Chatfé – a Chatroulette Comparison and Interview with CEO, Paul Orlando (Part 1)

Chatfé – a Chatroulette Comparison and Interview with CEO, Paul Orlando (Part 1)

Ever heard of Chatfé?  Well, neither had I until I stumbled across them on Twitter and actually got the opportunity to speak with their CEO, Paul Orlando, to learn more about this latest social networking tool.

Chatfé, pronounced chat-fay – a combination of the words chat and café – is a new kind of social platform that lets you have anonymous phone conversations with like-minded people.  I recently wrote about Chatroulette, which may sound similar in that both services pair you with strangers to talk anonymously, however Chatfé doesn’t randomly pair you with just anyone, they match you up with other people based on topics you say you’d like to talk about.  Users are able to express interest in a conversation by adding topics to their conversation queue, either by posting a new topic or clicking on existing ones.

In my recent conversation with Paul Orlando, CEO of Chatfé, he says, “At Chatfé we are interested in helping make meaningful conversations that are also in the moment, so we needed to provide some context — that’s why you see topics — that’s the starting point for users to self-select into something.  Nothing based on pictures, profiles, gender, just what are you interested in talking about.”

Chatfé and Chatroulette have two other major differences.  Firstly, Chatfé is purely audio and conducts all interactions via phone, unlike Chatroulette, which incorporates video.  While you must user your own phone to conduct these calls, Chatfé calls both users and connects them to begin the conversation so that no personal information is exchanged and no one’s personal phone number is seen via caller ID.

Secondly, on Chatfé you have to register, whereas with Chatroulette, you just type in the URL and go.  The registration is part of Chatfé’s efforts to make their networking platform safe.  They continually state that everything is done in a secure way that protects your privacy.  Paul notes that, “If you try both, you’ll see that Chatfé and Chatroulette aren’t that similar. And there’s a time and place for both.”

Paul said that the idea to start Chatfé came from their CTO, Steve Wang, who 10+ years ago received a call from a wrong number, but instead of hanging up, he ended up having a great conversation for 30 minutes.  He thought: what if we could give people that experience whenever they wanted and let them ask questions, give advice, talk about whatever they wanted, in a safe and fun way?  And thus, Chatfé was born.

In my post on Chatroulette, I noted that some people have expressed a dislike for the service due to inappropriate behavior, and when I asked Paul if he anticipates any similar situations with Chatfé, he commented that, “the user behavior you get on Chatroulette is predictable and due to the fact that their site design encourages it.  It’s not that all the perverts in the world decided to go there; it’s more that the site helps bring out that behavior.  It’s easy to ‘next’ people and video means that decisions can be made purely on an immediate visceral reaction.  So, while it is possible to have a good talk on Chatroulette, lots of people are likely to hit ‘next’ before the talk even has a chance.

“I’ve seen statistics saying that the average length of a user interaction on Chatroulette is around 5 seconds, at least for men. But on Chatfé, the average length of talks is about 5 minutes. To me, that says that people are enjoying their talks and they are making the effort to communicate, listen, answer questions, and, in short, do all the things that they would normally do.

“Because of the way we built Chatfé, we haven’t had a problem with abusive behavior.  We don’t listen in, but we talk to our users about their experiences.  If there is ever abusive behavior and we get complaints, we can simply block the offending phone number.  So far, behavior is overwhelmingly positive.”

This is a very new and interesting concept, one which you’d presumably have to assume at least some level of risk when connecting with strangers to try and generate meaningful conversation out of thin air.  And, though Chatfé is still very new and was only just recently opened up to the public as a beta version, it’s quite common for social networks such as this to evolve over time as companies realize how it’s most being used, what it’s most being used for, what audiences make the most of it, etc.  Already, Paul sees potential for this to happen with Chatfé, saying, “It’s great to start with a direction in mind and the best companies actively listen to their users, learn and adapt. Just look at how Twitter evolved past its origin.”  Indeed!  So while it has begun as a conversation platform, who knows where it will be in a matter of years, or even months?

Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Paul Orlando, CEO of Chatfé!

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Chatroulette – Shock and Awe or Shockingly Awful?

Chatroulette – Shock and Awe or Shockingly Awful?

After hearing about this supposed “next big thing” called Chatroulette on the radio the other morning, I had to check it out for myself.  Chatroulette is a brand new service for one-on-one text-, webcam- and microphone-based chat with people around the world.  The site was created just a few months ago by Russian teenager, Andrey Ternovskiy.  A recent New York Times article calls it surreal, unnerving, and distasteful, yet, at the same time, enthralling.

Though not brave enough to try the latest fad myself, it’s not hard to gather what happens.  Essentially, you’re thrown into a game in which the site scans the thousands of newcomers joining each day for you to chat with.  Don’t like your result?  Just hit next and you move on to the next stranger.  Don’t worry though, you won’t be chatting by just going to the URL, you have to first click “play.”

The user interface (UI) is quite simple with just a chat box and a video screen for yourself and your partner with boxes that appear as you scroll over, allowing you to select if you would like to receive video or not.  You can see in the top right hand corner that when I went to the site, there were already some 20,000 people using it at that moment all over the world.

While this may be an interesting way for people to generate conversations out of thin air, I can’t help but think that many users are in it for the “shock and awe” factor, especially with several sources saying “nudity is hard to avoid.”  So, with that in mind, perhaps it’s just shockingly awful.  And while inappropriate usage is specifically not tolerated, as outlined in Chatroulette’s terms of service (below), one has to wonder how much good that one bullet point actually does.  Additionally, with many Chatroulette episodes now being broadcast on YouTube, does this raise greater privacy concerns?  …but what is privacy these days anyway, besides harder and harder to protect and maintain?

Terms of Service:

  • You have to be at least 16 years old to use our service
  • Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service
  • Please use “Report inappropriate video” link to notify us about inappropriate content and we will take necessary steps
  • Everything supplied by the user you are connected with is not property of Chatroulette, and therefore Chatroulette is not responsible for what you will find.
  • By using Chatroulette you agree to our Terms of Service.

It will be interesting to see how this grows, evolves, or dies over the next few weeks, months, years… but for now, if you’re brave enough, play the game and let me know how you fair.