or
Monica
completed feature-request
I was chatting (:-) ) wtih Jack about how the question-list page felt crowded to me and particularly that the chat pane felt over-emphasized to me.  Even though the pane is narrower than the main pane (where questions or the question list go), I think I'm seeing it as emphasized more because it's more *dense* -- it's a column of text with very little whitespace.  You don't want wasted space in a chat interface, so just spreading things out in that pane wouldn't be the right approach.

Another issue that came up while we were chatting was migrating between rooms.  I'd lost track of where we were and didn't feel I had an easy way to see what rooms I was in and how many messages were waiting for me since I'd last been there.

These ideas came together, and after clearing it with Jack (I don't want to be a pushy newcomer), I drew some sketches.  The main ideas here are:

- Have a distinct notifications area, and not just for chat.  (I didn't draw it here, but I imagine this being collapsible and only shown if you *have* waiting notifications.)

- Be able to toggle between showing chat and seeing a list of rooms you're in.  Clicking on any of those rooms would take you there.

- The room list, like on SE, would show gravatars of who's there.

- The list would show the number of new messages since last you were in that room, like chat in an inactive tab on SE.  Like the SE rooms list, it would also show you how long ago someone talked.

- The sections (main page, notifications, chat) have clear boundaries with some padding, as compared to current chat notifications which just overlay the chat with little padding.  (That confused me when I first saw it; I thought I'd somehow opened the chat in two places.)

Please forgive my crude drawings to try to illustrate this point.  These are not proper wireframes or anything like that, just Paintbrush.

Collapsed view:

![chat-mockup.png](/image?hash=f682054fccb04ba63f0594a752114d0e4b339b3cf9327e42135825ed07f8c3f5)

Expanded view (active chat room):

![chat-mockup-expand.png](/image?hash=4503f131f5bdeda784c284a448ae6c20d58ea4babcd7ebe059bff065ba58808e)
Top Answer
James Douglas
We have just released the first step towards this. Now notifications and chat:
* are in separate panels
* have a border around them just like the border around question/answer posts
* both have titles describing what they are ('Notifications', 'Chat', or 'Comments' if it is a room for a question)

In addition, the stack of room icons now shows a count of unread messages in the room, and it polls for changes. We think this request is mostly `completed` now…
A proposal for less crowding in chat pane (particularly on question lists)
Monica
Thank you for the updates.  This looks great!
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
I'm sure you are right — and it makes me think about SE now. Most of the big debates there seem to be between people with good intentions (like fairness and protecting the vulnerable) but conflicting ideas about how to achieve them. I'm not sure even now about the rights and wrongs of my own goals back on BH, but I'm sure SE are going wrong in their approach today. Forced speech and destroying communities (not to mention firing committed volunteers) don't seem like the best way to make things fairer.
Monica
@Jack sorry, meant to ping you with that. ^^^
Monica
Time has passed, we've both learned from it, and I got the closure I needed.  I believe we both had good intentions but deeply conflicting goals, and that's always going to be difficult.  Sure I wish things could have gone differently, but there's no point in holding grudges.  I appreciate your olive branch.
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
It's very nice of you to say so, and much appreciated. I'm sorry I handled things badly in our past interactions on SE and am really impressed you are able to see past that. It's been a pleasure having you here and just great to have so many aims in common!
Monica
@Jack I want to thank you for inviting me into TopAnswers and, today, inviting me to join the cleanup crew.  We've had some difficulties in the past, and I appreciate the show of trust and the warm welcome.  I am glad we are working together.
Monica
@Jack on a different note -- and this room isn't the right place for it, but neither is the Tavern and I don't see a way to create a new room --
Monica
Movie: meh.  But after seeing most of the rest, I wanted to see what they'd do with it.
Monica
I'm heading out now for *my* "Christmas observance" -- new Star Wars movie and Chinese food.  I'll be back later, but perhaps not before you've signed off for the night.  Later!
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
The seasonal association does seem wrong, yes.  Thanks for explaining -- didn't know your church was non-denominational.
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
just an idiosyncrasy of our church (which is non-denominational) — I'd happily celebrate the birth of Jesus but no one knows exactly when that was (almost certainly not in winter though!)
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Oh, is that something about your denomination or something about your family, if you don't mind my asking?  I just assumed that Christmas was a religious day for all Christians who aren't just "nominal" (which I don't think you are).
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Thanks.  Naturally I haven't seen it yet, but now I know what I'm looking out for. :-)
Jack Douglas
it's not a religious festival for my family, just an excuse to have fun
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
we are having a great time thanks — I am dropping in here less than usual today :) 
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
good question — there is a 'chequered' flag with hover text to indicate what it does
Monica
Will how to counterflag be obvious when I see a flag?
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Sounds good, thanks!  (I'm surprised to see you here on Christmas.  I hope you're having a good holiday.)
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
Thank you. I've added you to the group and you should now get notifications when a post is flagged. The process is [explained in this meta post](https://topanswers.xyz/meta?q=182#a402) and still has a few rough edges — for example if you flag a post and another crew member follows up with a confirming flag, you currently get a notification for that second flag and that would just be noise if there were lots of flags (though it's kind-of useful now as we are learning the ropes and refining the system).
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Sure!  I know flags are displayed on the posts; is this a matter of noticing them and doing something with them, or is there a separate workflow I should know about?
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
I'm really pleased to hear that. Would you be happy for me to add you to the 'post cleanup crew' here on meta? Obviously there isn't much cleanup to do so it's more of a 'beta test flagging/cleanup tools' at the moment.
Monica
(That's on desktop; haven't tried other devices yet.)
Monica
Also, I think you've put some more padding in, so there's (here on meta) more gray showing around chat rather than it being smooshed up against the question pane.  I like.
Monica
These changes look great!  It's easy to see the individual sections, and when you've handled your notifications that section gets out of your way so you have more room for chat.  (I haven't yet had enough notifications to see how you're handling that.)
Monica
Well, I guess I should at least look for Vertica questions on Databases, but that's a longshot. :-)
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Thanks.  I'm glad to see both TopAnswers and Codidact.  I plan to spend more time on both (though here I'm limited to meta until a community I know something about goes public).
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
I know you can't talk about it, but I hope you have started to get something like closure on this whole episode.
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
Thanks!  Nice to see this!
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
thanks, we will definitely do that, everyone seems to agree it helps with the overall appearance
Monica
The mockup has that separation I'm talking about.  That's good; please keep that.
Monica
But I strongly encourage you to have separate "bounding boxes" -- that is, things that look like they're sitting side by side at the same Z-level, not notifications overlapping chat like now.  Even with the stronger borders (thanks for that), the overlapping is still a little visually challenging.
Monica
I said fixed but shoud have said max size.  If there's nothing to show, no sense having a ton of blank space there.
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
You're going to need scrolling either way (what if somebody said something provocative and comes back to 50 notifications?), so given that, I'd suggest a fixed size with visual indication that there's more if there is (and scroll affordance, of course).
Jack Douglas
a border in the darker theme colour for example
Jack Douglas
the background colour is linked to the community the notification arises from. I think we can make that look much better than it does currently though — it's a bit washed out.
Jack Douglas replying to Monica
what are you thoughts on whether it should expand (up to a limit) or be fixed height? I've heard it mooted that some people might prefer it to be constant size (or even in a separate 'tab' so you only see chat or notifications at one time)
Monica
When I posted this answer you weren't yet showing the number of new messages in the sidebar list, so that part's been addressed.
Monica replying to Jack Douglas
That looks like a good start!  What happens if notifications exceed the available space -- does the notification pane expand or does it scroll?  And is the difference in background color between read and unread or site (blue for DB, gray for meta)?
Jack Douglas
@Monica James has mocked up a proposed change that is part-way towards what you have (very useful) drawings here. Please can you let me know what you think before we start implementing anything?    
![Screenshot 2019-12-03 at 14.59.56.png](/image?hash=43ce296cf2ce807cdd8476e33c8262a798e63a1815b4c6866fa2e4f665c32c92)