What is it?
Instant Messaging (IM) gives you the ability to quickly and simply converse with your contacts in real time, using text. It’s been around in various forms since before the internet existed, and you’ll find many different variations on the idea around today. Modern incarnations are typically quite sophisticated and often to allow you to do more than just post text – you might be able to share images, or use voice or video chat, for example.
Instant messaging comes in a few different flavours:
Web Based: Runs in your browser – You log on to a website to chat. Example of this are Google talk (via Gmail) and meebo.
Single Protocol: Users can chat to peoples who are using the same IM service. Yahoo and Windows Messenger are again, examples of this.
Multi-protocol: Users can chat to people who are using one of several different IM services. Again, meebo does this, as does Pidgin
The phenomenon of Chatroulette (web based video chat) has reared its ugly terrifying head recently. You need a web cam to use this service, so using it at work is not an option. It is also, by and large, not safe for work (NSFW). Basically, it selects random people for you to video chat with, and if you don’t like them, you simply move on to the next person. It just has a bad reputation for people being rather lewd and inappropriate.
Different people tend to prefer different IM services, which are in turn, making multi-protocol services more and more popular. Likewise, browser-based services are rising in popularity – they can go where ever you go, and, increasingly, chat windows can be embedded on the web. Many client-based IM services now offer web-based versions of themselves.
Why Use It?
IM is great for keeping in touch with people, particularly if they live elsewhere in the world. In the Library, the most obvious use is as a reference service, as countless libraries around the world already do. As well as keeping in touch with clients, it’s great for communicating with colleagues in a timely fashion – replacing email in many situations – particularly to get a quick clarification on something, or for conversations that you want (or need) to keep a copy of.
Video chat using services like Skype means friends and family can have ‘face to face’ free conversations from across the globe or across the city.
To Complete Thing 15
For 23 Things, we’re going to be using the web-based version Google Talk, which lives in Gmail. Several of you may have already spotted the program, in the left-hand column. As you’ve e-mailed people, or added them to your contacts, their names would have appeared in the chat box.
- Log in to gmail and see who out of your contacts is online.
- Drop Justin or Helen a line: arotulon at gmail dot com and misskittylix at gmail dot com are our respective contacts.
- If you don’t have the Practically Perfect Programmer on your list, or any other contacts, e-mail thebookbuster at gmail dot com to let her know, and she will provide you with some addresses for other participants.
- See if you can find someone else to strike up a conversation with – just be mindful of their status.