IM: Not Just for Kids Anymore
September 2, 2004 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Adults are picking up instant messaging in record numbers, with 50% of those over 35 using various systems. This study was funded by AOL, which has a major stake in the instant messaging market through its popular AIM software. But most people who use IM in the workplace are still using free and unsecured systems, despite the availability of secure versions in enterprise software and products like IM Secure.
posted by etoile (8 comments total)
RichardMarx4Eva: OMG! my nu riding lawnmower is AWESUMMMMM!!!!
SupaGolfa: sw33t - I totally gots CATS tickets for tomorra nite! holla!
posted by phong3d at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2004

Trillian and Jabber for teh win.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:30 AM on September 2, 2004

Trillian keeps crashing for me... too bad, I liked the RSS plugin.
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2004

I'd be surprised if IMing catches on as a legitimate workplace tool -- security problems aside, there's the annoyance factor. A couple of people my partner has to deal with at his job insist on using IMs rather than email during the day, and the incessant IM popups drive him up the wall.

IMs demand to be dealt with immediately, while emails can usually wait until you get a chance to read and reply.
posted by chuq at 2:15 PM on September 2, 2004

It depends on the context, chuq. I get AIM on my telephone - with an AIM client, not via SMS. I find that especially when I'm travelling, an AIM session (which I can be connected to continuously) is an outstanding bulletin board for scannable messages. "My plane is delayed." And "Come straight to the conference site." Not to mention the low impact - and quiet - opportunity for quick checkins or replies while waiting in a terminal or some other public area. Or for checking with more than one person, simultaneously.

The way I use AIM stretches "instant;" a side effect of the portability of the telephone is enabling asynchronous communication. And an IM session on a phone may cover many days of interaction, if it's cached. People at desktops IMing with me on my phone have no doubt been totally weirded out by the way I "disappear" and "reappear" as the train I'm on travels through dead spots. Neverthless, it's a brilliant combination of the immediacy of a phone call and the SMS advantage of having the message written down, with better fault-tolerance than cellular phone reception. And it's just ridiculously superior to retrieving voice mail. (Admittedly you're screwed if your battery dies, but you often are anyway.)

I find that "incessant IM popups [that] drive [me] up the wall" are a social issue rather than a technology issue, and can be dealt with accordingly.
posted by caitlinb at 3:48 PM on September 2, 2004

IMing is already a common tool in a lot of large corporations, whether it's external (AIM, MSN Msgr, Y! Msgr, etc.) or internal (like Sametime). I personally think that IMing sensitive internal info via external messaging is a bad idea (duh!) but doing so with an internal client using encrypted traffic works wonderfully well.

For some reason, we've come to use email for nearly every communication task, even those for which it wasn't designed. For me, IM is a great middle ground between phone calls -- which interrupt somebody's tasks and flow -- and emails -- which can be not anywhere near as timely as needed. Likewise, email wasn't really designed to send files, and the limits on attachments are an excellent reminder of this. Email viruses are also a good reason to turn them off completely, now that I think about it. If you need to send a file, there are other methods that should work better.

I'm digressing a tad, but the point is that we can't reduce all communication needs outside of good ol' "f2f" to phone calls and emails. Like with anything else, pick the right tool for the job.
posted by elvolio at 5:32 PM on September 2, 2004

I've always been disappointed that IM hasn't been standardized (we know why, of course) and made more robust with some of the features of e-mail (e.g. an IP log would be nice, and there are other mail headers that would migrate to IM with no trouble at all).

There was (is) a great little app called Wywo that replicates the look and feel of a standard while you were out telephone message pad. We used this at a help desk years ago and it was far superior to anything for leaving those simple "call so and so" or "so and so wanted you to call" whatever messages, especially for folks who were in and out of their cubes all day long. (That office eventually abandoned it in favor of logging everything in the help desk package, alas.) Other clients of mine have found it very easy to use and often send personal notes in it ("Taco Hell for lunch?"). It occurred to me a long time ago that this was basically an IM application, but with a more usable interface, and many of the features that Robust IM should have.

I suspect that if IM has really infiltrated this many corporate environments (not that I have any doubt), the influence of those customers will eventually build a better IM. Maybe not the same better IM that the rest of us want, but it's the only thing I can see outweighing the balkanized protectionist IM of the present.
posted by dhartung at 8:41 PM on September 2, 2004

By the way, the WaPo article was based on a Pew report, which is available in full at the Internet & American Life site (along with their other reports).
posted by caitlinb at 10:29 AM on September 3, 2004

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