Online Mingling: Supporting Ad Hoc, Private Conversations at Virtual Conferences

Jaeyoon Song, Christoph Riedl, and Thomas W. Malone
CCI Working Paper 2020-003
MIT Sloan Working Paper 6159-20
August 4, 2020


Even though many people have found today’s commonly used videoconferencing systems very useful, these systems do not provide support for one of the most important aspects of in-person meetings: the ad hoc, private conversations that happen before, after, and during the breaks of scheduled events—the proverbial hallway conversations. Here we describe our design of a simple system, called Minglr, which supports this kind of interaction by facilitating the efficient matching of conversational partners. We also describe a study of this system’s use at the ACM Collective Intelligence 2020 virtual conference. Analysis of our survey and system log data provides evidence for the usefulness of this capability, showing, for example, that 86% of people who used the system successfully at the conference thought that future virtual conferences should include a tool with similar functionality. We expect similar functionality to be incorporated in other videoconferencing systems and to be useful for many other kinds of business and social meetings, thus increasing the desirability and feasibility of many kinds of remote work and socializing.

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