Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chinswing-Forums With Voice

Chinswing is a lot like any other message board, except instead of typing your message, you record it. It looks like Chinswing is attempting to add to social networking by giving us the dynamics of voice in an easy to use package.

It can be hard to have long voice discussions with lots of members and, at the same time, have it organized and moving all while maintaining the 'feel' of a large shared topic.

The thing voice adds is the obvious tones and connotations that are just absent in written form. But when adding voice to forum based systems, you get into the problem of slowing down the speed at which information is shared. Current word based forums are easy to scan through quickly. If your looking at a topic that interests you, you can scan through it for the desired answer among those that have contributed. It's as if I were needing to find a certain kind of computer mother board. I'd go to the topic and I could easily and quickly scan through the posts until I find one that is relevant to me, and while I'm doing that I can mentally note other posts that interest me for other reasons. You just can't quickly find the one person who has the answer you're looking for, in recorded messages. You don't know what they have to say until you listen from the beginning to the end of each individual recording.

What Chinswing has done is create fairly smooth moving discussions by using a clickable ticker tape below each discussion window. By clicking the first persons entry, in the main window above the ticker, you begin playback. Each persons voice post plays automatically one after the other unless you press stop on that persons post. You can also scroll through the ticker and pick individual posts to listen to while not losing the order in which the discussion formed.

I know of one other site, Yackpack, that offers voice message boards. Both are attractive, in my book. Chinswing, I think, has managed to create an organized, easy to understand system for voice discussions by separating topics into channels and then listing individual discussions under those. The one thing I don't like is the program you have to download to your computer to record your messages. Yacpack uses an interesting window to display users in a circular fashion while each persons seperate posts are all listed under their picture that's viewable in the main window. I think it's a little more confusing that Chinswing's linear ticker approach and would be more confusing the more members that participated, but there is no need to download anything, and they also give the ability to talk live with whoever is currently logged in. You record straight from the website, and you can embed "Yackpacks" in your website or blog.

These two services could easily thrive without creating competition among themselves as Yackpack seems more oriented toward the "create your own voice chat room" crowd while Chinswing is more like a traditional forum.

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