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Since the moderators all have lives, we've been thinking about getting some additional eyes on chat in the form of room owners for The h Bar.

In most chat rooms, ownership is meant to indicate who is "in charge" of a room and should be the point of contact for outsiders with questions about its culture. But since The h Bar is a primary site chat room, it's "owned" by the community, not by specific people. What we have in mind is probably more like a room maintainer than an owner. We think it'd be better if the chat community didn't always have to rely on the mods to keep the star wall clean, or to add feeds, or bring in new users who don't meet the rep requirement, schedule additional events, or kick-mute people if the conversation starts to get out of hand. (Kick-mute keeps a user from participating in that chat room for a short period of a few minutes.)

Owners get a few privileges, beyond those available based on reputation, that would allow them to take care of these matters:

  • room owner:
    1. edit the room name and description
    2. pin a message (a pin is a super-star)
    3. remove stars from messages
    4. grant explicit read or write access
    5. grant room ownership
    6. create and remove feeds
    7. move messages to a different room
    8. schedule events
    9. kick-mute users

Of course, ideally using these powers would be rare, and most of the time room owners would just hang around chatting as usual. And if there are serious problems, they'd just ping a moderator anyway.

Owners would be appointed by the moderators from trustworthy candidates who are willing to take on the role. It's not really worth going through a whole election process for what is ultimately a very small change in the status quo.

Anyway, I'm making this post to focus on the general idea of having room owners, not as a forum to debate who it's going to be. Thoughts? Any objections we haven't thought of? In the spirit of "better safe than sorry", I figured I should probably put something on meta before we just go and make it happen - even though it's very possible there is not really anything to say about this.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not in the chat often enough to qualify, but it would be good to have a list of people I could ping rather than flagging a post then getting told off for it. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 8 '16 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie: FYI, the current hbar room owners are listed here. It is automatically updated. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Apr 8 '16 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ the physics chat room is unusually busy across sites. sometimes its a "victim of its own success". think this is a good idea for mods who want to decrease workload on an extraneous part of SE & this site. however, the culture in this room is rather unique. hope the new appointee(s) can be flexible/ evenhanded & tolerate diversity/ color etc. $\endgroup$ – vzn Apr 8 '16 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn One of the criteria we'll consider when appointing people is ensuring that they are familiar with the chat room culture. That being said, room owners are not moderators, and there are not many ways in which they could fail to be even-handed. (I'm not sure what color has to do with any of this...) $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 11 '16 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ color defn "5. vivid or distinctive quality, as of a literary work"... the chat room culture across many sites is far more "freewheeling" and less restrictive than the main sites... the kickmute option to block user participation is a strong mod-like power & needs the most "evenhanded" and sparing usage where possible and not just use it arbitrarily against unpopular opinions, mildly eccentric users etc $\endgroup$ – vzn Apr 11 '16 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn We're certainly not going to go around handing out this power to people without considering their ability to use it responsibly. But keep in mind you're talking about the ability to remove someone from a room for a few minutes. It's a highly weakened version of actual moderator powers. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 11 '16 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ ok, so am finding this a bit hard to follow; of the 9 matters listed, which ones are taking up significant mod time currently? eg there seems to be only a single recurring event, unchanged. are there much "questions about room culture by outsiders"? where do these occur, inside the room? also room feed(s) are mostly unchanging, right? etc... re recent events such as suspensions, is the main idea to have someone signal to mods when "things are getting out of hand"? if so think it would be better to be straightforward about the real issues this administrative change is intended to address... $\endgroup$ – vzn Apr 11 '16 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn the list shows privileges available to room owners, not "matters". That being said, the reason for appointing room owners is not that chat tasks are taking up too much of the moderators' time, but that our availability is not good enough. (I suppose you could say that what takes up too much of our time is just watching the room to see when something needs to be done.) This is most relevant for defusing arguments and clearing out inappropriate messages. Some of the other things are additional benefits we would get from having room owners,... (cont.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 11 '16 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ (cont.) e.g. it would then be easier to add feeds or schedule additional events. Right now we don't do that because it's not a high enough priority, but with more room owners who have the ability, it would be easier for people to, say, coordinate additional events in the chat room. Some other sites have a lot of success with those sorts of events. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 11 '16 at 17:53
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I say yes.

And yes, I know my opinion doesn't carry a massive weight on this site itself, but since I'm around the chat a reasonable amount I thought I'd drop it in.

Over the past few months there have been a number of flags from The h Bar. Only some of them have been valid, but each one has required a little moderator time to resolve (yes, I'm aware 10k users can see chat flags, but — forgive me — it's been a while since I saw a 10k'er resolve a situation).

This reminds me of another chatroom I hang around. Or rather, of how that chatroom used to be — the attitudes in it are changed now, along with the flagging culture. I think that's in part down to the fact that the room got some room owners who could be around — not to impose, but to gently guide conversations away from topics that would trigger, and to help mediate in disputes.

On the other hand, I don't see that much harm could come from this action (unless the power gets given to someone ill-qualified to wield it, but that can be dealt with easily enough). That leaves us with a win—no-change situation, where we never lose anything. It's worth giving a try, at least.

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    $\begingroup$ You know the reason us 10k folks never resolve things is because you mods insta-handle any flags faster than we can click on them. Do mods get low-latency connections to the server or something? ;) $\endgroup$ – user10851 Apr 13 '16 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite we could tell you but then we'd have to have our army of clones kill you :-P $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 13 '16 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I've ever seen a flag from the chat? Where would I see the notification and how would I respond to it? Do I have more power in the chat room than I think? :-) $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 14 '16 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie You know how replies pop up with a coloured circle on your avatar? Like that, but blue and on the other side. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 14 '16 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ Aha, thanks, I'll keep an eye out for it $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 14 '16 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Also, they don't come with notifications, unlike pings. So if you're not in chat, you'll never see them. $\endgroup$ – Danu Apr 16 '16 at 23:23
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Our first appointments as additional room owners are Chris White and John Rennie. Welcome to your new role!

Chris White John Rennie

We'll continue to add additional room owners in the future as needed, and as qualified candidates become available.

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