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So I was thinking about ways to get chat to become more active and I remembered how @GlenLipka has been looking for a place to discuss UX issues. The site isn't the right place, but chat is perfect. What can we do to get people into chat and start some discussions?

I was thinking weekly chat sessions might be a good start. We could pick a day, say Saturday, a time that works for a bunch of time zones, say 6pm EST, and a topic, say Mac OSX Lion, and then just talk about that.

Is this a good idea? What other options are there to boost chat? Have other stacks had any success with something like this?

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    Definitely interested and willing to help in any way. Great idea! – Nadine Schaeffer Jul 20 '11 at 22:23
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I love this idea, and the concept of having pre-determined topics is great. It would be really cool if we could get some notable UX'ers to begin participating; would give great visibility to the site, as well. Personally, I'm more likely to be available and interested if it's during my work day (9am-6pm CST).

  • I would probably be more able to participate not during work hours. Maybe on a weekday evening or weekend morning. – Matt Lavoie Aug 4 '11 at 14:00
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To be clear. I am not looking to discuss UX issues. Please do not put words in my mouth.

I want to ask questions like, "What are the strengths and weaknesses of [product]?" This is not a discussion to me. There are answers in there. Real Answers. Some of those answers will give me new wisdom that will help me be better at my craft. I want to vote on answers and see the reputation of people who answer with insight, thoughtfulness and design strength.

After spending a few minutes on chat, I would describe it as chaotic (at best). At worst, it is a 20 year old AOL bulletin board. There is absolutely nothing there that compares to the main interface.

This has long since entered the realm of depressing. Chat just doesn't work for this at all, in my humble opinion.

Here is a decent thought experiment:

  1. Go to the most popular questions (top 20 views) from top to bottom.
  2. How many answers are there on average?
  3. How many comments are there on average?

Ask yourself: Would a normal human being look at that page and say it's a "discussion"? I just asked a few people and they all said the questions and answers are fairly intense discussion/debates/conversation and true "answers" really don't apply for any of them.

The truth is UX.stackexchange doesn't have a single questions that can be conclusively answered in the StackOverflow sense. Every question can be debated. In code, either it works or it doesn't. In UX, things aren't so straight-forward.

There is a great article on this subject. http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/

This is not a great answer to your question. I should give it -1. However, I didn't appreciate using my name to put words in my mouth.

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    So on the one hand you're "not looking to discuss" and on the other you claim all UX questions are discussions. Which is it? No one is putting words in your mouth; there is no quote attributed to you. I was just summarising what you seemed to be looking for based on your actions. If you chill out with the defensiveness, things will go a lot better. – Rahul Aug 2 '11 at 7:05
  • I dont want to "chat". The format of the question and answers (like this page) are ideal. This IS is a discussion, but it's not "chat". It's in a specialized format that is perfect for these types of things. (Voting, comments, reputation, etc) – Glen Lipka Aug 2 '11 at 15:13
  • @Rahul: This is a quote from above: -GlenLipka has been looking for a place to discuss UX issues. - I think this is a misrepresentation of my point of view. – Glen Lipka Aug 2 '11 at 15:14
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I think chat sessions would be a great idea. They would be a great way to get traffic to the chat portion of the site and get people involved.

I do also have to agree with @GlenLipka on some of his points here about the chaotic nature of the chat. Granted it is slow moving and rarely used at the moment, it could very easily out of control when a few independent conversations begin to unfold.

For example, I was in the english.stackexchange.com chat the other day and it was pure chaos. People were posting every few seconds and if you were following a conversation you had to sift through the different comments to stay on track. This is one of the many disadvantages of having a serious discussion on a particular topic, and they is no real way to zero in on the topic, or to index it.

Is there a better place for these types of discussions right now? No. This is the best we have. I do think there may be a better way to handle them. I am not sure what the solution would be, but I think that the talent and expertise we have here on this site is highly valuable and it would be a shame to have to go somewhere else. (i.e. Quora etc.)

  • If you want to have a conversation about a specific topic, you know you can create a chatroom for that topic, right? – Charles Boyung Aug 2 '11 at 5:20
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    I vote we try what options we have available to us rather than not doing anything and just sitting and complaining. If chat doesn't work out, perhaps we can try something else like a Google+ Hangout or something. – Rahul Aug 2 '11 at 7:07
  • @Rahul, That's exactly what I am saying. – Matt Rockwell Aug 2 '11 at 12:58
  • @Charles That's not a bad idea, but when we are having trouble getting people to use chat in the first place it's not really feasible. If it did pick up and get crowded that might work. – Matt Rockwell Aug 2 '11 at 12:59
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    @Everyone - With all this talk about chat though, the only person I see in there on a regular basis is Patrick. Can we all step up the effort? I know we are in different time zones but there is plenty of overlap, and myself and myself, Patrick, and maybe one or two other random people are in there. I have seen Charles pop in, and Glen, but no one sticks around. – Matt Rockwell Aug 2 '11 at 13:03
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    @Matt Remember that the chat doesn't need concurrent users. You can talk (and name people, who will get a notification on UX) and people can get back to you at their own convenience. – Rahul Aug 2 '11 at 13:38

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