The Story of Chat27, Part 2
This is the most significant post in Chat27 history. I’m not kidding. By the time you read this, I would have probably been busy writing this post for a long time.** It will be read and re-read, overanalyzed and uber-scrutinised. I will go through every word with a fine tooth comb, still miss some grammar and spelling errors, and then blindly push the “publish” button in a now-or-never effort to recklessly catapult my private thoughts into a public space.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a “real” post for Chat27, even though quite a lot has happened. In between the edits and the updates, the additions and the admissions, a lingering feeling has started spreading… but I’ll get to that. For now, I’m approaching this post as part 2 of the original 2011 post entitled “The Story of Chat27”, and if you haven’t read it yet, maybe you should – it might provide some necessary context.
As far as the “who” behind Chat27 goes, it’s still me, JC. Chat27 is still run by an individual that decided to create a single portal for people to connect to different chat (IRC) servers that are run independently. I’ve had a lot of help this past year from the folks at ZAIRC and Atrum to get things set up though, and I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
The “when” is still the same. The past is set in stone, no matter what version of it we prefer to remember.
The “why”… well that seems to be in a state of flux…
Let’s get to the fun stuff first. All the big changes that have occurred since the end of the previous story:
1. A New Logo
At the end of 2015 I decided to scratch a persistent itch. The Chat27 logo wat dated, it needed to get with the times, and I didn’t feel like it represented the direction I wanted the website to take. I wanted the new logo (not brand, we’re not a brand!) that represent the diversity of our chatters, and the core motivation behind Chat27: Bringing people together.
After many, many drafts, ideas, sketches, scratches, deletions and dustbins, the final product was born. A modern, colourful, cosy, crammed and overlapping identity. Each letter influences and impacts the other.
2. A New Website
After the new logo was born, I couldn’t bare to just plonk it into the “old” website. The Chat27 had been using the same design language for almost a decade. It had become outdated, and more importantly, impractical. The increasing popularity of mobile devices meant the dear old inflexible Chat27 had to become something different.
The new website you currently see was launched on the Chat27 10-year anniversary (Chat27 was born on 28 March 2006).
3. New Chat Software
With the demise of Java as a viable chat software option, and the rise of mobile popularity, I started looking at 3rd party software that actually worked in the “real” world. In the beginning of 2016 we implemented a new way to connect to chat rooms. It needed to be mobile friendly, somewhat customisable, but easy enough for me to implement on my own. I found KiwiIRC to be perfect for the job. After a lot of tweaking and help from IRC server admins, we have now come to a point where I think it’s as stable as it’s going to get, barring weekly reboots and server unpredictability 🙂
4. The Chat27 Android App
We had a new logo, a new website and new chat software… but something was still missing in order to make Chat27 feel like it’s really woken up to modern, mobile technology. The Chat27 website doesn’t have a “mobile first” approach, and I don’t want it to. Too many people access the website from their work computers through the day, a lot of them coming from the early days of Chat27.
That’s where the Chat27 Android App filled the gap. The idea was that people would be able to easily install it on their Android smartphones, and not worry too much about scrolling past the chat panel and navigating the website. Our chatters, after a while, tend find a favorite chat room and stay there. The Chat27 App, at the time of writing this post, is still (ok, again) in beta phase. We’re working out the kinks for older (pre Android 5) devices, but we hope that it will soon be a very viable alternative to the website.
5. SSL & HTTPS
This topic is still a bit of an unknown entity to me. I do however know that, at some point, Chat27 will have to connect securely via SSL and Https… whatever that means, it seems to be important. I’m looking into it.
As mentioned, Chat27 is run by one person, but I’m not alone in my Chat27 endeavours. I feel a lot of credit is due to the folks at ZAIRC (CuttingEdge, Gavin) and Atrum (Lordcow, FPPE) for all the help I’ve been given when I found an unfathomable error or an unsurmountable task. These two IRC networks also still embody the essence of what made me fall in love with IRC: Everybody is welcome, as long as you respect others.
This brings me to a point in this post that’s been on my mind for many years… I even hinted at it in 2011. I always tell people that the idea behind Chat27 is to bring people together… to fill a void… to help break an unbearable silence. IRC was there for me when I needed it most in 1998, and and since 2006, Chat27 has been my way of giving back.
Chat27 isn’t about making money – and trust me, with running costs being 6x higher and advertising income being x6 less than when we started, I can’t afford to make it about money… It’s not about inter-network politics, it’s not about being the king of any castle.
Social media and dating sites have a very “face first, personality second” approach – understandably so – I feel there still is a very real niche for IRC, where you can join a chat room under whatever nickname you fancy, strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger, and have an amazing exchange of words and ideas with someone you’ve never met… you might not even know what they look like by the time you know that you have a real connection.
It does feel however that Chat27 is increasingly becoming the go-to place for folks who abuse the anonymity IRC provides. Chat27 was never supposed to be a hook-up joint. It was never supposed to be a meat market. It was supposed to be… well… I’ve said it enough. I know that our primal urges feature centre stage in many lives. There wouldn’t be a human race without them. Even if they become a top priority in anybody’s life, it feels like it’s becoming an exclusive priority for Chat27 chatters. I’m at a fork in the road, where Chat27’s priorities go one way, and mine the other. Has this relationship run its course?
I admit that I’m an idealist. I also admit that I’m not even remotely the naive person I was when I got introduced to IRC the first time, or when I registered the chat27.co.za domain. You could even say I’ve become disillusioned by the outright overpowering popularity of the adult-themed chat rooms vs the ones that are just there for people that want to talk to each other. The fact is that, quite often, I’ve seen chat rooms start with the best intentions, and then fall into the same routines as the adult-themed ones do in order to stay popular or relevant.
I’m such a prude.
I found my joy in creating and maintaining Chat27, knowing (hoping) that there might be someone out there, like me, that found a special place with some special people, a special community on Chat27.
In the 11 years of Chat27, I’ve never heard or read of someone who found true love thanks to Chat27. I’ve never heard of someone who felt less isolated because Chat27 gave them an opportunity to connect to others in a way that suited them best. I always said that, even if one person felt less alone, or found something special on Chat27, it would be worth all the years of hard work. That one person, if they’re out there, haven’t said a word to me about it. But if you’re there. If your life is better because Chat27 is still around, then Chat27 was made for you.
Chat27 is for sale… maybe.
For the reasons above, I want you to know that I’m willing to let Chat27 go.
I want to simplify my life, and often the only time I get any feedback regarding Chat27 is when something’s wrong, or when someone insists on adding another adult chat room, or when, just the other day, I got an email accusing me of racism because Chat27 didn’t have a diverse enough selection of chat rooms to that person’s liking. Chat27 is becoming a not-nearly-as-fulfilling complication. This isn’t fun any more. Hobbies should be.
Maybe someone will demolish the site to start from scratch. Maybe someone will want to take it further down the road it’s obviously heading. Or maybe, just maybe, it could be someone that’s still a bit of an idealist, a dreamer, a romantic… Maybe it will be someone that will take IRC and Chat27 to new heights. A revival. A revolution. A renaissance.
Regarding remuneration: Chat27 is not about the money, but I’ve put 11 years of my life and heart into it. I want something to show for it. The conditions for sale (or trade) will be the same as the conditions for chat room additions: Make a compelling argument.
I want a clean break, so someone with the knowledge and resources to take over the technical aspects will be a must.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested, or leave a comment below if you have an opinion on anything I’ve said in this post.
The response I’ve received to this post via email, social media and comments, although not overwhelming, has been positive enough to make me realise that Chat27 still has a role to play in the chat/IRC community. I want to sincerely thank everyone that took the time to write a supportive message, a kind word, and – can you believe it – even a story of true love found through Chat27!! It gave enough motivation to sustain me for some time to come!
** It ended up taking me almost 3 months.