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IM Usage & Awareness Services 203

CowboyRobot writes "Queue has two related articles on Instant Messaging. The first, written by two Sun Labs researchers, looks at the lack of standards in IM protocols, as well as the preception that the distracting nature of IM precludes it from being a more useful communications medium. Their solutions involve new 'Awareness Services' and they summarize three research prototypes: 'Awarenex', 'Rhythm Awareness', and 'Lilsys'. The second includes the results of an AT&T Labs study of IM use. Among the findings, "Despite the perception that IM is commonly used for social purposes in the workplace, we found that was rarely the case. Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal.""
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IM Usage & Awareness Services

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  • by iantri ( 687643 ) <iantri @ g mx.net> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:02AM (#7597794) Homepage
    I know people said the same thing about e-mail, but what good does IM do in the office?

    Furthermore, what about the security issues.. people are going to want to bring in their own copy of AIM/Y!/MSN Messenger to chat with friends.. doesn't this pose a security risk?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:05AM (#7597816)
      It allows people to talk to each other without turning away from their screens, increasing productivity!
      Security-wise, you'd have IM only allowed internally (all external connection attempts blocked) on a work-supllied version of whatever you're using.
    • by marc_gerges ( 561641 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:07AM (#7597828)
      Been heavily involved in a huge IT project. It ran purely on IM.

      IM is just invaluable when you deal with dozens or hundreds of people in a handful of time zones, many of them travelling around, often no phones around... there's nothing as useful as dropping a message and get near instant return on your question.
      • by mwood ( 25379 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:07AM (#7598207)
        I remain unconvinced. Much of what people want me to do is not U R G E N T but can wait until I take care of it. The truly urgent stuff that happens maybe three times a year can be handled by phone.

        Send me an email. If I'm at my desk, tkbiff makes a noise and I'll probably deal with it immediately; if I'm away from my desk you won't get much from me until I return anyway.

        I remember IM from the days of PLATO. (Anybody here old enough to remember PLATO?) My first two thoughts were, "wow, neato!" and "but what would I actually do with it?" There was some DECnet chat thingy that I played with for a few minutes, which pretty much confirmed my opinion of chat thingies even before DEC took it out. Before that it was possible to link terminals on TOPS-20 and communicate by typing Exec comments to each other, and wow wasn't that less rewarding than expected.

        Some of us work best asynchronously. Put some work in my queue and it'll get done. Distract me with IM and I'll turn the IM gadget off.
        • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:16AM (#7598270) Homepage Journal
          You didn't read this part:
          IM is just invaluable when you deal with dozens or hundreds of people in a handful of time zones
          Right now I'm doing a project where part of the team is offshore in India. We couldn't really miss IM.
        • by DarthTaco ( 687646 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:53AM (#7598510)
          If you don't like it, don't use it... and you don't. So why complain to slashdot about it?

          IM is more interactive than e-mail, but not as resource demanding as using a phone. I mean, I can talk to someone on a phone and work if I'm talking about what I'm working on. But if I'm talking to my wife, the keyboard stops.

          Now with IM, I can go back and forth quite easily and smoothly. If I am chatting with my wife on IM, the keyboard doesn't have to stop. If I don't reply in a minute or two, people get the idea that I'm busy.

          With e-mail, if I don't reply in a minute or two, that doesn't mean squat. The message might be delayed, I might have closed my e-mail client, or any number of things. People don't expect a prompt repsonse from an e-mail.

          If you think IM is somehow distracting, how can you handle a telephone ring?
        • Looking at your post I noticed one major difference between it and the parent. All of your examples related to people tasking you with things to do. His post had to do with back and forth discussions between peers. That is the critical difference. I could imagine that if the only reason that people contacted me was to give me more work, IM would be very annoying. That is what ticket queues were created for (and email also works fine for smaller uses, where the 'customers' only have one person to contact to
      • Time zones, eh? So, the guy in Delhi IMs me, but I'm at home asleep. Huh -- no answer. If he'd emailed me I'd have seen it next morning and fired off an answer for him to read when *he* wakes up.

        What I wouldn't have given, years ago, to be able to email that development group in Australia instead of waiting for the time when I might find someone by the phone!
    • by AchmedHabib ( 696882 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:07AM (#7597836)
      I have co-workers who are located in different buildings. So IM is great here. You can see if people are at their desk. it's somewhere in between a phone call and a email. Like whats that perl script you've got running on server X, it's eating up all resources! I just talk to them on IM instead of calling. but I can't wait for them to answer the email. and when you DO need to call somone, I always check IM first to see if they are at their PC.
      • whats that perl script you've got running on server X

        That made me laugh - We use it for that at work and it often will interpret characters in a pasted script and convert them to "smileys"...
    • by realfake ( 302363 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:10AM (#7597855)
      I work for a medium-sized content website; IM has become pretty deeply ingrained in the way people communicate around here. One good example: we use it to coordinate making new areas of the site live; the content people can sit at their own desks and launch content using our CMS, we can sit at our own desks to move code from the development server to the live server. And we QA as we go (we don't have a formal QA team). I can't imagine being able to coordinate this process so well in any other medium.
    • by chipster ( 661352 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:11AM (#7597861)
      I thought the same thing at first...but it actually does lots of good.

      Our CIO made a certain IM client standard throughout the company, and all tech folks are *required* to have an IM account.

      We find ourselves using it more often than not. For example, our HQ is in CA, and our Data Center is in MN. Instant messenging comes in handy while working on remote projects, troubleshooting, etc. We have a *ton* of remote offices with folks in them.

      I don't know about you, but I am not much of a "phone person", and I find IM to be somewhat of a "happy medium" between phone and email.

    • little less formal, so people use it more willingly. of course this is just an attitude question, but that's how it is though. also if there's channels other people can learn from others problems, or interfere with the chat if there's something they know about the issue(same with mailinglists though, so again it's just an attitude/formalness question). it's more handy for quick oneliners than email is as well, if you need the answer quick(and especially if it's totally meaningless unless you get the answer
    • by Anonymous Coward
      For the record Sun Microsystems has their own Instant Messaging product. And internally, they use a mix of their own messaging product and Jabber. A necessity as many engineers in the company work remotely or from home as reported by an earlier Slashdot story (approximately 13,000 employees working remote).
    • One really good use is when you are coding something and there is someone else in the code base (or others in the codebase), you can IM them and coordinate efforts. For example, you want to ask Sam if he's made modifications to foo.cpp. Or, you want to ask him about some code in foo.cpp. You can copy it into the IM real fast. and talk together about the code snippet. Another example, is you can often send files through IM which is real useful.
  • how was this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:02AM (#7597797)
    how is it legal to monitor IM sessions without
    the other parties consent?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      When your on their dime you have no rights.
    • by rking ( 32070 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:08AM (#7597841)
      The people were probably aware that their conversations (on company time) were being recorded and potentially monitored. That might cause you to doubt the accuracy of the results as people knowing they were being monitored might act differently to normal but it seems as though the conversations were over the period of more than a year, not just collected for the purpose of the study so they probably were using it just the way anyone would in the workplace.
    • Didn't you get the memo?
    • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:34AM (#7597994)
      how is it legal to monitor IM sessions without the other parties consent?

      Companies have the right to monitor all IM, e-mail, files on their premises. This is more than just an issue of "their house, their rules." If some employee is using IM/email to perpetrate a crime (e.g. sexual harassment, fraud, etc.), the company can be held liable for not doing something about it. Thus, at some level, companies have an obligation to monitor all IM, e-mail, files on their premises. If some companies choose not monitor, then it is because they are very trusting, foolish, or corrupt.
      • [Because of duty to combat harrassment etc.] "companies have an obligation to monitor all IM, e-mail, files on their premises."

        Wouldn't blanket monitoring open the company to *increased* liability? Surely the way to go is to wait for a complaint/subpoena and then monitor *only* what is requested by the court.
        • Wouldn't blanket monitoring open the company to *increased* liability? Surely the way to go is to wait for a complaint/subpoena and then monitor *only* what is requested by the court.

          "Don't ask, don't tell" may work in the U.S. Army, but a blind corporate eye may not be a sufficient defense in court. A 2000 article [findarticles.com] suggests that companies can be held liable for harassment in any media once any knowledge of harassment surfaces. A 2002 article [com.com] suggests that many large companies can and do monitor email a
          • "Knowledge of harrassment" sounds like a formal complaint to me. That is, a piece of paper with a signature and specifics that would allow me to limit the search (and our exposure) rather severely. And even then, absent a court order, I'd want our counsel's opinion that we would be permitted to make such a search. We can be sued by *either party* if we do the wrong thing.
  • by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:04AM (#7597812) Homepage
    couldnt get anything done without it. Phones are much more distracting- you need to interrupt whatever you're doing for the duration of the conversation, whereas IM can be responded to whenever a free moment is had. It has a sense of urgency to it which Email does not- when you send an e-mail, you can't be sure that anyone will even respond.

    As for turning around and talking to the person who's, after all, sitting right next to me anyway.. that can never lead to anything good.
    • I noticed that it was also quite handy for leaving a message with someone too. Voicemail has a bit of a lag to it, but if someone's away you can pop a message up on their machine for when they come back and they see that the moment they sit down. Not to mention you can speculate about the manager's drug habits and sexual preferences in relation to dead goats with that team mate in another state during those obnoxious conference calls.
    • by fruey ( 563914 )
      It has a sense of urgency to it which Email does not- when you send an e-mail, you can't be sure that anyone will even respond.

      Precisely. People don't respond to email. That's where IM has the advantage - you KNOW when people are online (and willing to be seen as online), and therefore they actually have to have an excuse as to why they don't reply.

      Spam, poor email strategy in the workplace, lack of tracking, problems with the traces email leave... all mean that IM works in a completely different paradi

  • Wow! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Decaffeinated Jedi ( 648571 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:06AM (#7597823) Homepage Journal
    "Despite the perception that IM is commonly used for social purposes in the workplace, we found that was rarely the case. Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal."
    Wow... that's pretty surprising. I'm hard-pressed to come up with any non-personal uses for IM in the workplace.

    Meanwhile, from the first article:

    "That is, beyond the instant text-chat capability and sense of presence among online colleagues that IM provides, what other cues of activity should collaborators share to help coordinate their work? When a person you want to contact is not present, what information can the system provide to help you coordinate contact in the future? Even when you are physically present, can the system provide cues for when you are mentally receptive, or 'available,' to being interrupted?"
    Don't most (if not all) IM clients do that already with their status alerts and away messages? If you ask me, "awareness services" sounds like just another new buzzword for an old idea...
    • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:27AM (#7597944)
      I'm hard-pressed to come up with any non-personal uses for IM in the workplace.

      Round here, we often use IM as a means to communicate hard-to-say items while on the phone - shell commands, lines from .ini files, SQL queries, code snippets. Another good use is to check if it's a convenient time to phone. Another is to leave time-sensitive notes "it will be ready in 5 minutes". Or to leave notes for people "so and so called" since everything is timestamped.

      Basically, IM is ultra-lightweight email, and once you're used to it, it's a great time saver. Now we just use email for things that are expected to persist or for things that need to be refined before being sent.
    • Wow... that's pretty surprising. I'm hard-pressed to come up with any non-personal uses for IM in the workplace.

      Don't you have to communicate with other people where you work?
    • I've been working and integrating with Lotus Sametime [lotus.com] for some years now and it's "awareness" is quite impressive.

      Sametime's awareness allows us, for instance, to easily display on a web page which ones of your buddys are also browsing through the same page (and this is done server side). The same thing with Lotus Notes and any Notes-based application. In the new Notes 6.5 you can right-click the name of someone who sent you an e-mail and start chatting with them.

      In no way I want to defend Sametime, it ha
    • Wow... that's pretty surprising. I'm hard-pressed to come up with any non-personal uses for IM in the workplace.

      Personally while I do use AIM for some personal reasons at work, the sole reason I installed it in the first place is work related.

      I'm a programmer (mostly ASP.NET with a winforms project here and there) for a bank and while there are a handful of other developers scattered throughout various departments they're not very high-level concept wise and only a couple of them have even started to scr

  • by pvt_medic ( 715692 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:07AM (#7597831)
    There is a growing momentum though for corporate versions of IM software. While I know AOL is not the only one, it is a quick and easy example. AOL has info about its corporate IM service [aim.com]. With a overview of what they offer here. [aim.com]
  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:07AM (#7597833) Homepage Journal
    Since email is typically just stashed on a server somewhere, information and knowledge can accumulate for years before some nosy IT monkey decides to cap off everyone's mailbox limit.

    IM, it seems to me, just doesn't have the permanency and longevity that email does.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      IM, it seems to me, just doesn't have the permanency and longevity that email does.

      Actually, IM's ephemeral nature can be selling point. All those conversations about where to go to lunch probably don't deserve long-term storage. Years ago researchers were writing papers about how email was being used for too many incompatible tasks; IM helps solve that problem.

      Granted, there are situations where IMs contain useful information or by law must be recorded, but logging IMs is generally easy when necessary.
    • enable logging..

      and also because of this feeling(that it doesn't get archived for years, which it just might anyways) people use it differently than they use email, they don't hesitate so much to say something or spend so much time thinking how to put it. less wasted time for really simple messages, and better for realtime discussion than sending emails back and forth.

    • Most IM programs have the ability to log chats to a specific directory. I believe Trillian does it by default for each user you IM.
      I have found myself going back to those logs frequently when discussing coding projects.

      If you need to maintain a backup, burn the old logs to a cd or just log the messages to a backed up file server.
    • IM, it seems to me, just doesn't have the permanency and longevity that email does.

      This is a Good Thing -- I'd reckon that 95% or more of business correspondence (including email, memos, IM, voicemail, etc.) is ephemeral and has no informative value after it's been received.

      More data != more information != more knowledge.
  • Best Work Tool Ever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzybunny ( 112938 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:09AM (#7597853) Homepage Journal

    I had an 18 month project at a major international investment bank, helping them put together their firewall/network security team.

    They had a purely internal IRC backbone; officially, the company used Interchange chat (piece of crap), but at the time, all IRC clients could connect. I found this to be the most amazing productivity tool I've ever seen.

    A web page allowed "registration" of channels and bots, although generally all the usual IRC flexibility was kept (dynamic channel creation, 1-1 chat, etc.) Users' workstation logins were automatically used as chat logins by the IC clients; their only other real additional use was quick file uploads, which generated a link from the channel bot (assuming there was one) that was posted to the whole channel.

    Loads of people got in touch with us that way, to ask us about architecture or production question; it was great, as it took away the slowness, asynchronous nature ("me too!") and fear of leaving a paper trail (hence formality) of email, and allowed far better conferencing with larger groups of people than the phone. I've noticed that people also tend to be more succinct and able to express themselves in quick bursts of text--if there was any problem, you could always pick up the phone on the side.

    The thing was also good for quickly sending (DCC) files around, production and support teams scripted massive numbers of bots to reply to a wide number of queries (phone, dns, system/application status), and it allowed people to keep an eye on technical issues that arose which might affect them, without having to bother with the inflexibility of regular lines of reporting (clueless helpdesk people.)

    The system was slated to die, to be replaced by a "proprietary" chat network, which makes me sad. I've never seen anything so eminently usable for technical work in a large organization.
    • "I've noticed that people also tend to be more succinct and able to express themselves in quick bursts of text--if there was any problem, you could always pick up the phone on the side."

      In some situations this is true, but I guess it only really holds where everyone involved knows the subject domain equally well. for example, I've found the exact opposite: in work we use IRC for realtime tutorials on our DL programming courses and, while most of the students (mainly part time postgrads working at various c

      • This is true, as with any tool. Frankly, I've encountered far more blubbering and failure to GET TO THE POINT on the phone than I have in real life, far more evasion and equivocation on email than in IRC. What was unique about my situation is that this was a "core" work application; each user had it installed (ca. 80,000) and most used it regularly. This is extremely conducive to learning how to communicate effectively.
    • I had an 18 month project at a major international investment bank, helping them put together their firewall/network security team.
      ...and fear of leaving a paper trail (hence formality) of email...

      Am I the only one who noticed the potentially illegal attempt at bypassing the legal paper trail required by law?
      • I like that "fear of leaving a paper trail". It makes people forget about badmouthing others and cut to the actual problem.

        I like formality. When people take the time to figure out how to say what they think, I spend less time trying to figure it out for them.
  • Jabber? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:10AM (#7597854) Homepage
    the lack of standards in IM protocols, as well as the preception that the distracting nature of IM precludes it from being a more useful communications medium

    It's too bad that the Jabber project has been largely dismissed as a chat-thingy, when it could solve real problems in a workplace.

    Say you're spellchecking a document at work, and your wordprocessor doesn't recognize a deparment name. Your word processor could use Jabber to check other word processors in your organization if they know of the word in question.

    I recently read Peer-to-Peer - Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies [oreilly.com]. An excellent book, containing, among other things, a chapter on Jabber.
    • Re:Jabber? (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheMidget ( 512188 )
      Say you're spellchecking a document at work, and your wordprocessor doesn't recognize a deparment name.

      Ha!

      Your word processor could use Jabber to check other word processors in your organization if they know of the word in question.

      Hmm, unfortunately, no other wordprocessor knows what a "deparment" is either...

    • Re:Jabber? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rich ( 9681 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:45AM (#7598061) Homepage
      One of the problems with Jabber is that it isn't really a very good protocol. The fact that it doesn't close the outer tags until the end of a session makes it impossible to implement efficiently using the standard XML tools (the memory requirements are ridiculous).

      If you want to make a standard XML format for chat, then first thing to do is look at where Jabber went wrong and start again.
      • "The standard tools"? DOM may be easier to use for many applications, but it's not the only option. I think SAX would work just fine for parsing Jabber.
      • Re:Jabber? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jerf ( 17166 )
        Not really true, it just a teensy-weensy bit of cleverness... assuming you're talking about DOM and not SAX (which requires no cleverness at all and has no significant memory impact), instead of feeding the entire document to your DOM library, feed each chunk to the DOM library. If you're brave there's some very simple string search heuristics that you can use that for all intents and purposes are 100% effective on a Jabber stream, even though in theory they could go wrong.

        Been here, done this, have the co
        • Yes, but a well designed XML-based protocol wouldn't need you to mess about like that. You can work around these things, but there's no reason why should have to. Using SAX is still a problem if you use a validating parser (it's true you can use it if you disable validation).

          Rich.
          • Re:Jabber? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:43PM (#7599604) Journal
            The problem is not the protocol, the problem is XML's insistence on "one XML document per stream" being a rock-hard rule. I consider a mistake but Tim Bray [xml.com] says it's an advantage in just this situation.

            If you could have more then one root element then your DOM library would already support multiple documents coming in as discrete chunks.

            There's really no way in an XML protocol around this; dispense with the element at the beginning and you can no longer think of the Jabber communication as a single XML document. Now you've got other problems.

            Of course you can now say "Well Jabber shouldn't be XML then" (though I don't know that you personally would), but of course Jabber is XML for other reasons, reasons I consider very good ones. (Few people have truly taken advantage of these reasons but I'm working on it; part of the problem is that I'm first having to build an innovative way to parse XML because neither DOM nor SAX paradigms work; but again, that's a weakness of the XML libraries, not Jabber!)
            • I don't really accept this argument because there is no reason why you could not use the same stream to transmit multiple documents. You are correct that you can only have one root node per document but I'm not aware of anything in the XML specs that even discusses the transmition medium beyond discussing the encoding.

              For the record - I think XML is a good choice, but I think Jabber throws away many of the advantages that you can gain by using it.
    • I've worked with Jabber in the workplace, and the biggest problems with Jabber all center around the way the project has been at a near-standstill for the past few years.

      Jabber 1.x is the only version available, but it's buggy as hell and the transports are either obsoleted (read: non-working) or crash-prone. Jabber 2 is supposed to fix a lot of the headaches, but it's been on the way for years-- and even after they release the server, it'll be months to years before updated transports are created for Jabb
  • by trystanu ( 691619 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:12AM (#7597869) Homepage
    Where did the data for the study come from?

    Were the participants informed that their conversations were to be monitored during this period? from study 2 [acmqueue.com]

    "303,648 messages comprising 21,213 conversations between 692 pairs of people".
    It sounds like they sampled a single population (only 700 users), perhaps from a single organisation that knew they were being monitored? If so the data surely needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Methodology (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stile 65 ( 722451 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:12AM (#7597870) Homepage Journal
    How did Isaacs (second study) decide whose IM usage to monitor?

    To comply with ethics and privacy laws, did she have to notify users that their IM conversations would be monitored? Or ask them if they accepted that their IM conversations would be monitored?

    Also, were the users able to converse via IM with users outside the company? If so, were those conversations monitored as well?

    I'm not saying the results are biased, I'm just saying I wish Isaacs revealed more about the sample.
    • More importantly, if they did tell their users that their IM conversation would be monitored, how would that have affected what conversations that were going on.

      If I knew that my yahoo chat messages were being logged, I'd be careful of what I typed. How they observed the participants woudl have severely affected their findings.

      • Most large US companies have some kind of blanket statement for 'computer and electronic media use' which covers phone conversations as well. Usually it's in with the 'i will not make personal phone calls to distant countries' clauses. In some cases it's a message that pops up every time you boot up your computer. And it's there for exactly those reasons: Your email and IM may be monitored, your web use may be monitored, and they may not tell you. IT's gotten some interesting challenges in recent years, but
        • That's what I was saying, actually. Presumably people read the AUP/TOS for their employers' computer systems before coming onboard with the company. If I saw a clause like that and knew they had the technical capability of monitoring my usage, I wouldn't use IM for personal purposes or read Slashdot at work. ;)
    • Exactly If someone knows their conversation might be monitored then they won't talk about personal things. The results are skewed. I bet even a slashdot pole would be more accurate :)
  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:12AM (#7597871) Journal

    Quite often, people exchange quite a bit of crucial information across the convenience of instant messaging: passwords, credit card numbers, personal information, and so on. Unfortunately, IM companies often forget that they leave their messaging completely unsecure, so anyone who can sniff the packets can steal all their information, especially after AOL screwed all PGP encrypted messages when trying to stop Trillian.

    In fact, Echelon is infamous for sniffing a lot of traffic from AIM and ICQ, and anyone who thinks MSN is secure is crazy. Even though it might catch some Al-Qaeda terrorists, even they have human rights, including the right to privacy. After all, it might be you who are the terrorist one day, and you might get sent to Camp X-Ray for sending the wrong IM as a joke.

    • Many enterprise level IM systems support crypto. Lotus Sametime uses SSL I believe.

      As for a right to privacy, there is none. At least not in the US. Courts have been arguing in recent years that there is such a right, but there is absolutely nothing in the Consitution regarding a universal right to privacy. A right to not be subjected to unlawful searches perhaps, but no basic privacy right.
      • right to not be subjected to unlawful searches perhaps, but no basic privacy right.

        Here is the text of the 4th Amendment:

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        Where in this do you get the impression that persist

    • This is why I use SimpLite [secway.fr] with Trillian (or MSN Messenger)

      Encrypts everything, works very well.
  • Interesting (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:16AM (#7597887)
    "the results of an AT&T Labs study of IM use. Among the findings, "Despite the perception that IM is commonly used for social purposes in the workplace, we found that was rarely the case. Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal."""

    Left hand, meet right hand. We actually have been told at AT&T to NOT use IM at all. Whee.
    • What division? I know for a fact that the normal landline/bundled customer service tiers use X-terminals with tightly controlled software; IM isn't an option there, period.

      I'm not too sure on the straight cellphone division; they use Windows NT, but I'm not sure of the access controls since bundled billing used Citrix to access the wireless systems last I knew.

      I wonder how much has changed in three years.
  • by ishmalius ( 153450 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:19AM (#7597901)
    Does the submitter not read the article, either? The abstract says:
    The first, written by two Sun Labs researchers, looks at the lack of standards in IM protocols, (...etc...)
    ...yet the very first sentence of the article says:
    The recent rise in popularity of IM (instant messaging) has driven the development of platforms and the emergence of standards to support IM.
    I think there is a disconnect here.
  • by donnyspi ( 701349 ) <junk5@@@donnyspi...com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:19AM (#7597902) Homepage
    For my senior project in school I modified an IM client written in VB6 to have AI capabilities. It can act as a desktop secretary who gets to know new people that IM you when you're away. It takes notes, keeps contact info on file, and can define words. Check it out here. [donnyspi.com]
  • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:19AM (#7597904) Journal
    I used to be a sysadmin for an Electrical and Computer Engineering dept. at a large university a few years back. I found that students used IM a lot, and that a large amount of the time they were using it to collaborate with friends who were home, or in another lab etc. So there is some truth to this.

    That being said though, the main problem I had with IM was the security problems with service-provided clients (AIM, ICQ, Etc.) and the problems with multi-user windows environments and user privacy for the universal clients (Trillian, etc.). We ended up having to officially ban IM because of these issues. To be honest, the biggest concern was the privacy issues. We found quickly that most of the IM clients wouldn't behave properly for a non-privledged domain user. (Ironically, MSN flat out wouldn't work at all unless you had admin privledges.) We could get Trillian to work under all user accounts, but we ended up with a problem where Trillian would default to keeping its log files locally, not in the user's profile. To make it worse, those files were readable by all, and locking them down broke Trillian. Being a University, we couldn't risk the privacy issues, and it was becoming too much of a headache to spend more time on it. We had much more pressing matters to take care of. Oh yes, on our linux machines I never blocked the universal clients, as I didn't have the problems with them. I just left it as an easter egg for observant users. :)

    If the big IM players would get their acts together and standardize, and stop blocking universal clients, we might finally get some good, secure, and multi-user workable clients. Then we can find out how useful IM really is or isn't. Untll then, it'll probably stay marginalized.

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <michaelmtrippNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:20AM (#7597907) Homepage
    Business related IMs, eh? I don't think I've ever seen such a thing.

    Judging from the IM conversations I've had with most people outside of the geek world I think it would go something like this:

    SexyJester2939: hey
    kewlPanda52: hi
    SexyJester2939: r u doing teh TPS report #s
    kewlPanda52: what r u talking abut? those arent due til fri
    SexyJester2939: THE #S 4 UR TEAM DOCS!!!!! TODAYY!!!!!!
    kewlPanda52: o i c
    kewlPanda52: ya I have the #s 4 that
    kewlPanda52: just a sex
    kewlPanda52: i mean sec lol
    SexyJester2939: k
    SexyJester2939: lol
    kewlPanda52: ok i mail them 2 u
    SexyJester2939: thx ;)
    kewlPanda52: latez!
    SexyJester2939: cu l8r
  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:21AM (#7597909) Homepage
    perhaps like how Apple has done by integrating presence into mail.app, so a person can search their e-mail directory, click on their AIM name and send an IM.
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:23AM (#7597922) Homepage
    Or it would have been, but I got distracted by an instant message.
  • by marcsiry ( 38594 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:26AM (#7597939) Homepage
    I work for a large provider of internet services- in fact, we make one of the most popular IM clients in use today.

    Here, not being logged into IM is tantamount to not being at work at all. You're expected to be available for chat at any time you're at your desk and don't have an 'away' message up. If you can't manage 5-10 simultaneous IM conversations at once, you'd have a hard time keeping up here.

    As other posters have said, it's conveniently situated between e-mail and phone- asynchronous, yet instant. Additionally, it is useful for things like large file transfers and for slinging URLs during conference calls... it makes a great collaborative tool.

    The one interesting, yet mildly annoying, thing about it is the office language that has evolved around IM. The 'burstable' nature of the messaging has caused people to adopt SMS-like abbreviations for common phrases:

    yt? : "You there?" used to ping people to see if they are actually available for chat. This bugs me; I personally just start the message with useful info and wait to see if I get a reply.
    otp: "On the phone" - used to explain your distraction or delay in getting back to a "yt?" ping.
    ygm: "You've got mail"- notify someone on IM that you've sent them an e-mail (seems redundant but it's easy to miss an e-mail notification with all the IMs flying around).

    Finally, a really useful aspect is the ability to cut across multiple levels of corporate hierarchy with a flick of the "enter" key. One of the senior folks in my company stays logged in all day- his screen name is his last name (as is the case with most people here who eschew 'cutesy' screen names). I've only pinged him once or twice- sending URLs for review and the like- but it's nice to know that I can access top folk directly, and not have my e-mail screened and/or deleted by an admin assistant. Of course, if I'm not careful with how I use that access, that IM could lead to IU (instant unemployment...)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Their gonna hire a bunch of "professors" (one from microsoft, 1 from sun, 1 from spyglass inc, 1 from mit and 2 standalone, and 1 from the government), to write a standard.

    These folks will want to do "A VERY GOOD JOB". Like hurd, gnome, oo.org, STL, etc. So they will decide to employ XML, UTF, CORBA and any other useless buzzword pseudo technology hype out there and give us yet another horrible protocol. Like RTCP.

    I miss the good old days where RFC worked and people wrote nice FAQs on usenet.
  • by X_Bones ( 93097 ) <danorz13@y a h oo.com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:27AM (#7597943) Homepage Journal
    I didn't see it mentioned in the second paper, but did the AT&T employees know their IM usage was being monitored? I think that would have a pretty big effect on the study if the subjects knew about it, like artificially lowering the number and length of personal conversations recorded.

    But on the other hand, I'd certainly want to know if someone was spying on my personal communications (in a manner not related to any usual workplace monitoring).
  • Monitored?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by morie ( 227571 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:31AM (#7597969) Homepage
    Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal

    If you monitored them with consent, couldn't that introduce a bias?

    If they were monitored without consent, wouldn't that be a breech of privacy?

    [Hell no, I didn't read the article. If the answer is there, You will tell me next, won't you?]


    • The users gave their consent by coming in to work that day. The company owns the computers. The company is paying you to use the computers for work-related activities. While it could be considered a poor choice of ethics to monitor employee's IM conversations without their explicit consent, it's entirely legal.

      If you don't agree with the practice, you're welcome to pursue employment elsewhere.
  • IM is a great tool (Score:2, Interesting)

    by knightrdr ( 685033 )
    Some people will invariably use IM for personal use. So what? We use it a lot to communicate between departments within IT. I would be more worried about people running Kazaa. :) Here at Novartis, it is nice because we're always multitasking. If I need to contact somebody who is on the phone, I can usually IM them and get a faster answer. Speed is critical when angry people are waiting for an answer.
  • by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:48AM (#7598485) Journal
    Where I work, we have used a program (which started out running on dumb terminals connected to a DEC minicomputer) for many years to keep apprised of the newswires (AP, Reuters, TASS, etc), write and edit news stories and prepare a rundown for a news program. The IM equivilant on this program is the "Top Screen" which will allow you to determine whether or not the person you are trying to message is logged onto the server and will store and forward the message when the person does log on. You are able to store and save messages and conversations. This was always a better idea for short messages than e-mail, especially for group collaboration on a story. In a large organization, it's really nice to be able to message a correspondant or producer in the London Bureau or in Baghdad to get the general gist of a story as it develops. Presently the program is owned by Avid and our version is called iNews (Sorry, Apple). The company I work for presently has rolled out an internal "chat" client that is supposed to allow us to universally chat throughout the company. None of the news people use it, preferring the "top screen" within iNews (which everyone working in news tends to have open anyway). This makes for further segregation between upper level management and those of us who actually produce the content that makes us money. So I would add that, within a corporation, certain clients and standards for instant messaging become part of the corporate behaviors. I should suggest that further study along these lines might be in order.
  • by ReadParse ( 38517 ) <john AT funnycow DOT com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:23AM (#7598708) Homepage
    I've been using instant messaging for many years, but I didn't start using it as a regular part of my work until late 1999 or early 2000 while working at IBM. We had Lotus Sametime, which eventually also became an AIM client, so we could use Sametime to talk with other IBM'ers and AIM for people outside, all in the same chat client.

    This came in handy when I left IBM, as I was able to continue communicating with many people at IBM through AIM without their needing to change anything. Since then, some of them have left IBM as well, and we continue to use AIM to communicate. Now that I work at home, these people are my co-workers, although they all have other employers -- and some work at home, some have had periods of not working at all. But we still have this community and it keeps me sane.

    I'm a one-man web department at my job and my employer is on the opposite coast. I speak and e-mail with my boss and have a good relationship with him, but he's busy with other things besides me and he's not into IM. Not only do I need the social connection that IM provides, but it's a great technical resource for me as well. There are 2 or 3 of us who bounce questions and ideas off each other. They help me and I help them.

    Of course, there's a lot of the social stuff also. We send funny URLs to each other and joke around a lot. It's a duplication of the environment we would have (and indeed used to have) as coworkers in the same office. Many of them are from the same job, but some are from other jobs, so it's like a "greatest hits" album of friends and coworkers from several jobs, some of whom don't know each other at all. It's fascinating and terribly useful.

    RP
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:00PM (#7599100) Homepage Journal
    I have speech and hearing impediments (can't talk clearly and speak clearly). IM is used OFTEN with coworkers, friends, strangers, etc. It is very difficult and annoying to use someone else to speak and hear for me in person and over telephone. I think without IM, I wouldn't have a job.

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