Fireside InterviewsInterviews

Fireside Interview #11 xat Steven

“Never again”, I cursed when my plane finally touched down at the airport. It was a hellish journey: five hours delayed in the departure lounge, followed by thirteen hours trapped in a flying metal can. My plane seat, covered in hairs, happened to be tightly squashed between two complete strangers, each as potbellied as the other. I could hear – and smell – every stinking breath they took. All the while, a 6-month-old baby screamed its lungs out directly behind me, drowning out my earphones and denying me a single moment’s rest. My head, throbbing from the noise and high altitude, was ready to burst like a juicy grape. Thankfully, I’m now outside in the fresh air – free as a bird – slurping a coffee downtown as I begin my next highly anticipated xat interview. Freedom never tasted so good! This time, we have a former volunteer waiting, and he’s ready to reveal all…

Hey xat Steven, try to answer these as honestly and completely as possible. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. 

What is your real name, where are you from, and how old are you?

My real name is Steven (I hate when people use fake real names), I’m from Canada, and I’m 18.

When and how did you discover xat?

I discovered xat as a kid in late 2008 or 2009 from Club Penguin, lol, although that’s pretty common around here. I found a random chat box (not a group) on a Blogger website and started visiting more frequently. However I wasn’t the smartest kid and thought that it was some sort of virus site because of the weird sounds it made and because the title was weird. But for some reason, I continued to use it even though I thought it would give me viruses.

Eventually I stopped coming on and returned in 2012, when I started going to official chats (the old chat Doodlerace being my first, where I was frequently banned for arguing with Spell). Then I started going to xat_test as well, and that’s how I got involved in the official chat community.

Do you speak any languages other than English?

I don’t. Being from Canada, I learned French when I was in school, but I dropped it the first chance I had. Learning another language would be cool eventually, but I’m really bad at that type of thing.

Do you have a favorite power? What about a least favorite?

My favourite power is xavi. Some of the avatars you can make with that are pretty funny. I used to have one with a giant balloon that covered up my messages, but someone copied it and got torched and got the power removed from their account, so I stopped using it : (

My least favourite power is Diva, because I despise Ariana Grande (hi Lemona). Just kidding, it would have to be Microbe. I don’t know who made it, but those smilies are… hideous. : $

Have you met anyone from xat in real life?

Nope. There are a very select few that I would ever meet if I had the chance, to be honest. Not that I dislike the people by any means, just that I prefer to keep my personal life separate.

Who is Flake?

Flake is a baby boy of age 7. He volunteers at a chicken shelter. I met him on Contests a long time ago and appreciate his trollish but also serious ways.

Is your ID, 400004803, original, or did you buy it? Give us the story.

No, the first ID I registered was older. I bought that ID off of Jedi’s xatid website (that should never have been forced to shut down, by the way) from Paul for a few hundred xats. I also own my birthday as an ID that I bought off a dude who insisted on bidding up the price on it for some stupid reason, but I was too lazy to switch my short name over and use it.

How has xat changed for the better since you first joined?

The best changes have probably been the front page design and forum. I really think the user interface is an important aspect of xat and a good interface will help keep users around, so seeing a very user-friendly and modern front page was nice. The forum is also a lot more active than the old one and has a lot better features.

And how has it changed for the worse?

This is a very cliche answer, but a lot of the best people are gone. From all my old friends who used to frequent Game and Contests, to the large crowd that would be packed into xat5 every 22nd of the month to see (and inevitably complain for hours about) who the new main owner was, to some of the volunteers. They were the people who made xat really fun for me and a lot of others, and it’s too bad a lot are gone, even if I do still have contact with some of them.

Also, one of my favourite chats, the aforementioned xat_test, is no longer close to what it once was. It previously housed a great community of fun, good people, and it was always exciting with rotating main owners (even the bad ones made the months fun). Now I feel it is home to a few people whose intentions are not the greatest or “purest,” and the rotating main owner system is gone, which takes away a lot of what made the chat and community special. Returning that chat to what it once was was something I fought for in the past as a volunteer and contributor, but sadly I lost that battle on more than one occasion D:

When did you get volunteer, and what do you think led up to that? Was there anyone influential that you think helped you reach that point?

I got volunteer last summer, I believe. It came at a bit of a bad time because I was just going into postsecondary education and so obviously the amount of free time I had was going to drop off, but that’s when it happened. I really have no idea what led up to it because I never saw volunteer as a goal. I never bothered to help on Help or the forum and I wasn’t a very strict or overly professional main owner on the official chats I had managed. I did sort of see it coming once I got forum mod a few months earlier, but before that, I never expected it to happen.

I guess that Spell and Jesse were possibly influential since they trusted me pretty early on and gave me the Game chat (Games at the time), which helped “introduce” me to other volunteers (even though pretty much all the volunteers back then are gone now) and the official “community.” But in terms of the people who supported my promotion at the time, I really have no idea because all that info is kept secret.

You resigned from Volunteer recently, right? What made you decide to resign?

The main reason was that I simply ran out of time. I had not been too active in the ticket system for a few months, but had stuck with my position because I thought I would get more free time in the future. It never happened, and when I realized that new volunteers were passing my lifetime ticket total in mere weeks, I decided it wasn’t fair to keep holding onto my spot. I had also taken some heat for holding my position strictly for the image and title, and wanted to prove that that was not at all the case.

You obviously have experience with answering tickets. What would you say are the key strengths and weaknesses of xat’s current Ticket System?

This is a tough question for me. I think that the current system is fine, but the fact that it is mostly college students or people with full time jobs answering tickets in the limited time they have available means it’s going to be slow. I am usually not very vocal in the monthly “the ticket system sux” forum threads because if hiring a paid employee for customer support is not an option, I really don’t know how to solve the time delays. And no, promoting random people like Jimmy the Help mod or Billy the Ajuda member just because they’ve shown to be trustworthy for a few months is not a solution.

Do you ever plan to return as a Volunteer and continue answering tickets?

I would be open to it if I ever found myself with more free time, but that looks unlikely right now.

You mentioned that a lot of the people are who made xat a positive experience for you. Could you name a few of them that you could think of?

Far too many to list, but a few who stand out are Chelly, Paya, Kevin, Arthur, Flake, Ryan, Henrique, Pyong, and pretty much any regular to Game/Contests from 2013-2016… All of them helped me in different ways, and were great friends (and some still are), and made xat fun.

You also mentioned that xat_test is not what it used to be. What changed? How would you try to restore xat_test to the way that it once previously was?

From what I can tell, there was some behind-the-scenes drama revolving around the monthly main system, so it was abolished. That was the biggest change.
There were no longer too many obvious main owner choices, and so there was drama surrounding who was picked by those who picked them. That didn’t used to happen, at least not publicly or to the scale that it happened at the end.

I believe the admins had good intentions with the chat but it’s now in the hands of people who care more about self gain and personal public image/perception than building a fun community. The owners want to portray the idea that they are powerful, so that users look up to them I guess. And in turn, people suck up to them and get rewarded for it, regardless of how equipped they are, or if they have shady pasts. It’s just a mess, in my opinion.

If you don’t believe that they want to appear powerful, look at the forum posts by those in the upper ranks of the chat. Most of them include bragging or subtly dropping hints that they are influencing new powers, that they are testing new features, and even some recent posts suggesting that xat5 is only listed as unofficial because of one rogue wiki editor (meaning they claim it’s actually official and should be treated as such). It’s all so silly and I wish people would be more focused on enjoying their time and building a good community.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it can be brought back to what it once was, because the people who made it what it was are mostly gone. I would try bringing back the monthly main system and revamping the staff list. If that wasn’t an option, I would just change the ownership and hope for the best, but I don’t know if it’s worth it because pretty much all the people who used to go there and are still around have migrated to Help.

I completely understand the admins are in a tough position and want to do what’s best for the site as a whole and not just the chat in particular, and that’s partially why the chat is how it is. It’s a complicated situation and not everything can be perfect. But I do hope to see it fixed eventually; whether it’s done by the people in charge now or the admins doesn’t matter.

What are your opinions of the current status of official chats as a whole?

They aren’t as lively as they once were, which is sad. There are a lot less people who care more about having a good time and building a community than there used to be, and it seems like most chats no longer have a core group who visit them, there’s just one group that visits the English officials. It’s too bad.

You say that you have Jesse and Spell to thank for trusting you with the Game chat. When did you become main? How has the chat changed since then?

I got main in late 2012, I believe. When I got it, it was pretty dead and nobody was really running it. Through the years I made it more active (along with 2 great other mains, Chelly and Kevin), and we had a really nice community for a long time and we are still in touch with a lot of those people. Sadly, as most chats have, it’s died down and the core members have all moved on. I’ve been too busy to build it back up and after many attempts through the years, I’m pretty much out of ideas. It’s difficult when a chat like that requires a lot of funding and neither of the mains are ‘rich’ but hopefully we can get something going again…

Do you have a favorite chat to attend now, in 2017?

My favourite chat will always be Game, but since it’s pretty dead other than on weekends (when Nathan and Chelly do a good job giving it life), I would have to say Help, just because I appreciate the discussions that go on there most nights. Most people there are genuine and can discuss things without getting into petty arguments or trying to draw attention to themselves, which is nice!

What are your opinions on the Contributor system? (An invite-only group that you’re currently a part of)

In theory, it is a good idea. However it quickly became very political and a lot of people just agree with their friends or “allies.” It’s human nature, I guess. There also isn’t a whole lot worth discussing, so a lot of the things that are debated are pretty pointless. I also think too much thought goes into the opinions of people who don’t care about certain subjects, but just comment because they feel they should.

But still, I still think it’s a good idea to bridge the users and the admins/volunteers closer together. We just all need to do a better job at actually doing that.

What do you see for the future of xat?

I really don’t know. I see that HTML5 chat is coming, and that could be huge if done correctly. I hope they take the time to improve the user interface of the entire site and make it a lot more modern and user friendly. I also think something needs to be done to make xat stand out; some feature needs to be highlighted that makes the website unique and useful in an age when there are so many popular social media platforms that are all pretty similar but also different in various ways. The problem is, I also really don’t know what that could be, because Discord is already a popular platform for game chats, and Twitch has already taken over the live streaming market.

I still think it has potential, though. Perhaps encouraging users to make chat rooms for sports teams, or bands, or other interests could help, but they would need to be marketed better (along with the whole website)… it’s hard to say what would work.

Thanks a lot for your time, Steven! Anything else you want to say to the readers?

bring back the old inlove smiley

that is all

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