ChatRoulette used in a science-affirming way

Have you heard about this strange new web service, Chatroulette? It makes webcam connections between random pairs of people with the idea that it’ll spark interesting conversations. I like the idea, but I haven’t tried it yet myself because a) I’ve heard that mainly what you get is pathetic exhibitionist men who aim the camera at their crotch, or b) people who want to chat about sex and flick past anyone who isn’t pretty enough (I think I’d be subject to rather rapid dismissals), and c) I DON’T HAVE TIME TO CHAT RIGHT NOW. MUST WRITE.

However, here’s an interesting use of the service: this fellow would flash the video, The Symphony of Science at people with a request to give a thumbs up for science. Look, it worked! This video is totally safe for work.

Earlier reports about ChatRoulette had given me some misgivings about humanity, or at least the male half of it. This video makes me feel a little better about it.


  1. badgersdaughter says

    I keep meaning to try ChatRoulette, and I’m not scared of seeing someone’s private parts, but the whole thing just sounds like it attracts the scrapings of the bottom of the barrel of the Internet. I would be glad to find out that that wasn’t the case.

  2. Walton says

    This video is totally safe for work.

    Unless you happe to work at Answers in Genesis. Or Liberty “University”.

  3. aratina cage of the OM says


    Yay Jesus! I hope it is coming along well even with all the traveling and talks you have been engaged in for the last few months. I can’t wait to take the Pharyngutome with me when confronting Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Baptists who come proselytizing to the neighborhood. Just think of all the fun it will be to turn to page χ and read aloud from your book in response to them reciting some incoherent Bible verse.

  4. says

    Science is kewl but ChatRoulette is stupid.

    I went through about 15 random strangers (all male, and one even had rubber breasts visible on his bed… wtf) and they all disconnected within seconds, presumably since I am also male.

  5. Ol'Greg says

    I love chatroulette. Yes there are penises and frat boys. I’ve had really interesting conversations with people on it though and met a couple online friends already. It’s awesome. I love the format. I even love the exhibitionists. Well, they’re weird, but I’m glad they’re there to give it character :D

    The only thing that makes me a little sad is that most females on there a) are there to camwhore for frat boys and b) won’t talk to another female.

    But whatever.

  6. Stephen Wells says

    Penny Arcade have started playing “The Game” on ChatRoulette:

    From the accompanying newspost:

    “The best part about The Game is that it sports wildly nontraditional win conditions. People on the “receiving end” can lose, absolutely, and they often do. They lose big. But there’s literally no scenario on our end that even resembles defeat. If your audience of one or more people proceeds to laugh so hard that one or more of them falls over, this must be considered victory. There are other, more bizarre outcomes I couldn’t begin to describe. But watching a person’s face shift from delight and expectation to horror, fear, and disgust – the twilight shift that heralds a life spent in absolute darkness – well, this must surely be called victory also.”

  7. Androly-San says

    Awesome. The author is trying to set up a March 20 Chatroulette science take over. Saturdays happen to be my only day off, so i’m there for sure.

  8. says

    Isn’t March 20th also the annual Great American Meat-Out?

    The irony. But hey, if you want to feature Brian Greene, he’s a scientist and a vegan.

  9. Draken says

    I haven’t tried and I won’t until someone finds a protocol for offering a beer online.

    Honestly, just showing someone random my face, in my own living room, gives me the creeps. Hanging on a corner in a bar and incidentally starting a conversation with the next random neighbour, though, is no problem. My impression is, however, that this is a bit easier in Vancouver than in Copenhagen.

  10. says

    This service is a downer for me since I’m a camera shy indivual.

  11. Ol'Greg says

    Shy ones: try setting up a vignette if you’re curious. One of the most interesting people I met on there I ended up talking to because they had the camera pointed at an interesting object on their shelf. I say this only because I secretly hope to increase the amount of interesting people on there :P

  12. Louis says

    I tried ChatRoulette. I got what PZ described in option a) above.

    I left immediately.

    Well….for a near geological definition of “immediate”.


  13. wisnij says

    #9 – You forgot this part of the news post:

    Chat Roulette connects you, your webcam, and your microphone to another random stranger’s all-of-the-above. Also, in many cases, their all-of-the-below. This second one happens a lot, out of nowhere you’re watching a man you don’t know and can only partially see furiously engaged in what might be called a “gripping single player experience.” It’s so commonplace in fact that it ceases to be in any way startling. It’s practically the default, with all the energy and novelty of the number three combo meal.

  14. badgersdaughter says

    It’s so commonplace in fact that it ceases to be in any way startling.

    Reminds me of something my grandmother told me once. Apparently she was being harassed by a rude boy in high school who would expose himself to her. Grandmother, too well brought up to freak out, used to just turn and walk away. After this happened several times, she said she told the lout, “You know, that’s about the tenth time you’ve shown me that thing. I’m getting bored. Every other comedian comes up with new material from time to time.”

  15. elzoog says

    Boys (including 40 year old boys) who show their genitals to a random stranger have simply not learned how to be men.

  16. krc [] says

    I’m pretty sure ChatRoulette is just the video equivalent of 4chan.