ocPortal Tutorial: Running chatrooms (features and advice)
More information about using the chatroom functionality is available within ocPortal itself, on the userguide_chatcode page. You might want to link this page onto your menus using the menu editor (it's in the site zone).
Table of contents
ocPortal Tutorial: Running chatrooms (features and advice)
- The chat interface
- Advice for younger users
- Bots (advanced)
- Live sales chat
- See also
The chat interface
Choosing a chatroom to enter
A link to the chat lobby placed on the menus of your website, and when loaded, presents you with a list of all chatrooms you are eligible to enter (i.e. ones you don't have permission to access or you've been banned from don't appear). If you have the right permissions (the 'Edit mid-impact (medium visibility) content' privilege, and access to the cms_chat module), appropriate links also appear to the moderation module.
You will also see a friend list, which you can use to start instant messaging conversations. Instant Messaging conversations are like conversations in chatrooms, except rooms do not need to be created – they are run on purely a private invitation basis and very quick to get going.
Inside a chatroom
The options at the bottom of the chatroom page control how your messages appear to others, and there are also some links to pertinent links provided below. The list of links is filtered according to permissions.
Instant MessagingInstant Messaging (IM) conversations can be started just by clicking on a name from the friend list. To add a member to your friend list, just visit the member's profile and click the appropriate link (OCF -only) – alternatively, you can type in usernames to add from the chat lobby. If you wish to start a conversation with multiple people, you may do so by ticking (checking) them and clicking the appropriate button. You can also tick (check) people and add them in to an existing conversation.
There is also a configuration option that allows you to start IM conversations by clicking on usernames ("Clicking a username starts an IM"). Ordinarily this action would link to a member profile view screen, but for 'chat-based' websites, starting an IM may be more appropriate.
You may have multiple simultaneous conversations, as conversations are separated using tabs.
If a member is not in the lobby when they are invited to start a conversation then they will be sent an e-mail alert after you make the first message in a conversation with them, inviting them to visit the lobby. Upon visiting the lobby all active conversations that they have started or been invited to will appear.
It is recommended that members who make a lot of use of the IM system leave the lobby open, so that they are easily reachable. By the time you respond to your e-mail alert, the conversant who wishes to talk to you may have lost interest. Alternatively, there is a configuration option ("Site-wide IM") you can enable that essentially turns your whole website into the chat lobby, so that pop-up windows instantly appear for any new conversation that someone starts with a member (assuming the member is somewhere on the website of course).
Conversations may be closed by clicking the 'Close' button. If you do not close a conversation then it will remain in the system unless you are the only member who has not closed it and you have since left the lobby.
The friend list shows online status indication for all your friends, and similar statuses are shown for all conversants within active conversations. These statuses are dynamically updated as members come and go (there's no need to reload your browser window). Members may be:
- online (using the website, but not in the lobby)
- offline (not using the website at all)
- active (in the lobby)
- away (was in the lobby recently, but is not anymore – may be online, or may be offline)
If a member signs in, or a new message is posted in a conversation, then the browser window may flash (depending on your web browser). A sound will also play if you have left sound enabled. In addition, when a member signs in an activity indicator will mention that they have just signed in and the indicator will remain for a number of seconds.
BlockingYou may choose to block members. Blocked members cannot easily see when you are online – it is the ocPortal equivalent of hiding from a member. However, just as in the real world, someone paying close attention will not be fooled, as they will see your activity and notice that you are not ever online, and 'join the dots' to realise that you have blocked them.
Downloading chat logs
Link to download chat logs
The chat log download preparation interface
Setting sound effectsChatroom users may set sound effects for different chat actions (from the link provided in the chat lobby), and also override the sound effects so they are different for different members. New sound effects may be uploaded in .mp3 format, or effects may be chosen from the inbuilt sound effect library.
Creating a private room
The private room creation interface
When creating a private chatroom, bear in mind what sort of purpose you're creating the room to fulfil, and try to outline this in the room entry message. Make sure you add some members or usergroups to the allow/disallow lists as well, or the room you create won't be private at all (unless you define access, access is public)!
Once created, the private chatroom will be visible in the chatrooms list for all eligible members.
ModerationThe moderation interface for the chat system (in the cms_chat module) allows the editing/deletion of chat messages.
Inline moderation options
Choosing a room to moderate
Messages to moderate
Moderating a message
Deleting messagesTo delete a chat message, simply go to its edit screen, and tick (check) the "Delete" box, then submit the page. The message will be completely erased from history. Please note that this might take a significant chunk out of a conversation, so should be used sparingly; editing is probably a better way to go.
Deleting all messages
The link to delete all messages in a room
Selecting a chatroom for administration
The administration interface to add a chatroom
Submitting the form will create the chatroom, and it will be immediately visible and accessible to all eligible conversants.
The administration interface to edit a chatroom
All the options are the same as for the add chatroom form, and submitting the form makes the changes immediately visible to users of the chat system.
Deleting chatroomsTo delete a chatroom, simply go to that chatroom's edit screen, and tick (check) the "Delete" box, then click the "Save" button. The chatroom will be completely erased, and so will all messages in that chatroom. Any conversants using that chatroom will receive an error the next time they refresh, or the next time the system checks for messages.
Deleting all chatrooms
The link to delete all chatrooms
Confirmation for deleting all chatrooms
Be sure to create a new chatroom for the shoutbox to feed from and re-associate it via the block parameter (or if you didn't use a block parameter, the block will automatically associate with the new chatroom as it'll be the first one).
Advice for younger usersTeenagers and children may hear many stories of chatrooms being dangerous and that they should stay away from them. As an administrator, you should place some emphasis on safety, and make sure your younger users are aware of the following guidelines:
- Do not arrange to meet people met in a chatroom
- Do not trust anybody you meet in a chatroom – no matter what they tell you, they don't have to be telling the truth
- Do not send photos, reveal your real name, or do webcam sessions
- Remember: anybody could be using the chatrooms; not just people like you
Bots (advanced)The Chatroom system supports bots. These are described in the chatcode userguide, but basically chatroom users can send private messages to "bot" and get messages back.
Programmers can add new bots by writing new hook code files (the existing ones in sources/hooks/modules/chat_bots serve as examples).
It is easy to imagine useful bots that could be created; as just one example, imagine a bot that could answer questions based on searching an FAQ catalogue.
Live sales chatocPortal caters well for public/private chatrooms, and private instant messaging, but is not designed specifically for one-on-one live chat sessions between guest visitors and a staff team.
For this we advise integration external software, which should be very easy. For an example of a free live chat solution see Comm100.
This is one of the few cases where relying on a third party tool does not provide user experience problems, as it's a use-case that is quite oblique to the rest of the website experience (works in a popup, and is an isolated sequence of interactions).