Schrodinger's Cat Strikes Back

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Do we need a chat room?


Well, the title basically says it all, but let me elaborate?

”’Q2A does not have a chat room by default.”’

    • Plug-In

There is a pluug in for that, though:

But, as you can see, it does not look anything like Stack Exchange’s chat, even the message ordering is reversed. Things like the colour and the background can be customised through some basic CSS, I guess though. But I doubt it’s very easy to reverse the order. Maybe it could be done with JavaScript or something. I don’t know.

But there’ is still a much bigger problem than aesthetics. Stack Exchange’s chat has a lot of advanced features. This includes transcripts, so that every single chat message does n’ot load when you go to the page, and you’ll need to click “load older messages” repeatedly. Which is good, or else everyone’s computers will crash : )

Now, this feature is absent in the plug-in. I suppose that such a feature would be very hard to make, so the only plans they have is to make the chat content completely clear out automatically, which is n’ot exactly appropriate when people want to discuss Physics there.

There’s also a pragmatic problem, which is that admins can just click a button to clear the entire chat, and BOOM! Now, what if their mouse were to go crazy (this happens quite often, especially in situations where an “Are you sure pop-up does not appear : ), my mouse once whent crazy and closed all my windows, fiddled with some of my desktop widget settings (which I uninstalled because of that) shut down my entire computer, even). So, what if the same happens to a mod on Physics Overflow (whom as we have decided earlier somewhere, I think in the TRF thread, would obviously be based on a community election, on the basis of knowledability. Thus, only knwoeladebele people like, e.g. Ron and Lubos would get the status of a mod, unlike on PhysSEs, where programmers like Shog9 and Slikzw from Stack Overflow have mod superpowers, and even abuse them repeatedly), some poor people’s Physics discussions may be very nastily interrupted.

    • Using an external chat provider

Wikia for example has developed an extension for MediaWiki which provides a chat room that looks very similar tfo Stack Exchange. It is even heavily customisable through CSS and JavaScript, so this would look like a nice option. You can see it here: I’m not completely sure if you can see it without being logged in, so here’s a screen shot:
Untitled (Test) chat.
(Note that of course, the colour, etc., can be changed very easily, even without CSS)

HOWEVER, this has a terrible disadvantage that all messages get erased the moment no visitor is viewing the chat room, so this option is ruled out, too, unless, of course, Wikia accepts my suggestion to transciriptify the older chat messages.

    • Make use of existing Q2A tools

Well, this idea may sound funny, but it works. As we all know, Q2A has user message walls. So, how about creating a dummy user, “The Coupling” (PhysSE’s hBar’s old name, which I consider much more pertaining to a higher-level theme, than the “hBar”), whose message wall, ”is” a chat room. Because message walls are transcript-ified, which means there are multiple pages of them, yet no messages are deleted, all our problems are solved.

Except, of course, that it would look weird.

I think “ChatterBox”‘s account should be blocked, so that nobody misuses it.

Any other ideas? Do we even maybe,, not even, need a chat room? .



  1. Dilaton says:

    Thanks for this very nice evaluation of different chat possibilities 🙂

    The idea of ChatBox accounts seems nice, maybe there could even be more than one in the same way as Stack Exchange has different chat rooms?

    On TP.SE and on MO I observed that real researchers and and serious advanced students are much less chatty than for example the folks usually populating the physics SE chat rooms policyng, talking about everything but physics, etc …
    The chat rooms of such serious sites are not very busy therefore (MO has a more active topic specific chat room), and I always wonder WTF people like Crazy Buddy’s and other folk’s business it is lurking in the MathOverflow chat room for example, apart from making inappropriate use of the “star feature” … 😉

    Concerning moderators and administrators of the PhysicsOverflow, User10001 had the good idea of explicitely mailing to some university profs and ask them if they would like to help the new site by moderating, shortly before we are ready to go online.
    I think this is a good idea to have good, by the community respected and trusted experts as moderators to start with. For example we good try to mail to the mods of the former TP.SE (Moshe, etc), and yes people like Lumo, Urs Schreiber, Arnold Neumaier, etc would be nice to get too.

    Physics SE has clearly detoriated to a playground for SE politicians and their followers, as you can see how real knowledgeable researchers are treated on Meta

    Not a single one of the answering politicians is any knowledgeable about advanced physics topics (David Z is a HEP-ph student in principle, nice picture in the post BTW), and they simple refuse to apply any physics reasoning in favor or against the question, but answer with useless SE political bubbling instead.
    I suspect that the absolute refusal of the dominating political meta crowd to look at the merits of controversial questions from a physics point of view will quickly drive away such knowledgeable people as Levitopher …

    • Yes, it’s good idea to have multiple chatboxes, like {{{ROOMNAME}}}.ChatBox.

    • There’s another possible use of a chat box that strikes me.

      Things that are obviously off-topick for the main site, like LaTeX help, for example, is still soemething very useful and important. Obviously, LaTeX questions can’t be on-topic for the main site. I mean, “What’s the command for so and so rendered output” is off-topic because
      (1) It’s not Physics.
      On SE, there would be another reason which is that (2) The answer is probably like 4 character. s But of course, this is hardly a valid reason. But anyaway, back to the point, LaTeX just can’t be on-topic on the main site, so that sounds like an appropriate use of the chat room.

  2. […] 5 per user/hour These limits might need to be set to higher values, if we want to use user walls as chat rooms […]

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