Remember Chat Roulette? That’s the first thing that came to mind when I loaded up Lissn.com. No, you won’t be instantly flashed with any heinous man parts or stared down with any sultry sex faces. But – you will instantly be paired up with someone. Lissn.com is a global portal for those who want to engage others in water cooler conversation in real time or for those that just want to watch, I mean lissn. Started in 2009 by founder Myke Armstrong, he believes Lissn is reinventing online conversations by creating a unique user experience, by allowing user to chat with two people at a time and allowing anyone to “lissn”. What’s more unique is the semi-anonymous chat roulette style fashion that randomly pairs users together, while listing the country the users are based in.
The site is simple and easy to navigate with a contemporary interface. It’s not crammed with buttons and images, it boasts the bare essentials. There are two options: Talk or Lissn. If you chose to talk, you can chat with up to two users at a time. If you choose to Lissn, you can watch their conversation in real time. Not really feeling your conversation? Click the next conversation button and you’re whirled off to a new set of users. If you missed a conversation that seems interesting don’t worry, the conversations are saved and can be played back.
While the aim of the site seems practical and straight forward – pair up random people from around the world and allow others to observe their conversations – there are some inherently problematic things with the site.
There’s an old saying that if you give people more than a few choices they choose nothing. I think that could be the case here. Over the course of a week, I visited the site several times and didn’t notice very many conversations or deep discussions of any kind emerge from these random pairings. There isn’t much difficulty in operating the platform, so I could only believe that this was probably due to a low volume of users. I can’t help but think that if the site were to suggest a topic of the day or post several broad topics this would be planting a few seeds to get people chatting. People don’t like to be told what to do, but they do like to have choices.
I also thought a problem with the lack of users on the site could be that I am on PST time and many users of the site are international users who are on a completely different day and night standard. However, returning to the site in the wee hours of the morning or late at night didn’t seem to alleviate this problem. I shouldn’t have been worried about it because Lissn gives you the option to replay a conversation. Of course conversations aren’t labeled so you’ll literally have to play all of it to see whether or not it’s what you were looking for. I’d also love to see an option to e-mail, Facebook or Tweet a conversation or link to one I thought was important.
To their credit, social media startups are quite difficult to develop and they have seen some measurable amounts of success. People from more than 30 countries have had conversations on Lissn. Growth with a privately funded site like this, is generally organic and change really comes from listening to their user base. Cognizant that users need more, Armstrong says they are constantly adding new features to improve users’ experiences. He also sends out a weekly newsletter to communicate with them. Currently, the company does not charge users a fee for its services, but it is exploring several different monetization strategies. In the meantime, they are primarily focused on growth and user experience. Two main points to keeping users satisfied and returning to the site.
Lissn, in my opinion, has the potential to become an amazing platform to engage users in a global dialogue. I think the developers will not only have to keep offering new features but keep improving the ones they currently offer. Armstrong, who’s been creating and developing websites since middle school, says that they will be “adding a major game changing feature shortly”.