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How modern chat experiences grow beyond mirroring human conversations – Conversation Analysis part 3

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Nov 15, 2022 • 7 min read
Chan kang
Chan Kang
SBM blog CTA mobile 1

Drive growth and reduce costs with omnichannel business messaging

SBM blog CTA mobile 1

Drive growth and reduce costs with omnichannel business messaging

Here at Sendbird, we strive to make data-driven product decisions for our chat, voice and video, and live streaming APIs. As part of our effort to gain a nuanced understanding of human conversations and how they translate to the digital realm, our research team has conducted in-depth study about Conversation Analysis (CA), one of the most effective ways to study human conversations. In part 1 and part 2 of this blog series, we examined the concepts of CA and discussed how they shape today’s chat experiences.

In this third and final part, we will introduce the last, but not least, concept of CA: repair. We will also discuss the various ways, not usually applicable to face-to-face interactions, to enhance online chat.

What is repair?

It’s perfectly natural for humans to make mistakes during a conversation. Repair refers to any correction of such errors or misunderstandings in speech, and it happens a lot more frequently than you’d think—in fact, once every 84 seconds in a conversation!

There are 4 types of repair, characterized by who identified the conversational error and who corrected it:

  1. Self-initiated & self-repaired
    • A: “I was so scary…I mean, scared.”
  2. Other-initiated & other-repaired
    • A: “I was so scary.”
    • B: “Huh? You mean scared.”
  3. Other-initiated & self-repaired
    • A: “I was so scary.”
    • B: “Huh?”
    • A: “Oops, I mean scared.”
  4. Self-initiated & other-repaired
    • A: “I was so scary. I mean…what’s the word?”
    • B: “You mean scared.”
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Repair in online chat

So how is this human conversational need served in today’s digital chat experiences?

Most commonly, this is done with editing features that allow users to make updates to previously sent messages.

Apps like Slack, which offer an editing feature that enables users to repair any errors made in their previous messages. Sendbird’s Chat API also allows the sender to update their previously sent message to achieve this, which subsequently makes the other participants aware of the update as well.

This type of implementation typically has an indicator (e.g., “edited”) that lets other participants know, in the interests of transparency, that the message has been edited from its original version.

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The edit indicator.

In other messaging apps, the sender can unsend or delete the message that contains errors; this occasionally depends on whether the recipient has seen the message or not. This can be used as a workaround when editing a message is not possible. A new message is then sent with the repaired information.

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Deleting a message. [Source.]

Augmenting online chat

Although the concept of repair from CA that has manifested in today’s chat features is fascinating, there are inherent differences between face-to-face interactions and online chat. Because these are two vastly different mediums in which conversations take place, there are bound to be gaps between the two experiences. Whether it’s to bridge such gaps or provide additional value as a communication channel, numerous chat features have emerged that do not necessarily mimic human conversations but rather augment the chat experience.

We identified the four following themes that play a significant role in enhancing the experience of online chat:

  • Topic management
  • Enriching expressions
  • Expanding the norms of written communication

Let’s take a look at what these mean.

Topic management

Because chat is often used to get things done and can have more than one topic being discussed by multiple participants, the following features have emerged to facilitate managing the conversations that happen in a channel.

Side conversations

Side conversations can be useful in keeping a separation among various topics of discussion. For example, Slack allows users to keep their message threads separate from the main conversation. Discord allows these to become side conversations that auto-archive while making them discoverable in the channels list.


Polls are another useful feature. Within a group chat, manually conducting a poll can quickly get out of hand. Services like Slack and Discord leverage bots to enable this, while Facebook Messenger has a built-in polling feature.

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Example of a poll. [Source.]

Enriching expressions

Due to the lack of audio and visual information, chat has limitations on how expressive the participants can be. Messaging apps started offering various features that allow users to enrich the meaning they want to convey:

Special effects

Users can embellish their messages with special effects on Messenger. iOS allows users to apply these effects on the message or on the screen.

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Special effects on iOS. [Source.]

Animated emojis

Apps such as Telegram allow users to send animated emojis that are more interactive and lively than regular static emojis. iOS allows users to send memojis, which are even more personalized.

Voice notes

Several messaging apps allow users to send recordings of their voice as messages. This helps if users wish to communicate something that lends itself better to a spoken message (such as long or sensitive explanations) instead of written content.

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Voice notes on a messaging app. [Source.]

Expanding the norms of written communication

Various characteristics of online chat could be considered norms for written communication (e.g., the persistence of text on screen). However, some messaging apps have challenged these norms to offer features that allow varying delivery of messages that weren’t previously possible in an online chat.

Hidden messages

Instagram and Facebook Messenger offer vanishing mode, which works like a separate sub-channel in which all messages are set to disappear when certain conditions are met. WhatsApp provides a more global setting for all of the user’s messages.

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Disappearing messages on WhatsApp. [Source.]

Spoiler alert

Telegram’s spoiler alert allows users to conceal certain portions of their message that can only be revealed when the user taps on it. iOS offers a similar feature, but only for the entire message.

Location sharing

When meeting up with friends, it’s often easier to send a location pin instead of verbally describing your location. Some apps allow users to share their real-time locations without having to leave the messaging app.

In-app translation

When talking to someone who speaks a different language, instant translation can work wonders in terms of clarity of communication. Apps like Viber allow users to translate messages within the app itself. Sendbird Chat also offers auto and on-demand message translation, as well as push notification translation.

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Message translation. [Source.]


In this series about CA, we discussed the nature of online chat, turn-taking cues, repair, and more. Most importantly, we talked about how face-to-face conversations can be adapted to digital channels. These are all critical considerations in modern chat.

You may have noticed that all of the examples in this blog are those of third-party messenger apps. Although these apps are incredibly useful, using them implies that users navigate away from your app. When this happens, brands lose control over the user experience and user data. Ultimately, app retention suffers. To avoid this, boost app retention, and ensure a consistent, seamless user experience, you may want to consider building in-app chat for your brand. As an industry leader in chat API solutions, we strive to innovate proactively through various research efforts and are glad to share with you what we learned in the process. If all this talk of online chat features in this blog series (check out part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t already!) has you excited to embed chat into your own app, learn more about our chat features or try our full-featured 30-day trial. If you’re still not sure, no problem! With our Developer plan, you can use Sendbird for free.

We hope you found value in this series and we look forward to chatting with you soon! 😉 Contact us to start building right away.

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