November 7, 2009

Hey are you there?

David [10:45 AM]: Hey do you IM?

I'm sure you do but do you Instant Message at work?

I do and I find it to be a productive tool. It works particularly when when all I need is a simple answer. So instead of composing an email, sending it and waiting for an answer, I Instant Message for info, get my answer and move on to the next task.

Simple right? Not really! Much like with email there are subtleties. For example I've found that there are two styles to initiating IM chats.

The first style is when people type their query and hit send. This is done Twitter fashion...that is to say the message is brief one or two lines saying it all - for example:

David [10:45 AM]: Rick, can you send me the link to that article on the Chinese market?

Rick [10:50 AM]: Yup here it is

The other style is a two step approach. This is when the initiator says hello first then makes the ask. Here's an example of how this style would work:

David [10:45 AM]: Hey

Rick [10:50 AM]: Hi whats new? Did you see that episode of Trauma last night?

David [10:59 AM]: Wow when the helicopter went down...intense! But I was working on a deliverable while it was on. Can't live without my Bell Aliant PVR! Can you send me the link to that article on China?

Rick [11:30AM]: Here it is

Can you tell which style is my preferred mode?

Its the first one - I prefer to get the ask out up front. It saves time - I get the info in 5 minutes not 45. I admit that sometimes I do the "Hey are you there?" when I see someone's status is away or when I think they are really there but cloaked. But its rare.

I believe IM should be approached the way email is sent - get the ask into the first three lines of the email and use the rest for additional info or back up.

Now imagine if you were to get the "Hey are you there?" in an email. I bet your mind would first try to establish if the subject is something important or is the sender just going to ask me about last night's episode of Trauma.

I'd think the latter and hit shift-delete right away. Wouldn't you?

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