More wiki work

September 27, 2007 at 7:20 pm (1)

I got to thinking about some of the precursors of our modern conception of social networking, such as chat rooms, message boards, and groups.  During the 90s, when these things were growing in popularity, I didn’t have much experience with them.  I think I might have gone into a chat room once, to talk about theatre.  It wasn’t a terribly interesting experience, so I never bothered to return.  I’m sure there are more positive tales from that era of Internet interaction.  What i was thinking about was how these early tools had evolved, or if they had evolved.  I could probably break up social networking tools into categories like “Passive” and “Active,” and cross reference it with “Synchronous” and “A-Synchronous” and maybe other axes as well.  For example, a chat room is Active Synchronous, meaning that you and others are present, interacting in relative realtime.  Message boards are Active A-Synchronous, meaning that you and others are present and posting, but not necessarily all at the same time.  A similar distinction could be drawn between IM and email.  Passive things might be harder to define, but I think of things like the Facebook accessories, where once you’ve set them up, things can happen with or without you – there’s a lot of automation as part of the process.  I’m not sure if that’s the best way to describe it, or if it’s significantly different from other Active methods.  I guess modern social networking sites often cover all four potential methods of communication, across the spectrum of Active/Passive and Synch/A-Synch, whereas older methods exploited only one point on that spectrum.

So, do people still go into Chat rooms?  Yes, I’m sure they do.  Why?  I’m not sure i know that.  Most of my social networking occurs between me and friends and family (people with whom I have and existing relationship offline), or with library professionals of like interest, usually the interest of figuring out how all these zany new tools work.  I suppose that that would be the component that would equate to some of the more anonymous forms of chat/social networking that occur online, but my interactions with these other library professionals are pretty passive – i check out what they’re doing and talking about, but only actively engage them with comments and such on a rare basis.

I started a mini-section for this issue on the wiki, in case any libraries wanted to explore these pre-cursors, but i feel like my suggestions are a little arbitrary as yet.  It’s at the bottom of the first page of the Library 2.0 in 15 Minutes a Day.

This is what i have so far, over yonder at the wiki (so you don’t have to click over and scan down):

Groups – like Google GroupsYahoo Groups, and now  Group Swim.

Seems like the whole “Groups” idea was a precursor to current social networking practices.  Interesting to see how/if it’s evolved.  Of course, if we’re exploring precursors to current social networking phenomenon, then we’d have to look at chat rooms as well – not a bad idea, since chat rooms are one of those things that quickly gets filtered.  Maybe if we understand them, we can make more informed decisions about their use in libraries and schools…

Learning about Chat:

We could always start with Wikipedia’s definition of Chat Room, but it looks a little on the thin side, so we should also check out some other sources (I’ll find some soon…)

Chat places:

Yahoo Chat, of course.

Here’s one that has a high Google rank – I didn’t go into any of the chat rooms, but take a look at the categories available.   Chat Avenue  says they have a Kids Chat section, but it’s stuck in the middle of a lot of other chat room possibilities that are probably not as kid-oriented…

People Connection at AOL looks like another chatty type area.

Of course, chat rooms have their counterpart in IM, with group chat functions.  Group chat can be pretty useful in organizations, the online equivalent of a conference call.  If people are spread over a diverse area, then group chat can be a good way to handle discussions, particularly if they involve the sharing of web resources – you can post links, and people can look at them while keeping up with the chat.


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