Science fiction, fantasy, & horror - web design, graphic design, interactive media development by greententacles

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror - Web Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media Development by Greententacles 2019-09-22 GMT


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Build a Chat Room

~ by Kenneth J. Newquist (April 2001) ~

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Chat rooms are an ancient part of the net, a utility used by geeks for net-decades before it was mainstreamed by the likes of America Online and made easy to use by numerous off-the-shelf chat programs.

Legions of net users -- 25 percent of them according to a Stanford University study done in 2000 -- use chat, and it's not hard to see why. It's a friendly, casual way for folks to chat with people around the country and the world, about topics that interest them.

Topics cover every imaginable aspect of human existence, and a few unimaginable (or at least biologically impossible) ones as well. That same Stanford study found that most chat users tended to be under age 25 and anonymous, backing up the old Internet assertion that on the net, no one knows you're a dog (or a green-tentacled monster from the Planet X).

One-to-one with your favorite geeks

Now back up a sec. Those of us who own small businesses -- especially small speculative fiction businesses -- pride ourselves on being connected with our customers. We're not some big faceless corporation looming out there in power-tie land -- we're the little guys, and we actually like talking to our customers.

Oh, the big companies like to talk to their customers as well, but they throw a lot of jargon like 'focus groups' and 'audience research' to junk up the process.

Not us. It doesn't matter if it's at a convention, on the phone, or via e-mail, we want to be down there in the trenches, hearing what people have to say about our products, what they think about Jar Jar Binks, and whether or not Star Trek will ever re-bound.

And that's where chat comes in.

Having a chat room on a web site is like having a booth at a convention, only it's a booth that you can open up whenever you want, to do whatever you want. Here are just few ideas:

And that's just on your side of the screen. There's plenty you can do for customers as well -- here are just a few ideas:

Chat is a great tool, but as Yoda said, one must beware the Dark side...

The Downside to Chat

Most of the problems with chat aren't really problems in a 'gee, I hope that nuclear bomb doesn't blow us up' sort of way. Instead, they're challenges that folks using chat -- especially as a business tool -- need to be aware of...

A tool, not a 'killer app'

The Internet advice-mongers like to scream about the next 'killer app' that all sites must have or risk self-destructing. At one point, they claimed that chat was one of those, and that companies without chat on their web sites were on the fast road destruction. Chat is not that important, but it is a good tool. You just have to know how and when to use it.

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