Among my circle of friends and colleagues, I am known for being IM-resistant. Actually, I am known as technology-resistant, practically a Luddite, and proud of it. But when people actually press me on the issue, I am not always sure how to explain that I am a fan of "almost-IM" more than IM. But what is "almost-IM"?
"Almost-IM" is a term I use for the rapid, practically real-time, response to forum posts and e-mails. Stan Rogers is another person who seems to practice this. although I have no idea whether he also uses regular IM. If you look at the time between e-mails arriving and my responding, it is often a matter of a couple of minutes. The same can be true in the forums, especially when a topic is "hot". The responses will fly back and forth, and it almost seems like a chat would be more efficient. But there is a big difference.
Have you ever had an IM conversation where all of a sudden there was a long pause, sometimes preceded by a quick "brb" ("be right back" for those of you likewise IM-resistant)? Then there are apologies and a resumption of the chat, even if it is no longer convenient for you. Or you leave a message saying "gtg" (i.e., "got to go") and leave the chat yourself.
Have you ever been busy working and had a chat appear suddenly, because you forgot to put up your away message or didn't want to offend anyone? Perhaps they pop up even when you do have an away message. (I wouldn't know, as I never leave IM up).
Have you ever seen somebody on line and sent an IM, just to have silence in response? Are they there and don't want to talk with you? Have they gone to bed and left AIM up? You can leave a message such as "Jim-Bob, are you really there?", which Jim-Bob may feel obligated to answer the next day, even though you have moved on to other things. It feels a bit like having walkie-talkies and continually saying "Can you hear me now?" like those stupid commercials, mostly just to see if the thing is working.
"Almost-IM" solves all these problems. You can respond immediately, or you can respond next week. You can send an e-mail and not expect the other person to drop everything if they happen to be busy. You can respond when you have time without offending anyone. You can give a quick response and impress people, or give a reasoned response and impress people. All this, and you are still your own boss.
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