Newbie hints

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Welcome to the Lounge!

We are the best chatroom on Stack Overflow. Let's get the biggest issue out of the way first.

Can I ask programming-related questions in the chat?

In theory, you can. We even set up best practices at one point for how to properly ask. You should read them, most of them are still relevant. However...

The Lounge is one of the (if not the) most active rooms on Stack Overflow. As a result, we got lots of people who rushed in here to ask for help thinking they'll get their answer more quickly than on the main site. At first we were happy to help, but after a while, many regulars got quite jaded, and now the usual reaction is "go away".

Now, if you lurk for a while, you might realize that we have no problem in answering questions asked by a regular. So what's going on? Well, we are a small community after all, and now it seems you have to earn your "right to ask" in the Lounge by becoming part of that community. If you don't have time for that, or don't care for that, then go on Stack Overflow instead. And please, for the love of all that is nice and fluffy, don't act like we owe you something. You'll get flamed to death.

With that in mind, introduce yourself, try participating in the various discussions, and have fun. That's what the Lounge is about, after all.

Tips for proper chatroom usage

What is there to know about writing messages in the chat?

Messages are one-liners by default and can be up to 500 characters long. You can add a newline by pressing Shift+Enter; such messages have no max length (that any of us has run up against). Note that messages with too many lines (according to a definition so far nobody has bothered to find out about) will appear truncated, requiring users to click on an "expand" link to see them in full.

You can edit your messages for 2mins. Click the v arrow appearing left of it when you hover your mouse over it and pick "edit" from the menu that appears. Also, Cursor Up will edit your last message (doing it twice edits the one before that etc.), Enter confirms the edit, Escape cancels it. The chat will keep a full history of your editing, though, visible for the others. If you want to completely wipe out something you said, you have to click on the "delete" link of the message's menu (click v to see that) within those 2mins. Note that at least room owners can still see your message as it was. Also, if it was quoted, those quotes will remain visible.

Markdown works pretty much like in comments on SO proper (there are subtle differences, though, like newline working), but totally fails for multi-line messages (except for fixed-width code and quotes; see below). Apparently, that's by design. Short inlined code snippets can be formatted using backticks. For posting longer snippets indent all lines of a multi-line message with four spaces. There's also a "fixed font" button appearing when your message has more than one line. Please paste longer code snippets into Coliru, it will compile your snippet and display the error message, which can then be discussed, too.

Links to chat messages, to questions, answers, comments, and user pages on the SE sites, and to images (URLs ending in .jpg, for example) and specific web pages (Wikipedia articles, Twitter messages, XKCD pages...) will inline an excerpt of the page, when they are the only text in a message. (That's called "oneboxing" by the creators of this chat.) There's also an "upload" button next to the input pane (only enabled when the input pane is empty) that will upload an image to, and post a message with the (oneboxed) image.

Please make sure you're not posting any animated gifs so that they will be oneboxed, because this makes them flicker over everybody's monitor until we have managed to chat it off the screen. Also, not matter what your local time is when you log in, some of the other participants might be at work, with their monitor in line of sight of a co-worker. Please bear in mind this possibility when you post oneboxed pictures, and try to restrict yourself to those that are not likely to get someone else in trouble.

AFAIK, and IIUC, TIL acronyms

If you don't know what those acronyms mean, you can have a look at the list of common acronyms likely to be used in the chat.

Referring to users and messages

Mentioning others using the familiar @syntax will notify them — audibly if they are in the chat (often referred to as plink), and through the StackExchange inbox feature across the whole SE network. The UI will suggest matches after you type @ and the first letters. You can cycle between the suggestions using the Tab key, accept by entering space, followed by your message.

Refer to specific messages by clicking on the down-and-right arrow that appears at the right of all messages when you hover over them (or by clicking the v arrow as mentioned above and picking "reply to this message" from its menu). This will start the message with :NNNNNNN, where NNNNNN is the message's ID. You can also manually type the colon, followed by the ID. You can find any message's ID in the permalink to the message, which you'll find beside the message's edit menu item.

Can I upvote chat messages?

You can spend a limited number of stars per day on messages you like. Recently starred messages are shown on the right. If there's a number to the right of a star, it indicates the number of people (>1) who have starred it. The more stars a message has, the further up it appears on that list, and the longer it stays there.

Room owners can also pin messages to that area. (The message you clicked on which linked to this was pinned.) Pinned messages are automagically unpinned after 14 days.

Can I downvote chat messages?

No, just like with comments on Stack Overflow proper, you cannot downvote chat messages. However, room owners have the possibility to remove stars and pins.

What if I consider a message offensive?

You can flag messages as spam/inappropriate/offensive by clicking onto the small flag to the right of the message. If enough users flag a message, it will automatically be deleted by the system, and the poster be banned for a while. Note that all >10k users get notified about every flagged message across all rooms of the chat and most of them find that very annoying, especially when done for silly reasons.

So please think thrice before flagging something. If a remark was not clearly meant to be offensive, it is often much better to talk to the user directly and telling them that, and why, you found some message offensive.

Messages can also be brought to the attention of a moderator (using the message's popup). You can provide a small comment to the moderator.

Someone said something good yesterday, but it already fell of the list of starred messages. How can I find this?

There is a transcript of everything said in the room as well as a list of starred messages. You can browse it. You can also search for messages posted in this room using the find facility on the room's info page. You can also search for messages posted by a certain user using the find facility on the user's info page (available by clicking on the user's avatar or user name).

Why does this room have a dozen owners? Most of the other rooms don't have half as many!

If you wonder why we have so many room owners: This room was originally created by some user(s) who later disappeared, orphaning it, so that other users set up a new C++ room. A moderator objected against two C++ rooms, and transferred ownership of the older C++ room to those who had created the new room (which was then left to die).

To prevent this from ever happening again, we have the unofficial room policy to turn regulars into owners (and to remove those no longer regulars in the chat from the list of owners). Since it is therefore, in theory, possible for everybody to become an owner of the room, which makes it a somewhat hot topic, in a rather lengthy discussion we came up with a few rules regarding this:

  • Frequent users are likely to become owners, although actual ownership is by the discretion of the owners.
  • Frequency is determined by the frequent users tab.
  • We are lenient with kicking people off, but whoever falls off the frequent users list might be kicked off at any time.
  • Whoever behaves badly might be kicked off by the discretion of an owner (a.k.a The Dick Rule™). (Note that bitching — rather than objecting — about removal according to these rules might be seen as bad behaviour and might prevent you from getting back on the list any time soon.)

Yes, these are vague. That's no accident. The C++ room is a kind of anarchic democracy, and it's intentionally prone to subjective feelings. It's a Lounge, after all.

Where can I find more information?

There is the official chat FAQ, linked to from the "faq" link at the lower right corner of the chat browser's window. (A small popup window showing just the formatting help of the FAQ can be invoked through the "help" link at the same place).