IM vs. E-mail

September 26, 2007

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.

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4 Responses to “IM vs. E-mail”

  1. mikull Says:

    email was that cool thing on the internets i accessed over telnet in college to say hello to all my friends who went to other colleges i couldn’t afford to call…

    now email is mostly for attached files, notices linked in to third party applications, and for GR3AT D3als on PRE_SRCrIpTIONS DRUG-ZZZZZ!!!

    IM changed everything. I would call it the most efficient means of communication for the working professional. I maintain some friendships for months at a time, exclusively, on IM.

    I can say something quick to several people while working, or let people know I can’t say something at the moment. Quick work answers? saying things about people in the room with the guy in the cubicle behind me? Bothering people in other states with questions about a third party app I could usually just find in the documentation? IM, IM, IM.

    I agree, it has it’s place. Many times I get impatient on IM, and say “hey, can I just call you?” – I like the way my Mac links my IM, email, address book, and calendars- I think this trend will continue on multiple platforms in future apps and cross platform OS’s. Well, I think it should anyways.

    Not too in touch. Just right.


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