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For comments on this question, I followed the link suggestion to continue the conversation in chat. Now the conversation has vanished leaving a dead link. Is this normal (i.e. continuing in chat should only be used for temporary short-lived discussions), and if so, how long will the chats remain?

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    I am still able to see the discussion in chat between you and @barbarabeeton, 39 days after it occurred... Have you cleared your browser cache? – Werner Mar 5 '12 at 8:01
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    Rooms get deleted after a period of inactivity. I (and the other mods) can still see them if we want to: I'm not sure how it works for other users. – Joseph Wright Mar 5 '12 at 8:58
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From the Chat FAQ:

Will these rooms exist forever?

Rooms will exist indefinitely, so long as there is at least one person actively talking in the room. A room is considered worth retaining if it has more than 15 messages by at least 2 users.

Rooms not worth retaining which are inactive for 7 days will be deleted. Rooms worth retaining which are inactive for 14 days will be frozen. Frozen rooms do not allow any new messages to be sent, and are not shown in the default room list to prevent cluttering the rooms interface.

Looks like you and barbara beeton exchanged only 9 messages in that room, so it was deleted for inactivity 48 days ago.

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    Thanks. Given this, it is not reasonable to take relevant discussions out of the comments and into an unarchived chat room. – mforbes Mar 15 '12 at 4:10
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    What does "delete" mean in this context? By following the link that Werner posts, I'm able to see that chatroom with the slightly bizarre message that "this chatroom has been deleted". Is it just the functionality that has gone? Will the content always be available (at least, as available as anything else on SE)? – Loop Space Mar 15 '12 at 14:31
  • @AndrewStacey When I visit the link that Werner posts, I get a page with "Page not found" and a couple of trekies wearing rainbow toques. From my point of view, deleted is deleted. – mforbes Mar 16 '12 at 6:24
  • @mforbes That's good to know. The ability to see deleted chat rooms is therefore a reputation issue: presumably there's some threshold at which one can see these rooms, if one knows of their existence. I agree, therefore, with your initial comment on this answer. – Loop Space Mar 16 '12 at 7:34
  • @mforbes: "Page not found" is the default for restricted pages. Apparently SX doesn't like you to know if the page really exists/ed or not. You can always ask a moderator to undelete it (at least I guess moderators can undelete chat-rooms). – Martin Scharrer Mar 16 '12 at 13:06
  • @mforbes Comments aren't a great place for a lengthy discussion either. If you really want to preserve a discussion, the best thing to do is to have it in the main chat room and then bookmark the conversation for easy access later. No matter where a conversation happens, though, if anything is discussed that's relevant to the question or the answer that started the talk, it should ideally be edited back into the posts. That way future visitors would benefit from the discussion without having to go searching for it. – Adam Lear Mar 16 '12 at 13:57
  • @AnnaLear Let me see if I understand: since the main chat room is active, it should be quite permanent. So if a discussion might be too lengthy for comments, then take it to the main chat, and add a summary back if relevant. – mforbes Mar 18 '12 at 2:31
  • @mforbes Yeah, that's the gist of it. You can also bookmark a conversation and share a link to that if there's something worth preserving there that doesn't quite fit in the original answer. – Adam Lear Mar 18 '12 at 2:34
  • @mforbes. A room is considered worth retaining if it has more than 15 messages by at least 2 users. That shouldn't be a hard barrier to pass in any reasonable discussion. – TRiG Apr 2 '13 at 12:06

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