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I currently frequent two (moderator only) chat rooms on separate chat sites regularly through the standard browser interface (not mobile). One of these rooms, however, has much less activity than the other, but what goes on in that room is still of great importance to me.

As a result, I don't always have that window open. Granted, I could open the browser in another tab/instance, but this isn't practical for (alt-tab switching is a pain, lack of screen real-estate with other things I'm doing is an issue, etc.).

That said, what I'd really like to see is a delayed-update histogram of the chat activity of other rooms, so that I can see when there is a surge of activity and join in, as the room is not always active.

I envision something like this:

mockup of chat activity histogram

Note that the scale and interval above would not be the same as the ones you see for transcripts; it would be over a different time window, and the interval would be whatever the pooling interval is.

Now, I don't expect real-time updates. I think that a polling time of a minute or two is fine (something much less frequent than what you're using for the actual chat).

Clicking on the histogram would take you to that room (like what would happen now if you were pinged from another room, and would work across SE sites).

Because screen real estate is valuable, I'm thinking you would only have one room shown there at a time. Additionally, some of the recent users of the room could be removed to make space for this (I don't know if I need to see a visual representation of that many users, considering I probably won't see it on the transcript immediately when I enter the room).

As to how to select which room, I think the following would be fine:

  • The user selects a room which the histogram is displayed for (can be administered through their favorites, perhaps) when the user is not in that room
  • A second room is able to be selected, to be displayed when the user is in the room selected in the above

I realize the secondary histogram is a little bit much, and might over-complicate things, so I think it's perfectly OK to have just one room which the user selects as "always show histogram for". Additionally, if it makes it easier, showing the histogram for that room when the user is in that room is perfectly OK as well.

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I don't understand. If something happens in the other room, you'll immediate see it in the sidebar of the room you're looking at, including what was said. The histogram on the other hand is just an average taken over weeks, so it wouldn't be very helpful anyway. –  balpha Dec 23 '11 at 19:19
@balpha: I clarified in the edit; basically, if I'm in Teacher's Lounge and in Blue Moon, I will not see any notification of any kind across chat servers. Additionally, the histogram scale is not meant to be the same as what you normally see, it would be a rolling timeline updated every X time units (I suggested one to five minutes) and the window itself would be smaller (I'm really only concerned about the other rooms at that moment in time). –  casperOne Dec 23 '11 at 19:22
Oh, okay -- I missed the "across sites", which is probably the most important thing here. Interesting. I'm not sure a histogram is the best solution; in addition, there's an authentication issue (at least in this particular case, where both rooms are private). I'll think about it. –  balpha Dec 23 '11 at 19:42
@balpha Appreciate it. I know there are issues around cross-site notifications, etc. The histogram is proposed to help reduce load, instead of trying to figure out all users across all sites, this can be done more as a batch (every minute, five minutes, whatever) and then broadcast to those subscribed (just wanted to make it easier); if anything, every message from every room would be overload. –  casperOne Dec 23 '11 at 19:52
I think cross-site notifications would be awesome, but I'm more for integrating rooms I'm in on other servers into the existing sidebar than displaying a metric based on the recent message count. If possible, naturally. Any notification is better than no notification, but I figured I'd leave my thought here for posterity. –  Anna Lear Dec 23 '11 at 20:31

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