This comes up from a moderators perspective, but affects the entire way the site operates so seems sensible to bring up here. The moderators can see the e-mail address given when a user registers, which can be used if there is a need to get hold of someone directly. This might happen if a question or answer is flagged, for example. However, it's quite possible to register without giving an e-mail address using the OpenID system. Now, this poses a challenge if there is a need to send a message directly to a user. The only way is to do so 'in public', say as a comment to a question. How do people feel this should be handled? One option is to take the attitude 'no e-mail, no notice of any moderator actions', but to me this seems a bit heavy-handed. On the other hand, posting a public message also seems a bit off. Thoughts?
It seems that private moderator messages have just been enabled. Maybe a moderator can confirm this.
I've wanted more than once on a SE site to send a user a message for private reasons and tracking them down is not always easy! (Indeed sometimes impossible.) I would strongly support being able to "private message" a user through the SE system, although I don't know if anyone here has the power to add such a feature.
(More of a comment than an answer, but we're on meta so who cares?)
Knowing (as I do) a little of what prompted this, I'd like to rephrase Joseph's "question" a little:
Please supply an email address in your "profile". This can only be seen by moderators so it's reasonably private. It's useful because sometimes the moderators might want to contact you privately about something. Two possibilities are:
- You did something that needed moderator action: the moderator might want to email you to explain what they did and why so that the situation can be avoided next time.
- You asked a moderator to look in to something: the moderator might want to email you to say that they were following it up, especially as these things can take a little while to sort out.
So if you don't supply an email address, then you accept that we can't contact you and either must explain things in public (in the first case) or you must just trust us to be doing our job (in the second).
(apropos of nothing: "must just trust us" is a great phrase)
It's hard to speak in generalities about something that is usually handled on a case-by-case basis.
Emails are usually a courtesy to notify someone so that questions/people/livestock don't simply disappear without a trace. But if someone does not provide contact information, they can't be contacted.
If a communication is inherently private, I would not make it public simply because the user did not provide the means of that private communication. But it's hard to say how to handle any particular situations without specifics.