"Imagine if you took all the forums, groups and websites where you talk about all the different things you are interested in and put them in a single system. And then you upgraded them all so they made the most of new internet technology like Ajax to make the discussion real-time (fast) and rich media (pretty with pictures and videos). Then you're starting to get an idea of what Tangler is building."
It's already possible to embed your very own chat-room right into a blog post or website using free services such as Meebo, previously tested out and reviewed here at Master New Media. While this can be a valuable way of gathering and entering all important conversation with your site visitors right then and there, though, the conversation only lasts for as long as the user stays on the page. If you want to know what people were talking about a week ago, you are bang out of luck.
Discussion boards or forums on the other hand allow information to be logged and retained, so that users can drop in at any time and catch what's been written by previous visitors or community members. This can be a vital way of keeping an ongoing resource of customer feedback, user comments and open discussions that can plausibly span weeks, months or even years. What discussion boards don't allow for, however, is the ability to get conversations going right here, right now.
Combining the real time immediacy of chat with the ongoing, asynchronous discussion of forums, Tangler is an interesting new offering that promises to further open up the dialog at the heart of blog culture, Web 2.0 products and services, and the range of other social media out there on the net.
Whether you are looking to get feedback on your website or product release, to start a discussion thread on a topic of personal interest, or even to offer customer support, Tangler may well be worth putting on your list of services to check out in the near future.
Tangler Overview: Two-In-One Conversations For Your Community
Tangler is an effective hybrid service that makes it easy to host or participate in live, real time chats and persistent, time-independent discussions. It's free to sign up, and you can create as many groups as you have interests or motivation to take part in.
Groups can be set to public, and therefore open to all, or private, whereby you can choose who participates, which makes it possible to use the service for both socially orientated or enterprise / education purposes where a controlled environment is necessary.
Beyond this effective merging of two online discussion formats, Tangler succeeds in making it easy to share photos and videos within conversation threads, receive instant desktop notifications whenever discussions you are subscribed to are updated, and create a list of contacts from the vast online community contributing to the huge number of currently open discussions.
Here is an effective update of the now aging discussion board concept that takes in recent trends towards social media, browser-based communication tools and the latest slick-looking Web 2.0 interface technology - in this case Ajax.
Rich Media Discussion
Unlike many chat and discussion forum services Tangler makes it really simple to add images and web-hosted videos such as those you have uploaded to YouTube to your discussions and chat sessions.
I can see this being a popular feature, and one that will be particularly effective in terms of those offering support services or media sharing and publishing destinations, given that users will be able to quickly add screen captures or share their favorite video content, and discuss it either live or asynchronously.
To give you a good idea of how Tangler works, you can check out the following short (3" 24) video created by the Tangler team:
Desktop Notification and Social Networking Functionality
Besides being a useful tool for facilitating conversation around your content, Tangler is also a fully-fledged social media destination in its own right, currently packing in over 10,000 discussion groups that can be searched and joined from the company website.
Just as with social networking services such as Facebook, users can create a profile and add friends by both email and from within the existing user-base. This is a good way of being able to check out which groups your contacts have created or are subscribed to, and additionally, upon browsing through to a specific group conversation you can see exactly which participants are currently online.
A very cool feature that makes it even easier to identify who is currently available for discussion is the cross-platform (Mac, Windows and Linux) desktop notifier. This is a handy tool that sits in your menu bar or system tray, and lets you know every time one of the discussions you are subscribed to is added to. In this way you can follow discussions from your desktop, and also have a good idea when someone is commenting live on your personally created or favorite discussion threads.
For those using Tangler for teaching, training, customer support and social media outreach this is a priceless addition that will allow you to solve problems and answer questions as they are added to your discussion, without the hassle of having to check your forum or chat every two minutes. Equally, discussion participants have an easy way to know when their questions have been answered or discussion points commented on by other users.
Master New Media Tangler
For a quick way to see how Tangler groups hang together, you can visit our very own Master New Media group to leave your thoughts on Tangler, Master New Media content or anything else that you would like to see discussed.
I'll look forward to catching up with you there.
Setting up a group like the Master New Media Tangler is really simple, and takes no more than a minute or two - you give your group a name, decide if it is going to be public-facing or invitation only, write a brief introduction, and then optionally add a link to your website and an image for the forum.
From the same screen you can send out invitations to other Tangler users, or anyone else with an email address to get your conversation up and running.
As you will see for yourself there are three main views available for a Tangler group:
- About - where your visitors can get the web link, see the latest updates and read the description you have set up for the group
- Discuss - where your conversations take place
- Participants - which lists participants who are currently online, and those that are taking part but currently offline
Tabbed browsing makes it easy to quickly switch between these views.
Embedding your Tangler - Coming Soon
At the time of writing the ability to embed your discussion group right into your own blog or website has been announced, and is being tested by a small group of invitation-only beta candidates. You can express your interest in being added to this list over at the Tangler website.
The faster this feature is rolled out, the better. While it's great that Tangler has a fully fledged discussion destination featuring countless groups for users to participate in, a lot of users are only really going to adopt a service like this when it can be better integrated into their existing content destination. I can see uptake of Tangler taking a huge upturn when embedding goes live to the public, and the lack of this feature currently is the only major drawback of an otherwise very promising service.
For those just interested in chatting about a topic of interest linking to an off-site destination is unlikely to prove much of an issue. But for others whose focus is on tightly integrating their content with the discussions surrounding it, having to send away site visitors won't sit too comfortably.
The only other addition I would like to see is that of RSS notification, as while the desktop notifier is a great feature, it would be perhaps more convenient if I were able to follow threads of interest to me from my favorite feed reader, or Jaiku account. With my menu bar already getting crowded I for one would definitely welcome RSS notification in future.
Tangler is already being put to an impressive range of uses, and boasts literally thousands of public discussion groups at the time of writing. Among the many possible uses you could put Tangler to, stand-outs include:
- Customer support - Providing real time chat is a great way of being able to solve your customers' problems as they arise, while having persistent discussion threads serves as an easy point of reference for future visitors encountering the same difficulties. This saves you having to answer the same question two hundred times, while making it easy for your customers to get information when and where they need it
- Blog reader communities - As your blog grows it will most likely develop a community of regular readers. Supplying live and persistent discussion takes the conversation a step further than regular post comments, allowing your readers to contribute ideas, feedback and hints, in addition to forming relationships with one another
- Education and training - Given that groups can be set to private, invitation-only or public access, Tangler provides a great way of being able to set up formal and informal learning groups for distributed learning, communities of practice and other knowledge management scenarios
Adding chat functionality to your blog or website gives you a quick and easy way to engage directly with your site visitors, whether to discuss your latest post or offer live customer support right from the browser. Discussion boards lack that immediacy, but offer a great way of keeping an ongoing record going of your site visitors' conversations.
Both are great ways of leveraging the power of social media to your advantage - healthy blogs, websites and companies - as the Cluetrain Manifesto will readily let you know - center not around transactions or pushing information at people, but on conversations.
What's great about Tangler is that it manages to combine the best of both worlds, so that you have a persistent conversation that users can access and tap into at any time combined with a live, real time chat that makes it possible to get a decent conversation going in the spur of the moment.
Add to that the very smart addition of a desktop notifier (for Windows, Mac or Linux) and you have a great way of letting people know when the discussions they are part of are active and being added to. This is a superb way of keeping abreast of your site visitors' contributions, questions and comments to the groups that you have created.
Furthermore Tangler goes the extra step of including the ability to post videos and images to discussions, along with a rudimentary social community, with user profiles and the ability to check who is logged in at any point in time. That makes it an effective way to meet, keep in contact with and instantly connect with contacts via the service. As such, the possibilities for social media marketing, personalized customer support and just plain old networking are all opened up as part of the conversation.
Very soon the possibility to embed your Tangler group right into your website is on the way, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. As it is, sending site visitors away from your website isn't a terrible thing, given that they are pointed in the direction of a tightly focused discussion, but nevertheless, it is always preferable to retain your readers wherever possible. Embedded Tangler groups are currently being tested and used in beta by several websites.
Here is an impressive hybrid service that has a lot of promise, and is well worth adding to your list of social media tools. If you have even the remotest interest in engaging your site visitors in conversation that goes a long way beyond standard blog comments, Tangler is certainly worth a look.
If you would like to learn more about Tangler, you might want to take a look at the following links:
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Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and titled: "Discussion Forums 2.0: Real-Time Chat Meets Discussion Board -Tangler Opens The Conversation Network"