I really do hate IM. Not because I use it for more than 80% of the time, but because it is so annoying. Wait a minute, did I say “IM”? I meant E-mail. Sorry for the confusion. I love IM. Way better than E-mail (at least for most things). Don’t get me wrong, if I received as many IM’s in a day as e-mail’s I would really never get anything done.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the new communication world. I use Twitter (sort of) and I have an active Facebook account, I love LinkedIn and more than 75% of my IM list are either people that I work with directly or users of our software CommonSpot. And you know what, I really don’t mind.
I look at the people that I IM for work as “my” community. Those individuals that don’t have to wait for e-mail. If I am there, and I am not busy then let’s go for it. Get it out of the way. The great thing about it is, the people that I IM know when to IM and when to E-mail. And it is not like it is some written rule like we agreed: “Subjects that begin with A and B are E-mail material while, X through Z are IM … got it?”. It is understood.
E-mail me with the details of the proposal that you need or the contact information for that person that you need me to talk to. IM me when I haven’t done it in 4 days. Or when you have a quick question and just need to know if there is an answer out there. IM me when you are interested in how I am doing or what I have been up to (although I am relying on Twitter to handle the day to days from now on). Don’t send me lengthy IM’s and don’t send me short E-mails.
One might think that with “clients” online at all time (10 or so are on right now) that I spend most of my time IM’ing. In fact, I don’t. However, there are a few things about IM that make the interruptions “bearable”.
1.) I don’t have to answer… more often than not, a failed IM is _not_ followed up by an email. Either they found what they were looking for, or after some thought realized that it was not important (Note: I don’t miss a _lot_ of IM messages =)
2.) I can talk to more than one person at a time… It is not uncommon to have 3 or 4 conversations going at time. Although I prefer one open channel at once, my brain can handle many topics at a time. (Gets tricky when you accidentally post to your wife that you think the proposal looks good and you hope they like the numbers)
3.) Makes reading e-mail a bit easier… if you have a question that requires a 2 second response, don’t take up space in my inbox (I only get 500MB which is very difficult to maintain these days – even with auto archive set to ‘on’)
4.) I feel more in touch with people – but not too in touch… when the tables are turned and I need something or I want to say thanks, it is a less intrusive way to say so. Don’t stop what you are doing, but let me tell you something…
5.) People feel more in touch with me – but not too in touch… when the see me on line and the want to just say hi, it is better than e-mail. I have had 2 hour conversations over IM (while watching TV or doing other work).
I am not saying that IM is the answer to this communication problem we have these days. However, I am saying, that it has a place. It fits right in between E-mail and the Phone. In some respects it is even better than the phone. Try having 4 phone conversations at the same time. Can’t happen.