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Social Networks Communications

The Surreal World of Chatroulette 151

Posted by timothy
from the lick-you-elbow dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The New York Times reports that Chatroulette, the social Web site created by a 17-year-old Russian named Andrey Ternovskiy, drops you into an unnerving world where you are connected through webcams to a random, fathomless succession of strangers from across the globe. The site activates your webcam automatically; when you click 'start' you're suddenly staring at another human on your screen and they're staring back at you, at which point you can either choose to chat (via text or voice) or just click 'next,' instantly calling up someone else. Entering Chatroulette is akin to speed-dating tens of thousands of perfect strangers — some clothed, some not. You see them, they see you. You talk to them, they talk to you. 'It's very strange, and not just because you are parachuting into someone else's life (and they yours), a kind of invited crasher,' writes Nick Bilton. 'It is also the eerie thrill of true randomness — who, or what, will show up next?' The Web has long allowed anonymous conversations among strangers. Text-based chat rooms are rife with deceit — people pretending they are someone else. Video makes this harder — even if you're wearing a mask. 'From my experience on the site, echoed by those I've spoken to, it seems as if 90 percent of users are genuinely looking for novel and unexpected conversation,' add Bilton. 'The rest — well, let's just say they have debauchery in mind.'"
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The Surreal World of Chatroulette

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  • Hum. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bbqsrc (1441981) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:15AM (#31217850) Homepage
    While this sounds interesting, I believe that somebody has finally found an even more useless form of social networking. A standing ovation for him indeed.
    • Re:Hum. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:49AM (#31218034)

      I might actually try a few rounds later to completely numb my sense of social anxiety. It sounds like a hell hole of the internet, but I figure I'll come out either a post traumatic vet or completely cured!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by X0563511 (793323)

        I wouldn't. The /b/-tards over on 4chan have known about chatroulette for a while and frequently abuse it.

      • by stjobe (78285)

        I'd say post-traumatic. Second click on the "next" button gave me an all-together too close up look at a young man masturbating.

        Not something I enjoy watching, to be quite honest.

    • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @10:07AM (#31218162) Homepage

      I'm always curious by people talking about "useless forms of social networking". I mean, what's the supposed purpose of social networking sites? Is there a fixed goal? A constitution? Should we measure a social networking site by how many jobs it fills, or how many dates are had through it?

      As I see it, there are people, and they chat. That's social. That's the essence of humanity.

      How can you get any more, or any less, useful than that?

      In summary: what forms of social networking do you consider "useful", and why?

      • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bbqsrc (1441981) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @10:18AM (#31218214) Homepage

        I'm always curious by people talking about "useless forms of social networking". I mean, what's the supposed purpose of social networking sites? Is there a fixed goal? A constitution? Should we measure a social networking site by how many jobs it fills, or how many dates are had through it?

        As I see it, there are people, and they chat. That's social. That's the essence of humanity.

        How can you get any more, or any less, useful than that?

        In summary: what forms of social networking do you consider "useful", and why?

        The types where actual interaction occurs between two or more human beings with a common understanding of some sort. My understanding of social networking involves some kind of game of watching your number of friends increment.

        Basically, I feel social networking destroys the essence of communication: a wall of text, with a photo next to it, passing comment of amusement about a "how long is your dong" survey and seemingly nothing more. I find it hard to believe a real relationship can develop through such a medium.

        • I find it hard to believe a real relationship can develop through such a medium.

          And yet, it happens all the time.

        • I actually married with a girl I've found on fotolog.net six years ago.

          We divorced, and I had a two-year relationship with somenone I found at orkut.

          And I'll marry again with the first one.

          I find even more strange to find someone in a night club, a dance club, whatever, w, where you cannot see nor hear really much. How are ideas exchanged in those places?

          • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by bbqsrc (1441981) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:06AM (#31218504) Homepage

            I actually married with a girl I've found on fotolog.net six years ago.

            We divorced, and I had a two-year relationship with somenone I found at orkut.

            And I'll marry again with the first one.

            I find even more strange to find someone in a night club, a dance club, whatever, w, where you cannot see nor hear really much. How are ideas exchanged in those places?

            I don't think you fully understood my comment, nor your own. I stated that I believe a real relationship cannot flourish on a social networking site. I didn't say you couldn't meet somebody on such a site and get to know them on another medium. I see social networking sites as nothing more than a directory, and apparently, so do you.

        • My understanding of social networking involves some kind of game of watching your number of friends increment.

          Back when Friendster was in its heyday, half my friends precisely avoided doing that. I guess they had matured past that stage.

          What are you doing befriending teenagers??

        • by Alvare (1430099)

          I find it hard to believe a real relationship can develop through such a medium.

          I think we are gonna have to redefine the meaning of "relationship" in a few years.

        • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by thesandtiger (819476) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:59AM (#31218806)

          I make "off-label" use of social networking sites:

          When live.yahoo.com was up (basically you broadcast a webcam to whoever comes into your channel), I used it to practice several dozen voices, dialects and accents - everything from something simple like a "public school british" accent to insane cartoon voices. I did this by reading books aloud in those voices. I think I had something like 400 people in my channel once when I was reading Mein Kampf doing on the fly translation to pig-latin with an elmer fudd voice. Another time I got over 1000 hits when it was just me staring at the screen (in fact, I was reading on another monitor but people couldn't see that) while drinking beer. What could possibly interest 1000 people in that? Call it performance art.

          On facebook, I use that ONLY for work related people and don't friend anyone who isn't related to work, even if they are friends of mine in real life. It's interesting, to me, to see just how much personal shit people at work are willing to share with me despite our not having a "real" friendship.

          With linked in I do exactly the opposite - I only make links to people I don't work with.

          With chat roulette, it's fantastic as a way to try out different kinds of things. I've done things like pretended my microphone couldn't pick up my voice despite it having no problem picking up the music in the background and a friend off-camera talking to me (most people don't get it - they just think my mic is broken when it obviously isn't), or I just ask questions of people that I would never ask of someone else - usually about bodily functions, their income, things like picking their nose - and it's interesting the responses I get.

          Of course, I also use some of these things (with alternate accounts) in the way that they are intended - as a way to meet and stay in touch with friends - but I think I have more fun being strange than I do otherwise.

        • by ZorbaTHut (126196)

          The types where actual interaction occurs between two or more human beings with a common understanding of some sort.

          This does seem to exactly describe the site, though.

        • ...My understanding of social networking involves some kind of game of watching your number of friends increment...

          What are these 'friends' you speak of? Are they a theoretical mental construct like this 'outside' I sometimes hear about? Or are they more like irrational numbers, useful to certain academic persuits but useless to most people?

        • by gakguk (530867)
          > Basically, I feel social networking destroys the essence of communication...

          Not so fast :)

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVY_Xcl1imA&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]
        • | My understanding of social networking involves some kind of game of watching your number of friends increment.

          But in this one, you may get to watch random strangers excrement. Its a different metaphor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by demonlapin (527802)
          Social networking is a way to keep in touch with all those people you knew in high school or college as you drift through life. It's actually pretty cool, as I get to see what happens in the lives of people that would otherwise have fallen off my mental map. And the Rolodex effect is great - those people update their own addresses and phone numbers as they move.
        • by Eil (82413)

          My Twitter account is for communicating with my co-workers. Organizing get-togethers, recommending articles, music, local news, etc. My Facebook account is strictly family and close friends. I use it to keep in touch with them in between phone calls, share family photos and videos, and so on. There are lots of people who have accounts on social networking sites who use the sites for their actual purpose: social activity. Just because you haven't found a worthwhile use for social networking doesn't mean soci

        • 1900 called. It wants its "telephone destroys society" FUD back.

    • by catd77 (1743104)
      Actually stuff like this has been around for years. Just look at AOL or 4chan /b/.
    • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Informative)

      by DurendalMac (736637) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:46AM (#31218728)
      I wouldn't say so. An application like Manycam lets you put anything you want into that video feed. Let's just say that the folks over at 4chan have found Chatroulette to be one of the best kinds of trolling as they can not only rape the eyes of their victims, but actually see the reaction for themselves.
      • Indeed. In fact The Game (you all just lost)...but anyway, the game is, put something as foul as you can possibly find into your ManyCam feed and screen shot the other person's reaction. I admit it is a very fun game to play.

  • Cue the spam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:19AM (#31217860)

    "Hey you! I got cheap Viagra for you! And I don't even have to spell it in funny ways!"

    "Hey sweety, I'm naked. Yes even from my waist down. Can't see it? Come to my website and you can, you can even buy these panties I just took off (swirls panties around finger)"

    And I'm pretty sure the pennystock- and late-president's-ransom spammers might come up with something really cool where you get to see a quick action movie and the last words of someone being shot right in front of you is the stock to buy or someone you PLEASE contact quickly.

    • by schon (31600)

      As much as I hate spam, that's not spam. As the "marketer" can only talk to one person at a time, there is no "bulk", so no spam.

      If someone hacked it so that they could answer hundreds (or thousands) of connections simultaneously (maybe with a recorded message), then it would be spam.

      OK, I just gave spammers an idea. I'm going to hell.

      • OK, I just gave spammers an idea.

        I think most spammers don't bother reading Slashdot - they'll have to spend 3 hours reading our posts to get 1 good idea. After all, half our posts are the usual - we make jokes, praise Apple products, complain about Apple fanboys, thank NYCL, flame NYCL, and sometimes write long and insightful posts which even the rest of us sometimes skip reading.

        I'm going to hell.

        Stop making jokes like this - it's worrying poor Alsee (515537). He's concerned about the dismal minimum requirements for entry. He said, "Oh jeez. They're le

    • Children? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What about children getting on this naked?

      Is every person who gets randomly connected to them automatically guilty of possession of child porn?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      Pff, Goatse will have a field day with that site! Until he finds the love of his life: Tubgirl.
      4Chan even more so. Only they will hunt for children while wearing pedobear masks.

  • Obligatory: (Score:5, Funny)

    by bmo (77928) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:20AM (#31217868)

    'The rest well, let's just say they have debauchery in mind.'

    "I put on my robe and wizard hat"

    --
    BMO

  • I can't wait to see what the pranksters at 4chan are planning.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They're already bored of it.

      No joke. Plenty of rickrolling, disturbing pornography and "gore" spammed over the visual feed with the use of a virtual webcam application. The flood of threads where 4chan showed the reactions of the other person has seemed to wane and the fad is.... over just before the rest of the internet can realize what has happened.

      • by catd77 (1743104)
        I remember seeing that on /b/ when it first came out. It was pretty funny actually.
    • by bmo (77928) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:28AM (#31217914)

      I'm not the 14 year old with the Nazi flag in the background, the Red Army greatcoat, Red Army officer's hat (with Nazi SS skull), Douglas-McArthur style sunglasses and pipe, but I wish I was.

      --
      BMO

  • by whichpaul (733708) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:21AM (#31217874) Journal
    ... you've got something stuck between your teeth.
  • The site says you have to be at least 16. As if I don't already have enough problems with my kids.Gee, thanks for giving this site publicity.
    • And this makes a difference, how? Btw. your kids are reading Slashdot?
      • Yeah my kids read slashdot, and they use fedora too.
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Hate to break it to you but Slashdot is behind the trend on this one. If this is a big surprise for you, then at least Slashdot posting about it clued YOU in. It may be old news to your kids.

      • Slashdot is behind every trend. Since about 6 years ago the only reason to come to this site is to nerdbait in the comments, and even that isn't really all that much fun. Nerd reactions are sadly too predictable.

        • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          And all that would probably be a lot more entertaining if the trolls were half as clever as they thought they were.

  • 99% Debauched (Score:4, Informative)

    by sofayam (582239) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:22AM (#31217884) Journal
    ... is what I saw. Had a short chat with a guy from Brazil - short because we did not share a language - other than that just a flashing sequence of monkey spanking exhíbitionists.
    • Well, they DID just get linked on slashdot...

  • Of course this opens up a can of worms though. Advertisements, flashers and such. Atleast this should have some categorisation like: random, comedy normal talk, different age and sex groups etc. The rating system is pretty straightforwars, people that keep getting clicked away in a certain category just don't get presented to people in that category.
  • by wisebabo (638845) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:27AM (#31217900) Journal

    If you want to get a feeling of Chatroulette without "exposing" yourself (or getting exposed to some pretty shocking imagery) you might want to check out this blog:

    http://chatroulette.tumblr.com/ [tumblr.com]

    He's been collecting dozens (hundreds) of screencaptures that people have been e-mailing him. While you'll still see some disturbing things at least you'll know this isn't happening to YOU, LIVE and hopefully the lack of immediacy will dull the shock a bit. If you can take that, then by all means take the plunge!

    (I'm too chicken and have not). By the way, I got this link from TechCrunch, so just wanted to give them credit.

    • I read the web site, and I saw nothing which was remotely even scratching the depth of perversity. Maybe I am "hardened" by years of browsing and stumbling onto distrubing stuff.

      You want disturbing ? Try google sepuku Google Sepuku [encycloped...matica.com]
      • I tried, but either I don't know any good kanji to enter or I end up with fairly normal shit. Well, normal by my standards.

        I've been on the 'net for almost two decades. There is nothing left that could even remotely gross me out.

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You sure? I said the same thing until I stupidly saw videos posted by these guys:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnepropetrovsk_maniacs

          Nearly vomited.
          (link isn't clickable on purpose)

          • Really? It's reprehensible behavior, but the video is less disgusting than a lot of pus videos that are out there. It's just a guy getting his head bashed in. YMMV: I'm a doctor, I took gross anatomy, and I have personally sawed a woman in half between the pelvis and abdomen, cut the legs free from one another, and washed out the formaldehyde-preserved contents of her rectum. NOTHING shocks me. (Smells are still disgusting.)
      • Maybe I am "hardened" by years of browsing and stumbling onto distrubing stuff.

        Hey, whatever turns you on, man, but if it takes years, there's a good chance you're doing it wrong...

    • Thanks, I was thinking of fixing a snack until I saw that guy holding his gut in the air.
    • WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON i get about 50 submissions a day on this thing - and recently at least 10 a day are just RANDOM FUCKING IMAGES - like a picture of a rainbow, a cartoon, a photo of some dude DJingand nearly all of them are from french people. dear french, WHY THE FUCK are you submitting random unrelated images to this blog? it is pretty fucking obvious what it is about, please stop wasting my time.

      lol

  • Absolute Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:30AM (#31217924) Journal

    Text-based chat rooms are rife with deceit — people pretending they are someone else. Video makes this harder — even if you're wearing a mask

    You can lie just as effectively in video chat and in text chat about everything except your appearance. All this quote tells us is that the person who wrote it considers physical appearance to be the most important attribute. I think this says a lot more about the writer than the text chats. The person on the end of a video chat can still be lying about their occupation, hobbies, age, even location. If they're wearing a mask, as he suggests, they can be lying about just about anything except their weight (and possibly even that if it's a close-up).

    • by hitmark (640295)

      welcome to the modern world. Heck, kennedy won thanks to tv.

      • by dr2chase (653338)
        Don't forget that the guy he beat, turned out to be a sneaky weasel. You take your communication where you find it -- written, audio, video, it's all prepared for, tweaked, filtered, selected, and edited.
        • by hitmark (640295)

          thats the thing tho, he was a wellspoken sneaky weasel. But as media shifted from radio to tv, looks overpowered...

    • > You can lie just as effectively in video chat and in text chat about
      > everything except your appearance.

      Of course you can lie about your appearance. You can send out whatever video you think might be amusing.

  • Debauchery makes the world go 'round. Who knew?

  • by Z8 (1602647) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @09:40AM (#31217968)

    As people have pointed out before, this system may have already been co-opted by spammers and such, but I like the idea of being connected to people at random. The internet was supposed to have broadened everyone's horizons by allowing communication between people of different countries, backgrounds, etc. But then everyone just found the people who reinforce their pre-existing opinions. So sure, I'm talking with someone around the world, but we're both, say, talking about linux wifi drivers and complaining about the same company. It's arguably worse for political thought, where either corporations control mainstream thought, and/or conspiracy theorists only pay attention to the one blog with the same conspiracies.

    People need more opportunities for true randomness, where they actually do sample evenly from the world's population and interact with someone.

    • If you are looking to meet random people from around the world, try http://www.flork.com/ [flork.com]

      I've had some fun conversations with people from england, kyrgyzstan, brazil, new york city, etc. I don't recall ever seeing spam or anything like that.

      -b

    • by Tromad (1741656)

      Is there even a social networking site ala /., reddit, or digg for political centrism (or not even centrism, but "open")? /. is probably the most moderate (libertarians mixed with socialists, each a little crazy), but it seems like I either have to choose hard right or hard left and I'm ready to just say screw it altogether because I'm tired of the propaganda.

      • But only on /. you can compose carefully crafted posts that troll both libertarians and socialists at the same time! ~

        The real fun starts when they both reply calling you a moron, and then discover each other in comments...

  • Only if you have a camera and it is turned on and pointed at you. It would be trivial to arrange for them to see whatever you want them to see.

  • Of course I've seen the bizarre and depraved on Chatroulette, but I've also met and chatted with a couple of people that have turned out to be very nice guys. We've added each other to our Live Messenger friends and now chat on a daily basis, sharing pictures of our hometowns (Lisbon, Istanbul, Atlanta) and learning about each other's cultures and daily lives. What a great way to spend a few minutes each day.
  • Something has changed in the world, if our source for the latest internet phenomenas is the New York Times. It's as if I've become my parents, learning of hackers via a botched newspaper report or this here "Internet Chat" thingy from watching Ally McBeal.

    • by bmo (77928)

      True. Once it hits the NYT, it's no longer innovative and news for nerds.

      It's been a long time since Slashdot actually had stories ahead of the NYT.

      --
      BMO

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First image was of some dudes unit, and that will be the end of that service for me.

  • by Alrescha (50745)

    In 2006, this was called "Serendipitous Chat", which also had it's amusing moments.

    A.

  • Is that basically it?

  • 90%? No way (Score:4, Informative)

    by VShael (62735) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:33PM (#31219050) Journal

    I read an article about chatroulette and decided to try it out for myself.
    I'd say 75% of people were not interested in conversation of any kind. And maybe 10% were interested in trying to shock you in some way.
    The system is open for scamming from people who will beam your webcams output back at you, or pics of goatse.cx or shock pages from encyclopedia dramatica. It might have been a fun conversing tool when there was less than 5000 people on it. But once the crowd from 4chan heard of it, it's too polluted to be fun. (Think Usenet before and after AOL came online)

  • I was already seeing naked guys:naked girls at a ratio of 1000:1 on chatrt.

    Now that slashdot has linked it (multiple times I believe) it's going to increase to 10000000:1. Thanks for ruining yet another decent portion of the internet! First gopher, now chatrt. What's next?

    • Wait...so, 1000:1 was a good ratio?

      • by Arimus (198136)

        Better than what it will become now its got wider publicity ....

        Think good is a relative term in this instance.

        • No, I get it. It's like how I'd rather lose a pinky finger than a whole hand. But when there is a third option available, not losing any extremities whatsoever, I find complaints about the first two options a bit silly.

          All I'm saying is, if the ratio is already 1000:1, I wouldn't be calling it "yet another decent portion of the internet." Maybe I'm just strange.

  • ...until you realize you'll spend most of your time talking to nude men and people who want to sell you something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Andy Grove said, 'is Thomas Edison such an overachiever for inventing the lightbulb? ...Because if if he didn't do it, it was inevitably going to be invented by someone.'

      Personally, I haven't been paying attention, but I thought Skype already made this possible, and clearly I was wrong.

      Wiring up random videocams with each other was bound to happen sooner or later. Duh. This is like basic Darwinian smut technology.

      Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain; in this case it seems to be a pretty cool 17

  • by NiteMair (309303) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:10PM (#31220850)

    I tried it... after seeing a lot of naked "boy" chests (clearly a lot of high school or college kids showing off their "six pack") it finally stopped on a guy that looked reasonable to chat with.

    Chatted with him for about 10-15 mins, just exchanging some random questions and info. Wasn't too bad, except he was from China and his english wasn't so great :)

    Overall, definitely has potential for some random social interaction if you have nothing better to do.

  • Live music (Score:3, Interesting)

    by simpleguy (5686) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:18PM (#31220932) Homepage

    Among all the guys who were showing their wang, one of my strangers was from France and playing the accordion live. I brought my 4 month old baby to listen and enjoy and we had some nice conversation after that. That alone compensated for the idiocy of the rest.

    • by Jedi Alec (258881)

      So if he was among the guys showing their wang...he was doing that, and playing the accordeon at the same time?

  • wow, flashback! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:03PM (#31221834)

    This reminds me of the beginning of Logan's Run.

  • Just visit the world of warcraft forums - thankfully you can't see what they look like!

  • at the bottom of the slashdot page?

    currently it says

    One of the large consolations for experiencing anything unpleasant is the knowledge that one can communicate it. -- Joyce Carol Oates

    i feel no need for thought. the entire subject matter has been digested and summarized

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.

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