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The Story of Chat27 – Part 1
In this post I want to give some background on Chat27, and maybe address some questions and misconceptions that might pop up when people visit this site. This post will hopefully give some valuable insight, and serve as a useful reference. Please forgive the typos and grammatical errors. I’m a scatterbrain without the luxury of a proofing and editorial team behind me! lol.
If you’re looking for info on how to have your chat room added, click here.
I’ve also, since this post was published, written a Part 2 to Chat27’s story. Please read this post for some context though 🙂
Ok, here we go…
You’ll notice there’s a bit of inconsistency when it comes to referring to whomever runs Chat27. Sometimes you’ll see “we”, sometimes you’ll see “I”. The simple truth of the matter is that I’m only one guy running this website, and any references to the plural might just be an attempt on my side to make Chat27 look bigger than it is, don’t ask me why – a shrink would have a field day with me as it is! My name is JC, please to “meet” you 🙂
When & Why
When it comes to “why”, I’ll need to take you back to the previous century. I studied 3D Design and Animation at a now defunct company in Cape Town in 1996. SA didn’t quite have a market for what I had to offer, so I took what I could get, and moved to Ceres in 1997 to start work on a start-up project that needed 3D expertise. Being newly “de-closeted”, and Ceres being a small, conservative town, I was socially uncertain and often quite lonely.♥
Along came the internet, and a whole new world opened up to me! I made many friends via the old MS Comic Chat (I miss it, but most chatters were from other countries), and then discovered IRC (Internet Relay Chat – click here for more info). So many new people, from right here in SA that I had something in common with, that I could talk to about life, fears, dreams, questions, or just break the silence!
I moved to Johannesburg in 1999, and yet again IRC was there for me when I was a newbie in a VERY intimidating city. I made most of my friends via IRC, and spent many an all-nighter in front of the computer yapping away. I also met many of those people in person when I felt comfortable enough.
I was getting deeper into web design as well by then. The IRC community was a constant companion while I was in JHB, and when I moved back to Cape Town in 2005 I thought it was about time I gave something back to the community that was there for me when I needed it most. During this time many new chat technologies were surfacing that contributed to declining numbers on IRC servers, and I really wanted to help make it more accessible to people.
Chat27 was registered in 2006*. The “27” is derived from SA’s +27 international dialling code by the way. I decided on it when all SA-related chat domain names I was interested in was already taken – yes, that’s how boring the reason is…
The “traditional” software to connect to an IRC server is mIRC or similar software. This is a very powerful tool, but for the newbie, can be very intimidating and confusing. Thus I looked into software that was available that required minimal customisation and installation. If you think installing Java is cumbersome, trust me, it’s a breeze compared to the alternative :).
It was never my intention for Chat27 to become as popular as it did. I told myself that, if I could help just one person not feel lonely, and help just one person make a great friend or find love, then it would be worth all the hard work I put into the site! The first incarnation of Chat27 was my pride and joy, but as first tries go, it pretty quickly showed its limitations. By the end of 2006 the current design was implemented. Since then the site has grown into a patchwork of additions, scripts, programs, servers and installations, and maybe it will stay that way 🙂 I do however think it’s time for V.3 – a lot has changed since 2006!.
These days I don’t chat much any more. I’m very happily married, very busy at work with little time to spend on my pet project. My heart is still very much in it though!
Ok, so now we start getting into the more technical stuff. First thing you should know is that Chat27 does not run or administrate any chat rooms or servers. The website connects to pre-existing and independently run IRC rooms and servers. It started off with only two server networks and 4 chat rooms. The only thing I have say over is whether or not I’m prepared to add a pre-existing chat room. Whatever goes on in those chat rooms, and how they are moderated are completely out of my control. I’ve created a diagram to show how things work – I hope it makes sense! Please note that Chat27, since the creation of the diagram, has stopped using Java due to security concerns. Wherever Java is mentioned, it can be replaced with “Flash” or “CGI”.
This is one of the more sensitive subjects that come up every now and then. If you’ve read up to here, and you’re still awake, you will know that I #1 have no control over what goes on in a chat room, and #2 that people will be able to connect to a public IRC chat room listed on the site via various other methods other than the ones I provide. Thus, doing an age check, or forcing people to register before they can chat seems somewhat pointless as under-age chatters will either lie about their age or merely find another red-tape-free way to chat anyway.
Chat27 didn’t start off with ANY adult chat rooms at all, but I added them at the request of the chat room owners, and they’ve since become the most popular chat rooms on the site. That’s human nature I suppose. This however does not mean that I’m prepared to plead ignorance of the fact that some not-of-age chatters might visit my website. I’ve indicated adult content where it’s appropriate, and hope to put up an article/links on the dangers/pitfalls of chatting soon. The best parents can do is educate their children, and hope they make the right decisions. I’ve also decided not to add any further adult-themed chat rooms. Variety is the spice of life after all!
There are however ways for parents to limit the content that is viewable by their children on their home computer. As for the growth in mobile usage – as far as I know none of the software used on this site is compatible with any mobile devices, and the unmoderated nature of mobile phones is one of the reasons I’m still a bit reluctant to look into making a mobile compatible version of this website.
Offensive behaviour in chat rooms
Just as per the above, I have no control over the chat rooms. Each room has its own set of operators, moderators and rules they are “governed” by. Luckily leaving a chat room is much easier than leaving a conversation in real life if things become a bit uncomfortable. Wherever possible, I provide contact details where people can report abuse or suspect behaviour.
The future of Chat27
After the previous two topics I thought I should at least try to end on a positive note!
It is my full intention to keep Chat27 running for as long as possible. Being a designer, not a programmer, innovation might not happen on a regular basis, but I will at least try to make sure that Chat27 keeps up with the times and try to implement whatever technologies are available to make things easier for the chatter.
Rest assured that the motivations behind running Chat27 remain the same as the day it was conceived, and I hope to one day hear of a “happily ever after” story that has Chat27 to thank for it’s initial spark :).**
* I started off with blab.co.za in 2005, but after a bit of rethinking I decided that Chat27 was a better name to go with.
** It’s been almost a decade… nothing yet.