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Worldbuilding has a somewhat active chat that's maintained decent levels of participation since the start of the site. We're lucky; that's not the case with all sites. I thought we could take advantage of that to use chat as a tool to figure out site problems, get to know the users here - especially those who don't use chat much - and just generally promote site activity.

There are a couple ideas I had in mind, some of which I've had first-hand experience with on Physics Stack Exchange. I've linked to their implementations on other sites:

  • Regular chat sessions (or irregular chat sessions!) focused maybe on a specific worldbuilding topic (cartography, language construction, etc.) or some other thing about the site.
  • Ask Me Anythings, where people come up with questions in advance for a particular user, and the user answers those (and other questions) during a special chat session.
  • Town Hall chat sessions, designed to discuss site issues and the solutions to them going forward.
  • Movie viewing sessions (or book discussions!) of a specific work (followed, hopefully, by a discussion of the work and the worldbuilding principles used).

If anyone has more ideas, that would be fantastic.

So, should we try to implement chat sessions focused on one of the above themes (or something else entirely)? If so, what sort of format, timing, content, etc. should they contain?

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    $\begingroup$ Another idea, similar to your first one: a series to build one world - together. Each one focused on one topic, but always keeping the existing aspects of the world in mind. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 14 '17 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ "discuss site issues and the solutions to them going forward" -- anything formal (policy, scope, etc) would still need to go to meta, though, so everybody has a chance to weigh in even though the chat was at 4AM local time. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 14 '17 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Yeah, definitely. I was thinking of more of a "What are some things we could do better?" kind of discussion, rather than deciding to implement anything. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 14 '17 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ If you have a problem with lots of new users posting what can be good questions, but aren't what the site considers as good (yet), and you have the user base that's willing to help, maybe a room dedicated to assisting in the work of polishing the new questions into gems. $\endgroup$ – user39523 Jul 17 '17 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ @GypsySpellweaver We have a Sandbox on meta that is designed to help new users get feedback on their question drafts. Whenever someone posts something there a message is posted in the general chat where most regular chat users are active. And we are testing a chat room for reopening discussions. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 17 '17 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Depending on the atmosphere of the main room, which I've not visited, a new user might feel overwhelmed with all the "advice" from the room. That's a call the community will have to make. If so, a dedicated chat, which also gets a feed from the sandbox, could be good. But, what about really new users, < 5 rep, who usually can't post in meta, and may not even know it exists, and can't chat at < 20 rep? The reopening room could serve dual purpose, however, saving the number of rooms the helpful users must watch. Just my 2¢ from outside the world. And you can keep the change :) $\endgroup$ – user39523 Jul 17 '17 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW on Physics we started our chat sessions precisely because we wanted to increase activity in the chat room. It was pretty dead before then. Sounds like you don't have that problem, and your motivation for chat sessions would be a little different. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 18 '17 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ Was there some kind of "feedback round" after our first chat session? I want to leave my feedback somewhere, so I'll just write this as a comment. I think it was okay. The usual chat regulars and once we found a topic quite focused. It might be worth to keep the chat sessions up to establish a culture around them, though it will probably not be a weekly event, more like "every few weeks depending on everyones schedule" or something like that, unless/until we gain quite some more chat regulars. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 9 '17 at 10:50
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I like this idea. The content of the session interacts with the style of the session, so think about that dimension too. How many active participants are you expecting? How many do you need for the session to be viable? How will you help people follow what's going on if there are a lot of people chatting?

Here are some quick thoughts about some different formats viewed through this lens:

  • "Let's talk about X" might see a lot of people trying to talk, and then people replying to some of those messages, all in parallel. When SE ran its first couple Town Hall chats, they had to put the room into short timeouts a few times to let people catch up. (That's fine; it just has to be managed. I think only moderators can put rooms in timeout.)

  • "Let's talk about X" can lend itself to shorter bits rather than longer conversations. I've never attended SF&F's movie night, but I understand that everybody watches the same movie together and they chat about it while doing so. That might lend itself to shorter comments that don't involve as much threading.

  • A threaded discussion can be easier to manage but has a little more of a bar to entry. During one of the podcasts we did some round-robin worldbuilding: somebody established some starting state, each participant was assigned an area (like biology or politics or tech), and we went around the virtual room, with each person in turn introducing one thing into the world that was in the assigned area. That required some planning in advance, including establishing participants, but I could see a more flexible form of this working in chat.

  • An "ask me anything" is basically a narrower version of threaded discussion, with the need to keep track of pending questions somehow. A long time ago when SE elections had town-hall chats (this was before the questionnaire), we used stars for that and barred anything except questions for the candidates from the starboard.

We probably want to try a variety of participation models, which means varying the type of chat. Let's experiment and see what happens.

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Good idea, but I'd want a proof-of-concept before planning too far.

We can have a chat session to see if chat sessions work. We can try scheduling it, and then see who shows up and if anything gets done. Based on that, we can decide whether it's worth it to do more. Maybe for the first meeting it'd just be chat-regulars, since we should always have some of them around for these sessions. If none of us show up, then we shouldn't get less active users excited about something that we can't support.

Basically, I think we'd all like the idea if it worked. But I'm worried there's not enough of us, or a good enough time for all of us to get together.

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