Conversation Trees and Threaded Chats

  • Byron Burkhalter
  • JJ Cadiz
  • Marc Smith

MSR-TR-2000-43 |

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Chat programs and instant messaging services are increasingly popular among Internet users. However, basic issues with the interfaces and data structures of most forms of chat limit their utility for use in formal interactions (like group meetings) and decision-making tasks. In this paper, we discuss Threaded Text Chat, a program designed to address some of the deficiencies of current chat programs. Standard forms of chat introduce ambiguity into interaction in a number of ways, most profoundly by rupturing connections between turns and replies. Threaded Chat presents a solution to this problem by actively supporting the basic turn-taking structure of human conversation. While the solution introduces interface design challenges of its own, usability studies show that users’ patterns of interaction in Threaded Chat are equally effective, but different (and possibly more efficient) than standard chat programs.