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ChatRoulette survey (long bookmark)

ChatRoulette: An Initial Survey

The fine folks at the Web Ecology Project pride themselves on researching web trends that are just starting to catch the attention of the media and other researchers. As such, we can count on them not only to offer insights into online, randomized chat site ChatRoulette, but into derivative works like CatRoulette. (Yes, I have considered surfing the site with Drew in front of the camera. Rachel told me not to.)

The survey – admittedly a first pass – has some big predictions from a fairly small data set. Alex Leavitt, Tim Hwang and friends sampled 201 sessions on the system, taking snapshots and logging off to see their potential correspondents. They also conducted 30 interviews, though were only able to talk to users who didn’t immediately close the connection, which may have skewed their sample set away from people using the system to find explicit content. (Someday, we’ll see a methodology section in a paper that debates the merits of logging onto a system while naked to get a more representative sample…)

The big takeaways: Yes, the folks using CR are male, 18-24. While some of them are looking for online sexual encounters, lots more are simply curious about the system or looking to chat. The authors frame the space as a “probabilistic online community”, with radically different dynamics than a traditional social network as it “mediates the encounters between its users, specifically by eliminating lasting connections in the framework of the platform”. It’s impossible within this framework to maintain traditional “friend” relationships – instead, we’d expect to see people creating online persona by wearing creative costumes/masks and developing that identity outside of the system, on blogs/tumblr/message boards. They further suggest that the fact that the majority of people on the site don’t appear to be seeking sexual imagery will lead towards a decline in explicit content. (That’s unclear to me – it’s quite possible that people not overtly seeking sexual content (i.e., focusing webcams on their genitals) are curious about what sort of explicit content they might come across as they switch cam partners.)

The paper includes my current candidate for “most enjoyable graph in a social science paper, 2010”:

Picture 1

7 thoughts on “ChatRoulette survey (long bookmark)”

  1. Well is CR the weirdest internet phenomenon?
    After all the social networking sites where you connect to friends to Twitter where you follow strangers and get followed by strangers. It was time to push our social boundaries a bit further again. And apart from the obvious abuse (as it is unfiltered), and the few exhibitionists I think it is a weirdly great idea…
    (Good to know that only 5% were identified as genitals)

  2. The concept of chatroulette is nice! Getting people together is always nice! :) But i prefer FaceBuzz! It’s the same thing except they have a porn filter and other nice features! It’s a bit faster also! If you get tired of seeing dicks all the time you should check it out!

  3. Chatroulette is about to reach its tipping point. Believe me, it hasn’t even come close yet. Do you think it will be bought out by the likes of Facebook or MySpace?

  4. Pingback: Twitter Round Up | Porch Dog

  5. Aside from the crude factor, Chatroulette is really an impressive business model. The founder, Andrey Ternovskiy, has done an exceptional job at modifying and reinventing his own web site. Additionally, he has put a lot of emphasis into listening to user feedback and adding additional features, when he really had no financial incentive to do so.

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