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Ok, is there a number, an ideal or a maximum amount of people that can participate in a single real-time conversation? Something similar to the Dunbar's number.

I'm asking this because I'm developing an instant messaging system and I want to limit the quantity of people that can be invited in a chat room.

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This depends significantly on how frequently people chat; IRC rooms can squire over a hundred users with maybe 2 actually talking at once. How will this system be used? Is it part of some other system sort of like Google Hangouts are part of Google +? The context will help you more accurately guess a reasonable number of users (though I wouldn't personally recommend making a limit whatsoever). –  Ben Brocka Mar 6 '12 at 20:56
    
Thanks for your answer! Yes, you could say that the instant messaging is a feature of a bigger system (a community/forum kind of thing). And I agree with you, not making a limit is the best possibility, but beyond a certain number of people (perhaps beyond 50) it stops behaving like a conversation and turns into a broadcast where only a few are actually saying something or everyone is talking at the same time, that's what I'm trying to avoid –  fedeetz Mar 6 '12 at 21:26
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42. That's the number. Did that help? Why not? –  Rahul Mar 7 '12 at 10:50
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what type of a chat room is this? –  user22552 Dec 22 '12 at 23:21
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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your decision is going to depend on the functionality of your instant messenger and the features it supports. If you are supporting features like video or face chat or voice calling you will need to decide how many users your server can handle at any instant in a single conversation before it breaks down. You will also need to consider the case of how much visual/audio based information users can handle at an instant and if that correlates with how much your server can handle before it starts breaking up (i.e. it starts dropping calls or the video starts to stutter).

If you are just handling text, you will need to look at how many instant messages anyone can keep track of at any instant while in a fast moving environment.

I don't have any research to back this but I believe the google hangout limit of 9 was enforced upon the "principle" of seven plus or minus two items at any instant.

However as Ben pointed out, if you are just looking at a presenter model then your limits are obviously higher, although you will need to look at incorporating a moderator model as well to prevent the conversation from getting out of hand.

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Thanks man, before I read this post I didn't even considered the server capacity of handling multiple people at once. I'll look into that seven plus or minus two thing –  fedeetz Mar 7 '12 at 19:20
    
More like nine active plus lots of "observers". –  Kris Dec 24 '12 at 13:20
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As a chat service we sometimes have over 4000 people in one chat. The most viewers of a chat like listening to a podcast or see a video in parallel to the conversation. From our experience most chat participants do not actually talk (only 15% do); most of them are just viewing the conversation.

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Do two things at once....Keep the open chat room vast and unlimited. This allows for more possibilities and insights to the discussion...

But if there are 300 in the room and only 4 people are chatting, mostly to each other, have the personal IM thing.

Like how facebook shows the wall of what everyone is saying and then at the bottom right is the friend IM. Limit of 2 IM dialogue boxes. So the discussion no one else wants to be apart of can be taken care of in the personal dialogue box, then if anyone needs a large amount of answers or chooses the topic to be open, the unlimited chat room can take place without limits... we hate limits. Its what drives our knowledge to that of sea plankton.

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