Five Steps to Building A Better Chatroulette Experience

Chatroulette. What can be said about this social media sensation that is gaining huge exposure? It is a fascinating piece of Web-based software that connects you to a total stranger for a one-on-one video/audio conversation — it is really that simple.

If you are one of those who have tried Chatroulette, you are probably aware of the fun that can be had with such an application. However, you are probably just as aware about the pitfalls as well: There are people out there (a disturbingly high amount) who lack common sense, courtesy, and social skills, and Chatroulette is a medium that seemingly amplifies this behavior.

It’s not Chatroulette’s fault per-say, but people are people.

There must be a better way, and there actually is a better way. We just need someone to build it first.

But before someone goes out and builds a Chatroulette killer, there must be a few things (five, actually) that should be added to it that make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone who uses the site.

First, there must be a karma system (or rating system) of some kind implemented into the site that will promote better behavior and interaction with fellow users. Unfortunately, Chatroulette in its current incarnation has nothing of this magnitude in place. We’re not even sure if that “report” button does anything.

Although, if Chatroulette did have a karma system, it would encourage a good amount of people to act in a more communicable and friendly way, thus improving the experience for everyone. It could be something as simple as a 5-star rating system or a thumbs-up/thumbs-down system. Either way, it should be used to establish credibility amongst peers.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to work. It could have a dramatic effect on the overall experience.

Second, there should be a ranking system that allows people to be recognized for being helpful, interesting, and unique. However, this doesn’t mean every single pretty girl or handsome guy should be ranked at the top. People have a tendency to rank the pretty people of the world highly, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that — it just means that all the not-so-pretty people of the world might be passed up.

A social site like this should be used to encourage conversations based on topics of interest instead of looks. If that can be done, and it could provide a bit of a competitive motivation to do so, it will be another huge win.

Admittedly, it is a tough balancing act, and one that would be tough to implement correctly — but we have faith that someone can pull it off..

Third, there should be a rewards system that allows users enhanced functionality or more privileges for participating and promoting great conversations and interactions.

I’m not talking about those silly badges that seem to be all the rage these days, but a simple system that rewards users for participating, ranking highly, and being looked upon as a nice person should be implemented. It seems these days that many chat sites reward those who are the most obnoxious and silly, and that shouldn’t be rewarded.

Fourth, there should be some system in place that requires users to chat with others for a limited amount of time before they can move on to someone else.

Unfortunately, we are becoming a civilization where it is becoming common to just hit the “block” or “ignore” button and having someone disappear forever. It isn’t good at all.

You can’t simply “block” someone in real life, so why should the Internet promote such behavior, especially with applications that are meant to promote socialization? Sure, there are always people that should be immediately blocked because they are being bad, but this is why we have the aforementioned karma system.

There should be a system in place that requires users to talk to people if they want to continue. Perhaps it could be a reverse pyramid scheme that forces you to talk to someone for a minute, and then, if you don’t like the conversation, you could skip on to someone else. Then, as you talk to more people, you can skip those who don’t interest you faster.

Imagine the fun of actually having to talk to a total stranger. It sounds intimidating but fun. And it would be something truly unique to the way the Web works.

Fifth, there should be filters that enable users to drill down a bit more specifically on the type of people they want to talk to.

I’m not saying that this should be the next Match.com — I am simply suggesting that you should have basic filters that enable a better chance for someone to connect with someone else. For example, you should be able to check a filter that only connects you with people who have a good karma (so you don’t have to talk with people who are annoying or acting indecent).

Perhaps a set of filters for gender, age bracket, general vicinity, and language spoken would be good enough. Maybe more detailed filters could follow. Or perhaps there could be a system that would tie in with the rewards system that would slowly enable more detailed filters for “good” members.

Either way, this insanely popular communication tool is showing many signs of future growth, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before it makes headline news on CNN or other networks (if it hasn’t already).

But it has some growing up to do, and it could be done much better. The only question remaining is if someone spin the wheel and take a chance to make a better Chatroulette.

It is too soon to tell.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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