Tuesday, May 19, 2020

[Guest Post] Conversful 101: Explaining What’s In The Bottom Corner Of Your Screen

[This post is written by Ben Alderoty from Conversful.]

You may have noticed something new in the bottom corner of BackRe(action) recently. It appears only if you’re on a computer. So if you’re on a phone or tablet right now, finish reading this post, but then come back another time from a computer to see what I’m talking about. That thing is called Conversful & myself with a team of a few others are behind it. I wanted to take a second to give some context as to what Conversful is & how it works.

We built Conversful to create new conversations. We believe that people on the same website at the same time probably have a lot in common. So much so that if they were to meet randomly at a conference, an airport or a bar, they would probably get into a fantastic conversation. But nothing exists right now to make these spontaneous connections happen. With Conversful, we’re trying to create a space where these connections can happen - a “virtual meeting place” of sorts to borrow Sabine’s words.

To open Conversful, just click the globe icon in the bottom corner. With the app open you can do one of two things; start a new conversation or join a conversation. 1️) To start a new conversation, all you’ll need is a topic and your first name. Topics can be anything. So far we’ve seen topics range from “Physics” to “Stephen Wolfram thinks he is close to a unified theory of physics unifying QM and GR. Some opinions?”. Both of these work. There’s no need to overthink a topic, keep it short, and submit it. 2) Joining a conversation is even easier. With the app open, click ‘Join Conversation’ and enter your first name.

Here’s a few other things:
  • Conversations on Conversful are 1-1. They are between the person who started the conversation and the person who joined it.
  • Conversations on Conversful are real-time. If you post a topic and then leave before someone joins, your topic will disappear. When you come back to the website at a later time you will not have any responses.
  • Conversful is for everyone. We designed Conversful to make it feel like you’re texting a friend. Be yourself, share your thoughts, there’s always someone online to hear them out as long as you’re willing to hear theirs.
Today we rolled out a handful of new features to make it easier for conversations to happen. You’re probably seeing some of them right now. If you’ve already tried Conversful and it didn’t end in a conversation, I ask you to please give it another try!

P.S. To make Conversful the best it can be, I would love to hear from you. If you have any thoughts/ideas/feedback on what’s working (or not) and what else you’d like to see, please feel free to email me at (ben@conversful.com). Cheers from NYC & happy conversing!


  1. Converseful,
    Thanks for your product. I'm trying it out. I can browse the blog after starting a conversation which is great. But that worm that circles around in the UI when "Waiting for another person to join." is distracting. Sometimes when I navigate around the blog this UI changes to the globe and a red circle showing the number of current conversations and this UI doesn't move so isn't distracting - it would be good if I could click somewhere on the worm UI so it switches to the globe UI without closing the conversation I've started. Maybe that's possible already..
    I tried the conversation:

    "Dave, tell us a story about Feynman's classes. Did he play the bongos for you?"

    but got no replies.

  2. Following Twitter conversations are hard enough.

    It says "Live: 261 members online" but then "No conversations to join at the moment, but feel free to start your own."

    Sounds like some bars I used to go to.

  3. Hi Sabine,

    I like the idea of this app a lot, and I suspect others do too. However, out of a dozen or so tries I've yet to get any hit on an ongoing conversation about anything. Of the 3 or 4 topics I've randomly proposed, the only time I received a response was after waiting about 10 minutes -- longer than the average read time for your posts -- and that was from the app designers, with whom I gladly shared my thoughts.

    I think what is happening is that folks are briefly suggesting ideas while they read your posts and comments, then closing them down and moving on when they are done reading. So unless, to misquote, they crash like ships in the night, most folks will just keep missing each other unless they just sit there waiting for a loooong time.

    For example: I've had the app open the whole time I've been writing and editing this, and no conversations have started. Also, I earlier posted a topic (entanglement, generic) for a few minutes before moving on to see if anyone jumped in. No takers there, either. Given your last posting topic, I doubt that the lack of response truly indicates a lack of interest. Instead, it's more likely that no one just happened to pop in during the very few minutes I had that subject line active. It's also at least possible for a ~v1.0 app that there's a fencepost bug that prevents the conversation alert within the app from announcing the new topic reliably until second person joins. I think that's highly unlikely, but I'm just saying, in early apps weird bugs like that can be remarkably common, so it doesn't hurt to mention the possibility... :)

    In any case, the single simplest new feature I can think of that would help people connect would be a light on the top-level icon to indicate "there are active conversations going on". The more advanced version of the same idea, but one with much less incremental value added after implementing the light, would be some kind of short list of subject titles for active conversations. But again, the much simpler top-level icon light idea much simpler to do and almost as effective.

    I talked to the designers (nice folks) back when you first posted their site, and I think they are keenly aware of such issues. However, I also know there can be surprisingly difficult network protocol and business-to-business (B2B) issues involved with the actual implementation of such features.


    1. Hi Terry,

      Sorry it's taken me a bit of time to get back to you. I'm Ben from this post ^^. Thanks for trying out Conversful & giving your feedback here. It's very helpful.

      What you are describing is the thing we are focusing the most on improving right now. You may have seen we added topic notifications when you are on the page with little red numbers and pop out topics. Later this week we'll be rolling out browser tab notifications with sound (if you're on Chrome or Firefox) that'll indicate when someone posts a new topic, joins your topic, messages you. We also added an additional feature to minimize the app while you are waiting for a partner.

      All of this is meant to make the wait times more bearable. The browser tab notifications + sound even allow you to leave the site while you're waiting, so you can come back to it when someone's ready for a conversation. We may do more around making it more clear when the most active times for conversations are too. We're rolling things out everyday to make things better on Conversful.

      Hopefully you can keep trying & you'll get into some good conversations soon. We've seen a few great one's unfold already. Please keep commenting or email ben@conversful.com with your additional suggestions.


  4. Thoughts (I haven't tried it yet so I may request some stuff already implemented)
    1. LaTeX support? Any conversation about technical subject online could benefit from this
    2. Some sort of topic "calendar"? To ensure interaction between atleast two people, one could make a topic and announce publicly to discuss that topic some time in the future, and anybody interested in that topic could make a "reservation" with that event. This could also be expanded to include indefinite timeframe where one is just looking for someone to discuss this with on an infinite timescale, and can discuss the schedule after he/she finds someone to converse with.


COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE PERMANENTLY CLOSED. You can join the discussion on Patreon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.