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Chapter Chat Results: It Went Well, But Only 4 Participated

by Tom Johnson on Mar 1, 2007
categories: technical-writing

We had our first chapter chat tonight. It went well. The conversation moved at a good pace, no flame wars broke out, and the discussion seemed productive. The one downside was lack of participation on part of the chapter: only four members participated (including myself). However, sometimes if you're talking with a group of friends, four people is a perfect number. Imagine trying to carry on a conversation with 50 or 60 people at once. That might cause the chat window to scroll nonstop.

Here is the chat transcript. You have to read it from bottom to top, but even then, a chat is a little like a audio conversation. You can record it, but you don't get the full effect unless you're there.

Here's what really worked well during the chat:

  • Having someone act as the host
  • Avoiding sarcasm
  • Keeping the members on track with a topic
  • Trying to pull everyone into the conversation
  • Not making the chat too long (one hour is perfect)

Mark Hanigan asked if I could explain how to set up a chat for other groups. Basically, here's how you do it:

  1. Install a WordPress blog through the Fantastico feature of your web host's cPanel.
  2. Install Pierre's Wordspew shoutbox plugin.
  3. Create a new page template and name it something unique. See the WordPress codex to learn about page templates.
  4. Create a new page based on the page template and put the shoutbox plugin code on that page.
  5. Use the plugin editor and modify the CSS style associated with the plugin to fit on a page.
  6. Turn the refresh rate of the chat box from 4 seconds to 0.1 seconds.

That probably doesn't make much sense if you're not familiar with WordPress. Sorry, it would take about a half hour to really explain it all. But it's not hard at all if you know a little about WordPress.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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