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You make some good points about the transitory nature of the chatterbox, I can't argue with the examples you cite.
Perhaps what I really want is not a permanent logging of the comments for posterity, but a larger window into the discussion. I guarantee that I am not the only person who has logged on and caught the end of what looked like an interesting discussion. A lot of times, I would like to see what has been said already without everybody repeating themselves. Or perhaps someone has asked a question and all you have seen are the replys, again a larger window into the discussion would be useful.
A one hour cache would suit my purposes much better than a permenant record. A one hour cache would also allay most of the concerns about losing context. So if we had a page that showed the previous hour's discussion, would this be a better solution acceptable to all/most?
update Ok I realise very few people have actually read this post since I wrote it, but this seemed worth adding.
There is a separate discussion going on about chat scripts logging in while they poll for messages. ZZamboni has mentioned that (in order to ensure he does not miss anything) he leaves his script running while he is not there. If there was a "previous hours chat" page, you could amend the polling frequency of your chat scripts to once every 55 - 58 minutes or so, when you were leaving them unattended. This would greatly reduce the load on the server.
Thanks for reading
Baldrick, you wouldn't see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing "Subtle plans are here again!"