It's a delicate area, I suppose.

Someone asked about contracting in the UK for the first time. I gave a well received answer (currently 16 upvotes) with a bunch of details, but said that the OP should consult some professionals (accountant, tax advisor, financial consultant, employment agent).

I didn't want to publish their contact details because 1) I suspect that would be against the rules, and 2) I would have to contact them all to get their permission.

So, I said that if the OP posted an email address (temporary, if he wants to avoid spam), I would email him the contact details.

Someone suggested an edit to remove that part of my answer, I would guess to keep all info on SE, rather than in private email outside of it.

I don't feel strongly, though lean towards helping the OP, and am simply asking for clarification as to how I can best do so.


Someone suggested an edit to remove that part of my answer, I would guess to keep all info on SE, rather than in private email outside of it.

SE does not (and cannot) prevent external communications between users. Participation is voluntary, so you are free to offer advice to users privately outside SE, even if the conversation started here.

SE's goal is to a build a repository of useful questions and answers. SE expects answers to be self-contained and clutter-free. The sentence asking the OP to contact you via email doesn't add anything to the answer. When answering questions, we should balance helping the OP with being helpful to the community.

What you should do instead:

There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide the OP with additional resources privately. (Thank you for not cluttering the answer by including those resources directly.) Use the chat room to provide your contact details and invite the OP to contact you.1:

  • Head over to The Water Cooler and ping the OP.
  • If/when the OP responds, enter your contact details.
  • Once the OP has noted the contact details, delete the chat message to prevent spamming.

If the OP is not pingable, you could leave a comment on his post inviting him to the chat room, then do the above and delete the comment2.

Note: Converting the answer to community wiki since it incorporates suggestions from Monica Cellio1 and Dark Cygnus2.

  • 6
    "If the OP is unpingable, ping one of the moderators, who can superping the user." I'm not sure how often we/I would grant such a request, regardless of being busy. Private or direct communication between users is impossible on SE by design. – Lilienthal Jul 17 '18 at 11:14
  • @Lilienthal I don't want to encourage the practice. However, it is not impossible for users to communicate outside SE. In any case, moderators should be involved only in exceptional cases (and not for every "I want to mail that user because I feel like it."). I will make an edit to clarify this later. – Masked Man Jul 17 '18 at 11:22
  • Isn't there a way to create a chat room, either for a specific question or for a specific user? I feel like I've seen this before, and not just when prompted in a long comment string, but I can't find it right now. – David K Jul 17 '18 at 12:25
  • There is also the option to just comment on the original post to point the OP to a chat room. This doesn't explicitly line up with the "right" way to use comments, but I think it's still appropriate enough for the spirit of use, and it would only be there temporarily. – David K Jul 17 '18 at 12:27
  • @DavidK Moderators are able to create private chatrooms but those are reserved for extremely rare cases, and certainly not to have two users talk in private. – Lilienthal Jul 17 '18 at 13:31
  • @DavidK There is an option to create a chat room with any user, but I didn't want to endorse it. Since public chat rooms are accessible even without logging in, I prefer such requests to happen in the highly visited site chat room to deter against link farming and other misuse. I would also avoid posting such requests in the comments for the same reason, especially if the question hits HNQ. :) – Masked Man Jul 17 '18 at 13:37
  • @Lilienthal Right, I wasn't expecting a private chat room, just one created specifically for conversing about a certain post or with a certain user. When I look at the list of chat rooms I see some that were created for talking to specific people. But it may be that someone just manually created these rooms using the standard interface. – David K Jul 17 '18 at 13:38
  • A better way to handle this than asking for mod-assisted chat pings is to provide some way for the other person to contact you and invite the person to do so. – Monica Cellio Jul 17 '18 at 14:35
  • @MonicaCellio Hmm, now that I think about it, I wonder why I didn't put that in the first place, since I have myself done this a couple of weeks ago. :( I don't have the time right now to edit my answer, maybe I will do it later, or you can write another answer or edit mine. :) – Masked Man Jul 17 '18 at 14:44
  • There are services that provide temporary emails which can last as little as an hour or as long as two weeks if you don't want to list a personal email. – Old_Lamplighter Jul 17 '18 at 16:29
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    As an alternative for pinging the user, you can comment under the post inviting the user to chat. Then proceed to discuss there or do what is necessary, and delete the comment after you meet on chat. – DarkCygnus Jul 17 '18 at 17:33

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