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Chatterbox FAQ

by SiteDocClan (Initiate)
on Nov 07, 2000 at 21:08 UTC ( [id://236794]=sitefaqlet: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Chatterbox FAQ

Q: What is the Chatterbox?

A: The Chatterbox is a nodelet which appears on the right-hand side of your screen and allows you to "talk" publicly with other users in the monastery. It also allows you to exchange private messages to/from other users. It is the best place to go if you have a quick perl question which needs answering.

Q: Who can use it?

A: Viewing the Chatterbox is available to anyone, even Anonymous Monks, but you must be logged in to PerlMonks to say anything. Create A New User.

Q: How do I refresh the screen without posting something again?

A: Hit the talk button again. Clicking the button without typing any message will not send anything, but the page will be updated. This method is better than the refresh button of your browser, because that might resend a chatter (or any other data) you've posted.

Q: How do I use it?

A: Just type in the input box at the bottom of the Chatterbox and hit the talk button, and everything you type will appear after your name. Later, you can refresh the chatterbox by hitting the talk button without typing anything (see above) to see if others have replied anything.

Q: Besides just talking, what else can I do?

A: There are also some special commands you can use, all of which start with a slash. Warning: Typos, such as the infamous "/msh" will appear as if it was a normal string. (The slash commands are case-insensitive.)
  • text

    Used to say something in the Chatterbox. Others will see whatever you type, together with your name. For example, if turnstep typed

    What's the best module for multiplying matrices?

    in the textbox (mouth) in the Chatterbox, and hit the talk button, it would appear in the Chatterbox (for anyone else when they refresh it) as

    [turnstep]: What's the best module for multiplying matrices?
  • /me text

    Used as an action verb for the Chatterbox. Your name will appear, then the text you type afterwards, and the entire thing will be wrapped in <I> tags and italicized. For example, if turnstep typed:

    /me raises his eyebrows.

    it would appear inside the Chatterbox as:

    turnstep raises his eyebrows.

    You should not use the /me command for everything you say in the chatterbox: text you type without any command will appear fine. This command is the for pretending to use gestures for communication that others would see instead of hear if you were talking face to face.

  • /me's text

    Used to create contractions. For example, if turnstep typed:

    /me's looking for a bigger LART.

    it would appear inside the Chatterbox as:

    turnstep's looking for a bigger LART.
    Can be used to create most any contraction. In fact, here's the allowable characters:
    You can type /me'd or /me'll or similar. Play with it and have fun.

  • /em

    Same as /me

  • /msg username text

    This is used to send a private message to someone. Be very careful when typing this! At some point in your travels here, you will probably type "/msh" or forget the "/msg" altogether and the whole world will see your message. The correct format is to put the the "/msg" followed by the username of the person to send the message to, and then the message. (If the person's username has a space in it, see farther down the page for workarounds.) The person will receive it at the top of their Chatterbox with a checkbox next to it. You can send yourself a message to try it out. As an example, if turnstep were to type in:

    /msg kudra Our operatives in Australia are in place!

    it would appear in kudra's Chatterbox as:

    turnstep says Our operatives in Australia are in place!

    /msg has its own faqlet, so that when you're chatting about messaging, you can throw a pair of brackets around /msg and it will link to its own doc.

  • /tell username text

    Same as /msg

  • /ignore username

    Use this to ignore a user's public messages. Anything that user says will no longer appear in your Chatterbox, and they will not be able to send private messages to you. You ignore a user with spaces in their name the same way you send a message to them.

    Warning: the /ignore command is client dependent. Some chatterbox clients do not support /ignore or other special commands. This is very dependent on each client's implementation. See /msg tye I'm ignoring you for other details concerning /ignore and the Chatterbox.

    /ignore has its own faqlet, so that when you're chatting about messaging, you can throw a pair of brackets around /ignore and it will link to its own doc.

  • /unignore username

    Use this to remove somebody from your ignore list. Just put their name after the "/unignore". You unignore a user with spaces in their name the same way you send a message to them. You may also look at the Ignored Users page to see who you're ignoring and change your mind if you wish.

  • /chatteroff

    Use this to turn off all public chat from your Chatterbox. The only thing you will see are private messages (using /msg) sent to you. This is the equivalent of a hypothetical "/ignore *", but only affects public messages.

  • /chatteron

    Use this to turn the viewing of public messages back on after a "/chatteroff" command has been issued.

Q: What sort of things are discussed in the Chatterbox?

A: Everything and anything!! Topics tend to lean towards perl (naturally). Unix and current events pop up often too, but in general, anything goes.

Q: I can say anything? Is it moderated in any way?

A: Individual messages are never censored or moderated in any way. Users, however, can be censored in two ways:
  1. /ignore

    If some other user finds your chatterbox messages to be persistently annoying and worthless, they may /ignore you. From then on, your messages will not appear in that user's chatterbox. They can then use /unignore to restore viewing your messages.

  2. /borg

    If you are really annoying, you might be eaten by NodeReaper. Then you have to stay in the Borg's Belly for a while, during which time you won't be able to post in the chatterbox. You'll get out eventually, but you should just avoid getting eaten in the first place. (In fact, the ability to /borg users is the sole privilege of the Power Users. How long you remain in the Borg's Belly is determined by the Power User who /borged you.)

Q: How do I make my code look nice? or why are my [ ]'s getting foobared?

A: To prevent [ and ] from being interpreted as surrounding links and your browser from interpreting a <b> as a bold tag, you should place those sorts of things within <c>...</c> tags (or the more verbose but completely synonymous <code>...</code> tags):

Here's an example of the difference between using <c>...</c> tags vs. forgetting them:

Without <c>...</c> tags:
With <c>...</c> tags:

You can also prevent interpretation of individual characters by using HTML entities:

    &amp; becomes &
    &lt;  becomes <
    &gt;  becomes >
    &#91; becomes [
    &#93; becomes ]

Q: I came in late to a conversation. Is there any way to see older messages?

A: We recommend last hour of cb.

There are a few other ways: These are useful because they allow you to catch up with the ongoing conversation without having to say "hey, what are you guys talking about?"

These utilities are a "sliding window" of conversation, just like the chatterbox itself; it's just that the window is "wider". That is, they show more of the recent chatterbox messages than the actual chatterbox feed from PerlMonks does. How much they show varies a bit. Some show a fixed number of messages, others show a certain time frame's worth (typically one hour). last hour of cb always shows at least one hour, and usually more, according to a rather complicated heuristic.

Q: How do I send a message to somebody with a space in their username?

A: There are two methods:
  • Enclose the username in brackets like so:
    /msg [Mr. Muskrat] All is ready.
    This will ensure that your secret missive goes to Mr. Muskrat instead of Mr.
  • The following method is deprecated: s/ /_/g; (in other words, just replace any spaces with an underscore.)

Q: Is the Chatterbox logged anywhere?

A: The Chatterbox is not logged on PerlMonks, except the last hour (or so) in last hour of cb, so you can follow the current conversation. The intent is for the chatterbox to remain an ephemeral communication medium. PM's official policy is that the CB should not be logged -- with a couple classes of exceptions:
  1. Some public logs exist for convenience of CB participants; see previous question for more info. Public logs should not cache CB utterances for longer than one hour. There are also various non-talking bots, such as castaway's im2 and the stats.
  2. Since there really is no way to prevent it, individual users can log the chatterbox for private use only.
  3. An official, but invisible/private log of the last 7 days of chatterbox content is kept by cavac's chatterbot to generate cb stats
In any case, CB users are ethically obliged not to reproduce the CB utterances of other monks without their explicit consent, except for public logs as mentioned above.
Also, it should be noted that web search engines such as Google have been known to capture a moment in time from the Chatterbox as they cache a copy of a page from PerlMonks, though we try our best to prevent this from happening.
So, if you don't like the idea of your utterances being logged without your knowledge, then don't say anything in the Chatterbox that you would not say in any other public forum.

Q: Are there any CB statistics anywhere? Who are the biggest talkers, for example?

A: As of November 2023, cb stats is integrated into PerlMonks, provided by cavac's chatterbot.
  • This service was formerly kindly provided at CB Stats by Brother Tanktalus, who has now mostly retired from PerlMonks
It's a "bot" that silently reads the CB and calculates various statistics therefrom. For bug reports, change requests or moral support for your low scores, please contact cavac.

Q: How many private messages (via /msg) can appear in the Chatterbox at one time?

A: You decide. At the bottom of the Message Inbox is a text field which lets you choose how many private messages you want to see in the Chatterbox at once. Once you receive more than that, a small message will appear after your N-th message suggesting that you go to the Message Inbox page to see the rest of them. You can also archive messages, to let you read them later. Just click the box on the right marked "Archive", and then hit the "Submit" button. (See also Using the Message Inbox for more info on private messaging.)

Q: What is that checkbox next to each private message in the Chatterbox nodelet?

A: If, when you press talk, any of those checkboxes are checked, the corresponding messages will be deleted. This happens regardless of whether you have typed anything into the chatter box. Please see Using the Message Inbox for more info on private messaging.

Q: How can I delete messages in the private messages section of the Chatterbox?

A: Next to each private message is a checkbox; check the ones you want to delete, and then press the talk button. This will delete the selected messages. You can also submit a message to the messaging system at the same time, if you want. Please see Using the Message Inbox for further info on private messaging.

Q: Are there other ways to view the Chatterbox?

A: Of course! In addition to the Message Inbox which allows you to view all your private messages at once, and the Fullpage Chat which is a page dedicated to chatting, other monks have written various clients to access the Chatterbox. For information about those clients, visit Other CB Clients.

Q: What is the maximum length of a message?

A: The maximum limit is 255 characters. If you really have the need to say more, you will have to break it up into multiple messages. This limit is for characters typed, not characters seen, so a 235 character URL pasted in will leave you 20 characters for the rest of the message.

Q: How do I link to things?

A: Full details about linking are found in What shortcuts can I use for linking to other information?. See also Using the Chatterbox: Linking.

Note that it is widely regarded as impolite to link to something you posted just to get monks to look at it. Posts get enough visibility (e.g. via Newest Nodes or Recently Active Threads). Trying to drive more attention to your post won't help you at all, and if you're annoying, it will actually hurt you. If you still want to link to a PerlMonks node for some valid reason, see How do I link to a node on this site by number?.

Q: What HTML tags are allowed?

A: PerlMonks Approved Chatter HTML Tags has a concise list. But you'll probably also be interested in the information in "Using the Chatterbox: URLs, Special Characters, and Code", which explains how HTML and other special stuff is handled by the Chatterbox.

Q: What are these abbreviations I keep seeing?

A: Check out Guide to PerlMonks Acronyms and Abbreviations

Q: What happens if I send a message to a user who does not exist?

A: This usually happens when you forget to put in the <username> before your private message. Unless the first word in your message happens to be a current user, you will get a message back from root. For example, if I was trying to ask jcwren about the eating habits of geckos, and mistyped:
/msg How fast can a gecko eat a cricket?

then the user "How" would receive the strange message "fast can a gecko eat a cricket?" Otherwise, I will receive this message in my inbox:

root says You tried to say "fast can a gecko eat a cricket?", but How does not exist on this system!

Q: How long do public messages stay in the Chatterbox?

A: Messages are purged from the Chatterbox when they reach an age of 500 seconds (8 minutes, 20 seconds). Furthermore, the Chatterbox is always truncated to the most recent 10 messages. This means that if the Chatterbox is very busy, any given message could "scroll off" in a minute or less. On the other hand, if there's only one message in the Chatterbox, it will linger there for over 8 minutes.
When the last message has been scrolled off and the cb becomes empty, cb clients usually display something like ...and all is quiet.

Q: How can I tell who I have already ignored?

A: Go to Ignored Users and look around.

Q: Can I tell who is listening when I talk?

A: You can look at the list of names in the Other Users nodelet for a general idea, but not all of the people listed there are reading the Chatterbox, and not all of the people reading the Chatterbox are listed in Other Users. There is a very high correlation, however, as most monks read the Chatterbox.

Q: How can I move the Chatterbox higher up on my screen?

A: You can change the position of the Chatterbox and all other nodelets by going to Nodelet Settings; there you can change the order of the nodelets or add and delete nodelets as you see fit.

Note that there are two nodelet ordering sections -- one for the Front Page and one for all other pages.

Q: I could have sworn I just saw the NodeReaper in the chatterbox!

A: No area of the monastery is safe from the NodeReaper!

Q: Are bots allowed in the Chatterbox?

A: No. But actually, as long as the bot doesn't talk, it's o.k. Bots which talk on their own are not tolerated.
The one exception here is chatterbot, the official PerlMonks chatterbox bot that generates last hour of cb and cb stats. It also has some very specific, limited responses, see answer below.

Q: What is chatterbot and how do i use it?

A: chatterbot is the official chatterbox bot that updates the following nodes:
  1. last hour of cb
  2. cb stats

When cavac is working on bugfixes and new features, the following development nodes may also be updated by the development branch of the bot:
  1. chatterbot dev page (last hour of CB dev page)
  2. cb stats dev page

Chatterbot also has some very limited responses. You can either ask it via a private or public message and responds in kind (private or public). It currently understands the following commands:
/msg chatterbot help!helpShow a list of supported commands
/msg chatterbot cookies USERNAME!cookies USERNAMESend a box of cookies to USERNAME
/msg chatterbot snapshot!snapshotGenerate a snapshot of the current conversation and post a link to it.

/msg chatterbot snapshot

Chatterbot will reply with a private message like:
chatterbot says New snapshot at

The one exception to the public/private message rule is currently the "cookie" command. Chatterbot will always send the reply in the public chat, even when you send the command privately. In this case, the receiver (target user) will only see that they got cookies, but not who triggered the request, allowing to send anonymous thanks.
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