I was reading this article by Clay Shirky about the evolution of online social networking
when I had an epiphany: add chat alongside the forum discussions. In other words, have a plain text chat window open to the right in the forum. This way people can chat socially and participate in a forum discussion at the same time, and everyone who is surfing knows when someone is on, because their name is in the chat window. This would vastly improve the popularity of the chat window (instead of having it on its own page) and maximize the social interaction. Since the chat window is in tandem with the forum, there's no need for graphic texting. If they need to do graphic interaction, they'll just use the forum, instead of the chat and direct the chat user to the forum post.
In fact, you could make the chat window a standard part of the site as a whole from front page to forum, perhaps in a frame so that you don't reset the chat every time you load a page. This allows everyone to say "Hey! there are people on. Let's see what's cookin'." And if they're not interested in taking part, perhaps it can be defaulted to being in their cup (inactive) until they post. If they haven't posted in two minutes, it defaults again. This way the interaction is both dynamic and not dependent on RTF and chat functions. Just a window and an entry field. Everything else is automated.
I would be SO stoked to have the feature. Whatiya think? Whatiya think? Huh? Huh? Huh?