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Occasionally, I get involved in exchanges of comments on MSE and the other party eventually says "let's discuss this in chat". Am I being antisocial in never taking up this offer? I feel that my interaction with MSE is via the question/answer/comment interface, where everything is shared and public. "Let's discuss this in chat" feels like "let's discuss this outside" which in the UK is an invitation to sort something out with a fight in the pub carpark.

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    $\begingroup$ All chat is public. When a comment thread gets long, it can be automatically moved to chat, and moderators can move comments to chat. This is normal. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Chat may be public, but I never go near it. @XanderHenderson your comment is helpful but doesn't actually address my question. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Dec 22, 2023 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ Some of the users might have just accidentally invite the other user to the chat, (a automatic suggestion shows up after several comments). Most of the time I just continue the conversation in the comment thread - in chat they don't have mathjax supposted to it's harder to use. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2023 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ Continuing to clutter comments with discussion is the equivalent of smashing glasses on the table and yelling at each other in the restaurant. Aside from the MathJax issue, go to comments. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Dec 22, 2023 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Nij And even the MathJax problem is solvable. tinyurl.com/cfqcvpc $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ @RobArthan In the question you posed, you made it seem as if your objections to chat are (1) it feels like chat is not "shared and public" (it is both of these things---indeed, it is more public than comments, as chat is moderated by all of the moderators in the network), and (2) it feels like someone asking you to "step outside" (as a prelude to a fight?---this is also incorrect). You are free not to participate in chat, but the reasons that you have given make no sense to anyoen who has actually engaged with the chat system. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson: thanks to you and everyone else for your comments. Chat feels less shared and public to me because I don't get to see chat chains unless I actively look for them, whereas I see all new questions and can filter for the ones on my favourite topics. Maybe there is a better way of knowing what is going on in the chat system that I am unaware of. The "step outside" thing is to do with the fact that viewers of the original question and comments may not be aware that there is an interesting chat chain relating to the question. Again, that may be just my ignorance. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @RobArthan If there is a chat associated to a question, there should be a comment, with a direct link to that chat. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ As long as 1) the "move to chat automatically" button appeared, 2) the discussion in comments is still going on (not settled nor dead), and 3) chat doesn't have MathJax, it seems to me that the best option is to continue the comments then migrate when the discussion is settled. $\endgroup$
    – peterwhy
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson: my recollection from attempts to engage with chat many years ago, is that it didn't seem to be as smooth as that. If pointers from questions to any associated chat chains appear reliably now, then that answers most of my concerns. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ If a conversation has been moved to chat, then there should be a message which says as much, e.g.... $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, or in Mathematics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 22, 2023 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Ironic $\endgroup$
    – FShrike
    Dec 23, 2023 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ @FShrike: I think it was intended to be educational rather than ironic. It was ertainly much appreciated as chat seems to work much better than it did the last time I tried to engage with it. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Dec 23, 2023 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if it might be perceived as less awkward if it were worded explicitly as originating from the server, e.g., "The Math.SE server is requesting that we move this discussion to the chat here [linked to the appropriate page]." The fact is that, even as a US speaker, I do perceive a slight rise in temperature accompanying "Let's discuss this in chat," and making it explicit that this is originating from the server might defuse that. $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    Dec 27, 2023 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

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The "Let's discuss this in chat..." invitation is a "canned" line that the Stack Exchange software produces automatically when the exchange of comments between two users passes a certain predefined threshold, i.e. the software is programmed to step into the conversation after a number of comments has been made and try to stifle it.

This means that this canned line should be understood less as an honest invitation to chat, and more like a signal that the conversation in the comments section has extended for too much and threatens to clutter the page, and that it would be a good thing for the two users engaged in it to stop it, or at least move it elsewhere.

Since this canned line is not produced by the user that you are discussing with, but by an anonymous piece of software, ignoring it does not automatically make you antisocial (since you are not ignoring a real human being).

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It's not my place to judge what is or isn't antisocial, but that certainly wouldn't be my reaction. I don't view it as antisocial. You are always free to decline to contribute to chat rooms, and to step away from any questions where commenting gets moved to chat. That's entirely within your rights. No judgement whatsoever, and no obligation. This is a site of volunteers, and you can always choose not to volunteer. I hope you won't feel any shame or guilt about it.

I would suggest a slightly different way of thinking about this. Stack Exchange's mission (in my view) is to build up an archive of knowledge, in the form of high-quality questions and answers. Comments are a means to an end, but are not the primary goal. As a first approximation, comments exist primarily to help people improve questions and answers (not, e.g., to support interesting discussions).

If you find yourself in a long comment thread, with many comments, or with back-and-forth exchanges with other users, then that is often a "bad smell" that indicates that something has gone awry. Perhaps the question wasn't a good fit for this site, or perhaps comments are not being used for the intended purpose that the site was designed for. So in that situation, it might be a good time to take stock of the ultimate goal (the site mission) and how best to advance that goal.

In that situation, if you can answer the question yourself, you might consider whether you can write your own answer. If there are problems with the question, you might consider whether you can edit the question to improve it, or vote to put it on hold until it is improved. (In theory, if there are problems with an answer that can be fixed, you might consider whether you can edit it to make those improvements -- though on this site, such edits are often viewed unfavorably, so in those situations you might have more luck with walking away or writing your own answer.)

It's definitely not an invitation to "step outside", i.e., to sort it out with a fight or a debate. Indeed, we probably don't want either fights or debates here on this site, as a general rule of thumb. (But perhaps it would not be completely wrong to view it as a suggestion that "you don't have to take this outside, but please don't continue it in here".)

You can think of the "move to chat" as a nudge. It is a suggestion that, hey, something seems like it might be going astray here. There's a good chance that comments are being used in a way that they weren't intended for. And it is offering one possible alternative. You don't have to take that alternative. You have agency to consider how best to respond, based on your best judgement. Regardless, I do think it's worth paying attention to the "something might be going astray here" signal, and using it to consider what is the best way to make a positive contribution on the site, in a way that is consistent with the Stack Exchange format.

I find it hard to say more without looking at concrete examples.

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