To quote @Vogel612 in chat today, with regards to CaptainObvious, the new questions feed in the main chat:

so many bot posts... at this point I think we should consider turning CaptainObvious into a drop-down feed instead of a one-boxing screen-eating monster

So here it is for everyone to discuss and vote on. I wrote up a breakdown of the pros/cons, for those who don't frequent The 2nd Monitor very often.

Would it be best to leave the CaptainObvious feed as it is, or to change it to a "New feed items" drop-down?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Reducing the activity of some of the other bots might also be an option.... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ With as inactive as the chat has been lately, do we want to make it feel less active? At the very least, with the feed as a user-style feed, it can more easily prompt discussion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 17:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EBrown it might as well quench said discussion by suddenly posting 5 new questions taking basically all screen space ... \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612 If that's the case, the original discussion probably isn't important enough to remain the centre of discussion when the new questions are dropped. Priority of The 2nd Monitor is site business, most notably question triage and such. If an idle banter conversation is killed when the feed drops a new batch of questions in because one (or more) of those questions need community involvement, I have no sympathy or regrets for that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 6:03
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree on "priority on site business", a healthy chat (which is inherently social) needs some idle chatter. If the captain is breaking the necessary "evil", then it hurts the main purpose as well ... if there's nobody around to chat, because the room doesn't facilitate discussion (even when there's no site business), who's going to be around when there's site business to discuss? ... \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 9:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why are you limiting that to two options? I think a tab like control could be considered, 1 tab per question, keeping the content as it is for each tab? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 6:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrunoCosta The intent was to compare on the two existing possible options; anything beyond those, while possible, would require SE development. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phrancis
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought everyone the stackexchange network was familiar with the XY problem. Seems to me this is a solution that has no inherent connection on the actual problem you intend to solve. I think a second meta post to properly set the theme and usage times of the current users could be apropos, to get an idea. My schedule, personally, is very different from the time I could regularly lurk on the site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Legato
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 6:10

3 Answers 3


Keep the one-boxing user-like feed

This is how it works at the time of this writing. The RSS feed receives new questions every few minutes (usually around 10-15 minutes it seems), and posts each individual question link as if the feed were a regular chat user:



  • Easy to get a bird's eye summary of the question which allows for easier handling for moderation

  • The ability to "reply" to a specific post (as seen by @Vogel612 in screenshot) with commentary

  • Shows clickable tags as part of the message

  • Causes the chat room to feel active during non-active periods

  • More easily sparks discussion regarding questions (and perhaps the feed itself) from users

  • Feed information persists for all users in the room currently, and new users joining the room


  • Takes up a lot of vertical room (roughly 5-6 normal chat post lines) for each message

  • Can be distracting when users are trying to have a conversation

  • During certain times, e.g. when the feed might be lagging, it's not uncommon for 4-5+ questions to get posted at the same time, effectively scrolling down a whole screen

  • Can confuse new users; "Who's @CaptainObvious?" is a frequent phrase

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Thats IMO the one we should keep using. The additional information I see about the question is a benefit I wouldn't want to miss. \$\endgroup\$
    – Heslacher
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 5:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Heslacher what if the dropdown RSS provided more information? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vogel612
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 12:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vogel612 well, I think that the RSS would then hide most of the chat. Consider it would contain the first 2 lines of the question and the tags and we wouldn't see much of the chat either on a day with lots of questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Heslacher
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why can't we take the best of both worlds? Can we change the feed to post in chat, but not onebox? \$\endgroup\$
    – user34073
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hosch250 not sure, at the moment it's just a RSS feed with the post link (in both cases), so it would possibly involve a lot of complications either intercepting the feed before it's posted, or changing the way the posts one-box in chat (when the link alone is posted) \$\endgroup\$
    – Phrancis
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be possible to format it as [title of post](url of post)? \$\endgroup\$
    – user34073
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 20:34

Okay just to illustrate what I'm talking about. The following two images are the twelve hours between 23:50 and 12:50 MEST:

enter image description here enter image description here

I have marked the "real users" that were active during that time in the chatroom with red dots ...

This is a very discouraging image for me, because it gives the impression that the room is essentially deserted.

Zak and I noticed that the room is significantly less active as of recent and it's something that we as RoomOwners want to find reasons to so that we can eliminate them ... I think the high volume of Bot posts is one reason for lack of conversation especially in European activity times :/

  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that the room is being deserted because of bots. Many users have left the room since we graduated, and that is the reason. rolfl left, I rarely post, Simon rarely posts, RubberDuck left... \$\endgroup\$
    – user34073
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the case of your answer, we're trying to solve the wrong problem in this Meta question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:58
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure seeing 5 hours later... between real-user posts would be any better than that half-ton of feed posts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @EBrown that this answer doesn't really match the question, since it was specifically about addressing the questions feed / CaptainObvious. I do think that the topic of activity in chat is worth addressing, but chat itself may be a better venue to do this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phrancis
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:29

Change it to a dropdown "New feed items"

This is used for feeds in other rooms. For instance, here is a screenshot of it (upper-left) from the Rubberduck VBA room:



  • It only takes up vertical space at the top of the screen and does not affect messages at all, rather than pushing messages up into the main chat feed

  • It can be dismissed or ignored easily

  • Will likely eliminate questions from new users about the feed user (since there won't be one); no more "Who's @CaptainObvious?"


  • It provides very little information about the posts (i.e. only the titles) so each link must be clicked to get any more information

  • It makes it less convenient to address a post, i.e.: you have to copy the link from the RSS feed and post it back in chat

  • Some would argue the large orange RSS logo in the background is a bit of an eye sore

  • Will cause the chat room to feel even less active during non-active hours

  • Will likely lose visibility/discussion on the issue

  • Once the feed is dismissed, getting the list of questions back is moderately difficult

  • The feed does not contain questions posted before you joined chat

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW the ticker feed in the VBA chat only links to SO and SU questions; CR posts are one-boxed in the chat feed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to this, the feed is only active from the time you enter the room. You can't see questions posted from before you dropped into chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:38

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