Is It Time for a
Diplomatic Pouch
Chat Room?

Larry Peery

Diplomats and Diplomacy players have been talking, chatting, gossiping, and rumour-mongering for years; so I'm surprised that there hasn't been more interest in and use of chat rooms in the Diplomacy hobby – or perhaps I've just missed the news and gossip about them.

Like most things Internet and Web-related, it wasn't until somebody figured out how to make money off of them that chat rooms began to pop up all over the Internet. Today, just one provider of chat room software and support, PARACHAT, claims to have over 80,000 chat rooms up and running. I bet they do. I know. I have three of them under my belt at the moment; and here I am promoting a fourth for TDP.

With the latest available free software putting up a chat room is easy. If I can do it, anybody can do it! In fact, if you can do a home page site, putting a CR on it is a piece of cake, and probably won't take more than fifteen minutes of your time. You'll probably spend more time trying to decide where to put it on your home page than you would actually getting it up and running.

Getting people to visit your CR is another matter, just as getting people to visit your home page can be a real chore. Sure, if you have a lot of time to spend, you can promote a CR or HP all over the Internet; and people will visit – once!

But getting people to come back, especially on a regular basis, is hard! It takes a lot of work to keep a CR or HP moving, and without that movement, either will surely wither and die. On the other hand, a CR or HP can become a living, viable organism and assume a personality and life all of its own. The Pouch itself is a good example of that.

Frankly, I'm surprised that TDP hasn't put up a CR already. I've discussed the idea with Manus and Simon before, but both were and no doubt are too busy to do it, despite their profession of interest. The purpose of this article, and my proposed course of action below, is to find out just how much interest there is in establishing a CR under TDP's umbrella, either within The Pouch's home page or on another one. The second question, of course, is this the right time to do it? Since school is out and summer is upon us, I think this an excellent time to do something like this. My first CR experiences were last year about this time, and I remember what happened when school started in the fall. Traffic fell by half in the rooms I frequented – everybody had gone back to school!

A TDP CR? Just the idea gets my creative juices going. The three biggest problems are already solved:

  1. A raison d'etre (i.e., Diplomacy),
  2. a body politique (The DP family), and
  3. support (If this crowd can't create, maintain, and fill a CR, something is seriously wrong).
Still, there are issues and concerns that need to be addressed before taking what I see as a logical step in the development of TDP.

Think of a TDP CR as a blank canvas, or a pictorial/verbal radio station. It's a canvas because we are dealing with a blank screen. If it isn't filled with something -- words, graphics, etc. -- it is lifeless. It's a radio station because we're dealing with verbal pictures that span great distances on an instantaneous basis. I remember vividly the night Princess Di was killed in that "it could only have happened in Paris" traffic accident. I was in a CR with 8-10 other people. I happened to be checking the AP flashes when the bulletin came across. I told the others in the CR what had happened. It was a remarkable experience, second for me perhaps only to the death of John Kennedy in 1963; where I also was the first to hear it at my school (I was at lunch in the school newspaper office when the word came over the radio). Ten people in eight countries on five continents were instantaneously bound together by a common grief. An experience I am sure that none of us will ever forget. Can a TDP CR achieve that kind of bonding? Who knows. Hopefully not in a shared grief, but perhaps in a shared joy and love of the game and hobby.

As I just illustrated, but I want to repeat for emphasis, a CR deals with realities of time and distance on a worldwide basis. I don't know what percentage of TDP readers are overseas, but I assume it is considerable. And it will surely grow when the CR comes into use. When I compiled my first e-mail address book, less than a year ago, it had 300 names, 85% of them Dippers. Today, my book has over 3,000 names from 30+ countries, and only 15% of them are Dippers. A CR that appeals to a worldwide following, such as Diplomacy and TDP, will be a 24 hour a day entity. I've discovered, in some of the CR's that I use, that if I stay in the room for a 24 hour period (no, I've never managed it; 17 hours in a 24 hour period is my record), I'll run into people from North America, Asia, and Europe in, roughly, eight hour segments. The only other concern, perhaps, might be one of language. That's not a major item. Almost everybody who uses the Internet and plays Dip can communicate in English, even if they don't want to admit it! (Have you ever heard a Frenchman swear at a World DipCon? It is always done in English! For maximum impact, I suppose.)

Creating a CR is like having a baby. It isn't a big deal, unless you're the mother! The real work begins immediately thereafter. A CR under TDP's sponsorship must be controlled. Obviously, a task for TDP's Council. Control can be benevolent (traffic control) or something else (basher control). Fortunately, I don't think that will be a concern in a TDP CR, if the room is properly supervised. CR's, like kids, have to be watched constantly! (smile)

And what of content? It would be easy to just create a TDP CR and say, "Come chat about Diplomacy." And yet that would be such a waste. I'm sure the content of the room's discussions can be as creative and diverse as the content that the 'Zine itself carries. The big plus, of course, is the addition of live interaction among hobbyists. Form follows function, architects say. Perhaps. CR's aren't quite the same, but the general principle applies, I suppose. A CR can be used for many different purposes, again depending on the nature of the content. You can entertain, inform, educate, debate, etc., etc. The possibilities are nearly endless.

So much for generalities. What of specifics? Here's a draft scenario which I think offers a viable way of getting a CR up and running for TDP. Actually, that's a bit inaccurate since such a CR already exists, although I don't know if anybody besides myself has visited it yet! I took the liberty of putting up a THE DIPLOMATIC POUCH chat room on my Diplomacy page a while back, primarily to protect the use of that name, but also to give TDP staffers a place to meet in realtime. It's there. You can see it, or use it, on my home page. As soon as TDP decides on another site, I'll gladly give up TDP logo on mine. In the meantime, feel free to visit my HP and use the CR. It might give you some practice with the genre, if you're not familiar with it. Anyway, here is what I am proposing:

  1. TDP Council approve the creation and sponsorship of a CR, and assume responsibility for its general supervision.

  2. They recruit a volunteer (or two) handle two very different jobs. First, administering the room. Second, director of programming. The first would handle the stop watching, allocating time. The second would handle the task of filling that time. It sounds strange, but it might be better to have two different people doing this, especially once the thing gets going. These volunteers would obviously, become a part of the Council.

  3. He, she, or they would begin to recruit volunteer hosts to assume responsibility for various time and subject area slots on the CR program and calendar. These might be one time shots or serial efforts. For example, in some of my CR's we have specific nights set aside for specific groups of people, or specific time periods in which people in specified areas are encouraged to use the room, or we have on occasion set aside a specific date and time range for a theme event (a Beethoven's Birthday Party, a New Year's Eve Party, etc.). The idea is to have something going on and let people know about it well in advance, so they can plan their schedule. Or, alternatively, say, in effect, "Nothing is going on during these hours. It's potpourri." The idea is to create an ongoing, predictable routine so that people in specific areas will know when people with similar interests will be in the CR. It sounds easy; it isn't!

  4. These two individuals will have to create a balanced program covering all areas of the hobby that features programs, questions & answers periods, and guided open discussions. Obviously, if you are in Antartica and interested in pre-A.D. variants you probably won't get a lot of time allocated to you. On the other hand, if you're a newbie and you want to ask questions about PBEM Dip play, you'll probably find a large, regular time slot available. And, of course, you have to allow for free time, open to anybody.

  5. All of this, obviously, is based on a simple chat room format. Given enough interest and expertise, you could create a multi-room chat room that offers something for everybody all the time. Sorry guys, I'm a B&W TV sort of guy. The important thing, I think, is to start small and build on that. Better to set aside a two hour period each evening for an open discussion and have a lively one, than to create ten separate hour time slots, each occupied by one lonely host.

  6. So, there you have it. Sort of an outline for what might work for a TDP CR. The question now -- which only you can answer -- is, is this something you want? Are you willing to host a regular time slot in the CR on a given subject? Or, are you interested in being a part of a CR experience as a listener or participant? Without some feedback on how many people are actually interested in participating in such a venture, it is impossible to make any real, intelligent decisions. I know I don't want to be the one to host a party and have no one come. So...

  7. It's your turn. Send me some email feedback on this topic. Address it to me at and send a copy to Manus and Simon, so they know what's going on. And, in the ways that only they work, I'll let Manus pick a date and time a few weeks after this issue is published for a roundtable discussion in TDP CR (as it now exists) about the CR itself. Remember, no decisions have been made. It's only an idea that is being discussed at this point.

First call, gentle Dippers, is it time for a TDP CR?

Larry Peery

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.