Making the most of chat

- Reading time: 8 minutes -

To discover and make the most of the practical added value of chat (based on international standards), here are various tips and information.

Multiple accounts

Many people cannot imagine that it is possible to use several accounts at the same time in the chat universe. However, it is often a good idea to create not just one (single) chat account but several. For example, in addition to the account for personal contacts, it makes sense to use another, neutral account for anonymous use in general or public conferences (chat rooms). This also makes it easy to separate private and professional contacts.

Examples of neutral account names that do not give any indication of the name, age or gender:

„fantasyname@server.tld“, „randomnumber@server.tld“, „8fds9a0@server.tld“, „animalfriend@server.tld“, „blabla@server.tld“

Regardless of the name of this additional account, it can then be used to chat with each other safely and anonymously in conferences.

It is even possible and advantageous to have an account with another server operator. This means that you can continue to text with at least one account even if maintenance work is required.

Tip:

You can send messages to yourself (to your own chat account), which is great for taking notes.

Special tip:

What if you didn’t enter an e-mail address when you registered and forgot your password (yes, it happens)?

In this case, it is very difficult to convince the server operator that it is your own account. It can be helpful here if you have created a contact that does not actually exist. Since the address book is not transferred to third parties, this “makeshift/security contact” is therefore only known to the server operator. This can then be an indication for the server operator that the rightful account owner is actually contacting him.


public groups

In addition to normal groups, there are public chat rooms for many topics. Often for questions on specific topics (for example “Security”, “Android”, “Games”) or groups that offer support for specific programs (“Gajim”, “Conversations”, “Server software”, …). More information as well as examples and overviews of public chat groups can be found >> here <<.


Multiple devices

With XMPP, multiple devices can be used at the same time. Messages are automatically distributed to all devices. It does not matter on which device a message is written, it will automatically appear on the other devices. It is also possible to switch devices as required when writing.

This means that the conversation history is synchronized and the same when using a smartphone, tablet and PC at the same time, for example.


Formatted text …

… for normal users:

Text can be highlighted:

  • Bold font is marked with * (asterisk): *test*
    Meaning: Text can be understood as “*loud*” (very loud: *LOUD!*)

  • Italic text with underlining: _test_ = test
    Meaning: Text can be understood as a feeling (gladly / good)

  • Enclose strikethrough text in tilde: ~test~ = test

… for specialists:

  • Emphases can also be combined. For example, bold and italics

  • > Quotations can be displayed with the capitalization character (>).

  • Program code can be displayed as a non-proportional font using the backward apostrophe ( ` ): ` backward apostrophe `
    This also works for multiple lines with line breaks if the apostrophe is used three times at the beginning and at the end.

English source / description: XEP-0393: Message Styling (external)


Encryption

Encryption yes/no

There are very different opinions on encryption (cryptography). Some demand that everything and always be encrypted with OMEMO - for others, transport encryption Wikipedia (external) of messages is sufficient.

In terms of security and data protection, complete encryption would indeed be correct - but then it is consistent and logical that the old history of new devices may/cannot be displayed by other devices. For the non-security-oriented “average user”, this is hardly comprehensible and more than inconvenient. At the moment, however, there is no option to allow the user to decide on the level of encryption (whether the chat should be encrypted with or without “Forward Privacy”).

The use of OMEMO encryption is recommended, among other things, if the chat accounts are operated on a separate “family server”. This makes it impossible for the administrator (family member) to read the other conversations at system level.

Encrypted group chats

Groupchat with OMEMO encryption works only in rooms that are:

  • non-anonymous
  • members-only
  • (works only with contacts that you have in your roster)

The last restriction (contacts must be in the roster (in the contact list)) no longer exists, at least with Conversations, provided the servers of the contacts offer the appropriate feature.

Special knowledge

Sending invitations to third parties

Invitations to groups can not only be sent directly but also as a link. The following format should be used for this:
“xmpp:gruppenname@server.de?join “

When you click (or tap) on the link, the group opens automatically or you can select which account you want to join with.

Private messages

Messages can be sent to all participants within a chat room. In addition, however, a group member can be contacted directly from the group via a “private message”. You need to know that

  • the group administrator has usually deactivated the display of real account names for public groups. Only administrators can then see the real account names,
  • all participants can only see their respective pseudonyms, which are entered when entering a public group. Example: As user “max.muster@server.tld” you can call yourself “Smurf01” in a public group.

If you now write a private message (directly from a public room) to another participant, the pseudonym is used here. Please do not confuse this with a normal 1:1 message from a real, personal account to another.

Depending on the program used, these private messages are displayed differently:

  • In Gajim, for example, a new window is opened for this conversation
  • In Conversations, these messages are displayed chronologically correctly in the group chat (only for the two conversation partners, of course). This often helps with queries about a topic that has just been discussed.
    The private input mode can be started in Conversations with a long tap on the profile picture of the conversation partner and is then ended again with the “x” in the input line.

Tip: Don’t forget to end, otherwise all subsequent messages will not go to the group, but only to the one contact.

”/me” command

When you enter the character string “/me”, this text is replaced by your own name (pseudo name in the group).
Example: “/me goes with” becomes: “Smurf01 goes with.”


Technical limits

How long can a text message be? The size of a text message (number of characters) is not limited by the protocol.

How large can a video be via XMPP? The maximum size for video files is a matter of setting on the respective XMPP server. This limit is usually between 20 and 50 MB. If the video is larger than the stored “send limit”, Conversations attempts to send it directly (peer-to-peer) to the contact’s client, which of course requires the contact to be online.

How many participants can join a group or a public room? This is only limited by the storage capacity of the server. There is no limit or maximum number on the part of the protocol.

What is the maximum length of a disconnection (e.g. when changing cell towers)? Short disconnections are not a problem for the transmission. However, it should not be several minutes.