Instant Messaging is What You Make Of It

Opinion: Like any other tool, instant messaging can be used for good or evil. But for David Coursey, it's a mission critical application.

So why does my colleague John (never forget the middle initial "C") Dvorak hate instant messaging and chat so much?

After reading his recent column, I had to admit that he made some valid points. Online chat can soak up huge amounts of time and accomplish nothing or actually get you into trouble. No question about that. But like any other tool, IM and chat are morally neutral How we use it is really up to us. And in my life, instant messaging is what enterprise folks like to call a "mission critical" application. I use it all the time, every day, as an important part of my business.For example, I was setting up a conference call yesterday with Rob Enderle and a woman from Adobe to talk about a conference were all part of. I had the woman on the phone, and called Rob— but he didnt answer. So I called his cell, and he answered, whispering that he was on another call that ran late. I told him Id handle the call until he became available.A few minutes later, an IM from Rob popped up, telling me hed finished the first call. I called him and added him into the conference. Without IM, Rob would have had to call me and adding him to the conference would have still required calling him back. Thanks to IM, the disruption was minimal.I work with people in both Texas and Nevada who help me with my business. While we often talk on the phone or send e-mail, weve found that for a quick question, or one that could be answered when the person returned to their desk, an IM works very well. Weve also used IM as a "back channel" to talk to a colleague while on a call with a client.p>/zimages/3/28571.gifFor more on instant messaging and collaboration, check outeWEEK.coms Messaging Center at for more on IM and other collaboration technologies. Be sure to add our messaging and collaboration news feed to your RSS newsreader: /zimages/3/19420.gifBack when I used to do a daily radio program from my home office, I used IM exclusively to communicate with the shows producers back at the radio station. Id even get an occasional IM from listeners who knew my user name on Yahoo.Have I mentioned that IM-ing beats yelling to someone downstairs in my house? Its also a way to have long, asynchronous conversations with old friends, the sorts of things that never end but dont move very quickly, either. There are probably a dozen good friends that I mostly talk with over IM, although we still pick up the phone from time to timeDo I also waste a lot of time on IM and chat? Yes, though its mostly free time that Id otherwise spend watching TV or listening to my old radio programs. So its not like its a total waste. Do IMs sometimes interrupt what I am doing? Yes, like during the writing of this column Ive probably talked to four or five different people. I really do need to make better use of the "away" feature of the chat clients I use.So while I understand Johns column, I have a completely different opinion of IM and chat. Ive been using it for years and, frankly, my life is a lot richer–both personally and in a business sense–because of it.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more from David Coursey in his Weblog, "David Coursey Today".