Member Chat

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Members use Chat to communicate with each other about a post/transaction. Volunteers do not have access to these chats, but if a problem arises the Support Team can be asked to have a look to see if they can find any information to resolve it.

The background and reasons for not giving all volunteers access to this is :

It was pointed out by a volunteer that there was a potential issue, since this constitutes interception of communication under the PECR legislation, which covers people reading communications between other people.

Edward therefore contacted the Office of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, who was at that time the regulator of this area (it has now been absorbed into the ICO). Their job was normally to check that the police were doing legal things with warrants - for example they have a tool that spots cut and paste text in interception warrants.

To Edward's surprise, a guy came and sat in his living room to talk to him about it. They discussed the various circumstances under which it was and wasn't legitimate to do this for Freegle, and agreed that it was legitimate that in order to protect the system against spammer and scammer attacks.

If a member reports a conversation then that is also a legit reason. It's best when they use the Report option on chat - which also means we have a record of that consent.

However a more general ability for volunteers to "spy" on the communications between members without their knowledge or consent, and without any specific reason, was much more dubious.

So there are legitimate legal reasons why we need to be careful here. If volunteers can get one of the members to use the Report option then they will be able to see the whole of the chat. If not, then Support can help.

Chat Review in Modtools

Volunteers will see a Chat Review if our system has picked up on one of the ‘worry words’ we have stored, such as a reference to money, swearing, a phone number or email address.

You will see chat messages in Modtools for review if the recipient is a member of one of your communities. You might see some where the conversation is about a post on another community, because it’s not possible for the system to tell reliably whether a message relates to a specific post, multiple posts, or no post at all. It’s fine to act on the message if you see it but unless it looks urgent it is better to leave it for the volunteers on the group that the item was posted on.

It's not our role to interfere with the flow of the member’s chat but if we happen to find violations of our rules, then we are allowed to act on them. It is equally important to deal with any messages in Chat Review as quickly as possible to ensure there aren't missed pick ups etc.

You can use the ‘Add Moderator message’ to make members aware their chat has been reviewed and to let them know if they have broken a rule, such as offering an item for sale in response to a Wanted on the board. This message goes to both sides of the chat so please word it accordingly. Please sign the message and indicate which community has inserted the message.

List of types of chat messages

These are the types of chat message and when they’re generated.

  • “Default” - the normal ones you type.
  • “ModMail” - messages sent by mods to members.
  • “System” - not used
  • “Interested” - when you reply to a post, including the text you typed
  • “Promised” - when you click the Promise button to promise to someone
  • “Reneged” - when you click the Unpromise button.
  • “ReportedUser” - sent to mods when you’ve reported a chat
  • “Completed” - when you mark a post as TAKEN/RECEIVED (the one you mention below).
  • “Image” - when you send a photo.
  • “Address” - when you use the address book to send an address
  • “Nudge” - when you click the Nudge button.
  • “Schedule” and “ScheduleUpdated”- when you set/update your availability.

Status of Chats

All chats are sent out via email and all emails are recorded in chat. The icons are:

  • Grey tick means we’ve sent it to the server.
  • Envelope means we’ve sent it out by email, but we don’t know whether it’s been read.
  • Green tick means it has been read on the site or (sometimes) by email.

It is possible to find out whether emails that have been read, which we try to do. But it’s not guaranteed, and so it’s perfectly possible for the mail to have been read but us not know. So we only know sometimes.

These explanations are available if you mouse over/click on the icon, though few people on mobile would do that.

Deleting Chats

From 18.8.23 a new feature that offers a button to delete a chat is available for members. If clicked, a pop up appears which asks "Are you sure? We will delete this from our system so you will no longer see it here. The other freegler may have received the message by email - we can't delete that. Are you sure you want to delete the message?" Cancel or Confirm buttons are shown. If Confirm is clicked, they'll see a message to confirm it’s been deleted (or an error). The contents of the chat message are replied with “(Message deleted)”.

The announcement of this new feature is here -

Hiding Chats

There is a small downwards chevron on the top right of each chat. Click on that and the option to hide the chat from view is offered.

Members can't delete a chat, but they can hide it from their list. The reason for not offering deletion is that it could be misleading. Although the chat would not be on our system, the chats would still have been sent out by email and we can't delete those. Also, every time we add the ability to delete something, people then contact us asking how they recover something that they deleted, even if (as with unsubscribe) we make it clear that they can’t undo it. For example, people think they don’t want a chat now, and want to delete it, but then later on change their minds, and want to get it back. We still want to be able to see chat messages in Support even if the member wants to delete them.

The system also hides any chat not active in the past 30 days from view. That chat can be accessed by searching for it in chat search box at the top of the chat list. They don’t disappear if the page just sits there. But they do disappear once you click on a chat - except if you click on one of the older ones to see that, then that specific one stays visible.

Chats remain in the system until:

  • The user actively unsubscribes, or
  • All of the following are true:
    • - were added six months ago
    • - are not on any groups
    • - have not logged in for six months
    • - are not on the spammer list
    • - do not have mod notes
    • - have no logs for six months

Block Member

Chats provide the option for a member to block another member.
If member A blocks member B then member A can’t see the chat. But member B still can. This means that member B doesn't realise they've been blocked, which reduces the 'why has A blocked me' type of complaint. They just don't get any replies to anything they send.

Unhiding/Unblocking Chats

A new feature was introduced in December 2023, which allows members to get to the hidden/blocked chats, and then unhide/unblock them. If there are unread messages in those chats it will show a count next to the number of such chats, so they can choose to go and view them if they wish to.

Link to Discourse announcement -

Link: ModTools