I don't use the main site much, but I have been a regular participant on Physics SE's main chat: The h Bar, for the past two years. Lately, I have been noticing a drastic drop in the number of subject experts i.e. grad students and professional physicists, visiting the chat. I know that some of the former regulars (including professional physicists and grad students) have either shifted to the software industry or have gotten busier with real-life. Of course, I'm hoping the best for them! At the same time, the main chat seems a bit different these days, and we don't get as many interesting physics conversations; simply because there are not enough active chat users. Perhaps, another issue is that many of the main site users are not even aware that chat exists!
A few quick fixes I could think of are:
Almost every time I peep into chat these days, I see a couple of new users asking easily Google-able or sometimes nonsensical homework-y questions, with terrible formatting and terrible grammar. Worse is when a user just goes "Is anyone willing to help me?" without giving any hint of their problem. To avoid that, we should hold homework and intro-level physics questions to the same standard as on the main site, in chat i.e. you should
show us your effort and research --- have you done basic Googling at least?
use proper formatting (format mathematical expressions with ChatJax).
use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar to the best of your ability.
not simply post a screenshot of your question.
- not ping random users when asking for help.
To be honest, the last issue (regarding the asker's displayed effort) is what bothers me the most. Such chat messages which ask into-level physics homework questions or JEE-type questions, and don't follow the above 6 rules, should be shifted (immediately, on-sight) to the Problem Solving Strategies room, which was specifically created for discussing beginner-level questions (mostly high school physics) and is less harsh about such rules. I had once mentioned:
Imagine a professional physicist landing up on the main page of the site and noticing such JEE type problems all around. They're sure to go - 'tis not the place for serious physics, and leave the site for good (I half-believe that's already happening :/). Add to that the terrible question formattings.
Recently, I've started to feel the same way about chat. Nevertheless, I would like to hear this community's opinions on this topic and suggestions about how we can bring more experts and enthusiastic physics students to our chat room who'd be more interested in discussing dinosaurs rather than alphabets!
Note: @Chair has given an excellent idea below, that is, we should write up a set of room rules and link it in the room description. That's great and I'm considering starting a new meta thread about that (listing out the "room-rules") once this is settled. But what I'm particularly interested in is: your opinions about what we should do if a new user does not follow the "room rules" (like posting a screenshot of a homework question, pinging random users, posting homework with questions having terrible formattings, etc.). Should we
immediately (on-sight) shift their messages to the problem-solving room after giving them a warning.
immediately (on-sight) delete their messages after giving them a warning.
just give them a warning and do nothing else?
Or something else?
In my opinion, we should go with option 1. However, in case of repeated offenses, we should hand out 30-minute timeouts and perhaps suspensions in the more extreme cases.
@Chair: That's among the main reasons why I was hesitant to write a set of rules as a rough draft. I'm not sure what most people want. It doesn't matter much that I like segregating rooms by topic (i.e. I think homework goes to JEE or problem-solving and meta matters go to physics-meta): if other people don't mind homework, then they stay in the hbar.
I do agree with him that segregating rooms by topics would be a good idea. Post homework and beginner level physics questions in the problem-solving room. Post meta-related issues in the meta room*. Leave the main chat (The h Bar) for discussing dinosaurs (real physics and other interesting stuff)!
Expressing your opinion, at this juncture, is very important --- otherwise, we won't know what you (as a community) want and this issue will remain forever suspended. This discussions needs to take place now so that we can understand the majority opinion and act accordingly.
*I'm aware that the Physics Meta room isn't too active these days. But I'm sure that if you really want to discuss any meta related issue you can simply mention the topic you want to discuss, in The h Bar; the regulars and mods will follow up the discussion in the Physics Meta room.