Skip To Content
Cambridge University Science Magazine
Lauri: Having seen many (some quite pathetic) implementations of a chatrooms in various web pages, I think that a chatroom as such is a bad idea.

Bluesci will be featuring in the future a discussion forum type of solution for the administrative tasks. This will be implemented completely in the server side, and therefore there is no need for silly Java applets or Javascript code that confuses most of the web browsers.

Naturally this kind of a solution will move the time frame from real time to almost instaneous, but I am sure that this will not make the service any way worse.

Rend: What is a chatroom? I always thought it meant live communication online, two or three people entering text into windows that everyone could see. In the ICQ style of chatroom, they see what each other type instantly. I would really like to see that type of forum for communicating between each other online. In other words, a forum where people can observe the administrator's online live communication. Is this possible to do without Java?

Anonymous: Yes, this is possible, after a fashion (when does an answer to an IT question *ever* come without a caveat?). Using appropriate meta tags, a page can cause itself to be automatically reloaded. At the bottom of the page, you have a form which you type a line of text into, which you submit to the website. The webserver then appends this text to the webpage you are viewing. Because the page is automatically refreshing itself eg every 5 seconds on the browsers of all the people looking at it, they see conversations happen. So, not quite as real-time as AOL/ICQ/etc - where you can see the individual letters being typed - but as good as IRC, and it has worked in all browsers for at least 4 years now.

As long as it works in Microsoft Explorer and Netscape. If other browsers are unable to handle this then it doesn't say very much for them does it? Why would anyone want to use a browser that exhibits sub-standard performance? The ICQ style of chatroom is infinitely better than the 5 second refresh - trust me I've tried both, and never had a problem with using ICQ chat in Explorer or Netscape! So why not see something like that on Bluesci? I'd rather be shown how to do that than the other outmoded type you suggest. Why do some techies insist on clinging to their 1978 Unix browsers? Ultimately technology should be about delivering performance. If a product (such as a browser) can't keep up with that, if the only solution it can offer is clearly inferior, it is clearly time to move on isn't it?

What we are after with technology is things that work, it's not about working everywhere, it's about working well. If a product can neither keep up nor offer a better alternative it's surely time to move.

Then this is the challenge. If Java has so many problems lets try to hack the code to get the same value (or better) without it. What we cannot do is compromise the standards of our service delivery, however, due to a greater attachment to means than end.

Rend S. Shakir is a Ph.D. student in Psychiatry at St. Catharine's