Chat room participants want answers from experts

November 28, 2004

The key to running a successful Internet chat room is simple, according to the operator of a leading site: Provide expert information from people who are well known and established in the field.

The key to running a successful Internet chat room is simple, according to the operator of a leading site: Provide expert information from people who are well known and established in the field.

Dr. Elliot K. Fishman, whose CTisus Web site has become one of the Web's most popular sources of CT information, described how the site moved its chat room from last place in popularity to sixth among the site's features. The improvement happened after Fishman began personally fielding questions posted by readers.

Typically, medical Internet chat rooms allow posters to answer questions from other posters or from the relatively anonymous figures who run the chat rooms. What the research seems to indicate, however, is that people who post queries in chat rooms respond more positively when the questions get an answer from someone they know and trust, according to Fishman, director of diagnostic radiology and body CT at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The answers must also be timely.

Overall, individuals at the site seem most interested in the proper performance of CT acquisition, Fishman said.

"People want to know how do I do something, and how do you do something?" Fishman said.

Other issues that prompt questions are changes in technology, such as the growing number of slices available on CT scanners.

Many of the questions are repeated and the answers are available elsewhere on the site, but people still turn to the chat room for answers, Fishman said. He estimates he spends one to two hours per week answering the questions.