Chat has been a big hit since we released it a couple of months ago. Even though it's still in Wikia Labs, around 2,500 unique users are chatting on Wikia each day!

What's new on Chat?

We're excited to announce a pretty cool feature on Chat: emoticons. We know that many users have been requesting these yellow-faced icons, and we're confident that their addition will make Chat even more fun and enjoyable. Check out some of the available emoticons here.

Emoticon_cool.png Emoticon_batman.png Emoticon_crying.png Emoticon_fingers_crossed.png Emoticon_blush.png Emoticon_confused.png Emoticon_content.png Emoticon_happy.png Emoticon_heart.png Emoticon_hmm.png Emoticon_indifferent.png Emoticon_laughing.png

Custom emoticons? Yup, we've got those too.

The coolest part about adding emoticons to Wikia Chat is that each wiki can customize them! By default, every Chat starts with these emoticons, but if you visit the MediaWiki:Emoticons page on your wiki, you can add or change any of the emoticons. For more information on how to customize, please refer to the Chat Help Page.

When emoticons went live, it didn't take long for some users to notice and start customizing them. After releasing the new feature last Wednesday, I kept close watch on the community; by the time I went to lunch at noon, there were already dozens of custom emoticons across a number of wikis. Here are a couple of the many awesome examples that have popped up:

The development process

Emoticons are a feature that I built (with some help) during a 48-hour "hack-a-thon" at Wikia headquarters last week. The hack-a-thon is an event that takes place every three months — we set aside two days for Wikia engineers to work on whatever they want. The hack-a-thon lets us play around with fun features (like emoticons!) that we normally don't have time to develop.

The idea of having editable emoticons originally stemmed from a chat with fellow engineer Christian Williams; he mentioned that since Wikia is a platform for communities, we should be build a tool that encourages users to get creative and make their own emoticons. This was a "light bulb moment" — it was a pretty natural transition from that great idea to the system we have now.

To develop the initial starter set of emoticons (and to get them to look awesome like Emoticon BA and Emoticon walter), we turned to our talented Wikia designers. Lauren Robinette worked on the the default emoticons — it's amazing how many she was able to crank out in one day! Steve Profumo also jumped in to make the custom (rock) emoticon that we use on LyricWiki. A big "Thank You!" to our design team!

Have you been using custom emoticons in Chat? Do you have have any questions about emoticons? Share your experiences and suggestions by leaving a comment below. Want to receive updates on the latest Staff blog posts? Then click here to follow this blog.