Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis? [Pinned Chat]

The other day I witnessed something great. I actually used Google Docs with a large group of people and right before my eyes I saw many little colored cells transform a blank spreadsheet into a document. It was like one of those moments when the lines between technology and magic start to blur.

And then on the side there was a chat panel. A boring old chat panel that had a jumble of conversations about something someone was doing somewhere in the spreadsheet or on the screen.

It was useful, of course, as chat is necessary but it was hard to follow and was clearly broken. I wanted to ask a question related to a specific row in the spreadsheet and so instead of moving to the chat panel I simply started my chat in the next cell of the row. The person who answered me modified the same cell with the answer and I did the same in order to reply. This was definitely not optimal. Changing cells to have a conversation was not optimal either as it would have taken up cell space and mixed conversation with output.

So this got me thinking... (and now that I am writing this I realize that this already exists in the review and comment methods within Microsoft word and excel, only that its missing the real time chat factor):

We should be able to have chats that are pinned to certain points in a document or pinned to the screen.

Little icons would show where chats are taking place. (or to borrow from Excel you could dog ear the corner of the cell to make it less intrusive).

Rollover would show who is involved in the conversation and provide a link to show the conversation.

Chats that are active or have new messages would be highlighted in say orange, with the message count displayed.

As well as adding a comment to the chat you can hide a chat, pin a chat to the page (may be invisible when you scroll down) or to the screen (remains in fixed position relative to screen) or delete a chat.

All general document alerts (x is viewing, x has left etc..) would appear on all chat windows.

There should be a menu or menu item which would provide options to start a chat.

Chats should be able to be dragged and dropped to re-position them and then pin them.

The menu would also have options to hide all chat markers, collapse or expand all chats.

Alternatively a right click menu option would be available to start a chat positioned and pined to current cursor or selected item.

I believe this would be a much easier UX for a user who joins a document at a later stage to be able to follow the conversation and know What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?