There are two camps with very different positions regarding how users should be treated when they join a chat room:
- If you join a chat room, you've signed on to be addressed by random people and bots. It's expected that you may be pinged by anyone or anything.
- If you join a chat room, you're lurking. Until you talk, you've only dipped your toes into the water.
I'm in camp #2, and the main reason is that joining a chat room is very lightweight. It happens as soon as you click the big link in the room description. I'm not too happy that (provided that you're logged into chat and have enough reputation to talk) clicking the big link makes you appear in a very visible manner into the list of participants in the room.
I wouldn't mind as much if joining a chat room was truly an active decision, if it wasn't something that happened as soon as you wanted to have a look. (Yes, there's a link to the transcript, but it's rather small and hidden.)
Changing the main link to the transcript would solve the problem — browsing the transcript is discreet. However, I don't think this is an acceptable solution, because it would make actually joining the room — a common action — too much work.
What I propose instead is the following:
- When you click on the main link in a room description, the display is similar to what it is now when you don't have the reputation to participate in the room (or aren't logged in at all). You get to see messages appearing in real time, and the screen layout is the same as if you were in the room.
- The bottom part of the screen should show a message like “click here to participate” (I'm not hung on the wording). If you click, you get to join the room, with your avatar appearing in the participant list. If you start typing, then “send” button and the other buttons appear, and posting a message also joins the room.
- If you've talked in a room recently, clicking on the main link for that room directly makes you an active participant.
The first click is merely clicking on a link whose text is the room name, which doesn't hint that this is an active, public action, so it doesn't have any effect that's visible to other people. The second click clearly tells the user that he's about to participate, and participating in a chat is by definition public since others may talk to you.
This provides a lightweight way to make joining a chatroom less accidental than it is now. It solves the problem of users being jumped on as soon as they click the link to a chat room: now they won't be jumped on until they deliberately jump in.