How I’d change Chatroulette: make it like Foursquare

Chatroulette is both interesting and disturbing. For those unfamiliar, Chatroulette is a chat site which randomly pairs two webcam users. There are no profiles or a sense of identity so pairing tends to be “unexpected.” Male naturlist and underage kids show up more than most and its in all sorts of legal violations.

But its hot. Even Jon Stewart (and friends) are using Chatroulette.

Like other online fads, though, Chatroulette will go to the deadpool unless it can mature (and deal with the gavel.)

So what can they do?

Match me better

Recommendation engines like the famous Netflix algorithm rely on tons of profile data in order to make the best possible pair. However, Chatroulette doesn’t have ANY profile data — or even user accounts. As it stands right now, there is no data to build a recommendation on.

A simple solution would to de-anonymize by adding Facebook Connect & MySpaceID. While that would remove some of its allure, there’s a larger issue — legal agreements. By using said services, they would be upheld to a higher standard. DMCAs would ensue, if the app ever got approved in the first place.

So where can they get the data for recommendations?

Make it a game

I mentioned Foursquare in the title. In one way, Foursquare is Twitter with gameing features. I like the idea of sprinkling gameing features into webapps to increase Engagement and lengthen Customer Loyalty. Chatroulette should have a Ranking System. The main purpose wouldn’t be for leaderboards (though that would be interesting.) The rank would be used to match you — to find more interesting people and keep you away from the creeps. The rank could be composed of the number of “Nexts,” number of “Reports” and the length between “Nexts.”

Other ideas

I’d enhance recommendations by adding country to the algorithm, either through filtering or probability matching. People are already adding Flag overlays, so it would be a natural next step.

Chatroulette should also keep suspended users on the site. If you get reported, you’re banned for 10 minutes. There should be a wayto keep users — something as simple as a flash game or interesting twist on the idea. Right now, you’re band, you leave.

One last idea would be to time chat session. It is more inline with the “roulette” idea and it would create more excitement (as in gameplay.)

The fate of Chatroulette will be fun to watch. I’m really not sure it can survive in its current state.

What do you think about Chatroulette? Is it even worth your time?

./BBK

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