Instant messaging tools
From [[http://cpsquare.org CPsquare]], the community of practice on communities of practice.
Instant messaging allows users to send small amounts of text interactively from one computer to another, often accumulating messages in a shared text window. Many Instant Message programs allow chats with a small group of known participants in addition to private 1:1 conversations. Instant messaging can be part of a larger platform, so that its integrated with presence and other tools such as profiles and other resources specific to one community or one platform. Conversely, Instant Message programs have become their own platforms, providing buddy lists, VOIP, presence indicators, etc.
Uses in a Community of Practice
Instant Messages can be a great way of providing help and of expressing reciprocity within a community. Instant Messages can be a key back-channel means of communication that is indispensable, especially for leaders and facilitators. Instant Messages with a group of people is discussed under [Chat tools].
This tool offers
- The ability to meet others in the community at a single point in time
- Have an informal conversation with the people you know.
- To increase comprehension other features may be added
- To support various environments,
- Allow back channel in the midst of larger group interactions,
- Other features may be supported.
- Together/apart, Synch/Asynch:
- Open a session, post and read messages, add participants. Create a session with a known user, opening a text window to read and post messages. Often other members are added which share this common window. It is always linked to "presence."
- Useful for private, instant text conversations with one or more people. It is also useful for creating group memory.
- File Transfer. Many IM programs have a file transfer facility that lets you send a file in the midst of a conversation.
- Useful for data transfer during a conversation. But sometimes file transfer using IM is the only way to send a large file to someone else.
- Dynamic Bandwidth Support. System feature for ease of use.
- Useful over low bandwidth connections to international locations where high bandwidth support is often not available.
- Log In/Out. Comment about separate login and userid
- User is typing. Many IM programs will show when the other person has begun typing, although you don't see their message until they press the Enter key.
- Anticipating that the other person is going to say something can help keep the conversation alive and provides a cue as to the progress of the interaction.
- Block users. IMs from someone you don't know can be distracting or irritating. Most IM programs allow you to block messages from and visibility of people from whom you don't want to receive messages.
- History. Many IM programs have an automatic history feature that records all messages.
- Looking up a message or exchange later on can be extremely handy.
- Fade on inactivity. Some chat clients will close their windows after a period of inactivity. Others remain open until closed.
- Firewall blocking. In a corporate setting, a firewall may block Instant Messaging or IM programs may be prohibited.
- Having Instant Messaging blocked by a firewall becomes a problem when a community spans organizational boundaries.
- Group other users by category
- Presence Indicator tools is often bundled with Instant Messaging.
- Programmable Interface. Move to interoperability A programmatic interface to allow users to write programs which can communicate with the tool and control it externally. Useful to integrate the IM client into other tools in order to build an integrated community platform with one common instant messenger communication tool.
- P2P Architecture. Rather than sending a message through a central server, messages go directly from one computer to another.
- A P2P architecture is more or less standard nowadays.
Interoperability between IM protocols and other tools
- Multiple protocols. There are several proprietary IM protocols (e.g., Yahoo=, MSN, AIM) that are not compatible. Being able to exchange IM's with many people may require registration with all three major services. There are clients such as | Trillian which can communicate with more than one protocol.=
- You want to be able to reach anyone in your community, but some people in your community may use a different protocol than you.
- Platform-specific versions. Some web-based discussion platforms provide a kind of Instant Messaging that's platform-specific (e.g., HTML-based). They are convenient because users don't have to register separately or have any software other than a browser on their machines, but messages can get lost if a user doesn't log onto the platform where they are stored.
- To the extent that a community is defined by access to and use of one platform, local IM services are handy, even though eventually they are limited.
- Directory Services. Ability to look up someone in a [T4C:Member directory].
- It may be in the community's interest to make it really easy for people to communicate with Instant Messaging.
- Instant messaging tools and Chatting tools are useful adjuncts to Telephony and teleconferencing tools whether one-to-one or in groups. The differences between these tools can be useful: for example, several people can talk "at once" on IM or Chat, while turn-taking is essential on the phone. Chat transcripts provide a useful first-draft of minutes, action check-lists, or just jottings for memory jogging.
- Yahoo! Messenger
- http://www.meebo.com is an example of a system to bridge across IM protocols using a website
- Trillian from http://www.ceruleanstudios.com/ is a PC client that can talk several different chat and IM protocols
see Chatting tools