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We were chatting about faster alternatives to sin(x) in chat and invariably a few equations started cropping up. A few links to Wolfram Alpha plots (example) were pasted into the chat and I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see the graphs directly in the chat (like you see questions etc.). This would be a clear winner on at least 3 StackExchange websites (Math, SO and GD).

In addition it would be helpful to be able to use Wolfram Alpha results in questions and answers, for example if I was elaborating on the difference between O(n) and O(log(n)) I would be able to provide the graphs directly: very important for critical topics like premature optimization.

Wolfram Alpha does have an API available.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The biggest issue I see would be that they charge for their API service. Still +1 as I've been wanting it before. \$\endgroup\$ – William Mariager Feb 17 '12 at 18:15
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Wolfram|Alpha does have an API, but it's pricey, so this is probably unlikely to happen.

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You also can't really past code snippets or anything involving real formatting into chat either. In a discussion medium that you can't post source code, even on a programming website, posting plots is completely out of the question. Chat formatting is very limited, on purpose.

Chat is for chat, not serious discussion. Stack Exchange does not have a place to engage in the kind of discussion where you would want to post plots or code or anything more than 600 character bits of dialog.

In reality, SE chat is nothing more than a ghetto for people who want to discuss things on a Q&A site. It's a way to shut those people up; it's throwing them a bone. It gets their attempts at discussion out of the way of the primary purpose of the site: Q&A.

What you want is a forum, not chat. And there's no way that Stack Exchange will ever have a web forum attached to an SE site. SE is not going to be all things to all people. So either move the discussion to a web forum or accept the limitations that SE imposes on its sites.

It's not a bad idea, necessarily. But it is outside the realm of what chat is supposed to provide. It would be more appropriate for actual Q&A.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually thought the Q&A idea would get more friction - still I did leave the suggestion open to that, thoughts on Q&A (if I had suggested only that in the first place)? \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Dickinson Feb 20 '12 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanDickinson: If they can work something out with these Wolfram Alpha people, that's fine. But I don't think they're going to use a service they have to pay for. If they can get it, great. If not, it's not something I'll miss terribly badly. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Feb 20 '12 at 20:19

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