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I got a notice in my "inbox" about a chat message, but it's in a room I never heard of and never entered before. What's going on and what does that mean?

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"Pinging" is a mechanism to draw somebody's attention to a comment or remark in a chat room. Whenever someone has already participated in a comment thread or chat room, the appearance of their user name prefixed with an "@" will cause a notice to appear in their in-box along with a link to that appearance, making it easy to read and respond. Anybody can use this mechanism.

Available to moderators is an extension of this, called "super-pinging." With it we can notify anyone, anywhere on SE, that their participation in a chat room is requested, whether or not they have participated in that room (or even on our site) before.

Until recently, the only mechanism moderators have had for private interaction with users about site issues has been private contact by email. This is strictly controlled: the format is boilerplate provided by StackExchange; email addresses are hidden to maintain anonymity; and--most importantly--a large number of SE employees are automatically copied. We are admonished to use this mechanism only

to address serious behavior problems: consistently low quality, improper voting, being abusive to others, using signatures or taglines, excessive self-promotion, etc.

Usually the outcome of such contact is either an immediate change in how the user behaves or, if not, separation from the community for a period of time to "cool off." (Separation is enforced by suspending the user account, preventing active participation.)

In seeking a gentler, less formal way to contact users about problems, your moderators have found that creating a private chat room and then super-pinging a user to join us for a conversation can work well. We can communicate back and forth in a friendly constructive manner, in strict privacy, without fear of offending someone else, of getting downvoted, or of any other kind of retribution. If you are contacted in this way it might mean you are perceived to be part of a problem that we need to address, but it can also mean that we are merely trying to resolve a possible misunderstanding or that we are seeking your advice about a sensitive matter which is best discussed privately.

We respect your privacy and time and therefore do not intend to use this mechanism extensively. Our hope is that we can identify issues and discuss them with interested and involved parties in order to develop effective, collegial solutions before these issues become serious problems. So, if you are super-pinged, please respond; if you do not, we will either need to act without your valuable advice or we may be obliged to contact you privately by email, with all that implies.

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    $\begingroup$ Two quick questions, 1) is there any visual distinction between a super-ping and the regular ping (a red circle or square depending on the browser). 2) What exactly is a private chat room? Can you see it on the chat room page or is it invisible to everyone except the participants? If it isn't invisible to everyone, can others enter the chat room and see the discussion (just not participate). $\endgroup$ – Andy W Jul 26 '12 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy 1) No; the only way you can tell it's a super-ping is by not recognizing the link to the chat room! 2) A fully private room is invisible and can be entered or viewed only by moderators and anyone specifically granted permission by the room's creator. (There are intermediate versions like gallery where, for instance, anyone can view the chat but only specific people can participate.) (This comment reflects enhancements by chl, who also found the links.) $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 26 '12 at 13:01

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