chat.meta.stackoverflow.com is extremely confusing, crowded, and hard-to-figure-out for even an experienced Trilogy user such as myself. I'm having a really hard time understanding it because it seems all so complex. Can we work on dates (time), what posts come first, etc...
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Well, here's the getting started:
Maybe if you could clarify what exactly you find confusing? It is a different user interface than the trilogy because real time chat is a fundamentally a very different thing from Q&A.
I don't find it confusing. I find it impractical. I will argument as soon as I get a better picture, but the point is that it tries to mimic a IRC discussion, without the practicality of IRC. The sensation is that it adds something to IRC, but the additions do not improve it.
However, I like the idea. it just needs some shaping.
Small bug: if you click on "room" to get the roominfo popup and then on "starred posts" you get an error.
This is just a random set of cerebral activity, I don't claim it to be coherent at all, but it's feedback...
This is technically an answer to an answer, but since Stefano had a few interesting points, some of which might have had to do with the OP's confusion, I'll address them here:
Maybe, maybe not. Considering that room names aren't usually that long, and that more people usually have limited screen height rather than screen width, I'd say keep as much height as possible to the chat.
Yes, the lightness shows if the room was recently active. So when it's grey, you're not forced to give your attention to something that doesn't need it.
Same as above; when scanning the "user list", you can see quickly how many of those users are really active, and how many are just lurking. In addition, you'll get all info you need if you click on the avatar, including a larger and fully visible version of the same.
You actually have two choices: You can either a) open as many browser tabs as you want, with as many rooms as you want, or b) keep the chat in one browser tab only, and be notified of messages in other rooms via the sidebar. I usually use b), unless I'm active in conversations in several rooms at the same time.
This animation has actually been toned down quite a bit since earlier versions, because many people found it… well, too easy to spot. And let's be honest, in almost all cases, the fact that someone enters the room isn't really that interesting. If they engage in the conversation, you'll notice them, and if they just want to lurk, what's the point of cluttering up the timeline with "user entered" messages? Even more so for "user left".
Actually there are three; the lines fade away.
Yeah, that was less than optimal; we changed christmas tree coloring today.
chat.meta.stackoverflow.com is the beta site for the chat functionality that will, in the end, be available on all sites. There will be a chat.cookingoverflow.com, and the chef will go there to chat. All he'll need is an account on cookingoverflow.com, and that's where the "user profile on parent site" link will lead.
I assume you mean "on the right". That should actually be scrollable, and also only use as much screen height as is available. If that's not the case, it would be nice if you opened a bug report here on meta, preferably with a screenshot.
Space is valuable :) FWIW, the user icons next to the messages get larger if there is additional space to be filled (because they said several things in a row).
That depends on your screen (or browser) size. The chat should be usable at a screen width of 1024 pixels, and at that window size, there's not really any space left to put something. What would you insert there, anyway?
That's probably a matter of taste; but even more, it again touches the "screen real-estate" issue.
I'm not toally averse to that idea, although I wonder if it wouldn't cause more confusion of the "what the heck do those colors mean" kind.
Oh don't worry, the color scheme you currently see is just for the Meta version. This is more or less what the Super User chat will look like:
As I said above, every site will have their own chat.
You have already discussed that with Robert in the comments, so I'll skip this.
Not planned, nor ever was. Did anybody say differently?
Don't get me started on Shog9 :)