November 8, 2007

IM Switch

I hardly use instant messaging anymore, and yesterday I came to a realization.

Most of the instant messaging I actually do, I do through Google Talk. I use GMail all the time, and so do most of my contacts. So GTalk comes naturally.

I can count the number of IM conversations I have in a month on my fingers. Without using binary.

What does this mean? It means people don’t want to talk to me in IM! This doesn’t shock me too much, because we’re all busy and synchronous discussions (apart from the occasional opportunistic ones) are more difficult than asynchronous (such as email and blogs).

Bottom line: I still want to talk to you, but I won’t be logging into my IM client as often anymore. That means I won’t appear in AOL Instant Messenger as often.

So, if you want to talk to me, you have options.

  • If you’re an AOLIM user, you can email me and ask if I’m around. If I am, I’ll get the message quick, because I see all my email. If I’m free I’ll respond and we can take it to IM if necessary.
  • If you’re a GTalk user, you’ll still see me online, because I’ll probably be keeping my GMail window open, and GMail lets you do Google Talk. So, no problem there.
  • I no longer use AOLIM away messages. You can see my running comments about my current situation on Twitter.

As I said, I don’t have many online conversations anymore, so this will not be a big impact. But I just wanted to let the people who do see me in AOLIM know that I haven’t disappeared. Find me online using Twitter and email from now on. And, of course, via blog comments.

Posted by James at November 8, 2007 12:10 PM
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James, the reason I don't IM you often is because it often says you're online when you're not. So when I see you on my buddy list, it sorta doesn't mean anything. :( I figure if you feel like IM'ing you'll contact me, because my IM status is usually accurate.

The main reason I like the buddy list, though, is because it's a little like sitting in a room with my friends. We don't have to talk, but it's just nice to see that they're around.

Posted by: Julie at November 8, 2007 1:26 PM

The biggest issue with IM is the fragmentation of the space. I'm regularly on my corporate Sametime network, Jabber (the system Gtalk uses), AOL, and Yahoo!, in order to be available to everyone I need to be, just for work. Very silly.

Jabber uses an Internet standard (XMPP), so Gtalk is the only major IM system that's based on an open standard. Otherwise, we have to rely on bridges, or multi-network clients (I use Trillian on Windows, and Adium on Mac).

I'm looking forward to the day when all the systems migrate to a standard protocol (HA!), and stop trying to distinguish themselves by who has the biggest peni^h^h^h^h user base.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at November 8, 2007 1:48 PM

That's true. Meebo doesn't know when I've left my computer, so it always says I'm online. I hate that. I really relied on my IM client telling people I'd left the keyboard.

But for the large majority of the day, it's accurate.

Clearly, I could IM all of you if I wanted to. Why don't I? I figure you're all busy most of the time. And I am busy, too. Which is why it sometimes makes sense to start a conversation in email and move it over to IM.

Start asynchronously, and then when you both realize you're available for synchronous conversation, bingo.

Barry: Meebo is the online chat client I use for this. Covers Jabber, AOLIM, Yahoo. It has some disadvantages, but I like not having to install a client.

Fragmentation of the IM space is just plain dumb. It's possible they'll never get it together, in which case everyone will just move to using text messages. Big advantage there: it doesn't matter what damn network you're on.

Posted by: James at November 8, 2007 1:58 PM

I like Meebo for several reasons. One reason is that, unlike Google, it doesn't say I'm "away" if I'm online but simply doing something else. I can stay logged in (so I can still receive IMs from Twitter) but disappear off the buddy list by choosing "I'm Invisible."

I don't sign onto IM and stay visible if I'm too busy for IM, so if I'm on the buddy list, that means I'm really around.

Posted by: Julie at November 8, 2007 2:25 PM

I'm back to using the desktop apps Google Talk, Skype, and Pidgin (for AOL). They work well enough for me and I like them better than Meebo or other web equivalents.

Posted by: Mike at November 8, 2007 2:29 PM

I understand why Meebo doesn't have a keyboard timeout feature, but they could work around it simply.

For people like Julie who have a better memory for logging out than I do, the default will suffice -- keep you logged in as long as you're logged in.

For people like me who are forgetful, I'd love, at the very least, a timer function. I could set a time interval (say - 1 hour) and it could register me as "away" if I don't click a timer refresh button or send an actual IM within that time.

It could even IM you at the end of the hour and ask you if you're still there.

This would be very annoying for a user who did not need the feature, which is why it shouldn't be default, and why the user should be the one to set the interval. I can't imagine this would be very hard to do. But it's possible that I am the only one having this problem.

I have told Meebo I miss the automatic "Away" feature. I will probably send them another message on the subject with my above proposal.

Posted by: James at November 8, 2007 2:38 PM

Meebo needs a cute voice.

"Are you still there?"

"Shutting down."

"I don't blame you..."

Posted by: Mike at November 8, 2007 3:00 PM

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