Understanding Challenges of Online Group Chat for Productive Discourse at Scale

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Virginia Tech


Group chat facilitates remote collaboration and idea exchanges. With the widespread use of group chat for productive information exchanges, it becomes dicult for members of groups to keep up and stay grounded during the long stream of conversation that is generated. I conducted a need-finding study where I simulated group chat conversations in the context of collaboration to learn about issues and behaviors in a group chat when the size of the group chat is 5 or 10. The study participants also filled out a survey post the group chat, describing their challenges and issues with the group chat. A grounded theory approach analyses of the data collected, and the chat conversation gave us several themes. Our results show that participants generally felt that there were too many messages. A majority of the participants found it was hard to keep track of what was happening. Information overload is a significant challenge that creates several other challenges for the participants, such as missed messages, redundant messages, wasted e↵orts, and diculty in gathering consensus. I observed some behaviors such as broken utterances and other strategies employed by participants when overwhelmed with the high activity. I use this knowledge to motivate recommendations and suggestions for future redesigns and development of this indispensable tool of the workforce



Group Chat, Instant Messaging, Productive Discourse