On first look, instant messaging (IM) seems just like a teenage distraction machine, churning out bad spelling and constant interruption. Many businesses block employees from using IM clients during work under the assumption that it is used soley to spread gossip, plan lunches, and steer clear of work. But there are other businesses-significantly those in the tech sector-that not only allow but ENCOURAGE instant messaging.
Are these businesses run by teens? What value will IMing bring to the place of work? Where does IM fall in? Consider each of these points separately. Connection. Yes, IM is one more thing to download, one more thing to have operating on your pc. Of the day It relies on people being in front of their computer most. But unlike every other communication medium, IM offers a guaranteed method for the communicator to know if the communicatee is available for discussion.
Lists of contacts, with their “available,” “busy,” and “away” notation inform you if the person you are trying to reach is at their computer. There is no concern that the individual will never read the email or grab the message–IM is mainly a real-time activity. And, unlike face-to-face or phone meetings, which are also real-time, you don’t need to preschedule; you can find out instantly whether the person is available or not.
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The second part of “connection” is due to platform versatility. If you call my home and I’m out with my cell, or vice versa, you might not get me. If I email you at your work address, and you do not check that one on the weekend, I’m out of luck.
I may be available for conversation, but you’ve chosen the incorrect system/location to find me. IM shares this problem; unless you come with an IM client, I can’t IM you. However, luckily, the secondary problem associated with this (you use AIM, I take advantage of Gchat) is ameliorated if you use a worldwide IM customer like Trillian or Adium. These (free) IM clients combine your contacts from AIM, yahoo, ICQ, all sorts of clients, and that means you can IM universally. Content. IM is not used for dissertations; its principal use is perfect for short queries. Every communication medium has its etiquette, and IMing is more permissive of curt, quick messaging that the e-mail or telephone. IM supports low-context, straightforward transfer of information.
If I have to know what our visitorship was the other day, I don’t need to make it into a multi-sentence email or call for a chat. I can just IM you the question, and you may send me the true amount. IM also offers an unusual capability to transfer large files, a task that is onerous over email or FTP sites sometimes. I worked with a composer who transferred all of his audio files to me via IM almost. Yes, unlike email or FTP, it required a real-time transaction between us, however the files downloaded faster and with fewer crashes than FTP or email would allow. Distraction. Is IM distracting?
Potentially. But unlike voice-based communication, it does not distract those around you. Like email, IM is something that can paralyze your computer-based work or not, depending about how it is managed by you. You are able to set your profile as “busy” or “away” unless you desire to be disturbed. And if you are thoughtful about when to use IM and when to pick up the phone, it can save a lot of time.
The same composer who delivered me files would often IM me to ask a quick question. Occasionally, those quick questions turned into larger discussions, and we’d immediately switch to the mobile phone. When IM was sufficient, it was the fastest way to produce a quick decision. When it wasn’t, we upgraded.