Instant Messengers and Chat

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NOTE: Should we have a separate page for group chat?

Brief Description:

Instant messaging (IM) and chat are technologies that facilitate near real-time text based communication between two or more participants over a network. It is different from e-mail in that it is synchronicity of the communication by the user - messaging happens in real-time before your eyes. However, some systems allow the sending of messages to people not currently logged on (offline messages), thus removing much of the difference between IM and e-mail. Some IM systems allow users to use webcams and Microphone which made them more popular than others. In addition IM has additional features such as: the immediate receipt of acknowledgment or reply, group chatting, conference services (including voice and video), conversation logging and file transfer.
It is possible to save a conversation for later reference.

History:

When to use:

Due to their instant nature in sharing snippets of information, they are popular in many organizations.
In a report of IM use at the workplace Nardi et al. (2000) identifies the four primary functions of IM which are often cited in other reports, namely:
  • Quick Questions and Clarifications
  • Coordinating and scheduling tasks
  • Coordinating impromptu social meetings
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family

Although IMs deliver many benefits, they also carry with them certain risks and liabilities, particularly when used in workplaces. Among these are:
  • Security risks (e.g. IM used to infect computers with spyware, viruses, trojans, worms)
  • Compliance risks
  • Inappropriate use
  • Intellectual property leakage

How to use:

Most IMs need to be downloaded and installed locally. You must have administrator privilege on your computer to be able to install and IM. Once you install it, create an account and share it with your colleagues. Here is a short list of available IMs:

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • IMs are often used to send spywares or viruses. Never accept to download a file unless you are extremely sure of its origin and authenticity. If not careful, you can inadvertently infect the whole network of your organizations.
  • IM can be a great communication tool, but it's also easy to allow it to become a distraction. Unlike e-mail, the dialogue window doesn't close automatically when you send a message. This means that if you're really busy and the other person wants to chit-chat, you will have to take it upon yourself to end the conversation. A polite "Gotta go. Talk to you later." usually does the trick.

Examples & Stories

(add yours)

I am using Yahoo messenger since 1996, my other first instant messaging tools is mirabilis ICQ, microsoft netmeeting and MSN Messenger. I love YM very much. It become my primary contact address. If you cannot contact me by phne. You can drop me offline message through YM. Very efficient and fast. Now, Using GPRS, I can access my yahoo messenger almost anywhere in Indonesia via cellphone. In terms of virus and trojan, the key is stick to your friendlist. Do not accept anything outside your list. It works very well for me. YM is a big help. (bagus utomo, b.utomo@cgiar.org)

During the 2nd KS Workshop, we were four facilitators working regularly "together" on all things relating to the workshop. For example, what should the agenda for the next teleconference be to what we will do during the face-to-face phase. We started off creating new Skype chats for each day but at some point we started using the same chat session! Because we were spread across different time zones the discussions went on even if one or more of us left the chat. The side effect of this was that in the end we used Skype to continuously talk to each other and keep each other in the loop. The fact that we could write to each other even when one of us was not online also made a difference. If we were to work over weeks on a common topic that needed regular discussing, I would recommend using Skype's Chat function! (Gauri Salokhe, gauri.salokhe [at] fao.org).

Who can tell me more?

(add your name/contact email)

Related Methods / Tools / Practices



Resources

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Photo Credit:

Photo by Paul Watson