Multi-user systems like wikis and forums and Groups/Clubs have traditionally communicated on a longer-term, asynchronous, timeframe. If you write something and someone replies immediately, that’s a surprise.
Ajaxify any system that takes contributions from its users, and you have the potential to get people communicating in real time. For forum software, imagine how the following would make it more like a chat system:
- Periodic_Refresh What if the page always showed you the latest messages, without having to push refresh?
- One-Second Spotlight (“Yellow Fade Technique”) What if you got immediately feedback – by way of a flash on the web page – when someone began replying to your post and when they’d submitted it?
- Heartbeat What if the server told you who was currently online and actively working with the application, updated every second? (Multi-User Awareness Demo).
So it’s easy to see how a forum could easily turn into a chat among online users. It could equally apply to E-Commerce sites that lets people leave reviews or comments in blog entries.
Is this a good thing? Slashdot, for example, prohibits posting more than once every two minutes. Firstly, it’s to cut down on abuse. But secondly, it’s presumably to cut down on plain old noise. I certainly wouldn’t advocate holding back the technology just to force people to think longer, but designers will need to think carefully about how they help readers delineate – at a glance – between a conversation spanning several days and containing lots of insightful reflection, versus a “MS Sucks”-“No, Linux sucks more”-“I love Apple” flamefest that lasted all of 5 minutes.