I'm a happy guy today, and not just because it's Friday and this week has had me, well ,fried. I'm happy because this issue represents a first for the Online Wildcat. This (insert drum roll here) is the first edition you can really interact with. That's right, we ironed all the bugs out of our Wildcat Chat system, which means our readers have something new to play with!
So, what is it?
'It' is a bulletin board style messaging system, called Wildcat Chat. It's designed to take messages submitted by our online readers, format them, and put them online for everyone else to read and respond to. It also catalogs the messages and replies to those messages in a neat interface, making it easy for you to follow many discussions at once.
In other words, we just put in an electronic equivalent of a
coffee house, or a bulletin board. Our goal is to increase communication by giving our readers a chance to speak up, respond to articles, and converse with each other. We're shooting for more interactivity, and this is the first real step.
Not that we're hiding behind a computer, though! You can still get ahold of us in the usual ways - by picking up the phone, sending us a letter or a FAX, or coming downstairs to our offices in the Student Union. Wildcat Chat just makes the communication process a lot less formal and hopefully a lot easier for everyone involved.
You can use Wildcat Chat from anywhere you have Web access, be it in your dorm room, a campus lab, your home computer, or Timbuktu. That means you can get your posts out to thousands of readers within seconds from any number of places on and off campus. Wildcat Chat isn't just limited to students, either. We welcome others as well, so alumni, faculty, and other Web surfers are welcome to participate.
Things could get interesting, as the Wildcat Chat lets everyone get in on the action. Perhaps our out-of-state readers, can have some interaction with those of us on campus. Who knows, maybe students and faculty will hold long, drawn-out, interesting discussion here. Maybe.
Either way, we're working to make the Online Wildcat more open to the masses, and not just those of us who sit here late at night and bang away on an old Macintosh. Think of it this way - we're giving you your own section of the paper, for your news, your ideas, your stories, your thoughts, and, yes, your criticisms. Hopefully, if we do things right, we'll earn some of your praise as well.
Of course, there is a potential for disaster. Anyone who has spent time online knows darn well what evil lurks in the heart of Internet users. Nearly every listserv, newsgroup, bulletin board and web site has endured thousands of spams, ego-fueled verbal contests, pyramid schemes, and idle threats - and some not so idle. It's a shame that when technology lets us share our thoughts with untold numbers of people in faraway lands all we sometimes have to say is "You suck and I'm cool." That's the price you pay for a developing medium, I guess.
Could this new addition to the Wildcat end up turning into a mad free-for-all riddled with angry messages from a warring audience?
Yep. We won't know until we try, though, so we're trying.
There are a some rules to the Wildcat Chat, which are outlined in the FAQ. We trust our readers enough to give them a decent amount of freedom with this area, though, but we do ask that you read these rules. We want you to speak your minds - just do it intelligently and with respect for the people on the receiving end of your messages, that's all.
Lastly, the author of the software that lets us provide you with the Wildcat Chat deserves some serious credit. Not only did Matt Wright design the package, called WWWBoard, in such a way that it was easy to configured to our liking, but he makes all of his software available to anyone who wants it, free of charge. He's got all kinds of goodies you can use to jazz up your web site, and this is just one of them.
By the way, he's only 17 years old, which makes us wonder what *we* were doing when we were that age. Regardless of our inferiority complex, we thank him for the software.
So, now that you know all about the Wildcat Chat - Why not give it a try?