01 Apr

Chatting to strangers randomly

I have had a tab with Omegle open in my browser for a couple of days now (and thus forgot from where I got the link πŸ™ ) until I got my nerves together to try the service. Leif K-Brooks, its founder describes it as following:

Omegle is a brand-new service for meeting new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like.

In our age of social media, profile pages, nick names, and avatars, in short: our digital identity, Omegle is a clever chat client that is not bothered with these at all. I write “clever” because the absence of these familiar things as well as the fact that the person with whom you chat is chosen randomly, make it novel and intriguing.

Before I clicked on the big “Start a chat” button, I raided my brain of how I could wittily start a conversation though Leif provides a good pointer: “Say Hi”. What would I write next? How would I react to the stranger. What topic would I choose? Would I chicken out at the last minute and abort the chat? Questions over questions. The only strategy that I could think of was: Just dive in and see what happens.

My first attempt to talk to a stranger among the 2600 something users online about an hour ago was rather ill-fated as my stranger who was chosen randomly got cold feet and left the chat just after my – admittedly rather ordinary – conversation opening.

Aborted conversation

Aborted conversation

@injenuity had more luck and created poetry with her stranger (the link to the Twitter status update does not work anymore).

Reading these conversations, I am reminded of the early days of the internet when people said one could talk to strangers not knowing anything about them and everybody could pretend to be anybody. Still, back then one always had a nickname / handle in IRC chats etc. that one was recognized by. Also today we have our usernames, we fill in more or less extensive online profile pages, and even provide avatars. These things help in conversations. We build up our digital identities and hopefully trust with them so that we are regocnized the next time we log on and converse with others.

Omegle leaves out all these conversation cues and connects total strangers without anything that may help to pinpoint their whereabouts, their (established) identity, and any chance of knowing if re-connected with them is possible there.

I wonder what the average time spent in the chat is, what other strangers talk about. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a stream of these conversations (and analyze them if the heart desires)?

22 Nov

Lost in Technology

This past week was an online feast I had not experienced before. I tried to catch as many sessions of the conference Corporate Learning Trends and Innovations 2008 at which great minds shared their knowledge, experience, and thoughts. I will blog about that over the weekend a bit more trying to summarize important points for me before they get lost in next week’s travel excitement.

On top of that it was the 11th week of CCK08. Though I have not been an active participant in the course by way of writing blog posts, discussing in Moodle etc., I try to participate in the Wednesday Elluminate and Frida uStream sessions. I always look forward to them.

As we are nearing the end of the course next week and I will not be able to attend the last sessions (maybe next Friday if I am very lucky), I was happy that I would be able participate today during a break of the online conference. However, as our hosts Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes, and George Siemens are very busy people, we did have to have one day when a session would have to be canceled. That was the case today. Nevertheless, and due to not reading “The Daily” earlier, three of us (Eduardo, Lisa and I) gathered in uStream and reached the decision to have our session anyway. Thus, we did get to have our revolution after all (if you don’t know what I am referring to, I point you to the beginning of the uStream session of Week 5). πŸ˜‰

Lisa quickly pointed us to her uStream channel, but as all of us had never experimented with uStream before, we had difficulty to bring everybody in on the audio (and video). Andreas and Carmen joined us there after they got our Twitter messages. Soon, we realized that we couldn’t get onto the uStream audio and decided to try Skype because that would allow us – in theory – to audio chat together.

That meant to get all our Skype IDs together and start a conference call. We kept uStream open to be able to text chat while continuing the tech experiment in Skype to get everybody in there. After some bits of discussion in Skype in a smaller conference call with three of us and the other ones listening to Lisa filling them in and text chatting in uStream, we were all united: Eduardo in Uruguay, Lisa in Southern California, Carmen in Minnesota, Andreas in Germany and I in Luxembourg.

Unfortunately, the tech gods did not have their protective eye on me during that hour. I could only get sound through uStream although I was on Skype and could be heard through there. On top of that my audio lacked behind between 30 seconds and 1 minute thus making it difficult to contribute to the conversation in a timely fashion. I usually cut in while others were talking and I felt aweful about that because I interrupted the entire conversation. I resorted to text chat in the end but could hear everybody.

As Lisa rightly said, “And here, you know, the pipe really was more important than the content.” That was certainly true. We had to figure out how to connect and not just connect but bring everybody on the same tool and allow for participation (no willing CCK08 participant left behind). Due to the technical problems, we could not finish our discussion on the blog software we used for what reason, what we will do after CCK08 will be over, whether we will continue blogging, staying in contact etc. It would have been a really interesting discussion had we had more time and mastered our internet communication tools better.

Hosting a live session certainly takes preparation and even when you have all the technology available to you that does not mean that it will cooperate and do what you want. However, we managed to get connected and stay that way more or less using two tools (not in one environment) simultaneously.

A big THANK YOU to Jeff who usually manages our Friday sessions and stays on top of his tech game to connect Dave, George, and Stephen to us from wherever they are on the planet and with whatever internet connection they have to work with. He’s always in the background handling the difficult part of connecting everybody as smoothly as possible.

After our allotted time for our Friday class, everybody went back to their other tasks. I wondered what happened to theΒ  intentions to have meetups as they were discussed at the beginning of the course. There are two Second Life group that meet / met regularly if I remember correctly: one English-speaking one and one Spanish-speaking one. Are there other groups? Maybe even face-to-face ones? How often do / did they meet? What are their experiences?

Our little group was a great experience today, we stayed in class, and learned together without our teachers / instructors / facilitators / moderators / curators / enablers…

Communicating online can be more difficult but still be fun

Communicating online can be more difficult but still be fun

10 Sep

Elluminate me

A crowd of approx. 82 participants of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course, commonly known as CCK08, just met in a synchronous online session in Elluminate. It was quite an experience for me as that was my first live session in Elluminate. Previously, I was only able to watch recorded sessions of webinars.

Participating in this hour long discussion was challenging as I had to listen to the various speakers and watch the rapidly flowing chat. This time, the whiteboard could still be mostly looked at peripherally. Had the session been at the previously set time (2 a.m. in the morning for me), I would not have been able to follow for most of the time, I guess, as I am not a night owl. πŸ˜‰

I think I would have coped a little bit better even now if the chat window had been bigger. This little window was way too small for me to see the comments properly. I’m not talking about the size of the font, but rather the comments themselves. At times they just sped past and were gone beyond the scrollbar. Maybe I can increase the window size. I haven’t figured that one out yet. However, I still have 11 more weeks to go to either find a way to enlarge the text chat area or to get used to reading the comments in the small window without losing track of the speaker. πŸ™‚

This shows that I am not so good at multi-tasking. George Siemens, who moderated the session by himself for a few minutes before Stephen Downes joined, and was already there before the session, did a wonderful job of talking and reading the comments at the same time and getting back to them.

Screenshot of an (empty) Elluminate session. The text chat box is way too small for my liking as a lot of stuff happens in there.

Screenshot of an (empty) Elluminate session. The text chat box is way too small for my liking as a lot of stuff happens in there.