I don't mind guiding users in The Periodic Table with their homework. If I get a question or two, I'll discuss it with the person. However, there have been times where users will sit in chat all night and ask question after question, seemingly completing entire assignments in chat. There have been cases where the moment the conversation turns elsewhere (the dumb stuff we normally talk about), these users get more demanding for help and start pinging people.

Furthermore, there have been times where I haven't been logged into chat for quite a while, but I'll get a ping from a user who has decided to tag several users in chat in order to get on-the-spot homework help.

The chat issue isn't terribly annoying, but the pinging is rude.


3 Answers 3


You are not off base here. Chat is supposed to be fun for everyone, and it's the dumb stuff we usually talk about that makes it this way.
It is in no way a homework help centre, but I understand, that users come and ask such questions all the time. It's fine if you want to help, but it should not get annoying. If I can quickly answer the questions, then I'll help out, too. Often I point them to the main site, to ask their questions there. After all we are a Q&A site and this way the questions have the potential to helping others. I remember that many and one questions came about in chat in casual conversation, that were later explored to some deeper degree on the main pages.

Quite some time ago I wrote the Main Chatroom Etiquette Guidelines. I recommend pointing the user to it and politely asking to stop whatever it is that you might find annoying. If it becomes difficult to have a normal conversation there, because someone constantly asks about homework, we might need to amend our guidelines with a more specific point.

When it comes to pinging/ tagging, I have a strong personal opinion on it: Only do it when necessary. That is when answering a certain question, replying to a previous point, directing something specific at someone, etc. I think you get the gist. What I don't want is to be tagged in every line of the conversation. If there is a flow, I don't need to be reminded that I am in chat.
As such, I find it not enjoyable getting a ping with a completely unrelated message. "Look at my question." is targeted spam in my eyes.

What can you do now? After pointing the user to the guidelines, asking h[er..im] to stop, there are still a few options open. Ignoring the user would be the obvious first choice. Pinging a room owner, or mod might also be a good thing. Maybe a cooldown period would help in such cases. Really annoying behaviour needs to be discussed, so that we can avoid it.

  • $\begingroup$ What about flagging one of the offending users' chat posts? Would that be a better idea than just pinging a mod? (Obviously, this would be a step to take only if they proved unwilling to honor other requests to leave one alone.) $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Jan 5, 2017 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ @hBy2Py That is not such a good idea. The chat flags go to all chat mods and are usually cleared quickly. If the dismissing mood doesn't ping one of us, we don't know and we can't take the appropriate action. If you ping a mod, we can gather more information and then discuss appropriate action among each other. That probably is the best and least intrusive way to deal with that. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2017 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Whoa - "all chat mods"? As in, across the entire SE network? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:02

Thanks for bringing this up. When I first noticed this behaviour I shared your concerns, but personally I think it is not that bad at all.

My stance on this is: anybody is free to bring their things to chat, within reason. That includes homework-style questions (for lack of a better word). If somebody wants to answer homework, then they can do so; if they don't want to answer it, then they can ignore it.

If you wish, you can ignore users if you feel that they make your chat experience less pleasant (click on their avatar on the left, then click ignore this user). This basically hides all their messages from chat. This is therefore not something that I would look to enact a site-wide rule against, when individual users have the tools to deal with such issues themselves.

Personally, I don't think that the behaviour you are describing has been overboard and don't see a need to step in (yet).

Mass-pinging people is another matter altogether. It has only happened twice recently. I really dislike it and consider it at best uncalled for, and at worst downright rude, because you are effectively summoning people to do your bidding. This can be construed as a violation of Be Nice. Both times this happened, these people were swiftly told to not do so again. If you see this, you can try to provide guidance yourself - but if you feel uncomfortable doing so, or the user doesn't listen, feel free to ping a room owner or mod and we will take care of it.

The moderators are frequently in chat and even though we don't always speak much, we often keep an eye on what's going on. If you want to draw something to our attention, you can ping us in chat, or write a meta post. That's not always desirable, for obvious reasons. The established way to contact moderators privately (e.g. if you want to talk about a specific user) is to flag a post on the main site.


So far, I don’t see homework helping in chat as a problem, but I also think that it has the potential to become a problem.

There are long streches of time when practically nothing happens in chat. If someone asks a random homework question and somebody else replies, they solve the problem, blabla, that’s fine. Maybe somebody else then comes in and starts a different conversation with person 4. That is also fine; most of the time the two conversations will be able to happen simultaneously. That also goes for three or four although it can become difficult after a while.

If homework helping does get out of hand one day, we might consider opening a new homework helping chat room. The quick one-line question may still be asked on the periodic table but extensive help should then be directed to the stoichiometric coefficients or something. But as I mentioned before, I don’t see us being there quite yet.

It should go without saying that pinging people for no other reason than Halpmiplz is against the be nice policy. Start with friendly warnings, continue with unfriendly warnings, if that doesn’t help, contact a mod.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can you give an example for an unfriendly warning? Is't ಠ_ಠ? $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2016 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン An unfriendly warning would be something like ‘for crying out loud stop pinging me now!’ or similar. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Dec 2, 2016 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ phdcomics.com/comics/archive/phd041316s.gif $\endgroup$
    – user7951
    Dec 29, 2016 at 1:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Loong But that’s not XKCD =O $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Dec 29, 2016 at 14:19

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