I am wondering what is the etiquette regarding Te[X/ch]nical questions asked on the main chat room.

I have indeed seen people (including myself) posting their questions on the chat and being answered. However, it is not really convenient (notably for posting MWEs), it might interfere with others' discussion, and (more importantly) knowledge is not stockpiled as other would hardly retrieve the question later.
My current personal guideline is thus the following: I ask on chat when I think my question is silly/simple and not very valuable for others. In other words, if I think that the question could be answered in less than one line and one minute by someone who has the relevant experience.

However not quite sure if it really works that way. I thus would like to know when I should ask on chat (if ever), and when it is better to write a question.

  • 3
    You already touch upon this in your question, but I would like to emphasise that a good question is valuable for the site and to other people that face a similar problem. So if you have an interesting question that is on topic taking the time to make it into a good answer that can receive a qualified answer helps others as well.
    – moewe
    May 7, 2017 at 11:59
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    The more complex a question is the more it is suited for the main TeX.SE site, I think.
    – user31729
    May 7, 2017 at 15:47
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    I disagree with @moewe :-). You need to turn your question into a good answer to post it. Turning it into a good question is surely enough.
    – cfr
    May 8, 2017 at 1:22
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    @cfr I disagree with what I wrote as well. Of course I meant good question.
    – moewe
    May 8, 2017 at 5:30
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    @moewe I disagree with what I wrote as well. I of course meant: you need not turn your question into a good answer to post it.
    – cfr
    May 8, 2017 at 10:03

3 Answers 3


It's OK to ask on chat but you should not expect an answer (although you may get one anyway).

The Q&A site is designed for asynchronous help, you ask a question and it stays visible and can be answered by anyone at any time that they feel convenient.

If you ask in chat then although the archives are available, the default site mechanics will mean that the question will quickly scroll out of view pushed out of sight by discussion of the latest Juventus football results and other pressing issues. That means that asking in chat is effectively directly asking the people in the room at that point to answer the question now, which is OK occasionally but can be annoying if done too often.

On the other hand if it is really just a one liner and you ask in chat and get an answer no harm is done. But if you don't get an answer, then just leave another comment to say you'll ask again on the main site, and ask there rather than re-asking on chat or pinging people.

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    +1 for two important "rules": (1) Do not re-ask. (2) Do not ping people, I would add: unless you know they are the right people to ask.
    – yo'
    May 7, 2017 at 16:39
  • I really do try not to ping unless really desperate. But I realise this is not a good rule .... (And only usually if I at least think I know who the right people to ask are.)
    – cfr
    May 8, 2017 at 1:26

You're should feel free to use the platform the way you choose, whether it's for chatting about ducks, or whether it's asking questions. Those who are here to help will do exactly that. Others might be inclined to request you ask it on the main site (perhaps with the intention of answering it and receiving the accompanying reward).

I've often been able to resolve an issue in chat for similar reasons you've asked - it seems simple enough for an experienced user, yet I've never had that kind of experience/exposure. So, I think it's not worthy of main site question. Another reason is that if the timing is right, you could probably get a sufficient answer really quickly.

You can always post your question and test the waters there. It'll start the discussion, and if there are those willing to answer it, you can move it to the main site. It's really up to you and those you engage with in the chat room.

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    regarding "those willing to answer it" in the chat, even if someone can't answer, but thinks it's worthwhile to keep it in the permanent record, it will probably be suggested that a question be posted on the main site. May 7, 2017 at 7:31

If the other discussions are about ducks or food, please interfere! You'll make David happy!

However, I'd do as you described; in chat, it is better to ask:

  1. simple things that on the main site would be answered in comments
  2. something too specific for your problem and that wouldn't probably interest anyone else
  3. things that need some interaction, which is easier to have in chat
  4. what you are not sure is on topic (or other doubts) and, if they are, ask an official question later.

Otherwise, I'd always prefer the main site, because your question will remain for future users with the same problem. Many times I found useful posts voted only by few people.

  • Also, if I know that there are some online experts in the chat that can help me in some areas, I ask without hesitation since I know they can answer my questions effortlessly based on their experience.
    – Diaa
    May 7, 2017 at 10:14
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    @DiaaAbidou The experts are on the main site too. So this is not a good argument to prefer the chat. And you shouldn't assume that that answers are given without efforts. May 7, 2017 at 10:34
  • @UlrikeFischer I understand what you mean, however, many times I have simple questions that I know some of online chat experts can answer it since they are fundamental questions that confuse me.
    – Diaa
    May 7, 2017 at 10:45
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    @DiaaAbidou Sure but as David pointed out in his answer: you are not only asking experts for an answer, you are asking to answer you now in a rather fast changing chat list. I answer (and ask) questions in the chat too, but I normally prefer more quite places like a real question or a dedicated chat room than the general chat -- even more when it is a about fundamental questions. May 7, 2017 at 11:00

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