You know, we’re living in a society!
I think it’s time to reclaim a little bit of civilized behavior and apply it back to IMs. I can handle that interpersonal communications have, over time, removed the personal part of it… and often times the communication as well. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, because I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. But I’m going to stop from now on.
Sending messages without context is pretty common, it leads to confusion, but it’s not a high sin. Sending blind URLs without context, on the other hand, was one of those things that separated man from spambot. In the earlier days of IM when you got a message, even from someone you knew, that was nothing more than a link with no hello or any manner of greeting… you didn’t click it as it could have lead to anything. In the past week though, I’ve gotten a lot of IMs from people with just a URL. Even if its mid-conversation, there’s nothing really detailing what the URL is, or in some cases the URL is sent about something we chatted about 5-10 mins prior but had moved onto something else. And it isn’t that I didn’t want to see what was behind the link, but at least tell me what you’re sending and why.
It especially applies to YouTube/video links. Mostly because my internet video tolerance is really low. Many of them just aren’t that funny, often too long, too loud, and backed by horrid music (even the semi-professional ones). If I’m at work, chances are I don’t have time (or enough privacy) to watch a video. When sending a link to a video, you have to think of yourself like a star appearing on a talk show: “Why don’t you set up this clip for us?” If I’m at work I’m probably chatting while multi-tasking, unless I’m using an Adobe product which means that I can’t even move the mouse too fast or it’ll lock up my system. And when I’m at home I’m playing a game or watching tv. So pretty much if you don’t give me a reason to stop what I’m doing and check out the video, I ain’t clicking until I’ve asked what it is, and usually the answer is along the vague lines of “something funny”.
I was recently sent a link to a domain that the office network had on the block list. We had been talking about it, but it was no longer in my short term memory — who needs memory when you have an IM text buffer? In that case sending the link was saving the time of explaining what I’d find at the site, except that it was a blocked site, so he had to explain anyway. The reason I didn’t know ahead of time that the site was blocked brings me to my next pet peeve… TinyURL.
I actually love TinyURL when it’s used properly, but most often it isn’t. It’s great for shortening a link which would send the IM scrollbar a inch off, or might get broken up by someone’s chat program, but TinyURL takes context even further off the grid. At least with most long URLs, you have an idea what it is from just reading it. When it gets shrunk, especially with no interstitial page, you’re really flying blind.
Someone else sent me a link that was spoiler-ific. Again, there was no hello, but a link to a picture at a hosting service. Since I know the person, I clicked on it. By the time it had come up (on my older mac mini, so it was a little slow) he sends “Oh, wait.” “Don’t click on that if you don’t want to be spoiled.” Huh… a wee bit too late. I’m not all that rabid about spoilers, and I’d read an article earlier that alluded to what he sent, but still if he’d set up that link properly chances are I wouldn’t have clicked it.
It’s like George says, “We’re living in a society!” I stay on the fence about just how different my forms of online communication should be from my face to face interactions, but I think I need my IMs to still retain a hint of conversation instead of dissemination. Speaking of face to face, I’m already running a little late to meet Chris while he’s in town for a conference. I hope no one in the area was held up too much by the “snow”. I’m with Fredo here, no more teases on the winter weather. Give us a nice last shout of snow and ice or just give it up and send in Spring, please!