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Public Conversations

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People want to have a conversation in a public environment.

The conversation on twitter is primarily public with side conversations between people much like a cocktail party.

Use When

  • Use this pattern to create a framework for public conversations.
  • Use this pattern to differentiate from private conversations.


  • Allow users to create a dialog between themselves. Provide a framework that is flexible enough to support two or more people in conversation. Clearly indicate through the interface, that the conversation is public and can be seen by others.

Comments on posts or activity allow micro-conversations to happen asynchronously.

  • Provide people the opportunity to add a comment to a statement, item or other comments. This creates a conversation in an asynchronous method.
  • Provide a form field for text entry. Clearly indicate the character count for conversing. Comments on a blog or a post in a message board generally have a large character limit. Microblogging has set the trend for short character counts. Twitter limits to 140.

Poke someone in your network with just a click on Facebook.

  • Consider allowing the option for content free communication. The Phatic Poke, as popularized by Facebook, brings a sense of play and whimsy into the online communication arena and allows one user to let another know that they are thinking about them.
  • If the public conversation is around an item (photo, news article) or in a site sponsored forum, periodically moderate to warn against bad behavior or to remove spam.
  • If the public conversation is in a personal environment or in a framework specific to the conversation, allow users to self-moderate by allowing them to delete or edit their own words. Additionally, allow users to block or ignore specific users that they don’t want to hear from, without disrupting the flow of conversation to other participants.


Sometimes people want to have conversations in the context of the social situation they are in and don't want to move to email or offline situation.

Providing options for public conversations allows the conversation to become the content and a shared activity

While there will always be lurkers, open, public conversations are more likely to entice folks who otherwise might not get involved to chime in and participate.

Related Patterns

As Seen On