Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Coffeehouse Chat Feedback Poll

Now that there’s going to be a third Coffeehouse Chat taking place, this is a good time to ask for feedback about the format of the chats.

Up until now, we’ve had no set topics for the chats. I originally envisioned the chats as a kind of online kaffeeklatsch where, besides being kept accountable for our writing progress and our writing goals, we also could bring up issues or aspects that maybe we were having trouble with or wanted to discuss, without having the constraint of a predetermined topic. (I wanted it to be like a writing support group, more or less.) That format has worked very well some weeks and not so well others. I love the freedom that gives all of us to be able to bring up topics at the time and let the discussion evolve organically, but that also means that sometimes things get sidetracked into tangents and personal discussions.

When the chats began, the shoutbox wasn’t all that active, and when it was active, it was usually just banter and small talk, so in those first months the chat was a good way to encourage substantive discussion in that casual real-time format. Now, though, the shoutbox is very active, and often there are good discussions taking place at any time during the day, so that leaves me wondering if we’ve outgrown the need for an open hour of chat and instead need a tool (like a set topic) to help keep the Coffeehouse Chats brisk and focused, instead of just feeling like another average hour in the shoutbox.

So the question is, which format do you guys prefer – open discussion (as it is now), or a set topic? I’ve made the poll above so that you can vote twice, so if you have a second choice, feel free to choose it too. Of course, I’m particularly interested in hearing from as many people as possible who participate in the current Tuesday and Saturday night chats.

Other thoughts, post them here…

[Edited to add: Poll will stay open through Tuesday, November 25.]

I would say that if a topic is to be chosen and slated for a chat, that the entire chat not have to be abotu that topic. By that I mean that the topic is x, and that topic goes until the conversation has ran its course, and once everyone is “out”, conversation is free once more.

What I propsed, which started this poll, is that the chat have a set topic, but not be ridiculously strict in deviation. For example: if we’re talking about tips and tricks to establish a convincing settting for your story, and we end up moving into the importance of good setting development in a character or plot-based story, then I wouldn’t be upset. However, if we started talking about how peanut butter is a terrible thing and should be eliminated, I might try to steer the conversation back.

I was also considering doing time segements: the first 15 minutes of the chat would be for check-ins and general discussion, the middle half hour for the topic, and the last 15 minutes for wrapping up and more general discussion. If the topic runs its course before that half hour is over, we can start talking about something else. If the topic runs over that 30 minutes, we move it to a thread (which will make a lot of people happy that have opinions but can’t make the chat).

Based on my experience hosting the chats so far, time segments might be difficult to do without interrupting discussions all the time and potentially making the chat feel too regimented. It’s the sort of thing that sounds very good and reasonable schedule-wise but gets very slippery in actual implementation.

True, which is why I’m not going to argue with a bit of wiggle room.



Also, another thing we can all keep in mind is that even if we go to set topics for the chats, that doesn’t mean we have to have a topic every single time. We can still have occasional “open topic” weeks too.

Looks like the most acceptable choice (whether as a 1st or a 2nd choice) is to have a set topic for one chat and the others open.

Sean and Dwale, either of you have strong preferences on whether you want to host the topic-based one? I can go either way for Tuesday nights, personally.

Everybody else - any strong preferences on which chat you think should be topic-based?

I’d personally love to have a topic in my chat, but wouldn’t be miffed either way.

So it looks like daily roves are being re-instated, which means I’m going to be away from the desk for 40 minutes between 9am pst and 10am pst (between 12 and 1 est). I’m going to see if I can’t bump the beginning of the rove closer to 10 than 9, but there aren’t any guarantees. It looks like I just can’t win x.x Not going to ask the time to be changed just to accomodate me though, especially since it looks like it works out so well for so many others. At least I’ll be able to catch a bit of it.

Anyway, I vote for a set topic on Sean’s chat since that’s the only one I’d even get a bit of time in.

This past week, Dwale and I both tested the waters with topics. While we didn’t set the topic beforehand, we introduced a topic with a question, inviting discussion about it rather than forcing the topic (which with the relaxed format of the shoutbox, doesn’t seem like it would be much different). Things seemed to go quite well in my chat, and from the skimming I did, they seemed to go pretty well in Dwale’s as well.

Figured I’d throw that out there for those concerned.