2011-02-26 02:50:43Implementing & Integrating an Instant Messenging Functionality into SkS
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

I've been discussing with John Cook the viability & utility of building an instant chat/messenging capability into Skeptical Science.



It could be an invaluable resource in a Rapid Response of SkS resources (the time and expertise of the commentators); for example:
  • whoever's online could be mobilized to deal with a swarm of denialists spamming SkS
  • or attacking a SkS article appearing on another source site like The Guardian
  • or a blog post on another website attacking SkS (like Motl attacking Dana)



More work for John (always bad)



SkS is John's creation, having hand-coded it in PHP and MySQL from cellar to roof, butts to nuts

  • So, either someone has to hand-code an app from the ground up
  • or a COT (Commercial-Off-The shelf) package will have to be found that can be integrated into SkS

The first option sounds like a real PITA (Pain In The A**), so I took the initiative & waded through some available online options.  As far as I can tell, the best option seems to be PHP121 ($19.00 cost) 



PHP121 is a web based instant messenger - written entirely in PHP. This means that it will work in any browser on any operating system including Windows and Linux, anywhere!

If traditional messaging programs like MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger are blocked at your school or workplace, PHP121 will still work.

PHP121 is ideal for community websites where a quick and easy way to chat is needed among its members.  By changing one setting in the configuration file, PHP121 can be easily integrated into other systems such as PHPNuke and phpBB. More integrations will be available in the future.



  • I don't know diddly about PHP or MySQL (my last programming courses were on punchcards); while resourceful & tech-oriented, integrating this into a custom setup like SkS is far beyond my pale.
  • John is interested, but will need technical assistance from someone here (preferably, because we would prefer to keep this in-house so as to not provide access to an outside tech source).
  • So we need someone techhie enough to assist John in this implementation and integration.  Unless a better solution is available out there.


Thanks for your time!


2011-03-15 00:35:18Comment
Robert Way


My only concern with this is that we have to make it clear that criticisms of posts and such should be discussed in public rather than on the private messenger.

2011-03-26 02:01:40Instant Messaging


I looked into a couple of options, but they all seem a bit off in various ways.

Pherhaps a simpler aproach would do the same job - I guess we don't need very much functionality.

If John could do a conditional include in the header of his program - then I could make a javascript which does the job.

It would require two database tables in mysql (one for messages and one for user polling information), one php script to handle requests, and the javascript.

I need a session name or similar from John (by mail) for the current user id and login (or he may edit it into the program)

We can use the same post window as the one in this page (the javascript will override the submit button).

Takes a few hour which I'll be happy to do - I can send the code and tables to John by mail.

2011-03-27 09:00:18Instant Messaging


Managed to spend some more time on this, and finally it's starting to look like we have an application ready - had quite a few technical issues with the tool I'm using ("Ext js") - but they are finally out of pre-release and into beta, and this solved a few issues (just to make the message window to scroll automatically to the bottom was a challange).

Update on this soon...