America Online's chats are one of the service's most popular features. Chat rooms are all over AOL. You'll find chat rooms in forums to discuss just about any topic the service offers.
Just choose a channel from the list on the left side of your AOL screen and you'll be able to find chats within that area of interest. For example, take the Parenting channel. If you click on the Parenting button, you'll find a special "Moms" area inside. Go there, and you'll find a Chat Now button. Click it, and you'll have a wide range of chatting options (see Figure 6.4 ”everything from a special chat for disabled moms to chats about dealing with teenagers (good luck), and so on.
Figure 6.4. AOL's chats are specialized by topic, so you can meet with people of similar interests.
Using the People Connection
As many chat rooms as there are in the Channel forums, you'll find many more in the People Connection. The People Connection is abuzz with chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are different than the chats in the various channels.
Chat rooms are so popular that there's a Chat button on the Welcome window that greets you when you sign on. You can click that or select People Connection from the People menu on the toolbar ”either way, you'll go to the People Connection.
When you click the Chat button, you move into the People Connection screen. There are many options here; choose Chat Now, and you're dropped into a lobby chat room in Town Square (see Figure 6.5). Town Square is the generic chat category online ”there are others (you'll see them in a moment). A lobby is just that: a waiting room where you can chat or move on to a room with a more defined topic of conversation.
Figure 6.5. Your basic chat room ”this one's a lobby.
At any given moment, there can be hundreds of lobbies in the People Connection. They are all given a number ”the one shown in Figure 6.5 is Lobby 75.
On the right side of the chat window is a list of the people who are in the lobby with you (your screen name is there, too). You can find out a little something about the folks in your room by seeing if they have a Member Profile. To read a Member Profile, double-click a screen name from the room list, and then click Get Profile on the dialog box that appears.
When you first start out in a chat room, it's a good idea to sit and read the chat scrolling up your screen. It gives you a notion of what's being talked about, who's doing the talking, and whether you want to join in. If you want to participate in a lobby chat, simply type what you want to say in the text box at the bottom of the window and then press Enter (or click Send). Your chat appears in the chat window, and you can carry on a conversation.
If there isn't much going on in the lobby, you might want to move to a room with a more specific chat theme.
Moving to Another Room
To see a list of the currently active chat rooms in the People Connection, click the Find a Chat button at the bottom-right side of the chat window. A list of categories and chat rooms appears in the Find a Chat dialog box, as shown in Figure 6.6.
Figure 6.6. Find a Chat helps you find rooms of interest.
In the Find a Chat dialog box, you'll see a list of room categories in the box on the left side of the screen. When you highlight a category name and click the View Chats button in the middle of the window, the list box on the right of the screen shows all the rooms that are available for that specific category. At peak chatting hours, you might need to click the List More button a couple of times to see all the chat rooms in a given category.
To enter a room, double-click its name in the list. You can also peek in and see who's chatting in a room. Click on the room's name in the list and then click the Who's Chatting button. A list of the members in the room appears, much like the room list in an actual chat room. You can use it to see who's around before you drop in for a chat.
You might notice that the categories list on the left side of the Find a Chat window has two tabs. The second tab reveals the same category list as the first tab, but the chat rooms listed in the right side are instead those that have been created by AOL members, not AOL staff. The list looks, and works, exactly the same as the one shown previously in Figure 6.6, but the rooms have all been created by AOL members.
You can create your own chat room from the list of Member Chats by clicking the Start Your Own Chat button (top middle of the Find a Chat window).