I've been testing a new Web 2.0 application on the Scripting News website called Firefly. It allows visitors to the site the option of turning on a "chat layer", where anything they type will show up for other site visitors in a bubble at their cursor position. The bubble is displayed for a few seconds, then fades out — hence the name of the application. Avatars are supported, and web addresses are automatically converted into links.
I have absolutely no idea whether the startup behind Firefly will make it — the application has been out in the wild for less than a day, as of this writing. It is also clearly an early beta: server delays and other bugs are definitely present, and some important features (e.g., spam prevention) are currently missing. Nonetheless, I would encourage educators to give it a try, and potentially consider signing up for the beta. Why?
Well, first of all, Firefly is one of the few Web 2.0 projects out there that emphasizes ephemerality, a valuable property for certain types of learning interactions that is frequently overlooked. True, the current version of Firefly stores a full log of all chat entries, but I have no doubt that this could be easily turned off. Even if it cannot be turned off, I suspect that — much as is the case with Twitter — the appearance of ephemerality will encourage types of interactions that are not seen in other forms of social software.
Additionally, I can imagine uses for Firefly that, while they can be accomplished otherwise, can be carried out in a particularly easy and lightweight fashion using this tool — here are two that occurred to me in the first five minutes of using the application:
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this Firefly makes it past the end of summer…