First, the chat feature was always meant to be secondary to the forum. I never wanted it to be a substitute for engaging in conversation and exchange here.
It is however a nice supplement to the forum. A place that people can go and talk real time, with a more fluid interaction, like any chat would be.
As far as showing current people signed in, that's not possible. It's actually a separate third-party service that I pay for that is independent of the forum software. Having it embedded within a page on the forum is the extent that it can be integrated.
I would say the best way to accommodate mid-day chatters is to maybe develop an informal schedule. We know that it picks up at night around 10 PM est, but maybe we can figure out other times of the day that people might have an interest as well. Just a thought.
"People are not made better by a briar. An idiot before smoking a pipe is still an idiot after smoking a pipe, they're just more likely to speak less drivel with something in their mouth. For that, all society should be grateful."