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It has been brought up lately that our chat has not been the same for some time now, which is mainly expressed in lack of activity when compared to previous periods (60 messages per day versus some 400 (?)).

In absence of human chatters, the room has been dominated by the main site questions feed 1 , Babelfish. It was then pointed out that the number of feed's messages (their appearance, them cluttering the chat) is acting as a deterrent for good conversation, especially if it's spread across hours, e.g. when someone posts at 10:00, someone else replies at 16:00, with ~10 feed messages in between.

Personally, I agree that in this case a room without the questions feed is better than a room with 10 feed messages in a row.

There are a few solutions

  1. We can leave everything as it is. One could see what it looks like by going here and reading on - there were 8 hours of non-stop feeds.

  2. We could convert the feed to a ticker - then the new questions would appear in a box in the upper region of the screen, instead of being posted like an ordinary chat message. Be advised that the ticker feeds need to be dismissed manually by clicking on them, and there's no way to "ignore" this feed, as one could do with Obie/Babelfish. There's a history of hate towards the ticker feed on main meta.

  3. Remove the feed altogether 2, 3 .

    the advantage here is that the feed would no longer cause any clutter and annoyance in any way. The obvious (disputable) disadvantage is that the users will have to go the "newest questions" page to see the newest questions. Sometimes I find it helpful to just visit the chat and see some recent questions, without having to visit the actual site and browse through the list, though it's not really difficult either.

What does the community think?


1 Simple math - SFF averages at ~25 questions per day. With 60 messages per day, the main feed makes almost the half of all messages right now. Or a third, if that number doesn't count feeds - I don't know.

2 Notice that we can always bring it back, when we increase our activity.

3 (Note that I'm only talking about the feed that posts new questions from the main site. All other feeds - meta, XKCD, At Wit's End, Literature, Movies, blog, and bounties - are infrequent enough and could remain in place. But then again, it's all open to suggestions.)

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I think we should move the main-site questions feed out.

  • Because the ratio of main-site questions to chat activity is so high now, having that feed makes the room look even deader than it is.
  • If people join the room and see a stream of mostly automated feeds, they might not bother trying to start a conversation; if they see just the messages that were in between the feeds, they might not notice at first how far apart those messages are.
  • It's easier to make some remark in chat, hoping for a response later on when someone else logs in, if you're not interrupted by a bunch of oneboxes in the meantime. As it is now, any remark that doesn't spawn a longer conversation will likely be lost among the oneboxes.

On the usefulness of oneboxes

The main objection I've seen people raise to removing the main-site questions feed is that it's useful for finding deleted posts. Even if you have over 10k rep, you can't find these by searching on the main site (unless you're a mod), but you can find them via chat oneboxes if you remember the title or OP or some of the text of the question.

Thus, I suggest moving the feed to the SFF Community Cleanup room. That way it's still in public chat and still searchable, but the only people it will bother on a day-to-day basis are those who already spend their time keeping an eye on new posts anyway.

On the option of ticker feeds

I'm strongly against installing a ticker feed in the Restaurant, for a few reasons:

  • Searchability. As discussed above, one advantage of onebox feeds is their searchability in transcripts. No permanent record is kept of ticker feeds.
  • Persistence. Ticker feeds remain on your screen, obscuring actual chat messages, until you actively click to dismiss them. Oneboxes scroll naturally out of sight after a while and never obscure other messages.
  • Ignorability. This isn't an issue for me personally, since I don't ignore feeds, but I know a lot of people do. Oneboxes can be set to 'ignore' just like regular chat users, but ticker feeds can't: there's no way to stop them from appearing on your screen and blocking chat.

So I think the best solution is to remove the main-site questions feed from the Restaurant entirely, and move it to the Community Cleanup room instead.

As you say, other feeds don't have to be touched. The point of this whole exercise is to reduce feed spam and make sure feeds aren't the most active 'chatters' in the room, blocking out all other conversation. None of the Restaurant's other feeds are anywhere near as busy as the one for main-site questions. And in the case of the Literature and M&TV feeds, they're one of our only direct connections to our neighbour sites, which is something we should encourage if possible.

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    I support this. There has already been a suggestion to have a main site feed, but we agreed that Babelfish covers that. With moving Babelfish to the cleanup room, we can solve two problems at once. – Gallifreyan Jul 8 '17 at 20:01
  • This seems like a very helpful place to move the main site feed to. +1 – doppelgreener Jul 8 '17 at 23:36
  • I'd +1 but I'm kind of a fan of 'ticker feeds'. It seems like there should at least be something to connect the chat with the main site. – DaaaahWhoosh Jul 10 '17 at 1:17
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    Even if you have over 10k rep, you can't find these by searching on the main site - One thing to note is, if you did answer on the said post and got at least one vote, you can find it in your reputation tab by checking show removed posts checkbox. Otherwise as you say, there is no way for normal users to find it again – Aegon Jul 10 '17 at 6:53
  • @Aegon That only works for 10k+ users though, right? – Rand al'Thor Jul 10 '17 at 9:13
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    I would say that other feeds do need to be touched. I just noticed the new questions from M&TV are still appearing... We are giving other stacks content precedence over our own. – Skooba Jul 17 '17 at 12:19
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    @Skooba The only point of moving out the SFF main questions feed was that it was drowning out conversation. The M&TV feed isn't voluminour enough to drown out conversation, so there's no need to move it out. And if this helps to encourage neighbourliness with other sites, so much the better! – Rand al'Thor Jul 17 '17 at 20:50
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We just need to chat more.

But seriously, the last couple of days, I've seen enough activity in Milliways (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) that the main feed isn't the sole source of content.

So perhaps we should leave it as it is for now.

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I don't think you need a main site question feed. We already have one freely available for anyone who wants to check on the site's questions: the main site. There's even a link to it via the logo in the bottom right of the chat room. Having message feeds which are too active is disruptive to using the chat room to, y'know, chat. The dominance of feeds over chat messages can be a bit excessive. Since we're busy trying to find more ways to make the chat active, an active and redundant feed that's detrimental to chatting should probably be cut.

In other rooms I've seen good use of chat feeds for relevant segments of mainsite activity: the Doctor Who chat room subscribes to Doctor Who question feeds from a couple of sources, and the Fate Chat room on RPG.SE subscribes to questions in RPG.SE's Fate tags. Subscribing to the entire site is a bit much though.

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