hear about teenager non-sense and silliness.

Also:

@skiwi: For the record, I think it was a good decision

Then, somewhere along the line, I was asked to explain what was allowed, and what was not allowed..... and here is where the regulars got upset.....

I agree on moving those two out, yes, but I'm completely confused by what you're saying...

So, this is what I am saying:

  1. The 2nd Monitor is the main chat room for the site.
  2. Official business always takes priority over anything else.
  3. General chat about Code Review is always welcome.
  4. Idle chat is allowed as long as it is not a distraction to the purpose of the room - which is for maintaining the Code Review site and its community.

The chat had gotten to the point where the community was dispersing to other rooms, or just going completely quiet.

I stand by my assessment that the idle chat has to be cut right back. If it does not, then the community is disadvantaged.

I cannot define what is too idle, or what is OK idle. There just is no way to do that, but I know when the overall volume is too much. It is not about a single chat post, it is about the combination.

So, to all those people freaking out and saying @rolfl has gone off his rocker and is doing crazy things - no, I am not. I am responding to the needs of the community, as the community has expressed, and I am ensuring the chat room is able to function the way it is supposed to.

If you want to treat The 2nd Monitor like IRC, facebook, twitter, or instagram, then go and use those sites. If you want to be part of the code review community, then go to the 2nd monitor. There is some overlap, but the overlap was too much, for too long, and needs to be adjusted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I want to thank you for answering so thoroughly. This question started with the intention of hearing all sides of the story and wouldn't be complete without yours. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jul 1 '15 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ After reading this and now understanding exactly what happened I apologise for being difficult, the steps taken were exactly what was needed and as a long time moderator of the room we should have never questioned your judgement. I hope this can be resolved and we can move on with the "old" more "friendly" "controlled" 2nd Monitor that I was so graciously welcomed into all that time ago. Thankyou @rolfl \$\endgroup\$ – CodeX Jul 1 '15 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just for the record, I personally didn't even realize why I wanted more ROs until I read this answer... but yes I completely agree with the assessment you're making of the situation. I will try to write up a comprehensive answer on my take on this ... let's call it incident for now \$\endgroup\$ – Vogel612 Jul 1 '15 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was unaware (forgot?) about the prior warnings. Thanks for clarifying that point. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jul 1 '15 at 22:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wished I could put a bounty on this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – h.j.k. Jul 2 '15 at 1:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I generally walk away from emotional discussions because they render reasoning powerless, so then what's the point. But this chatroom is too important, I felt I had to say something, and been searching for words hard. This is a brilliant, 100% satisfying answer, thank you! And I am one of those who participate less in chat because of the drop in quality. You didn't handle the situation perfectly, but I think nobody could, and I would have done worse than you. I think everyone offended should understand, forgive, and move on. \$\endgroup\$ – janos Jul 2 '15 at 5:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glad you answered, I may have gotten a bit annoyed at the end of yesterday, too... it seems like the kicks that you have done on 30 May have not been effective enough though? Maybe the measures should be more drastic for people to understand it. I don't agree with what happened yesterday late though, my point still stands that if we are going to actively talk and act against noise, then we should also be kicking more. If we can agree to eliminate idle chatter effectively, then I feel I can go back home again. \$\endgroup\$ – skiwi Jul 2 '15 at 8:46
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I'd say that the following could be an non-exhaustive list about what's on-topic and off-topic for the CR chat, which also includes the idle chatter we should tolerate and which we should not tolerate.

The good things

  • Being in the room as a new user to ask a question about CodeReview, or to discuss a question/answer/comment that has been placed on the main site.
  • Being in the room as a regular user, meaning that you have been around for a long time, or that you post well-received questions and/or answers often, or that you are around to help others. Key in this approach is that the user in question wants to be a positive factor in The 2nd Monitor and is not trying to undermine authority.

The bad things

  • Trying to undermine existing authority. We understand that you may not agree with all decisions, but please take it to meta and try to not create drama around it.
  • Not being serious or mature, we are not here to joke around or to read allcaps stories, nor do we want to hear daily diaries when nobody is interested in them.

General observations of what we want in the The 2nd Monitor

  • A new user should not be using The 2nd Monitor as his twitter feed.
  • A new user should only be here to get direct feedback and when you keep a low profile and are not annoying to others you will automatically turn into a regular user.
  • Regular users can chat around a bit, but should be quiet once a serious discussion starts.
  • We can discuss off-topic things in a serious and mature way without annoying others.
  • Realize that you are, in The 2nd Monitor in an excellent place to talk about programming with lots of industry professionals, we are a serious room.
  • Lengthy discussions about certain pieces of code can still be constructive as long as both sides use good arguments and don't resort to ad hominem-attacks.

What we should do better in the future

  • We should call out others more on their behavior, this includes regular users that show behavior that would be unacceptable for new users.
  • When there is a lengthy discussion that neither side seems to win, the discussion should either be dropped, or moved to a different room or taken to meta.
  • We could flag disputable content more often or ping room owners more often such that they are aware.
  • Users (including regulars) should be kicked more often if they are showing unacceptable behavior.

Though what we should never forget is that these are only guidelines, moderating the chat will always be a grey area, and I think that if everyone acts in the interest of The 2nd Monitor as a whole, then we can survive. Know when to back out of discussions, you might not know it, but you are not always correct. Regular users often already give small hints about someones behavior when they are about to cross the line, now it is time to act and actively let the chat be a nice place to be.

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From the Chat FAQ (emphasis mine):

This site is an extension of The Stack Exchange Network, so discussion should more or less revolve around the same topics you'd find at The Stack Exchange Network — but in an interactive, less strictly Q&A focused way. Do have fun, but please keep it professional and always be respectful of your fellow community members.

When talking in a room, it's polite to stay roughly on topic for the room, as defined by the room owners. If you find yourself consistently veering into other topics, you should consider taking it to another room.


The topic of The 2nd Monitor is General discussion about Code Review. This includes various forms of discussions about questions and answers (posted or not), site rules, voting (up/down/close/delete), reviewing, flagging, community building (e.g. exploding bear traps and how to welcome new users, or how to foster user retention), and also anything that can develop into a more formal discussion on the meta site.

At least that's how I see it, and that's how I've seen it even before the system appointed me as a room owner, a few weeks after a Community Manager had to undelete the room when it was deleted for inactivity. When @Malachi mentions the revivalists, I can't help but think of what the CR chat looked like in 2013 - a ghost town, with nothing but pages and pages and pages ..and pages of @StackExchange question feed posts (the feed we currently know as @CaptainObvious).

The 2nd Monitor really came to life after November 15, 2013 - when How is Code Review doing right now was posted on meta. It was then only @Malachi, @Jamal and myself (then known as @retailcoder) hanging around in that chatroom, for several days, until @SimonAndréForsberg showed up, and a number of days later (Nov.21) @rolfl joined the party.

Why do I even bring this up? Because that's when and how everything started. From a group of individuals wandering a Stack Exchange site and posting answers and hoping to earn a vote or two, we became a community of addicted code reviewers with a simple, common goal: do everything we can to straighten up this site, so that the next CM review would have a much better picture to depict of our answered%, voting, reputation, and user retention.

The 2nd Monitor was still the Code Review General Room then, and what cemented the community and drew in more and more people wasn't the very seldom small-talk. Go on, read the transcripts - pages and pages and pages of discussions about the site, meta-discussions about answering, voting, and essentially, being a Code Review user. Sure, the site's scope wasn't as well-defined as it is today, but The 2nd Monitor always feels welcoming and a great place to be in when the topics discussed are about Code Review.


But chat is chat, and a growing community means more users - this hasn't been a problem until recently, as @rolfl's answer shows.

Small-talk / "idle chat" never takes precedence over on-topic discussions. If only a single thing should be remembered by everyone about what happened today, is that this:

on-topic discussion between a moderator/room owner and a user, constantly interrupted with noise

Is unacceptable behavior. I've highlighted the signal in green. Notice how it's constantly interrupted with noise?

When a moderator, room owner, or any other community member is having or wants to start having a discussion about anything that's on-topic, then the only acceptable intervention from any other user present in the chat room is a contribution to that on-topic discussion.

When you enter The 2nd Monitor, as opposed to when you log on to Facebook or your favorite chatting app, you're not just yourself. You're a member of the Code Review community, and that comes with the responsibility to put the community first.

If you're unsure what this means, read the Chat FAQ quote again.


As a room owner user, I completely agree with everything @rolfl said and did today, and I deeply wish it didn't have to get to this.

As a lurking room owner (hasn't always been that way), I feel like I've contributed to the incremental climate change by my inactions, and I'm sorry I let moderators and other owners do the dirty work.

Let's all agree on something: when we see behavior that isn't appropriate, let's act on it and defuse it on the spot. Or at least address the issue / do something. Let's stop relying on unsaid discomfort. If someone else is interrupting your on-topic discussion, ping a room owner (their names show up in italics) or a moderator (their names show up in blue), and don't let off-topic chatter bother you.

That said, I tend to agree with @Rubberduck - pretty much any and all idle chat is ok, provided that it's respectful, and that it stops when it has to.

I'm keeping my boots on from now on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a way we can indicate a moderator (or serious member) is getting annoyed (probably a bad word maybe an indicator for other things) to help newbies take their discussion to an explicit new room? Maybe a way to highlitea comment in red. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin York Jul 2 '15 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd say just post this question \$\endgroup\$ – Mehrad Jul 2 '15 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ A picture is worth a thousand words, isn't it? \$\endgroup\$ – Phrancis Jul 6 '15 at 0:40
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How much idle chatter do we tolerate in the 2nd Monitor? Nearly all of it.

Unless there is site business or a programming discussion occurring. Then there is absolutely no idle chatter tolerated. None. Anything not relevant to the conversation needs to go unsaid, or be said elsewhere.

Is that an awful extreme swing? Yes. It is, but in the year that I've frequented the 2nd Monitor, I've never seen it be an issue. When something important comes up, the chatter stops.


But what happened this morning? I've read the transcript several times now and I still don't know. It appears to have started around here. It calmly leads into an explanation of the creation of "The Nth Monitor" chatroom and I agree with the reasoning and creation of that room. A healthy conversation about the scope of the room ensues, one that is perfectly on topic for the room in my opinion as it is directly related to the site. A discussion then begins about when to use the "Unclear what you're asking" hold reason, also on topic. Then, a sudden change in the room's description (and I am assuming it's scope?) just before a new chatter shows up who interrupted the conversation about the on hold reason. Those messages were rightfully moved to this new room that had been created. At this point, things devolved quickly into a discussion about the changes to the 2nd Monitor. Things were moving quickly, but this was an on topic conversation, at least in my opinion, site related and all. And then.... a room freeze that I honestly don't understand. The discussion was on topic. Perhaps it was moving too fast and everyone needed to cool down. I wasn't there, so I can't say.

All in all, actions were appropriate, but it was abrupt. It doesn't seem that anyone really understood what was going on or why there was a sudden change to the room, particularly those of us who weren't there.

Personally, I don't think there needs to be a second room. I think some of the new chatters need to understand when to stop the chatter. A big part of what went wrong here was that these users were never warned (as far as I can tell) about their inappropriate behavior, nor were they silenced when they failed to adhere to the room standards.


With all of that said, I think it's important to allow an amount of friendly chatter occur in the 2nd Monitor, assuming no other business is happening. The chatroom is in many ways the heartbeat of our site. It is the tie that bonds the core of our community together.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Who should be warning the new users though? If regulars warn them, then it may come off as wrong as they appear to have the same powers as moderators have. I can't tell someone to keep the chatter down or else... Or else what? I have no power in here. \$\endgroup\$ – skiwi Jul 1 '15 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Regular users should be warning them. You do have power here. Ping a room owner, I don't think any of the room owners would hesitate to take action at a regular's request. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jul 1 '15 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can see the clear cases working, but I'm more hesitant to call someone out if I feel like not everyone in the room might agree. This would especially be the case if someone would be calling out another regular user, I feel like it could create more drama. \$\endgroup\$ – skiwi Jul 1 '15 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a fair point, but even us regulars sometimes need a "Hey guys! Do you mind?!" reminder once in a while. Personally, I would want you guys to let me know if I'm interrupting an important conversation. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jul 1 '15 at 17:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ As of today, this answer is categorically incorrect. I only read the first line. The rest is irrelevant due to the first line's egregious inaccuracy. \$\endgroup\$ – nhgrif Jul 1 '15 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ sometimes I jump into chat without reading what is going on and post something totally not important, and then realize I just interrupted a good conversation. it happens, and I usually apologize quickly or stop chatting until it's over. I agree we need a "Hey guys! Do you mind?" once in a while \$\endgroup\$ – Malachi Jul 1 '15 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ what do you mean @nhgrif? I would love to see your response, I don't think I completely see your side of all this, yet. \$\endgroup\$ – Malachi Jul 1 '15 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean that a 2nd Monitor room owner has been moving piles & piles of messages out of that room and into another because that person apparently couldn't cope with the volume. I will post an answer when & if I feel like it. But I'm really not concerned too much with what happens in that chat room any more so this topic isn't overly concerning to me. \$\endgroup\$ – nhgrif Jul 1 '15 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nhgrif I looked at what messages got moved and when. I don't see an issue with moving what got moved. Also, please take a second to remember that no matter who "owns" the room, it is our room, the community's place to specifically discuss the site. As such, I think it's the community who decides what is and isn't acceptable in there. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jul 1 '15 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Someone should tell the room owners taking unilateral actions that. \$\endgroup\$ – nhgrif Jul 1 '15 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sure I just did. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jul 1 '15 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @skiwi our power is our voice. Speaking up that you don't like what's going on will encourage others and draw attention. You can speak to any regular, and if you're right, you're guaranteed to find supporters, and then somebody with mod powers will take action. It's indirect, but it works. I admit I'm one of the quiet ones, I should speak up more. \$\endgroup\$ – janos Jul 2 '15 at 5:50
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From the Meta post that you linked to as related but not duplicate, we can see that there is a pattern in chat.

We float off-topic and need to be reigned in once in a while, roughly about once a year.

The reason for this is that there is a constant influx of new users that don't have the history that the revivalists have on our site (Code Review), so they haven't seen the previous iterations of "keep it closer to the line".

Some of the newbies haven't been told that when there is something Code Review related that comes into chat, they are supposed to stop the idle chatter immediately until Code Review related stuff is resolved or finished.

That is the big thing.


The argument was not about what the end result was supposed to be, but rather the means, and is the end justified by them?

More communication with less interruption would have been ideal, which is why chat was frozen and to let everyone have a second to cool down, which seemed to work for some and push others to find (what they think will be) warmer climates.

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The 2nd monitor improves productivity (or does it?)

Some nasty stuff which humanity is suffering from them in this very moment, actually started with good intentions.

I know English language says "The Devil is in the detail" but I have learned from experience that sometimes the Devil is the detail itself.

I honestly don't think we should propose a technical solution and keep adding to the details of regulations to solve this issue. Sometimes simplicity offers more and if I qualify to express my thoughts I would say the answer is simple and it's called,

Common Sense

I remember the times Matt (@Mat's Mug) was teaching me about abstraction method or @Phrancis was giving me hints on my faulty SQL union as oppose to times we chat about the amazing roast he (@Phrancis) made, his 1983 vintage car which is same age as me or @rolf telling us about his electrical side project.

All in all, I don't think we broke any other members' peace or disturbed any ongoing development conversation with a friendly chatter since common sense kicked in (when needed) and told us, maybe you need to send an email about this extra matter or ping your friend on Linked-in on a professional issue rather than diving into the middle of @Captain and @Duga having a programming war solving world's hunger problem, putting Java solutions forward.

I honestly think, The 2nd Monitor wouldn't be part of my 2nd monitor real state if it doesn't have the rich development discussions and the friendly chatters.

Let's remind ourselves that the first piece of code most of us wrote printed "Hello World!" rather than "Hey world, this code works and that's all which matters".

So my conclusion wouldn't be any different than the conclusion of the article I have referenced in the first line. It all depends on the person her/himself, technology is just a tool.

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Before you read ...

Personally, I follow @TimPost's ideology:

My 'razor' for such things (well, actually most things) "When in doubt, don't."

I would even say I've deleted or stopped writing what I was going to post more times than I've actually posted.

As @rolfl pointed out, I've been off-topic more than once or twice, but I just step out:

@Quill: Sometimes the line is a little blurry and you gotta know when to step out.

Over the course of the evening, I said some things that could be taken hurtfully, and I truthfully am very sorry for for those things

As @Vogel612 pointed out:

@Vogel612: hrmph.. this is devolving into a mudslinging...

To that I responded with:

@Quill: I like them as people and they're becoming good answerers, so it's not like I want to sling mud and I don't think @rolfl does either.

It's clear I may have hurt people:

@Quill: @QPaysTaxes Don't make it personal

@QPaysTaxes: @Quill Why not? You do.

I really don't want to hurt anyone with what I say, and annihilating friendships and regulars is definitely not what anyone wants.

@QPaysTaxes: Shit, monkey's here? Guess I better flap on away like the inconsiderate seagull I am.

I really do like @QPaysTaxes and @EthanBierlien as people, I've often made jokes at their expense, something usually only people a little closer than acquaintances do.


I was either lurking or commenting throughout most of the dilemma, and I don't believe '@rolfl has gone off his rocker and is doing crazy things', or:

@Simon: @rolfl perhaps you're the one that should go to sleep? :)

for a minute.

Through The 2nd Monitor, CR users gained a sense of mateship by fighting the zombies, the revival, making memes and inside jokes etc.

But when you dilute the quality of such a wonderful chat room with things that don't really belong, like the lol - followed by an autostar, or two. (It does have a position as a meme, I know.)

@Quill: A joke is relevant here and there, but not as a constant

While it might be fun to point out the flaws of PHP (I do it too much, I admit), or laugh at a mispell, when it's overbearing and outnumbers the Code Review official business, it should stop.

As @nhgrif pointed out:

@nhgrif: That's the problem. When there was only one teenager in the room, there was never 3 or more people interested in talking about teenager things. Now there are 3 or more teenager regulars.

There are far more non-teenager regulars that don't want to hear about teenager non-sense and silliness.

While age might be some of the problem, maturity and age aren't co-related, and teenagers can say nonsensical and silly things, we can't pretend it doesn't also come from the 'adults' in the room.

@Phrancis: OMG, Facebook argument begins! Some family member quoted some crap from the Bible. It shall be fun! ;D

Sorry to exemplify you, @Phrancis

Part of the problem, I believe is .

Some people tastefully use inline urls to pimp, others don't.

As much as somebody's seeming endless list of zombie kills is fantastic!:

@Skiwi: A new user should not be using The 2nd Monitor as his twitter feed.

Even non-new users shouldn't make 2nd Monitor their feed.

Overall, the community should have the respect to either take their conversation to a temporary room, a relevant project room for project discussions, or cease their conversation if Official Business is taking place, as far as Annoying or Inconsiderate goes, that's something people should work on as individual.

At the end of the day, @Mat'sMug is right:

@Mat'sMug: I think moderating chat is harder than many things

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    \$\begingroup\$ Moderating chat isn't hard when everyone is on the same page and knows the rules. hopefully we all know where we stand now, so it should again be less of a chore and more of a moderation where the ROs and MODs become the exception handlers again and not the clean up crew. \$\endgroup\$ – Malachi Jul 2 '15 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perfect analogy, @Malachi! \$\endgroup\$ – Quill Jul 2 '15 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good post @Quill, and you were right to link my chat post there, I recognize now it didn't belong in our beloved 2nd Monitor :) \$\endgroup\$ – Phrancis Jul 6 '15 at 3:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know this is old, but @Quill - your query is rounding ages. I'm not 21 (yet) ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Pantry Dec 10 '15 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanPantry: the query works on birth years (also it's a SEDE thing, not mine) \$\endgroup\$ – Quill Dec 10 '15 at 14:28
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While I agree in principle with what is attempting to be accomplished in The 2nd Monitor, I consider the behavior of those trying to accomplish that goal to be entirely unconscionable and absurd. This is not how you moderate chat rooms--not with an iron fist. A singular person can't just decide what is okay (and the worst part here, when it is okay). You can't have a chat room of just one person. You just can't. If you don't understand why, come see me...

I have been a member of various online chat communities for about as long as I've been connecting to the Internet (approximately 20 years... yes, I started young). I've moderated several of them. The iron fist approach just doesn't work.

Why not?

Because no one, and I mean no one likes to be the target of moderation. And what's more, other chatters really don't like seeing others being the target of moderation either... unless the behavior of the targeted person is clearly outside what has always been considered acceptable behavior for that chat room.

You cannot have rules that sometimes apply. You cannot have rules that apply only when a moderator is feeling overwhelmed and cannot keep up with what is going on in the chat.

But with all of this said, I do think it's important to have a chat room for discussing official Code Review business. It's important to have a place to resolve disputes between a poster who doesn't understand why their question was put on hold and the community. It's important to have a place for users to seek help in understanding the tools of the site. This room sort of exists, sort of. It's The 2nd Monitor.

The problem is, The 2nd Monitor has also been used as the primary chat room for all topics.

It has been made clear. As of the beginning of these incidents, the site is too busy for moderators & community members who wish to help out with site business to be able to keep up with the site business when there is idle chat going on in The 2nd Monitor.

So, the only thing that can make sense is this:

  • NO idle chat is allowed in The 2nd Monitor.* This is for site business only (almost as a less official, more casual version of the Meta).
  • Idle chat for chummy people being chums can go to The Nth Monitor.
  • People who want to have conversations about programming topics (any programming topics) can come to Standards & Conventions. (RE: Come see me...)

* For a while, this most likely means that the moderation is a little heavy-handed until the community is retrained.

You can't apply your rules sometimes. You can't leave it up to the community to figure out when and when not you're going to apply your rules.

And you can't even argue that "It's pretty easy, just pay attention to when official site business is being discussed." because that wasn't happening yesterday when messages were being moved and moderators were going on tirades for no reason. There was no business going on in the midst of this. I even asked multiple times what important Code Review stuff our chat about programming was interrupting. There was no answer, no response. Some room moderator just wanted the chat to stop scrolling so much (to the point that the room was even inexplicably frozen for a time).

Again, I would just like to emphasize that in my twenty years of online chatting, this ranks pretty high on the list of moderator overreactions I've seen. And it's kind of inexcusable, no matter how much of an explanation you try to drop off on this meta post.

And no apologies were offered to any of the regulars. The regulars who you considered out of line are not at fault. There isn't much of a difference between how The 2nd Monitor was 2 days ago and how it was a year ago, and at no point in my time in The 2nd Monitor where their ever any hints that idle chat was no longer going to be tolerated (because it entirely was up until today).

If you want to change the type of chat that goes on in a chat room, work with your regular chatters, not against them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I completely agree with your closing statement this whole answer seems emotionally loaded to me. I sure don't like the split of rooms that you propose and I hope we as community and chat-regulars can all work together to bring the 2nd monitor back to it's glorious days. \$\endgroup\$ – Vogel612 Jul 2 '15 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612 That's the part that rolfl is right about. The community has grown too large for The 2nd Monitor to be what it has been up until this point. His approach to fixing the chat room was way off the mark, but nonetheless, his end goal is right. And with graduation, the site will only grow. The more we grow, the more important business there will be to discuss. That starts leaving less & less room for "idle chat" anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – nhgrif Jul 2 '15 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ "There isn't much of a difference between how The 2nd Monitor was 2 days ago and how it was a year ago" - I believe there's a lot of difference between this and this. Most notable things are: 1. number of messages 2. number of users active 3. which users are active. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Forsberg Jul 2 '15 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimonAndréForsberg your comment implies that content should be moderated based on everything but the actual content itself. If this is the moderation approach of 2nd Monitor, then it's a society with secret rules that I don't feel like trying to decrypt when the rules will and won't be applied. It's entirely unfair and unwelcoming to potentially new community members. \$\endgroup\$ – nhgrif Jul 2 '15 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ You make a fair point that the community will probably grow a lot after graduation. We should have a plan for that situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jul 2 '15 at 15:35

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