This page gives additional insight into why some of the recommendations in the Modern XMPP documentation are made.
Discussion about the UI/UX issues around group chats initially happened at the first UX sprint. Some observations were made:
- MUC configuration is messy, for users and developers
- Most MUCs fall roughly into a couple of standard configurations
Types of groups¶
Software is about people. Good UX design is about understanding how people use the software.
Group communication is a well-studied area of human interaction in general1. It has been noted by researchers that groups can fall into four different types2.
Of the four group types, two are formed of people that share a personal or social connection (the so-called 'Primary' and 'Social' groups). Examples include families, groups of friends, colleagues or clubs.
The other two group types ('Collective' and 'Category') are formed from people who share common traits, goals or interests. Such groups tend to be larger, less sticky, lack concrete social bonds and thus be more open.
The developers of the Fractal IM client noted3 the struggle they faced trying to design an ideal UI for chats in their Matrix client. They observed the two high-level categories which they termed "Barbecue" (small, social-focused, closed, trusted) and "Banquet" (large, topic-focused, open, untrusted).
The Fractal developers went as far to consider two completely separate applications to cater for the two types of discussions.
Many other modern messaging apps contain both types of group chat, but unlike most XMPP clients, they do distinguish them visually.
From a protocol perspective this distinction is unnatural - XMPP, like similar open chat protocols such as IRC and Matrix cares little for how the group is used, and provides various fine-grained configuration options. Other than minor configuration tweaks there is little to distinguish the two use-cases at a technical level.
However dividing these up at the UI level provides a number of advantages:
- Removes/reduces the need for fine-grained configuration options that users may not understand, or misuse
- Helps prevent user confusion when sharing content (it is harder to accidentally share family photos with an open-source project's chatroom full of strangers, if the family group and project group are strongly separated)
- Makes managing notification rules easier
It was agreed that "room" terminology is outdated4, and not used by any modern messaging systems. This deprecates "chat room", "occupant", "entering", "leaving" and all room-related terminology.
Most applications these days use the terms "Chat" (Messenger), "Group" (WhatsApp, Signal) or "Channel" (Slack, Discord, IRC).
Primary options are:
- Too ambiguous - clients may want to visually separate one-to-one chats from other kinds of chats, but if the term "Chats" is used for all of them, this is hard
- "Group" or "Group Chat"
- Widely understood due to its use in all the most popular messaging apps
- Even for those unfamiliar with such apps, "group" is a natural term for multiple people communicating together.
- Still ambiguous regarding whether the chat is of the private or public kind (see above for the rationale on why these are fundamentally different, and should be displayed and treated differently). If public and private chats are handled so differently, they should have different names.
- "Group" is already a term used by the roster, may be confusing
- "Private Group Chat" and "Public Group Chat"
- Too wordy, ambiguous without the modifier (Public/Private), and perhaps doesn't adequately capture the differences between public/private chats.
- Successfully used by existing large platforms (mostly those focused primarily on group chats: Slack, Discord, IRC).
- Used by Telegram to mean something different: a one-way broadcast from one user to many
- Significantly different from 'Group Chat', no chance of confusion
- Unfamiliar to people who haven't already used other communication tools that use this term
- However, not a hard concept to grasp
- Difficult to translate to other languages - literal translations such as "Kanal" (de) don't necessarily make sense.
Google Trends notes a significant decline since at least 2004. ↩