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EDIT I have shortened my original question because I feel the lengthy preamble added nothing of value, I have accepted Simchona's answer and I don't like wasting people's time. So, here it is the nitty-gritty question.

To summarise:

  • Does EL&U have a private message mechanism available to its members?

  • Is it the chat rooms? If it is, is there a guide for dummies on how to use it?

  • Apart from answering old questions is there another way of bumping them up? I tried adding comments but that doesn't seem to work.

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    (1) No, private messaging doesn't exist here. (2) chat.stackexchange.com/faq (3) Editing old questions or old answers also bumps them up. Look out for some common grammatical errors and ensure that they are sufficient enough to warrant an edit as per our FAQ. – Mohit Jun 10 '13 at 10:02
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    (1) Oh, pity. (2) Thank you! But I knew I could participate, it's the design of the Chat which scared me off. And I don't think this is useful for someone who's a complete novice: cdn-chat.sstatic.net/chat/Img/faq-room-menu.png?v=640a1b98701d. I did try to work out who was talking to whom but it seemed too much of an effort. (3) I don't feel qualified to edit someone's answer or question besides I doubt I have enough "reputation" marks. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:10
  • Actually the SE chat is special precisely in that you can chat to anyone, not just the people who happen to be there at the tim. Also, I see you actually answered that question. The OP already gets notified of that, fully automatically. They will get a message directly to their inbox, saying "One new answer to your question", with a link. What else do you want? Lastly, you do not need any reputation whatsoever to edit an answer or question. You do not even have to be registered. – RegDwigнt Jun 10 '13 at 10:13
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    @RegDwighт but really all I want to do is add a tiny quiet message telling a user who is an active member, look at this answer. I'm not really into chatting, although I haven't tried it. It just looks "messy" aesthetically speaking. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:15
  • @RegDwighт the notification that a user receives when a new answer is posted I was aware of. It is contacting an active user who asked a similar question that there may be an answer. I'd like to emphasize also that I am referring to old questions not ones just recently formulated. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:27
  • @RegDwighт Now that I have the answers, should I delete this question? I don't mind, as I believe my question is only related to me and won't be of interest to others. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:49
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, it IS of interest to others, e.g. me! – TrevorD Jun 11 '13 at 10:48
  • @Mari-LouA +1 for your comment about Chat: I took one look at it and left! It just seemed to be a mix of disparate & unrelated comments. – TrevorD Jun 11 '13 at 11:06
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    @TrevorD Doesn't it!? As if you've opened a door to a party you've not been invited to. – Mari-Lou A Jun 11 '13 at 19:53
  • @Mari-LouA - Ohh Come on, if you want to chat, chat on. Granted interface is a bit messy, but the chat windows is right there on the bottom-left - type and enter. You can refer a person's name just like you do in here in comments using @. On the extreme top-left, there are self-descriptive four buttons. On the right-side of your screen, there are chat-comments which have been most Favorited/Starred in the last few days. And I think you'll feel much more at home once you start using it regularly. That's it. :P – Mohit Jun 12 '13 at 10:03
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There really is no private messaging system. Chat (where you are more than welcome!) does require people to be online, but you can start a discussion with a particular individual once a threshold number of comments has been reached. (A little box shows up, asking you if you'd like to move to chat). I don't know of a guide, but in essence it's a way for users to just talk amongst themselves about topics that are often out of the ELU scope. Sometimes it's also where people drop in to ask a brief question, or to figure out why their question may have been closed.

Editing a question or adding a new answer is the only way to bump it. However, if you think a question can be answered by an older one, then you can click "flag" and select the "duplicate" reason. This will ask for the URL of the older question, and your flag is then reviewed by mods and users with a certain rep level.

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    Or, you can just leave a comment like this: Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/83675. – J.R. Jun 10 '13 at 9:58
  • "..but you can start a discussion with a particular individual" But if I don't know them, how can I possibly chat to them?! I come here to ask questions and find help :) Meta seems far more appropriate. Sorry for the delay but I'm checking that I am using the right terminology. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:20
  • For one-on-one chats like that, you don't have to know them--the topic of discussion is more like "here's what I was thinking about your question/how to really improve it" and less "lets really get to know each other". Meta is definitely appropriate for some things, but chat is a different type of communication about different things. – simchona Jun 10 '13 at 10:24
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    @simchona you have been very kind but I don't think you really understand my situation. I browse EL&U, I read great questions and equally great answers. I discover by pure chance that two users have asked questions similar or related to a comment, not only an OP. I check to see if they are still active and they are. I'd like to drop a line. And then leave them in peace. But at least I know I have contacted them. Chat does not cover this, I'm afraid. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:36
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    I think I get what you're saying. In this case, comments are the appropriate method. There's no direct messaging (except as a mod, in cases regarding poor behavior). The benefit of comments is that 1. They notify the person asking the question so that they will always see it and 2. Other people who look at the question will see and benefit by your comment. StackExchange questions aren't just for the edification of the person asking them, but for other people who may just be using it as a resource as well – simchona Jun 10 '13 at 10:39
  • Thank you Simona, your last comment has effectively answered my most pressing question. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 10:43
  • You'll get a notification about this comment in your "inbox" (in top left corner of ELU display), because the text includes your username @Mari-Lou (preceded by @). You'd probably still get it if I'd not included the -Lou part, because it's a loose pattern match. I thought the system would automatically remove the one you addressed to simchona above, because s/he'll get notified anyway on account of it being under her answer. but I'm apparently wrong there. Anyway, you can "notify" anyone who appears anywhere on an ELU page, just by including @ (their name) somewhere in a comment. – FumbleFingers Jun 13 '13 at 0:52
  • @FumbleFingers, yes it was only after it was pointed out that any comments which included a username that I realized that I had access to my own inbox and a record of the notifications. Things, which on a different network I was used to having on my home page. This system although effective is less intuitive for complete newbies and it is possible that one may never discover this feature by himself. – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 2:30
  • @Mari-Lou: I think the primary purpose of SO sites is to provide free access to a user-generated Q&A databank, not to be a "social networking" site. If you look for "user-interface" info, you can usually ferret it out with the site search facilities - but as others have said, you can ask in chat, or meta, for anything at all. I notice that you haven't given any personal info except Location:Italy here - even if people don't want to chat, it's often helpful to know something about another user, if only to help better understand their posts. – FumbleFingers Jun 13 '13 at 4:19
  • @FumbleFingers if someone does not understand my posts then all they need do is ask. I rarely look at OP's homepages, I don't need to. You can have a pretty good idea if someone is competent in a language, and if they are from the States, Europe, Asia or Australia just by how they write. I am sure many could also tell that something was "off" by my comments and posts. – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 5:02

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